Five Provocative Pieces of Live Performance Art From Around the World

Performance art evokes a sense of uneasiness and, sometimes, deep discomfort as the audience is confronted with complex realities through live performances
Performance art is supposed to evoke strong feelings of unease and discomfort. Photo credit Suguru Saito
Performance art is supposed to evoke strong feelings of unease and discomfort. Photo credit Suguru Saito

Art has been alive for as long as humans have in the same vein, it has also evolved as humankind. What started as an expression of beauty- through the old masters&rsquo oil on canvas and exquisitely detailed landscapes- has now veered into branches taking on new forms, mediums, and meanings. Art isn&rsquot just conformed to being pleasing to the eyes it has now evolved into poignant works that elicit profound introspections from the audience. Performance art compels the audience to express strong feelings, to contemplate messages full of political and social subtexts. You will either hate or love performance art because a middle ground does not exist. Here are some of the most intense and avant-garde performance art pieces from around the world.

Butoh by Tatsumi Hijikata

Place of performance- Japan

Year- 1959

Started by Japanese choreographer Tatsumi Hijikata on the heels of WW2, &lsquoButoh&rsquo came into being in the late 1950s, just when the nation&rsquos traditional perspectives on performance art were being challenged by art movements like French Surrealism and Dadaism. Butoh rejected the conventional movements that signified compliance and strength, instead incorporating grotesque movements that bore similarities to being weakened by pain and suffering. This contemporary performance art started something truly punk through its anti-establishment concepts in Japan.

Rhythm 0 by Marina Abramovic

Place of performance- Italy

Year- 1974

Serbian artist Marina Abramovic wanted to know, &ldquoWhat is the public about&rdquo In this appalling piece of art, we see the true extent of horror human beings are capable of if left to their devices. For six straight hours, the artist stood still in one position inviting the audience to do whatever they wished to her with 72 objects kept on a table, including a scalpel, scissors, a rose, and even a gun with a single bullet. As the night wore on, Abramovic was sexually violated, abused, and hurt, but she got the answer to her question.

Payau #2 Waterproof by Yola Yulifianti

Place of performance- Indonesia

Year- 2012

Another form of dance-based performance piece, &lsquoPayau #2 Waterproof&rsquo was introduced by artist Yola Yulifianti at the 2012 Indonesia Dance Festival as the central piece of the festival. The dance movements were choreographed to the beat of dripping water, with a solo performance where the dancer carried a pink-coloured bucket on their head. As is a running theme in Yulifianti&rsquos choreography, this piece also analyses social issues within communities. 

Empathy and Prostitution by Abel Azcona

Place of performance- Columbia

Year- 2013

Conceptualised bySpanish performance artist Abel Azcona, &lsquoEmpathy and Prostitution&rsquo is a biographical work. The artist offers his naked body on a mattress to the audience as an exercise that lets him empathise with his prostitute mother and the moment of his accidental conception.

Lunch is Cancelled by Mithu Sen

Place of performance- New Delhi

Year- 2019

This performance piece by Indian performance artist Mithu Sen was hosted in the middle of a lunch where a number of guests were invited to eat. She marched out accompanied by a band of servers in uniforms, shouting gibberish instructions. Radical hospitality has been a recurring motif in Sen&rsquos work that started during a residency in New York. She invited people to watch her making art but put the show in her apartment she disappeared on the opening day. Following the same trope in &lsquoLunch is Cancelled&rsquo the servers, who had hanging cones tied to their necks, started feeding themselves ineptly through it, challenging the institution of hospitality.

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