Live Art | Performance Art (age12+)

Bruce McLean Pose Work for Plinths I 1971  Tate © Bruce McLean from the website:
Bruce McLean Pose Work for Plinths I 1971 Tate© Bruce McLean 

History of Live Art/ Performance Art

The term Live Art was first used in the UK in the mid-1980's after Performance Art and so called Happenings were established as new art genres in the U.S. in the 1970's. These artforms emerged when visual Artists experimented with their body, space and time as a artistic materials. They were making work that wasn’t quite dance, that couldn’t be called theatre and that didn’t fit into any other existing categories.

What is Live Art?

Live Art is when the art is happening directly in front of the audience. The art work in this case is not an object or a painting which the artist leaves for the audience to look at in their own time. Instead the art work is the action itself, the process of doing or making something that the audience can experience live in the actual moment it is created.  Live Art and Performances come in lots of different forms and shapes so there is not one definition that covers it all. Live Art is about adventures, experiences and playing with things you usually don't play with. In fact almost everything can be turned into Live Art.

Live Art and Theatre

Live Art and Theatre are not the same. But you could imagine them as artistic cousins that have lots in common but grew up in different places.

What's the Difference?

In traditional forms of Theatre we often have a stage with a certain design and actors ‘pretending to be someone else’. The actors spend a lot of time to rehearse, get into their character and learn their lines before they perform infront of the audience.

In Live Art the stage can be anything and anywhere it can be in an art gallery, outside in a public space, in nature or in your living room. The performer is not pretending to do something but actually doing it for real. Also the performance is not 'rehearsed'.  But the artist has experimented, played and improvised with the material to find out what's possible. There is always a concept, a set of rules, a plan which the performer has decided before and follows throughout the performance.

Theatre and Live Art are both playful and can transport the performer as well as the audience to different kinds of reality. Both happen live, work with the body, with time and space. Theatre and Live Art can make us see the world from a different perspective. Live Art and Performance Art sometimes use theatrical elements and Theatre uses performative elements.

Confusing? Here are some videos for you to look at...

What is Performance Art by ARTtv (from Age 5+)

This is a simple introduction what Live Art or Performance Art can look like...

The Case for Performance Art | The Art Assignment | PBS Digital Studios  

This is a good introduction of the history and development of Live Art/ Performance Art:

Body Extensions and Isolation | Rebecca Horn's work In The Triangle  

Can art help us overcome loneliness and isolation? The German artist Rebecca Horn works with objects, installations and performance.  She developed her work In The Triangle when she had to stay in hospital for a very long time. She felt isolated and lonely and began to create body extensions, like costumes that could reach out and connect her with the world and people far away.

One Year Performance by Tehching Hsieh

In this example you can see that some performances can take a very long time. They are called 'durational Performances'. The One Year Performance by the Chinese artist Tehching Hsieh is quite an extreme example of a durational performance. It took exactly one year (in real time!). So in this case there wasn't an audience to experience it live but the piece was documented with a time clock he punched every hour (exactly on the hour) and a photo taken each time.

Great! You've successfully subscribed.
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.