Marilyn Arsem: THIS is Performance Art


Marilyn Arsem, earth and oranges, Performance at Fem_12 International Festival of Performance (Girona, Spain), Photo by Ana Rita Rodrigues, 2012

THIS is Performance Art 

Performance art is now.
Performance art is live.
Performance art reveals itself in the present.
The artist engages in the act of creation as s/he performs.
Performance art’s manifestation and outcome cannot be known in advance.
Re-enactment of historical work is theater, not performance art.

Performance art is real.
Performance art operates on a human scale.
It exists on the same plane as those who witness it.
The artist uses real materials and real actions.
The artist is no one other than her/himself.
There are no boundaries between art and life.
The time is only now.
The place is only here.

Performance art requires risk.
The artists take physical risks using their bodies.
The artists take psychic risks as they confront their limits.
Witnessing a performance challenges an audience’s own sense of self.
Sponsoring performance art, with its unpredictability, requires taking risks.
Failure is always possible.

Performance art is not an investment object.
The work cannot be separated from the maker.
It cannot be held.
It cannot be saved.
It cannot be reproduced.
Performance art is experience – shared time and space and actions between people.
The record of performance art resides in the bodies of the artist and the witnesses.

Performance art is ephemeral.
It is an action created by an artist for a specific time and place.
Witnesses are privy to a unique experience that will never happen again.
Performance art reveals the vulnerability of living.
Performance art reminds us that life is fleeting.
We are only here now.


Marilyn Arsem, The Cure, Performance at the 3rd International Sokolowsko Festival of Ephemeral Art (Sokolowsko, Poland), Photo by Marcin Polak, 2013

* * *

Marilyn Arsem is an artist, educator, and staple of the Boston arts community. While locally,  focus has been placed on her as the founder of Mobius, Marilyn has made her largest contribution by helping define (and broaden) the vocabulary of performance internationally through her own art practice. Her work may be ephemeral, but it has left many people with stories to tell. I think that may be a great way to define “influence”.

Note: THIS is Performance Art was originally published for the 2011 edition of Infr’action Venice. It can be accessed in its original form here.

Marilyn Arsem, Edge, Performance at Near Death Performance Art Experience, Boston Center for the Arts Cyclorama (Boston, MA), Photo by Daniel Deluca, 2013

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s