PERFORMANCE OPERA — What It Is
Our urgency as artists is also to define with exact words the activity we do, deepening that which that each chosen word properly means.
- The term 'performance' derives from the verb perform (c. 1300), meaning: 'to carry into effect, fulfil, discharge,' via Anglo-French performer, altered (by influence of Old French forme 'form,' from Latin forma) from Old French parfornir 'to do, carry out, finish, accomplish,' from par-'completely' (see per-) + fornir 'to provide' (see furnish).
- The Latin preposition per- indicates, 'passing through a space and extending or spreading over and around.' As a prefix to a word it works as a superlative, complement or continuation.
- The Latin noun forma derives from the Greek phorēsis, 'the act of carrying,' from phorein 'to carry, wear,' frequentative of pherein 'the action to bring,' in the same way that it means 'bearing,' 'posture' and seemingly 'aspect,' 'resemblance' and moreover 'image.'
- The Latin for-ma connects also to the Sanskrit root DHAR, meaning 'holding, supporting, containing,' and desinence Sanskrit MA. DHAR-MA means 'stationary, fixed,' (in Hindu holy Scriptures, meaning: the eternal law of the cosmos, inherent in the very nature of things), however for-ma is a term that responds to the Sanskrit term DHAR-I-MAN, meaning 'form, shape, figure and image,' and also 'the choice and the way to dispose of matters, whatever they are, in the human labor.'
Therefore, according to its etymological derivations, 'performance' can be said to mean acting in support of the image.
- The Latin noun opera means 'labour, work.' It also implies the idea of opus in alchemy. In Italy, during the XVII century, the term opera was in use to define 'the labour that a person accomplishes in a day,' at first just the 'manual labour,' later also ethic and moral action, as well as intellectual, artistic, and scientific labour. The Italian Io opero (literally translated as 'I operate' or 'I work') is a more refined expression than the simple Io lavoro, 'I work.'
Eventually, according to the etymological definition of these two terms, 'performance opera' can be said to mean: To work/operate, acting in support of the image. In fact, when we perform we actually create a work — even though ephemeral — consisting of live images, which in turn produce meanings. With the expression performance opera we don't intend to define performances, which are mainly choreographed or a priori structured in every part. Our stance is that a performance should always remain open to the unpredictability of process, even though methodologically well-pondered and organized. As it was for the alchemists engaging in their philosophical quest, a performance opera is a vision and the result of a creative process, in the space where it takes place, the laboratory to play out new challenges.
By VestAndPage, First published on the artists’ website, August 2017
Here I witnessed the potential to transform and transgress
our world, past and present, within our international collaborative community
building, led and held by artistic and curatorial methodologies.
Ego death is (r)evolutionary.
It is a rare occasion to collaborate with artists in performance art. It is so often a solo or duo practice, and I feel there is so
much more potential to discover who one is and can be in this group dynamic, the
Opera. I desire to be with others in this discovery, living in the way we were for these ten days.
The inner-standing of the
process and performance opera is not a realm for the ego or the mind — it is
a body/spirit connection that moves us, with a deep listening between bodies,
space and materials. It is entering the field, and allowing energy to flow. We
form constellations and find ourselves embodying actions that we do not
foresee, creating and learning actions our bodies carry and remember, even
though our minds may not. We intersect and carve new spaces of exchange,
recreating and reforming times, places, histories, landscapes that may have
never been, but are because we are in the here and now.
The performance opera opens the potential for being the most authentic, getting out of one's own way and allowing something else to
speak through one's body, with other bodies. I think about the possibility of
raising the stakes in the training, coming into a more core focus over a longer
duration and performing over longer periods, in outdoor spaces. What would it be
like to be in sites, and in this mode, with an amount of performers for a day?
A week? A month? What would happen if a collective moved through city
spaces in this mode? If 75 people became agents of possibility in one place? A
risk, a challenge, a dream maybe – but a question I will keep in my pocket.
~ Ria Jade Hartley, December 2017