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Performance Art Documentation; Is Photography Necessary?

2047 words - 9 pages

Photography is an important component in the historical documentation and archiving of performance art as a means of residue, legitimacy, framing, contextualizing, and preserving the work in a consumable format for a secondary audience. The use of photography is important for its ontological qualities reinforced by our system of values and beliefs in the eye of the camera as a true representation of the real world. Though many artists have photographic documentation of their work there are issues concerning staging, limitations of fragmentation, political/media connotations, and it being contradictory to the nature of performance. Despite photography’s impact on performance art is it necessary?

Photography crosses over various mediums including performance art, and has a heavy impact on our daily life in social media. Performance art thrived during the 1960’s and 70’s as an interdisciplinary medium typically presented to an audience, relying heavily on their belief, presence or acknowledgement that the event actually occurred. Photo documentation of performance art during 1960’s and 70’s relied on analog black and white photography for a supplementary audience and in some instances was incorporated into the performance as part of the process. Other forms of residue, that being the lasting remanent of the event, include script, audio, video/film, drawings, installation or the artist word that it occurred.

As a means of representation or residue, photography can capture the lasting remanence of a performance. A photograph can be taken before, during or after the performance archiving the process or it can be fully immersed into the act becoming part of the performance. Tehching Hseih incorporated the camera into his One Year Performance 1980-81 (Time Clock Piece) where he photographed him self every hour, every day, for one year (site). This work refraimed and disrupted his ability to take part in daily activities such a grocery shopping, working or sleeping. Not only was the camera part of the work, it also assisted in contextualizing and framing of the piece for supplementary evidence. It would be hard to believe that he did this work without the photographs for the visual changes that occur though out the year are remarkable and provide the audience with a grand sense of commitment, exclusion and routine.

The prospect of a residue can assist in the description of an isolated incident and allow for collaboration with other artist. The artist performing is usually found with in the frame as the subject, unless the artist is dictating the performance. (EXAMPLE)

In regards to the use of photography as residue there is a concern with the staging of a performance, and whether or not it actually happened in the first place. This calls into question the legitimacy of the performance; how the photo was conceived, could the photograph presented be a fake, non-existent, or a hoax bending the truth of what we presume to be a fragment of the real world?...

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