Wednesday, March 23, 2005
The (digitally) forgotten art form
Where is performance art on the net? There are tens of blogs about the fine arts, and not a single blog about performance art, or even performing arts (a much broader term) for that matter! Here is my hypothesis: I suppose that translates into one conclusion: nobody cares. They are quickly forgotten, rarely talked about. They aren't sure where to put themselves on the art scene, so the spectators are even less so.Performance artists and critics seem to have always thought of themselves as the true radicals, the outcasts. And they're proving their point. They will meet and "demand" to be recognized (and paid) as the great artists they are (and I believe they are indeed!), but then - nothing. Some writings, some conferences. Very little. They seem a lost tribe - and digitally, it is all too blatant. The page on performance art that has for years appeared on Google's #1 spot is this incredibly amateur and well, weak, page (in form, but above all, in content). The one "performance art blog" (A.D.2003) I found is... a curated show! It's nice to know the performance art critics know what a keyboard is, but why does it take a curated show for them to appear on the net?
The one hope is that in the last, say, 15 years, performance art has been progressively swallowed by "off" theater - and to some extent dance. Names such as the Wooster Group, Forced Entertainment, Jan Fabre or Xavier Le Roy create pieces so close to performance art, and so distant from mimetic-dramatic theater, they are the ones who today are considered the best representatives of performance (although often under other tags), much more than a Marina Abramović. It's a strange situation, but thanks to this mix-up we actually hear about performance from sources other than artists and their friends.
There are two other areas where performance keeps on: the fine arts and digital art. I personally don't believe the fine arts help it at all. It seems complicated logistically, a live artist is more of a hustle than, say, a TV set, and is much more difficult to sell. Also, the fine artists that go on that path belong to the group of the "lost sheep", in between the worlds. Of course, the argument that art goes beyond traditional forms is not only valid, but incorporated into the art world. On the other hand, the question remains: who is going to see you? Or: where will you get your audience, specifically, concretely, not just ideally. And of course: where will you get the funds? If nobody hears about you, or if you're marginalized by those that do, your work is truly "art pour l'art". Maybe that's why so many ("classical") performance artists end up creating fine art work - paintings, photos. It's a way of integrating. The theater and dance people don't need to do that.
Then there's digital art. Performance slowly moves into the digital world. Much slower, than was to be expected. Theater people are even slower here. We have Blast Theory, and some other examples - but mainly, artists coming from other areas use digital means imaginatively. Is that a way out? Frankly, I think that's a whole other story. Completely different, and leaving me much more optimistic.