STUART BRISLEY, Being and Doing, 1984, Arts Council England Collection / British Film Institute

Being and Doing

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For a transcript of the film text, please go to the text section.

Performance art is a term used to describe a live art activity that fits uneasily into critical categories. It is ephemeral and often dangerous.

In ‘Being and Doing’ filmmaker Ken McMullen and artist Stuart Brisley collaborate to search out the origins of performance art, connecting it not to modernism but to ancient folk rituals in England and Europe. These rituals offer a drama where the division between performer and audience has not been institutionalised. They testify to powerful behavioural traditions which have survived the transition from an agricultural to an industrial society.

Performance art springs from these traditions but self consciously draws on the artist’s sense of alienation and isolation within society. The artists present in this film are chosen because their work challenges those who regulate the institutions of society.
The recordings of the performances have been extensively manipulated: the images slowed down, fragmented:
 details isolated to construct a filmic memory of the events. This process, combined with a jagged editing style, both reinstates the original impact while
 giving the film the grainy rough-edged quality of a newsreel.

The film confronts, in its construction
, the same questions as those posed by the artists represented and stands in the same relation to traditional documentary as performance work does to conventional art. It demonstrates that performance art is as much about the observer as the observed.

Performance extracts by: Tibor Hajas
(Hungary), Rasa Todosijevic (Yugoslavia), lain Robertson (Scotland), Zbigniew Warpechowski (Poland), Milan Knizak (Czechoslovakia), Natalia LL (Poland), 
Ewa Partum (Poland), Jan Micoch (Czechoslovakia), Sonia Knox (N. Ireland), Jerzy Beres (Poland),
 Stuart Brisley (England), The Haxey Hood (England), Padstow Hobbyhorse (England).