performance art

Oliver Herring

Germany 1964

Installation, Sculpture, Performance Art, Conceptual Art, Photography, Video Art

Oliver Herring
Oliver Herring
April 7, 2015
Alias of Jasmina Sevic, a researcher and author for Widewalls. She graduated from the Faculty of Political Science (Department for Journalism) in Belgrade in 2013.

Oliver Herring is a German-born contemporary artist who uses experimental techniques with the intention of better understanding human nature, individual behavior, and interpersonal dynamics. Herring works in a wide range of media including sculpture, knitting, photography, paintings, and video. He received his BFA from the University of Oxford, Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford, England in 1988, and his MFA from Hunter College, New York in 1991.

Homage to Ethyl Eichelberger

Throughout the 1990s, Herring became known for hand-knit Mylar and tape sculptures. These ethereal sculptures, which evoke introspection, mortality, and memory, are Herring’s homage to Ethyl Eichelberger, a drag performance artist who committed suicide in 1991. That project lasted ten years, and revolved around marking time through the accumulation of incremental stitched units. In the late 1990s his practice expanded to include improvised stop-motion videos and performances that at first involved friends and eventually strangers on the street. These interactive works were counterpoints to the more stationary and solitary work practice of knitting. Herring knit the transparent tape into colorless human figures, clothing and furniture. When they were on display, he chose the Mylar clothing to be hung or placed in a way that it looks like the shape they would be if worn.

Herring’s Open-Ended Performances

Since 1998 Herring has focused primarily on brief, yet intensive, collaborative encounters with volunteer participants. Herring directs and documents open-ended performances, usually involving a series of actions, which take place in different environments, including gallery or museum spaces, private homes, municipal buildings, and educational facilities, and feature groups of strangers interacting with each another. The resulting stop motion videos and photographs that Herring creates not only record these impromptu activities, but reveal the poignancy implicit in humanity when strangers expose their vulnerabilities and embrace trust.


Many of Herring’s videos were primarily stop motion. Stop motion or stop frame is an animation technique that make a physically manipulated object or person appear to move on its own. Example of this kind of Herring’s works is piece titled “Exit” made in 2000. The work shows the artist sleeping in his chair, which then flies around the room, and through stop motion culminates in a whimsical and surreal dance number with multiple Herrings and other characters.

Herring’s Photo-Sculptures

Herring’s photo-sculptures are the product of an intimate artist-model interaction in which he systematically photographs every part of their body and then applies the resultant prints in fragments with utmost detail to a proportionally sculpted human form, in a process that takes many work sessions. “Gloria”, one of his most famous sculptures, is of a girl leaning against a wall in a colorful flower dress holding her necklace. Herring took pictures from every angle of her and then cut and pasted them on the base to form the sculpture.

TASK Parties

In 2002 Herring created the improvisatory art event TASK, an ongoing series of events, workshops and parties in which participants of all ages and demographics collectively dream up instructions and carry them out with the materials provided. Herring held the first event in London. Subsequent events have been held among other places in Washington, DC, Toronto, Seattle, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, California, often partnering with local art museums. Increasingly, TASK is becoming a tool in classrooms and communities to access contemporary art in a way that is experimental, open-ended, and accessible to anyone.

Areas for Action

Herring’s ongoing project, Areas for Action, is a concept for an accumulative exhibition consisting of daily performances, improvisatory sculptures, and real-time collaborative artworks created on-site utilizing a variety of materials—glitter, tape, body paint, tin foil, food dye, and photo cut-outs. Taking its title from the artist’s utilization of the gallery space, Areas for Action divides the exhibition and performance spaces into discrete areas for specific interventions and actions. Each day a new group of volunteers joins Herring as he directs and documents these performances. Areas for Action sought to remove boundaries between time-based and non-time based artwork, between new media and physical art objects, and between viewers and participants. The creative process becomes a site of vulnerability and risk-taking, a social experiment, and an open laboratory for innovative modes of representation.

Oliver Herring is based in Brooklyn, New York.

YearName of the exhibitionMuseum/GallerySolo/Group
2015Oliver HerringVisual Arts Center – Washington Pavillion, Sioux Falls, SDSolo
2015Areas for Action: HoustonDiverseWorks, Houston, TXSolo
2014DAM TASK Denver Art Museum, Denver, COSolo
2014Oliver Herring: Videos 2002-2009Denver Art Museum, COSolo
2014Madison Square Park TASK Madison Square Park, New York, NYSolo
2014Oliver HerringTelescope, Beijing, ChinaSolo
2014Oliver HerringA4 Contemporary Art Center, Chengdu, ChinaSolo
2014Dance like nobody’s watchingRhubaba Gallery and Studios, Edinburgh, ScotlandGroup
2014Forced Collaboration 2 Artspace, New Haven, CTGroup
2014Eleven: The John Erickson Museum of Art (JEMA) 10-year Retrospective Bob Rauschenberg Gallery, Fort Myers, FLGroup
2013Oliver Herring: Works and Documentation from Areas for ActionFocus Gallery, University ofFlorida, Gainesville, FLSolo
2013Material World Denver Art Museum, Denver, COGroup
2012Oliver Herring: Emi, Nabe, Kohei, Asako, Yoshitaka, Yohei, Yuma, Hiroki…Kyoto Art Center,Kyoto, JapanSolo
2012Contemporary Art Wing Reopening Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MarylandGroup
2011St. Louis TASK PartyGallery 210 of University of Missouri, OctoberSolo
2011Universe CityCSULA Fine Arts Gallery, Los AngelesGroup
2010Areas for ActionMeulensteen, New YorkSolo
2010UNC TASKGerrard Hill, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NCSolo
2010ISU TASKUniversity of Illinois, Normal, ILSolo
2010The Logic of Paper: American Works of PaperHe Xiangning Art Museum, Shenzhen, ChinaGroup
2009Oliver Herring: Southern StudiosFrist Center for Visual Arts, Nashville, TNSolo
2009The Spectacle of the EverydayXth Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art, Lyon, FranceGroup
2008Oliver Herring: BasicThe Art Gallery at University of Maryland, College Park, MDSolo
2008Alternating BeatsMuseum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RIGroup
2007Oliver HerringMax Protetch Gallery, New YorkSolo
2007BoysCraftHaifa Museum of Art, Haifa, IsraelGroup
2006Oliver Herring: Spit ReverseFranklin Art Works, Minneapolis, MNSolo
2006New Now Next: The Contemporary BlantonThe Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas at Austin, AustinGroup
2005Taking and MakingFrye Art Museum, Seattle, WASolo
2005Six Laws of MotionMax Protetch Gallery, New YorkGroup
2004Oliver Herring: New Works 04.1Art Pace, San Antonio, TXSolo
2004Art on Paper 2004Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, NCGroup
2003Oliver Herring: New WorkGaleria Leyendecker, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Island, SpainSolo
2003Hands to Work – Mind to GodBorusan Sanat Galerisi, Istanbul, TurkeyGroup
2002Spit ReversePalm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art, Palm Beach, FLSolo
2002Sugar & Cream: Wall Hangings by Contemporary ArtistsTriple Candie, New YorkGroup
2001Oliver Herring: Sleepless NightsCleveland Center for Contemporary Art [Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland], Cleveland, OHSolo
2001Let’s Get to WorkSusquehanna Art Museum, Harrisburg, PAGroup
2000Ethereal and MaterialDelaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, Wilmington, DEGroup
1999Oliver HerringMax Protetch Gallery, New YorkSolo
1999Regarding Beauty: A View of the Late 20th CenturyHirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian, Washington, D.CGroup
1998Growing ObsessionDorsky Gallery, New YorkGroup
1997Oliver Herring: New WorkMax Protetch Gallery, New YorkSolo
1997Light CatchersUsdan Gallery, Bennington College, VTGroup
1996One DaySolomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New YorkSolo
1996DisappearedRandolph Street Gallery, ChicagoGroup
1995Coexistence: Construction in Process VArtists' Museum, Mitzpe Ramon, IsraelGroup
1994A Flower for Ethyl Eichelberger—An Ongoing ProjectBernard Toale Gallery, Boston, MASolo
1994Athena and ArachneApex Art, New YorkGroup
1993A Flower for Ethyl Eichelberger – An Ongoing Project and BeddingMannheimer Kunstverein, Mannheim, GermanySolo
1993Ciphers Of IdentityFine Arts Gallery at University of Maryland Baltimore County, Catonsville, MarylandGroup
1992Art at the AnchorageThe Anchorage, Brooklyn, NYGroup
1989Oliver Herring and Peter KrashesAtwood Gallery, Worcester, MAGroup
1988UnknownPit Rivers Museum, Oxford, FranceGroup
1986UnknownDeutsche Bank AG, Frankfurt, GermanyGroup