Performance Art and Installation

Performance and installation art have in common that both are ephemeral forms as a new field of artistic experimentation and interrogation. In opposition to modernist paradigm of art as object as mobile commodity and to find new expression especially with Feminist movemen seeking for a different identity. The commodified art object was replaced by the artist’s action and intervention.

Feminist performance art could be also considered as opposition to predominantely ‘male’ Minimalism of a self-reflexive attitude and a dominance of material.

A predominatelty radical and opposing art scene being 1970s explore especially in life and/ or videotaped performances radical exploration of the artist’s body as the area for interrogation. Basically, the body space replaced other materials support in painting and sculpture. At times with self-destructive effect (Burden, Pane). Through photographic documentation could these ephemeral events be retained for the archive, or as in case Pane videorecording was used as a distancing as well as witnessing tool for mediated observation.

Overall, one could say that video art and performance art went often hand in hand. Depending whether an interrogation of time based and/or visual and audittory aspects were the focus (video art) or the act of mostly the artist her/him-self was the focus point (performance art).


Stefan513593 - part 5 - Ephemeral Art

Fig. 1: Stefan513593 – part 5 – Ephemeral Art

(all online images accessed between 06 and 13 Nov 2017)

Examples for Performance:

  • Chris Burden Shock Piece (1971) and Kunst Kick (1974) – both video recorded life performances
  • Carolee Schneeman (1975)  Interior Scroll – life performance photographed
  • Gina Pane (1974) Psycho (video) – video recorded performance
  • Joseph Beuys (1974) I like America and America likes me –  video recorded life performance

Examples of Feminist Art:

Installation art

Installation art can came up around the same time with an extension of Minimal Art into the outer space, either the entire gallery space or outdoor (Land Art). One key aspect is site-specificity and embracing the spectator surrouding evironmental space with a temporal-spatial experience that extends traditional concern with medium-specificity. It relates also to Fluxus and Happenings. The term itself relates rather to a curatorial process of ‘installing’ work as art rather than for an aesthetic reason. At times it is related to a ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ (Wagner) as a holistic work of art In later term Bourriaud’s conception of ‘Relational Aesthetics’ can also be seen in that context (see my post on post-conceptual and contemporary art). Key elements are the dematerialization of the aesthetic object, a transformative experience of exhibition space and changing conditions for reception of art as cultural product. One could relate this also to the ideology of the ‘White Cube’ (O’Doherty).

An aspect of critque of installation art is its staging of the occasion, its theatricality. Not so much in context of M Fried critique of ‘literalist’ Minimal Art, but rather in a sense of theater illusion in itself. Performative acts were included through inclusion of the spectator as actor and integral part the work of art as a spectacle. There is a relationship and overlap with performance art with the artist as director of the spectacle.

A key theorist and artist is Victor Burgin (‘Situational Aesthetics’) who described 1969 the function of art as ‘a set of conditions for the demonstration of concepts, or systems that might generate objects – in short, situations’ (in: Gonzales). In that sense the personal encounter of the spectator is making it a psychological activity, and as Burgin decribed the role of the artist is not any longer a material manipulater (as expressed in Richard Serra’s ‘Verb List’) but more of a coordinator and facilitator in the as Joselit refers the transitive actions of the artist relating to the work by Seth Price and his ‘formatting’ concepts (see my notes on Serra). For Burgin the status of art art resides in the specator’s behavior in context of ‘situational cues’.

In that sense one could also see Michael Asher’s ‘institutional’ site specific works (see my assignment 4) in context of Burgin’s situational aesthetic. Not through adding and collecting objects in relation to each other but through the removal of all objects, Asher is placing the spectator in a new situation where he/she needs to decode his or her own behavior and role in institutional context. The distinction between artwork, space and audience gets diluted or annulled.

The philosopher Paul Crowther relates the imagery ‘overload’ in installation art to Kant’s aesthetics of the sublime as it pushes the boundaries of perceptual and imaginative limits in understanding  installation art (Gonzalez). It is fundamentally structural and semiotic as it relates reason to cultural signs and process of signification.  In a kind of providing alternative routes to the overload of visual imagery Benjamin Weil sees different environmental art as a way to embrace the spectator’s ‘consciousness of art as bodily experience’ and as a projection surface of collective history (Gonzalez).

In summary, one could see installation art as a mediating collection, similar as to the traditional role of art with material mediation. The material is been replaced by new forms for development of meaning through psychogical, bodily and/or cuttural deferred sign structures.

One challenge for the mulitlayers and ephemeral nature of installation art is documentation and archiving. It is photography that allows best to document and distribute to a remote audience in time and space.

Examples of Installation Art:


The following images can better express what one can not see alone without a dense reasoning.

Images related to Performance Art  – collected on my Pinterest board:

[powr-pinterest-feed id=9f6f0f98_1511221231]



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: