Performance art = search + purity
Galleries, agents, brokers, tax accountants… jobs hardly compatible with the objectives of an artist. However, during centuries they have worked together while artists complained about them.
From 1970, a new artistic trend definitely settled in the culture: Performance art. Artists saw the performance as a way of taking their art directly to a public forum, eliminating the need for those awful intermediaries who obstructed their artwork with their chrematistic way of thinking. In fact, they were looking for the purity of art influenced by the political left, by the Happenings, Events, and Fluxus concerts of the 1960’s and by the shows of Jackson Pollock and the Action Painting… Some authors see its origins more distant, in the first avant-garde movements, and they speak about the live performances of the Dadaists, especially their meshed poetry and their scandalous artistic montages.
Then, Performance Art describes any live artistic event that includes poets, musicians, dancers, film makers…, visual, body or even land artists, and it has a sense of immediacy because if you are not around, you miss the artist work: since Performance Art is live, no two performances are ever exactly the same.
Performance art can be cheerful or absolutely tragic: Chris Burden, with the 1971 performance piece “Shoot”, was shot in his left arm by an assistant from a distance of about five meters.
A great platform for presenting the personal views of authors and artists on social causes has been the story-telling and the autobiographical pieces.
Since the beginning of the 1980s, Performance Art has increasingly incorporated technological media into pieces and it is increasingly combining technology and imagination and, in fact, there are no predictable limits. For example, we can speak about Laurie Anderson, a pioneer in electronic music and an inventor of several devices that she has used in her recordings and Performance Art shows. In 1977, she created a tape-bow violin that uses recorded magnetic tape on the bow, instead of horsehair, and a magnetic tape head in the bridge. Also, in the late 1990s, she developed a talking stick, a six-foot-long baton-like MIDI controller that can access and replicate different sounds.
Of 2000, I personally love the imaginative Shen Wei Dance Arts Company and its pieces for forward-looking audiences. For example, in a Performance Art piece at the Los Angeles Music Center, twelve dancers painted a canvas ground-cloth, created by Rose Brand during the performance, with a fantastic awesome result.
Another great Performance art event happened in 2010, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It was presented a retrospective and performance recreation of Marina Abramovic’s work. During the run of the exhibition, Marina Abramovic performed “The Artist is Present,” a 736-hour and 30-minute static, silent piece, in which she sat immobile in the museum’s atrium, while spectators were invited to take turns sitting opposite her, and a support group for the “sitters,” was established on Facebook.
This year, in November, another amusing performance will be at the MOMA: the Meta-Monumental Garage Sale by Martha Rosler.
Definitely, art is still alive and looking for new ways of expression, nobody knows the future importance of internet for this search for purity.
Video: Chris Burden “Shoot” in 1971