Magnus von Plessen, Felicity
It is hard for me to imagine a live performance that would have (that I would find to have) the density of some visual art. Yes, I distinguish those quite clearly, mainly by the dilating of senses I experience when watching most performance, as if there was no way of just getting to the point, or points, or of just hitting me with whatever they have. "Just". There is justice in this just, a sense of the right measure, like an object where the proportions feel right. I simply cannot recall a single performance I have seen where the proportions just felt right. It seems time and a live body introduce elements that are somehow completely out of the scope of my spectator experience.
Compare the best you've seen on stage to this:
The above images, by the astonishing Tim Hawkinson, are more than powerful: they range from publicity-like to classical sculpture to highly conceptual (the last one is a self-portrait mapping of all the area the artist sees on his own body, the picture before is a Balloon Self-Portrait, a blown-up mold of the artist), and yet each of them seems complete.
Or see these, by Huma Bhabha:
How are we to compete with the perfection of something that is? Another language, you will say. Another state of presence. And yet, the choice of what to lay my eyes on remains. And diversity is no argument, when time after time what is live seems to be disappointing, less thrilling, less surprising, exciting, fresh and bold than what remains there not waiting for the sight. But then again, it is also less exciting than film, which seems only to live when seen!
Indeed, it is perfectly useless to speak of the spectator's responsibility in all this, when the spectator admits he is not up to it and instead choses something less desperate, even as it may be darker and, at least on the surface, less active.
(Both poor quality reproductions are by Magnus von Plessen)
And yet, after having written all this, I still feel that live art somehow retains an incredible potential. Not because it is live, at least in the sense of having live people in front of you, but rather, in the sense of it being an event, and so, something that remains unexpected, but also unfinished, incomplete, and fragile in its egomaniacal form ("look at me!"). I'm still not sure where this is heading, it remains confused, but it might have something to do with the amazing phenomenon of enjoying something while it is bad, enjoying it because you appreciate it as an event, enjoying the fact that you are in the privileged position of
PS: Here is a picture dedicated to the effort of some colleagues from a theater project that has been on these days:
(The picture is by Amy Stein. I believe the title is Domesticated.)