Performance & Video

Dancing in Peckham

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1) Summary

In Gillian Wearing’s Dancing in Peckham, 1994, it shows the artist (pictured above) in a London shopping mall dancing to music that she can only hear in her own head. The artist is sharing a private moment of dancing alone in a public space with strangers witnessing her own actions. Dancing in Peckham represents the presentation of oneself in everyday life. Gillian Wearing’s video work was created at the forefront of social media platforms, before the notion of how one presents themselves to the internet. Dancing in Peckham questions that at a very early stage. The original video was projected onto public buildings in ten different locations over a ten week period. Since the performative piece was not shown in an ordinary white walled gallery, it was able to be spectated by a stranger in their apartment or a random passerby on the street. With it being projected, people also were able to interact with the video art and create an interesting connection between the video created in 1994 and the people in present day.

2) Response

I think this piece of video art is a brilliant, powerful take on how we as human beings present our image to the public. It has a humorous side to it, but the aspect that I like the most is that it makes the viewer sort of uncomfortable, which I feel, to a certain extent, is what art should do. I also think it is an interesting concept of dancing in public and even though it is simple, it is visually captivating to witness. She seems to be in her own little world, not aware of all the chaos around her. The artist opens herself up to criticism and judgement in such a public area and allows herself to be vulnerable. Personally, the vulnerability and the act of not caring what others think is what ultimately held my attention the most. In today’s world, many people care too much about their public appearance and hide their true selves due to the fear of being judged by others. Just as Gillian Wearing’s Dancing in Peckham (original video), we should allow ourselves to be vulnerable because we are human beings made up of flesh and emotion.