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There's Nothing Like a Nail in the Foot to Shake Up a Show

Friday 22nd October 2010

VOLTA NY is an art fair that was developed to follow in the footsteps of its parent fair (also called VOLTA) which was founded in Basel in 2005. VOLTA is the American version of the Swiss show which offers the opportunity to get a good, close up look at contemporary art and modern day practices. Unique in the sense that the only art fair to insist on each artist having an individual booth to themselves, VOLTA NY seeks to bring new ideas, new media and new ways of looking at contemporary art to the table.
 
The 2010 VOLTA NY show earlier this year, which was aptly titled "No Guts No Glory" is suitably representative of the attitude of the show as a whole and the types of artist and artwork that they show. The Art Newspaper visited the show this year and Jean Wainwright conducted an interview with an artist that perhaps best demonstrates the relevance of the shows title. 
 
Todd Pavlisko is a contemporary artist who caused a stir at this years VOLTA NY event by displaying a video performance of himself hammering a nail through his own foot, nailing it to the wooden floor beneath. The video of the interview with Pavlisko can be viewed on The Art Newspaper website, along with the footage of the nail performance. I will take this opportunity to warn you that the performance is real, so don't watch the video if you are adverse to images of a graphic nature. 
 
Pavlisko describes the performance as a challenge to his own body and a challenge of his endurance. A lot of research has gone into the approach to this so that he was able to avoid serious injury, however there is still a long process of recovery required for the artist after doing this. 
 
However much of a stir Pavlisko caused, he has yet to reach the truly gruesome heights of past performance artists that have used their own bodies in torturous ways to create their art. Chris Burden is perhaps the most famed artist to have produced controversial artworks in which personal pain and danger were key elements. 
 
Shoot (1971) and Trans-Fixed (1974) are amongst Burdens most quoted works. In Shoot Burden was shot in the left arm by an assistant, from a distance of about five meters and in Trans-Fixed, Burden was nailed by his hands, as if being crucified, to the back of a Volkswagen Beetle. The car was taken out of the garage and displayed for two minutes before being put back into the garage again. 
 
Since the dawn of time humans have been pushing the boundaries of what the body can do. Interestingly, when it takes place in the setting of a gallery, museum or art fair, people really do sit up and take notice. 
 
The next installment of VOLTA NY will take place in March 2011. Watch this space.

Posted on October 22nd 2010 on 04:04pm

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