Who are the performers in performance art? and some other things

A few weeks ago i got a chance to be a part of  “two performance art pieces.

The first performance was by Charles Campbell. He invited a group of persons to be apart of a work “Fractal engagement”;

Fractal Engagement, Kingston is an interactive procession through downtown Kingston by Charles Campbell. The piece grants an audience of 25 people access to downtown Kingston as an open liminal space where social and political boundaries are blurred.

The artists of downtown Kingston demonstrate a unique relationship to the complex social environment of inner city Kingston, being able to move freely through the political and gang boundaries of the area. I was granted similar privileges while in their company”, states Campbell “These same artists have offered to open similar access for others during this performance.”

Photo credit. arcmagazine


The second work was created by Ebony Patterson and was entitled Invisible Presence:Bling Memories;

“I am exploring the performativity and masquerade in ‘Bling Funerals’ by parading immediately behind the twenty-sixth (26th) annual carnival mass through the streets of Kingston on Sunday, April 27th, 2014. This procession is an artistic project aimed at validating a practice that comes from communities that are deemed ‘valueless’, because of their location physically and socio-economically.

I intend to build 50 replica caskets to be carried in the procession by 50 persons. Each replica will be hand embellished and carry an individualized aesthetic. I am interested in making the hour long procession an accessible one where all can don their ‘best dress’ (or not) and march with the procession and pay respects to ‘someone’ who has passed on.

I believe that staging this moment will bring not only visibility to the impact of popular culture on rituals, but also create a visible and visceral experience for all. The ‘bling funeral’ will be used as the vehicle for creating visibility for those who seem to be continually invisible.”

Photo credit. Ebony Paterson
Photo credit. Ebony Paterson

“Both Ebony and Charles’s work were apart of the En Mas : Carnival 21st Century Style Exhibition Series Curated by Krista Thompson and Claire Tancons and organized by Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans with major support from a 2012 Emily Hall Tremaine Exhibition Award. It is a year-round multi-site performance series that taps into the pulse of carnival season and is followed by a multi-year touring film, video and photo exhibition with accompanying website and catalogue to process the performances.

Who is asking about the performers…..

NLS hosted a conversation around Charles Campbell’s performance as a part of their monthly artist talks.

Ebony Patterson shared her thoughts on the work on Loop Jamaica

After experiencing both performances and seeing  some of the pictures and conversations around the performances, the question in my mind is about the other performers not the artist. Who are the performers in performance art pieces? what are there motivations? how does being apart of the work make them feel like they are apart of the work or not?  How important are they to the conversation about the piece? Are they artist? Do they become artists themselves?  What are the techniques and styles that are emerging around performance art? What is a good way to do it? a bad way to do it? is there an African style of performance art or a Jamaican/Caribbean style of performance art?

Perhaps these are all questions that an interested artist must explore on his or her own. I think both performances present an opportunity for me to have a conversation about art or the techniques of art.

If the idea of performance comes from theatre, then i see the artist as a director. I think we can extend a conversation about art and performance art to the motivations and interests of the performer and how this affects the performance piece.

Is there sufficient reflection in our art practice, the kind that is focused on the development of technique and not just the repertoire of the artist ?

Myself the performer-Fractal engagement

“access to downtown Kingston as an open liminal space where social and political boundaries are blurred.”

I didn’t go because i wanted access to be granted to me and i think the assumption that all persons going considered themselves “uptown” was wrong.perhaps  i went because i wanted to see how the work was going to unfold. i wanted to learn more about this style of art. The interaction of the performers and the uninvited performers ( those watching us invading their community)felt strange. They looked at us and we looked at them and what i feared was someone asking me what this, what was happening here, i could only answer art, because i wasn’t sure what else.

Myself the performer- Invincible presence Bling memories

“I am exploring the performativity and masquerade in ‘Bling Funerals’

To carry the coffin wasn’t easy. To be present at Carnival where you would not normally be present required a certain interest ad commitment. I didn’t feel like I was exploring an idea. I felt that i was making a statement. i felt like i was carrying the coffin of one of the persons killed during the Tivoli incursion in 2010.  When people asked me what this was for i told them” di people dem weh dead down a tivoli”. Listening back to interviews i hear no mention of Tivoli when the artist talks about the work. The fun made me feel guilty. I wasn’t here to play.  we carried the coffins. We tried hard not to make them fall, but i don’t really know a bling funeral and i have never really seen one, how then did i “perform”?

Overstanding performance art

Do performers become performance artist? Or do all artist just know how to create a performance piece?


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