Performance Arts is artworks created through actions performed by the artist or other participants, which may be live or recorded, spontaneous or scripted. This traditional definition of performance arts is renewed with emergence of the social media giant – TikTok. Acts of users on TikTok is the new performance arts of the 21st century. Videos ranging from lip dubbing to fine arts, including paintings, drawings, collages, users of TikTok are the new artists. It is time to look at TikTok as the platform of authentic artists and creators and as a landmine of campaigns for brands.
Performance arts has, throughout the history evolved to what we see now – theatre, music, dance, mimckery, spoken word, puppetry etc.
The traces of performance art can be traced back to the First World War and Hugo Ball’s Dada Manifesto, which rejected a world that could be consumed by war and called for a new society–and a new form of art for that society. The Dadaists prized nonsense, irrationality, and intuition over reason and logic, and performed songs and actions that reflected this attitude.
Also flourishing at the time was a movement called Fluxus, taking its name from the word flux, meaning “flow,” dubbed by the revolutionary Lithuanian-American artist George Maciunas. The living art of Fluxus set the stage for the development of performance art, which moved away from static installations to placing more and more emphasis on the actions of the artists themselves.
This evolution has given birth to performance arts where the exposure of the self is itself, an art. In the context of the medium’s history as well as its current practice, the most defining characteristic of performance art is that it must be centered on the action carried out by the artist. Today’s, most thriving performance arts like stand-up comedy, spoken word poetry, open mic music have this characteristic. These arts are documented on a camera and, though the arts are time bound, the documentation lives on forever.
“Art is the activity by which a person, having experienced an emotion, intentionally transmits it to others”Leo Tolstoy
Performance art is about how well the artist is able to convey his or her idea. Most performance arts make the audience just think or feel after the act. “It’s the action that’s the art, not so much the physical result,” says performance art curator and performance-only Grace Exhibition Space co-director Erik Hokanson. “A lot of times there’s little or no result other than what you walk away from the piece with thinking or feeling.” (Source: HyperAllergic)
What is it about performance art which makes it popular?
Following World War II, performance emerged as a useful way for artists to explore philosophical and psychological questions about human existence. For this generation, who had witnessed destruction caused by the Holocaust and atomic bombs, the body itself offered a powerful medium to communicate shared physical and emotional experience.
In the politicized environment of the 1960s, many artists employed performance to address emerging social concerns. For feminist artists in particular, using their body in live performance proved effective in challenging historical representations of women.
Throughout these years, performance art has forced us to think about issues in a way that can be disturbing and uncomfortable, but it can also make us laugh by calling attention to the absurdities and the idiosyncrasies of human behavior.
It has paved the way for poets to take up issues like feminism, racism, sexism etc. and bring attention of the mass audience to it. It has let comedians talk about the political state of their countries and make the guardians of the state answerable to the public. Performance Art has let the general public express themselves through word, dance, music, mimickery and put forth their feelings and thoughts.
In the 21st century, performance art might not be as radical as in the past, it has however shaped to blur the lines of what composes as performance art and what does not. Performance art, in the age of this digital revolution, seems to be what its audience is willing to designate as such. An Instagram user, might view a makeup makeover of 21 days a performance art.
A good example of why any performance today maybe a piece of performance art is spoken word poetry. Poetry readings have existed for centuries, and although it is debatable what they accomplish, it is possible that spoken-word poetry has come into being by extension of that very concept. But given the evidence, there is something critical that this form is accomplishing. It is merging performance with the written word which gives a writer/performer additional apparatus to express. It isn’t merely knowledge of words that poetry channels. It is also emotion and imagination.
Platforms like AIB, Kommune, Bombay Lokal are the new museums for artists to let their work and collection be sold, collected, or exhibited. Such platforms, with the rise of YouTube and Instagram has let artists try and experiment with various performance arts. #DontRushChallenge is one such example of how artists have blurred the lines of performance art on social media.
Social Media platforms like Vine, back in 2016 and TikTok now, has in essence given rise to a modern-day Renaissance. Fundamentally, TikTok is a social platform for making, sharing and watching short videos using your Android phone or iPhone. These may be anywhere between three and 60 seconds long.
Functionally, TikTok does not offer much you can’t find in other apps. What really makes it so important is how it’s actually being used, by hundreds of millions around the world. The feature of prerecorded audios and music lets the users decide what they want to create.
Why are people drawn to TikTok?
Remember the cliché projections of ‘living the perfect life’ on Instagram? Instagram and Facebook to some extent presented the aspiring, perfect lives of users and TikTok offers the perfect antidote to it.
In TikTok videos there’s a real sense of kids ‘being themselves’ that you don’t get on other platforms. They aren’t heavily edited and cautiously produced, in fact they are the opposite of it. And that’s the point.
With numerous visual and auditory effects in the hand of each user, several thousand combinations have given rise to a generation of amateur comedians who otherwise never would have been discovered. TikTok is also becoming the platform for sharing art, design, 3D modelling or even animation. There are poets too who are big stars on TikTok.
TikTok content creators, unlike other social media platforms, jump from creating to riff on a song; to talk idly and aimlessly about whatever is in front of them. The platform encourages creators to jump from challenges to challenges and trends to trends, creating an enormous pool of varied content. From a married woman hailing from a rural village in India, dubbing dialogues in English and Hindi to a star influencer dancing on a hit song, TikTok is a place of modern art. Performance art crosses boundaries of absurd, yet it is still considered art because it is a reflection of the artist’s thoughts. TikTok encourages the same.
The more labor-intensive TikToks are the ones with fine arts, including paintings, drawings, collages and more. This passion extends further to minute-long cookie decorating tutorials and even multi-tiered cake recipes.
Some of the best TikToks are by freestyle rappers, with many of them taking suggestions from their fanbase and comments about how to produce their next TikTok, much like a paid musician would. Every new TikTok stands as an art piece in itself, whether it’s a feat of videography, music, dance or comedy.
What if TikTok is a ready-made performance art platform that has not been leveraged by any brand or category?
TikTok is a platform thriving on user generated art. From embarrassing personal stories to elaborately planned sketches bordering on short film statuses (which can give Netflix stand up specials a run for their money), TikTok has laid out the map for the new, modern performance art.
During the periods of emergence of performance art and after it was well established, many art acts seemed weird and absurd. The weird and absurd art was actually the raw representation of the artists’ thoughts and work. A prime example: Joseph Beuys for his performance – I like America and America Likes Me (1974) spent three days both healing and being healed by his temporary roommate: a wild coyote. Tiktok too has been tagged weird, absurd and sometimes, crazy.
The fact is that this crazy is the stockpile of creative content and art. We have only been looking at social media as a place of likes and followers and scrolling the feed up and down. Tiktok has 500 million users and viewers who are creating content every minute. It is a volcano of art waiting to erupt.
Tiktok has not been seen as a landmine of art, when it actually is. We all have been accustomed to social media platforms being acutely perfect that the honest, authentic tactics of men and women cringe us. Performance art, just like Tiktok, in many ways, strives to bring out this. As it includes the artist himself or herself being the art, the honest, authentic idiosyncrasies of humans come out.
For brands who always are looking to churn out user generated content, TikTok, is, itself user generated creative content. Instead of creating challenges, specifically for a campaign, it is time for brands to let the existing content be a campaign.
In times like these when production houses are shut, professional creators are tied because of limited resources, tiktok users offer a post-produced, creatively curated content. The proliferation of performance art platforms like Kommune and Bombay Lokal, UnErase Poetry has made us look at performance art with a finely curate, limited lens of an open mic or stand up. When the actual meaning of performance art is the artist’s expression of art – then TikTok becomes synonymous to it.
Customers are drawn towards a brand that honestly portrays itself. Loyalty and preference are increased towards a brand when it is perceived to be authentic. If authenticity is what a consumer looks for in a brand, then isn’t the TikTok the right place for building it? The varied, diverse, availability of authentic art on TikTok makes it an untapped opportunity for brands to explore its full potential.
Some examples of TikTok creative videos are: