5 performance art pioneers

On View Panoramic Suite Sue Healey Photography Naoshi Hatori And Pippa Samaya
On View Panoramic Suite, Sue Healey, Photography: Naoshi Hatori And Pippa Samaya

Performance Art is a somewhat contentious term for a practice many Indigenous cultures have been participating in for centuries. Comparably, the Western notion of Performance Art is still a relatively new art-form, having only been developed mid-20th century. Below we've listed some key faces in western Performance Art history, who are your faves? 

CW: gore 

Marina Abramović 

Arguably the world’s most famous performance artist, Marina Abramović has explored physical and emotional endurance, confronting fear and exposing vulnerability for over 50 years. In her piece Rhythm 10 (1973), she stabbed a knife at speed between the spaces of her spread-out fingers; the following year, for Rhythm 0, she lay in a gallery in Naples alongside a table of 72 objects including chains, whips, a pistol and a mousetrap, and allowed visitors to do whatever they wanted with her. Recently, she has been caught in conspiracy theories convinced she is a cannibalistic satanist.

Key work: The Artist Is Present 




Hermann Nitsch 

Hermann Nitsch is an Austrian artist known for his visceral performance art practice, often based on the ritualistic practice of sacrifice. Nitsch’s outrageous works are referred to as Orgien Mysterien Theater and involve blood, animal entrails, and nudity. Interested in the intensity of his memories of World War II, he has sought religious themes and customs to convey his emotions since the 1950s.

Key Work: 150.Action




Ana Mendieta 

Ana Mendieta worked in body art, land art, performance, sculpture, photography and film during the 70s and early 80s before her tragic death in 1985. Her performance pieces evoked the folk and occult traditions of her native Cuba as well as her beloved Mexico and subversive self-portraits that played with notions of beauty, belonging and gender. "My art is grounded on the belief in one universal energy which runs though everything," she wrote in an artist's statement from the early 1980s, "from insect to man, from man to spectre, from spectre to plant, from plant to galaxy."

Key Work: Silueta Series




Jill Orr 

Jill Orr’s work centres on environmental issues and the psycho-social and environmental where she draws on land and identities as they are shaped in, on and with the environment be it country or urban locales. Based in Melbourne, since the 1970s Orr has had a successful international career in performance, photography, video and installation works. While Orr's works are predominantly site-specific, the recording of her works are regarded as equally significant aspects of her working practice. 

Key work: The Sleep of Reason produces Monsters




Mike Parr 

For more than 40 years, Australian artist Mike Parr has developed a corpus of work encompassing live performance, photography, works on paper, sculpture and installation. Parr’s practice is marked by its unswerving intellectual commitment and challenging physical dimension. Exploring the limits of language and the body, he has developed works and performances in which his body becomes the physical site of experience, endurance and trauma. He has had his face sewn into a grotesque rictus, nailed his arm to a wall for 30 hours and been spattered with large volumes of his own blood while lying motionless on the floor wearing a white dress. 

Key work: Malevich 

Related Thoughts

contact us

performancespace logo


EMAIL: admin@performancespace.com.au
PHONE: 0466 362 253
HOURS: 10am-5pm Tuesday - Thursday





Level 2, 245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh

+61 2 8571 9111


Subscribe to our mailing list and stay up to date with all things PSpace!