Performance art has become commonplace within contemporary art practice and is now embedded within the art historical tradition due to the likes of Joseph Beuys and Yoko Ono. Even pop stars like Lady Gaga consider their creative output as ‘art’ and are collaborating with performance artists to push the boundaries of what is considered ‘art’ in it’s essence. Performance art is interdisciplinary and involves four basic elements of time, space, the performer’s body or presence within the medium, and a relationship between performer and audience.

One of the most strikingly unique new artists to emerge is Heather Hansen. A New Orleans based dancer and artist, who has recently exhibited ‘The Value of Line’ at the Ochi Gallery in Ketchum, Idaho. To create her impressive works, she covers the floor with a massive sheet of canvas paper and then dips her body in charcoal. She steps into the art work and begins to move her body in a ritualistic dance, delicately swooping and moving her body to create harmonious, symmetrical shapes. There is an organic, earthy sense to her work through the fluid use of her body, which appeals directly to the audience in a phenomenological sense. The shapes she creates are circular organic forms found in nature and draw parallels to Georgia O’Keefe’s flower paintings.

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There is a tangible and kinetic dynamism, which mesmerizes and entices the viewer to partake in her ritual, almost ceremonial experience. The hollow circles could be read as a metaphor for the hollow transience of human existence within our capitalist society. Is Hansen saying that our bodily experiences ground us? Or is it literally just a performance?   She is yet to make a comment on the meaning of her work so we can only speculate.

Hansen has utilised the social media phenomena and posted her orgastic creations on Vimeo and YouTube, bringing the audience and the performer closer together through the perceived immediacy of technology. Her innovative approach to performance art and the breaching of interdisciplinary forms brings her work into the ongoing debate of what is ‘art’ within the 21st century.

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All photos by Bryan Tarnowski: http://www.bryantarnowski.com

Watch a film of her work here:

By Maisie Waters

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