Live art as post-consumer living?
During the 20th Century, after World War 1, applied psychology as propaganda or “public relations” (as it was re-badged by Bernays) led eventually to human identity and status as consumers. Today we know just how toxic and unsatisfying consumption has become, both for the consumers in post-industrial locations, and for those who work in industrial environments to meet consumer need.
The 1960s performance artist was someone who questioned and challenged convention and social discourse. We enjoyed a form of Creative License (Charnley 2015). As students and practitioners, constructing props (environmental sculptures) and performing or demanding performance within them, challenging the urban world, was our work. But the world was already challenged. In 1972 The Ecologist special edition “Blueprint for Survival” should have been a wake-up call, not only for artist-performers, but for consumers as to how they perform their lives, the status and identity the seek, and what action they take. Most people have still not changed in their willingness to seek ecological integration, or even to fulfill the New Covenant demanded by Jesus of Nazareth over 2000 years earlier. A majority of self-proclaimed Christians and post-Christians go on living amid industrial society, responding to Freudian powers of marketing, much as they have throughout the 20th Century.
When I conceive of the performance or live artist today I’m thinking about a single informing research question. “How do we perform humanity?” It was probably the latent question that I held back in 1967 when going to art school appeared to be the only escape route from industrial immersion. It has taken a lifetime of living on the periphery to come to the resolve that there is a lot more to do to resist and shift life’s performance.