The Connection between Installation Art and Performance Art: New Forms of Conceptual Art Today

Essay by Luke Foster

Since the Dada movement of Marcel Duchamp and his contemporaries in the early 20th century there has been a link between performance art and the readymade which inspired the installation art movement in the mid-sixties of Fluxus including artists Joseph Beuys from Germany, Yoko Ono from Japan, Nam Jun Paik from Korea and Art Povera artist from Italy including Peirre Manzoni and American artist Bruce Nauman not part of Fluxus but a conceptual artist.

Dada was born out of negative reaction to the horrors of World War 1. This international movement was begun by a group of artists and poets associated with the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich. Dada rejected reason and logic, prizing nonsense, irrationality and intuition. The origin of the name Dada is unclear; some believe that it is a nonsensical word. Others maintain that it originates from the Romanian artists Tristan Tzara’s and Marcel Jenco’s frequent use of the words “da, da,” meaning “yes, yes” in the ‘Romanian language. Another theory says that the name “Dada” came during a meeting of the group when a paper knife stuck into a French-German dictionary happened to point to ‘dada’, a French word for ‘hobbyhorse’. Wikipedia

Yoko Ono made books that gave instructions for bizarre and whimsical conceptual art. But let’s backtrack a little. What is the connection between performance art and conceptual art?

The German artist Joseph Beuys made provocative pieces and the props from his performances ended up in installations. For those new to contemporary art installation art is similar to sculpture but the whole room and everything in it becomes the artwork with installation art.

A performance by Beuys was 7000 Oaks where the trees were planted in Kassel Germany in 1982. Along with each tree was a rock.

“My point with these seven thousand trees was that each would be a monument, consisting of a living part, the live tree, changing all the time, and a crystalline mass, maintaining its shape, size, and weight. This stone can be transformed only by taking from it, when a piece splinters off, say, never by growing. By placing these two objects side by side, the proportionality of the monuments two parts will never be the same.” Joseph Beuys

The American artist Bruce Nauman did performances in his studio in the form of architectural interventions. A performance was held in a wooden corridor where he paced up and down. The performance later became an installation in 1969.

With my master’s thesis titled: The Death of Installation Art I proposed the end of installation art and in its wake a sort of travelling performance. I wrote this essay about the links between installation art and performance art to couch my art in a historical context.

Epilogue Meets the Aftermath. The Final Chapter of my Master’s Thesis: The Death of Installation Art

Back in 1997 I was writing my master’s thesis for my master’s degree in sculpture at College of Fine Arts. The thesis was a train wreck of quotes, catharsis and rampant spelling mistakes. Too much catharsis can be helpful but in small doses it can be helpful. However If I don’t say so myself the final chapter: Epilogue Meets the Aftermath was interesting and almost 20 years ahead of its time. It outlined a sort of revolution, a travelling festival of comical performance art. The farfetched idea has become reality in the form of the peace game. It has taken off in the past year. It’s the ideal way to promote peace and harmony in the world and to support charities particularly those that give relief to the poor such as Oxfam ,Unicef and World Vision. I refined the idea of a travelling festival in an entry in my now defunct blog: The Hip Breaking Flaneur. My idea was mixed with a game in Busan South Korea where English teachers played a comical watching game where the English teachers attacked each other with water pistols and to raise money for an orphanage in Busan.

I took this idea in my blog entry and proposed to make it global. In the same way the peace game works by people watching each other and interacting in a humorous way playing intellectual jokes on each other but never actually meeting.

This essay will open up a can of worms with people perhaps as globalization means people interact with each other in this way with mobile phones, the Internet and social media. The peace game is as much a reflection of my mental illness as what is happening in the world.

Joseph Beuys 7000 Oaks
Bruce Nauman performance corridor
Me with a shirt prop from the peace game performance