by Emilio García Wehbi
Few artistic formats have been as disqualified throughout history as performance. There have been internal factors (bad performances and bad performers, but this is not our interest, because it would be as disqualifying all film history due to Hollywood cultural scrap production) and external factors. About this last ones I would like to stop for a moment. Why this genre so relatively recent (the first performance sketches appeared with Alfred Jarry and end´s of XIX Century Dandies) have been resisted and combated? May be because of two main reasons. The first and principal one is that the exclusive and excluding performance tool is the body. And, not only it´s representation, as painting or theatre does. But the present (or absent) body, means an alive body (or vivid). And a living body exposure all it´s potentiality and all it´s weakness.
The history of human beauty (froom Aristoteles and his concept of fine arts related to nature sacred proportions) has been built on it´s “potentialities”, but it´s “weaknesses” has been maintain in shadow for a very long time, at least in art field. Because a living body also excretes, exudes, gets dirty, bleeds and adopts disrespectful “good manners” forms. The real life and his put in action is the central matter of performance. Performers body undress him/herself in all it´s nature and show just how it is. There relies his strength and his power, because it manifest it´s uniqueness and destroys the established.
The second reason of performance disqualification is because performance is a way for minorities expression. In the place where a social minority group has been depriving of all, discriminating and taking apart to the limit is where performance appear and also appeears the artists body. Because the artists cannot be deprived of his/her body and his/her body is, at the same time, his/her battle field and his/her weapon. From that last resource and through him, the artist inscribes in the world his worthy gesture of resistance. That´s why minorities speeches has always been part of this art: through performance problems such as genre (feminism, queer, transgenre), racial or ethnic (chicanos, black, etc), social and political issues (immigrants, displaced persons) and illness (VIH, madness, etc) have historically manifested themselves. Therefore, it is understandable that performance generates resistances and critics, specially among “good people” and “beauty” lovers. But lets take note of this: performance arrives to stay, at least as long as this world order is maintained.
Published in: “Suplemento cultura”, Página 12, Monday April 27th, 2015.