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Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Separated Materials
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: High Performance magazine records
    Date (inclusive): 1953-2005
    Number: 2006.M.8
    Creator/Collector: High Performance
    Physical Description: 216.1 Linear Feet (318 boxes, 29 flatfile folders, 1 roll)
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles 90049-1688
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/askref
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: High Performance magazine records document the publication's content, editorial process and administrative history during its quarterly run from 1978-1997. Founded as a magazine covering performance art, the publication gradually shifted editorial focus first to include all new and experimental art, and then to activism and community-based art. Due to its extensive compilation of artist files, the archive provides comprehensive documentation of the progressive art world from the late 1970s to the late 1990s.
    Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record  for this collection. Click here for the access policy .
    Language: Collection material is in English

    Biographical/Historical Note

    Linda Burnham, a public relations officer at University of California, Irvine, borrowed $2,000 from the university credit union in 1977, and in a move she described as "impulsive," started High Performance magazine. Burnham's belief in the transformative power of performance art had developed from her personal discovery of feminism and feminist art, which was an important aspect of much performance art at this time; her exposure to a number of early artists, such as Barbara Smith and Nancy Buchanan, UCI alumnae, who were still performing in the area; and especially her experience of seeing Chris Burden interviewed on television by Regis Philbin and realizing that others did not share her intense, positive reaction to his work. As the first magazine devoted exclusively to performance art, High Performance documented both the budding, local Los Angeles performance art movement, and its national and international counterparts, publishing artists whose work would not have been covered in more mainstream publications.
    The initial issue of High Performance appeared in February 1978. The first few issues were produced on weekends in Burnham's office at UCI using materials pilfered from her employer, with Burnham as editor and her friend Richard Newton as associate editor and designer, but the magazine soon moved its production base to Burnham's loft in downtown Los Angeles. The quarterly magazine maintained an open submissions policy, publishing any artist who could provide black-and-white photographic documentation, dates, and a description of his or her performance. This "Artist's Chronicle" comprised the bulk of the magazine, which was then rounded out by artist interviews and alternative art space features. The magazine's uniqueness lay in its documentary rather than critical approach, presenting the work through the artist's own voice. Yet after only a few issues, it became clear that the magazine was not financially viable, since neither issue sales nor advertising sales were creating adequate revenue. Burnham had determined to end publication when the money ran out rather than compromise her vision of the magazine, but fortunately in 1980 she met Susanna Dakin, an artist with independent financial resources, who urged Burnham to continue the magazine and agreed to provide funding. Dakin already had a small publishing company, Astro Artz, which Dakin and Burnham merged with the magazine into a publishing partnership Astro Artz/High Performance.
    The early 1980s saw a number of changes in High Performance. By 1982, the magazine had broadened its scope to include all the new and experimental arts, an editorial focus that developed in part because performance art had always been hard to define. Although the initial issues of the magazine had specifically excluded works of dance and theater, subsequent issues covered works with a certain performative aspect from a variety of genres, leading to a moment when High Performance frequently appropriated the work of artists who would not call themselves performance artists. In this same period, in a fundamental philosophical change, the magazine shifted its editorial focus from documentary coverage to critical writing and reviews. The last "Artist's Chronicle" appeared in Issue 22 in 1983. This period also saw changes in how the magazine was staffed and administered. In 1982, Steven Durland moved to Los Angeles from New York and began working for Astro Artz and soon Burnham and Durland moved in together as a couple. In the spring of 1983, Durland was named General Manager of Astro Artz/High Performance, the magazine's administrative body. At the same time, Astro Artz filed for incorporation, and in 1984 received its non-profit tax-exempt status, making it eligible for grant funding.
    The mid to late 1980s saw further editorial and staffing changes at the magazine. At the end of 1985, after 32 issues, Linda Burnham resigned as editor of High Performance and Durland was named editor. Durland gradually moved the magazine into the area of multicultural and issue-oriented work and hired regional editors in an attempt to better cover the national scene. A further significant shift occurred in the environment in which the magazine was produced. In the fall of 1988 Susanna Dakin, who was still providing funding for the magazine, purchased the property that became the 18th Street Arts Complex in Santa Monica. Burnham and Durland soon moved into the complex where Burnham served as property manager. By the spring of 1989, High Performance also moved its offices into the complex in Santa Monica. High Performance was now one of several arts organizations operating under the Astro Artz umbrella at the 18th Street Arts Complex, a group that grew larger with the founding of Highways Performance Space in 1990.
    By late 1992 tensions began to arise within the Santa Monica complex, again due to editorial and administrative shifts. Durland was taking High Performance in a new direction, focusing on social and cultural involvement, and community-based art. For a number of personal and financial reasons, Burnham and Durland left Santa Monica for North Carolina in the spring/summer of 1993. Durland continued to edit the magazine from there. In fact, at this point, the entire magazine was rather decentralized: it was printed in Michigan, distribution and subscription fulfillment were handled from Boulder, Colorado, and writers submitted their manuscripts by e-mail; only the administrative body remained in Santa Monica.
    At this point frictions between the magazine and its governing body accelerated. Within the climate of pressure created by the "culture wars" and the NEA funding controversy of this period, High Performance no longer had anyone at 18th Street to fight for its share of the limited resources, and more funding was allocated to other areas of the corporation's activity, such as Highways. In 1992, Astro Artz had officially reinstated itself as the 18th Street Arts Complex, leading to changes in the Board of Directors. The new board members were not particularly interested in High Performance, especially with the direction in which Durland was then taking it. This tense relationship between the magazine and its governing body continued for almost two years.
    Finally in 1994 it was decided that the differences between Durland and the Santa Monica board were irreconcilable. The assets of the magazine were transferred to Durland and Burnham, and in 1995 the two parties went their separate ways. Burnham and Durland started a new non-profit organization, Art in the Public Interest (API), which focused on bringing the arts together with community and social concerns. After a brief hiatus, they began to publish the magazine again in early 1996, with Burnham returning as a co-editor to the magazine she had founded almost twenty years before. At this point, High Performance was available only to members of API; newsstand sales were discontinued. Still, after the hiatus, funding the magazine became harder and harder and the magazine itself became slimmer and slimmer until it became clear that it could not continue. High Performance ceased publication with Issue 76 in 1997.

    Administrative Information


    Open for use by qualified researchers, with the exception of unreformatted audio-visual and computer materials, and the business files in Boxes 167-170, which will remain sealed until 2076.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    High Performance magazine records, 1953-2005, Getty Research Library, Accession no. 2006.M.8.


    Gift of Art in the Public Interest and 18th Street Arts Center.

    Processing History

    The High Performance records were rehoused and an initial box list was drawn up by Sheila Prospero, Vladimira Stefura, Lora Derrien and Jocelyn Gibbs upon receipt of the collection in 2006. In 2009-2010 with grant funding from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), Clare Denk, Holly Larson, Emmabeth Nanol, and Alexis Adkins further processed the collection and made a complete inventory under the supervision of Ann Harrison, while Annette Leddy helped devise the arrangement and wrote the descriptive notes.

    Digitized material

    Selected audiovisual material has been digitized and are available on-site only: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/2006m8s4av 

    Separated Materials

    Eighty-four boxes of monographs and serials were transferred to the library. These publications may be found by searching the Library Catalog   for the provenance, High Performance Magazine Collection.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The records of High Performance document the magazine's content, editorial process and history, during its quarterly run from 1978-1997. Due to its extensive compilation of artist files, the archive provides comprehensive documentation of the progressive art world from the late 1970s to the late 1990s.
    The artist files in Series I form the core of the High Performance archive. Compiled over the life of the magazine, these files contain documentation on artists and performers, as well as documentation of events, performances, venues and art spaces, and of various persons of interest to the magazine. Included here is documentation of such artists such Marina Abramovic, Jacki Apple, Bob & Bob, Nancy Buchanan, Chris Burden, Church of the SubGenius, Mary Beth Edelson, Guillermo Gomez-Pena, Gronk, Donna Henes, Allan Kaprow, Kim Jones, Suzanne Lacy, Paul McCarthy, Hermann Nitsch, Michael Peppe, Rachel Rosenthal, Carolee Schneemann, Stephen Seemayer, and Barbara Smith. The contents of the files vary widely from artist to artist, but may include correspondence, publicity photographs, press releases, clippings, photographs of performances, exhibition/performance announcements, ephemera, posters and original works of art, and to a lesser extent, submissions to the magazine's "Artist's Chronicle," not all of which were published.
    The contents of Series II, the contributor files, reflect the editorial shift in the magazine in 1982 from a documentary to a critical format. As High Performance moved away from being a magazine in which the artists presented their own work to one in which their work was analyzed by others, the editorial board hired writers and commissioned coverage of performances. These contributor files represent the various writers, photographers and graphic artists who either had their work commissioned for High Performance , as well as those who sent in article pitches or unsolicited work. The files include correspondence and drafts of articles with editorial comments, and numerous rejection letters, often explaining why the material was not suitable for High Performance .
    Individual issue files comprise the bulk of Series III, editorial and production files. These files include material related to the production of each issue. The contents of the files vary, but may include edited drafts of articles, artwork for images, and page layouts, as well as correspondence and specific financial and distribution information not included in or duplicating material in the business files in Series V below. Series III also includes general editorial files, such as writers' guidelines, general forms, and substantive letters to the editor, along with an incomplete issue archive of the magazine.
    Series IV contains audiovisual materials. These take the form of vinyl records, audio cassette and reel-to-reel tapes, audio compact discs and video cassettes, as well as a single film reel and a CD-Rom disc. Included here is a small amount of audio material produced by High Performance such as the special Issue 23, and works produced under the High Performance Audio label. The bulk of the series, however, is comprised of audio and video recordings of performances and interviews, a mixture of both professionally produced and home-recorded material.
    While the first four series are directly related to the content of High Performance , Series V, business records, documents the operational aspects of the magazine. Included here are materials related to the financial functioning, governance, marketing and development efforts of High Performance and its various governing bodies, as well as distribution of the magazine.
    Books published under the aegis of the Astro Artz/High Performance partnership of the early 1980s form the bulk of Series VI. Various materials relating to the published books, such as correspondence, drafts, artwork and layouts, are included, but perhaps of more interest are the materials related to books cancelled part way through the publication process, and various proposed publications. The series also contains similar materials from books published collaboratively with High Performance.
    Series VII is comprised of general reference files and documentation assembled by the magazine for various purposes. The files contain information on a variety of topical issues and projects important to the magazine, and coverage of various regional art scenes, as well as general performance and art world documentation. The material includes clippings, press releases, newsletters, and a small amount of correspondence. Also included here are a variety of visual documentation of art, both reproductions and original works.


    Arranged in seven series: Series I. Artist files, 1953-2001, undated; Series II. Contributor files, 1979-1996, undated; Series III. Editorial and production files, 1978-1997; Series IV. Audiovisual materials, 1966-1996, undated; Series V. Business records, 1979-1998; Series VI. Related publications, 1980-1997; Series VII. General reference files and documentation, 1977-2005, undated.

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Names

    Kaprow, Allan
    Henes, Donna
    Buchanan, Nancy
    Rosenthal, Rachel
    Gómez-Peña, Guillermo
    Smith, Barbara Turner
    Seemayer, Stephen
    McCarthy, Paul
    Schneemann, Carolee
    Lacy, Suzanne
    Dakin, Susanna
    Jones, Kim
    Burden, Chris
    Peppe, Michael
    Apple, Jacki
    Nitsch, Hermann
    Edelson, Mary Beth
    Abramovic, Marina

    Subjects - Corporate Bodies

    Bob & Bob
    SubGenius Foundation

    Subjects - Topics

    Community art projects
    Performance art -- California -- Los Angeles
    Performance art -- Periodicals

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Photographs -- 20th century


    High Performance
    Durland, Steven
    Burnham, Linda Frye