Performance Art and The Law

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Courtesy of Art


The resurgence of performance-related artistic practices over the past decade raises complex aesthetic, legal and, at times, ethical questions regarding the protection, authorship and ownership of the ‘works’ generated through these artistic practices.

The relevance of these questions can be linked to the recent revival of interest in Performance Art from the 1960s and 70s and the growth in the market for artistic performances through their film, video and photographic documentation as distributed and sold in the form of unique or limited-edition artworks. It is now common to see such documentation for sale at galleries, art fairs and auctions, often for substantial prices.

This revival has also engendered reflection on whether it is possible to re-stage earlier performance and conceptual artworks, in the main originally intended to be ephemeral, and whether such works might be preserved in the form of choreographic instructions in the future. Marina Abramović has explored these questions through her solo performances in New York at the Guggenheim, and the Museum of Modern Art. In ‘Seven Easy Pieces’, 2005, Abramović re-enacted seven iconic performances by other artists (with the prior consent of the artists or their estates), including Joseph Beuys’sHow to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare, 1965. In The Artist is Present, 2010, Abramović instructed others to re-perform earlier pieces she had made in collaboration with her former partner, Ulay (Uwe Layspien), which included re-performing Imponderabilia, 1977, by recasting the performers as a naked male and female standing immobile in the frame of a gallery doorway through which spectators had to pass.

Of equal importance to this resurgence has been the development of performance-related practices, whose model lies in the artist creating and delegating ‘performative’ instructions to others to perform in the absence of the artist. This paradigm is reflected in the work of various artists including La Ribot (Maria Ribot) and is epitomised by Tino Sehgal’s so-called ‘constructed situations’ that require the enactment of his choreographic instructions and scripted speech by performers – or ‘interpreters’ – approved and trained by the artist. Seghal’s constructed situations are enacted in real time and in interaction with an audience inside a museum or a gallery, for instance during his solo exhibition at the Guggenheim, New York, in 2010. In contrast to ephemeral works of Performance Art, Sehgal’s works are exhibited, like other exhibits found in a gallery or a museum, during the entire opening times of the exhibition’s duration . . . read more at

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