Proposed Curriculum on Contemporary Art and Performance

A series of programs exploring the life and work of Dennis Oppenheim, the art of survival and the semiotics of radicality


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Artistic legacies
  • Curatorial practice
  • Pedagogy
  • Performance

Organizing Institutions

Slought, The Dennis Oppenheim Estate

Contributing Institutions

Performa Institute


Aaron Levy, Amy Oppenheim, Maja Rajenovich

Opens to public



Performa Institute
233 Mott Street
New York, NY


0% Formal - 100% Informal

  • Dennis oppenheim

Slought and the Dennis Oppenheim Estate, in collaboration with Performa Institute, are pleased to announce a proposed curriculum on contemporary art and performance. The public is invited to attend the presentation of the first installment, "Dennis Oppenheim and the art of survival, Day 16 and 17," which will consist of an evening screening of works and an action, followed by a day-long series of provisional seminars. The program will take place from November 16-17, 2011 at Performa Institute, located at 233 Mott Street in New York City.

The proposed curriculum has been developed in response to particular works by the artist that in and of themselves have a performative dimension. It is focused on the artist's lifelong interrogation and redefinition of the idea of performance as expressed through the frequent use of surrogate performers. Throughout the program, friends, colleagues, and cultural practitioners will engage in facilitated conversations, and will each bring distinct vantage points to the discussion of the artist's work and practice. Suggested areas for conversation include current art world conditions, the relationship between collaboration and survival, surrogate performance, and the semiotics of radicality. Seating and choreography will upset the conventional pedagogical dependence on a podium or stage. Successful completion of the proposed curriculum will symbolically designate each participant as a live surrogate and a newly defined member of the union of investigation.


read more

Dennis Oppenheim, who passed away in January 2011, was an influential artist in conceptualism, earthworks, body art, video, and sculpture since the late 1960's. His intense curiosity and his drive for continuous self-transformation lead to work that pushed boundaries, resisted labels, and instigated thought-provoking dialogue. In the early 1970s, Dennis Oppenheim was in the vanguard of artists using film and video to investigate themes relating to body and performance. Using himself as a site of experimentation on the personal, the artist entered into an intimate and dynamic dialogue with his body as he explored the boundaries of personal risk, bodily transformation, and interpersonal communication. In past years, he became particularly interested in large-scale public works that synthesized art and architecture of which Device to Root out Evil is emblematic.

Oppenheim exhibited work at major galleries and museums around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Tate Gallery, London; the Stedeljik Museum, Amsterdam; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. He also collaborated with Slought Foundation on several projects and served on the organization's Advisory Committee (2006-2011).

Seminar Schedule

Screening and Action
November 15, 2011; 5-6pm
Informal viewing of works from Tooth And Nail (1970-74) paired with facilitated practices involving the art of endurance.

Provisional seminar 517: Dennis Oppenheim, Lecture #1, 1976
November 16, 2011; 1-2:20pm
The original lecture will be delivered by a surrogate of the artist in a room setting. An interrogation will follow. Suggested areas for conversation are art world conditions, inspiration, and survival.

Provisional seminar 294: Dennis Oppenheim, Theme for a Major Hit, 1974
November 16, 2011; 2:40-4:00pm
The original soundtrack recording will be presented. A discussion and collective singing will follow. Suggested areas for conversation are autobiography, collaboration, and surrogate performance.

Provisional seminar 301: Dennis Oppenheim, Radicality, 1974
November 16, 2011; 4:20-6:00pm
The original photo-documentation will be presented for consideration. A discussion will follow. Suggested areas for conversation are the semiotics of radicality, temporal art, and alternative sites.

School Staff

Class Monitors: Pamela Sharp, Amy Oppenheim
Artist Surrogate: Artist Surrogate
Artist's Live Surrogate: Aaron Levy
Janitor: Maja Rajenovich
Guest Instructors: Les Levine, Steve Poser, Roger Welch, Bill Beckley
Commentator: Thomas McEvilley

"In some way our individual objectives gave way to a union of investigation, our work became an instrument to combat what seemed to be happening to us. The 80s bred 'the art of survival.'"

-- Dennis Oppenheim, Lecture #1, 1976

Related projects
No results
No results
Begins Apr 1, 2006

A selection of rarely-seen and recently re-mastered video works from the early 1970s exploring the boundaries of personal risk, transformation, and communication

Begins Aug 11, 2011

A teen workshop exploring the process of constructing and deconstructing a provocative public artwork by Dennis Oppenheim