If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Unlock Art: Frank Skinner on Performance Art

This video brought to you by Tate.org.uk

Artist Joseph Beuys argued that every human activity counts as art so long as it is a conscious act. What do you think? In this video, comedian and art enthusiast Frank Skinner takes us on a journey through performance art and its origins, from movements like Dada and Surrealism through to challenging oppressive regimes and making a social critique.
Created by Tate.

Want to join the conversation?

Video transcript

in 1968 the feminist artist valley export strode into a cinema in munich wearing crotchless trousers and brandishing a machine gun she turned to the audience and challenged them to look at a real woman for a change this was a piece of performance art the origins of performance art can be dated back to the first world war and this man Hugo ball who stood on stage at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich in 1916 and read out the Dada manifesto looking great Dada believed that any society capable of starting and then prolonging something as horrendous as the first world war should not exist they wanted a new society and a new form of art for that society this new art involved performing songs poems and actions and making collages they prize nonsense rationality an intuition of a reason and logic other art movements also use performance like the futuristic the Russian constructivists and the surrealism here is Yves Klein leaping into the void Klein was interested in the space around us he felt the void was a place free of worldly influence where an artist could listen to his own voice this is the choreographer Merce Cunningham he believes in the limitless possibilities for human movement and this is the composer John Cage he believes in the limitless possibilities for music they were at the forefront of the American avant-garde and crucial to the development of performance art in America this is one of John Cage's students his name is Allan Kaprow in 1959 Capra coined the word happenings to describe a live performance by an artist here he is happening many artists thought happenings a good idea George machoness did he was a charming tyrant he wanted to create a world that was free of us and replace it with something called Laxus Fluxus was so uncomplicated it could be realized anywhere anyhow and by anyone here is Yoko Ono performing a Fluxus work called cut piece she's having her clothes cut off by members of the audience here is Sonic Youth recreating George mucuna Success work piano piece 13 the name June paper lots of artists like Fluxus Joseph boy slow fluxes because he believed everyone was an artist in 1973 Joseph Boyce said every human being is an artist voice also argued that every sphere of human activity even peeling a potato could be a work of art as long as it was a conscious act in the late sixties and early seventies artists began to push their bodies to the limit of endurance in order to better understand the human condition some survived others didn't Stuart bristle is beef with the British establishment led him to sit in a bath full of black liquid and floating debris for two weeks Chris burden lay under a tarpaulin on the highway as the night time traffic Lord I am the Rainer Abramovitch invited an audience to choose implements of pleasure or pain with which to touch her body the performance was halted when someone put a gun to her head most artists stopped trying to kill themselves in the 1980's it remains a subversive force though where performance art is made about how collective action can challenge oppressive regimes at the heart of performance art is a strong social critique it asks important questions about how we perceive the world around us and our place within it you you