Barbara T. Smith


Barbara T. Smith is one of the pioneers of performance and body art. While attending graduate school at UC Irvine Smith began to do durational performances in which she used her own body,  foregrounding her corporeal and gendered experience. In her iconic performance Feed Me(1973), a nude Smith occupied a room in the gallery, and a recording of her voice repeated the phrase “Feed me.”  Boldly beckoning a personal exchange, the work invited viewers to literally feed her or to “feed” her psychologically, or even sexually, placed herself in a vulnerable situation. Smith says that she felt empowered by controlling what would happen in this transformative, feminist performance.Smith’s large-scale project Field Piece (1968–72) was an interactive installation of nine-foot-tall multicolored resin “blades” of grass that would light up when triggered by viewers’ feet, thus illuminating the field (see fig. 2.1, p. 000). When the work was originally presented, the artist asked the audience to remove their clothes, so most of the original spectators experienced Field Piece in the nude as an intimate, sensory, tactile environment.