Boris Nieslony


Boris Nieslony

During his career as a performance artist Boris Nieslony has also taken the role of event organiser and researcher, going this three activities very much together in its essence. He has been always politically and social compromised and his whole life has been, and actually is, really devoted to this artistic manifestation.

He was co-founder of the Kunstlerhaus Hamburg in 1977 and in 1978 of the Kleinen Ausstellungsraum, which was developed as a space to continually show installation and performance art in Germany.

In 1981 he created numerous live art situations such as “Das Konzil”, were 70 people were confronted with each other in a performance event, sitting around a big table and performing day and night.

Nieslony was part of diverse performance groups such as the Tool Group that was an open, nomadic and chaotic system, which was existing in parallel to the Panoramagruppe (dealing with nomadic performances) or the Stil Gruppe (focused in talking and speech performances). With the Quasi Mythische Orte (Quasi Mythic Locations) he organised performance tours around Germany in very special locations such as Stuttgart`s Canalisation, the jail in Stammheim or in the middle of the highway during the daily-stop-and-go rush hour.

In May 1982 he repeated the performance event Das Konzil in the form of 30 days performance reclusion followed by an open live situation inside of two big overseas containers located in the middle of the street first and in a theatre space later. In this big performance event he developed the idea to create a Performance Art Network, which has last until today materialised in the publication of the magazine Die Schwerze and the work with the association ASA from 1990.

This research, and “service” project counts with three facets: The recompilation of information about alternative art spaces and projects with political dimension; a second section collecting material free to be used for developing ideas and interactive performance projects with definitions, pictures and objects; and finally an archive of Performance Art with more than 500 dossiers of performance artists form around the world compiling literature, reviews, articles, images etc. This project has developed to one of the biggest performance art archives in Europe today.

In 1983 together with the company Bender & Nern, M. Kern, K. Shimono and B. Schwarz he founded the Projektkunst e.V. The most important work was the installation of overseas containers, which could be moved around as mobile live art situations.

After meeting other international artists such as N. Klassen and Z. Warpechowski, R. Marek, R. Ingold and R. Samens they came up to create the work group Black Market International, organising Performance Art events around the world. Nigel Rolfe and Roi Vaara were incorporated in the group in1989.

In 1993 Black Market International invited 15 international artists for the performance piece Empedokles in the framing program of Documenta IX. Parallel to that, ASA organised the project 100 days of service, the Quantenpool Koin.

In 1991 they created The Black Market International Philosophical Statement under the title “Network and its Structure”, which aims to enable performance art in every moment, away from all forces of habit.

Interviewed by Irene Pascual and Johnny Amore in Cologne


Seminar I (practise, workshop)
The reflection about the basic conditions of “culture”: How can I open an image? How is a sculpture and how an installation? Etc. Reflection is colonisation.To start with self-critic and the question: how we/I find the trace from incidents thoughts to the idea(“If we/I suppose, that images are a language with inherent many more languages (signs, symbols or semiotic shorts) and that images are very complex structures, which encircle us and realize themselves only through our perception, then the point of question (a question of law, a nexus?) must be: Which instruments allow us actually to understand the elements of this language, how could they be ready for ‚handle‘ at all (or must we us even deliver up these instruments themselves?). This involves to operate with some paradoxical and ‚multi-functionally‘ (a fancy word) instruments. ‚Multi-functionally‘ (a foolish word) could mean in this case, that these instruments are applicable to all artistic and cultural subjects […]. These instruments built the (an) alphabet. The important decision will be the really development towards an alphabet, not only the definition or statement of a possible one (…)”

What a performance, what shocking behaviour !

(Oxford’s Advance Learners Dictionary of Current English)

got it from Roddy Hunter

Practise (Modes of operation)

It will not be teached a special mode of “style” or concept of art. At first, none of the participate performance artists will execute a whole Performance in front of the guests. Just a scene will be unfolded from out of the unique situation here and now (modification of the situation through the unique participate artists). Every guest will present an action, a piece, gesture, attitude or intervention. Then will be talked about the scene, at first not in a general discussion, but every guest try to interpret the scene as precise as possible. In this process the performer can modify the scene (or reject if there is no more relation to the original thoughts). So the basic situation is that of a laboratory. The aim isn‘t to realize a whole performance, but to learn “the instruments” at all and to deeper understand the alphabet of the different languages of the body in acting: How is an image (Acting-Nonacting) and how can we learn and earn the richness of its unique possibilities and potentialities.

And again: how we find the trace from incidents thoughts to the real idea.

Places and organization – The place is always another one and unique, the organization and date of the meetings are only in the hands of the participate artists. The organization itself (and to learn to organize) is one part of the workshop.

Seminar II (a theoretical approach) 
Some thoughts towards a workshop

Performance is actually an abstract definition of term. It needs a vehicular to get more concrete. Perhaps the best and strongest vehicular would be the unique human in being: the simultaneity of all his own originalities on one side, the enigma of individuality on the other – tender anarchy versus the monologizing arrogance of the dominant ideologies: For that in Performances would be, what in the metaphysics happens: the break through every (seeming) coherent discurs – The “aghaster”, the participator as the sovereign…

Independent of the professions people find some day and how they live – the body would find itself always in time and space and therefore we can call this in a widen sense an “Image” (a motion sculpture or element of an installation or a cultural representation, with other words a “practice”). In today‘s generally perception the understanding of space is often shorten and only defined through “movement in space” (action). But “Image” means something more, it means every moment, situation and event in space and time, which bears actually an analogy or “a media”: to transform the Image as event into a continuum of practice…  How looks an image you can percept without mediae? Is this possible at all? Every Image claims time and space in the human beeing. Therefore it is possible too, that a performance couldn’t find “to an Image” because there are too much elements in the presentation or practise, which can be interpreted as image…

Instead of the human body also the body of an artefact, a thing, a process or an idea could be put out into space and possibly shall be a “Performer” or a performing process. Everything has the potential to get or to be an “Image” in this sense (and this rised up the question of the relation between Performance Arts and the fine arts in the traditional sense).

Human bodies needs the movement for to project in time and space what we call “life” or, more narrow, our identity. Against that artefacts and “things” are in a passive movement or “a non-action”. But only the dialogue between both modes of movement bears really an energy. The place, a basic criteria of perfomance, is therefore actually paradoxical: we see the transitoriness but we need a continuance to percept this transitoriness at all – the different times inner the place/scene where time and space really meets, the simultaneity of projection and the negation of projection. Performance: bodies at the points of fracture of social life.

The mood in Fine arts is a substantival
The term “Performance” is often misunderstood. First of all: Performance as an art is not a medium (what is “medium” in arts at all?), it is a paradigm (and this let us ask how transformation/translation and what border/border-line is).
Who wants to explain the human life only through the needs of economy doesn‘t understand the power of the symbolics in the human in being and the human practice . The drama: an unity of time and space in acting, textualizing and ritualization as social conventions (so we ask: what is theater, what is dancing ?) The mood in fine arts is a substantival…
The mood in Performance Arts is verbal
The practice: Different modes of acting and non-acting, to live together with human beings as a human in being. All ethnographic and anthropological basic structures refer to the need of an always new acting and practice. The mood in Performance Arts is verbal…
The mood in Life and Being is a conjunctive mood:
For that Perfomance is everywhere, where you ask for life “or” art – and you have a presentiment that there is actually no difference at all. To be in life is a conjunctive mood…

Independent from the profession people will find some day – desire is always a moving power, just like anger or love, tediousness or scrupulous. Structures of experience are intensities of measure: A bursted heart and a wakeful mind – like a windmill…
Parallelism of acting / A practice of practise
Not only an artificial acting – inter-mediatorship and inter-ventions are needful! The cultural (“symbol-building”) practice must go ahead of every artificial practise, theory or social action. Micro- and macro-emotions…

Theory of Performance (ethnographical, anthropological, perceptional-logical, Image-Research)
See Basic Researchs II
Practice of Performance (Image-Research, perceptional-theoretical, Practice of perception)
See Basic Researchs II

Elvira Santamaria Torres

Elvira Santamaria Torres, Mexico

Elvira was born in Mexico City (Mexico) in 1967. Since 1991, her performance art practice follows personal research on humanistic issues by means of many forms of action art (chamber performance, public interventions, processes, urban actions and Insitu installations). For her, action art is an existential practice of self-knowledge and humanistic engagement. Its poetics postulate self-creation through symbolic acts. These create important reference points in the evolution of the artist´s consciousness, but the un-symbolic act is the true dimension of the present.


Jürgen Fritz

Jürgen Fritz

was born 1958 in the Black Forest in Germany. He studied theatre and the science of music. 1982 – 1990 he worked as a theater director, curator and actor, since 1984 as performance artist. He is co-founder of Black Market International, since the beginning of this international Cooperation of Performance Artists with whom he works since 1985. He showed his performances in all countries of Europe, the USA, Canada, Mexico Asia and Australia. Since 2012 he lives as free lance artist in Hanau. Here he is co- founder of the International Performance Association (IPAH, registered association). He is the artistic director of the annual festival of performance art ZOOM!, co-founder and co-organizer of the Platform for Young Performance Artists and the IPA Summer. Since 1995 he is a lecturer in performance art at different Universities in Germany. He develops his work mostly site specific. His conceptual approach is characterized by an impressive concentration and precision. For that he uses simple materials such as bamboo sticks, a bell or marbles with which he creates inspiring pictures. Performances with simple musical instruments have become an essential component of his work in recent years. His performance of “ringing a bell in dialogue with …” he performs since 2008 with traditional musicians from Europe and Asia. Homepage

Exploring Performance Art

In the center of my interest in Performance Art is the person of the artist. By him / her and through him / her the performative image develops. From this several questions for the workshop can be deduced: What is a performative image? How is the performative image developed? What is presence? With what tools can performance artists work on „presence“?

The workshop begins with concrete, sometimes very intensive physical exercises. These exercises do not serve to teach performance art, the preoccupation with these tasks throw the participants back on themselves and so enhance the confrontation with their own aesthetic experience. Existing insights, images or experiences should be activated and brought in to the actions.

In the sense of a negotiation of the topic „presence” the participant shall recognize him/herself regarding the given situation and the others participants. Here questions about impression as physical perception are the subject of the argument. Presence in this sense is „successfully“ setting oneself in relation to the situation of the performance – as an action in the here and now.

Altogether the workshop is arranged into two parts: The first part is dedicated to the group performance. It deals with issues of common rhythm, impulse and perception. The accompanying exercises set the foundations for a common approach to performance art. The second part deals with the personal approach – to the topic, the material and the strategy of solo performance. In the concluding public presentation these two fields of work are united. For this approx. 2 – hour performance a solo performance is developed, which is shown in a public group performance with the other participants.

About challenge

The basic guideline of this workshop is to support the participating artists in their individual approach to performance art. By questioning the individual borders of social and gender codes we try to create an inspiring and challenging situation for new aspects and possibilities in the own work.

About the definition of Performance Art:

Generally, for the practice I do not consider the discussion about the correct definition of Performance Art as very helpful. I agree with Hans-Thies Lehmann, who in his book “Post-Dramatic Theater” has the following definition: “Performance is, what those who are showing it, announce as such.”[1]For the situation of a workshop, however, it is necessary, to limit the resulting spectrum of what constitutes Performance Art, since only a common language level, makes it possible to concentrate on the work. The workshop Exploring Performance Art is therefore based on the following understanding of performance art:

Performance Art is a genre of Fine Arts. This setting has an influence mainly on the sculptural self-understanding of the artist, and thus on the expected reception attitude of the audience.
Performance Art is processual art. The performative picture develops during the action, in consequence of the confrontation with the material and the performance situation.
Performance Art is not expressive or narrative – ie in the foreground stand no stories or messages. In this sense, Performance Art refers to itself, Performance Art is self-referential. The person of the artist is the first and most important material of the artistic discourse.
The quality of the submitted objects or the material of the artistic concentration is measured by its potential of changing and developing the person. Therefore it is not the question what the artist does with the material but how the material reflects back on the artist!
Hopefully, performance produces an event as a result of a real experience in the situation of the performance.

Feedbacks from participants:

XAN Coleman (National Review of Life Art, Winterschool, Glasgow 2010) “What’s the next step? Jürgen Fritz’s course group (a week later) was pervaded by this question even before it was posed; debate on the realms of performance craft holding equal measure to the performance itself. Together we rose, sank, quarreled; were held, dropped and recovered. It’s hard now to reflect on Jürgen’s workshop without the image of his bell-ringing, bagpipe-backed euphoria piercing my mind. The reverie, even ecstasy, of his performance (at the NRLA) clasped the essence of our week in one simple frame: the joy of the act.”

Richard Spartos (IPAH Sommercamp 2007, Berlin) „I just have to say, Jürgen Fritz is a mother fucking slave driver!“ (…) “We worked so fucking hard for that first hour. Then we did this back to back with a partner. We faced off to a partner, made eye contact and rhythmically clasped hands. Our bodies, pouring in sweat, we went neck to neck, then face to face, experiencing tension, intimacy, and the exchange of bodily fluid.“ [1] Hans-Thies Lehmann, Postdramatisches Theater, Verlag der Autoren, Frankfurt am Main 1999, S. 245