Against ephemerality: performing for the camera in Central and Eastern Europe

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The relationship between performance art and the camera–be it the photographic or video camera–in Central and Eastern Europe is a special one. Because of the manner in which performance art developed in the region, remaining mainly an alternative form of art, artists preserved their work visually for a range of reasons: as evidence of it having occurred, as a witness to the event, for a future audience that could someday appreciate it, or to be sent abroad as mail art–one of the few ways artists could participate in international exhibitions and networks if they were unable to travel abroad, which they often were. Unlike in Western Europe and North America, where performance attempted to eschew the grasp of commodification, in Central and Eastern Europe, artists did not want their performative work to remain ephemeral. This article will demonstrate how documentation played a very important role in insuring its longevity, and argue that rather than creating performances to avoid commodification, artists deliberately used the camera to preserve these ephemeral acts, either for distribution at the time, or as a record of the event. It will also show how artists developed innovative ways to integrate this essential tool, the camera, into their actions.




Bryzgel, A. (2019). Against ephemerality: performing for the camera in Central and Eastern Europe. Journal of Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe, 27(1), 7–27.

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