Permanent or ephemeral? The moment of online performances
25 May 2020, 6:13 pm
Within the investigations that are taking shape in the adaptation to an almost entirely virtual life, artistic means that depend not only on audience numbers but mainly on their connection with them, performance has found a moment of reflection upon its nature of presence. There is no consensus – as with almost everything in the art world – on what defines a performance, so it can take place by any means, including the online. For Paula Garcia, artist and curator at the Marina Abramovic Institute, “Whatever tool we have: the live broadcast, the video, all of this is about how the artist can use these tools. Everything is possible, there is no right or wrong thing ”.
Inside their own homes, using the equipment available and the internet, several performers are overcoming the hurdle of not having a live audience, the complexities of the speed of content transmission and the physical restriction of space imposed on the confined artist. As not everything is roses and butterflies, Felipe Bittencourt, an artist who has worked with performance since 2004, points out that “we have an audience that is a thousand times bigger and at the same time not identified, I don’t know who it is. It is still strange for my head to perform for an audience when in fact I am performing for a lens”.
Performances that have as a starting point the interaction with the public are impossible, but the openness to the use of new platforms for artistic work has shown how this adversity can be employed as an input for the creation of increasingly innovative and experimental works. Tânia Carvalho’s work developed for the BOCA Bienal is an example of an act transmitted by the Zoom platform and which featured an interview at the end of the performance, taking spectators behind to the backstage of the presentation.
As not everything is roses and butterflies, Felipe Bittencourt, an artist who has worked with performance since 2004, points out that “we have an audience that is a thousand times bigger and at the same time not identified, I don’t know who it is. It is still strange for my head to perform for an audience when in fact I am performing for a lens”.
On March 19th, artist Paula Garcia was prepared to hold a performance she had been preparing for seven years. Two days before, however, the state of São Paulo decreed social isolation and the artist found herself having to distrust the 250 spectators who were going to watch the work “Cru” in the hangar where it was made. The solution was to take advantage of the fact that the entire performance would already be recorded and broadcast it online to thousands of people. For minutes – which seemed like hours, due to tension – each person behind the screens waited in anguish for the collision of two vehicles that would cross the hangar and collide, one of them with the artist on the steering wheel. Even though she had to dismiss her audience, the artist kept her essential team in small numbers and managed to generate materials in videos and photos from the act, which generate reflections on anguish, waiting and, now, on the online.
“It was very interesting because in the end we had more than six hundred people watching it live and having a response from that, I received much feedback from people later,” said the artist.
In contrast to initiatives that have undergone a process of adapting to the online, some artists and art collectives were born directly in it.
As a counterpoint to initiatives that have undergone a process of adapting to online, some artists and art collectives were born directly online, such as @calcadodemonstro, work organized by artists Boni and Brendy, who build custom shoes seeking to question the fashion industry. Online, the artists started to share their creation process through lives and later made them available on a Youtube web series. Along with @estileras, another project of the duo, Calçados de monstro [Monster Footwear] and their clothes have been in shows such as the Casa dos Criadores and in performance at SP-Arte 2018, when they exposed their creative process during the Fair.
Several organizations are making public notices that enable the production of these initiatives online. Among them, Itaú Cultural’s “Edital de emergência Arte como Respiro” [Public Notice of Art as a Breath], contemplated two hundred proposals for scenes, performances, interventions and online shows that will be produced during the period of social distance. Initiatives such as Fase 10 Ação Contemporânea [Phase 10 Contemporary Action] also seek to encourage the creation of artistic works based on reflections on what will become of our planet and of our lives after the pandemic.
With the significant increase in online transmission of performances, there begins a debate that questions whether this will be the future of these artistic manifestations, or whether, at the end of social isolation, artists and the public will rush back to the galleries, institutions and streets to continue building their live performances with the “warmth of the audience”. Bittencourt believes that “it may even gain another name, become a new branch, but I think it will always hold on to the root”, which is the performance with a live audience.