Critical Writing Index

Staging the Image: Video in Contemporary Performance

by Patricia Milder

PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, Sept. 2009, v. 31, no. 3, pp. 108-119

Video has become ubiquitous in performance based work, but what is its role in these works? How can video be used in performance to create meaningful, critical, visually arresting pieces? This article begins with an exploration of the performance piece Pent Up: A Revenge Dance by Okwui Okpokwasili and argues that this work successfully incorporates video. In this work, video is projected directly onto Okpokwasili's skin, evoking memories and signifying "old world" traditions regarding race, religion, sexuality and love. The author argues that video's strength in performance is its use as a metaphor, and it is used in this way in Pent Up as well as in Kalup Linzy's performance Comedy, Tragedy, Sketches of Me. In Linzy's piece, issues of gender identity are explored using drag and striped-down video, which he presents on YouTube. This piece raises questions of "how we construct and see reality, art, and performance in the age of Internet video". The article also explores works that use video less successfully, such as Rashaad Newsome's Shade Compositions, and discusses pieces that fall into the trap of using video technology just because it is available and new. Referencing the group E.A.T. (Experiments in Art and Technology, Inc.) from the 1960s, the article then goes on to discuss how video for video's sake is no longer a viable strategy in performance based works. This issue is also explored in terms of performances that re-imagine classic plays, such as Ivo van Hove's Opening Night. Because video imagery is so prevalent in our culture now, its use is no longer simply awe inspiring, rather it must be used in a constrained and meaningful fashion.

ITEM 2009.148 – available for viewing in the Research Centre

Videos, Artworks and Artists Cited

Pent Up: A Revenge DanceOkwui Okpokwasili

Comedy, Tragedy, Sketches of MeKalup Linzy

Shade CompositionsRashaad Newsome

redevelop (death valley)Brian Roger

The MisanthropeIvo van Hove

Opening NightIvo van Hove

Fire ThrowsRachel Dickstein and Ripe Time