Performance art is a played out conceptual art which conveys a content-based meaning. Performance art at its best reveals aspects of our social world that we don’t get to see clearly while occupied with our own everyday lives.
There are theories in social science where social life is viewed as role play and analyzed by metaphorical concepts borrowed from the theatre. These theories depict social life as some sort of formal linear narrative with a fixed set of statuses, rights and duties. But sometimes actions or events constitute a break with the conventional. Just as performance art can be defined by its challenge of the orthodox art forms and cultural norms of the theatre, the actions of an individual or a group at a particular place and in a particular time can be an equally challenge of the orthodoxy and cultural norms of society – and as such fruitfully be viewed in terms of performance art.
The real life action – with an acting body located in time and space – can be seen as a performance revealing the scaring, absurdity that structures our life worlds. These events, though perhaps unintentionally, are satirical and transcend the usual real-world dynamics. They are ephemeral and authentic experiences that cannot be repeated or foreseen – and most of all, they can not be undone.
However, if real life actions may be viewed as performance art (and performance art as real life actions) – what separates real life actions from performance art? Wouldn’t for example the act of painting street art become a performance if the people watching were interpreting it as such? Wouldn’t all our actions constitute such a revelation and reevaluation of the inner workings of society if we just paid them the same amount of attention as we would do with a work of performance art?
In this perspective we are all teachers. Some help us to learn the truths we just don’t want to see – and more often than not they have to pay a steep price for this….