Resonanz by Margarit von Büren

Resonanz by Margarit von Büren, Lucern

I’m a spectator, a researcher and writer of performance art since many years and I would like to take this opportunity here to share with you some of my thoughts and questions about performance art. I think if we are talking about performance, we should talk about art and the reference to political issues. 

Yvonne Rainer said about Performance Art: «I see performance as a liberating feminist-queer political tool! There should be a strategy to use performative techniques for political issue.» What does it mean this today? There is an international performance art history, which is a part of our own memories as a spectator or we know videos, pictures, texts or through oral history what happened in the past.

Performance Art is embossed through the body and Performance artists are using mostly the body to express her, his or it artwork. The body is the body. We are all bodies. Some of us are more aware of it, some of us less so. This awareness is related to gender, age, culture or biopolitics. We realize that we are many bodies. We become aware of being bodies through the way we are treated and the way others relate to us. Because of being bodies, we can be touched and moved. In order to function in the society, we are living in, we learn to move in a certain way. We learn to behave according to our sociocultural environment. We feel ourselves sometimes bigger and sometimes smaller than we are. 

We know that the ephemeral performance art should be documented to get into performance histories. But we also know that a document gives only specific information about what happened. Now we are here and we share together the experiences from yesterday. I would like to invite you with one «imaginary picture» to memorize what happened. 

To this effect I describe what could be on the picture:

  1. A young couple stands together and they shake hands. 
  2. Two performer stands in two ground quadrats of lawn and they dance in the free space of the quadrats.
  3. A performer fixes a silver butterfly mask on the grid of a tower. 
  4. A man and a woman lie on a bench covered with a brown blanket. 
  5. Four dancers are moving in a specific choreography on the gravel ground. 
  6. A dancer moves on an imaginary line.
  7. Between two trees there is a transparent plastic wall fixed. On the other side the performer sprays in different colours the outline of the person who stands close to the plastic wall.
  8. Musicians play and a man is reading a text. In front of them a performer and the audience freeze in a living sculpture.
  9. The performer stands in the fountain and holds a singing bowl. In front of a small table with small drinking glasses and another bowl.
  10. The performance artist with a red dress. Wears a belt with various pockets with small equipment and she holds a very small microphone in her hand.
  11. Three performers sit on chairs holding big bags and they take something out.
  12. The performance artist stands in front of the well in a pink evening dress and look with a friendly smile into the camera.
  13. A woman is sitting on the floor. Behind her lie various clothes on the floor.

For recollecting performance art the existence of documents and their availability in various archives and the oral history is important. This is self-evidently particularly important for the analysis of performance art too and also to speak about afterwards. In this case now we share the memories with the artists together with the audience. And I would like to take this chance to talk with you about yesterday. 

For the discussion later, I have some questions we could talk about. 

For example:

What did the performance say to you?

What are we looking for, when we see performance art? 

Is it, why we are keen of topics of fundamental questions? Or do we look for to be touched deeply by an artist? We – the spectators have expectations but they are diverse.

What does it mean if a performance happened in public space? 

Which different kinds of requirement are there in opposite to an art space? The situation is, that people who are seeing performances in public space often don’t have any experience with performance art. Maybe they are happen by and they are maybe only curious to see what happened. What can this people understand? Can they understand something? Should the people understand something? Can a performance be understood without any information about the artist? Does it need information about the work or about the intention? 

Should the urban space be a necessity because it allows access to performance art in public environment?

Let us find some answers together.

Neu-Oerlikon, 2 September 2018


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