In the West, early performance art marked a return to the body in response to
minimalism and abstraction. In the India, however, where figuration was never
completely lost to pure abstraction, the body receives renewed significance through
the dialogic ability of performance based art, whether it immerses the audience
within the work or by means of their relational encounter with the social space of
the performance. In this context, performance art necessitates an engagement with
actions by the artist(s), which receives meaning only in the presence of an audience,
whether it is live or lies at the interface of different media such as film, photograph,
social media or audio recording.
When the passive consumption of shock packaged as click-bait, or the condition of
being at the receiving end of the State’s propaganda machine permeates everyday
experience, how can art make meaning beyond affect and encounter? How can
performance artists ensure that their work is not reduced to subversion for its own
sake? The answer does not lie in mass address vis-à-vis traditional media or
perhaps even language (except for utterances and sentences that can never end)
that has arguably collapsed and ensconced itself into sloganeering and counter-
sloganeering — for every sentence that has a beginning and an end does not escape
ideological closure. The discursive potential of performance art escapes this
predicament and has the dialogic capacity to lend perceptibility to immaterial social
relations that bind together diverse publics within the contingent space of the work.
Consequently it is able to unravel the assumed singularity of majoritarian politics
and passive consumption. It also has a unique capacity to extend the immediacy of
affect traditionally supported by an artwork and sustain it animatedly — often by
means of repetition — until the audience shakes out of their state of encounter to
assume a participatory role, forming unique, meaningful associations with each act.
This workshop will be an exploration of these ideas, and consider how meaningful,
dialogic action in public spaces with or without the artist as co-actor can inform the
making of a work to subvert the information landscape of our times.