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Performance, from its very nature as an artistic medium, is connected to the concept of limits. The particular category of contemporary live spectacle embodies elements from visual ‘performance art’ as much as from more extreme articulations from the fields of theatre and dance. Think of the first artists who ‘took refuge’ (the expression is important) in their own body in performance; which means that the body was their ultimate refuge through which they could express something that there was no other way to express themselves, either because of their conflict towards the infringement of human values, or because of their opposition to a political regime, or even because of their conflict with the system that promotes art.

When we refer to ‘performance art’ many of us think of artists such as Vitto Acconci (Applications, 1970), with his skin full of bites; Gina Pane, with her cut skin dripping blood (Action Psyche, 1974); or Chris Burden, who had his assistant shoot him during the performance Shoot (1971). In Greece, Theodoros the sculptor, Dimitris Alithinos, Maria Karavela and Leda Papakonstantinou are examples of artists who, around the same period, exceeded their boundaries, and expressed their conflict towards the status quo using performance art as their main tool.

Contemporary performance is trying to find sense in the use of the extreme and that which is ‘over the limits’. The contribution of experimental cinema, a deeper probing of traditional theatre of other cultures, and butoh as a way of approaching human embodiment, are not to be overlooked.

Perhaps performance is the result of artists’ attempts to sense their limits and exceed them. Perhaps this is where experience and images coming from the past start being meaningful on stage and where today’s utterances crystallize in the word of a beyond-the-boundaries Becket or a Sarah Cane.

Author: Christiana Galanopoulou
Translator: Efrosini Protopapa