Performance Art, Presence and Daily Life (Introduction)
Performance and Daily Life
The avant-garde excites the history of the twentieth century art. RoseLee Goldberg connects the origins of Performance Art to Futurists, Constructivists, Dadaists and Surrealists experimentations. In the history of the twentieth century art the artist’s body and action become the center of live art practice, articulating the actual performance vocabulary. The live connection between the artist, the art practice and the audience, as well as the institutions that house the performance, it is not a revolution in history of art and we can track down this original situation since our ancestor’s storytelling around fire, Greek’s aoidos, Medieval games, Opera and Dadaist’s Cabaret Voltaire. In the twentieth-century the performer is no more a myth’s idol, a mask or a character, but the performer is the artist.
Performance establishes the artist’s presence in society.
For RoseLee Goldberg, performance defies definitions, except for the simple sentence “live art by artists”. For Marina Abramovic, performance is not theatre, because “the only theater that I perform is mine, my life is the only thing that I can perform”; although performance does not defies theater, indeed RoseLee Goldberg underlines the connection between the revolution in theater, music and dance and performance art in the Sixties and Seventies. We can say that performance is a visual expression in which the body is the center of the action, it is cutting-edge and linked to universal languages, it could be short or durational, ephemeral, shocking, spiritual, metartistic or autobiographical etc.
In the Fourties, John Cage and Merce Cunningham studied chance and indeterminacy in their reflections at the Black Mountain College. They released a new approach to music and dance, inspired by Zen philosophy and new performance practice. “Art should not be different from life, but an action within life. Like all of life, with its accidents and chances and variety and disorder and only momentary beauties.” said Cage, that in 1952 presented his celebrated 4’33” performance about “silence”. In 1962, Susan Sontag stressed how Happening shocked the audience. For its unpredictable duration, no plot actions, purified speech and lack of conventioal relations “the event seems designed to tease and abuse the audience”. Sontag believed that Pollock’s action painting [as well as big canvas-environments by Arte Informale] and Surrealist shocking tradition were the origins of happening [and performance, we can say]. “As in tragedy, every comedy needs a scapegoat, someone who will be punished and expelled from social order represented mimetically in the spectacle […] in the happening this scapegoat is audience” she wrote.
The happening displayed the anesthetized life with anesthetized actions, violence, unexpected relations and situations.
In the Fifties many artists like Allan Kaprow, George Segal, Jim Dine, Claes Oldenburg and Robert Rauschenberg attended Black Mountain’s lessons. In 1954 the Gutai Group released a serie of actions using their body as paint brush and involving the audience in early performances, happenings and environments; in 1959 Allan Kaprow performed 18 Happenings in 6 Parts; in 1962 Yves Klein and Piero Manzoni used too the body like paint brush and for living sculpture; one year later Carolee Schneeman and the Wiener Aktionismus started to perform blood sacrifices and first ritual and shocking performances of the twentieth century. But Performance Art was recognized by art critics only in the beginning of the Seventies. The artist’s body and live presence, as well the audience’s presence, became the center of a new vocabulary for the art system through performance. “Performance is weapon against conventions of established art [and] a medium for articulating difference” RoseLee Goldberg wrote. Performance’s experience established the presence of the artist in the society.
In the fisrt decade of the twenty first century, the museum is not only a place for art contemplation, but also for engagement. Art vernissage and special events are the situations in which the presence of the artist is not only required from institutions, but also expected from the audience. The MoMA’s exhibition 100 Years of Performance Art in 2009 was a celebration of the history of performance art. Abramovic’s retrospective in 2010 and the performance-event The Artist Is Present live at the same museum was the confirmation of performance’s central role in contemporary art. Close to the third decade of the twenty first century, performance continues to be effervescent. Many artists use live actions and workshops to engage the audience and give an active role to art-users. Performance artists gave presence to their actions into society since the Sixties. Today we expect “performance engagement” from museum’s activities, international art exhibitions, art previews and vernissage etc.
What is the relationship between experience of art and daily life through performance?
This is the purpose of my research, titled Performance Art, Presence and Daily Life.