Listen up, I say this only once. Performativity is not a good thing! Mediocre art will not get anything better because of some added performativity. Your work is genuinely second rate artistic rubbish with or without performativity. Pas de tout, it’s garbage what you do and only curators worth contempt and despise will pick up your filth.
What about this, nowadays curators don’t have meetings anymore, sure studio visits and all kind of meetings but they have something new, they gather up, in order to prepare the upcoming exhibition or whatever it is, in a workshop. Isn’t it laughable, I start giggling just thinking about thinking about it, wow. First time in years curators are funny. “Yep, you know we’ll have a workshop.” What the fuck’s that supposed to mean, is the workshop their contribution to creativity, just a new name for brainstorming [which obviously is approximately as uncool as Myspace or Perez Hilton], ahaaa is it an adjustment toward contemporary knowledge production, Oh My God. Perhaps it is, a kind curatorial research [a very healthy addition to artistic ditto. Holy Juzuz]. Or, eheee, I think I understand… workshop is the curatorial turn toward, the P word, performativity. Nowadays curating is not a matter of goods [objects], service [relational aesthetics] or experience economy [socially engaged art], no no no it all comes down to performativity, and it’s very good. No, it’s not what is good with performativity. This is a disaster.
In fact to consider performativity as some kind of quality or condition of a work of art, is like dissing a piece of music for not having and for not being sonic. But Christ, we have all agreed on 4.33. Anybody, including a bowling-hall, that addresses performativity as some thing, as a quality or a condition is a person that must think that Marcel Duchamp is a DIY shop owned by the same company that runs Duene Reade. Everything in the world, even really small things, middle sized dogs, chairs, factories and jealousy, are affected, charged, motored etc. through some or other performativity. For some thing to be able to participate in the world, in reality, in anything at all it must exists within a relation with some capacity of performativity. Or, stuff that doesn’t have or is not in relation with some form of performativity you know just puff is evacuated from reality. It doesn’t exist. Performativity implies an object’s [however unstable, whatever like a memory or a little bit of smoke], subject’s [even just a kid of a guy from Florence] or a movement’s [a dance movement as much as a political movements] establishment of relations with reality, with say the symbolic order. Performativity in other words signifies the capacity of naming or being named.
Look at this, the moment when you add performative to your art practice what you do is to justify it. No, you are not bringing it out of anything, a performance is still a goddamn object, your horrid fuckin’ dress code parade with queer bling elements is still an object, after all you got paid for it, after all you brought along some idiot to document the act, event or whatever you call it in a crispy nice way and a camera that makes click sounds. Your socially engaged practice is still an object, it was after all part of and in the catalogue of the biennale this that or so and so. It is not more or less an object than a painting, installation, piece of music, a text or whatever, it is just differently an object. No, what that added title really does is to justify your schtuff as perfectly inscribed, formatted, housetrained, well-meaning, politically and socially healthy exactly because you state or emphasize it’s ability to established relations or already be inscribed in nets of relationality. Performative art is an art, however it’s messy, trashy, sticky, body fluids, dressed down and make up, that has given up all aspirations, and is instead endlessly complacent with our current economical, social etc. models of governance, it even licks its ass and with pleasure.
What is rather as stake right now and in the future is to invent methods, tactics, models, auto-terrorisms, heresies that cancels out, exorcise, dismiss, destruct, fuck up and, yes, completely goddamn annihilates some things performativity, like all the way. That, exactly disengage itself from relations whatsoever. And this is ha-ha-hard work, seriously h-h-h-hard, because indeed evly-thing, even stuff from Japan, has or is inscribed in nets of performative capacitation. Performativity is inherent in whatever it is we have around us, even memories, faith, the smell of sex, lipstick and the weather forecast. What we need to do, is to get out a motherfuckin axe and cut those relations. It is at this moment, when art frees itself from performativity [however just for an instant and yes it’s also potential vis-á-vis performance, dance and music, even [although it feels disgusting to have to admit it] to live art and performance collectives active in Berlin [nah, maybe not them], that something else, something radically different can kick in, and this radically different is obviously not sympathetic, but seriously violent. It is not furry and chill, it is directly hostile, a goddamn warmachine.
Okidok, where are we? Even though performativity takes off with “How To Do Things With Words” (a series of lectures delivered 1955, published 1962) and touches down ten years later with Derrida, it is only with Butler that shit hits the fan and performativity gains celebrity factor. If we degrade ourselves for a moment to psychoanalytic lingua [spit on Woody Allen] we could consider that Austin’s and Derrida’s texts function as a symptoms of a truth to come, as kinds of dark precursors of a future that has now gone super-size-me. Is it a coincidence that Austin’s book is published the same year as Judson Church brings dance out of the closet… Is it chance that Derrida delivered his lecture “Signature, Event, Context” in August 1971, the very same months that Nixon abolishes the gold standard and makes the world markets floating… What those guys did was unknowingly to predict a neoliberalism based on performativity. Since Butler made us aware off our coreless subjects and iteration, performativity has transformed from being something marginal to be the centerfold of our economical and social reality. Performativity is that stuff that our society is made of.
I’ve said it before, but it’s elementary, the world we live in today – even and especially if we live in remote parts far far away from economical and power hubs – is in its entirety performative. A quick sketch would tell us something like this, over the last fifty years the world has experienced a four fold transformation, okay hold on, from: industrial production, distribution and circulation of goods, localness and a society that acknowledges history (and with that asymmetries of knowledge), to a reality organized around: immaterial production, performance (include in this knowledge, experience and subjectivity production slash economies), globality (and I don’t just mean around the world, but all the way internet porn, World Of Warcraft, financialization, Richard Branson, FB and derivatives) and acknowledges only the contemporary, i.e. a ubiquitous simultaneity where every moment is every moment and all the time. In that world, ladies and gentlemen, the whole she-fuckin’-bang has turned performative – todo, tous, rubbet. So like how damn subversive is your performativity now, what is it productive of now, baby. Essactly, it’s totally over, you just became more of the same. And if you think stating the performative nature of the subject, the body or anything else, it’s all too late, because you know what, business already did that for us, and we just need to get the picture that corporate interest lick its lips the more curious forms of performativity we invent, it loves to incorporate it in next years collection. Phab.
Performative architecture, like fuckin help me! What’s that supposed to mean, buildings that looks like sheds, inflatable tents that can be offered as temporary shelter after natural disasters, why not a t-shirt with the Mies van der Rohe pavilion printed on the chest [less if more…], or why not just a t-shirt, it is after all a kind of building, construction and formation of space. All goddamn architecture is performative, it does something whereas it want to or not, and a lot. Same thing with performative art. Paintings, the moment the museum opens and before too, performs for us, it shows itself to tourists dressed in Bermuda shorts, to art students, to couples that makes out – those poor painting perform for us. Close the museum now, give the painting vacaction. We have to acknowledge that performativ is not when something becomes socially measurable, when and artistic practice, work or whatever becomes inscribed in some form of efficiency or contributes with something, especially, something unexpected. Unexpectedness has seriously little to do with performative of not. What in the first place is unexpectedness, it’s exactly already in the imaginary, unexpected is not enough. It’s just unexpected, but still within that which can be expected. Unexpected is still possible, what we are looking for – and only an art that annihilates it’s performative capacitation can close up to this scission – what we are looking for, is an art that is not possible, but instead enters the domain of potentiality, a domain that we can’t even imagine imagining. Only an art that renounces it’s performativity, only an art that rejects any form of relation can circumvent efficiency, policy, strategy, meaning production, prescription, markets, and become the carrier of spiritual truth [which obviously is not spiritualist or something to do with yoga].
By the way, an art, today, that is implemented in a context as an example, must necessarily be abandoned. Art is about creating the real as the real not propose alternatives, respond to asymmetries, be critical, smart or glamorous.
In the mean time however, artist and their work is responsible to consider not whether or not it is performative, but how, in respect of what circumstances, vis-á-vis what politics, ethics etc. it’s performativity is operating. But even so, stop performativity hysteria now, cancel all art that includes participation, abolish all socially engaged practices, stop any art that is efficient, productive, that build bridges, that pities human beings, that is in any respect exited about ecology, and make an art that is totally and utterly useless, that is, and shuns for just a moment any kind of performativity, and because it does, by necessity will force the viewer, spectator, implicated, reader or listener – not into some tacky partage du sensible – but into a problem, a serious problem – namely to invent, and by necessity, entirely new kinds of performativity, modes that might just change the world itself and entirely.