October 15, 2007

Performance Documentation

Just came accross this while doing my Multimedia seminar reading:

"Consider two familiar images from the history of performance and body art: one from the documentation of Chris Burden's Shoot (1971), the notorious piece for which the artist had a friend shoot him in a gallery, and Yves Klein's famous Leap into the Void (1960), which shows the artist jumping out of a second-story window into the street below. It is generally accepted that the first image is a piece of performance documentation, but what is the second? Burden really was shot in the arm during Shoot, but Klein did not really jump unprotected out the window, the ostensible performance documented in his equally iconic image. What difference does it make to our understanding of these images in relation to the concept of performance documentation that one documents a performance that "really" happened while the other does not? I shall return to this question below.

As a point of departure for my analysis here, I propose that performance documentation has been understood to encompass two categories, which I shall call the documentary and the theatrical. The documentary category represents the traditional way in which the relationship between performance art and its documentation is conceived. It is assumed that the documentation of the performance event provides both a record of it through which it can be reconstructed (though, as Kathy O'Dell points out, the reconstruction is bound to be fragmentary and incomplete1 ) and evidence that it actually occurred. The connection between performance and document is thus thought to be ontological, with the event preceding and authorizing its documentation. Burden's performance documentation, as well as most of the documentation of classic performance and body art from the 1960s and 1970s, belongs to this category.

Although it is generally taken for granted, the presumption of an ontological relationship between performance and document in this first model is ideological. The idea of the documentary photograph as a means of accessing the reality of the performance derives from the general ideology of photography, as described by Helen Gilbert, glossing Roland Barthes and Don Slater: "Through its trivial realism, photography creates the illusion of such exact correspondence between the signifier and the signified that it appears to be the perfect instance of Barthes's 'message without a code.' The 'sense of the photograph as not only representationally accurate but ontologically [End Page 1] connected to the real world allows it to be treated as a piece of the real world, then as a substitute for it.'"2 (In relation to Slater's notion that the photograph ultimately substitutes for reality, it is worth considering whether performance recreations based on documentation actually recreate the underlying performances or perform the documentation. Poor Theatre (2004), in which the Wooster Group recreates performances by Jerzy Grotowski and William Forsythe, and Marina Abramovic's reenactments of other artists's performances in Seven Easy Pieces (2005) are recent examples of work that clearly play with this slippery question."

It's the opening of the artical 'The Performativity of Performance Documentation' in the journal PAJ by 'Big Phil Auslander' and can be accessed through MUSE.

V. interesting, I recommend a read (ummm, Lotte are you the only one who doesn't do multimedia?)

I was thinking about performance documentation as another 'text' which could be played with and used as part of our palimpsests. I may have a research into 'Poor Theatre' and possibly use my findings in my workshop facilitation?

- One comment Not publicly viewable


    yar, that was un interesting article

    the bit about the bloke who walked along the street and took photographs every time he blinked, creating a performance that didn’t happen (nobody was aroud to see it) was interesting to.

    16 Oct 2007, 00:26

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