Reactivations: Essays on Performance and Its Documentation
Most people agree that witnessing a live performance is not the same as seeing it on screen; however, most of the performances we experience are in recorded forms. Some aver that the recorded form of a performance necessarily distorts it or betrays it, focusing on the relationship between the original event and its recorded versions. By contrast, Reactivations focuses on how the audience experiences the performance, as opposed to its documentation. How does a spectator access and experience a performance from its documentation? What is the value of performance documentation? The book treats performance documentation as a specific discursive use of media that arose in the middle of the 20th century alongside such forms of performance as the Happening and that is different, both discursively and as a practice, from traditional theater and dance photography. Philip Auslander explores the phenomenal relationship between the spectator who experiences the performance from the document and the document itself. The document is not merely a secondary iteration of the original event but a vehicle that gives us meaningful access to the performance itself as an artistic work. "A rich and rewarding book. Reactivations reminds us how to think about performance in a manner that is direct and pragmatic, while still ambitious and fully embedded in both conceptual and historical knowledge of our subject."
... This is closely linked to relationships between live performance and its documentation, a subject that has long dogged the histories of performance art practices and which, for some, continues to be a bone of contention as to what constitutes the true nature of an 'original' performance and our understanding of it. I have previously stated with reference to the work of Peggy Phelan (1993), Amelia Jones (1997), and Philip Auslander (2006Auslander ( , 2008Auslander ( , 2018 that the increasing inclusion of technology and its mechanisms into and as live performance has complicated this relationship in that 'what initially appeared to separate what is live and what is recorded in the experience of a performance by an audience as it is taking place and the experience of a performance after it has occurred [via its documentation], has become increasingly blurred' (Chance 2017, p. 270). ...
... More nuanced understandings of the relationship between performance and documentation such as those put forward by Amelia Jones (1997) and Philip Auslander (2006, 2018, respectively, have challenged the ontological priority of performance to assert a consideration of the document as an artwork and performance in its own right. Jones takes up the idea of documentation as an indexical supplement 11 to live performance to suggest a mutual (or 'inter-subjective') codependence between the two, elevating the status of the document beyond a mere record of a past performance event. ...
... This could go some way towards reconsidering the fraught relationship between performance and documentation and provide another space for rethinking representation within the artist's book. The relationship between performance and documentation, as has been stated, has often existed unhelpfully at opposing polarities that, on the one hand, has performance in a negative relation to reproductive media (Phelan 1993) but that, on the other hand, has these as generators of the performance event (Auslander 2006(Auslander , 2008(Auslander , 2012(Auslander , 2018. The former 'effaces any connection between performance and its traces', whilst the latter 'elides any difference between action and artifact' (Westerman 2015, p. 4). ...
The Great Orbital Run was a solitary run/artwork that took place over nine days around the inside boundary of the M25 London Orbital. The journey was mapped through a stream of photographs and GPS coordinates relayed live from a mobile phone to a web interface and shown as a projected artwork at the University of Greenwich, London. It was later re-configured as the M25 in 4000 images, a unique concertina bookwork/sculpture produced from digital data into tangible, printed paper form. Cut, folded, and constructed by hand, it makes visible the mass of images that embody the running activity and the terrain it represents. This essay considers this artwork and its status as a document and artist’s book, reflecting on (1) the original running activity, (2) the mapping of the boundary of Greater London, (3) the performance of technology in relaying the run, and (4) the transformation of digital images into material form. The document is considered in relation to the run as a performance and in relation to its performative potential. This is extended to the documentary properties of the artists’ book as ‘a form of three-dimensional representation’ that, through its ‘agency’, aligns itself with spatial practice.
... Interactuar es reactivar. La idea propuesta más interesante es: "mientras una documentación/ registro podría inicialmente "desactivar" la originalidad porque saca el performance de su contexto original, también esa originalidad es reactivada en el momento en que el observador, en un contexto diferente, la encuentra a través de su documentación" (Auslander, 2018). ...
Este artículo comparte, propone y discute metodologías psicofísicas de acercamiento a los archivos y la memoria de performances, a través del ejemplo de una investigación de doctorado en curso sobre trabajos de artes de cuerpo, hechos por artistas latinoamericanas entre 1973 y 2000, que discuten relaciones entre patriarcado, violencia y cuerpos de mujeres. Esta metodología propone la reactivación, re-escenificación y reagenciamiento como formas de construcción de conocimiento histórico sobre danzas y cuerpos, por considerar que es por medio de los cuerpos que podemos comprender, percibir y sentir mejor los contenidos éticos, estéticos y políticos embutidos en la documentación, registros, imágenes y relatos de danzas y performances históricos.
... He continues that professionally executed archiving supports the artists, who can then acquire different perspectives on their body of work, as can researchers and the general public, for whom documentation provides information about an ephemeral art form and its development over the years . In his recent book Reactivations, Philip Auslander points out that "documentation is a present act directed to a future audience" . For T.E.H.D.A.S., the archive serves as a memory that carries information about the association's past activities. ...
Digital objects and documentation of intangible cultural heritage pose new challenges for most museums, which have a long history in preserving tangible objects. Art museums, however, have been working with digital objects for some decades, as they have been collecting media art. Yet, performance art as an ephemeral art form has been a challenge for art museums’ collection work. This article presents a method for archiving digital and audiovisual performance documentation. D-ark (digital performance art archive) is based on a joint effort by the artist community T.E.H.D.A.S., which has created the archive, and Pori Art Museum, which is committed to preserving the archive for the future. The aim is to produce sufficient standardized metadata to support this objective. This article addresses the problems of documenting an ephemeral art form and copyright issues pertaining to both the artist and the videographer. The concept of D-ark includes a modular metadata schema that makes a distinction between descriptive, administrative, and technical metadata. The model is designed to be flexible—new modules of objects or technical metadata can be added in the future, if necessary. D-ark metadata schema deploys the FRBRoo, Premis, VideoMD, and AudioMD standards. Administrative and technical metadata modules abide by Finnish digital preservation specifications.
The body is the database of lived experience. Emergent was created during COVID-19 from the desire to explore the extended possibilities of digital performance beyond lens-based media. The work includes generative animations and sound compositions using data collected from a consumer fitness tracker worn since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. As a portrait of experience through the data body (as both body of data and body producing data), Emergent engages with the memories of the flesh, becoming the impetus for aesthetic encounters through digital performance. In this article about the work, Putnam describes how it was produced, provides a detailed overview of the work and its theoretical context, and discusses how it functions as a digital performance between the artist and computer. The result is a work where data visualisation and sonification generates ambiguity, rather than clarity, introducing difference in how biometric sensing devices are used and understood.
This is an autoethnographic reflection about doing research on the 1990 Cambodian National Dance Company tour to the UK. Drawing upon research on performance, history and reactivation, I argue that the situated encounters, memories and experiences associated with performance documentation – the archival “record” – complicates our sense of performative endings. I reflect on the seeming inability to study an “original” performance and the passing of dance masters during the course of my research, whilst simultaneously finding pictures and reports about them in archives and online. Through this, I consider how the affective investments of performances linger, often for decades.
‘Venice excels in blackness and whiteness; water makes commerce between them’. So writes Adrian Stokes, in his 1947 study of the city, its architectures, and its art. This very sentence performs a problem of Venice that has vexed those who have made art, literature, and other writing of the city, in the city, from the city: Venice asks us to take its measure, its shadows and light, its water and stones—but this is even more complex than a chiaroscuro, ‘commerce’, aesthetic and economic, plays with what is clear and what is not, tipping us between registers we fail to fully comprehend. And thus we are brought too often to perform and replicate such confusion and inability to ‘account for’ the polytropic, polymaterial, and polytemporal registers the city simultaneously operates upon, or ‘makes commerce between’. And yet there is an artistic method that can account for the strange and often highly problematic spoliate economies of Venice, a method which also bridges walking practice as political performance art, and situated performance as art historical practice. This is a poetic-performance method that is provided by the artist Tim Brennan’s Vedute Manoeuvre, first performed in the Venice Biennale 2011, and re-performed as part of the research work documented here. Vedute Manoeuvre, I claim, is a method whose polyvocalic polyvisual modes, whose art-act as common experience and experience of the complexity of the artistic and architectural commons and commerce of Venice, is perhaps the only way of ‘giving voice to’ the polytropic, polymaterial, and polytemporal problems we encounter when we encounter Venice, its water, and its stones. We thus re-orientate the multiple other ways that spoliate, colonial, archipelagic Venice has been found difficult in previous attempts to perform an accounting of (and, indeed, of artistic commerce with) this vexed and vexing city, with Vedute Manoeuvre as invitation toward a performance ‘redux’, as crux and as solution. The work presented here—an essay in the truest sense—is also a mode of performance which demonstrates in its own attitudes to the question of the manoeuvre the act and art of manoeuvre itself.
In May 2020, the world witnessed Derek Chauvin, a serving White police officer, murder George Floyd, a Black American male. A video of the murder, shot by Darnella Frazier, documented Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for a little under eight minutes. The video served as a call to action with protests erupting throughout the summer of 2020 across the USA. Activists took to the streets demanding an end to police brutality and systemic racism. The act of kneeling became a recurrent symbol of these protests. This article specifically focuses on instances where police officers have taken the knee opposite protesters. The author argues that, within this context, kneeling is a memetic performance; it is a unit of cultural information passed on through repetition and mutation. Through mutation (repetition with difference), the symbolic meaning of the act changes. In the case of police officers kneeling opposite protesters, the act purportedly symbolizes moments of solidarity and understanding between the two sides. Much like the video that inspired the protests, instances of officers kneeling opposite protesters were captured, disseminated via social media and went viral. The stillness of these moments promised hope for movement towards a more equitable and humane future. But these images serve as a form of dirty data as they document a future yet to materialize. To this end, the act of kneeling is a haunted gesture, serving as a form of counter-activism. The act of kneeling by police officers, irrespective of the intentions of the individuals involved, does not solicit an encounter with the ghosts of police brutality and systemic racism. Rather the act, as a mutated form of activism, simultaneously disrupts the atmosphere of protests and reclaims narratives about police conduct, without enacting meaningful change.
Addressing the work (or, indeed, the lessons) of Memory Studies, Ann Rigney has suggested that the creative arts play a particular role as ‘catalysts’ in the cultural understanding of the past. Contrasting an example of contemporary theatre repertoire with an officially legislated ‘theatre’ of remembrance, this essay reflects on differences between the cultural politics of a creative performance produced by Warsaw’s Nowy Teatr – (A)pollonia – and those of commemorative ‘performance’ mandated by the state concerning specifically the citation of ‘Righteous among the nations’. In a context where memory wars over ‘the good name’ of Poland include recourse to the law intervening in both scholarly and artistic research, how might this theatre production offer a form of counter-memorability to claims about national ‘tradition’, especially with respect to remembering the Shoah?
Τις τελευταίες δεκαετίες η εισαγωγή των ψηφιακών τεχνολογιών στις επιτελεστικές τέχνες – στις οποίες ανήκει και η μουσική – έχει πυροδοτήσει έντονους προβληματισμούς και αντιπαραθέσεις στο πεδίο των επιτελεστικών τεχνών (και άλλων συναφών αντικειμένων), γύρω από το ζήτημα της ζωντανότητας. Αυτές οι αντιπαραθέσεις αναπτύσσονται κυρίως γύρω από το ερώτημα, εάν η ζωντανότητα αποτελεί ένα οντολογικό χαρακτηριστικό της επιτέλεσης ή ένα στοιχείο της, το οποίο κατασκευάζεται ιστορικά και πολιτισμικά. Παρά τις σημαντικές διαφορές τους, τόσο οι οντολογικές όσο και οι φαινομενολογικές προσεγγίσεις της επιτέλεσης, αναγνωρίζουν ότι ο «πραγματικός χρόνος» είναι ένα αδιαμφισβήτητο χαρακτηριστικό κάθε ζωντανής (ψηφιακής και μη) επιτέλεσης. Αυτός ο τρόπος κατανόησης του χρόνου, ωστόσο, οδηγεί σε αντιφάσεις, οι οποίες θα μπορούσαν να ξεπεραστούν εάν στραφούμε στη διερεύνηση των τρόπων με τους οποίους η χρονικότητα των ψηφιακών τοπίων συγκροτείται μέσα από τις πραγματικές δράσεις των συμμετεχουσών σε συγκεκριμένες ψηφιακές (μουσικές) επιτελέσεις.
La presente publicación analiza las prácticas escénicas desde el punto umbral de inicios de la transición de la democracia, revisitando momentos escénicos que han impactado el quehacer artístico hasta el día de hoy. Los acontecimientos artísticos y sociopolíticos de las y los creadores que conviven en dicho periodo, influenciaron el entendimiento y práctica de un tipo de actuación específica que posibilita el teatro de hoy en Chile. Los hechos ocurridos en los años oscuros de la dictadura chilena, ponen al cuerpo en un primer lugar de ejecución, representación y resistencia. Mientras cuerpos literalmente desaparecen, la actuación y la performance los hace aparecer en escena más insistentemente. ¿Por qué entender, entonces, nuestra actuación solamente a partir de perspectivas extranjeras? ¿Ha emergido una particular inteligibilidad en la actuación chilena desde los acontecimientos corporales que produce un cuerpo actuando, considerando su contexto identitario y sociopolítico? Varios artistas que vivieron esa época, y especialmente a quienes citamos en este documento, se encuentran aún vigentes en su quehacer teatral. Esto pone en relevancia la investigación, no solo por la pertinencia de pensar estilos y poéticas actorales en el Chile postdictadura, sino también porque los archivos desde los cuales la información puede ser recabada no se encuentran solo en documentos, sino también en los propios cuerpos. Es decir, en los protagonistas de ese tiempo.
This article encourages further discussion of certain concepts and practices for the music theatre creations by the composer Constança Capdeville (1937-92) in keeping with the time and context of her compositions. Her music theatre works incorporate by a certain hybridism as they juxtapose various artistic expressions such as dance, music, and theatre. Throughout the 1970s, the performance concept as understood today was not fully recognized, either by composers or by the performers, who collaborated with Capdeville within the context of the Portuguese music scene. In this regard, the composer António de Sousa Dias believes this stemmed from the tendency to connect the term with performance art or with certain positions linked to happenings or free improvization, which were not the main concern of Capdeville. Given the difficulty in classifying her musical works, we here discuss some etymological issues around the performance and re-performance concepts. Capdeville’s music theatre works combine different artistic expressions leading us to reflect on documentation strategies including interdisciplinary approaches from fields such as (digital) philology, computer science, archiving research and performing arts documentation, detailing here some perspectives and practices currently applied for preserving such artistic productions.
To understand performance art of the past is to grapple with the fact that this art was designed to be lost. That is to say, it purposefully aspired to the condition of the lost work of art.
In this study, I compare and contrast online and offline performances of karaoke and ask, what are the material phenomena associated with the two practices? How are they different and/or the same? What does this tell us about the connection between performance and technology, especially in relation to amateur singing and its mediatized forms? Following this mode of enquiry, I find that examples of online and offline karaoke provide useful insight into ways amateur performances are inevitably permeated by commerce. I also offer hope and guidance towards how future networks of amateur performances might escape this fate. I have begun a new study of karaoke in and around Columbia, Missouri (USA), with a special focus on local singing in rural communities. Alongside this I am examining how karaoke has grown into a pervasive online genre of amateur performance. I’m doing extensive research of performances of karaoke presented on social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and TikTok. This ongoing study seeks to reveal connections between desire and materialism – drawing parallels between karaoke, online commerce and commercialism – as well as exploring the flattening and globalizing of local performance when presented on social media. In a brand new world where ‘anyone can do it’, businesses keep finding new ways to draw people in and capitalize on their desire for celebrity, even if they are only famous for a few minutes. While karaoke may begin as a kind of amateur local singing that provides consumers with an open media text, the possibility of agency in its interpretation becomes closed the instant it hits the global network. Once these performances are reactivated on social media, any ‘voids’ that karaoke opens up are almost immediately commodified and closed.
Qualitative research that focuses on social interaction and talk has been increasingly based, for good reason, on collections of audiovisual recordings in which 2D flat-screen video and mono/stereo audio are the dominant recording media. This article argues that the future of ‘video’ in video-based qualitative studies will move away from ‘dumb’ flat pixels in a 2D screen. Instead, volumetric performance capture and immersive performative replay rely on a procedural camera/spectator-independent representation of a dynamic real or virtual volumetric space over time. It affords analytical practices of re-enactment – shadowing or redoing modes of seeing/listening as an active spectation for ‘another next first time’ – which play on the tense relationships between live performance, observability, spectatorship and documentation. Three examples illustrate how naturally occurring social interaction and settings can be captured volumetrically and re-enacted immersively in virtual reality (VR) and what this means for data integrity, evidential adequacy and qualitative analysis.
Liveness is the central topic within this contribution to our book. Auslander and van Es discuss the concept of “Liveness”. Auslander can hereby be seen to be one of the “veterans” in the study of liveness and therefore one of the central temporalities we encounter in relation to media and other performance arts. Here he is in conversation with Karin van Es. Her contribution to the topic was released in 2016. In it, she explicitly builds on, but also criticises Auslander’s approach (both older and more recent). The focus of the debate lies on the different views on liveness and media. The discussion is presented under the title “The Time of Our Lives”.
Conceptual art's factions have frequently been at odds, usually over definitions and often after the fact. For the purposes of further argument, Conceptual art might be considered as work that emphasized the underlying conditions of aesthetic experience: Language was seen as foremost among these conditions. Material form and sensory perception were made secondary to analyses of their discursive and institutional frames. Performance art, on the other hand, seems relatively straightforward to define, “as a form of art that happens at a particular time in a particular place where the artist engages in some sort of activity, usually before an audience. The main difference between performance art and other modes of visual art practice, such as painting, photography, and sculpture, is that it is a temporal event or action.” ² .
I was not yet three years old, living in central North Carolina, when Carolee Schneemann performed Meat Joy at the Festival of Free Expression in Paris in 1964; three when Yoko Ono performed Cut Piece in Kyoto; eight when Vito Acconci did his Push Ups in the sand at Jones Beach and Barbara T. Smith began her exploration of bodily experiences with her Ritual Meal performance in Los Angeles; nine when Adrian Piper paraded through the streets of New York making herself repulsive in the Catalysis series; ten when Valie Export rolled over glass in Eros/Ion in Frankfurt; twelve in 1973 when, in Milan, Gina Pane cut her arm to make blood roses flow (Sentimental Action); fifteen (still in North Carolina, completely unaware of any art world doings) when Marina Abramovic and Ulay collided against each other in Relation in Space at the Venice Biennale in 1976 (fig. 1). I was thirty years old—then 1991—when I began to study performance or body art ¹ from this explosive and important period, entirely through its documentation.