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VISUALEYEZ 2005 JOURNAL: MAY 21

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The personal

One of the potentials of performance art is its ability to engage on the level of the personal. In this sense it's a vision of art that is about praxis, and that does not presume a separation between art and everyday life. Perhaps, for example, if we behave certain ways in the context of a performance this will also affect our behaviour in everyday life.

Perhaps its potential is also to rethink the personal, especially in relation to the ideologies that are deeply intertwined with it: political liberalism, private property and related to this, the separation of public and private.

This is a difficult task as our understanding of ‘the personal' can resist dialogue and analysis, which can be summed up in the phrase, “it's personal”. To say that it's personal can be a way of saying that it's psychological and that it's private. It's also to say that it's not political, and that neither are our personal lives—in a sense reflecting a middle-class view of the world that privileges the free autonomous individual. Is the concept of the ‘personal' part of the same ideology that would presume a separation between art and life (that, like the private sphere, art is autonomous from larger political/economic forces')?

In the seventies, the early feminists said, “the personal is political”, a radical statement at the time. The criticism has also been made of those first-wave feminists that as predominantly white middle class women, they could in a sense afford to focus on their personal lives because they didn't have to deal with certain material conditions.

Art and everyday life have also become very slippery terms these days, especially in the context of the lifestyle industry. For example, does the current popularity of cooking and home decorating shows on TV reflect a certain desire to make one's life into art (but from the perspective of consumer culture and the lifestyle industry--and involving a very conservative definition of art, as basically aesthetic taste)?

So I'd like to end with a few questions:

-In the context of the lifestyle industry, cool hunters, reality TV, brand identification, etc, how do we think of art, everyday life, and the desire to integrate them or separate them?

-How can performance art rethink the personal?

-How can performance art rethink the phrase, “the personal is political”?

 

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