Max Dean: A Work


Max Dean: A Work, 1977

Performance presented in the Winnipeg Art Gallery
Photographer Ernest Mayer, Winnipeg Art Gallery

Two elements of performance art make it peculiarly relevant to an expanded contemporary concept of the portrait: the artist’s body is frequently the primary agent and the actions it performs are particular to the artist’s physical and psychological character. A seminal figure in performance art in Canada in the 1970s, both the autobiographical nature of Dean’s art and its emphasis on viewer interactivity – characteristic of his entire body of work – are present in Max Dean: A Work.

Performed for a six-week period in 1977 in the confines of a 16 x 10 x 10-foot prefabricated metal shed located in a lounge area of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, viewers were given various options of access to its interior without knowing that the artist was inside. Once confronted with the artist, visitors engaged and reacted in a variety of ways. In answer to one visitor’s question about the purpose of the action, Dean responded with : “ I am the memory of the piece”