For RosaLee Goldberg, founder and director of the biennial, one of the main objectives of Performa 15 is to present artists who are able to reinvent the boundaries of contemporary aesthetics. In her famous essay, she states that since its inception, performance has been “intangible, it left no traces and it could not be bought and sold.” Despite considerable visibility since the early 1970s, notably in the United States, in principle, it was impossible to sell.
Whilst the medium is defined as the materialization of an artistic concept, performance concerns an immaterial experience of time and space rather than a physical representation. To the question of whether it is always politically and socially engaged, Goldberg told Artsy that performance is an art that evolves with its epoque.
Being the most subversive dimension of contemporary art at the time, artists refused their performances to be depublicated in video format, or to be reproduced by others. To cite Gérard Mayen, dance critic at the Centre Pompidou, performance originally boasted a radical questioning of the established process of representative codes. Favoring immediate contempt for convention, trailblazers of performance refused to reduce their art to an arrangement of objects, possibly assimilated by way of a market or the authority of an institution.
In 2003, perfomance entered the museum arena in the form of temporary representations. The Tate Modern in London bought Roman Ondak’s Good Feelings is Good Times, before acquiring This is Propaganda by Tino Seghal two years later. Following in their footsteps, MoMA purchased another piece by Seghal in 2009. His essentially invisible artworks will set you back $100,000. The contract between artist and institution is purely verbal and transactions are made in cash with zero records or receipts issued. Ever since, performance has become the darling of art world circles, with fairs such as Frieze and Art Basel reserving an important place for the genre during their events.
Whilst the art market in its entirety is in perpetual expansion, the performance market is beginning to take form too. But how to commercialize, that is, to materialize a concept that is in essence immaterial? How can we capture the representation of an artistic form whose existence is to be lived and felt directly?
At a time when performance is quickly becoming commodified, some are still fighting for innovative and intense work, such as artist duo Adrien M / Claire B, who combine dance, sound, new technology and live interaction – seeking out a new aesthetic contemporary language, on a quest for abstract forms rendered by the body.
“To create interaction we use sensors, graphic tablets, and controllers to manipulate the images while observing the dancers. It’s like a digital puppetry. We like to make images go out of the frame. They are living partners,” the artists revealed to The Creators Project.