A performance is never rehearsed, a performance is never repeated


water pistols
lemon juice

Additional Information

Chris Burden performed for an hour on public radio in the 1970s. The performance was called Send me your money. The performance was a monologue in which Burden described his financial situation and artistic practice, interspersed with the regular refrain of his name and address: Chris Burden, 823 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, California. So that any listeners could send him dollar bills or cheques through the post. Burden described why he was performing the piece during the piece itself, saying that he needed money in order to make more art: so the material of the piece (the words) was also a description of the piece (in the manner of programme notes in music or wall text in art). A performance is never rehearsed, a performance is never repeated also uses this method: the programme notes of the piece double up as the sounding material. They also have another role. The words are a text score. They not only inform the audience about the piece, but they also directly tell the performers how to perform the piece. So:

Programme notes (for audience), Sounding material (for both audience and performers), Text score (for performers).

Burden’s performance was given in a visual art context. He was an artist, supported by a gallery, and as such, could perform an unchanging monologue for an hour without the implicit need for it to develop. Despite the changes within music throughout the 20th Century I still feel that some kind of audible development or process is expected within a music context. When a piece doesn’t develop then it will often be presented as an ‘installation’. This piece obeys this convention; this requirement to develop. As such it is a process piece. It is an audible process of decay, as the precise attack of the voice is gradually worn away by undiluted lemon juice impeding the performers ability to speak clearly. There is also a coda of sorts: once the lemon juice has run out, the text can be heard clearly one final time. Chris Burden was known in the 1970s for works of art the dealt with physical endurance and violence. A performance is never rehearsed, a performance is never repeated reflects this, but in a different register. It is something for the performers (and perhaps the audience) to endure, but without the overt risk and violence of Burden’s work.





Date published
Date recorded
Neil Luck and Andy Ingamells
A performance is never rehearsed, a performance is never repeated