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What is performance art?
RYSZARD PIEGZA

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The definition of a certain artistic activity is like a compass that is necessary to navigate in the labyrinth of one's own imagination. Unfortunately it is not always effective when it comes to somebody else's imagination. My first definition of performance art appeared in the beginning of the 80s, during an action of the group "Circle of Coexistence". The definition was:

Answer today, question tomorrow

This definition turned out to be useful within the structural space of the circle of coexistence "Ambasada Lingua". From 1978 to 1982 I was building that structure made of twelve walls, built to present individual actions. Presentations within the circle allowed for the comprehension of art as a kind of a dialog, not only with a spectator, but also with the other performers. It was one of the manifestations of what a few years later Ben Vautier said about the activities of my group - "Flying Carpet" - an "Art Attitude". A subsequent definition of performance art appeared during the actions in Danae Foundation near Paris:

Performance is an act of creation in a desert, a message without a recipient, because we are the only entity that is watching us.

That was the answer given to the artist Orlan, who surprised me with her question about my performance art definition, and for whom the first definition turned out to be insufficient. Today I think that my personal definition is not good for other artists. It only works on my territory. That's why to others I recommend something that has existed for a long time.

    1. Performance is an exceptional artistic situation, whose subject
    and object is a creative process, performed in a given context of time
    and space, in the presence of the audience or registering medium.

    2. The performer is both the author of the creative process
    and one of the spectators.

    3. Performance is a work of art per se.
    Confined before and after the show.
    A documentation will only be a trace after the performance
    (the evidence that it happened and therefore it exists).


The definition was published in Polish in Sztuka i Dokumentacja / Art and Documentation Journal (No. 1, 2009) p. 70-71.

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