Bergson's Duration Concept in Performance Art Guide
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. What is Bergson's Duration Concept?
  2. How does Duration Concept apply to Performance Art?
  3. Examples of Duration Concept in Performance Art
  4. How to apply Duration Concept in your own art
  5. Why does Duration matter in Performance Art?
  6. Tips for emphasizing Duration in Performance Art
  7. Challenges and solutions in applying Duration Concept

Have you ever watched a performance and felt captivated by the passage of time? This feeling, this sense of continuous flow, is at the heart of Bergson's Duration Concept. Put simply, it's a philosophical perspective that can change the way you view and create performance art. Let's take a deep dive into the world of Bergson's Duration Concept in performance art and discover its magic together.

What is Bergson's Duration Concept?

Henri Bergson, a French philosopher, came up with the concept of duration (or durée in French) in his work – a concept that can be a bit tricky to grasp at first. But hey, no worries, we're in this together. So, let's break it down.

At its core, Bergson's Duration Concept is about time. But it's not about time as we typically understand it - a series of distinct moments we can count or measure. Instead, Bergson suggests that time is much more fluid, much more continuous. He talks about time as a flowing river where every moment merges into the next, creating a seamless, unbroken experience.

What does this mean for us? It means that our experience of time isn't just a collection of separate moments. Instead, it's a continual flow that we're a part of. We don't simply live in the present, moving from one moment to the next. We carry our past experiences with us, and they shape our present. This is the essence of Bergson's Duration Concept.

So how does this unique and fascinating concept apply to the world of performance art? Great question! Let's move on to the next section to find out.

How does Duration Concept apply to Performance Art?

Now that we have a grasp on Bergson's Duration Concept, let's see how it plays out on the performance art stage. When you think about it, performance art is a perfect fit for this concept because it's all about experiencing the continuous flow of time. The performance isn't just a series of separate actions; it's a whole experience that unfolds over time.

From the perspective of Bergson's Duration Concept, every performance is a unique journey through time. As the performance progresses, each moment flows into the next. The artist doesn't just perform a series of actions—they weave together a continuous thread of experience that pulls the audience along.

Just like the flowing river of time Bergson talked about, a performance art piece is never the same twice. Each performance is a unique experience, shaped by the artist, the audience, and the context in which it's performed. This is what makes performance art so powerful and engaging—it's a living, breathing embodiment of Bergson's Duration Concept.

But don't just take my word for it. In the next section, we'll look at some concrete examples of how Bergson's Duration Concept plays out in performance art. So stay tuned!

Examples of Duration Concept in Performance Art

Let's explore some fascinating examples that beautifully illustrate Bergson's duration concept in performance art. By observing these, you can gain a more tangible understanding of the concept, and maybe even stir your creativity.

First up, we have Marina Abramović's 'The Artist is Present'. In this performance, Abramović sat immobile in the museum's atrium while spectators were invited to take turns sitting opposite her. This piece stretched over three months, with Abramović spending seven hours a day, six days a week, simply being present with whoever chose to sit with her. The duration was a central element, emphasizing the passage of time and its impact on both the artist and the audience.

Another striking example is Tehching Hsieh's 'One Year Performance 1980–1981'. Hsieh punched a clock every hour on the hour, twenty-four hours a day, for an entire year. Here, the repetition and rhythm of the action, combined with the grueling length of time, brought the concept of duration into sharp focus.

Finally, consider Yoko Ono's 'Cut Piece'. Ono sat on a stage and invited audience members to come up and cut a piece of her clothing off. The performance ended when Ono decided it was over. The changing state of Ono's attire, along with the uncertainty of the performance's end, made the passing of time palpable for everyone involved.

These examples reveal the incredible power of Bergson's duration concept in performance art. By experiencing time in a new way, we can forge deeper connections with the art and feel more engaged in the performance.

How to apply Duration Concept in your own art

Now that you've seen Bergson's duration concept in action, you might be wondering how to incorporate it into your own work. Fear not! Here are some practical steps to get you started:

Step 1: Understand the Concept

First, make sure you fully grasp what Bergson's duration concept is all about. It isn't just about time—it's about the subjective experience of time. Don't think of it as a clock ticking away; instead, think of it as how you feel when you're immersed in a task and lose track of time.

Step 2: Choose Your Medium

Next, choose the medium for your art. Performance art can take many forms, from dance and theater to installations and interactive exhibits. Pick the one that resonates with you and seems best suited to convey the sense of duration.

Step 3: Design the Piece

Now comes the fun part—designing the piece. How can you manipulate time to create a unique experience for your audience? You might consider long, repetitive actions, unexpected delays, or a performance that evolves over a long period.

Step 4: Practice and Perfect

Finally, practice your performance and tweak it as needed. Remember, the goal is to create a piece where time is felt—not just measured.

Applying Bergson's duration concept in performance art can be a challenging but rewarding journey. It demands creativity, patience, and a willingness to see time in a new way. But the result—creating a work of art that truly engages your audience—is well worth the effort.

Why does Duration matter in Performance Art?

When you think about performance art, duration might not be the first thing that springs to mind. But, wait a minute—why is it so important? Let's break it down.

The Experience of Time

Bergson's duration concept redefines our understanding of time. It's not about the minutes and hours on a clock—it's about how we perceive and experience time. This perception can drastically shift the viewer's experience of a performance. A five-minute piece that feels like an eternity and a three-hour piece that whizzes by both demonstrate the power of duration in performance art.

Creating Connection

Duration in performance art can build a unique bond between performer and audience. Sharing the same temporal experience can create a sense of unity and shared understanding. This bond can make your performance not just a spectacle, but a communal journey.

Challenging Expectations

By playing with duration, you can upend your audience's expectations and keep them on their toes. A performance that seems to stretch or compress time can be both disorientating and fascinating—leaving a lasting impression long after the curtains close.

So, when you're planning your next piece of performance art, give some thought to duration. It's not just a measure of time—it's a powerful tool that can transform your art and captivate your audience.

Tips for emphasizing Duration in Performance Art

Now that we've established the significance of Bergson's duration concept in performance art, let's dive into some practical ways you can emphasize duration in your performances.

Build Awareness of Time

Before you can manipulate your audience's perception of time, you need to make them aware of it. Try incorporating elements like repetitive movements or sounds, which can make the passing of time more noticeable.

Play with Pace

The speed of your performance can greatly influence how long it feels. A slow, deliberate pace can stretch time, while a frantic pace can make it seem to fly by. Experiment with different tempos to see what effect it has on your audience's sense of duration.

Use Timing to Highlight Important Moments

By extending or compressing certain moments, you can draw attention to key parts of your performance. For instance, a drawn-out pause can create tension, while a rapid sequence of events can create excitement.

Engage the Senses

Remember, duration is about perception, not just time. By engaging multiple senses—sight, sound, touch, even smell—you can create a more immersive experience that alters the audience's sense of time.

These are just a few of the ways you can use Bergson's duration concept to enhance your performance art. Remember, there's no right or wrong way to approach it—it's all about what works best for your art and your audience.

Challenges and solutions in applying Duration Concept

Applying Bergson's duration concept to performance art isn't always a walk in the park. There are a few hurdles you might run into along the way. But don't worry—we've got some solutions up our sleeves.

Challenge: Keeping the audience engaged

Manipulating time can make a performance feel longer, which could potentially bore your audience. To combat this, try to keep a balance between duration and engagement. You want to play with their perception of time, not test their patience.

Challenge: Communicating non-verbally

Performance art often relies on non-verbal communication, which can be hard to sustain over extended durations. Think about how you can use movements, props, or sounds to communicate your message effectively.

Challenge: Maintaining energy levels

A performance that stretches on for a long time can be exhausting, both for you and for your audience. Be sure to plan for breaks or changes in the pace to keep things fresh.

Challenge: Measuring the impact

Because Bergson's duration concept is about perception, it can be hard to measure its impact. However, you can gauge it by observing your audience's reactions or asking for their feedback.

Remember, every challenge is a chance to grow. So don't let these potential hurdles deter you from exploring the fascinating concept of duration in your performance art. After all, the beauty of art lies in its complexity, doesn't it?

If you're intrigued by the concept of Bergson's Duration in performance art and want to explore more experimental and avant-garde techniques, check out the workshop 'Exploring Experimental & Conceptual Still Life' by Magali Polverino. This workshop will provide you with a deeper understanding of the creative process and help you push the boundaries of your artistic expression.