Performance art is a largely experimental art form that is difficult to define as many in the art world have continued to debate a precise definition. Not to be confused with the performing arts, Performance Art may be scripted or unscripted, simple or complex, and feature many performers or one. Typically, the medium of performance art is the artist’s body. Elements that are frequently at the forefront of a performance art work include time, space, the artist’s body, and the relationship between the artist (performer) and the viewing audience.
Performance Art came into fashion during the 1960s and it tended to feature works in opposition to traditional theatre performances. Artists still work under the mantle of Performance Art today. Like Dada or other art movements of the period like Fluxus, Performance Artists strove to challenge traditional or orthodox art forms. The definite emphasis on the unconventional is a cornerstone of the movement. Some artists participating in the movement preferred to call their work ‘Fluxus Performance,’ ‘Live Art,’ or ‘Action Art.’ Some performers referred to the movement as ‘Action Poetry’ or ‘Intermedia.’
Some art historians have theorized that the movement may trace its origins to Dadaists as well as Russian Futurists. Other scholars have noted that some traces of the movement can be seen in some work of the 1950s. One of the early precursors of the Performance Art movement is Zone de Sensibilité Picturale Immatérielle by the Conceptual artist Yves Klein. As the movement progressed, various social taboos were explored in works. Nudity also played a role in many Performance Art pieces, particularly those performed by artists like Yoko Ono and Charlotte Moorman. Yet performances were often varied and highly original.
Performance Art was particularly popular in some off-Broadway theatres of New York City. Today, it may still be found performed in theatres but even on websites such as YouTube. Since the 1960s, each era has put its own stamp on Performance Art. For instance, the 1970s were noted for some radical performances as evidenced by the 1971 work Shoot in which an artist allowed his arm to be shot. Beginning with the 1980s, technical advances began to be seen in Performance Art works and certainly today, computers often play a role in this art form. Some of the best known Performance Artists include Carolee Schneemann, Yayoi Kasuma, Nam June Paik, Wolf Vostell, Chris Burden, Robert Whitman, Laurie Anderson, and PINK de Thierry.