How Do I Become a Performance Artist?

G. Wiesen

If you want to become a performance artist, you should typically have a background in art in general so you have a sense of what others have done and how to use various aspects of composition. Beyond this knowledge, however, there are no absolute requirements for someone interested in performance art. The nature of any performance you wish to create is likely to dictate what types of skills and knowledge you should have. If you want to become a performance artist creating works that incorporate multimedia and computer hardware, for example, then you may want some knowledge of computer science and even programming.

A performance artist may sing on stage.
A performance artist may sing on stage.

To become a performance artist, you should typically have an understanding of various artistic concepts and trends. A performance artist usually works with a number of mediums, often including live performances or acting, to create an artistic work that defies simple classification within another genre of artistic work. While you may not want to use paint and a canvas as a performance artist, for example, it can help your performance if you understand different concepts regarding artistic compositions. Understanding color theory, knowing how to work with negative space, and working with shadows to create various effects can all help you become a performance artist.

Musicians constantly practice their art to improve their skills.
Musicians constantly practice their art to improve their skills.

Other than a basic understanding of different artistic movements and methodologies, however, there is little structured knowledge you need to have to become a performance artist. Other abilities or knowledge you may want depends on the type of performance you would like to create. If you want to work with recorded audio and video to construct elaborate performances using mixed media presentations, for example, then you may want to learn more about film or video recording. On the other hand, if you want to use dance in your performance, then a greater understanding of various dance traditions may help you become a performance artist.

There are other skills or abilities that can help you become a performance artist, such as understanding technology and software used in creating interactive media. Many artists have begun using hardware and software to create performances that can be interactive for audiences or even displayed online for a much wider audience. If you are interested in using such technology, then you should consider learning about different types of computer hardware. You may also want to learn some computer programming, since this would allow you to create your own applications, rather than relying on the tools provided by others.

A performance artist may spend time in a recording studio.
A performance artist may spend time in a recording studio.

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Discussion Comments


I have seen some amazing performance art. My favorite was one that was called Snow and featured all kinds of little sketches and gymnastic feats, with a bunch of romance and tragedy mixed in, as well as getting the audience to participate.

I love seeing something that is basically completely about joy.


@Fa5t3r - It depends on what kind of performance art you're going for though. I mean, to become an artist in, say, sleight of hand or something like that, you are almost certainly going to have to watch other artists or read about them in order to even know how to proceed.

But if you're doing something like a one man show I don't know if it's all that necessary to be an expert. Sometimes people just happen to have a great and original idea and it is original because they aren't doing the same performance art that everyone in the scene is doing.


I think, if you're interested in performance art, you should definitely go and see as much of it as possible yourself. I think that's one of the most important aspects of how to be an artist, actually, because you just have no idea how original or important an idea is until you know what ideas others have had before you.

I know some people seem to think that seeing the art of others is somehow going to contaminate their creativity, but I just don't think that is the way that creativity works.

And I find it quite disrespectful when someone tries to do something new that has actually been done a hundred times before, and better, but they just didn't know it because they never bothered to learn.

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