If an athlete is asked what endurance means to them, the answer will probably be pretty standard and maybe even straight out of the dictionary. It would be something along the lines of pushing yourself to the limit, or taking it as far as you can. In fact, the Merriam-Webster dictionary states that endurance is “the ability to withstand hardship or adversity; the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity.” However, if a performance artist is asked what endurance means to them, the answer will not only be vastly different from that of an athlete, but the answer will vary depending on who you ask and depending on what kind of work the performance artist does. One particular artist, Patty Chang, talked about how the idea of endurance is not just pushing yourself as far as you can, but instead taking it one step further. She goes on to say that one element of endurance is finding the thin line between comfort and discomfort and trying to balance on that line.
There are a few artists who come to mind when thinking about Chang’s version of endurance. First would be Vito Acconci, who often works with subject matter that forces himself and his audience to deal with personal comfort levels. The second performance artist would be Marina Abramovic, who did one piece that lasted over fifteen hours. These two particular performance artists, as well as many other performance artists, often deal with issues of endurance. From performances that force the performer and viewer/participants to deal with comfort levels to performances that last amounts of time others would consider extreme, performance artists often push themselves past a point that the average person might consider to be endurance. The work these performance artists create will hopefully make the viewer question their own personal definition of endurance.