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What is performance art?
MARGARET DRAGU

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I think Performance Art might be a troublesome combination of the amateur with artfulness.

Several years ago, I read In New Yorker magazine a description of performance artists as "smart people who cannot really do anything". I quite like that.

Performance has a disputed history and area of practice for at least 3 reasons.

Because the anarchic/anti-everything element is (naturally) enraged when ANY defining occurs as it smacks of institutionalism.

Because we are (slightly) more global and therefore even the Akademe (a default history deposit) is less likely to trot out a Eurocentric Story of "once upon a time there were the Futurists, the Dadaists, the Situationists, the Aktionists, the Fluxists, etc..."

Because Performance Art is historically the refuge for immigrants and refugees of other disciplines - a safer haven for artists/workers booted out the back door of painting, theatre and various widget-making. Disenfranchised artists wash up on the shores of performance but they bring traces of their original practices with them.

Performance Art has evolved in the 40 years I have been practicing.

I began in 1971 (2011-1971 = 40). But to be truthful, I didn't call it "performance" back then. We simply called it "the work" or said we were "making a new piece". I cannot remember when I started naming it "performance art" - perhaps mid '70's in Montreal tap dancing to Motown with Tom Dean AT Galerie Vehicule; or late'70's in Toronto with a loose gang of multi-media choreographers AT 15 Dance Lab when we realized no one thought of us as modern dancers anymore.



I wear my history on my body. My body contains German Modern Dance, Classical & Nouvelle Burlesque, Acting for Theatre/Film/Television/Radio, Agit-Prop & Cabaret, Video/Film/Installation Art making, Writing/Publishing for paper & internet, Mothering, Cleaning, Labouring, Clinical Exercise/Yoga/Fitness Body Practice, Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll, Meditation, Fasting, Gorging, Loving and Forgiving etc...

I make performance like I make bread. I gather Die Kunst unt Material. I know what the recipe is for bread making but I don_t really know what I am going to do or what it shall feel like until I begin. I must listen to my heart/psyche and open my pores to follow possibilities given to me by the audience. I think performance has an element of tincture or essence making. I hope I have cooked and simmered my performance into a thick reduction or "goo" that provides multiple points of entry. I hope each audience member has a personal and different meaning/experience of the work. Ultimately, I am interested in transformation through performance. Theirs and Mine.

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