North America. From Bodies to Nature.
The origins of the post-war performance art movement can be traced to several places. The presence of composer John Cage and dancer Merce Cunningham at North Carolina’s Black Mountain College did much to foster performance at this most unconventional art institution. It also inspired Robert Rauschenberg, who would become heavily involved with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Cage’s teaching in New York also shaped the work of artists such as George Brecht, Yoko Ono, and Allan Kaprow, who formed part of the impetus behind the Fluxus movement and the birth of “happenings,” both of which placed performance at the heart of their activities.
In the late 1950s, performance art in Europe began to develop alongside the work being done in the United States. Still affected by the fallout from World War II, many European artists were frustrated by the apolitical nature of Abstract Expressionism, the prevalent movement of the time. They looked for new styles of art that were bold and challenging. Fluxus provided one important focus for Performance art in Europe, attracting artists such as Joseph Beuys. In the next few years, major European cities such as Amsterdam, Cologne, Düsseldorf, and Paris were the sites of ambitious performance gatherings.