Performance art is a deliberate attempt to interrupt the monotony of daily life and catapult its viewers into a heightened state of awareness. Without further ado, here are some of the world’s most prolific – and absurd – performance artists.
Serbia-born and NYC-based Marina Abramović is without a question the most famous performance artist in the world. She began her career in the early 1970s, fascinated by questioning the limits of the body, the possibilities of the mind and the relationship between performer and audience.
Among her most influential performances are:
Rhythm series 1973-74: this series involved various live performances, including ones where she took different drugs to test their effects on her body; she cut off her toenails, fingernails and hair, throwing them into a fire and then leapt (and fainted) over the flames; played the Russian knife game where she stabbed at her splayed hands, recorded it and tried to replicate it; and allowed audience members to manipulate her body and actions (which led to some tearing her clothes and pointing guns at her).
Collaboration with Uwe Laysiepen 1976-86: in which the two explored the male and female as a single being including bizarre performances such as Breathing In/Breathing Out when the two connected mouths and took in each other’s oxygen – collapsing 17 minutes into the act.
The Artist is Present, 2010: a series in the Museum of Modern Art where Abramović sat for 736 hours in static silence, and spectators were invited to sit silently opposite her.
“Marlene Hairy or In My Bathtub I am the Captain” was a 2005 performance art project in Vienna orchestrated by artist Marlene Haring. The performance piece involved Haring donning—you guessed it—a hairy costume and crawling around the streets of Vienna, since clearly one of the most classically beautiful cities in Europe isn’t worth exploring unless done while decked out in fake her. People who followed were led to her home, where she promptly entered the bathroom and shut the door which bore the sign: “If you want to talk with me, you have to bathe with me”.
Jaime del Val
Jaime Del Val’s work is a way to protest against homophobia, surveillance, control and consumer society. To do so, he walks around the streets of Madrid and projects his penis onto buildings and other urban surfaces. He likens himself to a “pangender cyborg” and calls the buildings where he projects himself his “organs of power”; the whole performance is a way to showcase his means of power.