Jon Husband has picked up an interesting concept from Evelyn Rodriguez and Matthew Dallman: that blogging could be considered a form of performance art. This has a kind of ego-stroking visceral appeal to bloggers (it sure beats the mainstream media depiction of bloggers as ‘a million guys in pajamas’). But does ‘performance art’ actually describe what we do?
Go through the history of the terms ‘performance art’ and ‘performing arts’ and you’ll quickly end up in a quagmire: There is no consensus on what these terms mean and what they include and exclude. So let’s go back to the roots and discover what the words originally meant:
perform = to give what is needed through some means or vehicle
art = an imitation or reflection of nature, life or reality
The first definition explains why we use the term ‘perform surgery’ ñ a performance can as easily be scientific or religious (‘perform a ritual’) as artistic. The only requirements for performance are that the actions fill a need and that they do so in an intermediated way, through the body or some other ‘medium’. And that need can be a personal one rather than one for an audience: one might even wryly describe masturbation as ‘solo performance art’.
By these criteria blogging certainly qualifies as performance, even more than most less-interactive forms of journalism. And there is no question that all forms of writing qualify as art by the second definition. So blogging is a form of performance or performing art. Arguably, as Evelyn points out, so is participation in World of Warcraft or Second Life. Even masks, piercings, clothing, and body painting meet the above definitions of performance art.
What does it mean to say that blogging is a performance, or performing, art form?
Most performance/performing art is narrative: Blogs, like most music, films, interactive writing, and for that matter most theatre, often tell or retell (artistically) stories. I have argued that blogging is a form of conversation, with unequal roles for, but a tacit contract with, the audience, the other participants in the performance.
But “theatre isn’t about narrative, narrative isn’t necessary”, quotes Evelyn. So performance art need not be narrative, provided it meets a need. She argues that performance art should be participatory ñ it needs to engage the intellect, the emotions, and/or the senses ñ and blogging can do that.
Matthew Dallman goes further, arguing that blogging is “a vehicle for the emergence of informed intuition”. Between these two definitions, the four Jungian forms of knowledge and learning are represented: intellectual, emotional, sensory and intuitive. And I’ve argued before that good presentations (another form of narrative performance art) can be either informative or entertaining. So it seems as if the ‘what is needed’ that is provided by performance art can be either (a) the acquisition of knowledge or appreciation, or (b) diversion or pleasure. In so doing it does not have to be either narrative or participatory.
In that respect, blogging is no different from any other performance art: What fills person A’s needs may not do it for person B, and vice versa. Its ‘success’ at filling a need is a function of the needs, openness and capacity of the audience to get value from the presentation: How ready, willing and able they are to appreciate the performance’s message.
I would argue that the greater the participation of the audience (even to the point the roles of performer and audience get blurred), the more receptive the audience becomes to the performance’s meaning and value. For example, a good novel will get the reader caught up in the story to the point that s/he becomes a participant in it ñ and imagines himself or herself there. Except when they too tell stories, this is very hard to do in blogging.
Fortunately for bloggers who aren’t good at storytelling, there are simpler ways for a performance to succeed. Give me a useful take-away that I can relate to my own experiences, and you’ve succeeded in giving me what I need, and I’ll applaud the performance. Example: In Evelyn’s bio she quotes Goethe:
If you must tell me your opinions, tell me what you believe in. I have plenty of doubts of my own.
This is brilliant advice for bloggers, in one terse sentence. By including it prominently in her blog, Evelyn shows herself to be an accomplished performance artist. That may have something to do with the fact that Goethe was a genius. Or it may have something to do with the fact that I am ‘ready’ for this message, that it resonates with my worldview and that it meetsa need of the moment. Why she succeeds doesn’t matter. As bloggers, our job is simply to perform, to practice our art in public. Any applause is just a bonus.
Category: Other Blogging Articles
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My Bio, Contact Info, Signature PostsAbout the Author (2016)
--- My Best 100 Posts --
Preparing for Civilization's End:
What Would Net-Zero Emissions Look Like?
Why Economic Collapse Will Precede Climate Collapse
Being Adaptable: A Reminder List
A Culture of Fear
What Will It Take?
A Future Without Us
Dean Walker Interview (video)
The Mushroom at the End of the World
What Would It Take To Live Sustainably?
The New Political Map (Poster)
Complexity and Collapse
Save the World Reading List
What a Desolated Earth Looks Like
Giving Up on Environmentalism
The Dark & Gathering Sameness of the World
The End of Philosophy
The Boiling Frog
What to Believe Now?
Conversation & Silence
The Language of Our Eyes
Cultural Acedia: When We Can No Longer Care
Several Short Sentences About Learning
Why I Don't Want to Hear Your Story
A Harvest of Myths
The Qualities of a Great Story
The Trouble With Stories
A Model of Identity & Community
Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
The Value of Conversation Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
No Noble Savages
Figments of Reality
Too Far Ahead
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
If You Wanted to Sabotage the Elections
Collective Intelligence & Complexity
Ten Things I Wish I'd Learned Earlier
The Problem With Systems
Against Hope (Video)
The Admission of Necessary Ignorance
Several Short Sentences About Jellyfish
A Synopsis of 'Finding the Sweet Spot'
Learning from Indigenous Cultures
The Gift Economy
The Job of the Media
The Wal-Mart Dilemma
The Illusion of the Separate Self:
Did Early Humans Have Selves?
Nothing On Offer Here
Even Simpler and More Hopeless Than That
What Happens in Vagus
We Have No Choice
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Letting Go of the Story of Me
All There Is, Is This
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Your Self: An Owner's Manual (Satire)
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