PERFORMANCE ART AND THE INTERNET

by:  Jack Bowman


WHAT IS REAL?  After twelve years the Cleveland Performance Art Festival ended the millennium and ended its existence with various performances including "Performance in Plato’s Cave".   Plato’s Cave, with its varied parts, was created to take Performance to a new plane along with the millennium. 

Performance in Plato’s Cave is much like the passing millennium in that is had a lot of parts but we don’t really know if we found them all. We don’t know if they are real and we don’t know what they mean. 

THE PERFORMANCE  On Saturday, April 24th, 1999 at 9:24 and 21 seconds  PM EDT. a portion of the Performance in Plato's Cave was transmitted over the internet.  In an attempt to follow the Plato’s Cave Performance we have to realize that there are three distinct performances going on simultaneously. They are: 1. The Fake Performance.  2. The Environmental Theater Performance.  3. The non-performance

 The Fake Performance  The Fake performance was made to transmit from another location over the Internet in case the equipment failed at the Cleveland Performance Art Festival. The equipment did fail and the fake was transmitted More about the fake performance.

The Environmental Theater Performance  The Environmental performance was Alice in Wonderland's tea party adapted to a modern world environment. This also is the Internet Performance.  More about the Environmental Theater/Internet performance. 

The Non-Performance  The non-performance was a preparation for a conventional performance that would not occur.   More about the non-performance.

The Internet Audience  To do an Internet Performance you have to get an audience.   I decided to get my audience by electronic means only.  Email and fax.  I sent the press release via these means only, to five local and Cleveland newspapers and the people on my Email list.  I only found (there may have been more) where one newspaper printed it.  They had two errors in the address so no one could have accessed it through them.  I had hit counters/trackers on one of the pages. (I didn't have a counter/tracker on the transmission page because it would slow it down)   My goal was to get one viewer.  Obviously I wanted more.  However, the performance itself was adequate even without the internet transmission.  The counter/trackers indicated that at least five people hit the site at the time of the performance.

Internet Performance, Challenge and Reward By limiting the press releases to email and fax I was following my self defined limitations.  These limitations and other self imposed ones had another motive.  They were asking the question "Can Performance Art, as it is currently defined, be done without leaving your home?"  The reward was that the answer was yes.  The Cleveland Performance Art Festival, as well as other similar venues, are highly organized, audience seeking, funded events.  But in the end it is still this solitary performer, either organizing a group or performing alone.  I wanted to merge the beginning with the end.  The internet allowed this.

In Conclusion The History of Art indicates that for a medium to count it has to be available to the common man (Fine Art appears to require the sensitivity of the common man as well as his total consumption).  An example of lack of availability is the hologram.  There is a hologram museum.  However, in the scheme of things, the art produced is mediocre at best. I have made holograms at Ohio State and the equipment is complex and not readily available.   The WebCam program was free.  My normal camcorder was used.  The video card isn't in every out-of-the-box computer but is a common add-on.  The web pages were free.  This was a low budget performance and the equipment was easily available to the common man.  The History of Art also indicates that the individual artist must be in control.  There have been many transmissions of so called performances (The Victoria Secret webcast to name one).   These were multi-technician performances and not a Fine Artist work.  As a Fine Art medium the internet is challenging but adequate and I am sure there will be more internet performances that are created and completed by the individual artist. 

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Biography of Jack Bowman

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Text of The Environmental Theater and Fake Performance

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Video is an Animated GIF of the environmental theater performance