Collection

Crucifixion performance
Andrew Drummond

1978

Andrew Drummond
b.
1951
Title:
Crucifixion performance
Production date:
1978
Accession No:
81/2
Measurements:
2 panels each 855 x 1200mm
Media:
Newsclippings, photographs on composition board and white muslin cloth

Collection Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth

In 1978, Andrew Drummond’s Crucifixion Performance took place in Christchurch’s CSA gallery. The controversy it generated provided the work with an unusually charged afterlife, which interestingly parallels its themes of regeneration and rebirth.

The artist, naked, wearing a gas mask and connected to a heart monitor, was tied to a diagonal St Andrew’s cross and covered with liquid latex. After the latex had hardened into a second ‘skin’, Drummond peeled it off and left it, still attached to the heart monitor machine, and draped over the cross. The gas mask also was left on the cross, along with Polaroid photographs taken during the performance.

Drummond subsequently achieved the dubious distinction of being the only New Zealand artist to appear in court charged with offensive behaviour for the creation of an artwork. While he was acquitted of this charge, the case and associated media coverage endowed his work with a certain notoriety.

Drummond is an artist with an abiding interest in myth and ritual. Crucifixion Performance draws on pagan symbolism of snakes shedding their skins, and a reading of the Tenth Station of the Cross, where Christ is stripped of his clothes, to broadly suggest material and spiritual transformation. In Crucifixion Performance, Drummond’s body became the vehicle for a spectacle of endurance and symbolic transfiguration. The gas mask and heart monitor, while serving the practical function of protecting the artist from the latex fumes, also emphasised his physical vulnerability. In the charged atmosphere created by the performance, the audience could see a visual representation of Drummond’s heartbeat as his body was placed under strain.

Crucifixion Performance now only exists as documentation, the residue of an act. For Drummond, the remnants of documentation are an important part of the work as they underscore the transformative process, the work’s life, death, and afterlife.