Networks in Performance Art. Network Theory Applied to Artists' Structures

Textbook 2013 89 Pages

Art - Installation / Action/Performance Art / Modern Art



Introduction ... 4

1. Network theories and definitions ... 6
1.1 Georg Simmel ... 7
1.2 Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari 'rhizome' ... 8
1.3 Bruno Latour 'actor-network theory' (ANT) ... 9
1.4 Own definition of the network theory on which this work is based ... 10

2. Historical outline of artists' structures ... 11
2.1 The first art groups and networks ... 11
2.2 Other currents (approx. 1830-1945) ... 12
2.3 The second big wave (after 1945) ... 13
2.4 Gutai ... 14
2.5 Fluxus... 15
2.5.1 Ultimate Akademie ... 16

3. Prerequisite for the emergence of performance art networks ... 17
3.1 Social and political prerequisites ... 17
3.2 Individual prerequisites ... 18

4. Performance-Art networks ... 20
4.1 The Artists Village (TAV) ... 21
4.2 Black Market International (BMI) ... 24
4.3 PAErsche Aktionslabor ... 27

5. Collaborations and structures in performance art networks ... 30

5.1 Historical development ... 30
5.2 Contents and goals of performance art events ... 32
5.3 Hosts and organisers ... 35
5.4 Financing ... 36
5.5 Venues ... 37
5.6. Censorship, taboos, rules ... 38

6. Summary and prospects for performance art networks ... 43

Bibliography ... 45
Publications ... 45
Catalogs ... 46
Internet links ... 47

Explanation of the image index / documents ... 49

Picture - Text documents Index ... 50


This work focuses on performance art networks. The foundation and development of these virulent, globally active structures was not conditional on the Internet. It is a field that, despite its international presence and continuity lasting more than 20 years, has been documented in relatively few research projects.

I will be investigating three 'projects' that stand exemplarily for these networks within the scope of this work:

The Artists Village (TAV) in Singapore, PAErsche in Germany and Black Market International (BMI), which has no national localisation.

A major part of this work will deal with the actions of these three networks, of which TAV and BMI were founded back in the 1980ies, when the notion of networking had a very different linguistic connotation. However, the visions and ideas of networking were already inherent in TAV and BMI.

This work does not aim to carry out any basic research into the topic of networks, though it will investigate the factors that bring about and define the special performance art networks.

The starting point for my studies was a personal 'accompaniment' of the performance art scene over longer periods of time. This included visits to several festivals and similar performance art events as well as a partial assistance or participation. These in turn led to personal contacts and I was able to gain an insight into these network structures in a manner that can be compared with field research.

My research is based on a large number of different materials as well as documents that have not yet been wound up, archived or localised in an academic context. Those that display congruent or comparable statements on the basis of several different sources were ultimately used. Even when only one source is quoted in this work, it is always backed up by multiple confirmations of its content.

The most extensive materials were provided by the 'Die Schwarze Lade' (the black kid) archive of Boris Nieslony in Cologne. The archive also defines itself as a 'sculpture of public interest', meaning that this archive - one of the largest in Europe – was explicitly set up by Nieslony as an 'open source' for research into the field of performance art, performing art, action and intermedia art. The 'Die Schwarze Lade' includes not only completed projects and networks but also correspondence, traces, analogue and digital image documents etc. as well as projects which, although they were never realised, nevertheless had a seminal character. (s. Appendix p.1-2)

I also talked to a number of artists and protagonists involved. The digital media of Facebook and e-mail were used to communicate with the artists. I got to know some of the Asian artists quoted in this personally during my travels. We kept bumping into each other in numerous performance art events. Although the talks and interviews held varied with the personal mentality of the respective performer, they nevertheless allowed an objective discourse on account of the large number of comparable statements and the supplementary documents

I 'accompanied' the PAErsche network, which was founded in 2010 in Cologne, from its very beginnings and was a witness to an identification process and processes of group dynamics.

The goal of this work is to explain the network behaviour of performance art: how does it work, act and interact? Under which premises does this kind of artists' network work; how does it finance itself, communicate with other local and international networks? It will also look into the special quality of 'performance art networks' under the aspect of individual requirements. What mental attitude does an artist have to bring with them to be anchored in such a network.

Is the laconic statement on an artist's personality: 'Art is Ego' by Ben Vautier reconcilable with the idea of a network?

I will begin by discussing the use of the term 'network'. When did it enter linguistic terminology and how did its usage change?

Three network theories that are of significance for this work will also be presented. Georg Simmel with his question: "How is society possible", Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari with the concept of "rhizomes" and the postulation of a new mindset. The third theory that will be outlined is a new one developed in the 1990ies by Bruno Latour and others, the "actor-network theory”. I will finally explain the way I have used the notion of networks in this work in chapter 1.4.

The aim of the 2nd chapter is to make it clear that 'networking' is by no means an invention of the modern age. It will provide an impression of the diversity of ways in which the avant-garde of visual artists tried to develop new and alternative structures of living and work towards the end of the 19th century as a reaction to the industrial revolution and the resulting upheavals.

Chapter 3 will spotlight historical factors that favoured the emergence of performance art networks. This will outline the social, economic and political circumstances as well as the individual conditions and requirements that encouraged the emergency of these fragile networks.

In chapter 4 I will begin by describing the performance art scene before going on to present the three performance art networks named at the beginning by way of example.

The final chapter deals with structures and collaborations of the performance art networks. The historical development will once again be taken into account and the goals and content of the performance art events as well as the organisational structures and financing will be described. The conclusion deals with the topic of taboos, censorship and rules of performance art in general and of the networks in particular.

The expected perspectives resulting from the overall picture of these investigations will be summarised in a concluding résumé.

1. Network theories and definitions

"Looking back over our day an age – and the more so the later one does so – one will come across a semantic index fossil. People between 1990 and 2010 appeared to be absolutely obsessed by what they called the ‘web’ or the ‘network’.” [1]

The starting point for networks are cooperations, because these mean the beginning of life and are the mainspring of evolution.„ “ (...) without them the earth would never have got beyond a primeval soup full of RNA molecules". [2]

The Cro-Magnons that lived around 28.000 years ago on the Vézère in France already had complex systems of network-like connections. They communicated over greater distances by means of shell horns to warn each other of dangers, for example. [3] In the more recent history of Europe in the Middle Ages, Rosicrucians, orders of knights, and various guilds prove the broad range of social networks. They developed from family, social and strategic structures and interests. The nobility, merchants and artists in particular developed their very own connections across national and feudal boundaries. In his memoirs, the Italian comic playwright Carlo Goldoni, born in 1707, impressively tells us of his complex network, ranging from the French court through to Rousseau and Voltaire, that he was repeatedly able to fall back on during his travels throughout Europe. [4]

The first illustrations of networks appeared around 1500 in the form of tree diagrams. According to the artist and computer scientist Dirmoser, who has been scientifically involved in the visualisation of networks for many years, natural scientists in particular use 'tree graphs' – for example Charles Darwin for his theory of evolution.[5]

At the beginning of the 20th century the term network was coined for technical systems that required an input and an output. It was initially used in market technology to show infrastructures, through also for rail and road traffic as well as for the water, electricity and telecommunications networks that had to be built.

Georg Simmel laid a cornerstone for social network theories with the notion of the 'interaction between people'. (See chapter 1.1) Moreno came up with one of the first practical uses of the term word network for social analysis with sociometry. In 1916 he was responsible for hygiene in the barracks in Mitterndorf near Vienna. He was interested in the mutual sentiments and social tension between farmers and workers, administrative staff, camp inmates, men and women. He was able to identify affective group structures of persons in particular with sociometry [6]. The term network did not become widely accepted in sociological considerations until 1930 and after (see Schüttpelz, Erhard).

As of the 1970ies, numerous social media and communication scientists such as Radcliff Brown, the research group around Harrison White, Colin Cherry and Bruno Latour, extended and verified these theories.[7] The term networking became poplar in contemporary art and culture in the 1980ies. A change took place from a technological concept to a communicative one. Network radio developed a 'different radio', in which listeners were able to participate.[8]

Any actions in today's civilised cultures appear almost unthinkable without 'networking'. It doesn't matter whether these are private, professional, economic or political networks, everything seems to be digitally 'linked' into one huge network. The term network has become all-embracing and dominates current linguistic usage. Since the middle of the 1990ies the term network has stood for the Internet and is connected to the technical developments this has brought about. Virtual platforms such as Xing, LinkedIn, You Tube, Facebook and Twitter, to name but a few, in the meantime lay claim to the absoluteness of the concept amongst young people. Parallel to the linguistic usage in electronics, the network concept is also used in an inflationary way to describe any kind of social structures and phenomena. This ranges from sports clubs, NGOs through to terror networks.

"The victory of the absolute term 'network' coincides with its increasing blindness, it means a severe defeat of all theoretical efforts that have led to this victory.(...) The point of all network research in the 20th century was that "everything" was never networked with "everything else", that it was all about relationships in the hierarchy and exclusivity, both in the infrastructure and in micro-sociology (...)” [9]

The extent to which this quotation is relevant for performance art networks has to be investigated in the further course of the paper. It is interesting, however, to note that two of the networks I investigated were founded before the appearance of the Internet and maintained an 'analogue' communication with each other and in other structures by air mail, telephone and facsimile up to the 1990ies.

1.1 Georg Simmel

Georg Simmel can be called the founding father of the network theory. Starting from the question "How is society possible", he laid the cornerstone of the exchange theory in 1908 with his concept of 'interaction'. Simmel regards "interaction as the basic element of sociology". He therefore in principle expresses the central idea of a definition of a network: exchange as an interaction between the protagonists and their mutual relationships. What is significant for Simmel is that social structures, though also individuals, always interact with other protagonists. Social structures are based on an exchange. No individual can live completely autarkic in his or her environment without interaction with other individuals.

According to Simmel, this leads to different opinions and points of view that are shaped by the relevant living conditions or local circumstances.[10] In the works "About social differentiation" (1890) and "The metropolis and mental life" (1903), Simmel traces the emergence and development of social relationships. They deal with how social networks change when they are transferred from the country to the city and encounter a much more complex structure of human relationships. Simmel thus believed that the city guaranteed the chance of more individuality.

According to Simmel, self-fulfilment is much more difficult in the countryside than in the city on account of close social relationships, unlike in the city where on can act more freely. Simmel also broached the issue of the risk of alienation and isolation through individuality. Put differently: the bigger the social unit is, the less able the individual is to bond emotionally to this.[11]

What is important here is the question as to how large a network can be to still be able to function and act. This paper, however, will be dealing with relatively small, manageable networks in which the number of people is negligible. According to Simmel, we are imprisoned in networks from our birth, something that will also be discussed in the chapter 'historical outline of networks'. Networks are not a new invention. One particularly important aspect for this work are Simmel's remarks on the various factors that are crucial for the network: the number of protagonists / the space / the time / the level of knowledge about the others / the freedom of choice / the equality and the level of institutionalisation of a relationship. [12]

1.2 Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari 'rhizome'

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari[13], linguists and philosophers, use the term 'rhizome', taken from the field of biology, for their epistemological positions. In biology a rhizome is defined as a generally underground – in other words not necessarily visible – system of stems. Nodes can form at any point, internodes dissolve, develop further on their own and produce further independent plants through the division and separation of individual parts of this network of roots. Philosophy uses this concept as a metaphor and matrix. For example, the development of a book is described as a complex interaction of ideas, technologies and physical levels.

"A book has neither object nor subject; it is made of variously formed matters, and very different dates and speeds." [14]

The book published by Deleuze and Guattari in 1977 "Rhizome" (that was later used as an introduction to their work "A thousand plateaus") postulates a self-dependent, social mentality of the parties participating in such a rhizome. "Yes take what you want. We don't intend founding a school, sects, cliques, churches, avant-gardes and arriere-gardes are trees that squash everything important that happens during their ridiculous fall.“[15]

In their work, Deleuze and Guattari primarily aim at breaking through the strictly hierarchic principle of the language and letters of classic structuralists and therefore opened up a particular way of thinking. "There is no language in itself, nor are there any linguistic universals (…)"[16]

Summing up, it becomes clear in "Rhizome" that Deleuze and Guattari actually postulate a new way of thinking with their wish for a rhizome-like language, an appeal that can be found on page 41: "Make rhizomes, not roots, never plant! Don't sow, grow offshoots! Don't be one or multiple, be multiplicities! Run lines, never plot a point ! (...) Don't bring out the General in you!" This describes an essential part of an 'ideal network theory'. 'Ideal' should be understood as the rejection of a sovereign way of thinking and the lack of any hierarchy.

Deleuze and Guattari were probably the first western philosophers of modern times who manifested the main aspects for the ideal state of a network. In the 1990ies the term 'rhizome' became increasingly popular to describe Internet structures. An ostensibly logical definition, but the structure of the Internet by no means exists without hierarchies: web domains are sold according to the principle of the 'highest bidder' and search engines filter results according to the 'principle of attention'.[17]

1.3 Bruno Latour 'actor-network theory' (ANT)

The French sociologists Bruno Latour, Michel Callon, John Law and others have been developing the "actor-network theory" since the 1980ies. Unlike Simmel, Latour's "Reassembling the Social: An introduction to Actor-Network-Theory (ANT)" that was published in 2005 does not describe a theory with which one can 'work'.

"It is a theory and a strong one actually, I believe, but a theory of how to examine things, or rather, how they should not be examined – or rather how the actors are left a little space to express themselves"[18]

It is a tool that I too will be using to understand the complexity and meaning of the actors in the performance art scene.

Bruno Latour drafted a theory for actors with his ANT, meaning that the actors 'must act themselves', including the development of their own theories and intentions. Consequently he places the emphasis on a description and not an explanation. (See B. Latour, "Eine neue Soziologie für eine neue Gesellschaft." p. 253)

He also developed the all-encompassing notion of the actants that covers everyone who is involved in or who influences events. These include not only human actors but also animals, spiritual beings (ghosts) and objects. The use of ANT as a theory to corroborate a study obsolete, as proven by the dialogue between a student planning to do just this and their professor: [19]

"S:(...) 'Can't ANT help me with this mass of data? I need a framework!' P: 'A kingdom for a framework! Very moving. I think I understand your despair. But no, ANT is of no use here. The main lesson of ANT is that the actors make everything themselves, including their own framework, their own theories' (...)” [20]

Latour's approaches call for a better, more precise description: "I would say that if you description needs an explanation, it's not a good description (…)." [21] He sees in the actors, irrespective of whether these are hybrid spirits, objects or humans, the possibility of getting to the bottom of social structures, groups and situations by giving the actors space to develop on their own and not to think in categories from the outset.

"It's as if we were to say to the actors: We don't want to try to discipline you, to put you into categories; we will let you develop your own worlds and only later ask you to explain how you managed to consolidate these." [22]

Latour postulates social research that approaches the field under investigation impartially without a hypothesis that is to be verified. This means the necessity of an extensive acquisition and collection of data, particularly for the complexity of networks.

1.4 Own definition of the network theory on which this work is based

Georg Simmel sees society as being based on reciprocal relationships between actors. The dynamic processes resulting from this can act as a catalyst for change in societies. If the actors are from different 'milieus' and come into contact with each other during their lifetime in particular, an exchange may take place between heterogeneous sociologies.

This concept includes an important basis of this work. The term sociologies, however, is verified with the aspect of cultures since the protagonists in the performance art networks I describe come form different 'cultural areas'.[23] All of the three are virulent structures that act globally across ethnic, cultural and social borders and in turn have numerous points of intersection with each other. The number of artists in these networks is relatively small and manageable at 9 (BMI), 15 (TAV) and approx. 30 ( PAErsche) artists. [24]

Another key aspect on which this work is based is taken from the network theory of Deleuze and Guattari. Of central importance in their 'manifesto' Rhizome is the mindset with which protagonists 'are located mentally within a network' and with which they ultimately refuse to succumb to hierarchies. " (...) the rhizome is an acentered, nonhierarchical, nonsignifying system without a General and without an organizing memory or central automaton (…). “[25]

The ability to play an equal part in the form of the 'gift' and reject hierarchies is one of the essential conditions for participating in performance art networks. These also include the mental readiness to act within a network and to be open to a global exchange of artistic ideas and visions.

2. Historical outline of artists' structures

"In the context of art, collectives have repeatedly been formed. This usually took place under the concept of the avant-garde with the aim of developing an alternative model through a criticism of art and culture. (Dada, Fluxus, Warhol Factory, Performance Art etc." Marion Strunk [26]

Amongst the key prerequisites for cultural change are the economic, social and political conditions. Art movements articulate and reflect the relevant era with their observations, visions and fears. The industrial revolution in Europe meant just such a paradigmatic change. The consequences of inventions and discoveries developed their own tremendous dynamics. Factories were built, cities electrified, the first big department stores were built and huge movie theatres opened in which the visualisation of ideas, art and high culture were transported and multiplied. The spread of photography and film changed viewing habits.[27] This era also saw the big World Fairs. The first of these took place in 1851 in Crystal Palace in London. Paris was the host in 1855 in the 'Palais de l’Industrie'.[28] Something along the lines of a vague global understanding developed. Large sections of the general public were for the first time able to 'marvel' at the culture and knowledge of other countries. Even though the emphasis at the beginning of these World Fairs was on inventions, technical innovations and discoveries, ethnological exhibits, the exotic in general, arts and crafts, theatre productions[29] - through also malformed humans - were also on show. (See KUNSTFORUM INTERNATIONAL, Volume 116, p. 102)

2.1 The first art groups and networks

One of the early artists' groups from this era that is documented were the artists around Friedrich Overbeck and Franz Pforr in Vienna who were called the Nazarenes. In 1810 they emigrated to Rome. On account of their philosophy, a harking back to the Renaissance, and their appearance, wearing hats and long hair, they were called the "Nazarenes". In 1830 the composer Bartholdy Mendelssohn describes them as 'dreadful creatures' who sit in the Cafe Gredo.

"(...) wearing their wide-brimmed hats, huge bulldogs alongside them, (...) producing abominable smoke, saying uncouth things to each other; (...) drinking coffee and talking about Titian and Pordenone as if they were sitting alongside them and were wearing beards and helmets too! What's more, they produce such sick madonnas, feeble saints, milksops of heroes that one occasionally feels like laying about oneself" [30]

The Nazarenes initially alluded to the renunciation of academicism, later to the ideals of the mediaeval crafts and guilds. However, they were less interested in an exchange with other artists outside the group. Their structure and way of life served as a romantic opposite to the emergent industrialisation and the concomitant alienation of man from nature.[31] Even if this group was at times very dogmatic, " the Nazarenes showed that such an artists' collective was viable and liveable."[32]

Projects in which artists joined together also appeared in conservative structures. The Düsseldorf school of painting (1819 to 1918) for example, developed international contacts and gained a worldwide reputation with a complex network – through classical genre painting combined with intelligent marketing.

"The outstanding reputation of the Academy and the free painters attracted hoards of artists from the throughout the world to Düsseldorf. At the height of international interests in Düsseldorf, in the years 1850-60, huge colonies or Scandinavian, American, Russian and Baltic artists appeared. Individual artists even journeyed to Düsseldorf from Argentine, Chile, Peru, Cappadocia, India, Java, Iran or New Zealand. Some stayed only a few moths, others their entire life" [33]

These encounters led to a potentialisation of opportunities. Eventually, however, this school of painting split up because the hierarchically structured network increasingly lost touch with the zeitgeist.

2.2 Other currents (approx. 1830-1945)

Apart from economic and a lack of social acceptance, a similar artistic outlook and congeniality in particular played a major role in the formation of artists' groups and networks. Intellectuals and artists increasingly discussed and adopted new theories such as those of Sigmund Freud, Rudolf Steiner or Karl Marx. An idealism developed in the centre of which a return to nature was repeatedly defined alongside the humanist philosophy. " In this search for inner and outer nature the artists find their way to simple, rural ways of life." [34]

Numerous artists' collectives arose such as Barbizon (1830), Auvers–sur–Oise (1860), Pont–Avent (1886) or Monte Veritàs (1900). The artists followed the 'call of nature' in Germany too, as evidenced by the artists' colonies Kronenberg (1858), Dachau (approx. 1875) or Worpswede (1889). These were by all means a kind of network because " there was a brisk coming and going between these places, the artists' colonies were linked by an inter-local network that also overcame national borders."[35]

The development of Impressionism can also be seen in this historical context, even if its painters did not implicitly define themselves as a network. " The history of Impressionism is first and foremost the history of a group of painters who in the years between 1874 and 1886 ventured to exhibit their works outside the official salons in Paris (...)." [36]

Beyond this common fate, in intensive, intellectual exchange of opinions on modern painting also developed. More and more movements and programmatic artists' groups appeared. Examples that can be named include 'Der Blaue Reiter', 'Die Brücke' or 'Les Fauves'.

The large Sonderbund exhibition in 1912 in Cologne testifies to this diversity:

"(...) Around 650 works of art – 130 of these alone paintings by van Gogh, (...) 25 by Gauguin, 32 by Munch and 16 by Picasso – were on show in the purpose-built exhibition hall. The spectrum of exhibited art ranged from Post-Impressionism through toe German Expressionism, the young painters from the Brücke and the Blauen Reiter“.[37]

At almost the same time, the Futurists were founded in Italy with Marinetti as their 'Chief ideologist' and Dada in Switzerland. Interdisciplinary contacts failed on account of the contrary opinions. The main accent of most of these groups was to explore new possibilities for collective working, living, thinking as well as the affinity to the big social utopias and an 'improvement' of societies. The numerous manifestos of this era bear witness to the dogmatism of individual groups. On account of this melange it is not surprising that conflicts quickly arose and the artists' collectives rarely lasted for more than a decade. " Since the majority of artists' collectives are made up of strong-willed personalities wanting to express their own opinions, the latent tension between individuality and sociality makes them very susceptible to conflicts."[38]

After the First World War, a new comprehension was adopted in European societies; synonyms such as honour and glory had lost their meaning. This led to the start of a search for new forms of articulation. In the 1920ies era there was a huge variety of art movements and groups that impressively reflect the commitment and creativity of this time.[39] "International Fascism and the Second World War ultimately brought an involuntary end to this complicated development in artistic sociality." [40]

2.3 The second big wave (after 1945)

The rubble heaps of the destroyed cities in Europe made way for new hopes after the Second World War. People began to live and enjoy life again. Starting with an everyday culture such as washing machines, telephones and TV right through to the prophecies of nuclear energy and space travel, it seemed that anything was possible. The questions of guilt for the disasters of war were increasingly suppressed and intellectuals and artists in particular reacted against this. More radical artistic concepts and actions developed, mainly in Europe, the USA and Japan.

The international avant-garde movements of the 1950ies followed various ideals. They overlapped at points or operated in parallel. In France it was the Lettrists, from whom the Situationist International developed, in Austria the Vienna Group, in Japan Gutai and many more.

Targeted provocations become the repertoire of public appearances. Pianos in particular – as a symbol of bourgeois high culture – are maltreated and destroyed in performances in Vienna (Vienna Group), Berlin (Al Hansen), Tokyo or later Aachen (J. Beuys) and the public reacted insecurely. Worldwide student protests whose global understanding was also reflected in Vietnam demonstrations, bore witness to the atmosphere of change. Art had already acted through this premonition of freedom in the 1960ies with concepts and actions. A unique era of a love of experimentation emerged. " The sixties were arguably the most lively and exciting of the last century: upheavals and advances everywhere, protests, intellectual rebellion, questions and new ways of thinking about everything, radical subsidence in the arts." [41]

The bourgeois notion of art came under attack, the leap made from the work of art to the idea and the genre borders overcome. [42]

"We unwittingly enabled terrorism" said Mary Bauermeister pensively in an interview for the WDR during a big retrospective on Happenings and Fluxus. She later qualified this statement and spoke only of aesthetic terrorism.[43]

Gutai developed at the same time in Japan.

2.4 Gutai

The movement was important for the Japanese Fluxus annexe 'Hi Red Center' and later Asian performance art networks as a role model for a separate identity. [44] Jiro Yoshihara founded the Gutai Group in 1954 in Osaka/ Japan. She dealt with material explorations (Murakami: penetration of paper panels, 1955) and performances ("Sky Festival"1960). They became particularly well-known for their 'Action Painting'. Their central subject was the exposure of the material: "to let the life of the material live" (manifesto of Yoshihara, 1956). The group broke up in1972 after Yoshihara's death.

The reciprocal interaction between Western and Japanese avant-garde is still subject to some big misunderstandings to this day and according to the art historian Alexandra Munroe, the examination of Japanese art history is in its infancy.[45] Her interview with Ming Tiampo in 2013 on the big Gutai retrospective in the New York Guggenheim Museum, appears to be proof:“modernism was a closed system, located in the West and relentlessly disseminated to its territories with no reciprocal exchange.” [46] This can be refuted partly through numerous quotes from Japanese and Western artists who by all mean maintained a dialogue (see footnote 48), not least through artists such as Takako Saito and Yoko Ono, who were part of the Fluxus movement.

2.5 Fluxus

Fluxus invokes Dada and can be called the first group of international artists who developed joint, international projects according to the network principle. " (...) The nature of Fluxus always included intermedia. it was the first big international network. At that time it all went through air mail, but it worked. The broad basis was very important,(...)" [47] said Ben Patterson. One of the important 'elements' in concentrating the international avant-garde in Europe was the 'Atelier Mary Bauermeister' in Cologne. It was a breeding ground on which John Cage, Nam June Paik, K.H. Stockhausen, Ben Patterson (who performed at PAC in Bangkok in 1997) and the majority of artists from the later Fluxus movement met at the end of the 1950ies and realised actions and performances. [48]

George Maciunas from Lithuania was the ideological founder of Fluxus. He drew up a manifesto and decided who was part of Fluxus and who wasn't. But the idea was much bigger and had already developed further that he would have admitted. " Even if Maciunas was ideological and dogmatic, the potential of the open group lived from the free spirit of its protagonists. Maciunas actually already failed with his definition of who was part of the Fluxus movement and who wasn't." [49] Fluxus was a movement that one either felt part of or didn't. Fluxus – like Dada – was concept 'anti-art', in other words and artists' movement against 'elitist high art'. Apart from action art, concepts for alternative ways of living together also played a role here. Maciunas had already visited an island with friends where they all wanted to live and Joe Jones was ordered to qualify for a pilot's license.[50] Fluxus was an international movement that revolved not least around the idea of a humane, intelligent, humorous and solidly united artistic articulation. For example, it was quite common for another artist in the group to create a performance, or to develop joint work. Nam June Paik performed the 'TV -Brah' together with Charlotte Moorman and Charlotte Moorman showed 'cut pieces' by Yoko Ono.[51] The Fluxus network can be called the pioneer of performance art networks.

2.5.1 Ultimate Akademie:

Fluxus produced, amongst other things, the Ultimate Akademie[52], which was founded in 1987 in Cologne by Al Hansen and Lisa Cieslik and cooperated with Fluxus artists such as Ben Patterson, Takako Saito, Carolee Schneemann and others in its own actions. "Each artist is his own professor and each artist is the student." The 'Ultimate' saw itself as an open network structure that accepted artists almost unconditionally and cooperated with other, generally regional networks, but also organised international collaborations. [53] The 'Ultimate' also serves as a testament to how important the 'mental willingness to act in a network' is in the long run. Some of its members contradicted the idea, as outsider occasionally remarked: " I'd just come from New York and the group dynamics of a 'proletarian' artists' behaviour put 'outsiders' off, because this was usually how visitors were treated.” [54] The 'Ultimate', however, moderated as an interface to Fluxus and as a node to ASA European and the resulting Performance-Art-Conference. (See chapter 5.1)

3. Prerequisite for the emergence of performance art networks

"It is primarily a question of the quality of the performance art compared to the priority of the ego. Networks are cultural structures.” [55]

With reference to chapter 2, it requires a certain mixture of social, socio-political and economic factors to favour or trigger developments. Consequently, the performance art networks did no develop accidentally in the 1980ies and 90ies. Exemplary aspects were: the progressive 'globalisation of cultures' – not least through the medium of TV – the increasing use of digital media, the expansion of mass tourism – with the resulting drop in costs of travel. Not forgetting a programmatic opening of Western cultural institutions such as the Institut Français or the Goethe Institut; they no longer exclusively exported their own culture to the relevant countries but also developed – depending upon the incumbent head of the institute – more or less ambitious projects that increasingly involved local artists.[56] The development of the Internet did not induce the performance art networks but it did provide them with an extremely important communication platform for organisational matters.

3.1 Social and political prerequisites

In order to take into account the various factors that led to the emergence of performance art networks, a differentiated consideration of the social and political circumstances in the respective cultural areas is necessary.

The Artists Village

was formed in 1988 in Singapore, which was still marked by the independence it had gained in 1963 and the resulting problems at the beginning of the 1980ies. The country was fraught by high unemployment and ethnic conflicts.[57] What's more, events were still determined by a latent search for identity and the resulting dissociation and differentiation to the neighbouring countries of Malaysia, Indonesia as well as China. There were no resources for an independent cultural policy and artists could only study at a traditional art school. Anyone who wanted to learn more about the contemporary avant-garde went abroad. " (...) and there is no one to talk to, to discuss new ideas, or to brain storm. Artist here don't argue. You have difficulty trying to get someone to talk to you about Marcel Duchamp or Man Ray"[58]

Artists who found their way to back to Singapore such as Tang Da Wu looked for their own niches far from the official cultural scene, and in turn acted as catalysts for other artists. " Artists explore radical new ways and ideologies in making art that is in synch with the societal changes and state of affairs in the late 80ies." [59] Performances were banned and took place in the underground; they were punished by prison sentences and fines. (See also chapter 5.6 Censorship)


[1] Schüttpelz, Erhard: Ein absoluter Begriff: Zur Genealogie und Karriere des Netzwerkkonzepts; In Vernetzte Steuerung, published by Kaufmann, Stefan: Zurich 2007, p. 15

[2] Aldrete, Gabriela: academic assistant at the Römisch German.Museum, Cologne in talks (May 2013)

[3] Aldrete, Gabriela: academic assistant at the Römisch German.Museum, Cologne in talks (May 2013)

[4] See Goldoni, Carlo: Geschichte meines Lebens und meines Theaters, Serie Piper, Munich 1968

[5] Dirmoser, G.: no title, no page, Die Schwarze Lade, Box: Kooperationen

[6] See Müller, A.& Neurath, W. no page. http://www.univie.ac.at/oezg/OeZG121.html#Editorial (14.04.2013)

[7] See chapter 2.3

[8] See Moos, Ludwig: Frequenzbesetzer, Arbeitsbuch für ein anderes Radio, Rowohlt, Hamburg 1983

[9] See Schüttpelz, Erhard: Ein absoluter Begriff: Zur genealogie und Karriere des Netzwerkkonzepts; in Vernetzte Steuerung , published by Kaufmann, Stefan Zurich 2007, p. 17

[10] See Simmel, Georg: Grundfragen der Soziologie: Individium und Gesellschaft, Berlin 1984

[11] See Hollstein, Betina p. 1- 12 http://www.soz.uni-frankfurt.de/Netzwerktagung/hollstein.pdf (17.04.2013)

[12] Ibid. p. 1 - 12

[13] Deleuze, Gilles (1925 – 1995), Guattari, Felix (1930-1992)

[14] Deleuze, Gilles und Guattari, Felix: Rhizom, Merve Verlag Berlin, 1976, S. 6

[15] Ebd. S. 41

[16] Ebd. S. 12

[17] See Rötzler, Florian: Das Web wird zum Massenmedium: KUNSTFORUM INTERNATIONAL Dec.1999 Jan. 2000, Volume 148, p. 58

[18] Latour, Bruno: Eine neue Soziologie für eine neue Gesellschaft. Einführung in die Akteur-Netzwerk-Theorie. Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt a.Main, first edition 2010, p. 245

[19] Ibid. p. 244-271

[20] Ibid. p. 253

[21] Ibid. p. 254

[22] Latour, Bruno: Eine neue Soziologie für eine neue Gesellschaft. Einführung in die Akteur-Netzwerk- Theorie. Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt a. Main, first edition 2010, p. 44-45

[23] TAV brings together artists from various ethnic groups: Malaya, Chinese, Indians etc./ BMI from various continents: Asia, Europe, Central America etc. PAErsche from various nationalities such as: Mexico, Netherlands, Belgium. Austria etc.

[24] As per May 2013

[25] Deleuze, Gilles; Guattari, Félix: Rhizom, Berlin 1977

[26] Strunk, Marion: Performative Praxis und Kommunikation, DVD collected texts, archive, Die Schwarze Lade, Cologne 2013

[27] See Garncarz, Joseph: Maßlose Unterhaltung. Zur Etablierung des Films in Deutschland 1896–1914, Frankfurt am Main and Basel, 2010, p.149,

[28] No title, no page http://www.musee-orsay.fr/de/kollektionen/courbet-dossier/kuenstlerischer-kontext.html (09.05.2013)

[29] In Paris, Max Reinhard and W. Meyerhold, amongst others, came into contact with the Japanese Kabuki theatre and were inspired by this. (Rudnitsky, Konstantin "Russian and Soviet Theatre" Thames and Hudson Ltd, London, USA, 2000)

[30] Quoted from Metgen, Günter: "Die Nazarener" Frankfurt a. Main, 1997, p. 41

[31] The training consisted of copying the "old masters" and thus experiencing art, a very popular concept at art academies at the time. (according to the dictate of the classicist Anton Raphael Mengs: "Art is superior to nature")

[32] Thurn, Hans Peter: "Die Sozialität der Solitären, Gruppen und Netzwerke der bildenden Künste" in KUNSTFORUM INTERNATIONAL, Volume 116, Nov. Dec. 1991, p. 103

[33] The Düsseldorf school of painting is the predecessor of today's Art Academy, no title, no page: http://www.duesseldorfer-malerschule.com/einfuehrung.html (12.05.2013)

[34] Ibid. Thurn, Hans Peter: "Die Sozialität der Solitären”, p. 103

[35] Ibid. p. 104

[36] No title, no page: www.kunstwissen.de/fach/f-kuns/b_neu/impress/00.htm (16.05.2013)

[37] No title, no page: http://www.wallraf.museum/index.php?id=337 (16.05.2013)

[38] Thurn, Hans Peter: Die Sozialität der Solitären, Gruppen und Netzwerke der bildenden Künste, KUNSTFORUM INTERNATIONAL, Volume 116 Nov/ Dec. 1991, p. 119

[39] See Whillet, John: Art and Politics in the Weimar Period, The New society,1917-1933,Pantheon books, New York,1978,p.17 (Diagram in Appendix p.65) "art streams of the 20s”, see. p. 8-18

[40] Thurn, Hans Peter: Die Sozialität der Solitären, Gruppen und Netzwerke der bildenden Künste, KUNSTFORUM INTERNATIONAL, Volume 116, Nov/ Dec. 1991, p. 107

[41] Schneede, Uwe M.: Die Geschichte der Kunst im 20.Jahrhundert, Von den Avantgarden bis zur Gegenwart, C.H. Beck oHG, Munich, 1st edition 2001 p.215

[42] See ibid. Schneede: Die Geschichte der Kunst im 20. Jahrhundert, p. 215

[43] Bauermeister, Mary: Oral History, Hoffnungsthal (approx. May 2008

[44] Nakajima, Hiroko: in talks, Cologne (May 2012)

[45] See Munroe, Alexandra: Scream against the sky. Voice piece for Soprano, I.N: Kunst-Welten im Dialog. Von Gauguin zur globalen Gegenwart: (Published by Scheps, Marc; Dziewior,Yilmaz; Thiemann,Barbara M. Cologne 1999, p. 287

[46] http://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2013/02/28/arts/in-new-york-the-guggenheim-goes gutai/#.UZSr3 Eo cPi0: (16.05.2013)

[47] Patterson, Ben. in an interview with Fischer, Katinka: "Das war das erste große Internationale Netzwerk" in FAZ 28.02.2012 http://www.faz.net/aktuell/rhein-main/im-gespraech-ben-patterson-fluxus-pionier-das-war-das-erste-grosse-internationale-netzwerk-11665973.html (13.05.2013)

[48] Herzogenrath Wulf: Die 60er Jahre, catalogue of the Kölner Kunstverein 1986, p. 14/15

[49] Jones, Joe: Oral History (in a talk with R. Hinterecker and B. Patterson in Wiesbaden 1985)

[50] Patterson, Ben: in talks, Wiesbaden 2005

[51] Berger, Michael: in talks, Wiesbaden 2011

[52] Catalogue: Kirsch, R.J; Pokoyski, D: Die Geschichte der Ultimate Akademie von 1987 – 1996 KRASH und Vilter Verlag, Cologne 1997

[53] Around 70 artists from the associated networks of the 'Ultimate' as well as 70 artists from the art scene and structures (U. Khabat) in Thailand took part in the mail art project 'One Day of My Life in a Box'

The object boxes of the 140 participants were exhibited in Bangkok / Cologne. (1996)

[54] Ferro, Knopp: in talks, Munich (April 2006)

[55] Nieslony, Boris: no page: http://www.asa.de/projects/netzwerk/ch2.htm (15.05.2013)

[56] Asavesna, Eva: in talks, Bangkok, Thailand ( July / Aug. 2007)

[57] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singapore, 76,8 % Chinese, 13,8 % Malay, 7,9 % Indians, etc. (16.05.2013)

[58] Wen, Lee: “This Is My Room and Tree Life” 1984, documentation catalogue ‘The Artists Village’ Singapore 1988 - 1999, no page

[59] Wu, Tang Da, short note, archive, Die Schwarze Lade in Box III


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University of Dusseldorf "Heinrich Heine" – Media and Cultural Studies
networks performance network theory applied artists structures




Title: Networks in Performance Art. Network Theory Applied to Artists' Structures