Researching performance and street theatre

Fact: I have a BA in Art history and I wrote a thesis about performance art (“Is There a Proper Space for Performance Art? Performance in an art institution and in a public space.”). No need to tell you how much work and research I had to put into it, especially because there was almost no mention of performance art in our classes.

The abstract of my thesis reads:

“Is there an appropriate space for performance art?

My thesis wants to answer the question of whether there is a space that is the most appropriate for the execution of a performance art piece. Artists can present their work outside in a public space or inside an art institution. Which space is more suitable depends entirely on the artist and what he/she wants to say with his/her art piece. Art in a public space has a different concept than the one in an art institution. It assumes that the street is a place where unsuspecting passers-by are walking and a performance art piece can represent a great shock for them, because they do not expect it. However, a performance art peace in a cultural or artistic institution is expected and consequently much better accepted. In addition, visitors that come to see it know what to expect, because they pay a ticket for that specific establishment. Street theatre has a similar basis as performance art in a public space, but they differ in quite a few criteria. They are both tossed into a world of coincidental passers-by that can react turbulently. The most restless reactions usually follow body art performance pieces, because they mostly include nudity of the artist, which is something people are not prepared for.” 

I started getting really interested in the subject when I was enrolled to Šugla, a school for street theatre. When I was doing one of my pieces, I started asking myself why it belongs to street theatre and why can’t it be performance art?

That is the reason I started researching why performance art in the public space (on the streets) and street theatre are two different things, even though they are the same. Or are they?

As a matter of fact, if I generalise, they are just two sides of the same coin. I was really having a rough time answering this question and I still don’t think I answered it entirely. But I had some help from the books (There are a lot of books about performance art, however almost none in Slovenian language. That is why I have been playing with an idea of writing a book on performance for years. And I am sure it will happen in the future, but first, I would need to research a whole lot more about the subject.) and the people who are connected with this kind of art (Goro Osojnik, KUD Ljud, Željko Opačak, Tadej Pogačar, Andreja Džakušič, Ulay, Adrian Piper, …). Through a course of a year, I have been conducting interviews (e-mail and in person) and collecting statements about the subject. During all this time I have been reading theoretical books (Do you know how little of them exist on street theatre??) and stockpiling the data about the diferences. And I don’t think I will ever be finished, as there are so many different opinions on the subject, especially from the (so-called) experts. Let’s call this my life-long research.

KUD Ljud
Željko Opačak

What I gathered, I used in a part of my thesis and also wrote an article that is a collection of my thoughts with a scientific base. (I am sorry, but it is just in Slovenian language, I will try and translate it when I have time. Or you can try googletranslate, if you are interested, but don’t expect the language to make much sense.)

The investigation I executed was one of the most engaging ones, as I had an honour of meeting some of the main actors of the art scene. I prefer this kind of one-on-one approach, as it is more personal and you can get a lot more out of the person you are dealing with. But that was not my first time I handled the research this way (more about it later). And I think it wasn’t my last.


  1. featured image: (2007) Andreja Džakušič: Bloody Mary ⌈photograph⌋ Available from: ⌈Accessed 6 October 2016⌋
  2. personal archive
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  8. (1999) Željko Opačak: Pojej košček mojega srca ⌈photograph⌋ Available from: ⌈Accessed 6 October 2016⌋

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