Action, Happening And Social Art: Everything You Need To Know About Performance

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Action, Happening And Social Art: Everything You Need To Know About Performance
Action, Happening And Social Art: Everything You Need To Know About Performance

Video: Action, Happening And Social Art: Everything You Need To Know About Performance

Video: An Introduction to Performance Art | TateShots 2022, November

REPORTS ABOUT Daring, Scandalous, and Simply Misunderstood Promotions and performances have become a part of everyday life: while the police arrest Pyotr Pavlensky and Katrin Nenasheva (and in more advanced Europe, the eternally naked Milo Moiret), Shia LaBeouf is sexually abused right in the gallery, and the living classic Marina Abramovich is involved in commercial projects and sues the former co-author … The world has gone crazy - is it planned, or do we not understand something? To understand why the strange antics of individual madmen are considered art, we have prepared a guide to performative practices - we understand what a performance, an action, a happening is, what they consist of and what laws exist.


Excerpt from the film about Jackson Pollock "51", (1951)

It is customary to tell the history of performance from the futurists (with the proviso that in the early futuristic performances there was more shocking than art as such) or from the Dadaists with their Cabaret Voltaire. The first fought against philistine inertia and in every possible way provoked the respectable public who came to futurist evenings (the founder of futurism, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, suggested, for example, selling more tickets than the hall could hold, coating the seats with glue and sprinkling them with powder that causes itching and sneezing).

The latter opposed the war - the First World War was going on - and, not wanting to use traditional means of expression (because some simply are not able to describe the entire horror of what is happening, while others have switched to the service of militaristic propaganda), they staged performances in a small cabaret in neutral Switzerland with the declamation of "meaningless" poetry, obscene plays and noise music. In the 1920s, surrealists took up the baton with phantasmagoric performances (Jean Cocteau, Alfred Jarry, Antonin Artaud are worth mentioning) and the Bauhaus participants who studied the mechanics of ballet - but still, most of their experiments concerned the theater.

The first performance in the modern sense of the word is often called the performance of John Cage's play "4'33" (1952) - it is important that it was performed: the pianist came out, sat in front of the instrument, put notes on the music stand, the audience froze in anticipation of the first chord. then action painting was gaining momentum - Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and other artists turned the process of creating abstract paintings into a representation, while in Europe Yves Klein experimented with "anthropometrics" - works created with the participation of human bodies. language philosopher John Langshaw Austin coined and coined the word "performative" to describe statements that convey nothing but create a new reality.

The difference between an action, a happening and a performance is rather arbitrary, because one of the properties of art is

illusory boundaries

By the 1960s, Western art was ripe for a "performative turn" - the widespread erasure of boundaries between different types of art and their appeal to the form of the spectacle. This was partly due to the spread of leftist ideas (critics of capitalism appreciated the performance because, unlike a painting or sculpture, it was impossible to sell), partly because the art of the first half of the 20th century. consistently getting rid of the need to depict and designate anything, so that now artists could work with subjective experiences and communication, placing the audience in specially created special situations. The 1960s - the time of the performances of the Fluxus movement, Vienna Actionism and the first happenings of Allan Kaprow, that is, everything that is now considered "classics of the genre".

The difference between action, happening and performance is rather arbitrary, because one of the properties of art is the illusory nature of boundaries, which are constantly being violated and revised (which means that any definition exists until it is challenged). But in order to build on something, one can agree that an action is, first of all, a gesture: a daring, radical, exploding everyday life, changing perceptions, taking art out of the museum and gallery ghetto. The performance is more intimate, intimate, requiring the audience to experience some kind of event, often associated with testing the capabilities of the human body and spiritual experience. An action can be compared with a slogan, a performance with a performance or ritual. Happening is similar to a game: it is the creation of an absolutely random situation without any clear plan, according to the "What if …" principle.


Action "Barricade" on Bolshaya Nikitskaya Street in Moscow, (1998)

The confusion of terms is clearly seen in the example of Vienna Actionism: the movement participants called complex staged rituals with elements of religious mysteries actions. If we consider the action as an action that is more of a "poster" nature, then as a vivid example we can cite several works by Russian artists, made in the aesthetics of political speech. For example, the group "Nest" during the action "Demonstration. Art to the Masses”(1978) walked down the street with a red-and-white banner on which, instead of a slogan, a fragment of the abstract composition“Accent Grave”by the artist Franz Klein was depicted. “They had troubles later,” recalls the critic Ekaterina Dyogot, “but nevertheless the action turned out to be, in fact, not punishable. And this means that the main conceptual artistic task has been solved - to elude an unambiguous interpretation and to question all meanings."

During the action "Barricade" (1998), several dozen artists and sympathizers who joined them (about 300 people in total) blocked Bolshaya Nikitskaya Street in Moscow with cardboard boxes, deployed the slogans of the French "Red May" (in French!), Supplementing them with Russian-language "Money no - and don’t!”,“I don’t care”,“Freedom for parrots!” and other nonsense (frightened police cordoned off the area, the prefect of the Central District left for the place, seven of the most active participants were later fined). "Demonstrations" of the "Radek" society (2002) were held at pedestrian crossings: as soon as the green light came on, the participants raised red banners with partially painted over anti-globalization slogans over the heads of passers-by, turning people in a hurry about their business into participants in a spontaneous procession.

The group "Svoi" received permission in advance to participate in the May Day demonstration, but turned it into a "May Day Street Party" (1999) with banners from colorful calico and the music of the Pakava Iti orchestra. Novosibirsk "Monstrations" began in the same way: participants infiltrated the organized May Day columns of the Communist Party with slogans like "Y-y-yt!" and "Closed". It is noteworthy that, although the slogans in the actions listed above were fundamentally meaningless, the gesture itself - going out into the street with a poster - was considered by the audience as a protest, which is why the participants often had problems with law enforcement officers.


Allan Kaprow, 18 Happenings in Six Parts (1959)

The gallery turned out to be an attic. Plastic partitions divided it into three rooms, two of them had floor-to-ceiling mirrors and chairs arranged in a certain way, the third was a "control room". The guests sat down, the signal to start was heard. Actors began to march along the corridors between the rooms, in one room a woman stood motionless for ten seconds, in another they showed slides; someone recited, someone painted on an unprimed canvas; musical instruments sounded.

After an hour and a half, two rings announced the end of "18 Happenings in Six Parts" by artist Allan Kaprow (1959), who warned his guests in advance: "In the eyes of the artist, these actions will be devoid of meaning, easily formulated." However, there is still some sense in happening: overcoming the boundaries between the artist and the audience through the joint living of a situation that is not completely controlled by anyone. Usually they add - "and does not have a well-thought-out script", but, in fairness, we must admit: the classic work described above was not only composed in advance, but also carefully rehearsed.


Marina Abramovich "The mouth of St. Thomas", (1976)

The essence of performance is perfectly captured by the term (performance) itself: it is an art form in which the work is the performance; actions of an artist or group in a certain place and at a certain time. The performance is like a theatrical performance; it is distinguished from action by less laconicism and greater proximity to the viewer, from happening - by the presence of a script and the dominance of the performer (or performers).

A lot is variable in a performance. It can go exactly as the author intended - or it can be changed or interrupted, as, for example, "The mouth of St. Thomas" by Marina Abramovich (1976), whose witnesses, unable to bear the artist's self-torture, intervened and interrupted her. Viewers can be assigned the role of uninterested observers or active participants. The action can take a couple of minutes or last for days, take place in a gallery or in a remote place where you still need to get. It can be performed by the artist himself or by hired actors.

One thing is invariable: the performance creates a new reality that exists in space and time and is experienced jointly by the performer and the audience. It cannot be preserved and accurately reproduced (no matter what illusions the documentation and reperformances create on this score), since it is this joint experience that constitutes its essence.


"Social turn"

Joseph Beuys, 7000 Oaks, (1982)

In 1982, the artist Joseph Beuys began his most ambitious action: for several years he planned to plant 7 thousand oak trees in Kassel, each accompanied by a stone stele. This action can be seen as a response to rapid urbanization, as a way to influence the state through art (the artist had to face opposition from politicians), as “bringing beauty to the masses”, and finally, as a way to create new relationships between people (director Georg Genot recalled that Boyes’s plan helped to reconcile two neighbors who had not spoken to each other for many years - they joined the action as volunteers and planted an oak tree together).

The creation of such situations, which not only offer the viewer to go through some kind of experience, but form new relationships, has been called "dialogic art" or "art of social turn." The pathos here is in overcoming alienation, which became especially acute in the 1990s after the collapse of the communist project. An example of this is Rirkrit Tiravania's exhibition "Is Tomorrow a Question?" (2015), timed to coincide with the opening of the Garage Museum, where the artist arranged ping-pong tables and treated visitors to dumplings.

Sometimes, however, the situation created by the artist becomes ethically ambiguous - especially if the author withdraws himself and takes the position of an outside observer. This, for example, was the project of Artur Zhmiyevsky "They" (2007). The artist organized painting groups for Catholics, Jews, Polish nationalists and socialists, invited each group to create drawings depicting the most important values, and then allowed them to edit the work of other groups. As a result, the joint work turned into a war and ended with the studio set on fire.


Excerpt from Jeremy Deller's re-enactment "The Battle of Orgriv", (2002)

A cannon salvo rang out in complete darkness.A crowd of several thousand people, obeying the signal, moved towards the Winter Palace. Armored cars and machine guns roll from under the arch of the General Staff Building, trucks with armed workers sweep past the Alexander Column. After a short skirmish with the cadets and the women's battalion, the palace was taken, and the revolutionary red banner fluttered over it. On the calendar - 1920: this is not a real October coup, but a production by director Nikolai Evreinov, in which 8 thousand people took part.

This is the first known example of reenactment - a massive staging of historical events with the participation of non-professional actors. In addition to involving ordinary people in the creative process, reenactment performs a certain social function, creating the possibility of collective analysis of important, often traumatic events of the past.

For example, in 1999, director Peter Watkins invited 220 Parisians to make a film about the events of the Paris Commune of 1871. It is noteworthy that the participants of the project worked independently and collectively on the documentary drama about the unsuccessful experience of city self-government - the whole process, from writing the script to the actual filming, took place in the spirit of a commune. In 2002, artist Jeremy Deller directed The Battle of Orgrive, a reenactment of police clashes with miners protesting the actions of Margaret Thatcher's government during the 1984 crisis. The production was attended by former miners and police officers - the same ones who once really fought for coal at the Orgriv coke plant.

Documentation and reperformance

Tajiks-Art "Balkan Baroque", (2009)

How do I save a performance? In full - not at all, although you can try to document it in photos, videos and descriptions. Attempts to reproduce are contrary to the very essence of the performance, so many artists categorically refuse to repeat their work. So, in 2005, Chris Bourdin did not allow Marina Abramovich to "replay" his work from 1974, saying that it would already be a theater in which one artist plays the role of another.

However, contrary to Bourdin's fears, a new action can create new meanings and new experiences. In 2009, the Tajiks-Art group reproduced Abramovich's performance “Balkan Baroque” (1997) in the Moscow club “Solyanka”, during which the artist washed a mountain of bloody beef bones (the work was dedicated to the civil war in Yugoslavia). Tajiks-Art hired illegal immigrants to reproduce famous works of contemporary art; First, they taught Tajik painters to draw pictures of Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock, then they took up performances and made their debut just with the "Balkan Baroque" (moreover, the club's management did not allow bringing in the foul-smelling bloody bones inside, so they had to be washed in advance). The role of Abramovich was played by a certain Ukrainian girl who came to Russia to earn money, hired and trained by curators.

The action looked more like a parody, but the artist and performance researcher Liza Morozova, who was present in the club, noticed: “For a Ukrainian girl, it was a real performance. Much cooler than for Abramovich, since by the time of the Venice Biennale she was already burnt out and starred and simply acted out the theme, illustrated it. The young performance artist, on the other hand, held each bone like a baby - quiveringly, as if lulling, meditatively brushing it over it - an absolutely absurd, and not functional, as intended, action. I think in this she was closer to the beautiful heroines of Pina Bausch, who are permanently in a state of existential anguish: love, despair and hope at the same time … But in order to perceive [this], to see, one had to … sit two meters away and keep an eye on what was happening. Follow the sincere, sublime and pure expression on the girl's face (I think Abramovich did not have such an expression even in childhood)."

A place

Ekaterina Vasilieva and Ganna Zubkova "Revolutionary axis", (2014)

Performance, action, and happening all require the physical co-presence of the artist and the audience - which means they always happen somewhere. But “somewhere” is an extensible concept: it could be a gallery or a museum, or it could be the Firsanovka station of the Oktyabrskaya Railway in the Moscow Region - as in the case of the Slogan-1977 action of the Collective Actions group. In the 1970s, representatives of Moscow conceptualism often went to the fields near Moscow (the above-mentioned Collective Actions is perhaps the most famous example). During one of such trips, the members of the Mukhomor group laid out the word "***" with their bodies on the white snow.

Twelve years later, the "E.T.I." group did the same, only this time on Red Square, and Anatoly Osmolovsky, the participant of the "E.T.Ikh" action, responded categorically to accusations of secondary nature: "The fact that the group" Mukhomor “I once did something similar, in my opinion, not only does it not cancel its [action] significance, but, on the contrary, gives it a lot of symbolism - something, once produced on the snow by three people in the forest, manifested itself in a public place and caused a political scandal. With this gesture, a standard postmodern rule was manifested: the main value of contemporary art is precisely found place and time, and not formal novelty."

As a rule, representatives of the authorities become co-authors of Pavlensky's actions, and the duration of each action depends on how soon they come up with, what to do with the artist

If for the representatives of Moscow conceptualism the city was a hostile environment, then the members of the ZAIBI group (“For anonymous and free art”, also known as the Dvurak - “Movement of Ultra-Radical Anarcho-Ethnographers”) moved literally through the city: they took a map, carried it between two points straight and walked along it, regardless of fences and fences - through industrial zones, security facilities, landfills and other obstacles. And in 2014, artists Yekaterina Vasilyeva and Ganna Zubkova crossed Moscow (carrying an iron pipe on their shoulders) from the northernmost point of the Moscow Ring Road to the southernmost point along the axis perpendicular to the projection of the sun's trajectory. Thus, by the movement of their own bodies, they materialized conventional geographic designations, at each moment of the action moving to a new point in space. The performance was called "The Revolutionary Axis": at the moment the sun was at its zenith, the artists were supposed to be in the center of the city on Revolution Square.


Ragnar Kjartansson "Longing is stronger than happiness", (2014)

On a sunny day in June 1996, the artists Gluklya (Natalia Pershina-Yakimanskaya) and Tsaplya (Olga Egorova), dressed in white dresses, climbed the bridge over the Winter Canal in St. Petersburg, held hands and jumped into the water. Somehow they climbed to the gangway and got out onto the land. It was a performance "In Memory of Poor Lisa" - as effective as it was short-lived. On October 18, 2014, Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson performed at the Music Room of the Vitebsk Station (also in St. Petersburg). He sang in Russian the song "Longing is stronger than happiness" composed by him; the performance lasted almost seven hours.

A performance can have a beginning and an end that are separated from each other in time, or it can continue continuously, like a looped video installation. Such, for example, are the works of Tino Segal, which he basically does not call performances, preferring the term “situations”. They are played out during the opening hours of a museum or gallery, constantly being present in the exhibition space and thereby acquiring a resemblance to paintings, sculptures and installations. Thus, the artist breaks the rule that has appeared as a result of violation of the rules: if once a performance was an attempt to get away from traditional forms of "consumption" of art (came to an exhibition, looked at the exhibits), now he returns to them in a renewed form.

The situation is different with promotions: it can be difficult to predict in advance how long this or that action will last. So, Pyotr Pavlensky has repeatedly admitted in an interview that, when starting an action, he is forced to be ready for an arbitrarily long process - since, as a rule, representatives of the authorities become Pavlensky's co-authors, the duration of each action depends on how soon the police or doctors decide what to do with the artist.


Yves Klein "Anthropometry of the Blue Period" and "Fire Painting", (1960)

The performative act is always a bodily action. The body is both an instrument and a material; it itself creates a situation that carries out a kind of violence against it (not necessarily physical, although it sometimes comes to bodily harm). The body can be clothed or naked, sexualized or not, whole or damaged, active or passive, strong or weak, with an emphasis on physiology or functionality. The body can be the central object of a work, but even when a performance or action is devoted to topics that are far from corporeality, the body is still present and affects the viewer's perception.

Yves Klein and Piero Manzoni were the first to realize this. Back in the late 1950s, Klein was making works from prints of human bodies on canvas (prints, of course, were made by Klein International Blue); Manzoni, in the presence of spectators, put his signature on the bodies of nude models, turning them into living sculptures, and invited everyone to become works of art, standing on a "magic pedestal".

An interesting feature is noted by art critic Sasha Obukhova, one of the authors of the research and exhibition “Performance in Russia. Cartography of history "(Garage, 2010):" In Russian art there is a lot of text, especially ideological, and very little body. Artists all the time try to hide the body, in the sense that even a naked body is asexual, it is absent, fulfilling the function of a text … And one cannot fail to notice it."


Tanya Brugera "Tatlin's Whisper No. 5", (2008)

Some artists hire volunteers or specially hired artists (not necessarily professional) to perform performances. Sometimes it is just a crowd scene - as, for example, in Elena Kovylina's performance "Equality" (2008), during which extras of different heights stood on pre-prepared stools of different heights, as a result of which their faces were on the same level (musicologist Natalya Bystrova notes a curious detail: the performance was performed with the participation of Russian and French extras, and "Equality" of the French turned out to be smoother). But sometimes the presence of certain participants becomes the very essence of a performance - art critic and theorist Claire Bishop calls such performances delegated and divides them into three types.

In the first, some aspect of the performers' identity is "played out", and while the artist delegates roles to them, they delegate to the artist a guarantee of authenticity. An example is the work of Santiago Sierra, who in 1999 began to use in his works marginalized people who were ready to become exhibits for a small fee and perform various tasks (often meaningless and even humiliating - in this way Sierra drew attention to the problems of social stratification, economic inequality and insecurity of the marginalized).

In the second, the artist attracts outside professionals - for example, Nam June Paik invited cellist Charlotte Moorman for his performances; Cuban artist Tanya Brugera for the performance “Tatlin's Whisper No. 5” (2008) - mounted policemen who demonstrated to the audience the techniques of dispersing street actions. In the third, the artist sets up a social experiment (Bishop cites the aforementioned project "They" by Artur Zhmiyevsky as an example), inviting ordinary people as participants.


Yoko Ono "Cut a Piece" (1965)

“In the performance there is a feeling that you are here and now sharing your actions with the audience. There is no such feeling in any other art form,”the artist Gluklya (the group“Factory of Found Clothes”) noted in one of her interviews. Spectators are an obligatory part of a performance or action, if not at the time of the performance, then at least later (however, then they only get the documentation - however, in this case, the artists approach the documentation especially responsibly).

Spectators can be full participants in the action - for example, the famous performance of Yoko Ono "Cut Piece" (1965) consisted in the fact that those present in turn came up to the artist and cut off pieces from her dress (the further, the larger). They can interfere in its course - as, for example, it happened with Joseph Beuys during the action "Kukei, akopee - Nein !, Braunkreuz, Fettecken, Modellfettecken" (1964), when someone broke the artist's nose due to political differences.

However, even remaining indifferent observers, the audience constitutes a special community - it does not exist for long, only as long as the performance lasts, but all this time it has a special relationship based on jointly experienced experience.


Elena Kovylina "Waltz", (2001)

What happens during the performance - for real or for fun? The question is not as simple as it seems. When Elena Kovylina gets drunk to unconsciousness ("Waltz", 2001), fights with the audience ("Boxing", 2005) and sets fire to the tablecloth during a feast ("Would you like a cup of coffee, or Burn the world of the bourgeoisie", 2009), these are not special effects - the pain from the blows, the dizziness and heat from the flame are real. Real and herself, because the performance artist never plays someone else's role, always remaining himself. At the same time, what is happening during the performance exists in a slightly different reality than everyday life: in ordinary life, meeting with the heroine Kovylina, we would call the police, an ambulance or firefighters.

The performance cannot be described from the point of view of the relationship between the subjects (author and viewer) and the object (work), since during the performance, situations of unexpected change of these roles may arise. It is impossible to talk about it in terms of the signifier and the signified: everything that makes up a performance - actions in their sequential performance, the chosen place and time, the props used - can be interpreted, but even an infinite number of interpretations does not exhaust the event that arose as a result of the performance. It creates a new reality that is more perceptible and often defies logical analysis. Reflection, reflection and interpretation give way to direct impact and transgressive experience that allows you to go beyond everyday experience.

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