Performance Saga – the story is longer

On our official website we state:
Performance Saga is a project by the artist Andrea Saemann (b. 1962) and the art historian Katin Grögel (b. 1970). Both live and work in Basle.
It transmits and updates the history of Performance Art on many levels and promotes a dialogue between the generations. The project includes the conception and realization of performance pieces, the publication of video interviews and the planning of events.
Eight Performance Saga Interviews were published in 2007 and 2008. They may be ordered from edition fink – Verlag für zeitgenössische Kunst. No further interviews are planned for now.
Three Performance Saga Festivals were held in Bern (2008), Lausanne and Basle (2009). Writing on the performances may be read at A documentary publication of the performance festivals was published in January 2011 by liveartwork and can be ordered through:

I state:
Performance Saga is a tool to travel in time and space. It allows me to experience a present, filled up with the past. It puts my own individuality into perspective and modifies its borders. It makes me realize, that art at any moment is a collective act. Neither copy right nor copy left but share the knowledge and shape the streams.

Andrea Saemann

Recreating the Unknown

All performance art is marginal, but some is more marginal than others.

Much of the discussion and activity around performance recreation is focused
on relatively ‘famous’ artists. This is essentially inevitable because in
order to make a recreation there has to be some documentation of the
original action available in the public domain and the published, accessible
histories of performance art still tend to feature a narrow selection of
familiar names.

For me, the very obscurity of many performance artists and their work is
almost intrinsic to the very form of performance art and it is something
that any history of performance art, or attempts at recreating performance
work, should consider engaging with.

Confronted with fragmentary documentation of an obscure artist’s work and
lacking a more detailed historical context, then the act of recreation can
operate as a tool of exploration when other forms of research are not

I propose that recreation can act as a way of sharing an experience, showing
someone else something that you, personally find interesting, or even
exploring something that you found interesting without knowing exactly why.

Chris Hewitt

Re-Enacting Performance Art

Explores the re-staging of ephemeral/live artworks from the 1960s and 70s by contemporary artists. Re-creation as live documentation strategy.

Re-enactment and re-creation of performance art is increasingly being employed as a method of art-historical research, as well as an artform in itself. Well publicised recent examples include Marina Abramovic’s “Seven Easy Pieces” (2005) at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and the series “A Short History of Performance” (2002-) at the Whitechapel Gallery, London.

Re-enactment can situate artists, as “action-researchers”, at the centre of a discipline traditionally dominated by (non-artist) scholars.

In contrast to the kind of knowledge that is generated through reading about artworks after the event, or viewing documentary photographs and videos, re-enactments seek to provide a different kind of knowledge by making it possible to encounter the artworks directly ourselves.

The process of re-enactment goes beyond polite homage, or slavish devotion to the “authentic” work of art. Instead, re-enactments are an interaction with history, transforming our experience (and therefore our understanding) of the original ephemeral artwork.

This session brings together artists and teachers who use re-enactment as an artistic and pedagogic strategy.

Andrea Saemann, a Swiss performance artist, has for some years been attempting to tap into feminist performance history. Her works often begin by seeking out and meeting with key figures such as Carolee Schneeman, and evolve into hybrid events which combine the re-enactment of the 1960s or 70s work, layered with additional material gleaned from her meetings.

Christopher Hewitt teaches performance art practice and theory in Berlin, and his educational process involves critical appraisal of documentation materials left behind from seminal (as well as lesser-known) works of the past. His students are encouraged to re-create these photographs or videos live, as a way of trying to understand the institutional framing of ephemeral performance. Christopher is also actively involved in documenting contemporary performance works, though his venture LiveArtWork, which publishes and distributes DVDs of recent performances.

Lucas Ihlein’s re-enactment work has primarily revolved around Expanded Cinema from British artists of the 1970s. Working with Louise Curham as “Teaching and Learning Cinema”, Ihlein’s approach involves a carefully annotated and documented re-invention of the original works, paying particular attention to the technological specificity of film, video and digital media.

Andrea Saemann (Switzerland) and Christopher Hewitt (Germany), in conversation with Lucas Ihlein.