The Formulation of Performance Art (Or How to Take (A)part (in) Reality)
My premise in this essay is that performance art has a vocabulary and exists in sets of contexts. Just as poetry or painting have a common set of expressive features, techniques and contexts which are of course in a state of flux, developing and changing, often in response to innovation or external influences from human culture. I set myself the task of proposing some of the elements that make performance art what it is today. From this systemization I propose a distinction between spectacle and ritual within performance art as a means of developing the art form further.
Performance art can only be understood according to its contemporary state. As one observer writes; “In the past, time-based, intangible work requiring an actively-engaged audience was typically left in the shadow of the more easily-accessed, traditional art object” (Elbaor n.p.). With a rise in interest for performance art, we are compelled to ask what is it that unifies a field that is diffuse as Petr Pavlensky nailing his scrotum to Red Square in front of the Kremlin wall on 10 November, 2013 (“a metaphor for the apathy, political indifference and fatalism of modern Russian society”- Walker) or the intricate “Scar Cymbals” by Donna Huanca (2016) in which “the slow, deliberate movements of the models enact private rituals and meditations that mark the space with their presence, eventually casting off their prosthetic layers to leave behind a very visceral absence” (Huanca). Both of these works share common elements, specifically bodies, objects, space and time. The result exists only as long as the performance lasts and includes those that witness or participate in it. This configuration is a language of performance that is born out of representational effectiveness.
Representational effectiveness is a category of understanding that “comprises the information associated with the representation in the internal mental environment” (Cheng 18). Just as painting has a system that is recognized cognitively as composed of images, surfaces, tones, colors and perspective, and dance has gestures, postures, movements, rhythms, sequences, while theater has words as well as stage, props, costumes and so on, so too does performance art have a language. But in performance art there is no composite of signs. Rather it could be described more as a series of hieroglyphs, or being similar to “sensory codes” that Victor Turner describes when examining the traditions of ritual (Turner 12). These codes are referenced, manipulated or repeated, added to or changed depending on the originality and intention of the performance artist. These sensory codes are not always representational in the sense of language, and include “body languages of many kinds, song, chant, architectural forms (temples, amphitheaters), incense, burnt offerings, ritualized feasting and drinking, painting, body painting, body marking” (Turner 12). These elements are interpretive; they are experienced as evocative, of emotions, or ideas, or histories. This short essay explores some of the more common code systems of performance art in order to suggest how they can be used to control the spectacle and communicate with people.
The characteristics or attributes of performance art discussed here are in no way a complete account. It is a beginning of a discussion around performance art as it is gaining importance in a time that it seems to reflect. The temporality and embodiment that is so often associated with performance art reflects the ephemeral, networked, body-conscious present-time of free floating signifiers (as well as capital and commodities), and the digital information layers that are now the ubiquitous media we live in. For this reason the language of performance art begins with the body.
Where is the body in performance art? The body is a sensory code system within performance that operates according to representational effectiveness. This foregrounds the “actual, living relationship between the spaces of the body and the spaces the body moves through; human living tissue does not abruptly stop at the skin, exercises with space are built on the assumption that human beings and space are both alive” (Schechner 1994a 12). When the performance takes place, there is always a body relating to the space it occupies. This is not to separate consciousness and physical presence; rather it unites the two within the frame of space. Our senses feel, register and report back to our physical, emotional and conscious self on the spaces we inhabit. These interactions are manipulated and referenced continually in performance art.
The body, as a mobile, sensitive, aware operative within space is the central unit in the language of performance art. The body is the key, as in the musical key, of the performance. The body activates the space in performance. The body is the intersection for the performance and the space, be it the body of the performer or of the witness. The interaction and manipulation of the body in space can be understood as an ancient system of knowledge, according to how the body can be related to Turner’s “body languages of many kinds, song, chant, architectural forms” (Turner 12). If we were to link up this list of body practices to spatial configurations it would of course be tempting to speak about archetypes.
An example of the language of performance based on the body is the five archetypes in the dance system formulated by the late Gabrielle Roth. Roth applied five basic archetypes to rhythmic movement of the body, which she called 5Rhythms®: Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Miracle and Stillness (Roth). It is clear that such a system makes dance a representational dimension in performance (the work of Petra Bauer is another example of such a representational body system). The connections between the body and representation via archetypes (and verbal language) can be contrasted with, for example, Merc Cunningham’s “non-representational” choreography, which nevertheless still creates a similar performance space. Dance is an obvious system of expression for the body in space. In this case it is a specific referencing of space and the intentionality that make Cunningham’s dance productions performative. Generally, performance calls for an engagement with space.
The space of performance produces social relations and, as such “social space is produced and reproduced in connection with the forces of production (and with the relations of production).” These “forces…are not taking over a pre-existing, empty or neutral space, or a space determined solely by geography, climate, anthropology…” rather they both usurp existing and (re)produce social relations and “thus [there is] no good reason for positing such a radical separation between works of art and products as to imply the works total transcendence of the product” (Lefebvre 77). Performance art exists as a form of spatial practice, or as the “production and reproduction, and the particular locations and spatial sets characteristics of each social formation. Spatial practice ensures continuity and some degree of cohesion. In terms of social space, and of each member of a given society’s relationship to that space, this cohesion implies a guaranteed level of competence and a specific level of performance” (Lefebvre 33). In the time of the performance, which I shall return to, the space of the performance is defined by the agreements and understanding drawn from the forces of production, including the production of social relations.
In other words, those who witness or share or create the performance enter into sets of spatial relations and these contribute strongly to the performance as a work of art. A performance that re-establishes space, by merging audience and participants in the enactment of social production is Voina’s 2007 performance piece “Feast” (PIR). Performed on a Moscow metro train in memory of the poet Dmitry Aleksandrovich Prigov, “Feast” manipulates spatial relations according to how they produce social behaviors and roles. The train carriage becomes a dinner party, with collapsible tables set up and the benches of the train appropriated, the vodka is flowing, and strangers join the group to eat and drink with the ‘performers’. Thus tensions between the laborious ritual of taking public transport, with its sharing of often intimate space with strangers, the desire for the destination and all the punctuality of that commitment, enmesh with the pleasures of the feast and the wish for prolonging the sensual event. In the train carriage of “Feast” a repurposing of social space has occurred via performance. Meanwhile, photographs and video documentation are created upon the edges of “Feast”, documenting the performative transformation of space during the event. As the time for concluding the feast approaches, sweets and vodka are consumed and the stations are counted down until the end.
Voina’s “Feast” can be contrasted with many gallery-based performances where the tension between the art and the dominant perceived purpose of the space is absent. For example the Stockholm space Fylkingen staged a three-day performance festival in October 2016 in “an artist-run venue, [run by a] member based organization committed to the contemporary experimental performing arts field” (Wikipedia Fylkingen). This symmetry with the space can be argued to dictate the roles of all during the performances. Such an agreement between the space and the actions of its agents, in the sense of theater, or alternatively that the space is transformed by the performance, can be understood as a potentially provocative dimension of performance art. In both cases the connection between the spatial, as the nexus of social production and therefore intrinsic to the recognition and results of the work, are usually included in the intention and planning of the performance work. The other spatial feature that is important for performance is the objects.
Objects are a particular feature of performance art. In Voina’s “Feast” the objects of the performance — plates, glasses, cutlery, chairs, tables, napkins and tablecloth — rejoin with the space to redefine it. It is in this sense that “social space contains a great diversity of objects, both natural and social, including the networks and pathways that facilitate the exchange of material things and information. Such objects are thus not only things but also relations” (Lefebvre 77). Exchange, within the larger frame of performance, is only possible through the use of objects. Objects within the context of performance act as symbols in the service of exchange. If we understand these objects as facilitators of exchange and relations, and as a result acknowledge their status within performance as catalysts for such, then objects take on meanings and functions that far exceed theatrical props. Objects in many ways are the means of exchange, akin to money, within the spaces of performance art. These objects play upon the key of the body in the performance.
The nail that pierced the scrotum of Pavlensky and attached his body to the surface of Red Square was always a real nail, with its practical uses. But in the Pavlensky’s work the nail becomes a symbol, on object that offers exchange in a physically extreme form of representational effectiveness (i.e. one associated with physical pain and as Pavlensky argues, of the “apathy, political indifference and fatalism of modern Russian society”). Likewise, Gabriel Bohm Calles and Caroline Ljuus perform “Intimation” at the Fylkingen performance festival. The performance revolves around two bodies, a set of objects (colored balls of dough) and a set of rules:
Two participants are seated facing each other under a light bulb in a dark room
Eye contact may not be broken
Red and white cookies are placed in a bowl between the participants
Red cookie means: slap the cheek/ receive a slap on the cheek
White cookie means: caress the cheek/ receive a caress on the cheek
The participants feed/slap and caress each other alternatively and do not see which/what cookie/action they are going to perform/receive until the cookie reaches their own/ the other participant’s mouth. — (Bohm Calles/Ljuus)
When the first slap comes it sounds like an axe falling hard into a block of wood. Here again we have objects, bodies and actions that reach a level of representational effectiveness within the contexts provided by performance. The bodies respond with violence or a symbolic act of care, in the caress, but the minds occupying each body does not know, as far as we understand, which it will be. It is the objects, the colored balls of dough, which facilitate the exchange within space. The randomness of the body actions, and their violence, makes the performance a shocking insight into what human beings are capable of. “Intimation” lasted about half and hour, at the end Bohm Calles and Ljuus were visible shaken and looking nauseous. This agonizing but relatively short duration of the performance makes it a powerful work of art.
Performance with representational effectiveness can represent two forms of time. The first is the duration of a performance, or how long it takes with its actions, space and objects. The time as duration of performance art can be further considered in the documentation of the work, as an extension of it. Within the duration of the performance there are also points of repetition, noise (unexpected and contrary elements) and silence or breaks in the performance. When the performance work is completed or ends, there exists only the documentation and the memories of the witnesses and participants. But there is also the second form of time, in the experience of time depicted in the performance, or how it represents time as a structuring principle of reality. It is the representation of time as opposed to just the duration of time it takes for the performance to exist that separates it from the non-performance, as it provides a temporality outside the ordinary experience of time. This second approach I will call the temporality of the performance. But first some words on the duration of the performance.
The time a performance takes or its duration is important for how it can be understood. According to Wikipedia, “Performances that focus on the passage of long periods of time are also known as durational art or durational performances” (Endurance Art). The endurance dimension of such works makes them popular subjects for social media and mainstream news. Durational performance pieces include “Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight)” (September 2014– May2015) by Emma Sulkowicz. In “Mattress Performance”, the piece works between private space and public performance, an object and a body, one carrying the other, bearing the weight of a crime. Or in the words of the artist; “I feel like I have carried the weight of what happened to me everywhere since then”. It is the phrase “since then” that indicates a relatively large time scale, when one considers that much performance art does not last longer than and hour. Sukowicz carried a 50-lb (23-kg), dark-blue, extra-long twin mattress with her everywhere on the campus of Colombia University in New York (where she also lived in a college dorm — the site of her sexual assault on August 27, 2012) for 8 months. Other famous works of durational performance include Tehching Hsieh’s “One Year Performance 1980–1981 (Time Clock Piece)” and Marina Abramović’s “The Artist is Present”, (2010), which lasted a total of 750 hours. Both of these works also operate on durational scales of time that are removed from clock-time.
The three examples given here of durational performance, Sulkowicz’s “Mattress Performance”, Hsieh’s “One Year Performance 1980–1981” and Abramović’s “The Artist is Present” also represent forms of time as temporalities. These can therefore be used to illustrate my second manifestation of time in performance art, temporality. The work “Mattress Performance” added a performative layer to the daily life of the artist as a student, combining it in a constant symbolic presence of the event that inspired the work and its implications. The mattress as an object enabled exchanges around the metaphor of ‘weight’ and the carrying of trauma. Over the eight months that Sulkowicz carried the mattress and this object came to represented a point of time: August 27, 2012. There is (tragically) no temporal progress beyond that point in the performance, and as the artist stated, from that date she shared space, the campus of Colombia University, with her rapist.
For “One Year Performance 1980–1981” Hsieh ‘punched in’ on a time clock every hour on the hour for a year, not ever sleeping for more than 50 minutes at a time and creating a vast visualization of increments of time. Every time he punched the time clock (Around 8750 times) Hsieh had his photograph taken, but he missed 133 instances. The result is a mapping of the passing of time, the loss of life and according to the artist, how “you consume time until you die”. This piece represents a time of measured and visualized moments, each one a memorial to loss. Finally, Marina Abramović’s “The Artist is Present” is a single drawn out moment of recognition, one face staring at others as the focus of the work. In a gallery at the Museum of Modern Art in New York Abramović sat across from 1,545 sitters, silent, often mimicking their movements, expressions or emotions. Most would sit for around 5 minutes. In “The Artist is Present” there is no past or future and no progression of time. There is just a single present moment; sitting opposite Marina Abramović, staring, and together being present in a seductive now. In this present there is no representation, as the symbolic always projects out into a future, from a moment of inscription or creation, or from the moment of utterance. In “The Artist is Present” there are the bodies, as well as table and chairs (objects) in the present moment, without a past or future, engaging visually in space, presenting a temporal logic suggestive of pornography. Whereby the erasure of time becomes erotic in how it brings a spectacle impression of intimacy to the bodies.
The use of signs in performance is a vast topic. As a communicative system that relies upon representation, performance art can call upon verbal and written language, semiotics, gestures and what can understood as iconic (“representamen resembles or imitates its signified object” — Lanir), indexical (“the signifier might not resemble its signified object but is directly connected in some way to the object”- Lanir), and symbolic (“symbol or symbolic sign is assigned arbitrarily or is accepted as societal convention” — Lanir) signs. Language in the context of performance can embrace all three forms of signs and is not necessarily addressive. One need only refer to the beginnings of modern performance in Europe, such as the Dada performances of Kurt Schwitters, Tristan Tzara and Hugo Ball, to see how language is used to attack and deconstruct language. How can one respond to “Ziiuu ennze ziiuu rinnzkrrmüü…” from Schwitters’ “Ursonate” (1932), than as non-representational sound sequence? In “Ursonate” words have become objects that have been inverted from the symbolic register, while still displaying indicators of syntax. As objects language becomes the medium of symbolic exchange in the performance. The dimensions of ritual by Turner listed above can be easily accommodated into this semantic structure.
Perhaps one of the most famous performances that engaged with the nature of signs as ritual is “Semiotics of the Kitchen” by Martha Rosler (1975). According the MoMA archive:
In this performance Rosler takes on the role of an apron-clad housewife and parodies the television cooking demonstrations popularized by Julia Child in the 1960s. Standing in a kitchen, surrounded by refrigerator, table, and stove, she moves through the alphabet from A to Z, assigning a letter to the various tools found in this domestic space. Wielding knives, a nutcracker, and a rolling pin, she warms to her task, her gestures sharply punctuating the rage and frustration of oppressive women’s roles. Rosler has said of this work, ‘I was concerned with something like the notion of ‘language speaking the subject,’ and with the transformation of the woman herself into a sign in a system of signs that represent a system of food production, a system of harnessed subjectivity.’ (MoMA).
From Rosler’s work we can understand how signs, both as objects and as a language or symbolic system, are activated within a performance. Visually “Semiotics of the Kitchen” presents as a television-cooking program in composition and perspective. Martha Rosler stands behind a bench, dons an apron, looks into the camera and begins explaining what she is doing with knives, a nutcracker and a rolling pin. She calls out the names of the objects; demonstrating each one with an exaggerated almost violent action; “Apron…Bowl…Chopper…Dish…Eggbeater…Fork” [makes stabbing motion with fork]. What she is doing does not make sense as a cooking demonstration, but the performance becomes a reflection on what she is ‘supposed’ to be doing, which is showing how a woman cooks. Resistance is a clear theme that emerges from “Semiotics of the Kitchen”, with the objects, the space and its signs symbolically mediating social identity and questioning it. The body becomes a sign or is at least acknowledged as such as a subject under power. Thus the ritual of the TV cooking program is usurped and critiqued using the objects and body of Rosler’s performance.
Location is not neutral in performance. Every site of a performance both frames and feeds the reception of the work. For this reason I include location as an important common attribute of performance art. Location feeds into the earlier described configuration of place, for example the appropriation of a place by performance when it is transformed from one designation to another, or a mix of both. Finally as a framing device for the performance, location provides interpretive perspective for the audience in relation to the work. The example of “Feast” by Voina is grounded, as I have mentioned, in a location, as it takes place in a train carriage of the public transport system as it moves through the underground of Moscow. Such a location adds tension to the both the theme and execution of “Feast” by its appropriation of place and the expectations that come with the resulting duality. Location can thus be equated with place, as a set of meanings in the representational sense whereby a train carriage, as a mode of transport, is transformed into a social occasion with strong political undertones. In short, the location of a performance work is important for how it is interpreted. While this point may seem banal or obvious, when one considers how performance occupies a location we can see that it is in fact a central controlling structure placed upon it as an art form.
The location of the work contributes to its potential demarcation as spectacle. The audience can either join with the performance, as participants, such as in “Feast” (and thus cease to be an audience), or it can witness, from that which separates them from the performance. The separation provided by location (i.e. it is ‘there’ and not ‘here’) introduces the possibility of “competing claims of communities, where, despite shared histories of deprivation and discrimination, the exchange of values, meaning and priorities may not always be collaborative and dialogical, but may be profoundly antagonistic, conflictual and even incommensurable” (Bhabha 2). For example, in the gallery those competing claims are shifted to the discursive dimensions of art. Or when a stage or screen is used by contemporary performance, the relationship to the audience is distanced and therefore is easily defined by spectacle. Such a demarcation of spectacle in performance art can be further measured by recognition. By this I mean recognizing and being recognized is the acknowledgement of an equal setting for all agents within a space, in this case, the performance work. The recognition within the work, both of the confines of the performance and its participants, defies the emergence of spectacle relations.
Covertly, by establishing the location of performance in what Bhabha terms ‘liminal spaces’, that exist “in-between, the designations of identity, becomes the process of symbolic interaction, the connective tissue that constructs the difference between upper and lower, black and white…” (Bhabha 4). In liminal space it becomes possible to expand in an inclusive sense the exchanges around objects, the critical and investigational production of social relations and the power of representational effectiveness within performance. This is due to how location frames symbolic interactions (including Identity) in performance. The frame of location has the propensity to forge a “participatory art [that] in the strictest sense forecloses the traditional idea of spectatorship and suggests a new understanding of art without audiences, one in which everyone is a producer” (Bishop 35). The idea of art without an audience, or alternatively an art that only operates based on participation, is very similar to ritual.
A simple example of such a non-spectacle performance that relies on location to create ritual is Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir. A long running performance project based in New York, the work references the objects, language and formulations of the evangelical Christian churches (e.g. testifying to make a declaration of belief in regards to material consumption and shopping). The Church of Stop Shopping includes witnesses, in an appropriation of bodies, as part of the performance with the aim to convert each “from consumer confidence to community confidence” (Reverend Billy). This conversion destroys the separation created by a stage, such as is often encountered in the art gallery as a location.
In many locations for performance a stage, either as a material or symbolic entity, separates the performance from the audience in a one-sided recognition. This is a spatial arrangement that can contribute to the designation of spectacle. Once again, location frames the performance in how this space is constructed according to a separation. The performance as spectacle means the symbolic qualities of the work dominate and negate action, as participation and interaction. Within the demarcation of space offered by the stage, and the visual and theatrical dimensions of performance gestalt the dominance of the spectacle. By spectacle I refer to the concept Guy Debord formulated, as a set of social relations, and these relations are represented in “the specialization of images-of-the-world” and thus are mediated by them (Debord 12). The representational nature of the performance, through the mediation of images, can mean that there is a danger of it degenerating into pure spectacle. When the spectacle is taken up in the performance as an oppressive mechanism for social control, such as in “The Semantics of the Kitchen”, the mediation of images becomes itself a comment on the images that are mediated. Whether this diffuses spectacle relations is highly debatable.
The recognition offered to the audience by Abramović in “The Artist is Present” is not of the stranger coming to the performance as a body, but it is of the artist herself. The crowd lined up at MoMA is there to be appropriated by Abramović via the location and a meticulous attention to documentation by the artist. Through the combination of location and the documentation and distribution of the performance, spectators are appropriated as bodies, attention and presence. In “The Artist is Present” the audience waited for hours to sit within the frame created by Abramović. The artist attributes an almost magical power to the transformation of this desire; “I also take the energy from the audience and transform it. It goes back to them in a different way. This is why people in the audience often cry or become angry or whatever” (O’Hagan, Guardian). The emotional reactions of the audience are captured by the documentation, which in turn is distributed to a larger audience as the artwork. In each case “the participant-body is conscription as an object — a product — that performs as an extension of the artist’s body” (Disman 1). Each body is framed by the location; either as an architecture or in terms of what can be called discourse, or a shared understanding, what that location means or how it is to be interacted with. But this is only one example of how a location and the configuration of performance can result in “the process of symbolic interaction” to return to Bhabha. The location of the other performances described here also defines the relationship to the audience.
As a final example, the location of Sulkowicz’s “Mattress Performance”, on the campus of Colombia University in New York, was a critical dimension of the performance, as a boundary and as the site of the assault that precipitated it. A vast number of people were drawn into the performance, online and in situ, with a wide range of opinions regarding the assault and the performance. The Colombia student body divided, into those that admired the work and those that condemned it. There were people who helped carry the mattress (including at Sulkowicsz’s graduation ceremony), one of the rules being Sulkowicz could not ask for help, but could take it if offered. Thus via its central object (the mattress) there was no invisible boundary between the performance and an audience; there were only witnesses or helpers. Location (combining with duration) allowed these demarcations to occur. If the piece had been conducted in a gallery it would be difficult to imagine how the structure of the performance would emerge elsewhere. Location influenced the resonance of the “Mattress Performance” in the same ways that a gallery-based performance as a location would, such as “The Artist is Present”.
Underlying the categories discussed in this essay (body, space, objects, time, signs and location) are the intention and clarity of the performance. Furthermore it is necessary for the artist, as well as the public, to ask what or for whom the performance is in the service of? In this way intention becomes dialogic, with a broader set of concerns being reflected back upon the artist and the creative process in reception. While a work such as Ljuus and Bohm Calles’ “Intimation” contains elements of violent spectacle, the intention and clarity of the work come through as disturbing for the viewer, when the audience is dramatically faced with the fact that they are the spectators looking at violence. With “Intimation” we watch violence in the controlled environment of performance, a violence framed by location and mediated by objects, but at the same time that is outside the control of the artists and of the audience. The image is now real (i.e. non-symbolic) and we are its victims. Through the loss of control both audience and artists are placed on an equal level of agency. Spectatorship is thus lessened within the spatio-temporal structuring of “Intimation”. The objects as mediators (the red and white balls of dough) allow this to happen.
The intention of what is going to happen or how is it going to happen in the performance are creative concerns that go into the work before the audience is aware of them. Here, loss of control can be a possibility, whether or not it is part of the intention. Both decision and non-decision are always articulated in the performance but not necessarily in the intention. Where a stage — either symbolically or materially — is established it is not necessarily to establish a boundary with an audience. Rather, the stage imposes a means of control over the performance, which can be intentional, or arbitrary. An audience is not always necessary but is essential in some performance. However, the establishment of a stage or similar spatial metaphor within the frame of location for the performance will create spectators. It is only necessary for the artist to be clear about intention as a performance artist, not about what the result will be, however the result is the performance. In this process visibility and presence are necessary. The body is the key to both visibility and presence. Duration and location also equally define the performance — the symbolic can endure over generations, even if it is just as repetition via documentation.
In defining performance art according to body, space, objects, time, signs and location it becomes equatable with ritual. Ritual can be defined as a ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order (e.g. ”ancient fertility rituals”). Ritual resists “this society which eliminates geographical distance [that] reproduces distance internally as spectacular separation” (Debord 120). Ritual deletes spectacular separation as it operates according to a symbolic whole, wherein the act and its meaning are unified. Like performative utterances, ritual acts have their own meaning in the time of their own existence; in how they are “describing a given reality, but also changing the social reality they are describing” (Wikipedia). Ritual objects can represent, but in the act of ritual they take on their own identity, infused with sacrality or power and thus they change social reality. Furthermore, archetypes become relevant in the construction of rituals, within spaces and in relation to the body and signs.
Thus, it can be “the reinterpretation of symbolic devices so conveniently realized through temporary media [that] makes of performance art a laboratory of metamorphoses of linguistic significations” (Felice 17). Such a line of tension, from the symbolic, through media to expression is what gives performance art its present potential. In a time of unlimited spectacle available on screens everywhere (where attention has replaced accountability, identity is constructed through the ‘Selfie’ and gossip is news), the way into the “laboratory of metamorphoses” could be via a ritual that is creative, participatory and explicit. For example, consider the meme, which is part of contemporary culture as well as being participatory and even performative to varying degrees. Applying the concept of the meme to the dimensions of performance art discussed here could impose a further layer of meaning upon it. For instance, food works as a meme in both “Feast” and “Intimation”, in the latter crossing over into being an object in the performance. A range of potentials can open up for how performance can be articulated, understood and participated in when the social system becomes a textual construct supported by the spatial and performance a means for creating it. Such use of new media in performance art is not so much about being relevant as it is about the desire to “emphasize efficacy” (Schrechner 1994b 613). In a scientific and not a magical sense, the performance of today could be the ritual of tomorrow and the reality of next year.
A PDF version of this essay (with footnotes) is available here:
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Sean O’Hagan Interview: Marina Abromovic The Guardian 3 October 2010 https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2010/oct/03/interview-marina-abramovic-performance-artist
Turner, Victor. “Are there universals of performance in myth, ritual, and drama.” 1990, By means of performance: Intercultural studies of theatre and ritual 9.
Voina, Feast. Moscow Metro Circle Line, the night of August 24th to the 25th 2007.
Walker, Shaun. “Artist nails his scrotum to the ground in Red Square”. The Guardian. Monday 11 November 2013 09.45 GMT
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/11/artist-nails-testicles-red-square-pyotr-pavlensky Accessed 3 August 2017.