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This British artist lived in London, Düsseldorf, New York and, finally, Geneva. First a sculptor then a painter, he was also a pioneer of video and performance art. In 1972, he invented an androgynous double called Herman.

60 years of performance art in Switzerland museum Tinguely, 20.09.2017 - 28.01.2018

London Rome Walk (1960)

Photograph, 37.8 x 27 cm

In 1960 Morgan realizes hist first performance, a hike from London to Rome, where the Olympic Games were taking place at the time.

Pause, Lash, Herman Live (1972-1973)

Series of photographs, 140.6 x 101.6 cm each, collection Fonds cantonal d'art contemporain, Geneva.

In 1972 Morgan invents Herman, his androgynous alter ego. Behind this mask he composes and interprets songs, realizes video and photo works.

Herman: Spot, Smear, Squeeze, Applause (1973, vidéo, 18'16'')

Black and white videos, sound, 18'16''

In 1972 Morgan invents Herman, his androgynous alter ego. Behind this mask he composes and interprets songs, realizes video and photo works.

Volcano (1973, vidéo, 2'13'')

Black and white video, sound, 2'13'', collection Fonds d'art contemporain de la ville de Genève

In 1972 Morgan invents Herman, his androgynous alter ego. Behind this mask he composes and interprets songs, realizes video and photo works.

Munich People (Aktionraum Munich) (1969, video, 20')

Black and white video, sound, 20', collection Fonds d'art contemporain de la ville de Genève

With Klaus Rinke, Morgan is invited to inaugurate Aktionsraum in Munich. Visitors state their name, date, and time of their visit in front of his camera - documentation of the encounter which becomes the basis of Morgan's performance.

People's Presence (Munich, 21.02.1970)

Photographs

Morgan asks the public to stand in a line and step up to him individually, in order to enter into dialog with the artist by means of direct eye contact.

PerformanceProcess Paris, Centre culturel suisse 18.09-13.12.15


We would like to thank Christine Serdaly Morgan.
A selection of videos and photographs focusing on the presentation of his own body. Munich People and Peoples Presence refer to performances where the artist stands facing each spectator, one by one. Herman: Spot, Smear, Squeeze, Applause presents a series of actions where Tony Morgan/Herman plays with the camera lens, and so with the surface of the screen.

Munich People (Aktionraum Munich), (1969, 20')

Film transferred to video, FMAC collection, Geneva

Peoples Presence (Munich, 21.02.1970)

Photographs extract from the object-book , 19 pages, 24 × 32 cm, 2 typed pages , 2 black and white photographs 23.3 × 16 cm, 32 black and white photographs 24 × 18.3 cm, TMStudio collection, Geneva

Lash (1973, 6'54'')

Video, FMAC collection, Geneva

Volcano (1973, vidéo, 2'13'')

FMAC collection, Geneva

Herman live (1976)

Photograph, 140,6×101,6cm, FCAC collection, Geneva, n° inv. 02967 A-E

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Art with split identities

Tony Morgan had intuitions that made him a pioneer of performance art and video art. ...

Tony Morgan had intuitions that made him a pioneer of performance art and video art.

First a sculptor with close links to New British Sculpture, video pioneer Tony Morgan (1938-2004) made experimental films, installations, and performances and took part in the Fluxus movement, working with Daniel Spoerri, Robert Filliou and Emmett Williams.

In 1960 he walked from London to Rome, where the Olympics were being held. Before he left and when he arrived, he had himself photographed and interviewed, thus delimiting his journey and making it into his first ever performance. He described in a notebook (now lost) the daily experience and feelings of the walker. Acting out and documenting things—very much part of the zeitgeist at the time—became part of his artistic toolbox. The more accomplished work entitled The Book of Exercises (1971) presents typewritten text alongside photographs illustrating simple acts such as bed-making or climbing a ladder. In 1972 in New York, he invented an androgynous double called Herman. In this guise, he wrote and performed songs, made himself a superstar outfit, made himself up as a bride-to-be, and produced videos and photographs that constitute his best known body of work.

After Rome, Florence, Paris, Düsseldorf (where he taught), New York and Amsterdam, he settled in Geneva, mainly devoting himself to painting and creating a few political performance pieces and videos.

Although Morgan used techniques that were new at the time and made his body into a raw material, he always described himself as a painter and used references untrammelled by passing fashion: for example the colours and simple shapes of Giotto di Bondone or Henri Matisse, and the sombre expressiveness of Van Gogh's Potato Eaters (which he reinterpreted) or of Dante (whose work he illustrated).

No classification based on period, place or medium can do justice to Morgan's free-spirited approach, both in terms of its method and the thinking behind it. In retrospect, his split identities turn out to be more apparent than real, as so many of his videos and performances are painterly and so many of his paintings are performative.

 

Claude-Hubert Tatot, an art historian

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