Getting Free


Attempting to liberate herself of acquired ideas about art, Wilson-Pajic conceived contraries of what she had learned to do and what she was expected to do. She systematically violated all the rules to which her art had been submitted.

An iconoclastic tendency was manifested in a series of subversive works, the “Nihilist Gestures”, in which she proposed printed drawings and photos from a how-to magazine for a juried group exhibition, changed the captions under newspaper photos, pulled tape from a cassette or film from a cartridge, lined out books, changed the positions of definitions on a dictionary page and smeared white paint on all her art school color supplies... Before turning to other cultural disciplines.

Mutinous, insubordinate acts were ways to sever ties; exhibiting them was a way to announce to the art world that she had escaped control.

keywords: art, avant-garde, contemporary art, performance art, performance, anti-performance, installation, sculpture, object, text, sound, video, sound installation, text installation, photography, photo-text, photogram, feminism, feminist art, theatre, film, still life Nancy Wilson Kitchel, recording, site-specific, environment, art context



PÉNÉLOPE MORGAN is virtual artist making work from commercial residue. Morgan was created in collaboration with Carole Chichet-Gedrinsky in order to counter the boredom and frustration of a situation in the art world which did not permit the kind of expression that interested us. Chichet found spaces to show, especially in store windows and other unlikely places by the non-profit organization In Vitro, did a biography and encouraged me to go as far as I could go. Thus I was to be able to imagine actually showing works I had so long done alone in my studio.

Le Grand Chambardement (The big mess) 1996

Installation from the Pénélope Morgan series, consisting of objects rescued from the trash, randomly distributed in the space at l’Entrepôt at Ferrières-en-Brie, and photographed, together and individually.

Everything on my kitchen table hygienically sealed 1969

Instead of clearing off the kitchen table after friends left, she sealed each object hermetically in heat-sensitive plastic, photographed the ensemble and each of the individual elements, before returning it to the person who had left it as “artistic residue”. The piece was later remounted in slightly different form (The entire table with its contents was wrapped in clear plastic) and shown at the Cooper Union.

Leafing 1968

An In situ installation consisting of an enormous pile of fallen leaves in the middle of an intersection in Garden City on Long Island. It was organized as a group activity in one night, and the documentary photographs were taken early the next morning before it disappeared. The photos, along with several of the leaves and a drawing proposing to reconstitute the pile with file cards upon which is written «leaf», has since been shown in different situations.

Doing Things 1965

Poetry reading at the State University of New York at Stonybrook. Stops writing poetry, throws away poems and reads aloud instructions from a how-to magazine for making cutout lawn figures. 

Thus, almost as soon as she began exploring the form, her performances became “anti-performances”, nihilist gestures like her more concrete artworks. Even when her intention was to perform, her activities did not fit into current practice of the form and challenged definitions.

See also Women’s Work.Womens_Work.htmlWomens_Work.htmlshapeimage_2_link_0

“This is not painting; it’s just ideas” 1966-67

In the space at the Media Center in Jericho, N.Y. Wilson-Pajic set the phrase in type, mounted it and hung it on the wall. To test the situation further, she put a table in front of it with an ashtray and a bouquet of roses to see if others would associate the unaccustomed arrangement of objects with the statement.

Incognito Event for Maude 1971

Rebelling against the solemn theatricality of current performance practice, Wilson-Pajic programmed a performance at the Cooper Union in which she disguised herself and walked on an egg-salad sandwich before an expectant audience. The general agitation around the event made her wish to have a reminder of the evening. After everyone had finally left, she took some pictures of the crushed sandwich and her foot.