Electric Transitions: The question of presence in video performances of the 1980’s


Riikka Niemelä

The integration of video technology to performance practices shifted attention to the assumed difference between live and mediated performance. Video, among other electronic media and moving image, opened up a possibility to re-negotiate the “ontology of liveness”, an ideology often connected to performance art that emphasizes the corporeal presence and materiality of the performer in a direct dialogue with the audience. By either multiplying the performer’s body or by disembodying it, video within performance art problematized these assumptions. The article approaches the exchange between mediate and immediate in some Finnish multimedia performances and video recordings of the eighties with the aim of asking how they produce presence despite of their mediated nature. Representing the performance with technical means does not necessarily have to mean a rupture with liveness, it can also be viewed as a way to make the performance accessible in new ways.

Along with its new media interconnections, performance art is continuously changing. It compels asking what kinds of conditions these new technologies in performance practices offer to the experience of presence in performance art.