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performance art

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A type of interdisciplinary, time-bound expression focusing attention on the artist's body and psyche. Originating as a distinctive form around 1970 and peaking during the 1980s, it grew most immediately from happenings, fluxus, conceptual art, and contemporary dance tendencies, as well as the period's countercultural individualism and anticommercialism. However, a related, longer history may be traced at least to early twentieth-century futurist and dada shenanigans aimed at smashing artistic conventions. Recent manifestations sometimes are known as performative art. Associated with galleries, art centers, cafes, and alternative spaces rather than theaters, performance art generally dispenses with the trappings of staged drama and usually makes little effort to entertain. Typically, it offers only limited visual appeal, in terms of sets, costumes, lighting, and so forth. Performance artists commonly play themselves, though they may assume character roles, most often as stereotypes useful for ironic comment. Frequently monologues, performance events tend to favor self-revelatory and often self-absorbed content. They may incorporate narrative but often remain discursive. Intentionally or not, performance events often display an unrehearsed quality that presumably lends authenticity to the material. Performance events usually take place before a live audience, but they may be taped, photographed, or recorded for wider distribution. Artists who have included performance pieces within multimedia careers include Vito Acconci, Bruce Nauman, and Dennis Oppenheim, as well as Eleanor Antin (1935– ), Janine Antoni (1964– ), Chris Burden (1946– ), Joan Jonas (1936– ), Meredith Monk (1942– ), Adrian Piper (1948– ), Mierle Laderman Ukeles (1939– ), and radical feminist artist Carolee Schneeman (1939– ). Performance art also has produced significant specialists, such as Laurie Anderson (1947– ), who blends the form with original music, Karen Finley (1956– ), and Martha Wilson (1947– ).

Subjects: Performing artsTheatre

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