Re-performance as art history: key texts (Critical terms for art history…
Re-performance as art history: key texts
Foucault and Barthes
Death of the Author
What is an author?
Presence in Absentia
'while the experience of viewing a photo/ reading a text is clearly different from that of sitting in small room watching an artist perform, neither has a privileged relationship to the historical ‘truth’ of the performance’
There is no possibility of any kind of unmediated relationship to any kind of cultural product, including body art.
Although participating in the live performance offers a specificity of knowledge, this specificity should not be privileged over the specificity of knowledges that develop in relation to the documentary traces of such an event.
This is in many ways what I am arguing too – documentary has now become accepted and, I would argue, privileged over the ‘specificity of knowledge’ provided by the live event.
While the viewer of a live performance may seem to have advantages in understanding such a context (about the performer/performance), on a certain level she may actually find it more difficult to comprehend the histories/ narratives/ processes she is experiencing until later, when she too can look back and evaluate them with hindsight. I
t is hard to identify the patterns of history while one is embedded in them
. We invent these patterns retrospectively.
• Yep – re-performance would work just as well for this.
Most early accounts of performance art practices made heroic claims for the status of performance as the only art form to guarantee the presence of the artist.
Jones rejects such conceptions of body or performance art as delivering the body (and implicitly the self) of the artist in an unmediated fashion to the viewer.
'Having direct physical contact with an artist who pulls a scroll from her vaginal canal does not ensure ‘knowledge’ of her subjectivity or intentionality any more than does looking at a film or picture of this activity.'
True, but I am not arguing that seeing the work live is a good thing because of the ‘unmediated’ fashion in which this delivers the body and the artist to the viewer. In fact, I am arguing for an even more radical rejection of authorship – the idea that it doesn’t matter who performs it at all.
Less relevant but still central to her argument -
Body art shows that the body can never ‘be known ‘purely’ as totalisable, fleshy whole that rests outside the arena of the symbolic. Body art flaunts the body itself as a lack, exposing the body itself as supplementary.
Rather than confirming the ontological coherence of the body-as-presence, body art depends on documentation, confirming – even exacerbating – the supplementarity of the body itself.
Good summary of these ideas on Auslander p2
Has some stuff on the dangers of using documentation as 'proof' that a performance occurred (castration example) - but doesn't argue against documentation for these reasons.
Perform, repeat, record
The Artist is Present
Refutes the idea that performance can offer 'presence' any more than documentation.
In fact, faced with the 'spectacle' that was 'the artist is present' at the Guggenheim, she writes 'I found myself wanting to revert to reading books about performance to escape the noisy emptiness of this “real” live art experience.'
Talks about the aestheticisation of the original through reenactment
Also good quotes on MA's essentially 'historical' concern with documentation etc rather than 'presence' in the live moment (which Jones denies is possible for performance to achieve)
Notes that MA herself has often replaced the original artist's as the commodified 'author-function' of the performances she repeats
Related to other issues of reification
The ontology of performance
Classical view of performance as something that should be ephemeral and non-reproducible.
Idea that reproduction ‘betrays’ the performance.
Does she specifically address re-performance? Or is reproduction limited to other mediums?
Seems she would not even accept re-performance: 'Performance occurs over a time which will not be repeated. It can be performed again, but this repetition marks itself as ‘different’.'
Also describes the document as a 'spur to memory' - slightly more positive
'The act of writing about performance to ‘preserve’ it is an act that also fundamentally alter the event.'
But doesn't all art history do this? Ekphrasis.
She doesnt deny the need to write about performance though - but says we should 'write towards disappearance' rather than 'preservation'
institutions must invent an economy not based on preservation but one which is answerable to the consequences of disappearance
Though see performing remains for an argument against the idea that performance = disappearance
'writing can broach the frame of performance but cannot mimic an art that is non-reproductive' - the act of writing has a fixity which performance denies
‘Performance’s only life is in the present. Performance cannot be saved, recorded, documented, or otherwise participate in the circulation of representations of representations: once it does so, it becomes something other than performance’.
‘To the degree that performance attempts to enter the economy of reproduction it betrays and lessens the promise of its own ontology.’ -
does this include re-performance?
‘Performance’s independence from mass reproduction, technologically, economically, and linguistically, is its greatest strength.’
Possibly relate to Sehgal and, in opposition, Abramovic to Jones (presence in absentia)
Discussion of Calle's work - poss relate to ekphrasis ideas
By placing memories in the place of paintings, Calle asks that the ghosts of memory be seen as equivalent to “the permanent collection” of “great works.”
One senses that if she asked the same people over and over about the same paintings, each time they would describe a slightly different painting. In this sense, Calle demonstrates the performative quality of all seeing.’
'While the art historian of painting must ask if the reproduction is accurate and clear, Calle asks where seeing and memory forget the object itself and enter the subject’s own set of personal meanings and associations.' -->
to what extent does the object really matter to the individual? We might remember it very differently to how it actually is. Performance operates in the same way
Contrast to 'performing remains' - an example of the way critics of performance have overemphasised its disappearance and ignored the other ways its leaves a trace e.g. memory
The performativity of performance documentation
Critical terms for art history
Walker Art Gallery article
Interview with Tim Griffin
Transformation of actions
Simultaneity of production and de-production
Denies his work is 'performance'
Explanation of anti-documentation stance
Explicitly says he is 'for' the capitalist economy of production
A little bit of history repeated exhibition
Explicitly refers to oral history and the notion of the archive - see notes
Claire Bishop article
How to do things with art
Interview with Abramovic
See notes for quotes
Good for summary of issues surrounding performance and documentation , and of the work of Phelan, Auslander, Schneider
For some, artistic re-enactment has promised to overcome the limitations of mediatised forms of documentation. Yet, many of these events have remained tangled up with documentation nevertheless, both relying upon documents as source material for their re-enactments and photographing and filming the re-enactments themselves.
E.g. Seven Easy Pieces
It would seem that even in the turn to re-enactment we persist in an uneasy relationship to documents.
Acknowledges, 'my discussion of the work would be different if I had not been there in person'
As much as the framing discourse of Seven Easy Pieces seemed to propose re-enactment as an alternative method of preserving performance art for future generations, which could overcome the limitations of traditional forms of documentation, the project was continually preoccupied with documentation.
Quote about documentation apparatus getting in people's way at 7EP
Good summary of MA"s alleged motivations for 7EP
In her apparent aim to ‘correct’ the record, it could seem that Abramović was engaged in ‘a unidirectional art march toward an empiric future of preservation’ as Rebecca Schneider has suggested. (Motivated by ‘empirical aims and a linear conception of history’).
Though Abramović expressed concerns that the documentation of performance art has been inadequate and prone to producing inaccurate recollections of the events, it was nevertheless the photographic, filmic, and written documents of these early works, in conjunction with those potentially inaccurate recollections recounted orally, that provided the source material for her re-enactments.
A number of commentators have thus responded that ‘Abramović did not re-do the performances so much as she recreated the documentation’
Not only did the documentation of 7EP reproduce the documentation of earlier works, often explicitly resembling the iconic images associated with those works (see Jones in the Artist is Present) but Abramović’s live performances themselves seemed to function as ‘embodied documentation’.
This corresponds with Jones’s criticism of all reenactments’ ‘potential to flatten out or aestheticise the act [...] and thus to reduce or
erase the act’s potential for provoking awareness or for transformation or change’
(which I will argue Sehgal's approach potentially allows for)
Thus, for a number of observers, Abramović’s performances – as re-documentations – did not serve to return the past performances to the unpredictability of the live but contributed to their fixing within history
For T. Nikki Cesare and Jenn Joy, ‘the contradictions entwined in [Seven Easy Pieces]
become the excuse to not watch
, become permission to leave because an intact, documented memory will still exist’.
Re-performance of Export's Action Pants: Genital Panic probably the best example of a re-enactment of the document rather than the performance
Also use in Section C to argue for the importance of re-performance as well as documentation - seems to take my holistic approach.
The artist is present
Seven easy pieces
Critical Documentation Strategies for Preserving Art's History
Some good quotes on the idea of 7EP as a reperformance of the documentation rather than the performance (and the way it was then heavily documented)
Also good on the
of MA's reperformances - note that she refers to these as 'documentations'
Good on the complications re-performance presents for notions of authenticity and the original - and also on the fallacy that mediation necessarily denies authenticity
Good quote on the need to consider all kinds of documentation
(holistically), not in some kind of hierarchy (an all-embracing approach to documentation - photography/video/text/re-performance can all contribute to a better overall understanding)
Note that she refers to what A does as 'reinterpretation' or even 'documentation',
Good on the sheer level of documentation involved in 7EP
Good on pro re-performance arguments
Also an anti-doc argument:
The presence of the film crew produce not just a record of the performance but an excuse not to watch with the comforting knowledge that someone (or something) else will watch for us.
- Argument in favour of Sehgal’s approach – his ban on documentation prevents this problem.
Ultimately feels that reliance on documentation in the end reiterates the fact of the irretrievable loss of the original
Actually not super relevant to my argument, apart from acknowledging that performance art has - despite its progressive connotations - not been able to disentangle itself from capitalist commodification (still heavily documented, even Sehgal's dematerialised works are exchanged as commodities etc)
Offers a critique of Sehgal if I did want to show the other side though.
Bit on 'classical' performance arts ban on all forms of reproduction useful. Phelan: it is 'representation without reproduction'. Where does this leave re-performance?
Does it simply re-perform the documentation?
In general the more interesting recent performance art tends to undermine the conventional opposition b/w the live event and the supposedly inferior reproduction.
Generally live performances, photos and videos are now acknowledged as different manifestations of the same work, which oscillates between presentation and representation in a more complex way than the old performance ideology was willing to contemplate.
Probably the sort of compromise I'll end with
Anthropology of performance: a reader (Korom)