Morgan O’Hara was born in Los Angeles in 1941 and grew up in Japan. She lives and works in New York City. Her practice of live drawing has developed over the past 40 years and comprises a body of about 3000 works. Her performative drawings, which she calls Live Transmissions
, have been described as recordings of life. On photographs documenting her practice she can be seen next to dancers, performers or politicians tracking their body movements on paper with pencils in both hands. While transmitting live, she steadily conveys what she sees, becoming a sort of seismographic instrument. The acts of observing, tracking and transmitting and the finished drawing belong together as elements of the same artistic process. Their relationship, however, calls into question the nature of pictorial representation. The role of the artist is that of an empathetic and active participant in the world in which we live.
Morgan O’Hara has created Live Transmissions
of pioneering artists such as Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton, Ornette Coleman, Jonas Mekas, Vito Acconci, Marina Abramović and Willem Dafoe. She has been inspired by John Cage and his thinking since 1961. Her work has recently been placed in an art historical context, which is characterized by instances of transgression and the abandonment of traditional art forms and motives. To regard Morgan O’Hara’s practice through such paradigmatic scholarly notions only, would however drastically reduce a differentiated understanding of her works and sense of mission as an artist. Putting together a history of art from 1945 to the present, which manages to bring into relation the development of the traditional art forms of painting, sculpture and drawing, and the time-based arts, performance and film, presents itself as an ongoing challenge.
That is why, in the light of growing scholarship in this area, it is important to note that Morgan O’Hara’s Live Transmissions present a unique historical position, as her images, though abstract, are neither pure form nor mere artifact of a past action. In reaction to recent political developments in her own country, O’Hara initiated a collaborative project titled Handwriting the Constitution in which she invites people to join together around a table to handwrite the text of various constitutions written in defense of human rights. Understanding writing as a political practice of inscribing oneself into the world, and inscribing an important text into one's body and mind, her Live Transmissions, can also be understood as a possibility for both immersion and transference, for both the artist as well as the spectator.
Mirroring this understanding of Morgan O’Hara’s work as an empathetic and democratic practice, a selection of Live Transmissions of working people, which were recorded in the late 1990s and early 2000s in different European countries, the United States of America and Japan have been chosen for the space of Chimera-Project Gallery in Budapest.