- the year of performance at Artpool
Series of lectures and research programs
As part of a Performance research program, Artpool has organised a series of lectures about the general history and various trends of performance, organised two series of screenings of performance-videos, collected data concerning the history of performance, as well as the most important publications presenting the artists and trends, translated a selection of theoretical works in Hungarian. Already available for research at Artpool a documentation (computer database with chronology and description) of the history of performance in Hungary between 1956 and today, as well as basic publications on the performance and its representatives and the large video archive of performances of which the publication "Video-expedition in the performance -world" serves as a catalogue.
from the introductions to the lectures on performance
held at Artpool
"Performance, this `new' genre of creative art is at least twenty years old. This series of lectures will be launched by the fundamental question whether it is possible to re-vitalise it. (The answer is, obviously, yes.) The long and short term antecedents of performance (especially happening, Fluxus event and body art) in Hungary and abroad will be examined. An overview of the relationships between performance and other genres or branches of art, i.e. installation, painting, sculpture, theatre, music, poetry, video, dance, etc. as well as sports, transport and fashion will be given.... Authors/creators will be invited and their works analysed." <>
It is only from the end of the sixties that the happening and the performance have been understood as, by concept and designation, distinct genres. Much earlier however is the artistic practice which refuses to apply the one-sided code system of the traditional distinction between the genres for the sensual unity of life or for our experience of it. It intends to confront life with the totality of the available artistic expressions-either instinctively or consciously. Motivated by this complex sensitivity, stepping out of the one-sided expression (literature, painting, music, etc.) leads the artist and the recipient into space where both-or the artist at least-is forced to act (at zero degree: at least to be present with his own body). <>
When we are engaged in doing something, , we know not in the same way as we do when we look back upon it. The target of our interest, its intensity, the position of the body, and our concern altogether are of a different nature. The focus of attention is that which is to be done-together with the complex texture that constitutes its direct surrounding, and its elements that are to be elaborated. In such a work, all my being takes part. The act that spans over my body constitutes a dynamic bridge between the field of elaboration and the nerve tracks activated meanwhile. During this time, the so-called Self comes to a break, its considerable proportion settles into the relation of the elaboration and the body; it becomes entwined with the network of effects and after-effects. It vibrates and shifts in the gap that it can deepen on the verge of the powers called subject and object. <>
"We must demand that everyone be a genius but without really expecting it", Friedrich Schlegel wrote at the beginning of the last century. This idea had left its mark on those radical efforts which, a hundred years later, were not about saving art from life but strived for turning life into art. At the turn of the century, the reformers' aim was to liberate art entirely, yet this revolution not only broke the traditional frames of art but radically undermined the European notion of art. Thus it is not by chance that the expression "happening" appeared exactly at this moment throughout all the different linguistic areas. There is a heroic idea inherent in it which is always subjected to failure that only an aesthetic view inables us to see life as an integral whole again. <>
to make a passage among the different fields of culture, to break down
the borders, to make consistent even the most extreme contradictions.
It merged not only the art and life, the play and the bloody physical
reality, the "high" and the "popular" genre, the meaningful symbol and
the fashion but the religious ritual and the obscenity, the world-redeeming
moral and cynical nihilism. To understand this artistic genre let me evoke
some of the religious and cultural phenomena of our early and modern history
which were likewise complex and paradox. I would like to present two examples:
one of them is the sight of the tortured body displayed to the public
in the culture of the Middle Ages. Among the representatives of the heretics
and the mendicant order who took upon themselves unenforced deprivation,
there emerged a couple of religious phenomena in the 13-15th century which,
being on the verge of preaching, the tableau vivant, the mystery-plays,
the judicial punishment and the mass penitent self-scourge, can be regarded
as the prefiguration of performance. The other example I would like to
mention comes from this century. I recall the youth subcultures of the
last decades of this century from Teddy Boys to the punks, from the hippies
to the transvestites, from the student leaders to the religious cults.
The relationship of these subcultures to dressing, to the body, to the
heroic contravening of prohibition can also help us to understand performance
(whose representatives appeared in the same milieu supported by a sensitivity
of the same kind). <>
[Read the whole text of the lecture]
Performance art is one of the most interesting way of denying art as an institution and a denial of the institutional forms of art. The conventions which generally distinguish a work of art from "reality" are suspended here: its provocative potential and its recurrent awkwardness come from the uncertainity that could be expressed with the words of Péter Esterházy paraphrased this way: Is this the program still / yet? <>
1. Theatre is a
place where the viewer pretends that he/she does not know that what he/she
sees is only an illusion or less. He who enters the stage suddenly becomes
someone else; his physical reality is concealed by the reality of the
invisible illusion. A acts as B, and his death as B
is more authentic than his life as A.
2. That this is based upon a fragile and complex set of rules is brought to light when suddenly somebody dies on the stage or really declares love to someone or turns against the tyrant.
3. Performance is the action and the place by which the viewer cannot pretend that he/she does not know that what he/she sees is not an illusion but reality. The performer is always himself, A remains identical with A and transformes into someone else only in accordance with his own identity-if he transforms at all. And here lies the aesthetic and the disaster of performance. This is where the show begins. <>