Since the early 20th century, artists have been incorporating such non-traditional forms as dance, music, and their own actions into their art. The artists of the Dada and Futurist movements, for example, presented provocative performances meant to shock the public awake to their vision of society. But before World War II, performance occupied a less privileged place in the art world than the traditional mediums of painting, printmaking, and sculpture. Even the relatively newer and rapidly developing mediums of film and photography were more readily accepted as art than performance.

By the late 1950s, artists found themselves confronted by the realities of postwar reconstruction, new wars and ideologies (among them the Vietnam War and Communism), burgeoning social movements spurred by historically disenfranchised populations and increasingly disaffected younger generations, and a flurry of technological innovations. Within this cultural climate, artists began to question the role, relevance, and definition of art as they knew it. They blurred the boundaries between disciplines and embraced and re-configured new technologies, creating works that have come to be known as Media Art.

Perhaps most radically, artists from the early 20th century on have been breaking down the barriers between art and life by presenting projects outside of the context of museums and galleries, staging performances in the public sphere, and bringing everyday activities and materials into their work. Suddenly, art could be anything, and everything could be art.

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