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.