Performance is a genre in which art is presented “live,” usually by the artist but sometimes with collaborators or performers. It has had a role in avant-garde art throughout the twentieth century, playing an important part in anarchic movements such as Futurism and Dada.
In its earlier years, performance art was considered to be a non-traditional way of making art. In the post-war era it was positioned together with conceptual art. The term performance art became widely used in the 70’s and is now an accepted part of the visual art world.
Today performance art includes film, video, photographic and installation-based artworks that display the actions and reactions of artists, performers and sometimes the audience. The foremost purpose of performance art has almost always been to challenge the conventions of traditional forms of visual art such as painting and sculpture. When these modes no longer seem to answer artists’ needs – when they seem too conservative, or too enmeshed in the traditional art world and too distant from ordinary people – artists have often turned to performance in order to find new audiences and test new ideas.
The immateriality and impermanence of performance art allows artists themselves to be part of the performance or exhibition. They are also able to make viewers a part of the performance, which gives the artist new dimensions to explore. Often the idea of performance art is to raise questions, force the viewer to explore their reactions towards what the artist is doing and the artists message. There is often a shock value to performance art which may either surprise or at some cases even make the viewer uncomfortable. At its core, performance art is meant to ignite thoughts.
The exploration of viewers reactions to performance art adds a psychological dimension to it. Performance creates a situation where artist’s actions set the ambience and tone for the event. This kind of exploration of first reactions is not possible with contemporary materialistic and stagnant art.