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Media and Performance Art

See what happens when artists perform—live or on-camera—and incorporate themselves and their audience into their work.

Tools & Tips:

Participation and Audience Involvement

Performing for the Camera

Artists break the molds of video and film, and broaden the boundaries of art.

Participation and Audience Involvement

Without viewers playing a part, the work of these artists would be incomplete.

Performing Identities

Artists ask, Who am I? Who are you? and demonstrate that the answers are not so simple.

Expanded Choreography

See what happens when dance comes off of the stage and into the public arena.

Marcel Duchamp, a pioneering artist and leading figure in the Dada movement, argued that both the artist and the viewer are necessary for the completion of a work of art. He posited that the creation of art begins with the artist—often working in isolation in the studio—and is not completed until it is placed out in the world and viewed by others. “All in all, the creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act,” he once wrote.1

As Duchamp was making his case in the late 1950s, artists were beginning to present work that not only reflected their recognition of this relationship, but also their radical reinvention of it. They crafted performances, events, instructions, and happenings that invited—and sometimes required—people’s participation. By soliciting such active involvement, artists were attempting to break down traditional and perceived barriers between themselves, their work, and the viewer.

Artists engage and collaborate with audiences in many different ways today. By opening up their process of creation to others, they give up a measure of control over their work, and give over to chance and to trust in the viewer-turned-participant. And the work of art, in turn, becomes a two-way exchange.

To explore more, click on each artwork thumbnail, then click again on the larger image that appears in the box above.

Marcel Duchamp, “The Creative Act,” in Salt Seller: The Writings of Marcel Duchamp (Marchand du Sel), ed. Michel Sanouillet and Elmer Peterson (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), 140.

A term that emerged in the 1960s to describe a diverse range of live presentations by artists, including actions, movements, gestures, and choreography. Performance art is often preceded by, includes, or is later represented through various forms of video, photography, objects, written documentation, or oral and physical transmission.

A performance, event, or situation considered as art, especially those initiated by the artists group Fluxus in the early 1960s. Such events are often planned, but involve elements of improvisation, may take place in any location, are multidisciplinary, and frequently involve audience participation.

An artistic and literary movement formed in response to the disasters of World War I (1914–18) and to an emerging modern media and machine culture. Dada artists sought to expose accepted and often repressive conventions of order and logic, favoring strategies of chance, spontaneity, and irreverence. Dada artists experimented with a range of mediums, from collage and photomontage to everyday objects and performance, exploding typical concepts of how art should be made and viewed and what materials could be used. An international movement born in neutral Zurich and New York, Dada rapidly spread to Berlin, Cologne, Hannover, Paris, and beyond.