From its origin, which might be situated with Richard Wagner’s “Gesammtkunstwerk” it has always been far from easy to give a clear definition of performance art.
In the article ‘Art which can can’t be Art, Allan Kaprow explains that the developments within modernism itself made it possible that daily life could enter the art world, blurring the boundaries between art and life. “Art in the West has a long history of secularizing tendencies, going back at least as far as the Hellenistic period. Art shifted away from the Specialized object in the gallery to the real urban environment, to the real body and mind, to communications technology, and to remote regions of the ocean, sky, and desert.” (Kaprow, Art which can’t be Art, 1986)
In other words, performance art exists as an insoluble tension between art and life itself. But that which causes this vulnerable position of the discipline forms at the same time its creative potential. Since performance art is characterized by paradoxicality, it grants the art world not only metaphorical power, as Kaprow suggests, moreover it forces the art world to question its own values and assumptions.
In any case, the best of what performance art can offer is a queer disruption in space and time through a communal moment of splendor and absurdity.