The 1960s saw a development in performative and live art. Of course it had existed before in events such as the 1916 Dada Café, Caberet Voltaire but it was in the swinging 60s that performance became predominant as an art form. However, with it came issues surrounding display and collecting; live art is non-material and its intangible nature deems it difficult to show beyond it's ephemeral time based phase of existence, that is, when it is being performed.
What Marina Abramovic explores in her TED talk An Art Made of Trust, vulnerability and connection, is what performance is, stating: "Performance is a mental and physical construction that the performer makes in a specific time in a space in front of an audience and then energy dialogue happens. The audience and the performer make the piece together." It is clear that performance exists as a time-based practice and that it exists only ephemerally is part of what makes it work and this is evident within #TOUCHMYSOUL.
The audience were observing the artists who were performing. The audience too were being observed, by others in the space, by the cameras and by the viewers at home and through this they were involved and - knowingly or not - participating. There was the physical presence of the artist, viewer, participant, celebrity as well as their virtual presence, on the live twitter feed, and stream. The artists were creating a social experiment of the public's interaction with celebrity culture; there were those satisfied with an interaction over the phone, calling what was ultimately a call centre in the knowledge that they would be in touch with someone famous. Then there were those who were satisfied with just standing in the presence of the celebrity, the celebrity becoming the spectacle.
Within the performance we consider time, time as object, where viewers sat or stood for hours watching someone take phone calls. Laughing when they laughed but laughing at what? Laughing to be involved in the joy or laughing because they have felt joy? The resounding ability to say "I was there, I was part of that" exists because of the performance existing at "a specific time in a space in front of an audience." Its temporality made it appealing, those that were there have something those that were not there do not: the experience of the live performance.
But the show continues, so what remains?
Galleries often collect the "material remains" of a performance, displaying objects, photographs, video work or performance proposals as a way to present the work, however this is never the work itself, which then leads to the question of whether you can portray a document as the artwork. In displaying a Document, (here I have capitalised the D, the Document being the thing which is the evidence of the process and all that exists afterward), does one view it as being a work in itself or just the suggestion that something happened?
When the Document replaces the work in the gallery, it becomes the thing that the spectator views, meaning the work changes as does the viewers experience of the work. #TOUCHMYSOUL exists as a table with three chairs, three computer screens displaying transcripts of the conversations, screens above the table playing the live stream and the twitter feed. We as viewers, now in this present, have a different experience. We are watching, listening to a live piece of art, in an alternative state, as a document of a past event.
We cannot have that same experience of viewing the actual live element of the piece and therefore the work and the context of the work has changed considerably. We must therefore alter our way of viewing the work as viewing a piece of evidence of a happening as opposed to viewing an artwork itself.
What remains is a memory of the work and a way of saying "this is what happened", the Document is not the work but a way to present and preserve what happened. They are remnants of a past event and we view that as opposed to considering what is in the space as the work itself. A different experience, yes, but an altogether new and novel one, almost a new work in itself.
You can "be there" too: Follow is open Tuesday - Sunday, 11am - 6pm until 21 February.