Installation, Performance, and Video Art


Hugo Ball in costume at Cabaret Voltaire in 1916 (photo By Unknown –, Public Domain,

In the early 20th century, artists began to look for new types of art, using new media. As the notions of what “Art” was shifted, so did the notions of the media that could be used to create it. Many artists began to create works that were ephemeral in nature, or were meant to be shown in one specific place.


Embankment by Rachel Whiteread at the Tate Modern, London, April 2006 (photo By Gryffindor – Own work, Public Domain,

Installation art CAN be considered sculptural, but it is often much more than just one three-dimensional object. Many artists create installations that are meant for one specific place or exhibition, and are therefore site-specific. Installations often are mixed media works, and can also encompass a video or sound-based element as part of the work. Installations are generally made up of a series of elements that make up a unified whole, and are meant to be seen together. Most installation artists are influenced by Conceptual art, wherein the idea is more important than the finished piece, and is often considered to be the artwork itself. This idea is influenced by Dada, as well as the Neo-Dada movements of the 1950s and 1960s, and is one of the main conceits of much Postmodern art.


Marina Abramović, The Artist is Present, 2010, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 9 March – 31 May 2010 (photo By Andrew Russeth (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

The Dada artists of the 1910s and 1920s started creating performance pieces, wherein the art was non-object based, and happened in real time. This idea was seized upon by  later 20th century artists, and the genre of performance art was born. By the 1960s, artists such as Allan Kaprow, Yoko Ono, and Joseph Beuys were using performance as their main genre. Here the art is the performance as it unfolds, which means it often includes the elements of chance, spontaneity, and improvisation. The main medium is the artist’s body itself, and often the surviving documentation of the ephemeral performance is central to understanding the work itself.


Tony Oursler, Face to Face, exhibition at ARoS, Aarhus, Dinamarca, Spain, 2012 (photo By Mark B. Schlemmer [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons)

Video art became a major genre by the 1970s and 1980s, with the Fluxus artist Nam June Paik as one of its major pioneers. Video artists create art works that rely on the cutting edge video technologies of the day, and often use some of the same techniques as film-making, including editing, scripts, and multiple camera angles. Some video artists, such as Matthew Barney, conceive of their works, for example, his Cremaster cycle, as films, just not the type of films you would see at your local multiplex!

All of these genres represent shifts in art over the course of the 20th century, which continue into the 21st century. Many of these are used to make political statements; begin a dialogue about the place of technology in society; or to call attention to issues.



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