Venice International Performance Art Week
In December 8–14, 2012, PALAZZO BEMBO EXHIBITIONS will organize the first VENICE INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCE ART WEEK in close cooperation with VestAndPage (Verena Stenke and Andrea Pagnes), who are appointed as curators and co-organizers. This event will present the works of over 20 international performance artists.
Consciousness and knowledge may guide people’s decisions in better directions.
Performance art is an artistic discipline which is primarily real, it doesn’t represent or portray: it is addressed to awaken the mind and investigate more profoundly cutting edge ideas in different fields of human activities, particularly analyzing how and why people and their surroundings evolve or devolve. Because ephemeral, it holds a great potential of contemporaneity and immediacy.
It is an art form characterized by artist’s’ own body and attitude as support. It steps beyond boarders to purpose an experience of immediate impact. It requires to be responsive “here and now” and to position oneself. Hence, not only the artist, but also the visitor needs to be prepared for making something happen, to engage emotionally and intellectually into the core of what is Performance art today.
The Venice International Performance Art Week aims to catch up moments, moods and circumstances, reacting to it, opening up a ground of mutual exchange between artists and audience, with the possibility of a direct, personal discourse about art and its possible impact on modern society.
It is a project based on a mutual engagement and commitment to the purpose, between the invited artists, and the curators. For it, to present a selection of Live art actions with a precise curatorial line is also to avoid the danger of ending in another hypertrophied platform of our global present, nor in a mere stage to speculate on our current human condition. Here the concern is also aesthetics, which goes beyond ethic itself.
The cultural goal of the Venice International Performance Art Week is to analyse through Performance art the ideas of life, space, time and existence as a pure matter of forms and substances in continuous transformation, with a concentrate, subversive look that goes beyond the surface of things. Here the artistic value has to be matched with human qualities, in order to produce challenging expressions to explore concepts such as interconnectivity, experiential knowledge, empathy, lasting and endurance, persistency, necessity and trial, resistance and awareness, struggle and love.
To be fully aware about human emotions, political habits, social lives, and how the Self relates to them, offers a range of possibilities to scan meanings about how to live this life with more care, and to create mechanisms for positive change.
Finally, the Venice International Performance Art Week wishes also to enrich the highly renowned art scenery of the city of Venice with the audacious art form of Performance art.
WHAT IS THE EVIDENCE IN THIS WORD “PERFORMANCE ART”?
About the Production of Newness
“… If you like , I’ll make a performance in your house, that will paint your blankets with blood, your own blood, because you’ll want to cut your veins for all the things I’ll have to tell you.” (Soledad Sánchez Goldar)1
“Performance art is an infinitely varying, enormously wide-ranging and yet an enigmatic activity. It may be read as an endless permutation of an individual action; a subtle equivalent of the spoken and written word. Performance art is one of the most potent, intuitive and yet highly evolved strategy that can be used to comprehend the unknown. Performance art is an expressed desire and a declared action with a singular intent of heightening the consciousness of its audience. With our every action making, every artistic understanding must be subverted. With our very action making, conventional Aesthetics must be exploded.” (Yuan Mor’O Ocampo)2
“…The artistic representation on a support is outdated, now the image comes to life and leaves for the world. Now it is directly inscribed on the bodies of those who watch over the living flesh.” (Jorge Michell) 3
Practice, discipline, passion, work… We may search for several explanations, to describe/define the word “Performance art”, which would be surely all valid and profoundly heartfelt, though always partial. We may also analyse the two terms “Performance art” etymologically, and see what they imply.4
Nevertheless, Performance art, for its particular nature, cannot be reduced to some mere synthetic definition only. It would be too reductive, and more for contemporary Performance art, with its many different codes and languages, though yet centred on the human body, as indispensable tool to vehicle communication. However, while the debate on this issue still continues (and hopefully will), some same elements always arouse, which must be carefully considered as, by doing so, we assert at least three primary fundamental aspects: 1) Performance art is an open territory of investigation, to research for authenticity and freedom of expression; 2) relating to here and now, Performance art explores constantly a variety of possible changing; 3) being based on mutual exchange, Performance art has an undeniable quality of flexibility as one of its constituent pars, which emphasizes the concept of “human scale” as needed existential value: for it, Performance art it’s vital. Hence, if we say that something is vital, we mean that it is necessary, very important, lively, vigorous, critical, urgent, if not crucial; and describing something as vital, we mean that is very energetic and full of life. Therefore, we may talk about Performance art also in terms of vitalogy.
Contemporary Performance art seems today more and more focused on understanding how we survive and flourish as humans despite our daily challenges. It offers a wide range of proposals, combining different cultural backgrounds with multifaceted, inter-cross disciplinary, even scientific approaches, and with an intuitive ability to cut to the chase regarding our life. It can offers unique methods to help us to navigate our way towards a more robust, dynamic, and realistic life, maybe not a “perfect” life, but a well-adjusted one. At the same time it can offer different keys to comprehend what is life in itself, and the world we live in. It is probably for this main reason that the core of many Performance art works centres around way of livings and lifestyle questions, dealing with social, private and technology’s spheres impact on the mind, the spirit and body of the individuals. So far Performance artists seem actually all to be connected – more or less – by a similar beginning: by listening intuitively to human stories, watching carefully at present situations, history, environments, and sensing how that impacts their own same mind, body, and overall life, to enhance and manifest through Performance art’s different theories and praxis, an understanding (even if partial) to life and daily care, harnessing the forces of the mind and the body towards creative and productive endeavours.
Performance art brings an all-in-one opportunity for guiding our understanding of what we are experiencing physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, and of/for what we are living for; and by being ephemeral it tells us that we are dynamic individuals: creative, alive, passionate, and that, though impermanent beings, we can operate collectively for good, qualitative common aims, positively confronting and matching thoughts, feelings, solutions, and everything that is related to life.
It is surely a challenge, but also a privilege to work with Performance art today, because a performance artist receives wisdom and acceptance for what s/he can offer, also through failure, a human unavoidable condition to grow better, if taken and comprehended in the right way, with open heart and readiness of mind. It tells us, as a matter of fact, that to be present is much more determinant than merely representing something. This is because Performance art loves to speak about the truth. It says that we must feel accepted, as being special and equal to one each other, valued for what we are. That’s so important.
Personally I am very grateful for the profound and rich contribution that Performance art gives to my journey through this life, and to the ones of many others too. This is what I want to tell, which similarly many others performers do. It is actually undeniable to notice how much today Performance artists, at whatever latitude, wish to tell and express how to form, transfer, conceive, transform, and build long and short distance conversations, transmitting, their way to the others, sometimes critically, but always reciprocally.
The map of Performance art will be never complete, as things still (and will) continue to flow. Nevertheless, for now, the urgency in Performance Art seems to focus on giving a look at accounts of historical and social processes, as history may help us ask necessary questions about our assumption and axioms, to speak about the presence of Man in this world, which is more than a condition, seeing through things with concentrated responsibility.
Contemporary Performance art aims to communicate those issues. It is a practice that primarily is valuable when it becomes a flashing vector, a carrier of meanings and specific messages, hence not just a mere medium or auxiliary tool. This because the first major source of Performance art is the encounter between two subjects: for an efficient live art action, it is a fundamental prerogative. But when there are two subjects, it is meant not only the agency, the capacity to act, but also the world of ideas, imagination, thoughts, emotions, which inhabits the subjects. And the source here is to be understood in the literal sense, like for flowers, which are vivify by water, earth and light. Here, the source of Performance art is the meeting between human beings, and therefore the recognition between them, and finally the actual emotion of meeting. So this is a first source we encounter specifically in Performance art and that animates it: the emotion of the meeting. Of course, this first source becomes also evidence of determined human qualities, such as fragility.
There are other similar sources, as it is in history and all the different kinds of arts as well, one of them is called empathy: the encounter of feelings. We actually feel (and awaken sentiments) when we encounter something, when we meet with someone, when we start profoundly listening to our own Self, and our fragility is challenged to the limit and faced, or simply when we start listening at it. Fragility is one of the main human constituent pars. Fragility it’s a human resource, not a negative prerogative, not a weakness, but an aspect of universal beauty, the same as strength. Fragility constitutes all of us, as human beings, and the whole world we’re living. Hence, for instance, accordingly to Freud’s reference to the question of emotion, when he says that erotic drive is actually extremely flexible, that is much more flexible than the drive to eat, because you cannot eat just anything, but you can become attached to anything, you can love anything. This mean a flexibility of feelings, another first source of Performance art, consequently another first source which vivifies and put in evidence what does mean our own fragility: an open invitation to investigate what it is and represents for us as individuals. Obviously, this encounter between two subjects is expressed through actions, and therefore it gives rise to an inter-subjectivity of dialogue. It is this inter-subjectivity of dialogue (verbal, non verbal) that will be recorded and taped into memory. This tape could be a very strong censorship. It is the censorship of everything that is not a word, or an image (produced/left), and operates through also forms, which we work through. What a live art action/work recollects is just a short-cut: a short-cut for analysis, but a short-cut that allows us to explore the Self, while transferred into some unknown territories (because not ordinary). And the short-cut is already the transcription of what has happened into something else, so the whole action that has happened has undergone a huge transformation. Hence, Performance art is transformation. Then there is another kind of transformation, which is interpretation.
Here one uses al sort of disciplinary tools, from folklore, anthropology, philosophy, sciences, humanities, media studies, semiotics, hermeneutics, political views, economics, ecology, music, and their many aspects deriving from various and different cultural backgrounds, private beliefs, personal experiences, ideals, dreams, assembling them, squeezing them. Therefore, Performance art is also alchemy.
Each artwork produced along the journey of an artist (but let’s say each work produce along the journey of a man or a woman) will become a sort of resume of one step of the process (the life process): a process, which is always in progress; a part, although minimal, of the becoming. Metaphorically, it is like a piece of a mosaic which portrayed a splinter of time/experience of the life of someone (or something), which then transforms into memory and indicate identity, though only when capable of giving out evidence of it. To give out evidence is not only a matter of intensity and energy, is mostly of honesty, sincerity, responsibility and consciousness: both in action and purpose, without forgetting that anything we do is subjected to time and timing. Consequently, from this perspective, it can’t be neglected that in Performance art there is another important question: the question of temporalities.
In a live art action there are four temporalities at least. One is the time in which the performance artist concentrates to conceive, which leads to the time when the performer acts: the present, or when the artist creates. Another is the time period of the whole action, from its beginning to its end. And the fourth is the time of the recollection (memory). Operating through these temporalities, the inter-subjectivity of encounter produces something that can constitute very different (re-) collections. It can constitute an archive of images, it can become the basis of another individual or community/people project, or it can undergo further artistic treatments, encoding further inspiration for few, if not for many.
There are ways in which performance art actions become a source too, but in order to be transformed into a source, art actions must undergo specific procedures and taken for what they are: transitory but revelatory.5
When we notice that a live art action is intense, poetic (though also speaking of political/social/civil issues), and effective in its process of making, is because it unveils and discloses to our eyes something that is hidden into the intimate texture of the fabric of life, “something concealed or being kept secret until an appropriate time is ripened for its public disclosure. (…) Performance art “as a revelation of (some) truth discloses something that has not yet been revealed before, but it is also something that has already been happening as factual realities within the context of human experience. (…) When an aesthetic piece or action (unveils) and is unveiled, it is something that has never been presented before or yet to be proven because the very work or act itself, as an exclusive reality, refutes the precedence, as it also becomes the precedent of what is yet to happen. (…) Series of performative acts integrated within framing device of form and content become a shared aesthetic encounter and experience between the performer and the audience.”6
For that, it’s a consequence that performative actions are a very strong from of expression: they demand spontaneous creativity, they don’t rely on a rigid script, and seeks to make the audience to think, counting only on very short periods of time. It is impossible to correct an action in its process, that’s why only the act is true, because it arouses spontaneously from the depths of the spirit and the subconscious of the performer, speaking therefore of a truth that addresses concrete realities of human existence. “Nothing that was ever said or recorded is truth, only the act.”7
Though Gottfried Leibniz stated that there are two kinds of truths, those of reasoning and those of fact, where the truths of reasoning are necessary and their opposite is impossible; and the truths of fact are contingent and their opposites are possible8, it is also (and consequently) worthwhile to remember that in Performance art, the very nature of the imagery of reality is poetry and poetry, according to Martin Heidegger, is the founding of truth.9
“Performance art presents the imagery of reality as a woven imagery of symbols in the same manner as poetry uses symbols to present realities through the structural form and content of words. (…) Similarly to poetry, performance art uses metaphors and allegories to unveil the tangible realities for the audience to decipher and form an aesthetic judgement based on the message or content of the performance.”10 Due to these premises, the very act of performing in front of the witnesses (of the performance itself), may become a poetic revelation of truth.
Performance art, finally, is a place where form and content can find their way to become one; where common experiences encountered by everyone are outlined and arouse, to appeal and reconcile the Self of the performer also with the audience’s personal experience. At the same time it is also an attempt to give experience a face, a trajectory, a luminous trail, taking new chances, scoring the aces, caressing, embarrassing, stimulating. Performance art actions offer also unusual and unexpected series of symbols, which transform into carriers of meanings to form, when successful, a powerful imagery of reality by using the performer’s human body as a tool, which, by set forth a framing device, encapsulates the form and content within the specific, transformed space and time, in order to try to address concrete solutions, possibly in a way comprehensible, to present truths to (and through) the eyes and mind of the spectator/witness, as s/he is fully part of the performance itself.
Andrea Pagnes (VestAndPage)
1. Goldar Sánchez, Soledad (Argentinean performer). Posted by the artist on her Facebook wall page; 4-9-2011; retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/soledad.goldar, on the 5-9-2011.
2. Ocampo, Yuan Mor’O. UGNAYAN ’05 Statement, the 4th PIPAF.
3. Michell, Jorge, Philosopher and Architect, University of Chile, on his commentary about VestAndPage performance “Balada Corporal I”, presented at the Theatre University of Santiago de Chile, October 2010.
4. An example of how to analyse Performance Art etymologically is in:
Piotrowski, Zygmunt. Theory of performance, [d8 / 1987], limited edition; retrieved from
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/fbx/?set=a.213791491965780.60101.100000047919087; courtesy the author.
5. The paragraph in which is analyzed the encounter of two subjects and the question of different temporalities has been inspired from the report of a talk of Luisa Passarini at the “History, Memory, Identity” workshop organised by Sarai CSDS, New Delhi, on 14-16 January 2005. It has been re-written and re-adapted by Andrea Pagnes for this specific purpose, and licensed to artists’ use by Sarai CSDS Editorial Collective to the author.
6. Sillada, Danny. Imagery of Reality and the Revelation of Truth in Performance Art, 8-16-2005; retrieved from http://ugnayan.us.splinder.com/archive/2005-08, on the 3/25/2011.
7. Zin, Min. Truth in Action, interview with Padungsak Kochsomrong. The Irrawady Magazine, Vol. 9, n° 2 (February, 2001). Chiang Mai: IPG.
8. Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm. La Monadologie, 1714. n.33. See for English translation: Bennett, Jonathan. The Principles of Philosophy known as Monadology, leibmon.pdf, 2004.
9. Heidegger, Martin. Poetry, Language, Thought, New York: Harper and Raw Publisher, 1971.
10. Sillada, Danny. Imagery of Reality and the Revelation of Truth in Performance Art, 8-16-2005; retrieved from http://ugnayan.us.splinder.com/archive/2005-08, on the 3/25/2011.
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