Selected by Mike Tree
Performance is a genre in which art is presented “live,” usually by the artist but sometimes with collaborators or performers. It has had a role in avant-garde art throughout the 20th century. Performance may be either scripted or unscripted, random or carefully orchestrated; spontaneous or otherwise carefully planned with or without audience participation. The performance can be live or via media; the performer can be present or absent.
1) The Unknown Rebel or the Tank Man, (王維林 Wang Weilin)
The Unknown Protester or Unknown Rebel) is the nickname of an unidentified man who stood in front of a column of tanks on June 5, 1989, the morning after the Chinese military had suppressed the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 by force. Not born with artistic intention, this performance was able to conquer the attention of the whole world and to influence the course of the Chinese History.
2) Vito Acconci
Seedbed. For this performance, visitors entered a room on a low wooden ramp. Acconci, who lay hidden under the ramp, masturbated while whispering sexual fantasies about the guests walking around above him. Acconci defined the intention of this performance solely political as a protest against the Vietnam War.
3) Marina Abramovic
In 2010, during an installation at MOMA in New York in which Abramović sat in a chair in a gallery for eight hours a day and invited strangers to sit opposite her and look into her eyes. When Ulay unexpectedly took a seat, she began to cry and reached across to hold his hands; the video of the encounter has been viewed by millions on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=xlf68X2qEpM
4) Mo Kong
Without saying a word, the Chinese artist Mo Kong in is performance titled I wanna talk to the government, shut up!! is able to create an aesthetic vision of the power of censorship of any authority. You can forbid a citizen to act, to talk, but you cannot forbid anyone to think.
5) Chris Burden
In many of his early 1970’s performance pieces, Burden put himself in danger, thus placing the viewer in a difficult position, caught between a humanitarian instinct to intervene and the taboo against touching and interacting with art pieces. To perform the work “Shoot”, Burden stood in front of a wall while one friend shot him in the arm with a .22 long rifle, and another friend documented the event with a camera.
6) Saburo Murakami
With the performance Passing Through, Japan,1956, Saburo Murakami hurled himself through layers of paper. To enter in the art performance history, he stretched several layers of packaging paper over two sets of wooden frames. He tore through the paper six times on the opening day, and the resulting work remained on view in the first room of the exhibition hall.
7) Yves Klein
Klein employed female models as “living paintbrushes” to make this work and others in his Anthropometry series, named after the study of human body measurements. “In this way,” the artist said, “I stayed clean. I no longer dirtied myself with color, not even the tips of my fingers.” Klein directed the models, covered in International Klein Blue—his patented blue paint—to make imprints of their bodies on large sheets of paper.
8) Pyotr (or Petr) Pavlensky
Pyotr Pavlensky has used extreme performance art to bring attention to corruption in the Russian government and of his qualms with Russian society. In one of his most extreme ‘living pain’ performances, Pavlensky stripped his clothes off and nailed his scrotum to the floor of the Red Square, a central city square in Moscow, and he remained there for an hour and a half. He said this performance was “a metaphor for the apathy, political indifference, and fatalism of modern Russian society.