The Artist is Online

Exploring “possibilities, boundaries, and characteristics of virtual presence” was an evening-long show that engaged performance art made in and for the digital medium. The question of how digitization influences perfromance art posed by curators/coordinators of the show, was driving the project. You can read their article reflecting on the many issues made visible during the presentation in April 2016 at the Shloss Solitude project space here.

The title of the show references Marina Abramovic’s performance practice and her retrospective at the MoMa in 2010 The Artist is Present, streching out the idea of the presence to the digital space. In particular the show and the works presented acknowledge the fact that “our existence is not exclusively physical existence anymore; we also inhabit a digital space.”

For some time peformance art has been expanding and has expanded to include the network technology and networks themselves.  Performance artists include digital space in their performative methods as a space in which performance takes place, but also as a space shared with their publics. Maria Chatzichristodoulou (aka Maria X) during the CyPosium in 2012 reflected on the fact how many different names are given to this emerging field of performance practice.[1] From Cyberperformance, digital performance, digital practices, to Cyber-theater, Virtual-theater, to Networked Performance. Recognising their diversity, Chatzichristodoulou acknowledges diverse practices which they define. Yet, she argues, that common to them all is their central focus on the notion of the liveness as “one of the vital characteristics of theatre and performance art.”   Referencing Peggy Phelan’s book Unmarked, liveness defines ‘very ontology’ of such practices where “its being live entails that performance dies with its own enactment.” However, Maria X questions this idea of liveness by recognising how collaborative virtual reality environments engage social activities of the users of the online platforms. This is how liveness is defined, not just that it happens now and a moment later it will cease to be, but also that its liveness is sustained by technological and social components that perform together beyond the time framework of the art performance.

The Artist is Online is clearly a post-digital show. Artists presented in the show engage platforms like Skype, Instagram or YouTube as familar spaces and as a way to reference “the competitive nature between physical and virtual, permanent and impermanent environments”. We experience it everyday and so livness of such spaces is common to artists and audiences for whom online interactions appear “even more intimate”, as the curators notice. The issue of intimacy becomes increasingly relevant and possibly even more urgent at the time when intimacy becomes a public experience often mediated by digital and networked technologies.


[1] See M. Chatzichristodoulou (2012) “Cyberfperformance? Digital or Networked Performance? Cybertheaters? Or Virtual Theatres? …. or all of the above?”


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