Sylvia Schwenk’s practice looks at the relationship between performance and the everyday, reflecting upon the significance and beauty of commonplace activities and spaces. Sylvia creates works which focus on inter-human relational practices that emphasise collaboration, dialogue and audience activation. Sometimes Sylvia simply captures a moment, space or action. Other times she creates socially based works of participatory performance art using what she calls performosis – a process where everyday people become performers, and spectators and passers-by performing their daily activities become active parts in the work of performance art Sylvia directs.
For her participatory works of performance art, Sylvia often works in site specific locations outside the art gallery environment, creating works that respond to the particulars of the space and local community. In the week(s) leading up to the performance, Sylvia meets everyday people who share the public space where the work will be presented and invites them to become performers. She directs a 30 minute rehearsal immediately before the ‘live’ performance, where the performers – people who generally do not know each other, start working together, communicating with one another, helping each other, and implicitly trusting each other to present the work of performance art in a professional and cohesive way – transforming themselves from a group of individuals into a unified group of performers.
Sylvia directs and choreographs these works with a fun and light-hearted approach, to engender positive experiences for the performers and passers-by that unwittingly become active parts of the work. Her works are inclusive and encourage interaction and participation between people who use the space where the work is being performed, spectators, art audiences, and the ‘live’ work of performance art. This interaction is an integral part of the work.
Sylvia’s practice is interdisciplinary and she works across mediums choosing the art form that best represents her concepts. This applies equally to her works of participatory performance art which have multiple outcomes, namely the performances themselves (including the rehearsal and preliminary work leading up to the performance), through to the final evolution of the work into photographic, video, text, installation and/or sculptural works that are exhibited and re-present the performance to new audiences in different ways and contexts.