Over the last decade, there has been a resurgence in video art of simple performance-based acts to camera. The acts variously involve humour, physical gestures and feats of endurance, and use straightforward technical means. They resonate with the beginnings of performance art and video art in the 1960s and 1970s. The effusion of performance activity in the 1960s related to other forms then emerging, including body art, Fluxus, conceptual art, happenings and video art. The term ‘performance art’ was first used around 1970. The direct relationship created between artist and audience embodied a movement against the institutionalisation and commercialisation of art in museums and private galleries. In fact, the works were quickly assimilated by art institutions, with video tapes and other documents of performances soon exhibited and sold.
Tate Modern’s Curator of Contemporary Art and Performance, Catherine Wood, recently underlined the exponential rise in performance activity over the last six to seven years, and noted:
. . . art production now is more than ever characterized by a selfconsciousness about artistic labour and the weighing of an artist’s persona against the production of objects themselves. Whether ‘producing’ oneself as a performing product is a symptom of life in an accelerated, competitive capitalist economy, or whether performance remains as a challenge to the market, is something that is being contested in the work itself. But the idea we inherited from the 1960s and 1970s that performance entirely resists art’s commodification doesn’t hold true today.
Today, the art market increasingly commercialises the artist’s presence through live performance, and caters to viewers’ desires for star personality and entertainment. Artists have also increasingly used actors for live performance or performance videos, a phenomenon which has been called ‘delegated performance’.