One of the main reasons why performance art struggles to find a wider audience is because, almost by nature, it cannot reach a wide audience. A performance artist works in time—once the performance is over, it’s over. More than for any other medium, you really have to be there. Those problems may finally have met their match through modern technology. Beginning today, Thursday, March 22nd, BMW Tate Live: Performance Room will bring live online performances to an international audience simultaneously across world time zones, shattering the performance art barrier and, perhaps, introducing performance art to people who could or would never have attended a performance before. At 8 pm in the United Kingdom (3 pm on the east coast in the United States), a revolution in the history of performance art begins.
First up in the lineup of the five planned shows is choreographer and dancer Jérôme Bel. Bel’s courted controversy in the past with nudity and public urination in his work, but for the most part, as in The Show Must Go On (excerpt shown above; click the link to see a brief film excerpt), which features a group of headphone-wearing individuals bopping and singing along to pop tunes, Bel’s performance pieces are fun, cool, ironic, and, best of all, accessible. He’s the perfect choice for the leadoff position. Joseph Beuys stroking a dead hare may be a landmark in performance art history, it’s not the best introduction to a wide, uninitiated audience.
Audiences should enter the online Performance Room via at 20.00 hours (8 pm) in the UK, at 15.00 hours (3 pm) on the east coast of the US, at 21.00 hours (9 pm) in mainline Europe, and at 23.00 hours (11 pm) in Russia. BMW Tate Live: Performance Room takes advantage of social media not only to allow viewers to chat among themselves, but also via Twitter (twitter.com/tate; hashtag #BMWTateLive), Facebook (facebook.com/tategallery), and YouTube (youtube.com/tate) to ask questions of the artists and curators. By showing the performance live around the globe rather than on some kind of delay, the performance keeps the same sense of danger and risk that makes any live art form exciting. Even better, the social media features let you “talk” during the show without interrupting the performers and gain access to the performers and curators in a way you’d never be able to at any live performance. If you miss the Bel performance, you can catch later performances by Pablo Bronstein on April 26th, Emily Roysdon on May 31st, Harrell Fletcher on June 28th, and Joan Jonas sometime in mid-July or September (all at the same times as the Bel performance).
Performance artist Marina Abramović, probably the most famous practitioner of the medium of the last four decades, has established the Marina Abramović Community Center Obod (MACCO) in her homeland and the Marina Abramović Institute for the Preservation of Performance Art in her “second” home in America to educate and train the next generation of performance artists as well as to further the legacy of performance art itself. It would be interesting to see someone like Abramović embrace and even perform in BMW Tate Live: Performance Room to help bring this challenging, diverse, exciting, and, yes, sometimes fun art form find new fans and rescue it from the perceptions of elitism and exclusiveness that threaten to make it an irrelevant curiosity. If you’ve never seen a performance artist at work, tune in, log on, and open up your horizons.