Performance art notes and I have more things to think about now

Some writing on the history of performance art, some things I didn’t know, and some I did: Origin Stories: A Brief History Of Duration Art  by Edward Sharp-Paul.


An English transcription of Satie’s manuscript of ‘Vexations’.

Artists noted:

Erik Satie and John Cage, Andy Warhol, Tehching Hsieh.

Interesting to contemplate:

“To my mind, durational art, whether occurring at the level of pop culture or high culture, offers up two things that resonate with a contemporary audience. Firstly, it’s a bloodsport: When reading about or observing such a performance, our first thought is for the performer. Oh, they’ll suffer. Can they do it? Will they make it? Roland Barthes proclaimed the death of the author back in the sixties, and yet here we have a sort of artist/genius/martyr whose suffering (or at least discomfort) overshadows the work. Or rather, the struggle is the work.

This is a role more often played by athletes in contemporary society: the avatar, exploring the outer limits of human possibility, planting a flag on our behalf. It feels good to see someone put themselves through the purging fire, and for that person not to be you. If there’s a toe-tapping tune to go with it, all the better. As with sport, the fact that the performer is doing so for arbitrary reasons seems not to detract from the wonderment; it’s beyond reason. Nick Keys’ nomination of Wendy Davis’ recent pro-choice filibuster shows that the phenomenon isn’t limited to art, or at least requires us to radically expand our definition of art.

Secondly, durational art provides a valuable opportunity to contemplate boredom. Not flee from it, as is the custom, but to stare it right in its metaphorical face and to feel whatever one may feel in that moment — unfamiliar feelings and unfamiliar states, borne of the quietude of a focused mind. Such stillness is rare and incredibly valuable, and durational art is one way of trying to attain it. As Abramovic herself has stated: “I have found that long durational art is really the key to changing consciousness… not just the performer, but the one looking at it.”


‘Origin Stories: A Brief History Of Duration Art’. Junkee, 3 October 2013.

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