Several years ago, I wrote a short essay titled "Performance for Pleasure and Performance for Instruction."  The text was prefaced with a lengthy quote from Brecht's 1936 essay, "Theatre for Pleasure or Theatre for Instruction," part of which included a paraphrasing of Marx's famous broadside aimed at Ludwig Feuerbach and the Young Hegelians – that, up to then (1845), philosophers had only "interpreted the world... the point is to change it!"  In substituting, after Brecht, the artist for philosopher, the central argument I proposed in this essay was that seventies performance had reached a theatrical impasse and it was necessary to consider the restraints, social and cultural, which had deterred the formation of an authentic politically engaged performance practice.
I argued that the narcissistic focus on self in mid- and late-seventies work had engendered a withdrawal from issues of a socio-political nature. I saw the commoditisation of performance art practice, its elevation into a beaux-arts institutional form, as well as the expression of a detached cynicism on the part of many of the producers of performance, as a very reactionary trend, analogous to that which the art world had begun to experience at that time with the re-introduction of "expressionist/new wave" painting. It seemed to me that the late-sixties, early-seventies prospects for the development of a truly politicised art form, beyond that which had been evidenced in performance prototypes from the late 1890s through to the late 1950s, had been negated – by the producers themselves, the critics and by the forces of the art marketplace.
For a few years (1968-1978), performance works were seen in the major venues for international art and a few special issues of art journals and magazines had devoted their contents to the exploration of performance in its various forms. By 1975, the absorption of performance (the theatre of visual art) into other disciplines such as film, video, dance, music, theatre, stand-up comedy and the appropriation of techniques and forms from these areas into performance theory, had hastened the institutionalisation of the forms of performance as sub-sections to standardised curricula in centres of higher learning.  'Performance' courses began to proliferate and the publication of several performance anthologies and a few histories (a continuing phenomenon), suggested that performance per se was no longer in a formative phase but had become academic.  This academicisation of performance was a necessary condition for its de-politicisation. The focus on theory, which in the late sixties carried the potential for the continuation of operative work, in the best avant-garde sense of the term, by the mid-seventies had collapsed into the formation of quasi-anthropological and psychosocial approaches to performance practice.  With few exceptions this has become the norm.
In the winter of 1981, I attended a conference in Montreal on the topic of "Multidisciplinary Aspects of Performance in Postmodern Culture," which was organised by the editorial board of Parachute magazine. The papers presented, the exhibition of installation works, and the showing of films, all confirmed the extraordinary range of cultural forms that by the 1980s could (safely) be subsumed under the rubric 'performance.' As well, as a feature of academicism, specialties had developed. My own paper, "The Function of Performance in Postmodern Culture: A Critique," provided evidence of the development of my own hand-wringing specialty – the renegotiation of the terms of discourse.  In this paper, I attempted to construct and argument for the recuperation of the functional (operative) aspects of performance art, and to establish its instrumentality and potential for social and cultural change.
It seemed to me at the time that performance as a generic term had been used too loosely to describe certain cultural manifestations and that its abuse and misuse in artworld discourse had led to category confusion. I noted that performance, as a term with a great deal of currency in popular language (economic performance, music performance, high performance engines, etc.), was unlikely to be co-opted by mass culture for general use, precisely because it was already in general use. However, the "refinements" to meaning established within the discourse of high culture allowed the term to be co-opted for specialised use in the fashion world. Just as the advertising system had for years been appropriating the forms and language of high culture in order to invest their promotion of certain products with "class," so too had the fashion world co-opted an artworld "buzz" word to lend significance to its products. The case I illustrated my argument with was Estée Lauder's Performance Collection (The Night Performer and the Performance Face Pack). While I was careful not to base my observations on any direct correlation between performance as a genre within visual art and the rhetoric of advertising, it seemed clear to me that the use of the term by the Lauder Company was not entirely fortuitous and paralleled the elevation of performance into the popular media – demonstrated by the coverage given to performance art "stars" in the pages of Life magazine, the Dick Cavett Show and other mass media forms. Performance, which for years had maintained a marginal position with respect to mass culture, had suddenly become popularised and almost, but not quite, entered the language of high school debating societies and the cocktail circuit.
Many thought that performance had made it at last or that a truly popular art form had emerged. With Laurie Anderson's recording success and the Kipper Kids vying for attention in the company of Jane Fonda's workout sessions, performance practitioners and critics could say that performance had become a late modern (or postmodern) art movement. It was ready for the historians to pursue their business in earnest. After all, the last time that art forms had gained so much popular attention was during the apogee of Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art, both of which "died" after reaching the pages of Life magazine. "Performance art is dead," read the epitaph of 1980. "Long live performance!"
In my paper, I used a quote which I still believe fairly represents, or better, typifies the problems of seventies performance practice, one which underlines the larger problem of producing socially committed art within advanced capitalist society. The quote was from a paper that Russell Jacoby had presented to the 1981 "Conference on Narcissism" held at SUNY, Cortland. Jacoby remarked that "advanced capitalism requires a programmed hedonism as much as earlier capitalism needed Calvinism and sacrifice" and closed his discussion with another comment:
The protest of narcissism within advanced capitalism is shot through with the society it rejects; it affirms and buttresses the commodity market; its mode of protest is private, its substance the exchange principle of capitalism. If sacrifice recalls pre-capitalist life, narcissism beckons a step closer the stock market of human relations. 
My conclusion rested upon Jacoby's analysis, itself informed by the many studies undertaken and the intense debates occurring within academia and elsewhere on the causes and symptoms of alienation in capitalist society. Jacoby and others had understood the resilience of capitalist ideology and more importantly the hegemonic tendencies that at first individualises forms of social protest, and then absorbs, assimilates and integrates these into its own ideological system. Narcissism is but a symptom of the commoditisation of daily life under capitalism. The power of capitalist social relations is such that it renders most modes of protest, including that of narcissism itself, impotent. I wrote that
The main obstacle performance producers and by extension critics and historians face in the conscious development of a function for performance is this sense of denial for the sake of transcendence. To go beyond a modernist essentialism, it may be necessary to critically affirm or at least take stock of modernism's basic premises. Performance it seems to me is now in the dysfunctional mode. Before performance, like narcissism, begins "to beckon a step closer to the stock market of human relations," we must gain a clearer understanding of its specific instrumentalities. 
The issues at the time of this Montreal conference seemed extraordinarily complex. The "hot topics" in many of the papers presented included the modernist/postmodernist debate and the death of the avant-garde, appropriation, the return to representational painting (figuration), allegory and Benjamin's "redemptive criticism." Performance per se,and not simply the performance of artists in postmodern (advanced capitalist) society, was relegated to a relatively minor position in these discussions. The critical issues underlining many of the debates concerned the reactionary trend in recent art production and criticism and the failure of the contemporary vanguard "movements" to approximate and go beyond the ideological positions and strategies of the historical avant-gardes of the early decades of the Twentieth Century. The "institutionalisation" of the neo-avant-gardes" (Bürger) and their capitulation to the dominance of capitalist social relations in all aspects of the production, reproduction and consumption processes seemed to dispel the opportunities for theorising an engaged or activist art practice.
My opaque references to a critical affirmation of modernism's basic premises alluded to the disjunction between the aims of the contemporary vanguards and their historical predecessors. The "denial for the sake of transcendence" was an allusion to the range of behaviours that allowed artists to theoretically disengage their work from a belief in the social efficacy of an engaged art practice, to routinely exercise the forms of social commitment without enacting its substance; and this, to simplify somewhat, was to allow them a strategic place in the pantheon of historically important artists. I was convinced that the "instrumentalities" of the historical avant-garde projects, traditionally leftist or at least anti-bourgeois, were in urgent need of revivification; beyond this, the activist/antagonist role of the avant-garde was in need of reassessment and revision. With evidence of the commodification and institutionalisation of performance practice in abundance, it seemed clear that performance, to regain its potential for social and cultural efficacy, had to realign itself with the more progressive tendencies of the historical avant-gardes without reproducing their conventional characteristics – without subscribing to what art historian Nicos Hadjinicolaou and others have termed the ideology of avant-gardism. That is to say, the conditions that determined the investiture of the artist and his/her productions into the institution of art had to be renounced in favour of a re-marginalisation. 
During the Fall of 1981, I began re-reading a book that I had obtained sometime in 1973, sociologist Alfred Willener's The Action-Image of Society: On Cultural Politicisation, a book that focuses on the events in France in May and June of 1968. This book had been my first introduction to the work of the Situationist International, a group that operated from 1958 to 1971. My return to this text was precipitated by a number of interview discussions that I had initiated with producers of political performance whose work strategies reminded me of those of the Situationists. I found the Situationist use of the term intervention suitable as a general description for the type of performance we were discussing and the term was used in a publication title when two of the interviews (with Martha Rosler and Adrian Piper) were published in 1981. 
The Situationist group, which during its years of operation numbered some seventy individuals spanning two continents, was not a typical avant-garde formation, neither was it a political party. However, it did exhibit features of both social formations. It was composed of an elite group of intellectuals whose raison d'être was the establishment of a coherent and active critique of advanced capitalist society and the cultural formations existing therein. Their central organ, the (Revue) Internationale Situationniste, a glossy and expensively produced magazine, first appeared in the summer of 1958. Describing the magazine in 1974, the English Situationist Christopher Gray wrote:
It wasn't just a "magazine". The articles presented a coherent and interwoven attack on the whole of contemporary social life and culture. Half were written collectively and left unsigned. Editors and contributors were French, Dutch, Belgian, German, Scandinavian, Italian and Arab; all apparently belonging to the same international organisation. Physically the magazine was well coordinated. The layout was eminently sober, the paper the highest gloss, and the covers glowing gold metal-board. These, which must have been ludicrously expensive, were apparently to stop the thing getting wet in the rain. And it was dead cheap. And there was no copyright. 
The first issue contained a comprehensive critique of art and many of the articles presented theoretical alternatives to conventional forms of production and distribution and elaborated upon the construction of what they termed situations. The basic precepts for the transformation of cultural practices were subsumed under several key concepts which were to remain at the heart of the S.I. programme for the next ten years: subversion, succession, revolutionary play, unitary urbanism, psychogeography, the construction of situations, and the exemplary action. Intervention occurs frequently in S.I. writings, but was not defined in the same manner as these other terms. Occasionally, it was linked to the notion of exemplary action. However, these two "performance strategies" are very different in intention and form. Subsequent issues of the Revue I.S. developed the critique of consumer society begun in the late fifties. While shunned by the establishment culture, many of the Situationists' slogans and key terms became "buzz" words within the left student movement in France during the mid-to-late sixties.
Situationist International, On the Poverty of Student Life. First published in 1966 by members of the SI and students of the Université Strasbourg.
The influence of the Situationists on the events of May 68 has been discussed at length by many researchers of this intense "revolutionary" period. Some have dismissed the group as a minor post-surrealist aberration with little or no influence on the course of events at Strasbourg, Nanterre and Paris throughout 1967 and 1968 and earlier. Others, including Willener, have discussed the pivotal role of the writings of Henri Lefebvre, an early supporter of the S.I., and those of its two leading members, Raoul Vaneigem and Guy Debord, in the formation of attitudes that contributed to the "anarchic" revolutionary spirit which dominated these years and in particular, the heady days of May.  Debord's and Vaneigem's publications in the Revue I.S. and their respective publication of two major theoretical texts, La Société du spectacle (1967) and Traité de savoir-vivre à l'usage des jeunes générations (1968) contained coherent critiques of the social relations formed within advanced capitalism, the basic tenets of which were totally understood by those who participated in the events of 1968. 
Demands for direct democracy. Jeune Révolution, June 26, 1968: "10 million strikers, 5 weeks of striking and still a Gaulliste majority: why?"
By the early sixties the Situationists had already developed strategies for continuing the critique of bourgeois society begun by the Surrealists, but their revolution was to be very different from the "revolution of the mind" established by André Breton and his followers in the late twenties and early thirties. Theirs was to be a "permanent revolution in daily life" (a widely used S.I. slogan), one which could not occur in the absence of the destruction of capitalism and its institutions, or at the very least, their "radical transformation." The S.I.'s welding together of the writings of various theorists: from Marx and Engels to Fourier, Reich, Lenin, Mao – even Diderot and the Marx Brothers – allowed them to develop a highly original and persuasive analysis of the forms of social life under capitalism, and, more importantly from the perspective of today, they theorised the means to resist absorption. 
THE EXEMPLARY ACTION AND INTERVENTIONISM
The Situationist problematic is based on the Debordian description of the 'society of the spectacle' that finds its correlative in the term consumer capitalism. From the very beginning of its use in the writings of the S.I.in 1958, the spectacle – in French meaning 'a sight,' 'a play or entertainment,' or more loosely, 'a representation' – was used metaphorically to designate a "one way transmission of experience; a form of 'communication' to which one side, the audience, can never reply; a culture based on the reduction of almost everyone to a state of abject non-creativity, passivity and isolation."  In his book, Debord describes spectacle more specifically as representation (and represented ideology).
The entire life of societies in which modern conditions of production reign appears as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was expressed directly has been distanced in a representation. (Thesis 1)
Spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation between people mediated through images. (Thesis 4)
The S.I. applied the term in its various uses as defined by Debord to all aspects of social relations under capitalism. At its most incisive the term represented the hegemonic tendencies subsumed under capitalist ideologies. The S.I. antidote was the "construction of situations," which from the outset involved the notion of intervention.
The construction of situations can only begin to be effective as the concept of the spectacle begins to disintegrate. Clearly the basic principle of the spectacle – non- intervention – is at the heart of our alienated social life. And equally clearly, all the most vital features of revolutionary experiment with culture have stemmed from the attempt to break the psychological identification of the spectacle with the hero; to sting the spectator into action... Thus the situation is made to be lived by those who made it. The role played by a passive or merely bit playing 'public' must steadily diminish while that played by people who cannot be called actors but rather, to coin a new word 'livers,' must equally steadily augment. 
In the first issue of the Revue I.S., the character of the situation is described in terms that reveal the fundamental importance of intervention as a post-theoretical and practical aspect of their critique. The writer(s) proceed(s) to explain the features of the hypothetically constructed situation:
The constructed situation is bound to be collective both in its inception and in its development. However, it seems that at least during an initial experimental period, responsibility must fall on one particular individual. This individual must, so to speak, be the 'director' of the situation. For example, in terms of one particular situationist project – revolving around an emotionally charged meeting of several friends one evening – one would expect (a) an initial period of research by the team, (b) the election of a director responsible for coordinating the basic elements necessary for the construction of the decor, etc., and for working out a number of interventions during the course of the evening (alternatively several individuals can work out differing series of interventions, all of them unaware of all the details planned upon by the others), (c) the actual people living in the situation who have taken part in the whole project both theoretically and practically, and (d) a few passive spectators not knowing what the hell is going on should be reduced to action. 
This description reads like Kaprow's minimum definitions for a happening with two major differences – the emphasis on theory and collectivity.  All the other elements are there: active participation by the spectators, spontaneity, 'set' construction, discontinuity, the presence of the author/director who 'manages' the event and so on. And yet the intentions and the essentially non-hierarchical structuring of the situation reveal its absolute political character. This is no simple transformation of art into life or vice versa; in fact, the word art is not even mentioned in this Situationist tract.
The given condition for the construction of situations is the transcendence of art, for art, in Debordian terms, is a representation which by its very nature reinforces the spectacular nature of commodity capitalism, distancing the spectator from the phenomenal (and critical) experience of living; hence, the emphasis on the notion of reducing, by way of several interventions, the spectators to action. The Situationists also did not want the relationships between the actors or 'livers' and the 'director' to become permanent; rather they planned for the temporary subordination of the team to ensure the success of the situation. Direction itself was suspect, turning potentially active participants into passive ones. Total democracy was the object of the exercise; active participation by all, the desired result. It may be apparent from the quoted description that the context for this hypothetical situation seems innocuous enough; after all, the "meeting of several friends on one evening," even when such a meeting is "highly charged," does not in itself constitute a particularly attractive model for a politically efficacious performance practice. However, it is typical of Situationist rhetoric that strategies for disrupting the spectacle or enacting a critique would be couched in language that was sufficiently opaque, so as to not cause alarm or rejection. When such a hypothetical situation is referenced to other potential contexts, the occupation of a building during a demonstration, for example, or the subversion of a political meeting, the Situationist example becomes clear.
The construction of situations was not, of course, always directed towards such political 'ends.' The implicit anarchy implied in these life constructions was usually mediated by other intentions. Nihilism was not perceived to be an end result of Situationist projects; rather, the intention was to restore the situation, whatever it may be, to the praxis of life.
Elsewhere in the "Report on the Construction of Situations," the authors distinguish their project from the development of theatre, acknowledging that Brecht and Pirandello "have analysed the destruction of the theatrical spectacle and pointed out the direction in which 'post-theatrical' demands must lie." Beyond the reformist tendencies of the historical avant-gardes, the S.I. position was premised on the destruction of the institution of theatre itself. The construction of situations "will replace the theatre in the same way that the construction of real life tends more and more to replace religion."  One of the greatest slogans to emerge during the events of May 68, "Culture Is the Inversion of Life," which is probably a transcription of one of Debord's theses and beyond perhaps to the Surrealists, stands as one of the ultimate Situationist negations. For them culture had to be subverted in order to become life. In a less ideal sense, subversion and intervention strategies enabled social life (under capitalism) to be understood and acted upon in a critical manner. The most successful examples of this subversion may be seen in the many popular media forms: comics, posters and advertisements, which the Situationists allowed to re-enter the public domain as highly charged vehicles of dissent. In this, the axiom – how can one criticise culture without taking for one's own (critical) use the objects of culture – became the basis upon which the interventionist model could successfully convey a critique of the spectacular form of commodity consumption.
In his book Alfred Willener notes the correspondence between the activist positions adopted by the Situationists and the initial negative projects of the Dadaists and Surrealists, which because of their anarchistic tendencies forced these groups into the position of adopting or theorising post-revolutionary "utopias," of dreaming – imagining a better life. It is this tension between the material present and the imagined future that presented, and stillpresents, a fundamental problem for cultural producers on the left. Any movement that places action as the a priori condition to social change, irrespective of the means through which change is finally achieved, runs the risk of relegating theory to a minor position in the process. For the Dadaists and later the Surrealists, rejection became the sine qua non of their activist avant-garde positions, and it is in the moment of representation of disgust or rejection, that political efficacy may be lost and absorption can begin. For the Situationists, intervention, subversion and succession (often through the excision of the heroic or dominant positions of the 'authors' of social change), allowed them to resist absorption. These strategies, in other words, allowed the Situationists to remove themselves from the cycle through which capitalism 'manages' its internal contradictions and 'crises,' integrates critiques and makes these over into its own ideological system.
The Situationists were supremely aware of the problems initiated with the enactment of disgust, of capitulating to the Dada position which puts action first (Action: "a priori, that is with the eyes closed, Dada puts action first."), hence their adoption of the guiding ideology of dialectical materialism as a basis for their individual programmes of theorised action. Their problem was how to wed theory to practice, to achieve a state of praxis without reducing their critiques to intellectual exercises. Thus the spectacular form of the direct action and other forms of activism – denial, resistance, provocation – remained as a central theoretical bind, escape from which seemed impossible. The Situationist dilemma of how to refute the commodification of protest itself and supersede the 'failures' of the historical avant-gardes led them at times to the defence of nihilism: "The active nihilist does not simply intend to watch things fall apart. He intends to speed up the process. Sabotage is a natural response to the chaos ruling the world. Active nihilism is pre-revolutionary; passive nihilism is counter-revolutionary."  However, by 1968 their critique of consumer capitalism had become more refined, and had turned away from the slogans of the early sixties. The Situationists could now include themselves in their critique of capitalism and its cultural formations. Ideological hegemony, although it was not described as such by the group, had begun to exercise its power on the intellectual life of the group. It is no accident that most of the resignations and exclusions occurred within the group around 1967-68 at a time when two of its most intellectually rigorous members, Debord and Vaneigem, were working on their major theoretical texts. Thus in 1968 Vaneigem tacitly acknowledges the power of ideological hegemony – that force which makes over any form of protest into its own ideological system and presents a critique of all avant-garde formations as the endless capacity for capitalism to renew itself in its own terms. "What the producers of happenings, pop art and sociodramas are now doing is concealing passivity by renewing the forms of spectacle participation and the variety of stereotypes." 
While he did not include the Situationists themselves in his critique, the knowledge that he could have done so is implicit, for by this time the Situationist group, which had extended to the U.S. and England, realised its own capitulation to the ideology of avant-gardism. Their experiment with marginalisation was at an end. The ideologies that had sustained the group during its formative years were gradually eroded; the successes of its members and the failure(s) of the 'revolution' of 1968 finally signed the Situationist group's death warrant. As Christopher Gray writes: "The S.I.... finally received the cultural accolade it had always dreaded: it entered 'the heaven of the spectacle' by the scruff of the neck, and that was that."  Vaneigem and Debord's late texts are in fact not too far removed from the analyses formulated by Peter Bürger and others in the late seventies, and the debates which have continued throughout the early eighties – that the absorption/cooptation dynamic of consumer capitalism quickly render impotent most forms of autonomous avant-garde activity. However, the failure of the Situationists to supersede the limitations of their own critique and ironically their own success, should not deter us from the recuperation of those aspects of their revolutionary programme that are still tenable today.
The failures of the Situationists can be said to fall into two groups. The first, which I have already noted, relates to the success of some of its members and the subsequent 'watering down' of the group's original programme of criticism. Secondly, the events of May '68 proved the repressive character of the state in removing all 'illegitimate' forms of protest from its domains. One of the central problems revolves around the conflict between the enactment of theory and its practical application. During the pre-May antagonisms the strategy of intervention was never a problem in that it did not invoke the repressive authority of the state or of the institutions at which it was directed. However, the consummation of the interventionist form became the direct action that, without fail, always breaches the 'rules of democracy' and precipitated repressive reactions.
A brief description of these two forms of resistance may salvage, or in Situationist language, recuperate the positive features of a critical praxis that could operate successfully in advanced capitalistic society.
As an agitational form, the exemplary action has been criticised by many groups that participated in the events of May and demonstrations in other contexts throughout the sixties for its absence of theory and its anarcho-individualistic and heroic character. Its advocates have argued that the exemplary action has a symbolic use value that is only fully understood after the event and that its 'unprogrammed' nature allows the "fusion of various political tendencies" which otherwise would not coalesce as collective protest.  The exemplary action allows the so-called 'vicious cycle of provocation-repression' to become immediately identifiable to those engaged in social protest. However, as with the union tactic of the 'wildcat strike' (the usually illegal strike), the repression precipitated is usually so severe that it blocks the formation of other types of legitimateprotest. Furthermore, it serves to reproduce the mechanisms of authority at which it is aimed.
In contrast, intervention allows a range of strategies to be attempted without (usually) precipitating a crisis. Intervention as interruption or mediation allows several positions to be adopted by those engaged in the enactment or performance of social protest, as well as those at which it is aimed. The major problem is that it may simply remainat the level of theory instead of engendering an authentic state of praxis on the part of those participating. Exemplary actions are actions without theory; interventions attempt to put theory into action, to combine theory with practice.
Both exemplary actions and interventions are related, as was understood clearly by those who participated in the occupations, sit-ins, theatrical agitprop events and other forms of protest evident during May '68. However, their intentions and ultimately the 'audience' response is different. Instead of intervening in an overall way, the exemplary action consists of a concentrated action on exemplary objectives, on a few key objectives that will play a determining role in the continuation of the struggle. 
Dynamic/direct focused action
Absence of theory
Collective/collaborative or participatory
Exhibits less dynamism/less direct
Theory laden/movement towards praxis
Attempts to encourage dialogue
The above table of oppositions represents generally the differences between these two types of political [performance], what I have characterised previously as the enactment of protest and resistance. However, depending upon the circumstances and the type of event, intervention can become an exemplary action, and thus devolve into a form of political posturing, and in extreme cases, anarchic rejection or destructive nihilism. Of course, the meaning of this distinction becomes patently clear when we consider the use of the terms direct action and intervention in the power vocabularies of the state.
Intervention as indirect action is usually precipitous, and, as historical events testify, intervention as a euphemism for neocolonial incursion can lead to forms of resistance that will eventually lead to war. However, intervention (strategic interruption), when used by a group attempting to counter or resist the power exhibited by another group that is in control, is very different from the interventions used by the controlling group attempting to reinforce its control. When used as political rhetoric by the state, intervention is usually synonymous with incursion, an action that will reproduce/reform, or transform already existing or previously extant power relations. The C.I.A. incursions (interventions) in Chile in the early seventies and more recently in Nicaragua and elsewhere in Central America attest to the major differences between them. Intervention strategies used by the critical left attempt to interrupt the passive consumption of the dominant ideologies and contest the hegemony of the right, whereas the interventionary strategies used by the right reproduce them, thus maintaining systems of control.
We may be able to examine the differences between direct (exemplary) actions and interventions as a critical strategy in recent performance practice in the U.S., if we consider the work of the Guerrilla Art Action Group (GAAG) and that of Adrian Piper, a black feminist artist/philosopher.  In the interest of brevity, I will examine one [performance] work by GAAG, attempt to explain this in terms of the exemplary action as defined by the Situationists and contrast this with two works from 1981 and 1982/83 by Adrian Piper. These works by Piper I believe transcend the interventionist model of the Situationists and fulfils many of the requirements of an 'adequate interventionist [performance] practice' for the eighties and beyond. However, I do not wish here to isolate the works described, nor the artists, from a growing body of political [performance] work, which will reveal, when a history of political performance is written, the extent to which performance producers have extended the debates and forms of socio-cultural protest beyond those evidenced in the work of the historical avant-gardes. 
The extent to which the GAAG was influenced by the work of the S.I. has still to be established. It is sufficient here to say that much of the rhetoric that is evidenced in the group's published pamphlets, including the short-lived 'Judson Publication,' resembles that of the Situationists. However, the major influence and factor in the group's formation "on the Lexington J.R.T. Subway," October 15, 1969, was the Art Workers Coalition.
As a late counter-cultural formation, the GAAG would have been impressed by the subversive actions of other urban guerrilla organisations, including the Black Panthers, the Weathermen and the Symbionese Liberation Army. The Art Action Group limited its operations, for the most part, to cultural objectives, directing their critical actions at the institutions of power as these were manifested in the art world. However, the knowledge that power relations in the art world were merely extensions of power in the political and economic spheres was a given condition for their sociocultural critiques. 
Prior to the official formation of the GAAG, Jon Hendricks and Jean Toche, the two original founders of the group, proclaimed in manifesto-like statements the character of their protest, which from the outset was marked by the antagonistic language of the avant-garde: "The destructionists are an opposition; they are a romantic movement. They are messy and aren't very polite. It would be kind of hard to show them at Castelli's this year. Not much to buy either. Maybe they are anti-American." Thus wrote Jon Hendricks on December 11, 1967. This was followed by a group-signed manifesto, known as the Judson Publications Manifesto of 1967, which declaimed: "We believe the function of the artist is to subvert culture since our culture is trivial. We are intent on giving a voice to the artist who shouts fire when there is fire; robbery when there is robbery; murder when there is murder; rape when there is rape."  And later, on May 10, 1968, Jean Toche could open his Judson event with the proclamation: "I accuse... I have a confession to make. I am a subversive, and I am a saboteur." 
In their first act of cultural sabotage, an action performed on October 16, 1969, and to protest the Metropolitan Museum of Art's mounting of the exhibition "New York Painting and Sculpture: 1940-1970," GAAG confronted the difficulties attending all forms of protest that establish a set of exemplary objectives and then attempt to meet each of these in a symbolic enactment of protest.  These objectives were clear:
1. To ridicule the Establishment and the false concept of Geldzahler to present a sani-pak cultural pastiche of the last twenty years, benefiting only the money-power collectors and dealers.
2. To protest the increasing grip and manipulation by big business of our cultural institutions as exemplified by the museum's acceptance of $150,000.00 from Xerox Corporation to mount an exhibition "N.Y. Painting and Sculpture: 1940-1970".
3. To force Henry Geldzahler, the creator and organizer of this exhibition, to take a public stand about these issues.
4. To show that the artist is being manipulated by the Establishment.
Toche and Hendricks arrived at the Met during the patrons' opening of the exhibit, and in front of several policemen and other protesters of the exhibition they extracted a large trunk from the rear of the cab they had arrived in and assumed their roles: Toche the artist and Hendricks the curator/establishment figure. Hendricks ceremoniously helped the artist into the trunk and then announced to an assembled group of spectators: "we are honouring this great artist here at the greatest museum in America." The artist fall-guy was then asked if he would like some milk, and, when the curator received an affirmative answer, the milk was poured all over his body. Following this "vaudevillian" model and in quick succession, the artist received a tray of hors d'oeuvres, caviar, champagne and eggs.
At times, the curator enjoined the crowd to assist him in his work. After the eggs, the artist began to choke and said: "I can't breathe." According to GAAG's description of the events, Hendricks asked if he was alright, and then the police, who had been spectators up until this time, decided to intervene. Hendricks assured the officer that this was a performance. The officer replied, "No, this man is sick – he needs an ambulance," and then proceeded to stop the performance with, "If this man is not sick, leave immediately; otherwise, I will arrest him for indecent exposure, drunkenness, littering, and creating a public nuisance." Hendricks replied with, "He is not drunk, it is an art performance and we insist on delivery to Mr. Geldzahler." Eventually Toche and Hendricks received word that Geldzahler was 'busy' and, if they cared to call the next day, they would receive an appointment for another time. In their commentary after the event, Hendricks and Toche stated that the performance had not been completed as planned. A gun was to have been offered the artist; money was to be offered, which he was to eat; blood was to have been poured over his body, and finally a gag placed in his mouth, the trunk sealed and delivered to the museum. The artists felt the work had been successful and couched their arguments in their ability to restrain the police from stopping the performance earlier than they did. The police were uncertain of what decision to make, as this was an art performance; they nevertheless acted upon their perceptions of the event and their understanding of conventional breaches of the law. 
Jean Toche in custody. Metropolitan Museum art action, 1969.
The similarities, at least in terms of results, between this performance and the spectacular quality of the Situationists' exemplary action are clear. Both forms of action/protest provoke the repression apparatus of the state and thereby reproduce its hegemony. The cycle of provocation/repression had been initiated and apart from the easily identifiable didactic elements of the GAAG work, their overall intentions were rendered impotent by the intervention of the police. As with the exemplary action of the Situationists, the success of the performance, in part, depended on the intervention of the state apparatus for, so the argument goes, it is only through such precipitous events that the state's real power is revealed. This represents the ultimate dilemma for those seeking to produce effective social criticism: how to initiate and sustain the criticism without subscribing to strategies that will eventually form a point of closure on the process of criticism itself.
The artists received applause after the Met action, not because the audience had necessarily understood the intentions of the event's producers, but because they had witnessed (consumed) and been 'satisfied' by the spectacle. Whether they had reached an emotional catharsis is a moot point, and of dubious consciousness-raising value at the best of times. They probably did gain satisfaction from the heroic actions of the 'artist' who, during the course of the event, was assaulted by the 'establishment!' And this metaphorical representation (it was obvious at the time that this was a theatrical event) sustained the audience's interest until (and probably because of) the last act, the event's dénouement – the repressive actions of the police. Success is a relative criterion upon which to base an ultimate judgement.
GAAG stated retrospectively that they had "performed a totally relevant art action in the streets, using guerrilla tactics and dealing with a reality/art situation, as opposed to the usual triviality and non-involvement of the artist as well as the sterile over-used tactics of picketing and leafleting."  However, in terms of their stated objectives, their action precipitated a closure of the critical process by turning the active collaborators – the AWC picketers and the potential collaborators, members of the public – into passive consumers of spectacle.
For a performance such as this to retain some political efficacy, it must stop short of reproducing the character of the spectacle and instead focus on the extension of the authentic critical project. Such a critical project would probably deny the strategies favoured by GAAG in order to concentrate on (1) developing an organisation of resistance, (2) partisan identification with a theory or grouping of complementary theories of resistance, and then (3) development of methods by which the enactment of protest could take place without precipitating the provocation/repression cycle.
The GAAG objectives for this action and many of their other actions (including the so-called letter-actions) are exemplary but totally unrealisable in their own terms. As satire or parody, they remain on the level of the representation of political protest. The reason they provoke antagonism from the institutions of the state is that they appear to breach the legitimate forms of protest and thus conform to the state's conventions for civil disobedience and are thereby subject to "charges under the prevailing law."
The interventionist model of protest or resistance stops short of the contestation of power in the terms described above. It attempts to interrupt the passive consumption and reproduction of ideology in 'an all-over way' and for this to occur the strategy of intervention must begin with the complexity of the situation without establishing a hierarchy of 'exemplary' objectives. Theory is a priori; action, subsequently, is delayed in order to enhance the opportunities for critical engagement and learning. As Lenin believed, without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary practice. If there is one aspect of intervention that distinguishes its 'actions' from that of the direct or exemplary action, it is this focus on the acquisition of knowledge, and the encouragement of dialogue.
Since the mid-seventies, artist Adrian Piper has attempted to achieve a complete state of praxis in her work. Her early seventies street performance actions evolved into her construction of the Mythic Being, a composite of many minority stereotypes – macho/gigolo/pimp/prostitute, etc. She used the Being as a mouthpiece, or in her terms, a "catalyst" for a wide range of critical statements about racism, sexism and the alienating conditions of life under capitalism.Her use of the Mythic Being took many forms: photo-installations, street performances, newspaper 'ads' for the Village Voice and film or slide works. In each case the Being assumed a variety of poses and was usually shown with comic strip thought or speech balloons containing political statements or slogans. In the late seventies, Piper began to confront the problem of producing politically efficacious work within the artworld context (museums and galleries) by constructing her performances in such a way that dialogue could occur. She began to target her audiences, presenting a range of political information in such a way that discussion after the event became a necessary adjunct to the meaning (and ultimately the 'success') of the performance. This of itself was not a major advance; after all, the discussion format had already become an established convention within seventies performance. However, the means of address that Piper used, the types of information purveyed and the strategic manner and appropriateness of the contextualisation allowed the audience to critically negotiate their own beliefs and assumptions with greater perspicuity than is the case with most performance presentations. Piper's It's Just Art, performed February 22, 1981, at the Western Front, an alternative gallery in Vancouver, is a useful example for examining the adequacy of the interventionist [performance] model. 
Adrian Piper, It's Just Art, 1980.
The work's method of address was simple. Two slide projectors were placed centrally in the rectangular performance space, visually preparing the audience for a lecture of some kind. One of these projectors contained a large number of slides taken from captioned news wire photographs of the Cambodian (Kampuchean) war, culled from sources as diverse as Newsfront International and the New York Times. These slides were synchronised with a tape-recorded reading of an authoritative diegesis detailing specific events within Cambodia, the activities of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, Vietnamese incursions, mass killings, and the dispossession of land. The information was raw – a compilation delivered by Piper in the third person, which both maintained objectivity and underlined the cold brutality of the facts. The montaged images and voiceover gave a literal impression of a society at war with itself, a country devouring itself from within while simultaneously being devoured from without. A short 16mm film loop of Piper as the Mythic Being, silently puffing a cigarette, was projected continuously over the Cambodian slides, partially obscuring them.
The second slide projector contained fifteen slides of the Being's thought balloons. Each contained a first-person statement directed toward the audience. Usually this was coupled with an aside that expanded or contradicted the first statement. The texts provided a running commentary on the process of viewing (consuming) the performance and enabled the audience to participate in a critical on-the-spot analysis of theirrelationship to the events confronting them. Balloon number 9 and 10 read: "with your presence here we collaborate to create a context of comfort, insularity and aesthetic enjoyment (you already know about this unfortunate situation)"; "as artist and spectator we create values together (you read the papers, after all)."
The final element of the performance was Piper herself. Dressed as the androgynous Being and wearing sunglasses, Afro wig and pencil-thin moustache, she danced elegant funk to the strains of Do You Love What You Feel by Rufus and Chaka Khan. The dance element was commented upon by the fourth thought balloon: "a vocabulary of physical energy, grace, femaleness, maleness, blackness, whiteness, sexuality, abstract seduction, narcissism (so far so good)."
The work, according to Piper, is an attempt to "transmit some information of a certain kind that is fairly clear politically." In its 'packaged' state, this information sets up in the receiver a set of defence mechanisms that obviate the necessity to receive the information, let alone to retrieve and act upon it afterwards. On the broadest possible level the work deals with information overload and information loss, the inability of the observant audience member to "screen out" the valuable information from that which obscures and defeats the message.
"You read the papers after all" can be taken as the ironic "but I know that you really don't read the papers," an oblique quip at the detached indifference and moral lassitude of the art audience. However, Piper's critique is subtler than this. By withholding, or more correctly, obscuring the primary political information she is directing attention to the aestheticising proclivities of the art context. It is also implied that no matter what form the material presented, the difficulty of interpreting information that has been ideologically mediated (manipulated) should become the concern of all who would wish to understand and act responsibly on information received. In the end, It's Just Art is not just Art. It is an artworld intervention, tactically subverting the 'fabric' that defends the institution of art from "impinging political realities." Thought bubble 14 puts the question more eloquently: "we defend each other (you certainly didn't come to an art performance to hear a lecture on current events)." This of course is an ironic broadside directed against those who would wish to forget or reject the real world and nestle into the comfortable, apolitical insularity of art. Piper's [performance] was, in fact, a lecture on current events, delivered in such a way that it penetrated the ideological 'cushion' of its audience.
A more recent Piper [performance], Funk Lessons of 1982-84, takes the interventionist model further.  Simply stated, this work addresses the problem of racism by introducing white, usually middle-class audiences to the meaning and politics of black funk music and dance. The form of the work is constructed from three elements: an introduction (using black board) to the history of funk and the theory behind its meaning and success as a popular form in black culture; secondly, the playing of funk music, introducing the rhythmic components, the major bands, etc.; and thirdly (overlapping element two), the introduction of the audience to the basic steps of funk dance. The audience become active participants/collaborators in the critical renegotiation of their own class-based stereotypes.  Like the previously discussed It's Just Art, the Funk Lessons are not simply lessons in dance music, they are carefully orchestrated lecture/demonstrations in black proletarian culture, delivered in a non-alienating manner that engages the audience in an investigation of their acculturated values and enables them to establish a critique – an enjoyable individual (and collective) interrogation process. Questions were asked and answers debated. Here is a work that transcends the interventionist model of the Situationists, a [performance] that weds theory to practice and can assist in the positive critique of the passive consumption and reproduction of the dominant ideologies.
 Published in A. Balkind, ed. Living Art Vancouver (Vancouver: Western Front/Pulp Press, 1979) 78-81.
 Brecht's paraphrasing of Marx reads: "The theatre became an affair for philosophers, but only such philosophers as wished not just to explain the world, but also to change it." See Bertolt Brecht, "Theatre for Pleasure or Theatre for Instruction," in Brecht on Theatre, trans. John Willett (London: Methuen, 1964) 71-2. Marx's exact wording is: "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in different ways; the point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx, "Theses on Feuerbach," in Robert C. Tucker, ed. The Marx-Engels Reader (New York: W.W. Norton, 1972)145.
 Hybridisation and specialisation have characterised performance since its inception. However, the institutionalisation of specialties and the commodification of performance as discussed here is a relatively new phenomenon.
 RoseLee Goldberg, Performance: Live Art 1909 to the Present (London: Thames & Hudson, 1979). See also Bruce Barber, "A Book Review of RoseLee Goldberg, Performance: Live Art 1909 to the Present," Parachute, no. 17 (Winter 1979) 43-48. There is a large number of anthologies which include essays on the history of performance. Useful bibliographies are contained in Frank Popper, Art Action and Participation (New York: New York University Press, 1975); A.A. Bronson and Peggy Gale, eds. Performance by Artists (Toronto: Art Metropole, 1979); Carl E. Loeffler and Darlene Tong, eds. Performance Anthology: Source Book of a Decade of California Performance Art (San Francisco: Contemporary Arts Press, 1980); Gregory Battock and Robert Nickas, The Art of Performance: A Critical Anthology (New York: Dutton, 1984).
 The work of Richard Schechner (performance theory) and Victor Turner (ritual space) are representative examples of these approaches. See also Michel Benamou and Charles Caramello, eds. Performance in Postmodern Culture (Madison, Wisconsin: Coda Press, 1977).
 See Barber, "The Function of Performance in Postmodern Culture: A Critique," in Chantal Pontbriand, ed. Performance Text(e)s & Documents (Montreal: Parachute, 1980) 32-36. Reprinted in this volume. "If 'show and tell' is the name of the game, seventies performers are in the act of 'telling' and not simply 'showing.' We can begin to think of the function of performance, of performance's instrumentality, or at least its potential for function." Barber, "The Function of Performance in Postmodern Culture," 35.
 Russell Jacoby, "Narcissism and the Crisis of Capitalism," Telos, no.44 (Summer 1980) 64-5.
 A useful definition of hegemony is the following: "An order in which a certain way of life and thought is dominant, in which one conception of reality is diffused throughout society in all its institutional and private manifestations, informing with its spirit all taste, morality, customs, religion and political principles, and all social relations, particularly in their intellectual and moral connotations". From Gwyn A. Williams, "The Concept of 'Egemonia' in the Thought of Antonio Gramsci: Some Notes on Interpretation," Journal of the History of Ideas, vol.21, no. 4 (Oct-Dec 1960) 586-99.
 Barber, "The Function of Performance in Postmodern Culture: A Critique," 36.
 Nicos Hadjinicolaou, "On the Ideology of Avant-Gardism," Praxis, no.6 (1982) 38-70.
 On the politics of the avant-garde and the theories of marginalisation, see Peter Bürger, Theory of the Avant-Garde (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984).
 Alfred Willener, The Action-Image of Society: On Cultural Politicisation (London: Tavistock, 1970).
 The interview with Rosler was undertaken with Serge Guilbaut. It was published alongside an interview with Adrian Piper in "Performance as Social and Cultural Intervention," Parachute, no.24 (Fall 1981) 25-32. A third interview between Barber, Guilbaut and Laurie Anderson was published in Ennui (March-April 1981). All three are reprinted in this volume.
 Christopher Gray, Leaving the 20th Century: The Incomplete Work of the Situationniste Internationale(London: Freefall Press, 1974) 1.
 See in particular, Henri Lefebvre, Position: Contre les technocrates (Paris: Gonthier, 1967).
 Guy Debord, La Société du spectacle (Paris: Buchet Castel, 1967) and Raoul Vaneigem, Traité de savoir-vivre à l'usage des jeunes générations (Paris: Gallimard, 1968).
 Co-optation; integration; hegemonic domination. See Bürger, 12.
 Guy Debord, La Société du spectacle, 7.
 "Rapport sur la construction des situations," Internationale Situationniste, no.1 (1958) 13.
 "Rapport sur la construction des situations," 15.
 Allan Kaprow, Assemblage, Environments, and Happenings (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1966) 188-91.
 "Rapport sur la construction des situations," 15.
 "Nihilism," Internationale Situationniste, no.6 (1961) 128.
 Raoul Vaneigem cited in Willener, 128.
 Willener, 165. Willener provides descriptions of direct action, especially of the occupation of the Senate Council Chamber at the Université de Nanterre on March 22, 1968: "The movement of 22 March has no political programme, no political blueprint for the future; it has only, over the next three or four days, a certain grip, an analysis of what is happening and work directly linked to this analysis for the next week, in very concrete situations... before, things weren't arranged even from one day to the next we just did things [emphasis added], without any premeditation whatsoever, we discussed, there was a certain prevailing atmosphere, then we acted, and that's all there was to it." From the March 22 Movement Free Press, Cahiers Libres, no. 124. Cited in Willener, 164.
 See GAAG, Guerrilla Art Action Group, 1969-1976: A Selection by Jan Van Raay (New York: Printed Matter, 1978).
 I have in mind Futurist performance, Dada (Zurich, Berlin, Paris), Productivist/Constructivist theatre and agit-prop performance (c.1917-1925), and Surrealist performance. It is now obvious that there is a genre of political performance that extends the operative work of the historical avant-gardes. For an introduction to some political performance work produced during the past ten years, see Lucy Lippard, Get the Message? A Decade of Art for Social Change (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1984) and her essay "Notes Toward an Activist Performance Art," in Bruce Barber, ed. Essays on [Performance] and Cultural Politicization, Special Issue of Open Letter, no.5-6 (Summer-Fall 1983) 65-78.
 GAAG, Guerrilla Art Action Group, 1969-1976, 29. It should be noted that the specific terminology of "art action" in the group's name functioned as a clear refutation of the term performance.
 GAAG, Guerrilla Art Action Group, 1969-1976, 5-6.
 GAAG, Guerrilla Art Action Group, 1969-1976, 7.
 Each of the early GAAG actions has a list of objectives, a description of the action and a critical commentary after the fact. Many of their actions were symbolic in the sense that they represented an act of projection. They focused their actions on the symbolic representations of institutional power – the power of the state. This was typical of Situationist actions as well. See Willener, 162-169 and 286-298.
 A full description of the event is contained in the GAAG monograph.
 GAAG, Guerrilla Art Action Group, 1969-1976, Commentary.
 Catalyst and catalysis is discussed at length in Adrian Piper, Talking to Myself: The Ongoing Autobiography of an Art Object (Bari, Italy: Marilena Bonomo, 1975).
 See my review of this performance in Bruce Barber, "Adrian Piper, Western Front, Vancouver, 22 February 1981," Parachute, no. 23 (Summer 1981) 45-46.
 Bruce Barber and Serge Guilbaut, "Performance as Social and Cultural Intervention: Interview with Adrian Piper," Parachute, no. 24 (Fall 1981) 25.
 Funk Lessons was presented at the Nova Scotia Collage of Art & Design in 1982. A function of the remarginalisation of her work is her use of advertising. These are placed in daily and weekly newspapers.
 In her "lecture" Piper discussed the representation and politics of male and female sexuality in funk music and dance.