Rosalee Goldberg gives us a brief overview/introduction into what performance art is and how it came to be valid in the art sphere. She talks about it coming from the ideas of conceptual art, art “which insisted on an art of ideas over product and on an art that could not be bought and sold. I think that’s especially poignant about performance art and how it can differentiate itself from pure performance.
Performance is a doing. I mean that literally. Performance is doing an action; or for lack of defining a word with said word, performance is the act of performing. When we think of performing though in a more artful sense, there seems to be some conscious thought about commodity. Here I refer to art that can be bought and sold. I think pop art touched on this. Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup cans we arranged in a gallery as one would see them in a store, and if you were to buy one or all of his soup cans he had made his art a commodity just like the food we buy in the supermarket. That is a critique of art as a commodity and the almost acceptance and ridiculousness of that being a valid situation.
Is performance art no longer art because you commoditize it? No. That’s too closed a view. If people want to pay for your artistic expression, then let them pay. They them patronize. There’s nothing wrong with that. What I like though about performance art is that the artist themselves become the art object. It adds a whole new dynamic to showing non-artist audience the worth of a work of art.
I’ve always loved street performers and performances like flash mobs and other types of mobs and I see those actions as performance art. I’ve participated in flash mobs where me and a huge amount of strangers dance with each other (I love to dance) to the same choreography or not, or to freeze in place, to go pants-less on the subway, to practice yoga together. I love these kinds of events. I like that the group becomes an art piece. But to me there’s safety in being part of the group because I’m not the sole focus. I think that’s why I want to do it. I want to be the sole focus of such a type of work. It appeals to me, but there’s fear there, but as the sole participant I’m making myself the art object. That in itself is a very freeing notion. It’s a scary notion especially in that one doesn’t know how the audience will react.
I think what Goldberg misses here in her article is the personal side of performance art. I think she focuses too much on the audience side of the situation. Of how performance art has travelled through the ages, she focuses on that these performance artists did so for an audience, but I think most of them did so for themselves. I think that’s still true today. Performance art is so self-reflective and self-involved because it is the artist physically using him or herself to execute their expression.