The artist Joshua Sofaer developed a structure for analysis of art, which comprises seven aspects of ‘conversation’ which takes place during enquiry. In the context of performance studies, this allows us an insight into the ways in which contemporary artists and artworks incorporate elements of performance into their structure.
Section One: Artist
Joseph Beuys believed that ‘Everyone is an artist’, or, that we should all harness our individual potential to view the world around us with the same tools we use to respond to art.
In Oleg Kulik’s Armadillo For Your Show, the artist becomes an object, but, by the inclusion of the body in art, the object/artist becomes a performance. Rebecca Horn, in Performances I & II explored the relationship of the body to the space in work for camera; however in this case it is the remnants of the performance (the artwork and the objects) which have become artworks in their own right.
Armadillo For Your Show
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Section Two: Audience
We attend art events for myriad reasons, but, as previously discussed, the concept of an audience for art is a testament to a human need for collective witness. In many respects art can only be considered to be ‘complete’ once the reciprocal gaze of an audience has acknowledged it.
Guillermo Gomez-Pena used the audience themselves as performers in an artistic installation entitled Ex Centris (A Living Diorama of Fetishized Others), and Richard Layzell took the concept of performance provocation to another level to attempt to understand how the audience interprets what they are witnessing.
Image Source: tate.org.uk
Section Three: Form
The ‘form’ of a work can be understood as the arrangement of the parts, and how they manifest. Form is at the heart of perFORMance
In the context of performance studies, performance can be an element of an artwork, or the principle form itself. Performance art could be seen as a reaction to the commercial art market in its ephemerality; by dematerialising the ‘object’ performance art subverts the reproductive economic model.
In Piero Manzoni’s work, we are presented with an object of art that is the result of an action, but the value of the object comes from us not having seen the action. In La Ribot’s Panoramix bodies are displayed in different forms, and as multifunctional tools as a comment on the control of the artist and artwork
Manzoni's Artists's Shit
Image Source: WikiArt.com
Section Four: Content
Content is the sum of the material elements. The content of a work could be considered personal, political, self-reflexive, and as spectacle, among others. Any single artwork may incorporate elements from these taxonomies, but Sofaer believes that most artwork corresponds to at least one of these elements.
Art is multi-semiotic and depends on the inconstancy of meaning.
Paul McCarthy’s Rocky could be interpreted as a comment on toxic masculinity, a criticism of mass media, a societal spectacle, or a masochistic display. In Robin Deacon’s True Stories the artist explores controversies that rises out of perceived bias, and in Bass Desires Stacey Makishi confronts us with the physicality of our fears and desires.
Image Source: artnet.com
Section Five: Location
For artists working in the realm of performance art, moving away from a theatre avoids the conventional world of theatricality and subverts the commercial model of museums and galleries.
Duchamp’s Readymades forces us to consider that no site is neutral by re-placing mundane objects into positions of spectatorship. Location proscribes or influences meaning and interpretation.
In I Miss You! by artist Franko B, the gallery is transformed into the facsimile of a fashion show as an obscured body bleeds their way down a canvas catwalk. The ‘art-for-sale’ was both the show (location) and the blood-covered canvas (remnants of performance) but the value comes from the location of the work.
I Miss You!
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Section Six: Duration
A performance only exists In the time that it is being performed, in the moment of its performance. The value of performance art is predicated on this impermanence.
In Bruce Nauman’s Good Boy Bad Boy there is no sense of duration or completion, and the coincidences of performance are entirely transitory. Forced Entertainment’s Quizoola! does have a start and a finish, but audiences are not expected to remain for the entire time, so duration is defined by participation.
Good Boy Bad Boy
Image Source: artsy.net
Section Seven: Documentation
As discussed above, performance art is transitory. Therefore it is often the ‘evidence’ of the performance which garners value as part of a process of accumulation. Performance’s only life is in the present: performance cannot participate in the circulation of representation except as something OTHER than performance. The ‘evidence’ of the performance provides publicity for this or future works, and acts in situ as a commodified artefact.
Carolee Scheneemann’s Interior Scroll became emblematic of feminist performance practice only because of its documentation, as there were less than a dozen witnesses to the performance itself; it is the photographs and the communication of the performance which has gained commercial interest and value. Hayley Newman creates fictional performance pieces described through documentation and record and forces audiences to consider what value of the photographs and description can have, if the performance it depicts doesn’t actually happen. Documentation for its own sake disrupts the transition between artist and audiences, and questions the efficacy and truthfulness of art.
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