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.
A recent performance by Geneva performance artist Davide-Christelle Sanvee at the Museum Tinguely demonstrates that performance itself is a tool for conserving performance art’s history – and for reinterpreting it.
Looking back at Conserving “Us:” Caring for Living Heritage, Oral Tradition and Indigenous Knowledge — A Conversation with Brandie Macdonald
What does it take to care for living heritage and indigenous knowledge? What does it mean to conserve oral tradition or spiritual performance? How can museums become a space for engaging with living objects, and how to approach these through a decolonial lens? Our research team invited Brandie Macdonald, Chickasaw Nation/Choctaw Nation, senior Director of Decolonializing Initiatives at the San Diego Museum of Us to present her work and discuss these questions within the Thursday Lecture series organized at the Bern Academy of the Arts. In what follows, Emilie Magnin shares some reflections about the event.
When Kim Kardashian wore a spectacular dress originally made for Marilyn Monroe to the iconic annual gala of the Metropolitan Museum’s costume institute, textile conservators expressed outrage. But how might we interpret this bold act from the perspective of performance conservation?
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.
This post reflects on our visit to an exhibition that showcases the use of advanced technologies – and partnerships with industry – to preserve, research, and access cultural heritage.
When we ask about how to conserve performance-based art, what are we asking? If we think of performance as itself a mode of conservation, what are we thinking? What is at stake in conserving changeability? Rebecca Schneider  Contemporary discourses of care emergent from recent art and material culture have long left behind both the …
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.”
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.
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?”
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?
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.
In the conversation with performance artist Marilyn Arsem, our research group Performance: Conservation, Materiality, Knowledge focused on her artistic work, the difficulties posed by the attempts to conserve performance art and the complications in preserving a performance before it happened.
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.
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.
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.
Dislocated Forces: Introductory Notes on the Research Project “Performance : Conservation, Materiality, Knowledge”
In a metaphorical sense, performance art might even take place in that blurred margin that the spotlight outlines on a black stage floor: a fraying, shimmering boundary, oscillating between the black box of the theater and the white cube of gallery and museum spaces. How might this liminal entity be conserved?
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?
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.)
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.
As an art historian, I am used to thinking of memory as something that must be captured in another medium – text, video, etc. – in order to be preserved. But perhaps memory itself can be a form of preservation.
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.
Folklorists view all forms of creative expression as performative, as modes of communication that must be interpreted in context. Can their methods towards understanding and documenting intangible things inspire us in our approach to performance conservation?
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.
Much like art performance, freely improvised music is considered spontaneous, transient, and unique. Could approaches from the world of music help us conserve ephemeral art?
Might Pippin Barr’s simple flash games represent a useful tool in the conservation of performance art?