From Cave-Painting Neanderthal to Fine Arts Aficionado – Understanding Performance Art

Dorian Whitmore

Becoming a cultured, intelligent, independent arts enthusiast with no opinions that deviate from the status quo can be a difficult process. The fine arts world has many unspoken rules, some of which Bosworth Magazine covered in the first installment of this series, “Understanding Abstract Expressionism.” But our multi-part course on improving your aesthetic would not be complete without an examination of performance art.

The term “Performance Art” became widespread in the 1960s in the United States. It originally expressed a variety of performance forms, including poetry, music, film, and visual art. It is marked primarily by a breakdown of structures and rules, but that breakdown of rules is dutifully and meticulously structured.

When to Go: Performance art can be shocking, scary, funny, unsettling, or anything else that calls attention to the performance in that “look at me, I’m an artist” kind of way. As such, you should be careful to attend only when you plan to give the performance your full attention. Or if you’re really drunk.

Who to Bring: Avoid bringing your friend who always talks through the movie when you go to the movie theater. This guy will probably make you look like an ass when he throws popcorn at the guy smearing authentic Mississippi mud on his leotard. Do bring, however, a woman you’re trying to impress.

Best Beverage to Order Afterward: If you’re sitting around afterward with a group of arts enthusiasts, consider an espresso and a cigarette. If caffeine and/or tobacco bother you, try a fine wine. Or better yet, invent a fictitious region of France (make sure it sounds really French) and order a wine from that region. When they say they don’t have it, throw a tantrum and make snide remarks.

When to Criticize: Anything by a student performer is up for grabs. However, if an established artist does the exact same performance, you should love it.

What to Love: Laud anything where a substance gets smeared on a leotard, anything with nudity, anything in which the F-Word is used repeatedly and loudly, anything anti-Bush, anything with a recognizable Christ figure in it, and anything the combines two or more of these elements. Also, trombones.

Should I Become a Performance Artist? Do you like it when people look at you, and compliment you for little or no reason? Do you crave constant attention? Are you pretentious? Do you hunger for strangers to stare at your naked body? Do you have few if any marketable skills? If you answered yes to any of these questions, performance art is not for you.

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