To Be or Not to Be There: When the performer leaves the scene and makes room for the audience

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While creating an artwork, the artist must deal with deciding what to keep and what to let go. For anything that remains, something else has to be discarded. This happens in various forms of art. Presence and absence dictate what is left, and what is taken. Given this premise, this paper asks: what if the performer leaves the scene? What will remain? And what will be the consequences of such leftovers for both the audience and the performance? The present article aims to answer these questions by analysing three works by three artists who have dealt with presence and absence in different ways: Siluetas Series (1973-78) by Ana Mendieta, Daydream Island (2000) by Mike Parr, and my own piece The Foreigner (2016). Each of these three artworks focuses on the presence/absence of the performer and its consequences on the relationship with the audience, and thus the performance itself. The paper shows how the partial or full absence of the artist may work as a way to make room for the audience and the performative action itself, creating a liminal space in which the audience can move at their own pace and become an active part of the performance. The performer is seen here as a catalyst of forces, a vehicle for events to happen that “disappears” to let the performance, the surrounding environment, and the dynamics at stake emerge and manifest. ‘Mediation’ and ‘intimacy’ are the keywords for these of works. The more the artists mediate the contact between the audience and the performer, the more the audience takes space into the work and become intimate to it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-143
Number of pages9
JournalPerformance Research
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Performance art
  • PhD arts-based dissertation
  • PHD method
  • practice research
  • Migration Studies
  • performing arts
  • Space
  • Time perception
  • Audience engagement
  • Audience behaviour
  • Art history
  • Visual art
  • Documentation
  • Protest responses
  • contemporary art

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