THE ART PROCESS: Performance Art
Performance art is a relatively “new” artist process which hadn’t gained popularity, let alone fully existed until the 60s. This particular form of expression involves time, space, the artist’s physical body, and some sort of relationship or distinct communication between the artist and the audience. It’s a very disciplined and conceptual form of art where the artist is likely to attempt pushing the limits of human nature or cultural norms by challenging the audience unconventionally.
Since it threatens traditions of the artist’s purpose, performance art faces the continuous battle of proving itself as a viable form of art. Where the industry is concerned, in some ways it may as well not exist since a performance piece is usually a single event which cannot be repeated or captured to be purchased. I personally appreciate this factor, and I like that it shifts the function of the artist from creating alone in a studio to exposing themselves in a living, breathing way.
To best explore the versatility and impact of performance art, let’s look at the work of Marina Abramović, New York based Serbian performance artist. Abramović is at the very top of my most brilliant artists list. In terms of original thought and powerful conceptual realizations, she very much moves past the limits of the mind with grace. For over three decades she’s been dealing with themes of ritual, pain, connection, and communication.
Abramović has produced many critical works ranging in scale and concept. In 1974 her experiment titled “Rhythm 0” consisted of 72 mostly harmful objects being presented to an audience told they can do whatever they want to her with the objects as she stood there for six hours, completely impassive. During this performance she was cut, stripped, manipulated, and had a loaded gun held to her head - all by an audience of regular people. The outcome of this work was an important study of audience/artist relationship as well as the limits of the two.
In her 2010 work “The Artist Is Present” performed at MoMA, Marina sat for eight hours a day over the duration of three months with a chair opposite of her where the audience could sit face to face with her in silence. The concept is so simple that it’s almost nothing at all. She states that “nearly nothing” is the essence of this work because when you are working with so little, you can focus your entire energy on it. And that she did. The reaction was outstanding - there’s even a tumblr called “Marina Abramović Made Me Cry” which exhibits a number of photographs of people who were brought to tears by the power of this human connection.