The Prevalence of Performance Art in Aesthetics and Contemporary Art

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Type of Academic Paper – Essay

Academic Subject – Art

Word Count – 3370 words

Contemporary Art – Introduction

In the modern world, the term “Performance Art” has been constantly changed, which has resulted in different varieties of forms and arts that have influenced several scholars and artists to conduct researchers and theses (Lambert-Beatty, 2016). Performance Art is mostly related to time-based art, which consists of live presentations in front of the audience and comprises different art forms, including dance, music, acting, poetry, and painting. Most artists and scholars identify performance art as a contemporary form of art and giving rise to a number of artists and stage players, but this particular art form arose in the early 1970s (Finel Honigman, 2015).

The term performance art is a multitude of art activities, while the diversity of styles is the prompt features of such events and happenings. The performance art journey has been gaining a sufficient rise and subsequently increasing the number of artists in the same domain. Marina Abramovic and Orlan are some of the leading names that have achieved significant prominence in performance art. This particular study is aimed to explore how these artists have gained substantial visibility in the field of performance art. More significantly, this essay seeks to explore the aesthetic point of view of performance art, underpinning the best examples of the artists and their opinions and masterpieces in the field of contemporary art.


In the realm of modern and contemporary art, performance art has been given proper attention. The current art world comprises a variety of artists who have been engaged in performance art practices by diversifying their art journey from conventional media and art forms to the modern world of art and including aesthetics and their own physical body as a tool to express the artistic side, views, and issues of the contemporary world (Millner and Moore, 2015). The artists of the modern world are known as avant-garde artists, including new experiments in the form of art. One of the prominent names in the performance art world is Marina Abramovic, while several critiques have also been for her work. Artaud (2014) explained that the term performance art is related to live performances, which is different from the traditional form of skills where artists perform live events, theatres and other live performances. The scope of performance art increased when artists brought visual and live performances in front of audiences and the general public while eliminating art confinement to galleries. On the other hand, Mermikides and Bouchard (2016) explained that performance artists explained art as the social commentary of the transparency of art, which can be visible in front of the public. The performance art is based on live performances, while the two performances mustn’t be the same.

The rise of performance art occurred with the extensive use of new technologies. Amongst which, autobiographical pieces are considered an effective platform to showcase the views and reviews of social issues and causes. The evolution of art with new technologies and exponentially increased the prevalence of aesthetics in live performances where artists combine imagination and technology to perform in front of a live audience (Greenberg, 2015). The aesthetic approaches in art, specifically performance art, underpins anthropological ways of analysing different cultures, which are defined as a complex aesthetic reflecting and symbolising the objectification of human images to define and elaborate social issues and concerns by including diversified realities. In modern art history and the view of Kantian aesthetic discourse, the critic and the artist are being portrayed as distant and objectified subjects that remain as transcendent instead of embodied subjects (Allain and Harvie, 2014). The emerging artists in the mid-20th century showed a dramatic shift in society and cultures that has been envisaged as the major contribution to the post-modern period. The art forms, including the veiled bodies, represented the value and meaning of the rise of performances. In the post-modern period, the bodies of artists were functioning as a form of resistance to social power relating to being itself and with the version. The unveiling of the bodies is considered the embedding and enactment of self with the society (Akman, 2015).

Analysis of the Project

According to the post-modern approach of art, Kaprow identified that performance art and modernist art practices are the final product of arts, but it also comprises of active involvement of the artist itself in the process of making or living (Senior and Kelly, 2016). More specifically, modern and performance art is depicted as a common experience before intensified and framed the understanding of the experience of the artists. Kaprow and Dewey introduced the flux of living and relating with aesthetic experiences by illustrating that an experience is an organic form represented in different social forms, beginnings, and patterns to gain aesthetic qualities and attributes (Lu, 2016). These explained that experience is always aesthetic, proactive, intellectual and thoughtful, which arose because of criticism. Moreover, most of the work on the aesthetic view of performance art is related to the effects on the public or how it is being interpreted by the non-specialist participants and viewers (Stitt, 2015). As per Dewey’s perspective, the aesthetic experience connects with the world and nature by defining it as an intrinsic connection between the social and natural aesthetic forms of the experiences.

One of the leading names in performance art is Marina Abramovic, who combined imagination, visual art, and performance in her meaning of art. Her life experiences and her way of expressing her experiences artistically and aesthetically are much related to the live presentation of the incidents that occurred in her life (Finel Honigman, 2015). Since Marina Abramovic had experienced the insights of the Second World War, her artistic pieces depict the idea of rebellion in a wider context. Marina Abramovic explained the sensuality and aesthetics by exploring the brutal use of one’s body in a proactive and open way which has brought the revolution in performance art (Bennett, 2013). The art of Marina Abramovic has undergone the process from parallel changes of body art to the changes in the perception and appropriation of the use of the body as per the context of art. The perception of the body and its usage has seen a significant change in modern art history which is being served as a platform to access another plane (Rizzo, 2017). With the use of body and performance art, artists have been exploring instability and contingency. Marina Abramovic explored the notion of awareness and consciousness and the method of exploring expressing oneself, which can be ephemeral, liminal, and invisible (Lambert-Beatty, 2016).

The focus of Marina Abramovic on the artist’s body is related to the comprehension of performance as the transformative instrument, which is considered to be having the power to transform the experience, which can be functioned in a wider context (refer to appendix). The work of Marina Abramovic furthermore explains the resistance of pain and emotional and spiritual transformation within the human body, which is a complex compositional form such as performance. It consists of body elements, silence, body and participation of spectators (Lambert-Beatty, 2016). On the other hand, Marina Abramovic’s work has also faced criticism from different artists and has faced a confrontational encounter with her art performance encounters with strict lines. The art of Marina Abramovic depicted the invisibility of commodification of the art medium and art object. However, the use of aesthetics and performance art in its artwork has faced a challenging situation of preservability (refer to appendix). This transformation in performance art has undergone the absorption of politics and abnegation and subjectivity in arts (Schneider, 2011). The work of Marina Abramovic shows that the human will is much weaker than the physical existence of the body as it can tolerate excess pain while the human mind is not capable of tolerating the mental consciousness and effects to the broken heart in a traumatic experience. According to Abramovic (2007), traumatic experiences pose a great threat to human minds. Marina Abramovic tried to portray dehumanising her own body in public in her social experiments where people could deface her objectively. The performance art in the views of Marina Abramovic was the interpretation of stressing the human body (refer to appendix).

On the other hand, the performance art direction sketched by Orlan is another depiction of how people and artists consider aesthetics to be defying the common stereotypes of body and face (Akman, 2015). In the views of Orlan, performance art and aesthetics is nothing but a matter of life and death. She underwent several surgeries while each surgery defined a significant change in her facial features, defying the common stereotypes of beauty and aesthetics. The work of Orlan is known as Carnal Art, in which she distinguished the art with her body art while acknowledging it from common sources (refer to appendix). According to Greenberg (2015), Orlan looks like a radical artist. Her Cruella de Vil-style hairdo is an exception to her demonstration and difference between body art and common beauty stereotypes. The carnal art of Orlan involved personal risk and asserted that it is for pleasure and sensuality, endurance and suffering. According to Mermikides and Bouchard (2016), Orlan’s work is much more of a struggle between the innate and inexorable as she has been an active feminist, which was coming second while men were coming first.

Orlan has depicted a blunt and brutal picture of performance art of destruction of the body. The gory and blunt images transmit the alarming signals of psychological and social disorders (refer to appendix). The depiction and redefining of her body by going in the inverse direction from the people who depicted performance art and aesthetics to be an emotional and spiritual way of portraying the social issues is much more of feminism. According to Millner and Moore (2015), Orlan was much more of a feminist instead of an artist who considered that self-destruction is a way of depicting the social issues occurring in society. Several critiques have occurred, which showed that the performances of Orlan are the ritual submissions and primitive rites which revolve around eliminating women of aggressive instincts of any type from the society. She explained that beauty and aesthetics could be seen spiritually, while it is important to have emotional and spiritual control over destiny (Stitt, 2015).


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Interpretation of the Project

The analysis depicts that performance art has undergone a significant change and shift from traditional galleries to body art. However, several authors and artists depicted that performance art has not been shifting, but it’s evolving with the passage of time and the inclusion of the latest technologies. The analysis in the above section depicted that performance-based art has seen the inclusion of body art where artists have been deconstructing their bodies and body organs (Abramovic and Biesenbach, 2010). It can be interpreted that Orlan’s work is nothing new, but it is directly linked with traditional body art. In the early 1960s, traditional body artists have been raising their concerns for social causes and issues. The body-oriented work of Orlan is connected with traditional body art practices, however, it can be said that the artists separate her from traditional aspirations (refer to appendix). According to Orlan:

“There is a fine line between traditional body art and carnal art. The Carnal Art is contrary to body art which is not related with pain, source of purification and it is also not a concern of redemption, but it is a matter of spirituality.”

This implies that the performance art ways used by Orlan are the depiction of pain, by using pain by determining the connection between emotions and art. The use of traditional body art, along with the using surgeries and the use of pain, distinguished her work from her fellow body artists. They used pain to focus on artistic credibility. The self-mutilation and liberation of the body using her performance seemed painful, but for her, it is something aspirational, aesthetic, and depicting the true meaning of body art with the combination of performance art (refer to appendix). The work of Orlan is considered as the change in her social and physical identity, which is confined in body art. Senior and Kelly (2016) criticized that:

“Orlan’s work is quite distinguishable from other artists as she used plastic surgeries as a medium and is defined as the multi-disciplinary artists who combined art, body art, and the connection between different disciplines such as medicine, art, prosthetic body using different kinds of media.”

This can be said that the post-modern approach of performance art has given rise to a number of artists who used technology and different forms and disciplines to explain particular psychological and social issues (refer to appendix). Orlan’s work is a true illustration that combines the views of body art, aesthetics, and self-destruction. On the other hand, the analyses showed that Marina Abramovic’s work is stronger and more magnetic. It includes the attraction with the body, art, social issues, and self-destruction (Millner and Moore, 2015). The attraction between these elements is considered violent. People believe that the depiction of self-harm by using art and performances creates a contradicting picture of art and destruction in public. The performance work of Marina Abramovic depicting her personal experiences is a vast journey that has been transforming its shapes from politics to aesthetics and from traditional art galleries to the general public. According to Artaud (2014):

“The work of Marina Abramovic illustrates the strong relationship between the community, artists, and participants based on mental and physical availability. However, each piece of work of Marina Abramovic is a vulnerable depiction of the human body, art, and assault. The performance art of Marina Abramovic demonstrates that the destruction of the human body starts gradually, but it gets bolder with the increasing interests of participants.”

This implies that the work of Marina Abramovic in the field of performance art is a true illustration of acceptable risks and the power of art while exploring and provoking the audiences through self-exploitation and raising ethical questions about criticism and spectatorship. This implies that the work of Marina Abramovic has been a pure depiction of life and death with the help of art (Greenberg, 2015). The results of both the artists were similar to some extent; however, there is a pure distinction between self-harm and destruction. The experiments conducted by both the artists were similar to some contest which transformed the forms of performance art from traditional art galleries to public art performances where artists undergo the activities to link their bodies with ethical witnessing and traumatic experiences to increase self-awareness of aesthetics and beauty in front of the audience (Lu, 2016). The prevalence of arts and aesthetics in contemporary art history has been shifting. These artists have depicted an accurate picture of self-image and how people perceive art when being traumatized publicly.

Final Conclusion

This study explained how the aesthetics in arts has been including and reshaping the traditional form and practices of performance art in the modern art world. It has been identified in this study that Marina Abramovic and Orlan have been some of the prompt names in the contemporary world of performance arts which has become prominent because of their live performance, which included the elements of self-harm and destruction. Marina Abramovic considered that performance art is expressing thoughts and raising voices against the concerns and causes by portraying oneself using social experiments. The use of social appearances and visibility by using effective art forms, except the traditional art galleries and performing live. On the other hand, Orlan has undergone several surgeries to redefine the definition of aesthetics and beauty, based on which feminism has been the prominent element in the work of Orlan. However, the use of self-destruction is the common element in the works of both the artists who used social appearances and visibility to raise their voices using body art. Several criticisms have also been presented, which raised concerns of these negative images on the perception of performance art and aesthetics; however, there have been included studies that explained this shift in the art field from traditional to modern forms of art. Thus as a concluding statement that with the inclusion of new technologies and innovation, performance art has also been experiencing a significant change in arts. In contrast, the prevalence of aesthetics in modern and contemporary art while portraying pain is a new way of depicting art through the social visibility of artistic bodies.


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