Collecting, Archiving and Sharing Performance and the Performative

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: English

Abstract

'Collecting, Archiving and Sharing Performance and the Performative' aims to research, document and disseminate performance at Tate from the 1960s to today by studying practices of collecting, displaying, documenting, publishing and sharing information about performance. The project also aims to study audience engagement by exploring novel ways of recording and interpreting user responses to performance and embedding these in Tate's displays. It is a collaboration between the Centre for Intermedia at the Department of English at the University of Exeter and two departments at Tate - Tate Research and Tate Online - in consultation with Tate's Digital Learning Department and its Copyright Department and collaborating with Tate's curator for performance. The project is especially timely because of Tate's opening of the Tanks, the 'first spaces dedicated permanently to live art installation and performance in any museum building anywhere in the world' (Sir Nicholas Serota, BBC, 23/4/2012). The outputs include an innovative online archive, an edited book, a project documentation blog, a workshop, a conference and two articles.

Performance at Tate originated in the 1960s when performative works were acquired by Tate and a number of early performance works and talks were hosted by the education department. In the intervening decades more performative works were acquired and a number of exhibitions and events staged. After 2003, and with the introduction of Tate Live and then the Tanks, Tate's programming of performance became more systematic, and an increasingly diverse range of documents, including films, photographs, texts from programmes, artist statements and correspondences were collected for over 200 performances of artists such as Merce Cunningham, Joan Jonas, Christian Marclay, Surasi Kusalwong, John Cage, Trisha Brown, Carlos Amorales, Cai Guo Qiang, the Guerrilla Girls, Sung Hwan Kimn and Suzanne Lacy, to name but a few. Some works included live performance; others were born digital, but still performative, like Argentinean born artist Pablo Bronstein's Constantinople Kaleidoscope (2012), an entirely new work made especially for the Performance Room, which involves a group of dancers on a trompe l'oeil stage set that exaggerates the perspective of the room. Some had audiences, others were interactive and user-led, like Pawel Althamer's Film 2000, a performance trailer for a film that is never made which requires actors famous in a given part of the world (in the UK Jude Law) to perform in a location related to the museum. Some were documented extensively, by well-known photographers, like Martin Creed's installation in which 50 participants run through Tate Britain, which was photographed by Hugo Glendinning in 2008. Others, like Tino Sehgal's This is Propaganda (2002, and acquired by Tate in 2005) have no 'conventional' documentation in that the artist suggests that the work is taught to two members of the museum staff on acquisition who are charged with its remembrance. The result is an unrivalled collection of performance materials yet to be fully exploited.

It is expected that the Tanks will generate a greater public appetite for and interest in performance, and increasingly involve audiences ('There is an incredible appetite for participation', Chris Dercon, Tate Modern Director, BBC, 23/4/2012). Tate's renewed and increased commitment to a performance programme, including the production of born digital 'live' work, requires that Tate now looks back at what it has established curatorially throughout the years, whilst also looking forward at developing new curatorial strategies for performance, including the development of multiple, interdisciplinary and participatory methodologies for performance documentation to ensure that the new commissions in the Tanks and elsewhere at Tate can effectively generate future legacies at Tate and, through the generation of a best practice framework, beyond.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from the research?

1) The general public.
2) The artists whose work is represented in the archive.
3) Other artists.
4) Other museums and galleries.
5) Tate.

How will they benefit?

1) The general public: the public will benefit by being able to access the rich history of performance work at Tate as an online archive, and read about the project findings in the archive and blog (the archive will also have a set of longer essays aimed at the general public). The experience of the project, The Gallery of Lost Art, which was part-funded by the AHRC, was that there was enormous public enthusiasm for recovering the stories of 'lost' or no longer extant works through studying the material traces of the work's existence. We feel that the planned website will help restore to public consciousness a large swathe of works and events that risk being entirely forgotten or misunderstood. The public will also be encouraged to develop and add secondary forms of documentation to records generated by Tate and by the commissioned artists through the blog. These will be further disseminated via social media, hence potentially reaching audiences who are not currently engaged with the museum. Tate Online, the UK's number two website in the Hitwise 'arts' category for 2011-12, was fully redesigned in 2012 to ensure Tate will continue to attract and engage global audiences.

2) The artists whose work is represented in the archive: this user group will benefit by having a public record of their performance work at Tate published in an archive. There is currently no publicly available archive of this work.

3) Other artists: this user group will be able to utilise the online archive to learn about the lineage of performance work at Tate. They will also be able to learn and experiment with performance documentation strategies that might in turn help them to create legacies of their own practice.

4) Other museums and galleries: this user group will benefit from the fact they would familiarise themselves with Tate's curatorial practices over performance and performativity and their documentation over the years, and learn about and/or experiment with the use of novel approaches to performance documentation which might feed back into their own curatorial and preservation practices. A framework built through research developed by the project in consultation with different departments at Tate, including Learning and Copyright, is directly targeting this user group.

5) Tate: Tate will benefit because it will be able to investigate, archive, curate and make public a substantial and yet still under-researched body of its own work spanning over 50 years and including more than 100 artists. By developing new strategies to capture, document and replay live and born digital performance and performativity, including the user experience, a legacy of the curation of performance at Tate will be created for future generations. Findings about performance documentation, including the capture and documentation of the user experience, are likely to affect Tate's future collection, preservation and documentation policies. Finally, a focus on the capturing of the user experience, and the embedding of performativity and performance within canonical displays, is expected to lead to novel ways to curate performance work and manage its collection at Tate, something that the museum is keen to develop.
 
Description The research has created an archive of the history of performance at Tate spanning 1960 to today. New knowledge generated through the research led to the production of a new collection display.

Histories of Performance Documentation, edited by Jonah Westerman and myself was published by Routledge in 2017 and as a consequence two keynote invitations were received from Maastricht University in relation to their programme on media conservation.
Exploitation Route This archive constitutes a significant resource for those who wish to learn about performance at Tate in the period 1960 to the present date. The edited volume constitutes the first history of how a number of pioneering art museums museums engaged with performance documentation in the period 1960-2016.
Sectors Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/performance-at-tate
 
Description To collaborate with a new partner, LIMA, based in Amsterdam on re-enactments and re-interpretations as a strategy for performance and new media documentation. The collaboration, which took place between 2016/17, led to the writing of a manifesto that intends to change the way museums preserve performance and new media arts. The Head of Art Historical Research at Tate Jennifer Mundy, noted that before starting the project 'we [Tate] didn't really know what [the material in the archives] was or understand its significance' and that the project illustrated how 'the museum sector as a whole' was affected by it. Jennifer Mundy, 'How having IRO status helped Tate build a truly adventurous research programme', https://ahrc.ukri.org/research/readwatchlisten/features/how-having-iro-status-helped-tate-build-a-truly-adventurous-research-programme/ verified 7/1/2019.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description At the edge of the 'living present': re-enactments and re-interpretations as strategies for the preservation of performance and new media arts 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Final Unfold workshop in Amsterdam to share best practice about re-interpretation with museum curators from a number of venues in the Netherlands and internationally.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Delfina Foundation talk (London) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Catherine Wood gave a talk 'Performance as Process' at the Chelsea Art School on 16/3/2015.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Draf colloquium (London) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Jonah Westerman gave a talk, 'Performance at Tate', introducing the Performance at Tate project at DRAF on 21/11/2015.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Giannachi, G. (2018) Invited contribution about mixed reality performance documentation, forthcoming Performance art and the 1970s: Documentation, Ideas and Historiography, 30 November-1 December 2018, Berlin. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Policy makers attended
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description ICA Talk (London) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Catherine Wood offered a talk on Performance at Tate at the On Collecting Performance Symposium at the ICA on 13/2/2015.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description MoMA workshop (New York) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Catherine Wood run a choreographing exhibitions workshop at MoMA on 28/3/2016.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Musee d'Orsay talk (Paris) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Catherine Wood gave a talk 'La Musee par la Scene' on 20/11/2015 in which she discussed the role of performance in the museum.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Re-enactments and re-interpretations as strategies for the preservation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Expert workshop on re-interpretation for preservation
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Stedelijk Museum talk (Amsterdam) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Gabriella Giannachi gave a talk, 'Performance, the document and the digital: the case of Lynn Hershman Leeson' on 1/10/2015 as part of a panel comprising experts in documentation. The talk was about documenting the work Roberta Breitmore by US artist Lynn Hershman Leeson. Questions were received which indicated a growing interest in this artist and the problematics caused by her work in terms of documentation within the museum sector.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Tate Modern (London) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Catherine Wood, Jonah Westerman, Gabriella Giannachi offered talks as part of the project colloquium 'The Place of Performance' at Tate Modern on with curators from Germany, the USA and the Netherlands on 21/6/2016.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Tate Modern Curator's Tour (London) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Jonah Westerman led this 'Curator's tour: a Secret History of Performance' in Tate Modern on 19/10/2015 to unveil the history of performative works at Tate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Tate Modern talk (London) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Jonah Westerman gave a talk 'Performance at Tate' to twenty curators from the Netherlands, Lithuania, Frances, UK, and Belgium from Tate's Corpus International Partners at Tate Modern on 29/1/2015.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Tate Modern talk (London) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Jonah Westerman gave a talk, 'Object Relations: what to conserve when art exceeds objects' as part of a panel 'Migrating Meaning: Contextual Claims and the Work Itself' on 20/11/2015 as part of Media in Transition co-hosted by Tate and Getty Research at Tate Modern.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Tate Modern, If Tate Modern were Musee de la Danse documentation (London) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact On 15-16 May 2015 the French company Musee de la Danse took over Tate Modern in If Tate Modern Were Musee de la Danse. The documentation, carried out via social media by the general public, started before the performance opened and concluded just after the end of the performance. The documentation was able to involve Tate visitors in a communal process of knowledge co-creation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description The place of performance in the museum 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Concluding the two-year AHRC funded project Performance at Tate, and coinciding with the opening of the new Tate Modern, this event considers how the inclusion of performance or performative work in collections and programming not only adds to (and occasionally revises) art history, but impacts upon physical, conceptual and technical infrastructures of the museum itself.

Comprising presentations by leading scholars, curators and artists, the event questions how performance both proceeds from and pushes against these material and institutional interactions. Additionally, we consider how the increasing visibility of performance has raised questions concerning how arts institutions and practitioners conceive the roles of action, gesture and audience when displaying artworks that are not considered performance-based in the usual sense, but are understood as performative more broadly for how they make use of and position processes of creation and reception - whether rooted in traditional media such as painting, sculpture, and photography, or in emerging and new media.

Speakers

Annie Fletcher (Chief Curator, Van Abbemuseum)
Ana Janevski (Associate Curator, Department of Media and Performance, MoMA)
Cally Spooner (Artist)
Catherine Wood (Senior Curator, International Art & Performance, Tate)
Jonah Westerman (AHRC Postdoctoral Research Associate, Tate)
Tarek Atoui (Artist)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Walker Arts Center talk (Minneapolis) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Jonah Westerman gave a talk 'Acquisition Forms: Actions, Objects and the Museum', as part of a panel on 'Commissioning and Acquiring Performance' on 29-9/9/2015 with contributions by Hammer Museum, Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Frankfurt), Performa (New York), UCLA Danspace project, MoMA, Dia Art Foundation. Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Whitney museum, Le Mouvement, Walker Arts Centre.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015