Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Performance Art

There seems to be a collective mind-shift away from traditional dance-as- entertainment towards dance-as-art in the SL dance-show world. I think it is because here exists the perception that dance-as-art will allow more freedom for creative personal expression. We may have overdosed on dance-as-entertainment due to the number of venues, number of acts per show, and frequency of shows. But what dance-as-entertainment does do is feed the rush of performing live and the in-the-moment appreciation from the audience and peers, as in APPLAUSE and 'job well done'. 

Dance-as-art will define itself in 2nd Life as to what it wants to be. I think that dance in 2nd Life should be abstracted out as the movement of pixels and as such can have a wider definition than mere avatar-movement. Indeed it has as we have seen non-human avatars as well as object-movement, particle movement, animated textures, robotic movements, set-movements, vehicle movements, etc., to name a few non-avatar-pixel-movement.

People have chosen and are choosing to use the term 'performance art'. We need an arena of common understanding within which to form a basis for debate and discussion.

What is Performance Art? 

Before I begin, keep this in mind: "Performance art is an essentially contested concept:  any single definition of it implies the recognition of rival uses. As concepts like "democracy" or "art", it implies productive disagreement with itself""

Ok now I will begin:

Many definitions come to mind. The one that speaks loudest to me is non-traditional. 

A broader definition is: "...any situation that involves four basic elements:  time, space, the performer's body, or presence in a medium, and a relationship between performer and audience. "

Usually when experiencing an art-performance you will see/hear/experience a happening that makes you scratch your head and ask yourself, :"What is it I am seeing and what does it mean"? And how does it make me feel? There seems to always be an intent to stimulate your translation of what you as the audience are experiencing with usually a different take or pov from a norm.

A person or persons have to 'present' themselves. A painting is not performance art, nor is a book nor sculpture or piece of music. And the presentation must be witness-able by the public.

"Performance art can happen anywhere, in any venue or setting and for any length of time. The actions of an individual or a group at a particular place and in a particular time constitute the work."

Performance art, not unlike all forms of art, created its own rules, initially. Then people became influenced by the 'unwritten-rules' and imitated as well as self-expressed to help the form evolve into the widest disparity of art one might experience among the various art forms.

 "performance art is a performance presented to an audience, traditionally interdisciplinary"

"Interdisciplinarity involves the combining of two or more academic disciplines into one activity"

I think this is where 2nd Life offers a rich abundance of disciplines that can be combined. We have animations, poses, AOs, avatar-movement, object movement, avatar-object interactions, particle-emission, vehicle motion, animated textures, text, music, sound, voice, grouping, set changing, outfit-changing, prop-adorning, formations. Choreography would encompass the selection and ordering of a sequence of animations and non-animations in solo or group form.

You want to apply these disciplines as colors from a palette to express something that emanates from inside of your soul that expresses 'something' (an attitude or  point-of-view perhaps) you want to communicate to 'others'. You will present in a space and over time to a public an interdisciplinary performance. I think the 'discipline' part requires that one spend time practicing and perfecting one ore more disciplines, whether it be creating animated textures to creating original music, to singing, to assembling animations smoothly and in tempo, to playing an instrument live, to creating group formations. to transforming sets in whole or in part. There needs to be some area or areas where 'time-invested' and "craft-mastering" adds to the value of the performance. And each of these disciplines must contribute and not detract from the core of your art-statement.


An important consideration is to whether or not to include motion. Motion and change is a integral part of standard audience experience when we think of 'show'. However much of mainstream perf-art appears to be motion-less. It is an 3D idea expressed in real time with one or more live humans but often without any 'activity'. More often than not, it is an 'endurance' so as to offer the experience to as many stragglers as possible. Sometimes it is 'endurance' for endurance sake as 'enduring' is a key component of the expression. 

So maybe you do present a motion-less piece? Or maybe one with a series of motion-snapshots not unlike a cartoon strip. Maybe it is presented with music and/or sound alternating with movement accompanies by silence? Maybe the idea is to time-shift visual and associated aural? 

Maybe SL-?-art may present itself as many successive short (15 second?) displays of motion-less representations of personal experession. A new show-form. Or a mix of motion and still. Or a transformation of still to motion and vice-versa. Who knows?

SL Perf-Art should maximize that which the environment is characterized for. So environment integrity implies that one be aware of what makes a 'virtual world' virtual and unique in its offering as opposed to the real world. Offer virtual-ness to the audience in all its various manifestations as a delivery platform for your interpetation of SL-perf-art or SL-dance-art.

The more successful and commercial performances have multiple payoffs as in say Blue Man Group. Blue Man Group Performance and as such are popular. Monetizing performance art helps cover the cost of the tools and assets as well as the subsistence of the performer(s).  As long as the performance stays true to the core of honest self-expression then I think it qualifies as performance art. There must be integrity.

"Performance may be either scripted or unscripted, random or carefully orchestrated; 
spontaneous or otherwise carefully planned with or without audience participation."

"...experience for performer and audience in an event that could not be repeated, captured or purchased"  

While today we do have captured, and purchasable performances due to the nature of modern day social mediums, it does not change the fact that at the time of initial performance, the act qualified as performance art. From thence on it is  open to debate as to whether it still qualifies in the strictness confines of definitionSaying what it is or isn't doesn't change the nature of what it is.

"...Performance art is a term usually reserved to refer to a conceptual art which conveys 
a content-based meaning in a more drama-related sense, rather than being simple performance for its own sake for entertainment purposes"

"Performance artists often challenge the audience to think in new and unconventional ways,  break conventions of traditional arts, and break down conventional ideas about "what art is"

"Performance Art is a non traditional form with diverse and unique themes"

"... performance art can include satirical elements (compare Blue Man Group); 
utilize robots and machines as performers, as in pieces of the Survival Research Laboratories;  involve ritualized elements (e.g. Shaun Caton); or borrow elements of any performing arts such as dance, music, and circus."

An important element of SL Performance Art (as opposed to SL Dance Art), I believe, is that it not necessarily have music at its core; at its stimulus; as its driving force. Music/sound should be no more or less of a key component than any other discipline. Music/sound should adorn but not drive the performance otherwise it resorts back to "entertainment dance to music". You have to start with your concept...then look at all the assets available to you in SL that you can use to implement it. Let your mind wander. Hold a brainstorming session with yourself. Don't overlook some obvious delivery mechanisms that are readily available like text, RL photos, recorded voice, and live voice (avoid the theatrical narrative), even video snippets in the form of animated textures (from gifs). Look at some existing RL performance art to get you in the mindset and free up your thinking. 

But I repeat..."SL-dance-as-art will define itself in 2nd Life as to what it wants to be. What it needs to be to feed the creative appetite"...but also shall "SL-performance-art". We are likely to see 2 diverging development cycles. Those who cling on to dance-animation as the core and those who can let go.

And worthy of thought is 'how best to have the audience participate' will be a new area of artistic concern as artists migrate from the traditional passive audience posture to an active-audience posture...that being one where the audience actively processes and translates what they are seeing and hearing.

Also consider how you use time? Consider staggered performance schedules like maybe the 1st 5 minutes of every hour for 4 consecutive hours, might be your show as opposed to the traditional 1-hr weekly presentation. 

Consider holding your performance at obscure locales where the locale plays a  key part in your what you are trying to convey. Art galleries are fair game.

Consider teaming up and collaborating with musicians, writers, artists, or other talent and present in tandem as a team.

Consider if your idea has or could use a sexual tweak or pov. Consider partial or full nudity as long as its not for nudity sake and not catering to prurient interests alone.

Value. If you crave audience approval and peer-reverence then I suspect Performance Art in its purest sense will come up very short against the usual stock of entertainment-shows.  That would be the norm. Of course there are exceptions, with Blue Man Group and Cirque du Soleil as prominent examples that come to mind of audience-endorsed perf-art. My first encounter with a  performance-artist  was Laurie Anderson. Shows you how far back I go.

In show-dance audience appreciation matters as in audible expressions of approval (clapping, remarks in local chat of 'liking it'). In performance-art, audience being present is the goal. They come out and see and go away (hopefully) moved. There usually is no proper moment for audience applause as people come and go, enter and leave a scene and its considered irreverent to applaud as one might to for a normal dance-show, short of the big commercial offerings.

There is no generally-accepted yardstick for measuring the value and merit of a 'performance-art'. Its subjective to the audiences experience but also as important is the value to the artists themselves. A chance to express for the purpose of expressing and living the 'experience of expressing'.

Also let us not confuse Performance Artists with Performing Artists as the latter implies the wide spectrum of traditional artists like musicians, painters, sculptors, actors/actresses, dancers, writers, singers, etc.

In closing, it is important to abandon the fear of failure. Maintain integrity to your true inner self as to what you are presenting. Enjoy the ride. Take baby steps; it will be an ongoing process that may even evolve over time. Enjoy small successes. Feel free to explore outside normal realms of creation. 
    Lat "Yummy" Lovenkraft

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