Writings

Here, you’ll find short essays and writings discussing our research activities, conversations with diverse specialists and artists, and other reflections on the nature of performance conservation. For announcements of events and calls for proposals, see our News page.


Time to Listen: The Aural Dimensions of Performance and Time-Based Media Art

In conservation and art history, two disciplines that remain very visually oriented, the sound aspects of artworks are too often neglected or forgotten. This aspect was the subject of recent discussions with performance scholar Heike Roms and time-based media conservator Amy Brost.

The iconic image: a conversation with Philip Auslander

Recently, our team met with Philip Auslander, an influential performance scholar who has argued that performance documentation is not merely a passive afterimage of a live act, but rather can be seen to partially – in some cases, even wholly – determine a performance’s reception and thus actively shapes what we understand the performance to be. Such documentation, Auslander argues, is itself “performative.”

“Somebody felt that too!” Discussing Performance Legacies with Paul Couillard

During our recent conversation with Canadian artist and curator Paul Couillard, we discussed the preservation of performance through the lens of the various curatorial and artistic projects that he has been engaged with. How should a performance work be remembered, what about it is to be preserved? And how to foster and renew relationships between audiences, artists and artworks? These are some of the questions that have nurtured Paul’s thoughts in caring for his own work as well as the work of others over the years.

Nicole Savoy on Claire Bishop

Guest contributor Nicole Savoy discusses the team’s recent public conversation with Claire Bishop, in which the art historian and critic responded to the question: “can performance art be conserved?”

Performing the Bauhaus

What role does architecture play in choreographing performance – both the actions of the performer, and the reception of their audience? How do the spaces we inhabit affect our movements and behavior?

On Performance Art, Theatre, and their Conservation: Conversation with Florian Reichert

The question of conservation is challenging the field of performance art, but at the same time it is also eruptive, creative and evocative. On February 10, 2021 we spoke with Florian Reichert, head of the Department of Theatre at Bern University of the Arts, about the influence conservation has on performance art and theatre, the differences and similarities between theatre and performance and theatrical performance and the kind of performances that are based on the visual art.

Exploring anarchival materiality with Kate Hennessy

The idea of “anarchival materiality” – which probes how rebellious and fugitive media might help reveal the histories and biases of anthropology – seems a promising approach to the documentation of performance.

The conservability of performance: Two events and their afterlives

In recent weeks, our research project hosted its first two public events: the two-day colloquium “Performance: The Ethics and the Politics of Care —  # 1. Mapping the Field,” and “Living Materials: Ethics and Principles for Embodied Stewardship,” an in-depth conversation between Cori Olinghouse and Megan Metcalf. Julia reflects on what we learned from these events, and how that knowledge will endure and change in the future.

Contemplating digital ruins with Sabine Himmelsbach

How to preserve complex digital artworks for the future? And what parallels can we draw between media art and performance art? Our recent conversation with Sabine Himmelsbach, director of the Haus der elektronischen Künste Basel (HeK), has led us to explore the institutional afterlives of performative artworks in a broader sense.

Ausgerenkte Kräfte: Eingangsnotate zu dem Forschungsprojekt «Performance : Conservation, Materiality, Knowledge»

Performance Art spielt sich vielleicht im metaphorischen Sinne an jenem unscharfen Rand ab, den der Kegelscheinwerfer auf dem schwarzen Bühnenboden zeichnet: Ein ausfransender, schillernder Rand – im metaphorischen Sinne zwischen der «Black Box» des Theaters und dem «White Cube» der Galerie- und Museumsräume oszillierend. Wie lässt das sich konservieren?

Michaela Schäuble, with and without a camera

We anticipated a scintillating and productive discussion with anthropologist and filmmaker Michaela Schäuble when we met with her in April. That assumption proved entirely correct – but other assumptions we held about the contemporary practice of anthropology, and Schäuble’s own approach to documentation, were turned inside-out. (Photograph by Anja Dreschke.)

Strength in numbers: a joint meeting with COLLECTING THE EPHEMERAL

Proof of the vitality and the growing interest for the performative arts in Switzerland, there are currently not one but two exciting SNSF research projects that are engaging with performance art from the perspective of its institutionalization.

On the continuity of practice in Florian Feigl’s work

For Florian Feigl, performance is about practice, continuity, and processes—things that lead to one another, things we do. Known for 300 (2009 – ongoing), a series of performances built upon everyday activities that take place within a prescribed time interval of circa 5 minutes or 300 seconds, the series exemplifies the concept of continuity in his work. Born in the moment of crisis while feeling overwhelmed by domestic obligations, his concept for this series followed a necessity to allocate slots of time to work. One can always find five minutes for doing something.

Reflecting on different forms of performance documentation

What is performance conservation? Time-based media conservator and now art historian Emilie Magnin is thinking about the interlacing of performance, documentation and conservation from a conservator’s perspective.