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Performance art


Performance art is a performance presented to an audience within a fine art context, traditionally interdisciplinary. Performance may be either scripted or unscripted, random or carefully orchestrated; spontaneous or otherwise carefully planned with or without audience participation. The performance can be live or via media; the performer can be present or absent. It can be any situation that involves four basic elements: time, space, the performer's body, or presence in a medium, and a relationship between performer and audience. Performance art can happen anywhere, in any type of venue or setting and for any length of time. The actions of an individual or a group at a particular place and in a particular time constitute the work.

Performance art is an essentially contested concept: any single definition of it implies the recognition of rival uses. As concepts like "democracy" or "art", it implies productive disagreement with itself.

The meaning of the term in the narrower sense is related to postmodernist traditions in Western culture. From about the mid-1960s into the 1970s, often derived from concepts of visual art, with respect to Antonin Artaud, Dada, the Situationists, Fluxus, installation art and conceptual art, performance art tended to be defined as an antithesis to theatre, challenging orthodox art forms and cultural norms. The ideal had been an ephemeral and authentic experience for performer and audience in an event that could not be repeated, captured or purchased. The widely discussed difference, how concepts of visual arts and concepts of performing arts are utilized, can determine the meanings of a performance art presentation.

Performance art is a term usually reserved to refer to a conceptual art which conveys a content-based meaning in a more drama-related sense, rather than being simple performance for its own sake for entertainment purposes. It largely refers to a performance presented to an audience, but which does not seek to present a conventional theatrical play or a formal linear narrative, or which alternately does not seek to depict a set of fictitious characters in formal scripted interactions. It therefore can include action or spoken word as a communication between the artist and audience, or even ignore expectations of an audience, rather than following a script written beforehand.



  • Carlson, Marvin (1996) Performance: A Critical Introduction. London and New York: Routledge. ,
  • Carr, C. (1993) On Edge: Performance at the End of the Twentieth Century. Wesleyan University Press. ,
  • Thomas Dreher: Performance Art nach 1945. Aktionstheater und Intermedia. München: Wilhelm Fink 2001. (in German)
  • Erika Fischer-Lichte: Ästhetik des Performativen. Frankfurt: edition suhrkamp 2004. (in German)
  • Goldberg, Roselee (1998) Performance: Live Art Since 1960. Harry N. Abrams, NY NY.
  • Goldberg, Roselee (2001) Performance Art: From Futurism to the Present (World of Art). Thames & Hudson
  • Gómez-Peña, Guillermo (2005) Ethno-techno: Writings on performance, activism and pedagogy. Routledge, London.
  • Jones, Amelia and Heathfield, Adrian (eds.) (2012), Perform, Repeat, Record. Live Art in History. Intellect, Bristol.
  • Rockwell, John (2004) "Preserve Performance Art?" New York Times, April 30.
  • Schimmel, Paul (ed.) (1998) Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, 1949–1979. Thames and Hudson, Los Angeles. Library of the Congress NX456.5.P38 S35 1998
  • Smith, Roberta (2005) "Performance Art Gets Its Biennial". New York Times, November 2.
  • ArtSpeak: A Guide to Contemporary Ideas, Movements, and Buzzwords, 1945 to the Present, by Robert Atkins, Abbeville Press, (basic definition and basic overview provided)
  • Art in the Modern Era: A Guide to Styles, Schools, & Movements, by Amy Dempsey, Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, (basic definition and basic overview provided)
  • Beuys Brock Vostell. Aktion Demonstration Partizipation 1949-1983. ZKM - Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie, Hatje Cantz, Karlsruhe, 2014, .
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