Class Overview

Performance Art and Social Practice | Seattle Central College - Continuing Education

Performance art is an interdisciplinary art form that uses the body as the primary medium, often using live art, body art, conceptual art, writing, installation, video, happenings, interventions, and activist art to bring awareness to a social topic.

It is not dance or theatre, although you may use backgrounds in the performing arts to inform your work. It can be live or documented, individual or collaborative, with or without participation.

This course serves as introduction to performance art as a social practice within the visual arts while developing critical ways of discussing its role in contemporary society.

You’ll participate in exercises and assignments that encourage spontaneous as well as process-oriented creation involving body, movement, time, space, and audience.

Through an understanding of the body as medium, you’ll create non-traditional projects that are experiential rather than commercial or object-based.

Course Outline

  • Exercise: Touch Everything, Touch Nothing
  • Introduction: What is Performance art? What is it not?
    • Slide: A Few Performance Artists
      • Brief survey of history of Performance art (1960-present)
  • Topic 1: BODY
    • How do we un-limit the understanding of the usage of the human body?
      • Ana Mendieta
      • Marina Abramovic
      • Mwangi Hutter
  • Homework: Bring a book of choice (to alter) to next class
  • Exercise: Take a hike!
  • Topic 2: MOVEMENT
    • Are there limitations to movement? In life? In art?
      • Guy Debord
      • Yves Klein
      • Allen Kaprow
        • What is a happening?
  • In-class assignment: Begin altering individual pages of altered book
  • Homework: Begin exploring CONTENT (subject matter) for final performance
  • Exercise: 30 yards/30 minutes (Butoh exercise)
  • Topic 3: TIME
    • Durational performances, conceptual art and what it means to be ephemeral
      • Tehching Hsieh
      • Yoko Ono
      • Bas Jan Ader
  • In-class assignment: Create a conceptual, ephemeral piece from ideas on incentive cards
  • Homework: Begin writing CONCEPT (idea-what will you do?) for final performance
  • Exercise: How should you enter a room where a giant takes off their head? (masking demo)
  • Topic 4: SPACE AND OBJECTS
    • How do space, things, and spectacle dictate your projects?
      • Matthew Barney
      • Anya Liftig
      • Lady Gaga
  • In-Class Assignment: Discuss ideas for collaborative street intervention for next class
  • Homework: Create written proposal for content/concept of final performance
  • Exercise: Street Intervention
  • Topic 5: AUDIENCE
    • What qualifies as an audience?
    • More on spectacle…
    • Audience-dependent performances and unavoidable cultural relevancy
      • Vito Acconci
      • Emma Sulkowicz
      • Whitney V. Hunter
      • Waffa Bilal
  • In-class assignment: Determine student schedule for final performances. Discuss/workshop individual performance ideas.
  • Homework: Should you add an interactive layer to your performance idea? Finalize space for final performances
  • Final Performances, Critiques & Discussion

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this class, you will:

  • Understand the use of performance and conceptual art as an expressive language
  • Recognize the primary differences between the performing arts, ie., dance, theatre, acting, etc. and performance art as a social practice
  • Experiment with interdisciplinary art processes
  • Create original work with applications of body, movement, time, space, and audience
  • Demonstrate and discuss cultural competency through performance as social critique

Who Should Take this Class?

  • Anyone who wants to express ideas about our social climate in new and alternative ways
  • Those interested in learning more about the history and practice of performance art
  • Open to everyone regardless of experience in art

Session Details

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