A Cultural History of Performance
As a cultural expression, performance art changes with the transforming cultures in L.A. As a live art medium, however, performance art does have its own centricity, which assumes a certain degree of internal consistency in its
This exposé presents a performance genealogy in L.A. by examining how performance art has transformed from its visual art foundation in the 1970s into a multicentric cultural expression in subsequent decades. From its diverse practices, I observe three characteristic ways in which performance art interacts with L.A., serving reflective, redressive, and generative functions to mirror, critique, and replenish the city's other cultures.
In my conception, performance's multicentricity arises from the interrelations among the reflective, redressive, and generative functions in their respective and joint interfaces with L.A. The three functions address the contribution of performance art to the continuous making of other cultures in L.A. Although they do not represent the artists' conscious goals or individual agendas, my introduction of these functions into a discussion of L.A. performances does honor the artists' intents to situate their works in the immediate physical, social, and cultural environments. This insistence on engagement with immediate others—be they the specific site, the presentation context, the contingencies of process, or the projected viewers—both enables and compels performance artists to reconceptualize the purposes, meanings, and impacts of art-making in a changing world. During such re-envisioning, many performance artists shift their concerns from creating objects or conforming to the vagaries of international art markets to investigating how their work may impinge on the local art and nonart worlds. They also cultivate an attentiveness to the fortuitous happenings and contiguous associations triggered by the performance situations. It is through this shift to the immediate, the local, and the contiguous that the divergent performances covered here acquire their shared identity as L.A. art.