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Celebrating the local and specific: Tract Live-art 

The art-scene in Cornwall, as elsewhere in the country, is dominated by commercial galleries. Artists showing in commercial galleries have to respond to what the market wants, which is why harbour or beach scenes are the stock in trade for many of the more mercenary artists in Cornwall. In a sense business marketing is where the skill of many
successful local painters lies. Though technique and an ability to draw may be important, imagination and originality is not, because the market does not want this: it wants the familiar and the recognisable.

Performance art on the other hand, is not, and has never been,
commercial. Over the years its practitioners have celebrated the fact that they operate outside the market. Because they are not in the business of making beautiful objects that can be bought and sold they are not tied down or limited in this way.

Some would find this level of freedom difficult to handle. As a
performance artist almost anything is possible: there are very few boundaries or strictures, and where there are boundaries eg of decency or comprehensibility, these in themselves are targets for being tested and transgressed.

The skill of the performance artist thus lies in navigating the furthest reaches of the imagination, or more precisely imagined
behaviour, and returning with something that is coherent and meaningful.
There is a risk in this not only of failure but of madness because the performance artist is not simply depicting or representing these ideas in two dimensions: they are living them and being them through their actions.

There is therefore undoubtedly something risky and radical about performance art, but what was most apparent during the Tract events was the richness and complexity of meaning generated by the work. Not only did the richness of content surpass that of any painting seen in Cornwall for many years, it also rivalled that of the other visual
art-form most easily accessible in Cornwall: the Hollywood film.

Unlike the pan-national high-budget film the fact that the performances took place in Penzance/Newlyn was important. Because the participating artists were so responsive to the location, and its history, they couldnt have taken place anywhere else and had the same impact and relevance. In an age of global culture and branding and Angloamerican cultural imperialism there was a quiet but forceful assertion of the importance of the local and specific, and of the possibility that, briefly at least communities can come together and through culture and ritual share things that are unique and special to them.