Reflection - Performativity : Practice as performance : Painting and performance : Ongoing : Time / by Ally McGinn

The Performativity of Painting (2018) Paint tubes, paper plate, white tack, wooden cube, paintbrush rest, stretcher pieces and wooden shelf. Size can vary.JPG

The main thing to understand when thinking about the context of the word performance in my practice is the nature of the word itself. Performance art often conjures an image of a ‘performance’ or event with a performing artist of some kind, watched by an audience.
However the most important thing, and one i have only recently realised, is that when speaking contextually the word performative can be applied to the creation of almost every artwork.


A performance can be any activity, when seen in the right way. A performative act is one that intitually relies upon a relationship between language and action. The reasons for this can be seen in the intention behind the action.

It is the intention that transforms an action into a performance. Therefore anything has the potential to be defined as a performance.

(A note to performative utterances, which are speech acts that not only describe but shape reality through their speaking. A prime example would be “I now pronounce you man and wife”.

An argument could easily be made that the nomination of artworks “this is art”, whether implicit or stated, is equally a performative utterance. Are artworks performative objects? I suspect the answer is yes.)

I have been interested the reality of performance in an artists practice. By definition artists tend to work on at least two strands, studio and context, or action and language.
I have compared my practice as an ongoing performance for a while, and this context is coming more and more into the work with the inclusion of ‘studio’ or ‘storage’ elements.

Finding the balance between performance and painting is something i find incredibly interesting and is a continuing exploration.

Indeed, the relationship between painting and performance is a long standing one that is a focus of my practice.

One of the implications when practice is seen as performative is the ongoing and near-cyclical process of creative practice.

Valuing the actions and unwanted remnants of performativity in art explores the objects in functional form. You can often see the marks or impact of their use; the evidence of their purpose in the performance.

Time is one of the foundational terms for this grouping. It is required for performance, and arguably for art itself.
It is also contained in my practice through the accumulation of marks and evidence over time.
Capturing the actions and marks of process, primarily through canvas placed in the studios and workshops, can be seen as objectification of time. A record of a period in an artists studio, containing a variety of signatures, they are naturally narrative and unintentionally expressive objects.
I see these as being portraits of the artists process, these are works of collaboration, that directly challenge the notion of the author, by creating a collaborative authorship. The same can be argued for Duchamps readymades.



As a result of some of my research in the last module, primarily discussions in the studio and reading Dorethea Von Hantelmann’s ‘The Experiential Turn : On Performativity’, i've come to realise that defining my works as performative is a null point. All artworks are performative when seen in this way.

However, the idea of representing the practice as performative in artworks and objects, through implied, recorded or automated performance, is ongoing.