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Performance Art

See also: [Text as art material] [Coerced performance] -[post post-modernism]- [The Performed Art Technology] [Performance Absurd] [Dada] [frank as performance object] [ "PARTS ONE, TWO, THREE" ] [Performed Art] (start here?) [The Performed Art Act] [The Performed Danse] [Performed Art: Filmed] [The Performed Score] [The Performed Text] [The Performed UFO's] (and esp, etc) [The Performed WEB (including programming)] [] [Interventionist Art] [Los Interioristas] [(art) concepts] [Art MovementsStreet Art] [Fluxus] [Street Art]

Performance Art

On this page: {Intro} {Stuff} {Performance Art as Art} (irreproducible) {The Usual Suspects} {Elements} {Techniques} -^_6


Performance art is like painting the barn. There are four key steps: 1) Surface Preparation, 2) Surface Preparation, 3) Surface Preparation, 4) Painting the barn. Likewise, the fore-thought and preparation that goes into *any* art work are essential to its final form; but in the case of performance art - vital. In the same way that a director of a play will "tweek" it from night to night given a bit of advice here, changing the timing there a bit, or even deleting part of (or an entire) a scene. You and or the players and staff putting a perf work together have to keep working on aspects of it. One can best think of a performance work as a collage/assemblage and all of the trimming/re-fastening and such that we go thru in the more complicated pieces. Finally, of course teamwork and a co-operative group working on a perf work will almost always enhance it. It is important to remember that the author of the work (who may or may not be the performer of the work) should have the last say. This goes back to working with directors - and all of the niceness that may or may not happen in such cases. As with all projects, the "strength" of the work will help others to "get on board with it". And of course, far too often un-justified ego-tism will have a hand as well; as mentioned before with directors (or of course THE star(s) of the show, etc). We will TAKE IT AS READ that there are some people in "the" performing arts that you love to work with, and those that you dread work with - just try to not be one of the dread-ees. Subtle works are the hardest to "leave alone". One artist that i know does an indoor work that is essentially "a homeless person" laying on the sidewalk, *barely* proped up by the wall next to the sidewalk. Her work is a very moving work for most artists, but i've seen directors trying to *over-work* her work. In one case, the director asked what i thought, i looked at her and said, "cigarette butts, and fragments of McDonalds styrofoam boxes". She looked (delighted), and off we went to the local McD's for "props". As with all other art: There is looking and seeing, and then there is of course (as Cezzane reminds us: It is not until i take to draw something, that find that i have never looked at it before. - not an exact quote. I would say that the "eye" for photography (which i, alas, do not have) is the best way to look at the work and see what it needs to have added to it, or taken away. Another important way to look at perf work is as an envolving work in progress. One can even think of it like a TV series with spin offs, product tie ins and such. If you think about this, it's a way of taking the "template" of commericalism and back-applying into the art work. The point is that the philosphical frame work of a given system may be used as a maquette/framework for the perf work and ways of looking at it. And of course as always, we go back to Picasso, Straviniski, etc, etc: Artists create, great artists steal. Of course, our intention is not to *merely* mimic or copy what has been done (or at least it shouldn't be unless we are being particularly sarcastic or critical, etc) but to create the new - even if by using the past as referent. Here i am thinking of things like Warhol's pop-ularisation of soup cans, Maryilyn and JFK (as icon), as well the "Arcades Project", modernisation/urbanisation projects - or even more appropriate the "drawing of lines" in a city as to which sections get urban renewal money, bank loans for home owners, etc. And of course, all things political, social, etc. Another aspect in the grouping of various performance works. In this case, the idea can be "sold" as a "performance art circus". Part of the problem is that the general public may or may not know what perf art is. For this reason terms like "happenings" and "street theatere" are used. Also, we should all agree that it does not generally include theatre in its usual manner - ie, immersive, but the audience does NOT interact as such. Of course, each of these aspects of the pref work are things to be considered. And "in the limit", perf art becomes stand-up and ad-lib comedy/theatre/live-performance in the sense of night clubs, concerts, etc. Part of the problem (and boundless to never be "solved") is that in doing the perf work we tend to feel more like presenteurs than actors/singer/performers/etc. We can also use varying degrees of immersion OF our-selves or others. Again, one could make a check list of all of these aspects/variable/dynamics/etc and then put markers on them: 0 - 100% as to how much of that aspect we intend to include in the work. Finally, we have the idea of a story - that is, a progressing narrative that evolves in the work. I must say from my own (really quite limited) experience is that if we have "cues" which we use to change the pace, direction, mood, story-line, etc. then the audience often does not pick up on these (or at least many of them), and as such the work becomes "muddled" or "un-understandable" and as such does not accomplish the level of clarity that we want. Imagine performing one of Dali's works refering to this fear of insects and the audience thinking that we'd all gone berserk since we were now eating crickets. Thus, the script even if it is revealed (in the sense used in film/theatre work) in a clear manner, may become muddled as well. Note that i use the word "muddled" in the same sense that we use the idea "becomes muddied" in painting and ceramic works. And of course in the end: The work is what it is; like us. Break a leg, knock 'em dead, and of course: Always leave them wanting (not more) but to become invovled in ART!!!! -- ah, now the devious undercurrent rears its ugly head!


Performance Art as Art

(irreproducible) See also -[
Perf art vs Theatre]- One of the primary distinguishing marks between performance art and theatre must (i would say) is necessarily that of the unique creation. In theory we can create a repeated act and as such (even if un-scripted) it approaches the scripted nature of theatre. If (especially in drawing with ink or oil pastel or in sculpting marble) once the mark is made - it's there. In painting (especially in oil paint and any work made from a template; eg, screen printing poured mould works, etc) then the mark can be (to some extent) revised and re-made. Thus, if (even if scripted) if i make a performance piece and that it is *intended* as a unique work of art then once i "lay down the brush" then i intende it to NOT be re-worked, modified, etc. Of course this too is a (slight) fiction. We think here of Gorky's portrait of the artist and his mother - which he kept slightly revising over the years but never quite finishing. But, if we script something and then it is performed with the intention of it being unique then it shouldn't be re-performed (even if as tribute to the author). On the other hand, we know that even well-known and canonically scripted works (eg, "Hamlet") can lend to various performances at the hands of different troups - esp in the context of the time/place they are performed at, costuming, etc. However, i think that we should think of one of the dividing marks of performance art vs theatre as being their *seeable* (hearable, touchable, sensible, etc) sense of uniqueness. Just as a copy of the Mona Lisa (made by students or artists for what-ever purpose) will have that sense of "this is *merely* a copy". As a study, it should be judged (eg, as part of a portfolio or as a viewed object of the artist's work) as a copy. I would say that such a viewing is clearly "as a copy". On the other hand, if an artist creates a pastiche of something (eg, Duchamp's "The Mona Lisa with the Moustache" aka "L.H.O.O.Q.") then we know that it is a "copy with intent to distinguish". Well, that's about it for now - always a problem these "art theory" questions, eh Chatsie? -^_6

The Usual Suspects

Jacques Derrida Nam June Paik


In this section: {
Theatrical Expectations} (expectations) {Catalog Elements} {Object/Props} {} {} {} {}

Theatrical Expectations

(expectations) In some ways the idea that the "audience" (if there is one or even if a "passer by") expects a performance and therefore brings with them all of the "baggage" of theatre can be a PLUS or a MINUS. For example, if the perf is conducted in anything close to a traditional stage place (also remember things like: Village square, a tribal site where specific rituals are performed in a manner similar to that in theatre) - then the viewer/ participant are "tuned in" to the "performance wavelength". To begin with, in classial theatre spaces (eg, procenium, theatre-in-the-round, thrust stage, etc - but NOT the black-box theatre) then props, stage geometry, and lighting and even seating are part and parcel to the perf itself and the way that we might use that space. In the case of street/interventionist/found/black-box spaces, we can bring the theatre expectation in (if we so wish) in a manner of ways. The old tri-pod with cards on it announcing the next act (eg, vaudville, burlesque, etc)

Catalog Elements

See also: -[
Catalog]- The simplest "catalog" is of course the "program" that is handed out at theatre performances. It lists the acts, names of the performers, and supporting sponsors, etc. However, the concept of the catalog is more than that a since it IMPOSES an order on the work that would not other-wise exist at all. Note that in most cases a magician's act does NOT involve a catalog or program at all. Only a "lurid" photo outside the performance hall showing the lady being saw-ed in half, or similar is provided. Of course, this is the exact opposite of the so-called "Freak Show" in circus and carnivals. Oddly enough, i've always considered people who find such "shows" of people who are simply a bit different attractive or enticing to be the real freaks. And of course in keeping with the ideas of Community and Communitas, we would see that the circus then becomes the performer's family. Viz the similarity to the "Finishing School" and the "houses" there. This is vibrantly brought to life in Rowling's "Harry Potter" series. Perhaps we artists are the ultimate freaks viewing the dis-interested public as the muggles of our world. Hmmmm. And for my next trick i shall transform this perfectly blank (not really) piece of paper into a picture of a flower!!! Not quite as enticising as the strong man. Also, cf/qv: -["Shadows and Fog"]- by Woody Allen; to me, the strangler is possibly the most normal of the lot; hmmmmm, n'est pas?

Naming the Number of Something

(supposed to give you power over something, similar to know the TRUE name of somone) The most interesting thing about numbers is our fascination with them. For example, there could be a heated basketball game that goes into overtime after over time and the final score: 112 to 113 would be all that matters. So much for the idea of WINNER vs LOSER. Odd fascination for humans, me thinks. Regardless, certain details capture our attention either in the catalog or the museum label tacked to the wall next to the art object. A good example is this, from the Fluxus movement: The sub-titile is given as: George Brecht, Clothes Tree c. 1963; originally installed in Brecht's New York loft, re-constructed in 1969l Painted clothes tree with three hats, one coat, and two umbrellas, 72 x 27 x 29-1/2" (182.9 x 68.6 x 74.9 cm). Collection of Reinhard Omnasch. Ref: -[Barbara Haskell: "Blam!"]- It's the *specficity* of the count that caught my eye when i was looking thru her book. And think about it for a minute. We buy one of those "do it yourself" book cases. Which ways 3/4 of a long tonne and has all of these sorts of screws, dowels, and clips and such. And of course there is the "catalog" - the contents list. And (as always) that admonishment: If some part is missing do NOT contact the store, call the toll free number below for assistance. There is a drawing exercise in 2D design where you try to create a design using just 11 (eleven) dots. And oddly enough (or not) there is a paininting by Alexander Caulder (best known for his "mobiles" and "stabiles" sculptures). It's an interesting thing to see what you *can* accomplish using just the few dots. To me (of course as a minimalist), there is always the DRAMA as to how the dots are arranged. And for me (like Miro), i imagine that they have their own sort of entertainments and "lives". In one edition of Albert Camus' (prn: Ahl bAIR, Cah moo) "The Stranger", there are several people on the cover -- all dressed in black and white striped body stockings. And each with an odd hat of a similar design. One of the people has (as i recall) a different coloured hat or face - they are all with makeup as i recall). Hence: THE stranger that can be identified just by how they look. Something to think about. Compare this with the ideas in Philip K. Dick's works where at any time a person might be questioned by the police to see if they are "sane". The "problems" have come to the point that people can simply become dis-connected from normality. The tests are of the sort of being able to (properly) explain what simple parables mean: A rolling stone gathers no moss. The grass is always greener on the other side. And of course there are (at least) two different ways to look at these. And not being ABLE to interpret them correctly is evidence of mental imbalance and cause to be immediately isolated and tested. Robert Sheckly "hints" at this in a few of his stories, but only Dick takes it from the realm of the terror that can arrise when one is asked by the pollice: "PAPERS PLEASE". This single act of identification is the basis of much of film noir, as well as suspense thrillers. Ohter aspects of the catalog have been explored by -[Jorge Luis Borges]- in his works involving libraries, or even the contents of a person's pockets. And of course the NON-OBVIOUS use of an object is key to murder mysteries, etc. Thus, the catalog can include or exclude all aspects of the performance. The lie is of course the most outragous of all. Tacking in a note to the program: Due to a severe migrane headache, the part of Lodoviccio will be played by Hans Grueber tonight. Or in the absurdist tradition, Due to a mild case of food poisoing the part of Namu the Whale will be played by Ramma the Whale tonight. The part of the tricycle will be played by a unicycle tonight. etc.

Expectations of the Object and/or Props, Sets, etc

As with many mystery stories, the use of an object can be hidden or changed thus making something innocent; a curved brush handle can be used to stab the victim but later it's heated up in a coffee pot and the end resumes its normal and "harmless" shape. Thus the breaking of expectations has a long way to go to escape the burden of expectation that has been brought to almost every object around us by both day-to-day as well as theatrical experience.