Performance is the Foundation of Art

Christopher Walsh

Fall 2012

Is performance art its own category of art and not merely a performative element in an artwork of traditional category [according to Susan Langer’s ideas]?

Being that experience is the primary apparition of performance art, what formally exists as primary in traditional categories of Art is by default secondary, and thus we may propose a tertiary apparition for what is formally secondary. For though the dynamic image, as described by Susan Langer, consists of a dominant apparition, and may integrate subordinate apparitions, we must first recognize the nature of the dynamic image as perceived, and therefore experiential by the means of a dominant apparition, which itself occurs by the means of a subordinate apparition, as in the case of musical dance.

Thus, instead of contending whether performance art is a category of art in itself, and not merely a performative element in traditional categories of art, we shall consider performance as the source—the unifying thread of Art, out of which modes of expression take form and position. All formally primary apparitions are subordinate to experience: experience may then become musical—a music that becomes poetic, and then rigorous as mathematics: perhaps mathematics then becomes musical, and so forth. It is such that we begin to consider Art as emergent, rather than defined by its extremities; formal categories of Art reflect the syntax of our physiology: that mathematics is primarily conceptual, that music is primarily temporal, vision—spatial, and taste—sensational.

The question remains, why is performance art purportedly new, although being the origin of formal categories? Succinctly, performance art is the negative capability—the creative, untethered, defiant individual of Art. Hence, through the category of Performance Art, apparitions form in response to experience, without regard to outward appearance; the body is art, pedagogy is art, mathematics is art: not because they are necessarily so, but that extraordinary experience calls forth the esthetic consideration of these disciplines.