Performance art is clearly on the move. The recent surge of performance art as an expression in contemporary art is manifest, especially in what concerns a younger generation of artists. The reasons of this development can certainly be discussed, but whatever the explanation is, the movement is there. Whether it is the beginning of a shift of paradigm is not the issue, but it is a surge that gets more and more important. Earlier this year the New York Times published a most interesting article, A Rebel Form Gains Favor - Fights Ensue, on how the Museum of Modern Art in New York have started to get seriously involved in performance art. Anyone with some knowledge on how the international art system functions since the 1950's understands the meaning and significance of this change. It means, simply put that the interest for action and performance art from other established institutions, as well as from the artscene in general, in the next upcoming years will develop significantly.
It is clear that the general interest in performance art is growing internationally. However, we can also observe that there exists two tendencies on the scene. One that leans towards the theatrical and which is clearly product minded, and another that is more experimental, intuitive and process oriented. The former tendency is to a high degree, if not completely, choreographed and can through this often be assimilated to a spectacle, to theatre. This can be distinguished in its abandoning of one of the core qualities of performance art the experimental spontaneity and immediate intuitive action in the process of, or just before, its realization. In other words the abandoning of the inconscience process and action. It also has a quite evident commercial tendency, as to sell a product. To see performance art, or art in general, as a product. The notion as well as the signification of re-enactment can be said to belong to this tendency in performance art.
At Live Action New York this tendency is not at all represented. We prefer to present artists who are not showing finished products. Who are completely working with their inconscience and intuition in the process of live creation, artists who doesn’t use choreography, but who are and exist in their own action. We firmly believe that the theatre and acting is the opposite to performance art. Theatre has its own qualities, just like painting, photography and video. The thing it has in common with performance art is only superficial in respect to the work, i.e. a space, an audience, and of course the person or persons doing something. I use the general term something just to be specific concerning the fact that they are opposites. It is what the person is doing that opposes theatre from performance. With what I mean everything from conception and intention to realization as well as reception and interaction, but also, to use Bakhtin, a responsibility of the signification of his or her actions in the context. Of course, there are other aspects that opposes theatre to performance art. But this is not a Manifesto.
The idea to present North American performance artists in New York alongside Scandinavians came from the Canadian artist and organiser Paul Couillard. It was an idea to which we immediately adhered, and one can say that the fruit of this idea is Live Action New York 10. We are happy to be able to present a mixed program, some less known artists as well as some very renowned like Marilyn Arsem. It is that mix, as well as that of being inter-generational, that makes Live Action New York to an event where you don’t know what to expect. Just like in performance art in general, you really don’t know beforehand what you will experience. Even as an organizer or a curator. We just know one thing, that the artists invited have artistic qualities like authenticity, courage, poetry and inventiveness. Which are qualities that makes performance art today so much alive.
Finally, I would like to thank Kyle Reinhart and Miranda Hellman at Scandinavia House for their great interest and support for the realization of Live Action New York 10. And also the general consulates of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden for their help in different ways to promote the event. I would also like to thank Jill McDermid at Grace Exhibition Space for her spontaneous and direct support in hosting the event. But also our main funders ; without their support this event would not take place: Nordic Culture Fund and Nordic Culture Point.
Jonas Stampe, curator Live Action New York 10