Category Archives: Essays

The network of performance art festivals as an independent art institution – a historical survey

Performance art emerged out of the rebellion against art institutions understood in
a colloquial meaning of the word – i.e. museums, collectors and commercial galleries.
Performance artists of the 70s tried to work “outside of the system” – hence the
extreme cases such as performances for no or very limited audience by Chris Burden
(Transfixed, 1974), Vito Acconci (Photo Piece/BLINK, 1969), or private action by
Linda Montano and Tehching Hsieh (One Year Performance, 1983–84). In America,
it was a time when official art places were contested (I avoid the word: ‛institution’
deliberately) – the protests organized by the Art Workers’ Coalition and women
organizations against the closed circuit of white, male, heterosexual art of selected
artists. The fact that performance art does not need sophisticated infrastructure
fosters its existence in an alternative circuit. That circuit is predominantly also
independent financially because festivals, meetings and shows have happened in
many places of the world almost without any budget. From the very beginning artists
have founded independent institutions (such as Franklin Furnace gallery set up in
New York in 1976 – today it exists as an archive deposited in the Pratt Institute)
or art magazines (such as the Avalanche in New York). In USA performance artists
organized themselves around some concrete art spaces. […]

The whole text was published in the Annales Universitatis Paedagogicae Cracoviensis. Studia de Arte et Educatione vol. 12 (2017) and is available at:


What is the Diameter of Performance Art?

“The length of the reins determines the diameter of the arena” and performance art tends to stretch these reins. The exhibition which opened at the Contemporary Art Gallery in Opole focuses on two important questions of the today art.

FIRSTLY, IT WAS SHOWN that performance is a motor for art. in general through the fact that this art form constantly crosses boundaries and redefines art in its broadest sense. The next very important topic is the role of art. documentation and the question whether documentation can become an independent work of art in itself.

The full text was published at Exit, no. 2 (90), 2014,


Performance is live art, it is time based and it happens in a specific place. A performer (or a group of performers) by connecting a space, site and time, undergoes an action that is presented to the public. In very specific cases the public may not be present or the notion of a public may not be clear. The action itself can also be unspecific and the presence or absence of a performance artist may also be unclear. The essence of a performance shifts the attention of a spectator towards the process of creation. This process provokes spontaneous reactions in him/her, causes strong tension and prepares the ground for direct encounter in which a physical, psychic and mental interaction is strongly experienced.

Performance art in its early stage, when it was on the margin of art practice, was presented in spaces that were of minor importance, degraded, abandoned and unimportant for commercial art ventures. In Poland the process was similar – performance artists avoided so called official galleries that were institutionally controlled by censorship and politicians. However, performers through undertaking their counterculture actions, were actually coming closer to existing institutions, galleries, theatres and clubs in order to continue more successfully in art. Having initially existed outside of a conventional frame, performance art unexpectedly became a mighty power, able to express important and critical statements.

The idea of creating site specific performance appeared much later and was inspired by the earlier experiences of sculptors and architects. Art institutions willingly joined the process of creating and preparing such performances – bringing artists out of the galleries.

For performers the choice and the specifics of the site has always had a fundamental importance. This is not only with reference to the sites’ physicality and apparent contexts. The site may also comprise a spirituality, history or events that were important or associated with specific people. Artists constantly have searched for new places to meet new audiences or subject themselves to inspiration that they have not experienced before.

Site specific performance is most often time-based over an extended time. The interaction with a spectator or another member of the public is in this way fuller, analytic, reflexive and emotionally similar for all participants. Site specific performance is also a rewarding experience for an artist, who while making a performance that lasts a few hours, has to overcome loneliness, extremes of temperature, smell, humidity, rain, the discomfort of flies, insects or an accidental crowd of a few thousand teenagers coming back from a rock concert! An artist may be prone to strange questions, as site specific performance highlights the previous absence of live action in the same space.

Site specific performance may appear as a result of coincidental circumstances or as the result of an offered available space. A site specific performance may be a few hours of minimalist action or a short dynamic expression by a performance artist.

In site specific performance there is a mutual interaction between the context, the making of an idea and the very structure of the performance. Performers often search for specific places and original contexts in order to better present their ideas or discover a whole new sense. A specific context may become the inspiration and the beginning of a new performance. The question of taking an environment into account, however, is more complicated, since in performance one may talk about various contexts. A context may be outlined by the reaction of the public or indicated by one’s own body or dress, used images, signs or items. A context may be created by a performer, a public, an accidental event during the performance, the specific site, its past, the art of other artists, political events or with reference to some other reality. […]

Full version of the text was published in Performance, Intermedia, ed. Grażyna Teodorowicz, Szczecin: Stowarzyszenie OFFicyna, 2011, 4-9.