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What is performance art?
AINE PHILLIPS

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Performance art is the live expression of artistic ideals, concepts, aesthetic images, forms and action. It amalgamates form, meaning and subject matter so that it can become a structure addressing the audience, be it viewers or camera.

The live expression can become a situation, a set of behaviours or an event. It can incorporate a process based method of expression that does not necessarily resolve itself into something that appears 'finished'. The aesthetic function of the performance is forged both by its specific "language" and the body, gender, age, shape size, personality, objects, space, actions/gestures, and the wider socio-political context. I think of performance as embodying sense, texture and taste as well as material and abstract concepts.

I believe performance is embodied critical theory in the spirit of theorist Max Horkheimer who described a theory as critical insofar as it seeks "to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them." (Horkheimer 1982, 244) It is an artform through which an artist or collaboration of artists manifest ideas and theories founded upon systems of analysis, fault and merit recognition and (from the philosophical tradition) a methodical practice of doubt.

The concepts a performer works with in the creation of a performance art piece can be the same concepts any artist in the world works with in any medium. An artist makes a performance with or about a concept because a performance is the best medium or method through which to express or explore that concept.

Performance art happens in the present moment and engages that moment with the possibility of failure and transformation. In addressing an audience, the work exceeds a self reflexive purpose to become an act of communication using a language of the body, presence, behaviour and the live moment. It is an active and intentional relationship between the artist and viewer and carries with it all the subtle and obvious aspects and affects of human relationship.

The need to communicate, to make contact and to transmit feeling is the deep motivation for my performance work alongside the need for transformation of self. Performance for me offers the potential to stretch beyond the limits of subjectivity and identity to become other selves, or an expanded self in acts of growth that are freeing, not only for the artist but also I hope for viewers and audience. It is always an act of transformation.

There is liberation in stepping outside of our own expectations of self and society's prescriptions of who we should be. Every human being has the possibility to evolve beyond restrictive boundaries. It is joyful and transcendent to attempt to be something or someone new and I think this is true especially for women or any disadvantaged people.

When we perform our bodies and souls are offered in a ritual that strips our shadows away and gives us new ones.

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