It makes contact with our most basic shared instincts: our physical and psychological needs for food, shelter, sex and human interaction; our individual fears and self-consciousness; our concerns about life, the future, and the world we live in. It is different from traditional theatre because it does not use clear narrative, a random structure and the direct appeal to the audience. Art historian, RoseLee Goldberg: Historically, performance art has been a medium that challenges and violates borders between disciplines and genders, between private and public, and between everyday life and art, and that follows no rules.
It has some roots in experimental art in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. At the time these artists were greatly influenced by theatrical and music performances, burlesque and other forms of popular entertainment. Some used their political or extremist beliefs to generate a reaction in their audiences. An example is an Italian anarchist group of Futurist artists who insulted their middle-class audiences, hoping it would spark a political reaction. Futurism is a modern art movement that originated in Italy in 1909. It celebrated the machine age, glorified war and favored the growth of fascism. It especially focused on expression of movement and the dynamics of natural and man-made forms. It was ‘art as action.’Post World War II, performance was an effective way for artists to explore philosophical and psychological questions about human existence. You can imagine that after World War II a lot of people were questioning their existence and their purpose on Earth. After having witnessed the Holocaust and an atomic bomb, people found performance to be an excellent medium to communicate their shared physical and emotional experiences. The use of the word ‘shared’ is very important. Performance art, more than any other art form is about human feelings and emotions. It is also an art form that doesn’t distance itself from the common people. Instead, it uses shared feelings, conditions, etc. to evoke a response. Contrary to painting and sculpture, which rely on the expression of a concept, performance art forces an interaction with a real person who could feel cold, hunger, fear and pain, excitement and embarrassment—just like their viewer. It first began emerging as a “style” by the name of performance art in the early 1960s in the US. At the time it referred to Happenings, Fluxus concerts, events or body art.It was linked to the idea of Conceptual Art, which worked with ‘an art of which the material is concepts’ and on ‘an art that could not be bought and sold.’ It was and still is an art form that has a time and a place. Initially, those who made performance pieces were making a statement against the gallery system and the art establishment. Nowadays, many performance artists find the gallery and essential space. It allows them to contextualize their piece and make it the center of an institutional exhibition. Fluxus were an informal international group of avant-garde artists working on a wide range of media, such as public concerts/festivals, publications, musical or theatrical performances and more.
Marina Abramovic was born in 1946 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. At this time Yugoslavia was under the repressive communist dictatorship. Her parents were closely tied to the regime and extremely orthodox. Her father was in the Marshal’s elite guard, while her mother was an art historian managing historical monuments. When her father left her family, her mother took strict control over Abramovic but nevertheless supported her passion for art. Abramovic saw a number of biennales in Venice, which exposed her to art influences outside of Communist Yugoslavia. Typically, Abramovic aims to avoid the traditional. She does not use object-based art materials such as paint and canvas. As a result, she lessens the distance between the artist and the audience. Her own body is the medium. The origin of the artwork is tangible. This makes for a very personal experience. Her artwork almost seems ritualistic. It involves a lot of physical strain. This forms the basis of her art, which is to explore themes such as trust, endurance, cleansing, exhaustion and departure. These are all themes of life. Everyone, more or less, experience difficulties with the above mentioned. Between 1975 and 1988, Abramovic collaborates with Ulay (a German performance artist) with whom she was in a relationship with. A lot of their works revolved around duality
Abramovic feeds from reality; from now and today. Many of her pieces involve a lot of time; time during which she is completely alone in her thoughts. She interacts with people through sight, smell and sound. All of them however, are entirely one sided. She doesn’t speak. Therefore, she has a lot of time to think. Think about the people she meets, the contexts she is and of course a bout future project.
Joseph Beuys Joseph Beuys was born in 1921 in Krefeld, Germany (near the Dutch border). He was the only child in a strongly Catholic, middle class family. During his youth he was interested in the natural sciences and art, but eventually chose a career in medicine. In 1940 he joined the military voluntarily as a way to avoid getting drafted. He was trained as an aircraft radio operator and a pilot, which led to a number of severe injuries. Before the end of the war he was held at a British prisoner-of-war camp and then returned to Kleve in 1945. After the war he dropped the idea of becoming a doctor and began a study of sculpture at the Dusseldorf Academy of Art, where he later taught. When in the 1960s Dusseldorf became a center for contemporary art, Beuys found himself in the center of it. He became acquainted with the Fluxus group, which I mentioned earlier as being the debut to performance art. Their goal was to create fluidity across literature, music, visual art, performance and everyday life. He began displaying his sculptures, drawings and room installations. He also created actions or happenings. Although these were not always the focus of his art, he is considered to be one of the first performance artists. This is because he challenged the traditional notions of beauty and desire. Beuys was greatly involved in political reform. He founded several activist groups. I actually read an article about his association with the Nazis. Apparently, he may have been acquainted with some Nazi politicians. But when you think about it, everyone more or less had to be. He was famous for his charismatic presence, his calls for reforms of all kinds and his unconventional artistic style (usage of fat, felt, earth, honey, blood, dead animals)
Inspirations I would regard Beuys as a war artist. He was in the midst of the German war efforts. He was in a plane crash in the Crimea, after which nomadic Tartars rescued him. They rubbed him with fat, and wrapped him in felt to heal his wounds and warm up his body. Both of these materials were omnipresent in his works. Beuys developed a personal symbolic language acquired from alchemy, shamanism and his own personal experiences. This form of language represented healing, regeneration and enlightenment, which are themes, clearly acquired after his personal trauma and near death experience. As a whole, the elements of fat, felt, minerals and honey became symbolic of healing and regeneration.
In May of 1974, Joseph Beuys lived and communicated with a coyote in a small room. The coyote has been interpreted in a number of different ways, but based on his general inspirations one is now being perceived as the accurate. The coyote as an animal more or less represent “one of man’s earliest attempts to make articulate the movement of the Spirits.” The coyote as perceived by the coyote tales, is first and foremost a transformer. It is an animal that made things happen; more importantly, is the most adaptable mammal, thus being able to survive. This is what attracted Beuys to the coyote. His intentions were mostly therapeutic. He used shamanic technique, his own Shepard-like tools and symbolic language to engage the coyote in a “dialogue.” He also had fifty new copies of the Wall Street Journal introduced to the room each day. They coyote would acknowledge them by urination on them. While Beuys performed the same series of actions, the behavior of the coyote shifted throughout. It went through phases of cautiousness, detachment, aggression and companionship. More interestingly, Beuys did not once step on American “soil” in the literal sense. He was wrapped in felt, loaded into an ambulance and driven to the gallery where the action took place. He says, “I wanted to isolate myself, insulate myself, see nothing of America but the coyote.” The title is purposefully ironic, because Beuys greatly opposed American military action in Vietnam. At the end of the action, Beuys was wrapped in felt and returned to the airport.
Beuys covered his head first with honey and then with 50 dollars worth of gold leaf. He held the dead hare in his arms and strapped an iron plate to the bottom of his right shoe. The audience expected to be able to enter the gallery, but were surprised when they were simply allowed to look through form behind the glass in the gallery. Beuys walked around the room with the hare in his arms and whispered in the hare’s year. The silence was only interrupted by the sound of his footsteps and the loud crack of the iron on the floor.
Mainstream was also cathartic event. He rolled about convulsively slapping fat into his armpit and behind his knees. This again, was a way for him to work through his guilt-by-implication in the Holocaust and finding a way to heal. In the process, I think he was very successful in showing wide audiences his traumatic experience.
Chris Burden was born in 1946 in Boston, Massachusetts. He studies Fine Arts at Pomona College and then earned his masters from the University of California. He believes that art, especially his art, should engage the audience in sociological, political and environmental issues. His performances often endangered his life as a way for him to emphasize the concept of time.
Shoot earned Chris Burden recognition. More than that however, it became a representation of his goals. He basically had his friend point a riffle at him and shoot him in the left arm in front of an audience of ten. Many viewers labeled him as being a masochist. Others interpreted his art as a commentary on the tragedy of the Vietnam War. However, he never compared or clarified his work as having any relation to the War. The controversy of his work came about because of its supposed cruelty. According to him, “everyone subconsciously has thought about what it’s like to be shot.” And isn’t this true. Contexts have changed, history has become history. Back then it was the Vietnam war, today is the revolutions in Syria, Egypt, Libya and even closer to home—the violence on television. So throughout our lives, I think many of us do actually ask ourselves what that feels like. He says that he didn’t ask to get shot because he wanted to hurt himself, but because “it’s the idea of being shot to be hit…it’s something to experience. How can you know what it feels like to be shot if you don’t get shot? It seems interesting enough to be worth doing it.” “Vietnam had a lot to do with Shoot. It was about the difference between how people reacted to soldiers being shot in Vietnam and how they reacted to fictional people being shot on commercial TV. There were guys my age getting shot up in Vietnam, you know? But then in nearly every single household, there were images of people being shot in TV dramas. The images are probably in the billions, right? It’s just amazing. So, what does it mean not to avoid being shot, that is, by staying home or avoiding the war, but to face it head on? I was trying to question what it means to face that dragon.”
In 1974, Burden was nailed to the back of a Volkswagen Beetle with the engine roaring for two minutes in representation of the roar of pain. The piece and its title are suggestive of Christ’s crucifixion. Burden referred to the Beetle as “the car of the people;” thus liberating everyone not just himself.In experiencing this type of pain and vulnerability firsthand, Burden is able to make it more familiar and, in turn, he demystifies the horror of such acts by making them knowable, both for himself and for the audience. As a result, the collective fears that society uses to keep people in order are exposed and the idea that the human body is governed by law is rendered impotent. — Josh Baer
The Balkan Baroque of 1997 and the Baroque of the 1600s: The name gives the artwork away. The Baroque of the 1600s was a dramatic shift to Renaissance art. It was dramatic and theatrical but it expressed the human condition, the human suffering. If we compare the Crowning with Thorns with the Balkan Baroque we can see clear similarities in the lighting of the subjects. Also, despite the difference in the medium (one being a canvas and the other a live performance), the compositions are very dynamic. The Baroque as an art movement really focused on bringing art down to the people. Similarly, as we heard in Abramovic’s commentary, she speaks of a theme (war) that is universally known. All humans can relate to it in some way or others. The physicality of her artwork—the real cow bones, the blood, her physical and psychological burial in them—bring out the drama. They centralize a very large concept. They break it down to simplistic and symbolic elements.
I. a definition of the movement
Creates a contact with most basic shared instincts:
our physical and psychological needs for food, shelter, sex and human
interaction; our individual fears and self-consciousness; our concerns about
life, the future, and the world we live in
I. a) roots
late 19th and early 20th century experimental art
theatrical and music performances
Italy, 1909: futurism, ‘art as action’
post World War II shared physical and emotional experiences
interaction with a real person
1960s in the US: Happenings, Fluxus, body art, etc.
links to conceptual art
Street Light, 1909
oil on canvas
example of futurism
(a) marina abramovic
1946, Belgrade, Yugoslavia (Serbia)
aim: to lessen the distance between
the artist and the audience
ritualistic, physically and emotionally
the house with the ocean view
the artist is present
Ulay and AbramovicAbramovic herself
in the end it is all about you
(b). joseph beuys
1921, Krefeld, Germany
Catholic middle class family
Dusseldorf Academy of Art
1960s contemporary art
challenging traditional notions
political reform advocate
"The contact with Fluxus endowed the issue of art
and life, in Beuys' mind, with a radically different
significance. In Fluxus he recognized a vital current
that released new impulses in himself--and here
the other side of Beuys emerged, his powerful
sensitivity to, and talent for, the public arena and
near death experience
"Art is not there to provide knowledge in
direct ways. It produces deepened
perceptions of experience. . . . Art is not
there to be simply understood, or we would
have no need of art.”
(c). chris burden
1946, Boston, USA
sociological, political and environmental issues
endangering his life