What is the purpose of art? Its essence? Its message? Does in need to be beautiful and soothing, or should force us to face shadows and question our conformity? Is it a statement of peace and harmony or an invitation to rebellion?
Out of many form of art, body art and especially its subcategory of performance and extreme body performance art have always been the ones that spoke to me far clearer and louder than a painting of a sunset or a bronze sculpture of guy thinking hard while in pose suitable for defecating.
Yes it is disturbing and yes it is provocative, but it also meant for people who thing deeper and see further that just the shallow form of its presentation.
From the early days of conceptual art when Duchamp plugged a urinal into gallery posting a question “Is This Art?” there was a constant search among artists to question the established standards of what art is. Does it need to be made by the artist? Is the final object art or idea from which it was born.
This adventurous exploration birthed the idea to see if art can be made without any outside material, if a thought or a concept are enough, and what the role of artist in it is.
Can art simply be performed in the body and by the body of an artist?
Well, once can say YES – we have dance for it… and indeed we do. But confronting is dance. It sure can make us react to emotionally in many ways, but how often do you see choreography that makes you stop and think about yourself, the society and your perception of it.
Performance art does exactly that. It confronts us with our own limitations, our traumas and the hidden shadows of our darker self.
Performance artists, while often appearing cruel in their work, are often some of the most mentally and emotionally liberated people you could come across. You are invited into their soul, while given a chance to stay outside and be just and observe should you chose.
Yet, even if you simply glance over their (sometime literally) inside, you will take some of that struggle home with you and question the conformity by which you abide.
Perhaps the whole of performance art is not in what the artist is doing, but how the audience reacts
to it. It is not what, but how.