The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines performance art as a nontraditional art form often with political or topical themes that typically features a live presentation to an audience or onlookers (as on a street) and draws on such arts as acting, poetry, music, dance, or painting.
Innovate or die is a popular developmental and advancement anthem. The growth and rise of performance art is a confirmatory reflection that this anthem also speaks to artists and creatives in general.
This is because its growth is said to be the result of creatives becoming frustrated and consequently dissatisfied with the constraints of traditional avenues of display available for their art. Driven by a pressing need to innovate or ‘die’, they have gone in search of alternative expression.
I support innovations – and you?
I fully support innovation. In addition, I feel that if one feels so strongly about their artistic creation then they should show it by any means possible.
There is also the challenge of distraction. We live in a world full of growing distractions. A lot of those distractions lack substance which we discover only after they have forcibly grabbed our attention. If art is to stand a chance in the ultra-competitive arena of attention getting, then something must be done differently.
Performance art allows an artist to puncture through seemingly multiple layers of distraction and deliver their artistic creations.
Interfacing with ancient Greece
Though the current popularity of performance art is growing in leaps and bounds, the concept is not new. Quite the opposite in fact. Some historians and researchers have indicated that performance art can be traced all the way to ancient Greece.
One example cited in this respect is that of Diogenes. Diogenes was an eccentric Greek philosopher. His lifestyle mimicked that of a dog to such a great extent that the word ‘cynic’ or ‘kuvikoi,’ which is Greek for a dog, was used to identify the school of philosophic thought he helped bring about i.e. Cynicism.
The hesitancy towards performance art in most cases stems from a fear of the unknown and also to some extent, a need to control the narrative to suit one’s comfort zone.
If this is your challenge, here is a suggested remedy. Start small. As with all things, performance art can be placed on a scale from mild to extreme. In addition don’t just consume the visual presentation, find out about the creator. Find out what informs their art. Dig into their why for choosing a particular artistic expression.
A quote by Laurie Anderson says that “Performance art is about joy, about making something that’s so full of kind of a wild joy that you really can’t put into words.”
We could all use joy. So, if Laurie Anderson is indeed right that performance art is about joy then let the record reflect that I am in full support of it.
I just have one stipulation though. It should not result in any harm coming to the performer or to those in observance of the performance.