On Structural Specificity

Posted: October 1, 2007 in All and Sundry, Art Attacks, Musings, performance art, Random Observations, Stumbled Upon

I am currently a member of an online forum/group that’s composed of performance and interactive media arts students, advocates, and practitioners. Almost everyday, I receive e-mails concerning discussions and debates on the said discipline, announcements of upcoming shows, and links of online materials that I could enjoy on my free time. And I have always relish reading each one of them even the announcements because they usually give a me hint as to what is going on in performance and interactive media arts in other parts of the world (and that includes mostly brooklyn artists 🙂 ). Today, I chanced upon an interesting read that got my mind really thinking. The piece was a discussion on specificity in performance written by one professor and it tries to argue that structure must be specific in performance, even as there are arguments that “abstraction for the abstract”is also valid. The writer opines, “structure illuminates the abstract content and sustains the effectiveness of the performance.”

Here is an excerpt (the last paragraph of the e-mail) , which I find most agreeable and can serve as a guide for most writers of performance or even for performance artists:

“The easiest specificity is with realism as we have our own natural laws (rooted in our reality) to adhere to on the stage…but the true challenge of the Avant-Garde is to find that same structural specificity and create other-worldliness. To say “the screen represents the mind’s eye” can easily become something generalized because it is an abstract thought, so we find ourselves not needing to answer as many questions about structure… but the truth of the matter is, all structure must be specific…If the screen is the mind’s eye, the world in which the performance exists must have enough specificity to allow that screen to make sense as to what it is. More often than not, “the mind’s eye” becomes a murky explanation due to the far-too-often lack of specificity with the creators’ structure.

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