Performance art is a performance presented to an audience; either scripted or unscripted, random or carefully orchestrated; spontaneous or otherwise carefully planned with or without audience participation. The performance can be live or via media; the performer can be present or absent. It can be any situation that involves four basic elements: time, space, the performer's body, or presence in a medium, and a relationship between performer and audience. Performance art can happen anywhere, in any venue or setting and for any length of time. The actions of an individual or a group at a particular place and in a particular time constitute the work.In the 1960s a variety of new works, concepts and the increasing number of artists led to new kinds of performance art.
Prototypic for the later emerging artform "performance art" were works of artists like Yoko Ono with her „Wall piece for orchestra“ (1962); Carolee Schneemann with pieces likeMeat Joy (1964); Joseph Beuys with How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare (1965); Yayoi Kusama, with actions such as a naked flag-burning on the Brooklyn Bridge (1968) andAllan Kaprow in his many Happenings.
Kaprow had coined the term Happening describing a new artform, at the beginning of the 1960s. A Happening allows the artist to experiment with body motion, recorded sounds, written and spoken texts, and even smells. One of Kaprow's earliest was "Happenings in the New York Scene," written in 1961 as the form was developing. Notably in the Happenings of Allan Kaprow, the audience members become performers. While the audiences in Happenings had been welcomed as the performers, it only sometimes and often unwittingly that they become an active part in a Performance. Other artists who created Happenings besides Kaprow include Jim Dine, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Whitman, and Wolf Vostell: Theater is in the Street (Paris in 1958).
Hermann Nitsch in 1962 presented his "Theatre of Orgies and Mysteries" (Orgien- und Mysterien Theater), a form close to the performing arts, and a precursor to performance art. Andy Warhol during the early 1960s began creating films and video. In the mid-60s Warhol sponsored the Velvet Underground and staged events and performances in New York, like the Exploding Plastic Inevitable (1966) that featured live Rock music, exploding lights, and film.
Indirectly influential for art-world performance, particularly in the United States, were new forms of theatre, embodied by the San Francisco Mime Troupe and the Living Theatre and showcased in Off-Off Broadway theaters in SoHO and at La MaMa in New York City. The Living Theatre chiefly toured in Europe between 1963 and 1968, and 1968 in the U.S. A work of this period, Paradise Now was notorious for its audience participation and a scene in which actors recited a list of social taboos that included nudity, while disrobing.
The work of performance artists after 1968 often showed influences of the cultural and political events of that year. Barbara T. Smith with Ritual Meal (1969) was at the forefront of the feminist body-, and performance art of the 1970s; among others including: Carolee Schneemann, and Joan Jonas. Schneemann and Jonas along with Yoko Ono, Joseph Beuys, Vito Acconci, and Chris Burden pioneered the relationship between Body art and performance art.