Text: M. D. Daly
In times as arts is degraduated to a simple matter of taste and the objektive character of a piece of art appears almost without any value, it seems to be extremely difficult to give the appropriate importance to the matter discussed. At times as the Kausalneurotiker, as the representative copy and modern archetypus of the westem high-tech-society, ruled by mediocrates, who transfer all essential matters on the outer, appearance and even the word is separated from its magic contence, it seems to be more than ever necessary to set up the question, how far art as an adjustable connecting link between spirit and human nature, is of any importance at all and what kind of creative expression could be able to fullfill the expectations of a new era.
At the beginning of the century, Futurism, Dadaism, Cubism and Surrealism thought to destroy the common tradition of painting, literature and music. Especially the surrealistic group has found new significant possibilities in application to Sigmund Freuds psychoanalytic studies. The dream, as a liquid element of the irrational, went up to be the dominating maxime. The subconcious, up to this point offically negociated by science and society, was put on the throne of a ruling god. Autonomous writing and painting became methods to visualize invisible and mysterious contents. The reality of the concrete already statted to crumble. The total liquidation of the object" followed consequently and lead to the constructivistic movement, who´s representatives worked on the composition of shape and colour. So did Malevitsch and Rodschenko, two russian constructivists, who abstracted from nature in toto.
But still artwork was determined to a elitary group of creating artists and collectors under public exclusion. Strategists of market defined direction and quality, the individual artist was received by economy, buisiness trade and industry. At the beginning of the sixties, a bunch of people was constituted around a russian emigrant,who called himself George Maciunas. Their aim was to build up a synthesis of life and arts as part of the creative process and to become independent from the conventional narrow frame of galleries and museums. They called themselves Fluxus-Artists, a notation pretendedly adapted from the latin word fluctuare, flowing, in connection to Heraklits flowing cosmos.
The materials they used in their work, were chosen out of profane garbage products, such as empty cans, objects Andy Warhol later used in his Pop-Art work, boxes, nails, matches, clamps, cramps, brackets,coffeefilters and many other ordinary products of household. Essential was indeed, the first concious attempt of cultural exchange, as a great number of foreign artists joined the group in New York, so as Nam Jun Paik, Shigeko Kubota, Mieko Shiomi, Takako Saito and many others, who were invited to come to N.Y. for an exchange visit. George Maciunas himself has been planning to build up a permanent collective farm in Japan, with the idea to grow food and vegetables and to prepare Fluxusevents.
New ideas about the collective artwork, the environment, appeared in the same time and were transposed in Happening. The great advantage of Happening seemed to be, that the observer could take directly part at the events as an active member and could participate in the piece of art.
The roots of Happening are to be found in the experimental theatre, proceeding from the Futurists and the expressionistic theatre, where already a big number of painters took part in the stage design.
Al Hansen, a former Fluxus-Artist, who already died in 1995, characterizes Happening in his book primer of happening as a theatre collage, which distinguishes from the ordinary, formal Broadway theatre because of its high share of improvisation. So he shows at the example of the Hallstreet Happening, which took place in N.Y in 1964, how performer and audience have been melting into one another and how they have been cooperating in an acceptable way. The arrival of cops and the chaos of romping children was conciously embraced in the whole procedure and lead to a synthesis of the conciously planned and surprisingly unexpected.
Personalities like Al Hansen, Dick Higgens,Jackson Mc.Low, Alan Kaprow, Tomas Schmitt and many others used the benefit of the spontanious, completely unplanned Happening, where absolutely nothing was settled.
So Al Hansen says : The happening is a collage of situations and events occuring over a period of time in space. In this case, any kind of ordinary situation, shaked by the unforseen, unexpected, putting the ordinary consumer in panic and fear, can be seen as a happening.
In the same time could the exchange of roles between performer and audience be provoked, like in John Cage's quiet piano piece, where the spectators changed into active performers by moving their chairs, going into the restroom or leaving at all. No chronological sequence exists, nobody knows what is going to happen next.
Out of the Happening, which was a collective event, grew the solo performance, as the more or less individual variation
I would say, that solo perfonnance renders the absolute authentic reflexion of the present outside the usual continuum of time and space.
The question how performance art is seen in relation to other medias in modern art is very difficult to estimate, but certainly more and more artists opperate in this field since the beginning of the nineties. The attraction is probably based on the auratic presence of the performer, who is annabled to operate in a kind of work in progress situation, where the spectator takes part in the concrete evolution of the project. Therefor the real interactivity on both sides is possible, if not neccessary. One can say, that performing art constitutes a strict polarity to the electronic medias.
Cyberspace, the creation of virtual worlds in the field of electronic medias are booming in western Europe since the beginning of the nineties. The digital circus of medias, the arena of a decadent consumer society, reflects as the exact pattern of the antique roman panem et circenses".
Indeed performance art constitutes the auratic polarity to the sterile screen and picture of the computer, which appears without any authenticity, according to Walter Benjamin in Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner Reproduzierbarkeit
But however, the question about quality is not if the operation is digital or analogue, but in the suitable application of the particular media - as a band of transportation.....
The ritual character according to performance art, results out of the entanglement of action and reaction between performer and spectator.
Because the discussed subject has not been taken into consideration of the official curriculums in public art schools, the idea was picked up into the manifest of the Ultimate Academy, established by Lisa Cieslik and Al Hansen in 1987. It was supposed to be a free academy, not bounded to the narrowminded rules of usual art schools. It has been planned to set up courses in photography, painting, installation and performing art. This thought was extended by young Cologne artists, who decided to use the premises as places for exhibitions and who wanted to build up a miniinstitute". The idea of a free university, set up by Joseph Beuys, should be realized there, with each person being a professor of his own.
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