Spanning over six decades, Stuart Brisley’s career has focussed on the exploration of the capacity of performance art as a vehicle for political allegories. For ‘State of Denmark’, his current show at Modern Art Oxford, Brisley included a series of early and more recent works where the human body is approached both as a source of artistic value and also as the object of political and social manipulation. His works create a space where artistic authorship and the viewer’s experience coalesce and raise questions about social exclusion and political freedom.


Commissioned by Modern Art Oxford, Stuart Brisley’s ‘State of Denmark’ includes an homonymous installation/sculpture/painting where a crown hangs above a wedge shaped structure with an open end. The work can be seen from both sides. From one of them it looks like an installation and from the other one, it could be seen as constructive painting or a minimalist object. The crown hanging on one of the sides symbolises the monarchy while the other side reflects on the tradition of participatory art that found in Helio Oiticica’s Penetraveis a starting point. This work transforms the viewer’s performance into the source of artistic value.

Facing this installation, there is a sculpture of interlocking chair frames forming a perfect circle called ‘Hille Fellowship’ (2012). This piece refers to his previous experience working as the Hille Furniture Factory where a similar object was assembled by the workers during their breaks which caused divisions between the management and the shop floor. What used to be seen as a symbol of corporate unity by the workers becomes, in the context of the art institution, a possible allusion to Minimalist art. Through a series of references, different kinds of performances overlap but never include the artist in real time. This show works at different levels and it does it very well. J A T