The practical difference between the work of the visual artist and that of the performance artist is the difference between producing art and becoming art. With a painting or a short story, the work is completed in private, the artist having complete control over the process and not releasing it to the public until he or she is good and ready.
Nothing could be further from the truth for all of us as we squeezed into tall boots, cinched up our corsets, and balanced preposterous three-dimensional fantasies precariously atop our heads. No matter how many hours (days! weeks!) had gone into our costumes, now was the moment for it all to come together, the time to present the world with our creation. And the creation was us.
When we become our art in this way, we can feel almost separated from our everyday selves, or at least the parts of ourselves that tell us we have to be perfect, or modest, or quiet. In the give-and-take with the world—our audience—strangers can become friends, and friends we knew just a moment before can change into beautifully strange and new versions of themselves. We dance through a waking dream. We become our own imaginations.
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