Performance as an Artform

Performance is one of the fundamental ways that humans express themselves and has been part of all cultures through out time.  The idea of performance art is a relatively new concept that gained status in the 60s and 70s, that separates itself from theatre, circus or music which considered to be performing arts . In terms of form and conceptual approach it grew from visual arts where the object embodies the art form. In performance art it is the actions of the individual or group in a particular time and space that constitute the art form.

I choose to look at three examples that I felt approached the idea of expression through performance very uniquely and had different target audiences.

Interior Scroll, 1975

Interior Scroll, 1975

Carolee Shneeman is considered one of the first performance artist who worked mainly out of New York in the 60s to the present, although most of her seminal work was done in the late 60s and 70s.  She emerged in a time in North America when feminism in contemporary culture exploded onto the scene and women began demanding the right to represent themselves and their bodies in art.  Women bodies have been a popular subject in art, however it was mainly from the perspective of the ‘male gaze’.  Carolee Shneeman responded to this by using her own body as the object, often naked, to express feminine power, desire and sexuality.  Her performance works included body painting, mud, ritual, projections among other things.  The addressed many of our denied aspects and transgressive natures through her work and paid particular attention to the role of the vagina and vulva as sources of erotic energy.  She researched non-European and Indo Eastern sources of knowledge including the serpent coiling as part of our sexual energy.  One of her most famous works, performed in 1975, is the “Interior Scroll” where she paints herself and then draws a folded scroll of paper from her vagina and reads from it, representing the yoni as a source of interior knowledge.  Her integration of body into art was profound at this time because presented the female body as own powerful entity, not necessarily needing the the male gaze.



Flavor Flav was born William Jonathan Drayton Jr. March 16, 1959. Although he is generally known for being a rapper there are some components to his personality, image and career that make him a one of a kind performance artist.  He gained fame in the 80’s and 90’s with the band ‘Public Enemy’ where he didn’t just rap, he invented what is now coined as the hype man.   He jumped around with a gold grill on his teeth, crazy hats and a clock around his neck, “cuz time is precious”.
Flav in '85, beginning of his 'time based art' career

Flav in '85, beginning of his 'time based art' career

20 years of wearing the Viking helmet-that's commitment

20 years of wearing the Viking helmet-that's commitment

His work has been seminal to the hip hop culture and image.  He was a clown and not afraid to be freaky and make a fool of himself and he received a lot of attention for it.  He was comic relief for the Public Enemy main man, Chuck D, who delivered hard-hitting, authoritative lyrics expressing the injustice of the system on black people. “Fight the Power” on the album “It takes a Nation of Millions to hold us Back” is the best known songs and was included in Spike Lee Joint soundtrack for “Do the Right Thing”. Public E was one of the first highly political hip hop/ rap bands to make it to the mainstream and reach the ears of millions.  Flav’s comic relief made the sting of Chuck Ds intense lyrics palatable to the N. American public.  When Chuck D was asked “Has the media stereotype of a black person progressed since the beginning of the century and the days of the minstrels?” his answer was “Nope, not much difference to me, only that nowadays minstrels are broadcasted worldwide.”

Flav dropped out of the public eye for a long time as he struggled with a crack addiction, which he has been clean from since 2004.  He recently got a comeback on a reality TV show where he televised an affair he had with Bridget Neilson.  He later went on to host his own reality show called the Flavor of Love where a household of young hopeful beauties vie for his love, often to the point of degradation.  He has been hugely criticized for this show as it is said to perpetuate racist and sexist stereotypes, particularly towards other blacks.  The controversy around his show has generated a lot of dialogue and seems to contradict his previous work with Public Enemy (or not).  He was ‘honored’ on the Comedy Network’s Roast’em tribute where some of the top rappers and comedian flambasted him on every possible disgrace they could come up with.  Even though he is known for degenerate behavior it was very clear that he is incredibly well loved and respected in the entertainment industry.

Biotic Baking Brigade


“The pie is the limit” with this very creative and secret activist group that became known in the early 2000’s for throwing pies in the faces of Neo-liberalist figure heads.  They are actually an international group of activists, originally based in San Francisco. They sought to bring attention to globalization, environmental and social issues by humiliating CEOs, politicians and media figures whose actions were deemed somehow neoliberalist, selfish and greedy.  The main pie thrower, Agent Apple wrote a pie throwing handbook that outlined how to hit a successful target.  In 2001, from April fools day to May Day, was declared ‘Operation Dessert Storm’ and no press conference was safe from these pie-throwing activists.  Some the most esteemed recipients of a pie in the face included Milton Friedman (famous economist), James D Wolfenson (World Bank President), Andy Warhol (artist) and the presidents and CEOs of Enron and Monsanto.  Needless to say some of these activists received some stiff jail sentences for their pie throwing and almost all remain anonymous.

Bill Gates a la creme

Bill Gates a la creme



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