When good ol’ boy D’aron Davenport from Welcome to Braggsville lets it slip that his hometown in Georgia hosts an annual Civil War reenactment, his new friends at UC Berkeley plan to stage a protest in the form of a “performative intervention.” Dramaturg Rebecca Fredrickson explores the concept of performative intervention.

Mark Tribe
Mark Tribe. Photo by Valueyou

Performative intervention is a concept based on Mark Tribe’s theory of new media art. In his book, appropriately titled New Media Art  co-authored with Reena Jana, Tribe outlines his ideas about the way art can intervene as a form of protest. For example, the authors tell the story of Cornelia Sollfrank, an artist who worked with hackers to intervene:

“For her Cyberfeminist project Female Extension, Sollfrank worked with hackers to develop a software program that generates works of net art by sampling and remixing elements from existing websites. To expose the sexism that she believes pervades contemporary curatorial practices, she then submitted more than 200 of these works to an international net art competition under false female names, thus ensuring that a majority of the entrants were women. When the jury announced the three winners, all of whom were men, Sollfrank revealed her intervention.”

Tribe focuses the majority of his talk about intervention on the internet. He describes it as “an accessible public space similar to an urban sidewalk or square where people converse, do business, or just wander around. Part of the appeal of this space is that it is outside the museum-gallery complex, and thus gives artists access to a broad, non-art audience.” Internet inventions have taken place in places like the video game “Counter-Strike”and on eBay. Tribe goes on to describe the bleed-through into physical space:

“Other new media artists intervene in physical public spaces. In Pedestrian, Paul Kaiser and Shelley Eshkar project computer generated animations onto urban sidewalks and public plazas. In BorderXing, Heath Bunting and Kayle Brandon document their attempts to cross international borders illegally by posting digital photographs and diaristic texts on a Web site. Torolab’s Vertex Project is a proposal for a footbridge across the Tijuana/San Diego border. Equipped with billboard-sized screens, the bridge would serve as a public gallery for images, texts, and other media submitted via a nearby computer.”

Within this technique, art and performance are used to intervene in public spaces, whether physical or virtual, in order to make artistic statements to an audience that did not necessarily plan to encounter art, especially art with a political statement.

“Documentary filmmaking is the next social protest movement. Documenting protests, that is. A performative intervention. Read Mark Tribe.” – Welcome to Braggsville

The razor-sharp Welcome to Braggsville runs June 7-July 2, 2017. Tickets available here.