About this term
Source: Oxford University Press
Descriptive term applied to ‘live’ presentations by artists. It was first used very loosely by artists in the early 1960s in the USA to refer to the many live events taking place at that time, such as Happenings, Fluxus concerts, Events, body art or (in Germany) Aktionen and Demonstrationen. In 1969 performance was more specifically incorporated into titles of work in the USA and UK and was interchangeable with ‘performance piece’ or simply ‘piece’, as in Vito Acconci’s Performance Test or Following Piece (both 1969), and by many other artists such as Dennis Oppenheim, Yoko Ono (b 1933), Dan Graham, Rebecca Horn, Joan Jonas, Laurie Anderson and Bruce Nauman. It was closely linked to the ideological tenets and philosophy of Conceptual Art, which insisted on ‘an art of which the material is concepts’ and on ‘an art that could not be bought and sold’; those who made performance pieces did so as a statement against the gallery system and the art establishment.
From Grove Art Online