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The Vibration of Performance Art

Updated on September 17, 2014

What is Performance Art?

Performance art are events that take place between the artist and audience that promote any form of culture. There are four key components to performance art:

1.) Symbols- Symbols allow for shared understanding and meanings between the performer and audience, such as colors from the stage or instruments from the musicians.

2.) Language- Language is a system of symbols that allows us to transmit our generational history. It is socially produced.

3.) Values- Culturally defined standards that the audience uses to make assessments on the performers.

4.) Beliefs- What society hold to be true.

Typically, these four aspects are molded together with music, dance or acting in a way that challenges the audience's beliefs.

The Influence of Performance Art

Performance art tries to convey a sense of cultural authenticity between the performer and audience that makes the audience feel likable and accepted. Also in performance art, authenticity trumps rhetoric and resources. In the process, the audience is made to question their beliefs- or what society holds to be true or valid.

In some cases, performance art can serve as a social movement. Social movements centralize one resource and unite the rich, poor, secular, and religious and creates one functioning organization. The importance of an audience unifies what is being created through the message of the artist.

Performers with more social capital tend to make more connections, which is why bands such as the Grateful Dead achieved such great success. The bulk of their social capital was in no way affiliated with mainstream media- but rather, word of mouth from their loyal fans.


Bob Dylan was awarded the Presidential medal of freedom in 2012 for his extensive views of the human condition.
Bob Dylan was awarded the Presidential medal of freedom in 2012 for his extensive views of the human condition. | Source

The Influence of Poetry in Performance Art

A poem is the agent between the world and one's self-the individual that emerges from the poem or song afterwards. A poem can also transcend the relationship between the sacred and the profane. Poetry also addresses the psychological aspects of sin after it is committed, and the effects it has on the mind years and years after it has happened.

Bob Dylan's "Masters of War" serves as a reminder that not every American agrees with the glory of serving in war. The authoritative tone of the song paints a bleak picture of those who have committed such unspeakable atrocities in war, that their own human salvation has been all but lost.

Essentially, there is nothing unique about having the ability to write a poem; everyone and everything has the capacity to become poetic. The relationship between the individual and the community is ultimately the most important part of poetry and art.

Poetry also explores the frays of martyrdom or the anti-hero- one who explains his or her actions in a cautionary way, or is an individual no one would want to emulate. Rapper Eminem consistently gives fearless accounts of his personal struggles in a way that many may not be able to relate with, but can at least understand. He also deals with the isolation he endured due to the class structure he grew up with in urban Detroit.

The Grateful Dead amassed a cult following with minimal help from commercial media or advertising.
The Grateful Dead amassed a cult following with minimal help from commercial media or advertising. | Source

The Beauty of Performance Art

What is beauty? The philosophy of beauty is difficult to define because beauty is an ideal- albeit an artistic, legalistic, or spiritual one. Many believe that physical beauty is the most significant because one's physical appearance is a mirror of their soul.

Many artists also address perfection in their work and how perfection can lead to obsessive thinking. Essentially, perfection is only found in the imagination, religion, or after you're dead. Perfection does not exist in science or in basic human nature.

Artists have mockingly sang about this issue in self-deprecating songs such as Garth Brooks' "Friends in Low Places". In the song, Brooks downplays the wealthy elite of society: "I have friends in low places, the beer chases my blues away- and I feel ok".

Have you ever attended a performance art event that change how you view the world?

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Eminem shows tremendous strength is his work by admitting his own vulnerabilities as a human being.
Eminem shows tremendous strength is his work by admitting his own vulnerabilities as a human being. | Source

Quick Tips on Performance Art

*The primary objective of performance art is the relationship between the performer and the audience

*Performance art is strategically designed to challenge the audience's beliefs

*Performance art has the ability to unify the rich, poor, secular and religious people of the world into one functioning entity

*The media has disrupted the initial intent of what performance art really is

The Audience of Performance Art

The reactions to the way performance art is displayed defines how we assess the work. Artists that promote a particular world view may or may not be linked to the well being of the society we live in.

Sexualized and violent imagery commonly found in rap music lends itself to a masculine authority that isn't necessarily valid or have any merit. However, the audience may be completely vulnerable to idealizing that type of lifestyle.

A lot of the time, the media will act as a barrier between what the true message from the artist is to the audience or fan of the performer. There is no longer a clear distinction between the performer's intent and what the audience demands because of what is perpetuated through advertising and what the media has invested in the performer.

It never used to be this way. There was a time where the audience was all the performer had. Now, the focus seems to hinge on what lucrative deal the artist can get from the top brands of the world to help promote their music.


Final Thoughts

In the end, performance art will always play a vital role in determining the moods and attitudes of our society. As long as there is a perception of any social injustice, performance art will always serve as the mirror to the world we live in.

It will always be a slippery boundary to discern fiction from history, but music, dance, and theater is and always will be the barometer to help determine people's beliefs. From there, the audience can decide what to believe and form their own conclusions.

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