Fernando Aguiar







With the arrival of the eighties and, principally, with the appearance of new communications media, the whole scheme of relationships between people has been progressively altered, making them (re)act intensely and simultaneously to a whole series of situations. Many barriers have been lowered and it is becoming generally accepted that everything has to do with everything else, that everything is related and is inter/activated by everything, both at the social level and at the economic, informational, political or artistic level.

Artists became aware that only by using the new media would they be able to be truly operative in a society over­whelmed by powerful communications media.

And so artists with many different experiences of painting, sculpture, dance and music, have also intervened in tech­nological areas such as video, photography, the photocopier, the computer or laser, searching for a specific language for these as artistic supports, but conjugating them with exper­iments in other fields.

Side by side with this exploration of the machine and its specific characteristics, a type of art has been developed that uses the artist himself as the principal expressive ele­ment. This is the performance.

The favouring of the body as a form of expression and the latter’s development on a par with technical and technological advance is due, on the one hand, to the interrelation of the human being with the evolutionary aspects of his society, and on the other, the overvaluation of the senses as sensorial terminals of perception and communication with the world.

These two aspects, which are perfectly adapted to each other, accentuate the analogy between man and the machine.

The performance, in view of its specific characteristics, per­mits that relationship to be fulfilled and multiplies the informational and communicational flow of the aesthetic act. The performance should, therefore, be understood as a support where various expressions and artistic techniques unite. From this union spring a multiplicity of experiences which are interrelated. The performance is therefore more an interactive than an active art. This raises the question of the “plastic arts” (painting, sculpture. engraving, etc.) as artistic objects.

The art object that cannot alter itself has been rapidly surpassed by the transformations resulting from this evolu­tionary process. It is merely an object of contemplation, as it is immutable, perpetual, mythical…. ultimately, finished.

The mood of modern society is to live intensely. There is an underlying appeal to active participation in all the situations of our daily lives. We are living increasingly “in depth” and real wealth lies in the experience we accumulate not in the objects we possess. It is more important to “live” ­art than to “possess” art. In a form that implies participation and criticism and is also intense.

The performance as an aesthetic act is above all the art of experiment, the art of  intensity and communicability, the art having the greatest number of signs at each moment of its evolution, the art of constant narrative, chromatic and formal transformation. Where the artist is also no longer the con­templative creator of his own work, but lives the art he creates and creates an art that lives.




One of the basic aspects of the performance is the action of the artist himself who uses his body simultaneously as a form of expression, as the driving force of all action and, sometimes, as a prop on which lights and slides are pro­jected or paints and objects are applied.

The body has a structural function and instigates action in a complex created and  put in motion by it. As a communi­cation factor the body constantly emits an infinity of signs, accentuated by the mime of the movements.

There is also a very specific relationship between the per­former and the materials,  objects and situations surrounding him. These, and other props used throughout the performance are part of a narrative context that activates and transforms itself.

When we consider the performance as “living art” we refer not only to the driving force inherent therein but also to the fact that his force is being created and exercised by a body that breathes, that moves and which makes everything move around it.

Another important aspect which justifies consideration of the performance as “living art” is the relationship that is estab­lished with the public, without which a large part of its meaning would be lost.






There are two concepts common to all aesthetic represen­tations which define the contours within which they move. These are time and space. The time during which the performance unfolds, and the space where it takes place.

The performance as an aesthetic act only means anything in the period from its beginning to its end.

While an artistic object, be it painting, sculpture or any other, is only considered as a “work of art” after its con­clusion, in the performance the artistic value arises only during the production. The close relationship between time and space and the importance of these for the definition of art as a process and not as consumption is therefore understandable.

Space as a concept, where the “installations” that will serve as the basis for the performance are conceived, is a resource to be exploited for the notion of tridimensionality and for the possibility of complete utilization of the entire ambient in search of other forms of expression.

It is therefore in this relationship time-space that a complexity of images are created and processed and various situations unleashed, which are multiplied in different idioms.






To understand the performance as an aesthetic act one must consider the extremely diverse quantity of elements that make it up and that contribute to its execution.

The number of objects to be used is infinite.

The materials and the techniques to be applied for their transformation are limited only by the variety of these same techniques and materials. The intentions and concepts broached cover every aspect and many props can be used in a performance. The latter, while transmitting a definite intention, permits other supporting materials to be included in it such as videos, computers, the projection of slides and films, the use of recorder or record player, the photocopier and the polaroid which fix the action the moment it happens. These props, acting within the performance, create parallel readings and amplify with their expressiveness the communicative character of the former.

Different concepts are linked to the performance in addition to those of time and space. Movement, colour, sound and light are conceptions where all objects are stimulated and where structures, meanings and actions are agitated.

Being considered as an (inter)action art the performance is essentially the art of movement. From the agitation of the props, to the cadence of the sound, the intensity of the lights, the circulation of the objects, to the very public itself. A performance might appear to be a sequence of small and large movements which, moving simultaneously, reinforce the idea of “living art”. Precisely the art of action, or of inter­action.

In addition there are a series of objects which function as movable or removable signs which diversify the whole weight of the show.

Contrary to static aesthetics, the performance as interaction aesthetics, permits the simultaneous and integrated use of a variety of resources, creating among them a dynamic force that maximises the expressive capacities of each one.






An essential methodology in art is to influence the sensory ducts of the observer to make him react. The performer is conscious that there are other perceptive senses in addition to sight, and that a certain message may be captured to better advantage through more than one of these senses at the same time.

As it offers a series of readings at the same time, the per­formance also requires simultaneous reading of all the factors of which it is composed, at the moment when they are revealed. For this reason the public cannot just passively read what is happening.

In the presence of an aesthetic presentation the public is no longer the merely contemplative spectator and, with its capacity for reaction very often becomes part of the re­sources on which the performer is relying for the realisation of his work.

The way in which the public interprets what it is watching and the possibility it has to react immediately to what is happening, alters the traditional relationship between the artist, the work and the public. For the performance, being executed at that moment, permits the public to have effective participation, in a space of time where the unexpected is always present.

Contrary to the other “plastic arts” and the art which has the various media as a support, the performance is not unidirectional, that is, it does not transmit its message in only one direction. The public, when reacting to the stimulus of the artist, is entering into a dialogue with him and for that reason the message is processed in two directions. There is a whole web of emotions and reaction that succeed each other during the progress of the performance and which are important for the development of same. For this reason, a performance is only defined as such when there is a relationship of equality between the operator, the action and the public.

The flux of information influences our lives and our way of being more and more profoundly.

The performance, as an art that is sensitive to all these pressures and realities, incorporates an agglomeration of experiments from other fields, which, treated and explored aesthetically in an appro­priate language result in an art that is in constant trans­formation and evolution.

The body, movement, change, unrepeatability, the ephe­meral and the alteration of the relations between the artist and the public are the most remarkable characteristics of this art which, exploring the unknown at various levels, multiplies itself in new forms of expression.


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