Dates: 1968-Present

Origin: International

Key Artists: Vitto Acconci, Laurie Anderson, Bruce Nauman

A term which arose in the late 1960s in an attempt to account for an increasingly diverse range of forms taken by art in that decade. Performance art combined elements of theatre, music, and the visual arts; its deliberate blurring of previously distinct aesthetic categories was intended to focus attention on the relationships between artist, work, and spectator, and to question critical judgements about what does or does not constitute art. In its hostility towards formalism, Performance art related to other contemporary movements, including Conceptual art and Environmental art. It was also closely connected with ‘happenings’ (the two terms are sometimes used synonymously), but Performance art was usually more carefully planned, and generally did not involve audience participation.

Parfitt, Oliver. “Performance art.” The Oxford Companion to Western Art. Ed. Hugh Brigstocke. Oxford Art Online. 12 Mar. 2010 <>

Bruce Nauman

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