Fergus McCaffrey, NYC, July 2017
By Ian Deleón
To use the word remains is to invoke in someone associations with death, decay, and possibly even dismemberment. Generally speaking it refers to the parts left behind, once some significant change in status has taken place. That change is usually framed in terms of a negative, destructive event but of course destruction can be a kind of creation as well. The word’s linguistic ties to remaining mean that it can also convey that which lives on, or that which stays put.
In relation to the art of live performance, talking in terms of remains certainly articulates some of the finer points about post-action detritus and extended duration times, but it’s also important to address the aspect of performance art’s own supposed untimely demise. The notion that one art form or another has died at some point is pervasive in contemporary art historical discourse. Painting has died so many times it has spawned zombie movements. But that kind of makes sense, painting was old. But performance art is fairly new...at least, by some accounts.
When we talk about performance in this article we may concede to the influence of its antecedents: of the theater, of dance, of magic, of cinema, of protest. But performance art cannot be all of those things if we are going to have a productive conversation about it. It has to be its own thing, while often appearing in the guise of those other art forms. Performance wasn’t a flash in the pan either, with its death knell rung by an explosion of consumer culture, information, communication or globalization in the early 90s...NO. Performance Art is NOT dead and this exhibition is the proof––the exhumation, the surprise discovery that the remains are intact...and ALIVE.