top of page

Stuart Sherman: Spectacles (1975-89)

Stuart Sherman Spectacles (1975-89)
Stuart Sheman, Launch Night Photograph
Stuart Sherman - Spectacle - Video Still
Stuart Sherman Launch Event

Stuart is a performance artist, you're a performance artist right?


Right, filmmaker

How do you get received when you go out to the Midwest to do this stuff? Like, people think it is weird, or what do they think?

I think they think it's enjoyably weird...I think it is weird of course, but they seem to enjoy it, I had a very good response…some people don't think it is weird at all, they think it has great significance and they spend a lot of time analysing every action I perform…or every frame of every film

Do they come up to you with cockeyed theories of what you have done? and present you with them?

Well you'd have to try very hard to come up with a really cockeyed theory because it is pretty cockeyed stuff to begin with isn't it? so…its pretty weird…well, what I do allows for a lot of different interpretations, so actually, seriously, people say some strange things but they have a certain validity, there is a lot of room for them

Stuart Sherman’s work spanned video, performance and theatre. He is best known for his series of performative ‘Spectacles’, of which nine are shown in this exhibition.

Often produced just for camera, these inventive performances took their cues from Sherman’s other outputs such as writing poems and plays. The work combines these other activities into the work in surprising ways; through the poetic substitution of words for objects and the sculptural, aesthetic and narrative possibilities of the live arrangements of things. 

Sometimes the objects appear to be used simply because they make a sense visually : the box fits through the hole, in others the organisation of the objects creates mini scenarios : toy car crashes into a chair, the chair falls over. These little narratives move on rhythmically through the length of each work, with the objects, people and Sherman himself in constant movement, adjustment and re-arrangement. 

Stuart Sherman’s work is rarely exhibited on this scale and this exhibition is the first of its kind in the UK, offering an overview of the Spectacle series.

Stuart Sherman was born in Providence, Rhode Island, USA, in 1946 and died in 2001. His work has been exhibited at the Performing Garage, The Museum of Modern Art, Mudd Club, The Kitchen, Franklin Furnace, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Theater for the New City, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; List Center at M.I.T., Cambridge, MA; Kunstmuseum Berne, Kunstmuseum Zurich, and Pompidou Center, Paris.

This exhibition is also the first in a two-year programme at Trade’s brand new exhibition space, covering the ground floor of 1 Thoresby Street, an iconic Victorian building on the edge of the city. Building on a rich history of performance and film in the city, Trade’s programme pays particular attention to performative, social, collaborative and collective artworks. In addition, the programme provides opportunities to engage and reconsider the importance of historical artists’ film and video in relation to the current social, political and artistic climate.


*Interview Text: A truncated version of Kestutis Nakas' interview with Stuart Sherman on 'Your Program of Programs' 1980's cable TV show. Watch here 

Room 1 (1975-76)

Selections from the First Spectacle 1975, 28:47 min, b&w, sound

Second Spectacle 1976, 45 min, color, sound

Seventh Spectacle 1976, 31 min, color, sound

Room 2 (1978-79)

Tenth Spectacle 1978, 29:40 min, color, sound

Selections from the Eleventh Spectacle (The Erotic) and Eighth Spectacle (People's Faces) c.1979, 20 min, color, sound

Room 3 (1980-89)

Thirteenth Spectacle (Time) 1980, 38 min, color, sound

Twelfth Spectacle (Language) 1980, 32 min, color, sound

Fourteenth Spectacle Performance 1989, 52:48 min, color, sound

Image: “Selections from the First Spectacle” 1975

Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York.

Photographs by Julian Hughes

Robin Deacon - Approximating the art of Stuart Sherman
Performance: Robin Deacon Approximating the art of Stuart Sherman

16 March 2013

Approximating the Art of Stuart Sherman is part of an extensive project in which Robin Deacon explores the art of the late American performance artist Stuart Sherman through documentary film, interviews and performance re-enactments. Using gathered video footage, testimonials and written descriptions of Sherman's solo performance works, Robin Deacon explores Stuart Sherman's creative methodologies through transcription and physical re-enactment of the artist's performances. Deacon is interested in how the work and legacy of an artist like Sherman may live on not just in the work itself, but also in the work of artists who have been influenced by him. The performances re-enacted are selections from The Eleventh Spectacle: The Erotic, from 1979.

Robin Deacon is an artist, writer, film-maker and educator currently based in the USA. Working since the early 1990’s, his performances and videos have been presented at conferences and festivals in the UK and internationally in Europe and the USA. His interdisciplinary practice has spanned a variety of disciplines and themes, including explorations of performer presence and absence, the role of the artist as biographer, and the possibility for journalistic and documentary approaches to arts practice. Most recently his practice has shifted into the area of documentary film with a series of works that aim to interrogate the mapping and ethics of performance re-enactment. He is an Assistant Professor in Performance at The School of the Art Institute, Chicago, USA.

bottom of page