Performance art is one of the only art forms that is completely fleeting.
Once a performance ends, the project is ostensibly over. It’s a brand of art so temporary that attempting to capture the energy, exhilaration, and power of it is a challenge of its own. For Berlin-based photographer Patrick Morarescu, shooting those ephemeral moments of creation has been his mission since 2010.
Morarescu’s interest in his subjects originates in his fascination with artistic practice itself, as he’s a member of the performance community himself. “When I started I was invited to perform in a festival. Gathering with all the other artists I also knew, I decided to shoot some portraits,” he tells me. With knowledge of his subjects and an insider’s connection to the performance world, he began his project. He was searching to find the “similarities and differences of the artists who choose performance art as their main language,” he explains.
Jelili Aitku [NIG]
Ieke Trinks [NL]
Since the impetus of his “Performance” series, Morarescu has shot over 180 performance artists from many countries, finding them at festivals and exhibits just moments after their art piece has been completed. What’s left on these diverse faces are looks of triumph, exhaustion, meditation, pride, and satisfaction. The portraits ask us to consider not only the contents of the performance art, but the interior life of the performers, the spaces around them, and their unique personalities.
For those whose knowledge of performance art only extends as far as Marina Abramović, Morarescu’s portraits will open up a door of curiosity to the unseen world of performance art. “Performance art is minority and marginal. It happens normally in front of small audiences and alternative venues, far from the mainstream,” Morarescu says. “What makes it special is its temporal condition, the fact that this art form is destructed at the same moment that it is created.” The photographer explains that, “any effort to document or register them [the performances] become new products that are something different and its authenticity is controversial.”
Morarescu claims that the most unique aspect of performance art is that it needs a public to exist. Performance art demands some sort of social interaction to come alive. Morarescu says, “the experience is more important than the product.” On that note, when I asked him the best performance art he has witnessed and shot, he says he can’t pick favorites. “I think the nicest moments happen, not only when the artist is being brilliant, but when the public is brilliant, open, receptive, participant, collaborative.”
Ato Malinda [KEN]
While taking his portraits, Morarescu usually acts quickly, asking for 5 minutes of the performance artists’ time and placing them in frame without giving them much instruction. He searches for the right connection and then shoots them with his Hasselblad 500CM with a 50mm Distagon on color negative film.
This instinctive and hastened process helps preserve the mood of each performer. “I wanted to catch the moment after, when the artists still have the energy of the creativity; they still have an energetic and powerful aura with a strong accent… It feels like you can still catch the traces of what happened in the performance some minutes before,” Morarescu says.
Below are just some portraits from Morarescu’s impressive, immersive collection, including some exclusive shots from his newest series. Not one portrait feels the same, not one alone can truly tell the story of performance art. With over 180 portraits in his collection, I was curious about when Morarescu will finally decide he’s told the story of performance art. I have a kind of Buddhistic approach,” he says. “I don‘t think in goals or aims, I just do it until I find it has sense for me. Let‘s see, maybe it will be forever, maybe I will stop tomorrow…”
We hope he doesn’t.
Anna Kalwajtys [POL]
Christian Etongo, Sandra Douma & Elyphaèl-Monkééy [CAM]
Mimosa Pale [FIN]
Arianne Foks [FRA]
VestAndPage [GER / ITA]
Lan Hungh [TAW]
He Chengyao [CHN]
Hervé Yamguen [CAM]
Invalid Address [ESP]
Jared Gradinger & Angela Schubot [USA/GER]
Roland Walter [GER]
Michael Steger [GER]
Sindy Butz [GER]
Ida Nikitin [FIN]
Washni Kuni [IR]
Lisa Stertz [GER]
All photography by Patrick Morarescu.