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The Performed Danse

{Down to START} See also: [(art) concepts] [Art MovementsCoerced performance] -[post post-modernism]- [Performed Text] [The Performed UFO's] (and esp, etc) [Performance, Absurd] [Dada] [Dadaism] (an art "ism") [Performance frank: Realism Now!] [Why Bother?] [ "PARTS ONE, TWO, THREE" ] [Performed Art] [The Performed Art Act] [The Performed Art Technology] [The Performed Danse] [Performed Art: Filmed] [The Performed Score] [The Performed Text] [The Performed UFO's] (and esp, etc) [The Performed WEB (including programming)] [Fluxus] [Street Art] [Interventionist Art] [T.A.Z.] (Association for Ontological Anarchy) (Hakim Bey, chief janitor) [Frank's stuff]

The Performed Performance

Note: Often i will use "when we paint a picture and do thus and so". Of course, i don't mean to limit performance work to painting, but it's a model that i'm familiar with and probably as are all/most artists. We appologise for the in-convenience. On this page: {
Intro} {Stuff} {The Expectation of Performance} {The Performance Space} {The Performance: An Actor} {The Performance: An Artist} {Elements} {Gesture/Manner} {Sound/Speech/Music} {Props} {Costume/Non-costume/etc} {Location, Location, Location} {Dynamics} {Content/Message}



The Expectation of Performance In this section: {The Performance Space} {The Performance: An Actor} {The Performance: An Artist}

The Performance Space

As i mentioned elsewhere, there is always the concept of "traditional" theatre and the expectations/traditions that it brings with it. This is almost un-removable. Let us say that we were going to have a public debate on the greenhouse effect (a good point, quite moot (moot in the old, quickly becoming obsolete meaning of "worthy of dicussion; un-decided"). Anyway, onto the stage come our two professors Dr. Smith and Dr. Jones - both doctorates in earth-science/climatology/etc. And they beging to debate in very formal terms. There is a moderator who introduces them and moderates the times; eg, "Dr. Smith you have ten minutes to respond, folowed by Five minutes for Dr. Jones' rebuttle", etc. Now, if we have the debate in a theatre-hall, on the stage in front of the curtain of a procenium stage, we will have the purist form of debate. The room is a formal "meeting place" and very modern. It would almost certainly be recognisable as such by anyone in the world (we assumed it is televised): Regular rows of chairs, permanently installed, forming concentric arcs around the front of the stage. The curtains being drawn together (or down) form a fairly solid "wall" behind them. The fact that they speak froma raised "dias" gives them the trappings of "elders speaking to the clan" as with a raised throne of a king in front of his subjects. This can also be only slightly lessly purely accomplished if the debate occurs on the up-court part of a basket ball court, essentailly under the home team's basket. On either side of the net they stand behind a podium brought in for the purpose. In the center either a podium or small desk, at wich stands/sits the moderator - with a timer clock. In front of them (down court) facing them are rows of folding chairs arranged straight across the court in an array - almost certaily with a wide "nave" (corridor) of space down the middle front to back. If on the other hand, the debate occurs in the originally mentioned auditorium, and the curtains are parted, and they occupy the stage area itself - we can see that it automatically takes on a "theatrical sense" by the fact that it IS a stage; a theatre stage. In fact, i would say that the *performance* of the two debaters in such a case would be to some extent more "theatric" than the first case. In fact in the second case, there would be (due to the amount of echo if nothing else) a different auditory dynamic which affect the "frustration level" of the two debaters - having to almost shout at times to overcome the echo and thus not being able to subtlely retort with a slightly soto voice - always good for be-littling your opponent. Regardless, in the first case - the "we're on stage - and we ARE the stage" feeling would be quite different from the feeling of being "within the performance space". Even if neither has *any* experience as actors, they will both almost undoubtedly have knowledge/experience/etc of what that space is and how people are *expected* to *act* within it, its traditions, etc, etc. So, if onto a stage a performance artist is placed - then the performances that the artist as artist might put forth would like-wise be "tainted" (read that as "subsumed into the contextual expectations of the traditional theatre experience in the European Tradition of Stage Performance"). In fact, i would say that it would almost be impossible for the artist to escape not only the audience's expectation of what constitutues "performance" (as it has some atomic independence outside of theatre) - but their own awareness of how they should act. Now, let us turn to a *performance space* which is an art classroom where painting in taught. In this *space* (which we assume the artist has either actually worked in or at least feels comfortable enough with to feel as he/she/ne *belongs* there. This "natural feel" for the artist would be more the case if the "performance were in a ceramics lab (and they were a potter), a wet photog lab (and they were familiar with that aesthetic), a print room, a computer lab, etc - ie, "home field advantage" as it were. Now, it is almost certainly the case that the audience would feel a bit ill at ease. (In my own case, the first time a relative saw the print lab which was like a second home to me, he muttered "Certainly is a seedy place". Obviously not realising how insulting this was, and of course being an almost completely defensive reaaction - he ot of any sort of being a person of an aesthetic nature wondering what i'd do when it got done studying "all that art shit" - exact quote.) Anyway, the point here is that the PERFORMANCE ART ACT that could be perfomred here would necessarily be equally restrained by the setting and the artist/audience expectations associated with that space. And yet the tragedy is that these same people sit idly and completely passibely in front of the continual on-slaught of the TV as it coldly drills into their minds. This level of vapitude is brought home clearly in many films that deal with the "optico monstroso" (either tv or radio or vapid film, etc); eg, the phrase "I'll buy that for a dollar" in -[
RoboCop]- Where the "Beavis and ButtHead" concept is clearly antiicpated - vapidity consummed leaving behind only the bare-est outline of and active involvement. Thus, if the performance act is to NOT become as cold as TV (in McCluan's sense), then it must actively engage the viewer. This might be in the interactive nature of immersed or coerced theatre/performance, but it should be possible (and even desirable) using technology to allow the viewer/participant the ability to alter the flow ofthe plot, presented material, etc.

The Performance: An Actor

breathing blocking acting

The Performance: An Artist

Artist Performance: Minimalist

We prop up a painting. And then sit down in a folding chair next to it and read a book. The performance lasts say 15 minutes, we then fold up the chair, pick up the painting and then walk off, get in our car and drive off, board a bus/train/plane - etc. Talking or not during/after the performance is optional. Boom box with music? This goes back to the works of Gilbert and George.

Artist Performance: Maximalist

I think we have to go back to Bruce Nauman for this - being shot in the leg as part of a happening comes pretty close to the limit. We could even argue that Jean Tingley ??name?? photographing himself jumping onto the pavement is at "least" self-induced. And then of course the works of Joseph Bueys come next. Nine hours doing anything - even pleasant - pretty much pusing it as far as humans are concerned. And this of course draws from the shaman/guru/seer/etc traditions of spirit quests, meditation, etc. The time element would be a major aesthetic here. Of course, in that same way would be us creating the art but "on display"; eg, with a closed-circuit camera of us painting. In the limiting case we get Hans Namuth filming Pollock painting. Now, what must that have been like? It would be different, of couse, if we arrange to have someone film us as part of an intended performance work.

Artist Performance: Somewhere in-between.


In this section: {
Gesture/Manner} {Sound/Speech/Music} {Props} {Costume/Non-costume/etc} {Location, Location, Location} {Dynamics} {Content/Message}


gesture/manner "Man Watching" by (best known as the author of "The Naked Ape") Expected motions Practiced motion drawing - oddly enough more obscure painting sculpting more obscure: print making Wanted to watch us perform - but the performance is NOTHING - it's the result of the search for content - that is the quantum/fractal is-ness of the acts that go into create the FILM/TAPE is the work. It's not watching the artist paint (or even go thru the motions that is the point of the work - it's the painting itself). And this is no easy thing to over-come. In my own case, when i do my "up from minimalism" paintings, there are two distinct stages. First is the preparation of the under-painting which will consist of a huge number of very small strokes - probably not more than 1-inch or even 1 cm at most in size. These are either in a pattern (arcs, or even constructed "landscape-like" *themes*) or simply line-by-line "filling the canvas" - left to right, something like the way a computer screen is "painted' by the electron beam: Raster-line by raster-line. This may take days or even weeks (given the venue/support, i could see it taking years). The next part is the painting itself which occurs very quickly in the actual painting. At first i stand in-front-of/over the canvas listening to the same music track over and over - thus, creating a "pure mental state" - i got that "trick" from the artist Barbara Hepworth in having to "get back to" a work after being interrupted by her family. This takes quite a while - and then the painting occurs. The "theatricality" or "performance" is NOT the point - the point is the art work itself. Of course, it's not until *much* later that i can even see if the work worked or not (with all due deference and respect to Kitaj - very much so). One work that didn't was "the Frank Stella" - oh, well: There it 'tis.


Sound of course will play differently in different locations. And of course there may be inherent sounds of the location and/or of the audience (if there is one). Pretty much all of the sound design consdierations of the traditional theatre apply here as well.

Sound - SFX

Sound: Speech

Sound: Music

Naturally in theatre (especially musical), music plays a role of setting the stage of the feel of the work, as well as often conveying information/mood/etc. Eg, a radio "broadcasts" info about an escaped killer (eg, Agatha Christie's "Mouse Trap"). The choice of live/recorded music - as well as even just having musical instruments present. Also, imagine having singers present that you or a participant can "play" - something like a human piano. In the absurdist manner, consider Python's musician who uses mice as a xylophone. Of course, stomp is a more common form of these ideas. Music/Soud


With traditional theatre, props are often key to the story being told; eg, in Neil Simon's "Plaza Suite" there will have to be serving trays for the room service person to bring in, etc. Note how that simple idea transforms the act: A person brings in a bottle of champaign on a silver tray vs a person walks in carrying a bottle of champaign - as if they'd bought it at the local liquor store. Yep: Even props got context. Of course in the act of performance, we often create props to coerce an "artistic feel" for the work. This can include what is put into the space (or brought into the space, taken out, destroyed, built, etc), as well as music, lighting, or even people used as props. And naturally costumes, sound, and the location istelf are kinds of props as well. In the case of I/A (Inter/Active) works, the things that we provide to the participants both limit and empower them as to what goes on. Consideration of course must be made as to how they are (on a bike, walking, dis-abled), how they will react to or use the props, etc. And of course how they will or will not I/A in the work itself. If we have say a boom box and a bunch of CD's and let them choose which CD to play and then participate in the work then that's obviously empowering, if we force them to listen to street sounds that are loud (Jim Dine, et al: "Crash Dummy" ??title??) then we are clearly co-ercing them to interact with the props (here sound) in a certain way). {


Of course for theatre, costume is often used to help wit the sus-pension of disbelief, as well as the performance itself. For example, if the young girl starts to cry and the doctor offers her his handkerchief - all of costume contributes to the act and relieves us of having to imagine what's going on. Thus, the very lack of costume and/or props is what requires the mime to use stylised gestures. Marcel Marseau ??sp?? didn't have to "mime" a hat since he wore one. And of course Charlie Chaplin's cane as not just walking stick was instrumental to many actions in silent theatre as well.


If it is known that we are an artist and we just wear our blue jeans and such (our *uniform* as an artist i always refer to such dress as) and then we in almost any location or context, then this is something like the "zero-level" non-costume. Of course, obvious costume Dressed as a matador (as did Alfred Jarry's mother on many occasions in public), or a clown, fireman - depending on the location would all be obvious costumes. For example, dressed as a fireman and trying to swim the australlian crawl in a pool, dressed as a clown and riding a tractor plowing the fields. Of course a fireman costume coming out of a burning building is totally different than a clown (esp at a circus) coming out of a burning building. Again with location/context. Also, of course the way that we inter-act with the location has a lot of weight to it as well. Consider if we wear a business suit and then perform a work in a corn field, or in a business office, on a sub-way, etc. The costume works or not in an "expected manner" or not with the loction. Costume coereced/moderated/etc by the performance itself. The clearest example would be to dressed in a tuxedo and then to proceed to sew patches onto it, slowly transforming it into "hobo" clothes. Here what we are doing directly alrters the costume. Another example would be a contortionist dressed in a tuxedo (a ballet outfit? etc) - again, the expectations are being destroyed or at the very least modified/lead by the way the costume adds to or detracts from the performed work. And of course the strip tease is another example. The stripper can start out being fully dressed in almost any recognisable "costume"; eg, business suit, nurse/doctor, fireman/woman/etc. But, again the use of what may be "simply" theatric performance doesn't necessarily invite the interpretation of the act as "art" rather than "acting". Again, this goes back to not always being able to "paint" what we see in our mind's eye; next time: Even better.

Location, Location, Location

As we have already seen, the location brings its content/context/expectation triad with it as baggage. Now of course we can either work with or against or ignore this. And this goes back to the intensity of the performance itself (minimal vs maximal, single/group, etc - see below). Also, the same act in a different location is embedded into the nature of the location. This parallels the "matrix/substrate/medium" that we work with. For example, consider drawing on a large piece of paper on an easle., on a canvas, on a wall in a museum, on a wall in some-one's home, on the street, in a public space. Of course, the street art of Keith Harring comes readily to mind, as well as graffitti artists (both "approved" and "guerilla"). And of course each location has with it the time-of-day, season-of-the-year, etc. Placing a grand piano into the middle of the street which has been kept clear because a parade is approching will have a definitely different effect, than if after the parade has passed, the piano is brought in. Note that it is modern need for *authentication* that requires a professional piano player. If John Cage had had me (who hardly knows how to find middle C on a piano) sit down and "play" his work for toy piano it would *still* have been a very effective performed art act, but not a musical performance. By having Leng Tan play, her tallent/fame brings the legitimacy to the MUSICAL work that then allows it to be *accepted* as an art act as well. Of course the entire performance borders on performance art. Consider the musical explorations by Peter Shickley ??sp?? as "P.D.Q. Bach" and of course the musical-performance/humour-act of Victor Borge ??sp??. Thus, the location (and props appropriate or not to it), then can be used to tweek the performance - and those are the "standard" reading of the context/location/performance. But, as with all art, when we bring to it a new interpretation/usage/etc we then go back to the expectations of the location itself. Finally consider "locationless" locations. A desert is (or can be) pretty formless, much of the ocean or a large lake is, etc. And of course the idea of "every-place" can be used to negate the concept of loction a well. The night sky is another example - the city sky-line may or may not contain recognisable buildings, the star-filled sky over a generic field, etc -- all are film-ridden with commonality. Of course even the void of empty space (as in outer-space) brings its associated contexts/contents/etc.


So, what are the "dynamics" of the work and how will they contribute or detract from the work. Again as with any work, the imtent is about the only thing that will get thru (but not necessarily be obvious) and much of the "imagined work" will probably get lost in the process. Remember we're artists not actors/musicians/danseurs/historians/ writers/mimes/etc. And is that (those) even a "pure thing"?

Dynamics: Extents - How far can we go?

Let's go back again to the work of Christo and Jean-Claude. -[
Main page here]- To summarise briefly: They usually "wrap" buildings and things. The works are up for a limited time. The works are often multi-site or extended areas. They are public "sculptures" that take place by *temporarily* modifying the enviroment. Their projects are (completely?) self-financing(art work, drawings, etc. are sold to pay for the work) but often involve volunteers; eg, artists, pulic officials, experts in engineering, ecologists, etc. There *might* be some additional funding required. In almost all of their works, the "permission to proceed" is a night-mare, often taking years of preparation and "selling" before they can proceed. And these are established artists! Thus, local fire/safety codes, permission slips (a note from your mom?), etc are often going to limit what can be done. Having powerful or well known (same thing) sponsors can help there. If we recall Bruce Naum's having himself shot in the leg as part of a performance work, we begin to see part of the problem as to the limitations of art and the artist in a public performance. And then when the artist becomes involved as well such as Andy Warhol.

Dynamics: Single/group performance

Of course, once we begin to assemble a "troup" then we approach the dynamic of either an act (imagine acrobats, danseurs, blue men, etc) or an actual performance - street performers/actors/mimes.

Dynamics: Audience participation/involvement

This goes back to happenings, street art/theare, etc.


Content! "Please tell me if my poems breath." - Emily Dickinson in her letter to her friend/editor with her first submission for publication. Yes; an actual, exact quote.

Content: what is the message?

This is probably the most difficult aspect of performnace art as it differs from theatre - and yet "the other side of the same coin". The theatre work has a script (we assume or not) amd traditionally has a *message* - we need only watch "The Doctor's Dilemna" or "Romeo and Juliet" to see that. Of course, in modern times much experimental theatre goes far beyond "mere" message; eg, Robert Wilson's one-man act of MacBeth: We know the message (or think that we do), what then is the "point" of the performance? Again works like this are more about the performance itself and less about the performed text (the script if there is one). And oddly enough (or not) it's in the "grey area" of the message that we are most likely to get lost. After all, we go back to the comments about Frank Stella's work: "It's just paint and canvas" - not an exact quote. As artists, we're well aware that the Mona Lisa ("The portrait of the Lady La Giocanda" ??sp??) is really just another portrait. We as artists might be intrigued more by da Vinci's innovative use of the wood plate as "canva" or such. But, obviously that work can never totally escape its context and be "just" content. Similarly, we're un-likely to be able to control the way that our content (message or not included) and the way that it's seen, etc. Probably the clearest message that we send is when we are "acting" as artist, art historian, culture bearer, story teller, etc - thus we as artist are "just the voice of the message". Of course we've chosen the message (un-like the stand-up comic who asks for suggestions from the audience - in which case he/she/ne uses the suggestion as a guideline for the performance). Thus, as artist the message (if there is one - i keep going back to that: It can be "just performance" just as it can "just be paint and canvas") -- the message we convey is the way we choose to *translate* the image in our mind and the aesthetic that we sense into the physical mnaifestation of the performance. And of course, that's the same as deciding whether a work should be drawn, painted, sculpted, "merely" written about, etc. There are an infinite number of Guernicas - but only that one that carries that specific message. And of course like all artists of the time, we should all "paint" a guernica if the occasion demands it. Also, we need to be aware of *un-intended* messages. Again depending upon on how clear the context is that is evoked, the performance may not be accepted by the entire audience - assuming that there is one. Even in the case of happenings, fluxus, street art, interventionist art, etc - the audience may be un-comfortable with the work being performed. Is that supposed to be the case? - is it an intended aesthetic aspect of the work? Couldn't this be better expressed by a painting? Maybe write about it? Again going back to the why-ness of using performance as the medium as opposed to something else. For what-ever there is to "it", when we see/hear/experience-directly the art performed (either as filmed record, watched event, etd) - that will exist outside of any other medium. The immediacy of direct experience is of course simply one other aspect of art as art. But in the modern I/A (inter/active) and V/R (Virtual/Reality), etc world - being a part of something will have an aesthetic that is quickly being sub-sumed/transformed/destroyed/re-created by other experiences.

Documentation - the final refuge of the incompetant.

Well not really. Of course, when we have to "talk about" or "explain" the work, then it becomes the art object observed and studied. And of course that devolves to the educational process. Does that detract from the message? From the work? But, again if we have to explain *as part* of the work the aesthetics and dynamics of it, the message, how much rice pudding it likes with its morning coffee, etc - then something *is* lost. This goes back to Picaso's idea of "the act of creation is also an act of destruction". Once the Mona Lisa is painted, it destroys all other possible Mona Lisas. But, consider the photograph - here all of the shots that aren't THE ONE, are part of the creative process. And they are the equivalent to the "study work" - or at the very least the "study work that occurs in the mind of the artist prior to making the work". So, is the explanation (and the realisation of its need) part of the message? Is the work to be "remote" or "un-approachable" or "mysterious" or is it to be "obvious"?

Documentation - performance guides for fellow artists/actors

These are of course the same as "production notes" in the tradtional methods of the theatre. And of course, this goes back to the idea of documenting the performance as historical record, etc. And what about "audience-less" performances? These go back to things like Man Ray's "photograph of an object later to be destroyed" ??title??. We don't *really* know if the object was ever actually destroyed. What if a "clever copy" is destroyed and the original is *still* in-tact? Again: Autographic vs Allographic. And of course, most of what we do *alone* in our studio is an audience-less performance. Of course that too is debatable, etc.