Curating Live Arts: Critical Perspectives, Essays, and Conversations on Theory and Practice 9781785339646

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Curating Live Arts: Critical Perspectives, Essays, and Conversations on Theory and Practice

Table of contents :
PROLOGUE Bethinking One’s Own Strengths: The Performative Potential of Curating
A Collective Introduction
A NOTE ON CURATORIAL STATEMENTS A Third Space: Chasing the Intangible
PART I Historical Framings
CHAPTER 1 From Content to Context: The Emergence of the Performance Curator
PRACTICAL SPACE Curiosity and Intuition
CHAPTER 2 Exhibiting Performances: Process and Valorization in When Attitudes Become Forms—Bern 1969 / Venice 2013
CHAPTER 3 Can We Curate Dance without Making a Festival? On Dance Curatorship and Its Shifting Borders
CHAPTER 4 Curating Performance from Africa on International Stages: Thoughts on Artistic Categories and Critical Discourse
CHAPTER 5 The Curating Nation: Emergence of Performance Curation in Singapore and Its Impact on Cultural Politics
CHAPTER 6 The Curatorial Chronotope
CHAPTER 7 More Weirdness, More Joy: Performance Curation and Pedagogy at Danspace Project and the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance
PART II Ethical Proposals
CHAPTER 8 Dancing the Museum
CHAPTER 9 Curatorial Discourse and Equity: Tensions in Contemporary Dance Presenting in the United States
PRACTICAL SPACE Holy Motor—a Mechanical Metaphor Surrounding the Live Arts Curator
CHAPTER 10 Noticing the Feedback: A Proposal to the Contemporary Dance Field, and/or This Revolution Will Be Crowdsourced
CHAPTER 11 Email to a Curator: An Introduction to The Curators’ Piece
PRACTICAL SPACE Curating Liveness
CHAPTER 12 Curation as a Form of Artistic Practice: Context as a New Work through UK-based Forest Fringe
PART III The Artist-Curators
CHAPTER 13 The Artist-Curator, or the Philosophy of “Do-It-Yourself”
EMBODIED SPACE “Soft-Curation,” Pollination, and Rhizomes
CHAPTER 14 Being in the Vanguard of Sensibility: Artists as Curators in Performing Arts— a Study of Collective Affect
CHAPTER 15 Familias: Artist-Activist Curation in the South Bronx, New York
CHAPTER 16 What We Talk About When We Talk About Curating the “Unexpected”
CHAPTER 17 Because I Love Art, I Want Art to Be Different: The Project Perverse Curating and a Few Things I’ve Learned from It
CHAPTER 18 Making Stage: Contemporary Dance and Performance Curation in the Caribbean
CHAPTER 19 The Work of the Musician-Curator in Relation to the “Concert Scenario”
CHAPTER 20 Pseudo-, Anti-, and Total Dance: A Self-Interview on Curation
CHAPTER 21 Collective Creation and Improvised Curation: A Discussion with Body Slam
PART IV Exhibition as Events
CHAPTER 22 A New Kind of Critical Elsewhere
CHAPTER 23 Re-enact History? Performing the Archive!
CHAPTER 24 Choreographing Archives, Curating Choreographers: Yvonne Rainer, Xavier Le Roy, and the Dance Retrospective
CHAPTER 25 Exhibiting Dance, Performing Objects: Cultural Mediation in the Museum
CHAPTER 26 The Curator’s Work: Stories and Experiences from Tino Sehgal’s Events
PART V Artivism
CHAPTER 27 Framing a Network, Charting Dis/Courses: Performance Curation, Community Work, and the Logic/Anxieties of an Emerging Field
CHAPTER 28 Food=Need: Constraints, Reflexivity, and Community Performance
CHAPTER 29 ARC.HIVE of Contemporary Arab Performing Arts: Memory, Catastrophe, Resistance, and Oblivion
CHAPTER 30 Collective Walks / Spaces of Contestation: Site-Specifi city, Community Involvement, and Mobility Employed as Curatorial Strategies in the Creation of Participatory Performances
CHAPTER 31 Sound Citizen: Curating Sound Art in the Distributed Public Sphere
ETHICAL SPACE Curation as a Practice of Radical Care: A Defi nition
PART VI Institutional Reinventions
CHAPTER 32 Rethinking the Role of Institutions and Curators in a New Interdisciplinary Age
C HAPTER 33 The Curator as a Culture Producer
ETHICAL SPACE Definition of Curation
CHAPTER 34 How to Build a Manifesto for the Future of a Festival “Festivals as Thinking Entities,” a Conversation with Judith Blackenberg, Daniel Blanga-Gubbay, Silvia Bottiroli, and Livia Andrea Piazza, initiated by Silvia Bottiroli and Berno Odo Polze
CHAPTER 35 The Curatorial Gesture as a Decolonial Gesture
ETHICAL SPACE Proposing Intervals— Curating as Choreography
CHAPTER 36 Are You Not Entertained? Curating Performance within the Institution
CHAPTER 37 Bodies in Museums: Institutional Practices and Politics
ETHICAL SPACE Curating History, Curating Resistance
CHAPTER 38 What Can Contemporary Art Perform? And Then Transgress?
EPILOGUE Situation Critical: What Comes Next for the Field of Performance Curation?

Citation preview

Curating Live Arts

Curating Live Arts Critical Perspectives, Essays, and Conversations on Theory and Practice Edited by DENA DAVIDA, JANE GABRIELS, VÉRONIQUE HUDON, AND MARC PRONOVOST

berghahn NEW YORK • OXFORD

First published in 2019 by Berghahn Books © 2019 Dena Davida, Jane Gabriels, Véronique Hudon, and Marc Pronovost All rights reserved. Except for the quotation of short passages for the purposes of criticism and review, no part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without written permission of the publisher. Cover photos: Top, Mark Eastman performing in Investigation in Masculinity. Artistic Director: Cynthia Oliver. Clothed by The Cloth. Performance in partnership with Dancing While Black, the New Waves! Commission Project, presenting work by contemporary choreographers and performance artists of the Caribbean and its Diaspora. Co-curated by New Waves! Director Makeda Thomas, and Paloma McGregor, Director of Dancing While Black, this experimental, multi-performance, interdisciplinary environment featured dance and other performances at the NALIS Amphitheatre in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, on Thursday, 30 July 2015 at 7 p.m. Participating artists for the Dancing While Black Performance Lab included Cynthia Oliver, Thomas F. DeFrantz, Shireen Dickson, Anika Marcelle, Adanna Jones, Orlando Hunter, Nyama McCarthy-Brown, and The Black That I Am. (Photo by Sophie Bufton, © 2015.) Bottom, © Nadège Grebmeier Forget, As We, 2015. Courtesy of the artist. Quote collage and photographic response to “A Third Space: Chasing the Intangible” by Michèle Steinwarld and Michael Trent. www

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A C.I.P. cataloging record is available from the Library of Congress

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN 978-1-78533-963-9 hardback ISBN 978-1-78920-134-5 paperback ISBN 978-1-78533-964-6 ebook

We dedicate this book to artists and curators everywhere working for sustainable social change.

Figure 0.1. This photo of curator Adham Hafez (Artistic Director, HaRaKa Dance Development and Research and Adham Hafez Company) was taken as he and a group of volunteers rescued books while they were being shot at and a fire blazed through the Institut d’Egypte on 17 December 2011. We are fortunate to have this photographic record documenting a moment of activism during this historical catastrophe. (Photo by Mariam Sami, © 2011.)



PROLOGUE Bethinking One’s Own Strengths: The Performative Potential of Curating Florian Malzacher




A COLLECTIVE INTRODUCTION Dena Davida, Jane Gabriels, Véronique Hudon, and Marc Pronovost A NOTE ON CURATORIAL STATEMENTS—A THIRD SPACE: CHASING THE INTANGIBLE | Michèle Steinwald and Michael Trent



PART I. Historical Framings CHAPTER 1 From Context to Concept: The Emergence of the Performance Curator Bertie Ferdman




CHAPTER 2 Exhibiting Performances: Process and Valorization in When Attitudes Become Forms—Bern 1969 / Venice 2013 Beatrice von Bismarck


CHAPTER 3 Can We Curate Dance without Making a Festival? On Dance Curatorship and Its Shifting Borders Elisa Ricci




CHAPTER 4 Curating Performance from Africa for International Stages: Thoughts on Artistic Categories and Critical Discourse ‘Funmi Adewole with Jareh Das


UNTITLED | Isabel Sachs


CHAPTER 5 The Curating Nation: Emergence of Performance Curation in Singapore and Its Impact on Cultural Politics Ken Takiguchi


CHAPTER 6 The Curatorial Chronotope Peter Dickinson


LAYERS | Harun Morrison


CHAPTER 7 More Weirdness, More Joy: Performance Curation and Pedagogy at Danspace Project and the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance Judy Hussie-Taylor


Part II. Ethical Proposals CHAPTER 8 Dancing the Museum Thomas F. DeFrantz CHAPTER 9 Curatorial Discourse and Equity: Tensions in Contemporary Dance Presenting in the United States Naomi M. Jackson HOLY MOTOR—A MECHANICAL METAPHOR SURROUNDING THE LIVE ARTS CURATOR | Cécile Tonizzo CHAPTER 10 Noticing the Feedback: A Proposal to the Contemporary Dance Field, and/or This Revolution Will Be Crowdsourced Michèle Steinwald CHAPTER 11 Email to a Curator: An Introduction to The Curators’ Piece Tea Tupajić and Petra Zanki








CURATING LIVENESS | Victoria Mohr-Blakeney


CHAPTER 12 Curation as a Form of Artistic Practice: Context as a New Work through UK-based Forest Fringe Deborah Pearson


Part III. The Artist-Curators CHAPTER 13 The Artist-Curator, or the Philosophy of “Do-It-Yourself” Julie Bawin




CHAPTER 14 Being in the Vanguard of Sensibility: Artists as Curators in Performing Arts—a Study of Collective Affect Kasia Tórz


CHAPTER 15 Familias: Artist-Activist Curation in the South Bronx, New York Jane Gabriels


CHAPTER 16 What We Talk About When We Talk About Curating the “Unexpected” Syreeta McFadden


GREATER THAN | Shoshona Currier


CHAPTER 17 Because I Love Art, I Want Art to Be Different: The Project Perverse Curating and a Few Things I’ve Learned from It Jacob Wren


CHAPTER 18 Making Stage: Contemporary Dance and Performance Curation in the Caribbean Makeda Thomas


AS WE | Nadège Grebmeier Forget


CHAPTER 19 The Work of the Musician-Curator in Relation to the “Concert Scenario” Marie-Hélène Breault




CHAPTER 20 on Curation SALTA

Pseudo-, Anti-, and Total Dance: A Self-Interview 204

CHAPTER 21 Collective Creation and Improvised Curation: A Discussion with Body Slam Body Slam Improv Collective: Gregory Selinger, Helen Simard, Roger White, Xavier Laporte, Victoria Mackenzie, and Claudia Chan Tak


Part IV. Exhibitions as Events CHAPTER 22 A New Kind of Critical Elsewhere Travis Chamberlain


CHAPTER 23 Julia Kurz


Re-enact History? Performing the Archive!

CHAPTER 24 Choreographing Archives, Curating Choreographers: Yvonne Rainer, Xavier Le Roy, and the Dance Retrospective 235 Fabien Maltais-Bayda and Joseph Henry THE TITLE AS THE CURATOR’S ART PIECE | Steve Giasson


CHAPTER 25 Exhibiting Dance, Performing Objects: Cultural Mediation in the Museum Erin Joelle McCurdy


CHAPTER 26 The Curator’s Work: Stories and Experiences from Tino Sehgal’s Events Véronique Hudon


Part V. Artivism CHAPTER 27 Framing a Network, Charting Dis/Courses: Performance Curation, Community Work, and the Logic/Anxieties of an Emerging Field Roselle Pineda CURATE | Natalie Doonan

275 282



CHAPTER 28 Food=Need: Constraints, Reflexivity, and Community Performance Pam Patterson


CHAPTER 29 ARC.HIVE of Contemporary Arab Performing Arts: Memory, Catastrophe, Resistance, and Oblivion Adham Hafez


CHAPTER 30 Collective Walks / Spaces of Contestation: Site-Specificity, Community Involvement, and Mobility Employed as Curatorial Strategies in the Creation of Participatory Performances Mariane Bourcheix-Laporte CHAPTER 31 Sound Citizen: Curating Sound Art in the Distributed Public Sphere Morten Søndergaard CURATION AS A PRACTICE OF RADICAL CARE: A DEFINITION | Nicole L. Martin




Part VI. Institutional Reinventions CHAPTER 32 Rethinking the Role of Institutions and Curators in a New Interdisciplinary Age Philip Bither CHAPTER 33 Marta Keil

The Curator as a Culture Producer

DEFINITION OF CURATION | SALTA CHAPTER 34 How to Build a Manifesto for the Future of a Festival “Festivals as Thinking Entities,” a Conversation with Judith Blackenberg, Daniel Blanga-Gubbay, Silvia Bottiroli, and Livia Andrea Piazza, initiated by Silvia Bottiroli and Berno Odo Polzer Silvia Bottiroli CHAPTER 35 The Curatorial Gesture as a Decolonial Gesture Arnaldo Rodriguez Bagué

315 320 327

329 340





CHAPTER 36 Are You Not Entertained? Curating Performance within the Institution Rie Hovmann Rasmussen


CHAPTER 37 Bodies in Museums: Institutional Practices and Politics Véronique Hudon with Boris Charmatz




CHAPTER 38 What Can Contemporary Art Perform? And Then Transgress? Emelie Chhangur


EPILOGUE Situation Critical: What Comes Next for the Field of Performance Curation? Tom Sellar


THE PARABLE OF THE CURATOR | Michel Herreria (drawing) and Jean-Paul Rathier (text)




Illustrations 0.1. This photo of curator Adham Hafez (Artistic Director, HaRaKa Dance Development and Research and Adham Hafez Company) was taken as he and a group of volunteers rescued books while they were being shot at and a fire blazed through the Institut d’Egypte on 17 December 2011. We are fortunate to have this photographic record documenting a moment of activism during this historical catastrophe. (Photo by Mariam Sami, © 2011.)


1.1. Kenneth Dewey at The Theatre of the Future conference, Edinburgh Festival, 1963. Courtesy of the Scotsman Publications, 1963. Used with permission.


4.1. Photo documentation of Jelili Atiku’s performance Agbo Rago at Ejigbo Ram Market, Lagos, Nigeria on Sunday, 27 September 2009. (Photo by Soibifa Dokubo, © 2009.)


5.1. A scene from Lear, conceived and directed by Ong Keng Sen, 1997. Jiang Qihu (center), Chinese Jingju (Beijing Opera) actor, plays the Older Daughter. Peeramon Chomdhavat (to the right of the picture), Thai Khon dancer, plays the Younger Daughter. Lim Yu-Beng, Jefri Andi, and Benny Krisnawardi (far left) play the warriors. They were choreographed in the style of Indonesian Pencak Silat. (Photo courtesy of TheatreWorks [S] Ltd., 1997.)


7.1. Raja Feather Kelly (standing), with iele paloumpis (seated), channels Ethyl Eichelberger during Life Drawings at Conversation Without Walls at Danspace Project, 15 October 2016. Part of Danspace Project’s Platform 2016: Lost & Found. (Photo by Ian Douglas, © 2016.)


8.1. Virginia Johnson (dancer) and the Dance Theater of Harlem in the company’s official debut with a public performance in the lobby of the New York Guggenheim Museum, 8 January 1971. (Photo by Suzanne Vlamis, © 1971,


CS.1. Holy Motor. (Drawing by Cécile Tonizzo, © 2017.)




11.1. Tea Tupajić and Petra Zanki, The Curators’ Piece, Meteor festival, Bergen, 2011. Performing curators (left to right): Gundega Laivina, Florian Malzacher, Per Ananiassen, Sven Åge Birkeland, Priit Raud, Mark Yeoman, and Vallejo Gantner. (Photo by Monica Santos Herberg, © 2011.)


14.1. Never Sleep, neon sign by Tim Etchells, 2015. Source: Malta Festival, Poznai Archive. (Photo by Maciej Zaknewski, © 2015.)


15.1. Photo for Pepatián’s FAMILIAS, created by Merián Soto and Pepón Osorio with dance company members James Adlesic, Patricia Dávila, Niles Ford, Merceditas Mañago, and Kathy Westwater, with participation of eight local families (Arroyo, Ayres-Toro, Balbuena, de León, García, Gómez, Grullón, and Rodríguez), presented at Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture (Eugenio María de Hostos Community College, Bronx, NY). (Photo by Tom Brazil, © 1995.)


18.1. Ananya Chatterjea in Moreechika, 27 July 2012. (Photo by Maria Nunes, © 2012.)


CS.2. As We. (Photo by Nadège Grebmeier Forget, © 2015.)


20.1. Performance by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Alif lara la Revolución, at the CTRL+SHFT collective space in Oakland, California, 2017. (Photo by Chani Bockwinkel, © 2017.)


21.1. Body Slam Collective performance at Envisioning the Practice: International Symposium on Performing Arts Curation, 15 April 2014 in Montréal. Performers (left to right): Rémy Saminadin, Greg Selinger, Nans Bortuzzo, Helen Simard, Victoria Mackenzie, Stéphanie Morin-Robert, Xavier Laporte, and Roger White. (Photo by Pascale Yensen, © 2014.)


23.1. Thomas Janitzky and Ich-AG Geige in performance (with Paule Hammer, Daniel Mudra, and Markus Psurek), 2013. (Photo by Peter F. Hermans, © 2013.)


24.1. Dancers in training for Trio A by Yvonne Rainer, with Pat Catterson, July 2014. The dancers (left to right): Rebecca Stancliffe, Morrighan MacGillivray, Sam Kennedy, and Antigone Avdi. Photo courtesy of Raven Row, London. (Photo by Eva Herzog, © 2014.)


29.1. The Opera Square in Cairo (2017), site of the former Khedevial Opera House (the first opera house on the entire African continent), which burned to the ground in a fire set in 1971, and was turned into a garage and mall. (Photo by Adam Kucharski, © 2017.)


30.1. Photo documentation of site-specific performance The People’s Procession against the Pipelines. Gabriel Saloman in collaboration with the Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion (BROKE), Burnaby, British Colombia, 12 April 2014. (Photo by Ash Tanaslychuk, © 2014.)




31.1. Front of BG Bank in Roskilde, Denmark, where the In Line sound intervention piece by Carl Michael von Hausswolff was installed during the Under Cover exhibition sometime in April 2003. (Photo by Morten Søndergaard, © 2003, used with permission from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Roskilde, Denmark.)


35.1. Performance during Idea de Nexo in the General Studies Faculty’s lobby, 13 May 2014. (Photo by Migdalia Barrens, © 2014.)


38.1. Humberto Vélez, The Awakening/Giigizhkozimin, 2009–2011. Performance documentation. A participatory collaboration between the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation and Parkour. Project commissioned by the Art Gallery of York University and curated by Emelie Chhangur. Performance staged at the Art Gallery of Ontario on 14 May 2011. Image courtesy of the artists and the Art Gallery of York University. (Photo by Len Grant, © 2011.)


CS.3. Original drawing. (Created by Michel Herreria, © 2017.)



Bethinking One’s Own Strengths The Performative Potential of Curating FLORIAN MALZACHER


aybe it is symptomatic of the strange untimeliness of theater that it has introduced the concept of the curator to the field of live arts at what seems to be a rather badly chosen moment: for even though curation remains a buzzword in the visual arts where it has experienced an unprecedented boom over the last decades, it is also increasingly criticized. Does the curator aim to be a meta-artist, ultimately creating art without artists? Is the curator a neoliberal agent, fulfilling the market demands even before the market itself demands them, well wrapped in seemingly anti-capitalist discourse? And is it not anyway a diluted, empty term by now, when every shop window is subject to curating? So it does not come as a surprise that now, as the concept of curating slowly makes its way into the world of the live arts, it is confronted with quite a bit of skepticism. After all, theater tends to consider itself one of the last places of resistance against the imposition of the very neoliberalism that the visual arts, with their especially close relationship to market economy, is so much part of. And is not the title of a curator already actually just a sales device, used in the desire to snatch some of the glamour of the shiny world of galleries and biennales, appropriated by theater and festival programmers, producers, and dramaturges for its sexier sound rather than as a token for a real commitment to changing one’s own practice? Resentment meets some good arguments in these debates, which are often conducted as a superficial substitute for other discussions. This has most prominently been seen in the recent heated exchanges around former Tate Modern director and visual arts curator Chris Dercon taking over the legendary Berlin theater Volksbühne after the exit of the ground-breaking Frank Castorf. The



debates rage over theater versus visual arts, repertoire/ensemble theater versus international production house, drama versus post-drama, local versus global, ethos versus post-politics, sustainability versus event, social democracy versus market, and so on. The figure of the curator is a stand-in for many of these battlefields and became a symbol for the changes and challenges that confront mainly ensemble-based and text-based repertory theaters. But a deeper consideration of what curating in the live arts can actually contribute to artistic, aesthetic, political, discursive thinking is symptomatically not part of this debate. STAGED EXHIBITIONS, CURATED PERFORMANCES As much as the visual arts’ concepts of curating and the curatorial offer a potential that is still mostly unused or even undiscovered within the field of live arts, they are already more connected than one might think. It is not by chance that one of the pioneers of modern curating, the iconic Harald Szeemann, compared his work to that of a theater director, and art theorist Beatrice von Bismarck underlines the proximity of exhibition-making to the very job of a dramaturge. In this regard one could say that the authors in this book aim less at borrowing and appropriating discourses from other genres than self-confidently bethinking their own strengths. How can the understanding of dramaturgy, time management, narration, process, use of space, the co-presence of the audience, role play, in short, performativity itself, influence the curatorial work and be used to create specific concepts, coherent projects, to contextualize differently and to foster a dialogue between artworks, artists, audiences, and hopefully even society? In short: how can curating live arts itself become performative? The ambiguous title “curator” should be seen as a self-provocation, a challenge, a self-inflicted and complex task, rather than a possible gain of prestige. It is meant to make the job more complicated, not easier. It proposes an ambition that is not easy to fulfill but by which we, as curators, should be measured. While we can freely draw from the very elaborate (if not exaggerated) discourse within the visual arts, it is even more important to focus on the potential of our own medium. This book takes on the task of developing our own independent discourse, and we are still at the very beginning of discovering the unique opportunities, the unique techniques that curating the live arts can produce. Even though the term “performative curating” has sporadically been used before (e.g. by curator Maria Lind 2002), it has usually remained vague, a soft distinction meant to emphasize an interest in the process as well as the pragmatics of curating rather than only in the presentation of a final product. Loosely referring to John Austin’s famous concept of “speech acts” (a precursor to the idea



of performativity) to describe verbal utterings that do not stay purely verbal but at the same time have the transformative power of an act that changes or constitutes reality (Austin 1962) connects the wider context of new institutionalism and other aspects of institutional, artistic, and curatorial self-reflexivity. I would suggest that the notion of “performative curating” should not only acknowledge the social and other relational aspects of art, but that we should put these aspects at the center of our curatorial strategy. If we understand performativity not only as something that is intrinsic to the live arts, but also as a strategy to actively emphasize the very construction of its own reality, to show the process and not merely the product, to playfully acknowledge the artistic as well as the social, political, theoretical context, it becomes clear how this could become a powerful means for curating. NOT ALLOW THINGS TO HARDEN It is almost surprising how many traces of performativity can already be found in general concepts of the “curatorial” that Beatrice von Bismarck defines as “the dynamic field where the constellational condition comes into being. It is constituted by the curating techniques . . . , by the participants—the actual people involved who potentially come from different backgrounds, have different agendas and draw on different experiences, knowledges, disciplines—and finally by the material and discursive framings, be they institutional, disciplinary, regional, racial, or gender specific” (Rogoff and von Bismarck 2012: 24–25). Art theorist Irit Rogoff additionally, and with a slightly different emphasis on the level of practice, asks the question about “how to instantiate this as a process, how to actually not allow things to harden, and how to create a public platform that allows people to take part in these processes” (Rogoff and von Bismarck 2012: 23). A “dynamic field,” “a process,” “how to actually not allow things to harden,” these characterizations already show how much the concept of the curatorial is thought of as performative. After all, the fear that something that might look too complete, too much like a finished product already constitutes part of all live arts, where the permanent proximity to failure, chance, mistakes, and loss of control are not seen as unavoidable flaws but rather as the core of the medium. Instead of ignoring these obstacles, embracing them could be seen as a key curatorial strategy for creating a tension that emphasizes the very aliveness that is inherent even in the most conventional repertory theater, dance company, or music ensemble. Expanding, shortening, interrupting, varying time (navigating physical or mental strength, exhaustion, boredom, enthusiasm of the collective body of the visitors) can create such an awareness, as well as cre-



ating specific densities of spatial complexities. Inventing specific dramaturgies or playing with the potentials and limitations of narration or scores are other options, as well as confronting works that might not be compatible at first sight in order to create tension and openness through their friction. The list can be continued, possibilities are vast, and many concrete examples in this book—developed by curators as well as artists, dramaturges, and activists—reveal how much understanding the curatorial as performative means putting a focus on the here and now. At best it creates a temporary particular but porous reality that refers to many other realities, and thus enables the art works to be experienced not as autonomous entities but well within their own rights, their own lives—in relation to others. The theater is the space in which societies have long explored their own means, procedures, ideals, and limits. It is, as Hannah Arendt states, “the political art par excellence; only there is the political sphere transposed into art” (Arendt 1989: 188). Taking this heritage into the field of curating—in a time when presumed political certainties are pulverized and our democracies under permanent threats—poses a crucial challenge to our practice. It can be described by Chantal Mouffe’s political notion of agonistic pluralism, which aims at showing different positions in struggle and disagreement. In opposition to philosophers from Marx to Jürgen Habermas or John Rawls, who believe in the possibility of a harmonious society in very different ways, Mouffe enables us to think about democracy differently, not as a necessary or even possible consensus but rather as a public sphere that allows the possibility of conflict (Mouffe 2000). Democracy is the arena in which we can enact differences as adversaries without having to reconcile. Much in the same way that the concept of the curatorial is thought of as performative, the agonistic concept of agonistic pluralism almost seems like paraphrasing theater. Not by chance, Mouffe drew the name from agon, the game, the competition of arguments in Greek tragedy. We need a playful (while often very serious) agonism to prevent an antagonism that ends all negotiation. On a small scale, theater and curatorial concepts can create such spheres of open exchange, even in societies in which free speech is scarce or in Western democracies where the space between consensus and antagonism is becoming increasingly narrow. Art that is not in but as public space—to use a differentiation by art theorist Miwon Kwon (2002)—might be one of the most important things theater and performative curating can offer. Without neglecting the obvious problems of transferring a concept of political theory into the realm of aesthetics, the idea of a curatorial, performative field that keeps things in flux and enables a playful (but serious) enacting of different positions is the, perhaps slightly utopian, vision of what curating in performing arts should aim for.



FALSE SHYNESS AND HIGH STAKES This is the context in which this book—as one of the first solely on the topic— undertakes the necessary and timely endeavor of laying the groundwork for a discourse that is still quite young and underdeveloped. It initiates the important task of writing a history of possible predecessors, while at the same time emphasizing the necessity of attempting to look far beyond the dominant “Western” borders, which still define and restrict most theatrical and curatorial visions. It shows how curating is always a question of power structures, hegemonic discourses, and hierarchies. And how curating also offers the possibility to either transgress these traditions and restrictions or at least make them visible. In this regard, the appearance of the curator in the field of live arts is also a reaction to the false shyness with which many programmers/festival makers have been hiding behind the works they produce or present—as if there was not a set of criteria, however invisible or unconsciously set. As if there were not dislikes, pragmatics, economics, politics, and so on involved with every choice they make. Obviously, creating a discourse on curating and trying to lay open its ways of operating does not make these power structures disappear. But it does make them discussable, a subject for critique and change. Such questions necessarily surface most clearly when it comes to the field of socially and politically engaged art as can be seen in this book’s sections on ethical proposals and on artivism. When the proximity to politics and ethics gets as close as it does in this area of curating, the question of how to make art political, in all aspects of creating and producing inevitably, creates a crucial role for the curator. This is a role that leads directly to the institutions we inherit, take over, create, change. The concept of curating cannot be separated from questions of institutional critique or new institutionalism. All these aspects are mapped, laid out, and problematized in this publication, sometimes building on each other, sometimes productively contradicting. As a somewhat agonistic field itself, this volume aspires to set high stakes for curating—as a possibility to create at best a particular temporary discursive as well as physical sphere by organizing encounters in time and space. Performative curating has the potential to enable different, open experiences for a specific temporary community by putting an emphasis on live encounters between art and audiences. Its form relates to the art works it brings together and conversely influences the experience of these works by emphasizing their specific context. While curating creates a performative space that sometimes looks almost like a performance itself, the phantom of the übercurator, boldly creating his/her own piece out of other people’s artworks does not really need to be feared in the domain of live arts. On the contrary, there has been a lack of courage to impart meaning at all—and not the least because of modesty, but from fear of the task.



This book is an important part of the struggle to change the game that we— as program-makers, theater or festival directors, artists, theorists, emancipated spectators, or spect-actors—are part of. FLORIAN MALZACHER is a curator, dramaturge, and writer. He was artistic director of Impulse Theater Festival and co-programmer of the festival steirischer herbst. He has (co-)curated, e.g., the marathon-camp Truth is Concrete on art and activism (2012), the performative conference Appropriations (Ethnological Museum Berlin, 2014), and the congress Artist Organisations International (HAU Berlin, 2015). He is (co-)editor of books on Forced Entertainment and Rimini Protokoll, on art and politics, and on curating performing arts. His latest publications include Not Just a Mirror: Looking for the Political Theatre of Today (2015), and Empty Stages, Crowded Flats: Performativity as Curatorial Strategy (2017). R EF E R E NC E S Arendt, H. 1989. The Human Condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Austin, J. L. 1962. How to Do Things with Words: The William James Lectures Delivered at Harvard University in 1955, 2nd ed., ed. J. O. Urmson, and Marina Sbisà. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Kwon, M. 2002. One Place after Another: Site Specific Art and Locational Identity. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Lind, M. 2002. Performing the Curatorial: Within and Beyond Art. Berlin: Sternberg Press. Mouffe, C. 2000. The Democratic Paradox. London: Verso. Rogoff, I, and B. von Bismarck. 2012. “Curating / Curatorial.” In Cultures of the Curatorial, ed. B. von Bismarck, J. Schafaff, and T. Weski, 23–25. Berlin: Sternberg Press.



he editors—Dena Davida, Jane Gabriels, Véronique Hudon, and Marc Provonost—express their deepest appreciation to the book’s authors, artists, photographers, image-makers, and translators. We would also like to celebrate the vital contributions of a vast network of curators, researchers and educators, artists and artist-curators, festivals, performing arts institutions, galleries, and museums without which this book would have never seen the light of day. We are forever indebted to Berghahn Books, and especially exceptional acquisitions editor Chris Chappell, for his encouragement of this publication project from the onset, never doubting its significance and feasibility. Many thanks to Amanda Horn and Elizabeth Martinez for their patient and thorough editorial and administrative support. This book follows the lead of ground-breaking educators and curators who founded the first classes, seminars, and programs for live arts, performance, and performing arts curation in higher education, among others: Beatrice von Bismark, Gabriele Brandstetter, Silvia Bottiroli, Anna Efraimsson, Sigrid Gareis, Nicole Haitzinger, Judy Hussie-Taylor with Sam Miller, André Lepecki, Sandra Noeth, William Peterson, Kirsten Schroth, Tom Sellar, and Stefanie Wenner. We also acknowledge the contribution of the first generation of graduate researchers in the field: Gustavo Fijalkow, Jenn Goodwin, Erin Joelle McCurdy, Victoria Mohr-Blakeley, Roselle Pineda, Isabelle Sachs, Sorcha Mae StottStrzala, those we have yet to discover and, not the least, the too-numerousto-mention graduates of the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance. This collection is grounded in the work of organizers and participants of the seminal symposia, convenings, seminars, and conferences who have stimulated and supported writing and publishing in this burgeoning field of study. These include: Beyond Curating in Essen, Germany (2010); Envisioning the Practice: International Symposium on Performing Arts Curation in Montréal (2014); the International Seminars on Curation and Mediation in Performing Arts in Bahia, Brazil (2014, 2015, 2016); Home Works in Beruit (2002+); Show Me the World in Munich, Germany (2015); Configurations in Motion: Performance Curation and Communities of Color (2015, 2016, 2017);



various ongoing convenings at the Walker Art Center, and across the United States; and the Interrarium Curator’s Symposium in Banff, Canada (2018). This anthology is grounded in, and inspired by, the work of the authors and editors of previous special topic journals and anthologies, many of whom have written chapters for this book, and who have begun to build the first body of literature for the field: Florian Malzacher, Tea Tupajić, and Petra Zanki, editors of Frakcija #55 (2010); Tom Sellar, editor of Theater 41(2) on “Performance Curation” with co-editor Bertie Ferdman (2014) and 47(1) on “Curating Crisis” (2017); Beatrice von Bismark and Jörn Schafaff, editors for Cultures of the Curatorial with chapters on dance curation by Pirkko Husemann and Gabriele Brandstetter (2012); Silvia Bottiroli, Guila Polenta, and Marzia Belfini for their editorial project How to Build a Manifesto for the Future of a Festival; Florian Malzacher and Joanna Warsza for Empty Stages, Crowded Flats: Performativity as Curatorial Strategy (2017); and Marta Keil, editor of Reclaiming the Obvious: On the Institution of the Festival (2017). A special thanks to the Faculté des arts and Hexagram of the Université du Québec à Montréal for their material and immaterial support, and to past and current board members of the International Community of Performing Arts Curators who accompanied the editors in this book project: Dominique  Fontaine (co-founder), Hélène Latulippe, Maude Calvé-Thibault, Marc-  Antoine Arrieta, and Mélanie Masson. And several funding bodies supported our curators’ association and its projects at the onset of this adventure to whom we are also grateful: the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the City of Montreal Cultural Division, and the Goethe-Institut Montréal.


Dear Reader, To share perspectives as the four co-editors of this large volume of work, here are our distinct pathways towards this project. THE SCENE Dena Davida A movement to professionalize the well-established practice of live arts1 curation surfaced, as if spontaneously, within the second decade of the new millennium. This evolution came to life within various circles of artistic directors of performing arts festivals and venues, and university arts educators in the United States, Canada, Western and Eastern Europe, Australia, parts of the Middle East, and beyond. There appeared to be a collective acknowledgement of a crucial situation: this significant practice had never truly developed characteristics of a professional field of study and practice with its own body of literature and discourse. During the four years we have been assembling this book, the literature and educational opportunities in this field have been gaining ground. To date, these developments have taken the form of special topic theater journals (Ferdman and Sellar 2014; Malzacher, Tupajić, and Zanki 2010; Sellar 2017), the publication of several key anthologies (Bottiroli, Polenta, and Belfini 2015; Keil 2017; Malzacher 2017; von Bismark, Schafaff, and Weski 2012), and sporadic articles and chapters in various other journals and books.2 Global and local historiographies of this field are yet to be written, and its chronological development is still to be compiled. (Take note graduate students!) Within the last two



decades, live arts (also called performance and performing arts) curation has been the thematic orientation of at least a dozen symposiums, numerous formal and informal conversations among peers, conferences and convenings, and is by now routinely mentioned and occasionally discussed at gatherings of artspresenting networks.3 University level coursework is currently on offer in four master’s level programs,4 and several university classes have been established within fine arts and theater departments. We have also taken note of a dozen master’s thesis and doctoral dissertations on the subject that have already been completed with more on the way, largely (but not exclusively) from within existing curatorial studies programs in the visual arts. Until recently, the only professional education opportunities for directors of festivals and theater venues had been located within arts management programs, often housed within the walls of business administration schools. These were specifically designed to hone the skills of administrators and managers, many of whom have claimed the role of general but also artistic direction of theater venues, despite often lacking in-depth knowledge of artistic practice and theory over the course of their education. Over time, these arts management graduates have taken the helm of hundreds of regional theaters, particularly in North America. These business-educated directors have (predictably) fostered the predominance of a profit-making “industry” paradigm for the arts in which, despite working largely within nonprofit and community-oriented models, artistic work has often been characterized as a “commodity” to be promoted through “branding,” in which spectators are seen as “consumers” of “cultural products.” A few, but not many, risk-taking contemporary performing artists have by-and-large been able to flourish in these environments. In contrast, there have been practicing artists, dramaturges, and other arts-educated artistic directors—particularly in larger cities—who have founded, and who determine the programming of, arts presenting organizations, and have begun emulating the model of the contemporary visual arts curator. In contrast to the business paradigm of programming, they were largely immersed in the challenges of supporting and presenting transgressive, socially and politically engaged forms of performance work by artists who were committed to resisting commodification and devoted to experimentation, social justice, and community engagement. At the core of these live arts curators’ belief systems lies the notion of “care” and the intrinsic value of artistic expression. Quite a few of these curator-artistic directors came to their position with university diplomas from a wide range of arts-related fields such as art history and criticism, cultural studies, aesthetics, performance studies, dramaturgy, and even linguistics. They understand their work as that of moving beyond the selection of artistic projects to include the conception of thematic frameworks and texts, educational and community-oriented activities, and the creation of innovative forms for performance events. They are committed to the articulation of contexts in



which artists might engage in deeper relationships with audiences and the wider community, and so to inscribe artistic creation and public presentation as a vital progressive force within the social and political fabric their societies. COMPOSING THE BOOK Véronique Hudon This book bears witness to this new profession of live arts curation by questioning its contribution and its relationship to traditions, roles, and functions that are specific to performance. The texts in this book embrace the practices of the live arts in all of their current hybrid forms and variations: from performance to performing arts, to events predicated on citizen participation. And so, the live arts incorporate an ensemble of performative practices in which live bodies in action are the thread linking all of these artistic approaches. Live arts curation emerges in correlation with those artistic experimental practices that are engaged in renewing their relationship with the public and even to the field of art itself, all the while distancing themselves from the disciplinary characteristics belonging to the fine arts. Dena Davida In 2011, as we reflected on the predicament of live arts curation, Jane Gabriels, Dominique Fontaine, and I founded in Québec the nonprofit International Community of Performing Arts Curators (CICA-ICAC). After creating our website and staging an international symposium, we launched a demanding four-year project: the publication of this collection. Véronique Hudon, Marc Pronovost, Jane Gabriels, and I formed the editorial committee, aiming to balance our diverse experiences, orientations, and skills. And so it was in 2014 we began gradually assembling an eclectic international, intergenerational group of authors from among institutional and independent curators working within and without museums, galleries, and theaters. We determined to include the voices of artists and artist-curators, and also arts critics and critical and cultural arts educators and researchers. Hoping to enlarge the global scope of our book, we reached out to those whose curatorial practices hailed from beyond our North American-European perspectives and geographies. We sought out and encouraged authors to write about live arts curation as it is manifest in their countries of origin: Nigeria, Singapore, the Caribbean, Egypt, and the Philippines. In the last phase, we conferred the crucial “framing” sections (the prologue and epilogue) to Florian Malzachar (2010) and Tom Sellar (2014 and 2017), who had co-edited those initial special topic issues on performing arts and performance curation in theater journals from Croatia and the United States.



The chapters take various literary forms: personal reflections, essays, critical research essays, letters, interviews, group discussions, and affirmations. In the end, this collection’s heterogeneous character is emblematic of the elusive contours of the profession. The result is a multifarious juxtaposition of perspectives that point our field away from the desire to create uniformity and toward crossing boundaries in this developing field of study and practice. THEMATIC ORGANIZATION Véronique Hudon The texts gathered here are a reflection of the current prominence of practices embedded in venues specific to the art world—galleries, festivals, theaters, and museums—but also those that lie outside of the usual circuits of these public spaces, both alternative and virtual. The authors analyze these phenomena within a variety of cultural situations. The social and political resonances of the curatorial practices discussed here are at once a sign of resistance and of conciliation, rejecting oversimplified postures in view of a world in which cultural representations are constantly renewing themselves. The first section “Historical Framings” clarifies specific historic circumstances and trajectories that trace exchanges between the arts of space and the arts of time, political contexts and performance, institutional and collaborative formats, artistic research and practice, and by situating these transformations within a unifying framework: curation. The second section “Ethical Proposals” is grounded in the idea of “care” and asks questions that are linked to the constraints of production, presentation, and touring that are specific to working with the body. At the center of the live arts, people variously serve as material, performers, and subjects. They are mobilized from the moment the studio work begins until it is fully embodied in a performance. And that is why these works problematize certain ethical questions that arise when human beings are involved. With the rise of globalization and the growth of the art market, curators are obliged to develop an ethic that insures adequate working conditions for artists as well as access for the public to aesthetically varied works. Artist-curators, serving as both producers and presenters, are growing in importance. They participate in all the different phases of production, remaining conscious of their influence on the final work, as well as the different possibilities of mediation between the work and the public. The processes presented in the “Artist-Curators” section, support more experimental forms that lie in the margins of traditional production and presentation conditions in the performing arts. The majority of the contributions seek to construct collaborative and



alternative forms on the periphery of habitual circuits, operating in independent networks. The following section “Exhibitions as Events” presents curators who revisit the format of the exhibition by opening up to temporal and human dimensions. Many working in the live arts question traditional forms of exhibitions through their event-based practices. These authors also pose the question: what kinds of archives, documents, and memory might be developed for productions that are ephemeral, event-based, and embodied? The live arts enter the space of galleries and museums in a critical manner, by advancing living bodies laden with their own histories and understandings, and their own ways of functioning. This section analyzes a strong tendency within museums today, one in which emblematic dance and performance artists (Boris Charmatz, Tino Sehgal, Yvonne Rainer, Xavier le Roy) consider the exhibition as a performative site. In the “Artivism” section, the work of curators takes the form of social activism where relationships with the community-at-large are the foundation of the curatorial approach, and in which citizens often participate. Multiple contexts are examined, reminding us of the diversity of the struggles, and how it is when art assumes an active role as a social medium. This section also illustrates an educational turn in the field of curation. Finally, the last section “Institutional Reinventions” discusses institutional mutations, taking into consideration the forms and formats specific to the live arts: event-based, performative, and installation practices in which artwork is no longer objectified. In this context, the live arts can be seen as participating in the “spectacularization” of these institutions, forming a critique in their midst. It is also in this climate that institutional projects are born, as these institutions contradict disciplinary and cultural traditions by placing live arts practices in the center of the development. THE BOOK IN THE WORLD OR WHAT THE BOOK MIGHT DO Marc Pronovost My work in what we call the “cultural mediation” and “social art” community is largely confined to Québec and France where the study and practice has been specifically developed. This concept is a mixture of artistic education, cultural facilitation, and crowdsourcing—that can be found everywhere around the world in a variety of configurations. Most curators today invite spectators to become part of the actual creation of the events, of the artistic objects themselves. They are no longer strictly “viewers.” They take pleasure in the experiences, becoming co-creators and co-conspirators.



Recent generations of spectators have visited museums, theaters, met with artists and creators and forged relationships with the arts. They have asked questions, and have even explored creative processes themselves. What does this mean for us, as social arts curators, arts educators, artistic directors and cultural mediators? As curators, we are fostering meaning. Actually, we are “suggesting” ways for people to come up with their own meaning. We are sharing tools for them to approach and access the works; peek behind the curtain a bit and see what they make of it. Social arts curators are engaged in fostering relationships between audience, artists, and artworks. In doing so, how can we be better storytellers? How can we build stronger communities? How can we imagine new ways to encourage participation? How can we transform live arts into a shared, meaningful experience? How can we ask more powerful questions to both artists and publics? Working on this book has given me an opportunity to further acknowledge my role as a curator, to think and write about these practices. Véronique Hudon Live arts curation invites us to reinvent our relationship to artistic work through the presence of the active and sentient body, by way of an artistic statement (of the artist, their body, voice, and actions) and in interaction with the spectator, whose interpretations are made in continuity with the work. On the whole, live arts curation becomes the framework for artistic experimentation on a human scale. The curatorial statements distributed throughout the book take into account this experimental dimension by offering diverse definitions of curators and artists, fostering an understanding of these curatorial practices through inventive and multiple strategies. It gives room for as many kinds of definitions of the practice as there are curators. Jane Gabriels I have been thinking about what this book might do further in the world, and about who was (and is and could be) left out of the development of live arts curation that this book is part of building. In other words, as this book and the lineage of materials on live arts curation further coalesces, what happens to those voices also doing curatorial work who are left out of developments that are formalizing this work into a profession with its own literature and programs of study? I am thinking about live art curators not yet coming to the gatherings and who are not writing about their work, and who might not think of themselves as curators. What are we losing by not hearing their perspectives in this increasingly public conversation? There are artist-curators and institutional curators working in organizations that are often described as “isolated” and/or removed from what is considered the main sources and reference points for contemporary curatorial practices in



live arts. I am wondering how these “off the grid” locales and/or groups might be seen for what they also are: bubbling places full of movement and possibilities worth actively reaching towards to see if they are interested in connecting their works and perspectives with these ongoing developments in curation. And I am wondering how it could be possible to inquire and further inspire a continuous cycle of “folding-in” of margins to create layering of inclusions. How the work of folding-in might carry its own inspirations, and what more it will offer conversations on performance curation. For now, this book is a moment of coming together, a creative huddle, as we continue folding, cultivating, spilling over, gathering, listening. Véronique Hudon Curation offers different frames for the arts in which artworks are no longer isolated from artists, publics, and their social and political contexts. Curation provides a space for thinking about relations between the world and the artistic sphere. Thank you for picking up this book and joining in the conversation. Bonne lecture! DENA DAVIDA, PhD, has been a performer, contact improviser, choreographer, educator, curator, and researcher in the field of postmodern dance for forty years. Co-founder and curator of the Tangente dance presenting organization in Montréal (1980–2020) and the Festival International de Nouvelle Danse (1985–2001), she was also a guest lecturer in the Dance Department at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM) (1979–2010) where she taught dance improvisation, composition, and theory. She completed doctoral studies in artistic dance ethnography at UQÀM (2006), edited Fields in Motion: Ethnography in the Worlds of Dance, and has published widely on dance and culture. Devoting herself to the development of the literature and educational programs in live arts curation since 2010, she co-founded the International Community of Performing Arts Curators (2012), mounted an international symposium (2014), and taught Canada’s first master’s level seminar in live arts curation at UQÀM (2014). JANE GABRIELS, PhD, is a performer, writer, and curator/producer. Her dissertation (Concordia University, Montréal) focused on artists, creative processes, curation, and nonprofits in the Bronx, New York, her professional and artistic home for twenty years with Pepatián. She co-organized symposiums on performance curation at the Université du Québec à Montréal (2014), Duke University (2015), and Concordia University with the University of Toronto



(2017). In 2012, she graduated from the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance. Co-founder of the International Community of Performing Arts Curators (2012), she co-taught Canada’s first master’s level seminar in live arts curation at UQAM. Currently, she is Executive Director at Made in BC-Dance on Tour (Vancouver), a co-Director of Pepatián, and a visiting scholar at the Institute for Performance Studies, Simon Fraser University (2018–19). VÉRONIQUE HUDON is a researcher, author, and curator of living arts; her place of intervention is between the stage and the book, the theater and the gallery, her work touches on the exhibition and the dramaturgy, writing and performance. She is a PhD candidate in arts studies and practices at the Université du Québec à Montréal. Her research focuses on curation of the live arts, especially choreographic and performative exhibitions in museums. She currently collaborates with several periodicals in the arts field. MARC PRONOVOST is co-founder of B21—an organization working on the evaluation of the social impact of artistic projects in relation to sustainable development goals. He holds an MA in Development Studies from the Graduate Institute of Geneva and works with various cultural and social organizations to create disruptive events that engage the public in a participatory creative process. He is also a fellow of the Salzburg Global Seminar, Austria.

NOT E S 1. Instead of “performance” we chose to use the term “live arts” in the title of this book. We decided that although “live arts” does not yet benefit from universal agreement about its definition and parameters, it is a more inclusive description for multiple, experimental, and new practices in performance at this time. It suits this collection of work more than the term “performing arts,” which is generally employed to create a counterpoint to the “visual arts,” a disciplinary boundary that has recently become porous. We also found the concept of the “live arts” to be more inclusive and specific than that of “performance,” which has a complex etymology and is deeply rooted in the historiography of the broad field of Performance Studies with its origins in a set of theories developed by Richard Schechner (2013) and its critics. 2. Visual arts journals have increasingly included essays on the presence of dance that is curated within the programming of museums, with special attention to cross-disciplinary projects and in particular, Boris Charmatz’s Musée de la danse in France (see Hudon’s interview with Charmatz in this book). 3. Some notable examples: Beyond Curating: Strategies of Knowledge Transfer in Dance, Performance and Visual Arts at PACT Zollverin in Essen, Germany (28–30 January 2011); our own Envisioning the Practice: International Symposium on Performing Arts Curation at the Université du Québec à Montréal in Canada (10–13 April 2014); Show Me the World Symposium at the Singapore International Festival of Arts (26–27 June 2015); Configurations in Motion: Performance Curation and Communities of Color at Duke Uni-



versity, Durham, North Carolina (27–28 June 2015); New Circuits: Curating Contemporary Performance at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota (28–29 September 2015); Imagining Curatorial Vision in Performance at the University of the Philippines in Manila (26 September–1 October 2017). 4. The certificate and master’s program at The Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance at Wesleyan University in the United States (2011–present); a post-degree university course in Curation in the Performing Arts at Paris Lodron University Salzberg in Austria (2017+); the “Expanded Curation in the Performing Arts” profile within the DAS Theatre graduate program (2018+); and “Curating Performing Arts” in the Graduate Program in Visual and Peforming Arts at the Università luav di Venezia in Italy (IUAV) (2019).

R EF E R E NC E S Bottiroli, S., G. Polenta, and M. Belfini, eds. 2015. How to Build a Manifesto for the Future of a Festival. Italy: Santarcangelo Festival Internazionale del Teatro. Ferdman, B., and T. Sellar, eds. 2014. “Performance Curators: Transforming the Theater.” Special issue, Theater 44(4). Keil, M. 2017. Reclaiming the Obvious: On the Institution of the Festival. Lublin: The Theater Institute Zbigniew Raszewskiego, Konfrontacje Teatraine/Centre for Culture in Lublin. Malzachar, F., and J. Warsza. 2017. Empty Stages, Crowded Flats: Performativity as Curatorial Strategy. Berlin: House on Fire. Malzacher, F., T. Tupajić, and P. Zanki. 2010. “Curating Performing Arts.” Special issue, Frakcija #55. Schnechner, R. 2013. Performance Studies: An Introduction. New York: Routledge. Sellar, T. ed. 2017. “Curating Crisis.” Special issue, Theater 47(1). von Bismark, B., J. Schafaff, and T. Weski, eds. 2012. Cultures of the Curatorial. Berlin: Sternberg Press.


A Third Space: Chasing the Intangible MICHÈLE STEINWALD AND MICHAEL TRENT

We met at the Montréal symposium on performing arts curation in 2014 and shared our questions about the ways in which the term curation was applied in the performing arts. Our curiosity led to a cross-border writing exchange in which we challenged each other to name our curatorial experiences, assumptions, and ideals. As we reflected on how publics engaged with the art or artists’ realities, a third space began to take shape leading to an understanding of the often intangible nature of curatorial actions. Our process culminated in the idea of the curator as an overarching term for a practice rooted, with varying emphasis, in that of programmer, commissioner, animateur, dramaturge, and/or artist—with a side foray into the artist herself as curator. A year into our project, the invitation arrived to curate a set of definitions from a broad spectrum of doers and thinkers. We asked contributors to reflect on what the field looks like now, how it got here, where they think it might be going, and/or how curation was embodied in their own practices. What emerged were fifteen statements, locating performing arts curation within practical, embodied, or ethical spaces. Interspersed between the chapters, the statements may be approached either as periodic variations in the rhythm of the book or sequentially: read in serial fashion by flipping through the pages and experienced as an immersive meditation in curatorial practices.



MICHAEL TRENT is a dance artist who makes things (happen) with people for others. His practice includes performance, choreography, teaching, facilitation, artistic direction, grantmaking and community activation. He lives in Toronto.

MICHÈLE STEINWALD is a Canadian, feminist, DIY, artist-centered, pseudo-forensic, embodied, community-driven, cultural organizer based in Minneapolis marked by four major influences: seeing Rosas at age fourteen, producing a postpunk show at age fifteen, studying with Deborah Hay at age twenty-one, and watching the American TV series Law & Order for decades.


Historical Framings

CH A P T E R 1

From Content to Context The Emergence of the Performance Curator BERTIE FERDMAN

Figure 1.1. Kenneth Dewey at The Theatre of the Future conference, Edinburgh Festival, 1963. Courtesy of the Scotsman Publications, 1963. Used with permission.




n 1963 at the Edinburgh Festival, a theater conference took place organized by director Jim Haynes, John Calder, and critic Kenneth Tynan at the brothel turned th eater club now known as the Traverse Theatre, one of the better-known venues for cutting-edge performance at the Fringe. During the last day of The Theatre of the Future, Calder invited artists Allan Kaprow and Ken Dewey to do performance pieces, unannounced, during the course of the discussions. Dewey’s Play of Happenings, which he created with collaborators Charles Lewsen and Mark Boyle as a reaction to the presentations they saw at the conference, caused an uproar (Malsbury 2013). Edinburgh model Anna Keseler was wheeled out in the nude; a sheep’s skeleton was hung from the ceiling; men stood from windows seventy feet above; a piper played; taperecorded voices of the audience’s own skepticism were heard; and when American actress Carroll Baker jumped from the platform to pass over the audience to the exit, people stood up, craned, and shouted. An observer asked, “Was this ‘theatre’ in any recognizable form?” The Lord Provost of Edinburgh called it “a pointless vulgarity” (Calandra and Dabrowski 1973). After the general outrage at such a disruption of what, according to conference organizer Kenneth Tynan, should have remained a “serious discussion of the shape of the future stage,” Dewey had the following response when prompted by Tynan: I am trained in the classical traditions of theatre, but my feeling about the pyramidal structure of the theatre—management, director, author, cast—is what I want to deal with. This kind of theatre is like jazz, at one level: It is held together not by law, not by control, but by the rapport between collaborators. We are trying to give back to you, the audience, the responsibility of theatre—performing your own thoughts, building your own aesthetics. Maybe you will get the most out of it by disliking it. (Calandra and Dabrowski 1973: 56)

Although Dewey’s Happening at Edinburgh went down in theater history as shocking the public mostly due to nudity, the structure of the event was unprecedented. The very conventions of the theater event—when it took place, where it took place, why it took place—were being challenged. There was no “show” to speak of, no box office, no typical “venue,” only a constellation of live events that infiltrated another, apparently, more important event titled The Theatre of the Future, but that itself did not provide enough of a framework for the audience to contextualize what was going on. Dewey’s performance stirred much anxiety precisely because it undermined the hierarchy of theatrical production and questioned the very politics of this art system. It would have been impossible to purchase this show and present it at the festival. It could not tour in the conventional way. By paying attention to the context of the theatrical event and rethinking the norms of participation in the realm of the live, prompting everyone to ask “what is this?,” Dewey and his collaborators had unwittingly upset the logic of the programming establishment, which, according to TDR’s 1973



article on the Edinburgh Festival, went something like this: “The machinery for soliciting performance groups for the Official Festival consists of a theatre adviser, who presumably spends much of his time visiting theatres around the world and who then submits his recommendations for approval to a committee made up of artistic, business, and city representatives. There is no discernible policy aside from the “excellence” criterion” (Calandra and Dabrowski 1973: 56). Even though Dewey was reacting to the conventional play structure within theatrical practice, he was also reacting against the system that promoted such a lineup. In other words, the assumptions about where, when, and how theater should exist went unquestioned at the “official” venue. The “excellence” criterion lacked focus, intent, vision. Looking back, Dewey’s performance (as well as Kaprow’s No Exit) helped to foment the Traverse Theatre as an antidote to the official festival and developed the aim “to promote the work of new playwrights and to expand the frontiers of theatre technique” (Calandra and Dabrowski 1973: 58). Audiences would come to associate the Traverse with a certain kind of programming, as with any festival or venue, and come with a specific set of expectations. By essentially orchestrating a dramaturgy of liveness, which simultaneously operated as institutional critique, Dewey’s work generated the creation, assemblage, and distribution of meaning that in many ways would precede curatorial thinking in performance at the turn of the twenty-first century. Given the changing lens of performance since the 1960s, as exemplified here with Dewey’s intervention, the role of the curator—programmer, festival director, producer—as one who generates connections and structures formats around new work is of growing concern, in particular to influence how a public interacts, understands, and receives such work. The role of the curator as a mediator between artists and audiences is becoming more visible, as both artists and audiences look for new ways to present, interpret, program, produce, finance, and experience work. The rise of interdisciplinary performance festivals in the last decade has increased the visibility of the curator as a central and powerful figure in the changing landscape of the performing arts.1 A growing number of artistic directors, festival programmers, creative producers, and artists not only are beginning to pay attention to what gets seen—either commissioning new work and/or selecting finished work—but are also conceptualizing how, where, when, why, and for whom such events are structured and presented. As more exhibitions in art galleries and museums continue to embrace theater and dance, and visual and conceptual art is presented in performing arts institutions and festivals, the act of “curating” performance is becoming vital to both its development and its reception. If the 1960s and 1970s were the heyday of experimental theater and rise of postmodern dance—in line with the historical avant-garde—the current



moment, almost half a century later, is seeing a renewed interest not only in breaking with disciplinary models but also in providing new frameworks in which such work can exist. Presenters are now often faced with the challenge of producing work that does not necessarily fit into preconceived conventions of theater. What practices do they implement? What presentational forms do they create? Does a curatorial paradigm for such trends exist? The term curator historically derives from the visual arts as one who cared for museum collections and objects. According to art historian and cultural critic Beatrice von Bismarck, the professional profile of the curator began to evolve in the late eighteenth century with the advent of museums and galleries. It crystallized as a job description after 1945 with the expansion of the art market and the cult status eventually granted to the curator, what Michael Brenson has called “the curator’s moment” (O’Neill 2012: 5), which according to von Bismarck degraded artists and scholars who now held a lower position in the art world (2010). Initially, the job and function of the curator as caretaker of collections expanded as art became more discursive and attuned to context, in particular in the 1960s with the rise of immaterial production such as installations, happenings, and performance art. As art critic and curator Paul O’Neill explains, “Art and its primary experience became recentered around the temporality of the event of the exhibition rather than the artworks on display” (2012: 2). He charts a genealogy of curatorial practice in the visual arts that exploded in the 1960s with the “demystification” of the exhibition (an object of critique in its own entity) and that grew to “supervisibility” in the late 1990s with the proliferation of curatorial anthologies, graduate programs, symposia, and journals devoted to the subject (2012: 27). With the rise of group exhibitions and biennials in the late 1980s, the independent curator became like an art star, whose role began “to be understood as a constellation of creative activities, akin to artistic praxis” (2012: 1). This transformation of what O’Neill calls the curator-as-auteur, exemplified by Swiss curator Harald Szeemann’s concept of “the modern-day Großausstellung” (great exhibition) in which artworks are tied to a central concept and are assembled into new and often surprising interrelationships” (von Bismarck 2010: 51), was a significant shift in the development of curatorial models that continues to this day. As the curator’s role grew in importance, so did the discourse and awareness of its prominence in legitimizing and shaping our understanding of art. Just as a need to question curatorial models in the visual arts grew once contemporary art began to expand beyond objecthood and traditional museum spaces, a similar need has developed in the performing arts, in terms of rethinking how such works get labeled, produced, and “staged” as part of a larger vision. Performing artists are increasingly employing site-based practices, infiltrating the public, private, and virtual worlds, challenging modes of spectatorship, and creating live encounters that blur the boundaries between what is real and



what is staged. In site-based practices in particular, we have moved away from a concern with location—which reached its heyday in the 1980s—to a concern with interaction and mediating situations (Ferdman 2018). A diverse range of artists are increasingly questioning the form of performance just as much as content, using “the live” as the source for their work. As a direct response to such rapid changes, Lois Keidan, for example, who served as director of live arts at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London from 1992 to 1997, co-founded the Live Art Development Agency in 1999 to provide a curatorial platform for artists engaging in practices that were difficult to categorize.2 She writes: The term Live Art is not a description of an art form or discipline, but a cultural strategy to include experimental processes and experiential practices that might otherwise be excluded from established curatorial, cultural and critical frameworks. Live Art is a framing device for a catalogue of approaches to the possibilities of liveness by artists who chose to work across, in between, and at the edges of more traditional artistic forms. (Keidan 2013)

Given the fact that Keidan, prior to her tenure at ICA, was responsible for funding interdisciplinary artists at the Arts Council of Great Britain, she was well aware of the necessity of labeling work as the legitimizing process that would get it funded. Keidan’s legacy is an important one for performing arts curatorship, for she exemplifies how curating operates as both cultural and financial strategy. The curator is one who envisions an intention for the work and thus, as Leslie Hill writes, “places” the work in a specific historical and interdisciplinary context (206: 3–7). Keidan’s contribution to practices she has termed “live art” continues to expand the field and provide a curatorial frame for their reception. A similar example of curating as strategy, but one with a very different agenda, is RoseLee Goldberg’s Performa, which is “dedicated to exploring the critical role of live performance in the history of twentiethcentury art and to encouraging new directions in performance” (Performa 2014). Performa launched a curatorial fellowship program with the aim of providing training in organizing exhibitions about performance to directly address a need among the multiple performance departments being established in museums. While Keidan established live art as its own category of interdisciplinary work that embraced both performing and performance art, Goldberg is very particular about “placing” her curation within the visual arts establishment. This is an important distinction that enables a different kind of financial value on the work, as well as a different set of assumptions and expectations, particularly as more museums, galleries, and art biennales introduce performance into their collections. More than just precursors of taste, curators thus position work within a specific set of disciplinary and institutional frameworks that have lasting repercussions for its circulation and economies.



Whereas the function of the curator has been the subject of much discourse in the realm of the visual arts as a direct response to changing paradigms in art making,3 the conversation around curating in performing arts is only just beginning. In 2011, Wesleyan University created the Certificate Program in Curatorial Practice in Performance with a focus on “the curation of live and time-based work” that helps students and professionals “develop tools to contextualize performance.”4 The first program of its kind in the United States, its inception mirrors in significance the establishment of the Whitney Museum’s Curatorial Program and Critical Studies Program in 1987, headed by Hal Foster, which foregrounded the possibility “to develop alternative curatorial forms and challenge the established conventions” (O’Neill 2012: 2). O’Neill marks 1987 as a pivotal year that changed in how curating was conceived in the visual arts—“from vocational work with collections in institutional contexts to a potentially independent, critically engaged and experimental form of exhibition-making practice” (2012: 2)—that paralleled the shift, from a logistics of programming to a concept for programming, in curatorial models happening now in performing arts contexts. In January 2013, I attended the first ever panel on rethinking curating practices at the Association of Performing Arts Presenters in New York, which is essentially a shopping mall for performance, on rethinking curating practices. The panel was hosted by the Wesleyan curatorial faculty, among them Danspace Project curator Judy Hussie-Taylor and choreographer Ralph Lemon, and Philip Bither, senior curator of performing arts at Walker Art Center, who challenged the audience’s conceptions (mostly composed of presenters) regarding live programming—“booking the season, fulfilling season subscriptions, filling seats, or selling tickets”—as not necessarily the curator’s job. As a position that combines production demands with aesthetic goals, he provoked the audience to think beyond “the box” and conceive of performance as event, with tailor-made considerations for the audience, for producing partnerships, and for the space, duration, and time. Each event should constitute its own experience and its own individual production strategy. All the panelists emphasized the importance of “accompanying a work,” developing new work in alternative spaces, situations, and times. As the only scholar in the audience, I felt a clear divide between those who study and contextualize work (academics and dramaturges) and those who currently present performance—something that is historically different in museum and biennale curatorship, where discourse and research are an inherent part of the job. This separation, however, seems to be converging. In April 2014, Dena Davida and Jane Gabriels, through the auspices of The Arts Curators Association of Quebec, organized an international symposium on performing arts curating, which led to the publication of this edited collection on curating practices in the live arts.5 For its hundredth issue, PAJ: The Journal of Performance and Art had a special section on “Curating Contemporary



Performance,” featuring New York-based artists and curators on the needs of more exploration in such practices. The performing arts journal Frakcija devoted an entire issue to “Curating Performing Arts” in 2012 guest edited by artists Tea Tupajić and Petra Zanki (whose “Email to a Curator: An Introduction to The Curators’ Piece,” is featured in this book), along with curator Florian Malzacher. Malzacher’s edited collection with Joanna Warsza, Empty Stages, Crowded Flats: Performativity as Curatorial Strategy (2017) introduces the notion of the performative to curating practices, highlighting case studies that adapt “theatre-like strategies and techniques to enable ‘reality-making’ situations” (2017: 4). Yale’s Theater Magazine has devoted two special issues to the topic: “Performance Curators” in 2014, co-edited by Tom Sellar and myself, where we interviewed professionals in the field who are bringing new frameworks in which to contextualize the live; and “Curating Crisis” edited by Sellar in 2017, which expands the conversation to more socially diverse curating methodologies. Issue 55 of Frakcija in 2010 was part of a larger project, itself a performance that sought to merge the act of curating with discourse. Titled The Curators’ Piece (A Trial against Art) and conceived by Tupajić and Zanki, it consisted of six curators, chosen for their visibility and long-term presence on the scene as criteria for their selection, who are put on the stand to defend their programming choices and artistic ideals. The curators collaborate and perform in the piece as well as serve as its co-producers, presenting and co-commissioning the show. Each one takes a turn being “on trial” when the performance tours to their respective festival, where they account for their role, vision, choices, and decisions in front of the festival’s audience. As such, The Curators’ Piece is akin to what Seth Siegelaub in the 1960s termed “demystification” of the exhibition—“a process in which [curators and artists] attempted to understand and be conscious of our actions”—which O’Neill marks as a defining moment for those “providing the mediating context.” Like curators (and artists) at the time who sought “to reveal and evaluate the more hidden curatorial components of an exhibition” (O’Neill 2012: 19–22). The Curators’ Piece operates under a very similar pretext, which brings the curator’s role to the forefront and simultaneously seeks to unveil the conditions under which work is “curated.” In 2005, the collective CiNE, with artist David Levine as the writer and project lead, created a portfolio titled Re-Public: CiNE Collective’s Portfolio for New York’s Joseph Papp Public Theater, which precedes The Curators’ Piece in terms of its desire to provide institutional critique while at the same time offering itself an alternative vision of leading such an institution. The piece, originally published in Theater (Levine 2005: 150–62), is an expanded version of a letter of application for the position of artistic director at New York City’s Joseph Papp Public Theater. A manifesto of sorts, where provocations about remaking a theater, a true public theater, come to the fore, CiNE proposes numer-



ous initiatives—onsite and offsite—that outline this vision. Outreach initiatives include partnering with other companies, “to formally recognize and sponsor younger, edgier companies who already have their own theaters” (2005: 150); developing public art as theater, “to expand the public for theater by expanding the definition of theater” (2005: 151, emphasis in original); and creating a repertory company with financially secure year-long equity contracts “rather than bringing movie stars to the Public, the Public will make movie stars” (2005: 152). CiNE calls for the theater expanding its civic presence, co-sponsoring “a vigorous intersite program of lectures, panel discussions, and debates on matters that have nothing to do with drama” (2005: 154). Instead of a sole artistic director functioning as curator, CiNE prescribes a European model where the dramaturge (akin to the art scholar/art curator) “is responsible for programming the entire season” (2005: 155). Most significantly, CiNE proposes to include a Commission X as part of its annual season, “commissioned from the Public by a major corporation” (2005: 157, emphasis in original), so as to make explicit that corporate relationships have always financed the nonprofit sector. Its aesthetic goals are aligned with its financial perspective and operating structure. Curating in this sense understands that new production models give rise to new aesthetic models. It means taking care of the institutional assumptions about what, where, why, and how work is produced, calling for theater to “give up its reliance on staged dissent and become structurally radical” (2005: 162, emphasis in original). The National Theatre Wales (NTW) exemplifies this form of curatorship that rethinks structural components in order to affect its aesthetic outcome. In 2009, the British Arts Council gave £3 million over three years to set up a new English-speaking theater in Wales. Instead of using the money to physically “house” productions, the team operated from an office in Cardiff and strategically set out to create a new model of generating performance that made Wales itself the stage. NTW launched the Theatre Map of Wales with one show a month, each in a different location, each using a different approach to theater-making.6 They have since staged over forty productions all over Wales (from beaches to village halls, from mountains to nightclubs). The ideas for the shows are generative and come from artists through the website. They engage local non–arts communities in their rehearsal process, and have developed a nonhierarchical method of including the community’s voice into the decision-making process. It established an online community for active feedback, proposals, and conversations, setting up an alternative space to “house” and foster an audience. Since its inception in 2010, it continues to reinvent its structures to accommodate and “take care” of both artists and audiences. Its programming is only one component of a much larger radical restructuring of a performing arts institution that is non-building based, digitally innovative, and



community-centric (“we make work, and always with—not just for—communities”). Its curating practice questions all aspects of artistic production and reception. As with NTW, festival producers and artistic directors are increasingly reinventing alternative strategies to “house” and “disseminate” the performing arts, two important facets of performance curating. Alternative models in curating performance are more collaborative, nonhierarchical, generative, and open. They seem to counter the star curator pattern that dominated the visual art world for decades (and still does) after its period of “demystification” in the 1960s and that still permeates some curator-asauteur festivals and favor an artist-centered approach. The Malta Festival Poznan has invited acclaimed artists to curate a special section of the festival (Castellucci, Rodrigo Garcia, and Jan Lauwers, for example). At the highprofile and well-established Festival d’Avignon, a different group of associate artists shapes the festival’s program each year, which was the visionary proposal that got former co-directors Hortense Archambault and Vincent Baudriller hired as curators of the festival in 2004. (Olivier Py serves as the current Artistic Director of Avignon, whose 2018 season will focus on trans and gender nonconforming identities). Danspace’s Platform series, devised by Judy Hussie-Taylor, also redirects programming decisions to dancers and choreographers as artist-led curatorial initiatives in dance. Artists are also appropriating the curatorial process as part of their artistic practice. When the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London announced the closure of its Live Arts and Media Department in October 2008 with a statement by its director, Ekow Eshun, stating “that the art form lacks depth and cultural urgency,” artists Tim Etchells and Ant Hampton responded with a curatorial proposition titled True Riches (2009). Conceived as an imaginary season, they invited twenty-five artists and curators (including Lois Keidan, who ran the ICA program in the 1990s) to each propose a live art project idea. The resulting program reflects the variety of approaches—performances, exhibitions, lectures, actions, discussions, interactions, installations, and encounters—that together serve as a testament to the richness of this form, its history, and its future. Many of the artists dreamed up scenarios that responded directly to ICA’s closing, such as Geraldine Pilgrim’s Black Box, which would flood the ICA Theatre with water to symbolize “the flood of ideas that have filled this black box space over the years,” and Christine Peters’ The Living Archive, which for over a period of six months would transform ICA into “a living organism” called Slow Production, where over seventy artists produce and present at the same time in a “fully committed—financially, infrastructurally and staff-wise” institution. None of the proposed events will ever happen, but as Etchells and Hampton shrewdly explain in their program notes, “The ICA Live Art Department, even though it does not exist, is alive and well and glad



for your support” (2009). More than a selection or compilation of artists’ work, True Riches is a manifesto for the viability of live arts as an established practice, as well as a form of institutional critique that challenges the hierarchical system of museums where live art is continuously relegated to the lower end, even as some visual art institutions supposedly embrace “the live.” Another artist—Deborah Pearson—reacting against the commercialization and homogenization of the Edinburgh Fringe and an institution-dependent mentality widespread among performing artists, also decided to take matters into her own hands. In 2007, she created Forest Fringe, (Andy Field came on board in 2008 and Ira Brand in 2013 as co-directors) which, more than an alternative festival of experimental and innovative work, operates as an artist-run collective that engages in curatorial models that question conventional approaches to programming. The Forest Fringe offers a different kind of opportunity not only to present new work, but also to “experiment with different ways of doing things and new contexts to accommodate even the most unusual experiences.” As such, they are interested in both the work and the structural frameworks that distribute and make that work happen. After they lost their space in 2011, they have embraced their nomadic status, developing ways to bring their curating strategies to other places and forms. For example, they produced their festival in Paper Stages, a book coauthored by over twenty Forest Fringe artists, where each page consists of a different instruction-based performance for the reader to perform. These performances vary: some can be performed individually, others collectively, some indoors, some in the streets. The book is free, but to acquire it one has to volunteer one hour of time to the Forest Café or another Edinburgh-based charity.7 Another strategy they have implemented is what they call the Microfestivals, which for a number of years brought the artists, performances, and “the spirit of Forest Fringe” to cities across the world. A traveling exhibition of sorts, this event marks a rising new phenomenon in recent performance curating models where concepts—as opposed to single performances or artists—tour. Ciudades Paralelas (Parallel Cities), conceived by artists Lola Arias and Stefan Kaegi, is also an itinerant festival whose main proposition is urban intervention. Kaegi and Arias invited eight artists to create performances for a city’s functional places like a court, a factory, a library, a hotel, a train station, which would be relocalized each time the festival toured. As Arias explained to me in an interview: The pieces were genuinely portable, in the sense that the only thing we are transporting were concepts. The concept for each piece would be fully developed, and each piece would be restaged in the context of each city with different performers, different spaces, and so on. The only person traveling was the artist and his or her idea, recontextualized at every site. (Arias and Ferdman 2014: 34)



Although the main premise of their idea deals with the conflation of the real and staged in city space, the concept for Ciudades Paralelas emerges as an alternative model for live art touring, where money spent on refabricated sets is allocated to local labor at every site. Forest Fringe’s Microfestivals and Ciudades Paralelas are representative of a significant shift in curating performing arts, one that responds not only to new forms of theater and performance but also to the changing context in which these can be distributed and received, as well as to changing economies of labor, touring, and production. Contemporary curators of the performing arts are programming interdisciplinary live encounters, rethinking questions of participation, often staging the audience, and bringing a heightened awareness to their practice, asking what it means to curate. Just as experimental performance explores new ways of doing theater, innovative curatorial models offer experimental structures and discourses in which a public can encounter the work. If the term derives from the visual arts, its transfer to the realm of performance has been vague at best. As such, the people who self-identify in this position are constantly redefining its role. The range of professionals involved in its engagement—artists, dramaturges, creative producers, artistic directors, festival programmers—reflects the diversity of this growing field and gives testament to a practice whose methodologies and approaches are as diverse as the artworks they present. The role of the performing arts curator now encompasses more than merely a “programmer” or “presenter” who travels the world to choose work and cobble it together. The performing arts curator is someone who questions preconceived assumptions that shape performance, as well as his or her own role in shaping that discourse. He/she works with an awareness of the institutional structures that house performance. The role of the performing arts curator thus emerges as a visionary who understands institutional models enough to warrant new ways of working within it, through it, and in constant opposition to it. Having come a long way since Ken Dewey’s public intervention, contemporary curating models are opting to rethink and level those long-standing “pyramidal structures” of theatrical performance and its presentation. BERTIE FERDMAN is a contemporary performance scholar whose essays have appeared in TDR, PAJ, Theatre Journal, Theatre Survey, Performance Research, HowlRound, and TCG. She co-edited Yale’s Theater Magazine special issue on “Performance Curators.” Her books include Off Sites: Contemporary Performance beyond Site-Specific (2018) and Critical Companion to Performance Art (2020). She is Associate Professor at the City University of New York (CUNY). She received her BA from Yale University; her MA from New York University; and her PhD, from The Graduate Center, CUNY.



NOT E S This chapter is an updated, revised version of a text that was previously published in a special topic issue “Performance Curators” in the May 2014 issue of the journal Theater 44(2): 4–19. 1. In the United States, for example, the last decade has seen the inception of the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s Time-Based Art Festival (Angela Mattox), Crossing the Line (Lili Chopra, Simon Dove, and Gideon Lester), Under the Radar (Mark Russell), Fusebox (Ron Berry), On the Boards (Lane Czaplinski), COIL (Vallejo Gantner), International Festival of Arts and Ideas (Cathy Edwards), Danspace’s Platform series (Judy Hussie-Taylor), and American Realness (Ben Pryor), among many others. 2. Live Art Development Agency was co-founded with Catherine Ugwu. Lois Keidan has served as its director ever since. 3. See in particular, O’Neill (2012); Terry Smith (2012); Hans Ulbrich Obrist (2011); Judith Rugg and Michele Sedgwick (2007); Carolee Thea (2009); and Beatrice von Bismarck, Jörn Schafaff, and Thomas Weski (2012). 4. For more information, see Wesleyan University, “Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance Certificate Program,” retrieved 2 September 2013 from icpp/program/index.html. 5. See “Arts Curators Association of Quebec,” retrieved 10 October 2014 from www.acaq .ca/. 6. See National Theatre Wales, “About,” retrieved 9 September 2017 from nationaltheatre 7. Forest Café is a vegetarian cooperative year-round café and artists’ collective in Edinburgh where Forest Fringe originally programmed work.

R EF E R E NC E S Arias, L., and B. Ferdman. 2014. “The Work of Art is a Parasite.” Theater 44(2): 31–45. Calandra, D., and M. J. Dabrowski. 1973. “Experimental Performance at the Edinburgh Festival.” The Drama Review: TDR 17(4): 53–68. Etchells, T., and A. Hampton. 2009. True Riches: A Programme of Live Art for the ICA. Retrieved 10 February from Ferdman, B. 2014. “Role Inversion: The Curator Takes the Stage.” PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 36(1): 53–58. ———. 2018. Off Sites: Contemporary Performance beyond Site-Specific. Carbondale, IL: SIU Press. Ferdman, B., and T. Sellar, eds. 2014. “Performance Curators: Transforming the Theater.” Special issue, Theater 44(2). Forest Fringe. 2014. “International Microfestivals.” Retrieved 2 September 2014 from www Hill, L. 2006. “Mapping the Territory: Introduction.” In Performance and Place, ed. L. Hill and H. Paris, 3–7. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Keidan, L. 2013. “What Is Live Art? Live Art Development Agency.” Retrieved 1 September 2013 from /what-is-live-art/. Levine, D., and the CiNE Collective. 2005. “Re-Public: The CiNE Collective’s Portfolio for New York’s Joseph Papp Public Theater.” Theater 35(3). Malsbury, S. 2013. “The Ken Dewey Collection.” 20 June. Retrieved 16 February from www



Malzacher, F., and J. Warsza. 2017. Empty Stages, Crowded Flats: Performativity as Curatorial Strategy. Berlin: House on Fire. Malzacher, F., T. Tupajiç, and P. Zanki. 2010. “Curating Performing Arts.” Special issue, Frakcija #55. O’Neill, Paul. 2012. The Culture of Curating and the Curating of Culture(s). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Performa. 2014. “Mission and History.” Retrieved 10 September 2014 from http://perfor Rugg, J., and M. Sedgwick, eds. 2007. Issues in Curating Contemporary Art and Performance. Bristol, UK: Intellect Books. Sellar, T., ed. 2017. “Curating Crisis.” Special issue, Theater 47(1). Smith, T. 2012. Thinking Contemporary Curating. New York: Independent Curators International. Thea, C. 2009. On Curating: Interviews with Ten International Curators. New York: Distributed Art Publishers. Ulbrich Obrist, H. 2011. A Brief History of Curating. Zurich: JRP/Ringier. von Bismarck, B. 2010. “Relations in Motion: The Curatorial Condition in Visual Art—And Its Possibilities for the Neighboring Disciplines.” Frakcija 55: 50–57. von Bismarck, B., J. Schafaff, and T. Weski, eds. 2012. Cultures of the Curatorial. Berlin: Sternberg Press.


Curiosity and Intuition MARIE CLAIRE FORTÉ

I imagine curating as taking responsibility for the framework in which the public encounters an assemblage of artworks with transparency regarding values, preferences and desires for art, artists, audiences, organizations, and spaces. The assemblage can happen over time—single works presented one after the other—or at one specific time. The transparency could operate in a multitude of ways: through the works, autonomously, and in association with each other, their original contexts, and their current ones; through modes and degrees of invitation, mediation, and interaction; through partnerships between individuals, organizations, and localities; in the literature or documentation about and relating to the works; and any other factor that might influence how art is received. At best, curation isn’t didactic, though we will likely learn something from experiencing it. Curation helps us access our own curiosity and intuition and those of others involved in and with the art. Transparency in curation might also mean we don’t need to notice it if we don’t want to; we could simply be with the art.

MARIE CLAIRE FORTÉ values broadening perceptions, including and understanding more and finding more pleasure. Chorégraphe et danseuse, elle mène des projets et collabore avec des artistes et institutions, surtout à Montréal.

CH A P T E R 2

Exhibiting Performances Process and Valorization in When Attitudes Become Forms—Bern 1969 / Venice 2013 BEATRICE VON BISMARCK


t had been a fiercely contested opening event, operating with all the mechanisms of exclusion, hierarchization, spatial scarcity, and prohibition of touch, thus enhancing possible desires even further when in June 2013 parallel to the Venice Biennial, the exhibition When Attitudes Become Form—Bern 1969 / Venice 2013 opened its doors at the Fondazione Prada in Venice. The starring event, to which this particular attention was given, was a historical and now legendary show on view from 22 March to 27 April 1969 entitled When Attitudes Become Form: Work—Concepts—Processes—Situations—Information at the Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland that had founded the reputation of its curator Harald Szeemann (1933–2005). Commissioned by Miuccia Prada, director of the Fondazione Prada, the Italian curator Germano Celant teamed up with the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and the German artist Thomas Demand and were responsible for this restaging of the 1969 exhibition in 2013 (Celant 2013a). Despite the fact that there were a number of curatorial initiatives in the late 1960s that set up similar aesthetic parameters, the reception of this event has turned When Attitudes Become Form into the most prominent and celebrated representative of exhibitions dedicated to the so-called new art.1 What was then considered “new” were artistic approaches focused on conceptualization, process, and ephemerality in relation to materiality, as well as to the modes of production and presentation. The works could accordingly be made of melting ice, electricity, or air. They might be developed specifically for the exhibition or over the course of it, and were not infrequently conceived in such a way that



they ended at the same time as the show itself. The scandal over When Attitudes Become Form coincided with Szeemann’s decision to leave the Kunsthalle Bern where he had been director since 1961, and with his resignation, at least officially free of all institutional affiliations, he worked from that day on as a freelance curator. If the Venetian event deserves a closer look in the context of the relation between curating and the performing arts it is because it raises central questions concerning the mediation of ephemeral cultural products in terms of both the curating of performing arts as well as curating as a performing art. First, it is one of the essential characteristics of exhibitions that they generally bring together different temporalities. They accommodate within themselves the different medial and material dispositions of their elements, which in turn define their own stability, process, mobility, and ephemerality. Those works in When Attitudes Become Form that were performed live—by artists, actors, spectators, and even the ephemerality of their material—not only presented a particular challenge to the conventions of the exhibition format but also demonstrated the general character of exhibitions as “live performances.” Among them were: James Lee Byars’s live performance for two actors Two in a Hat (Fictions Doctor Degree) (1969) and Edward Kienholz’s reading of Zone de Sensibilité Picturale Immatérielle / Zone of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility (1962); an immaterial artwork by Yves Klein; Walter de Maria´s participatory work Art by Telephone (1962), in which exhibition visitors could call the artist from the exhibition site; Gilberto Zorio’s Per purificare le parole / In Order to Purify Words (1969), consisting of a tube of soft hemp with two open ends filled with alcohol, “purifying” the words of the visitors spoken into one of the ends; the site-specific interventions Splash by Richard Serra (1969); Lawrence Weiner´s A 36 Removal to the Lathing or Support Wall of Plaster or Wallboard from a Wall (1968), in which the artist´s physical involvement in the installation process was a central, well-documented aspect; and the only temporal appearance of Hidetoshi Nagasawa’s cube of Dry Ice (1969). The exhibition’s travel through time and space between 1969 and 2013 bears testimony to the modifications, alterations, estrangements, re- and de-valuation that activity and process-based art works undergo as they are restaged. It puts into focus the specific exhibitionary conditions and the effects of these changes, particularly, as will be argued, in view of the economics and politics of visibility. In analogy to the acts of (re)staging, re-enacting or in a wider context, critical and theoretical analysis, copying or appropriating, the act of exhibiting has to be understood as a mode of referencing that participates in the writing and rewriting of (art)history. Second, as challenges posed by live performances within the exhibition format have made clear, an exhibition is more than the sum of its exhibits. It needs to be conceived of as a cultural product in its own right, fundamentally defined not only by its spatiality but by its temporality. As much as its presentation and



reception, its production is marked by different temporally determined prerequisites and conditions: the forms of its generation, its process and development, its framing, sequencing, and dynamic.2 Temporality links exhibitions to theater, dance, and other kinds of performing arts events, underscoring also their ephemeral nature. After the end of show the exhibits might survive. However, the context that the show produced, and from which it was constituted, would definitively be lost. In this respect, every exhibition can be understood as a performance, every phase of a touring exhibition as a restaging. It is thus confronted with problems of documenting, historicizing, and actualizing that are analogous to those of the performing arts. Furthermore, exhibitions have to be defined as spatiotemporal constellations (see von Bismarck et al. 2012: 21–38). In other words, every (new) presentation implies a change in the relationship among its constitutive elements. This is a dynamic that incorporates, as well as exhibits, the display devices, spaces, and institutions, the respective and relevant discourses and also the various people involved: artists and curators, museum directors, critics, gallerists, theoreticians, and different kinds of audiences. These relations are the result of connecting processes, and constitute the spatiotemporal structure of exhibitions. They thus have their own “anachronicity” (Nagel and Wood 2010) by which they become contemporary witnesses but also possess the potential to act through different times and periods and to link them together. Based on these properties, the exhibition offers a means to rethink history while at the same time exposing its own involvement in the processes of writing it. To repeat or restage an exhibition poses the challenge of taking its constellational structure into account. Beyond the original exhibits, involvement in the semantic and functional context of all the elements of the former exhibition must also be considered. Not only do the exhibits pass through the processes of a new contextualization immanently connected to the acts of exhibiting, but the exhibition itself does so as well. It gets restaged as an exhibition, that is, as a spatiotemporal constellation. From a meta-perspective, it visualizes its own historicity along with the—often contradictory—techniques and strategies that were part of the historic evaluation of the show and offered the grounds for its renewed presentation. Exhibitions participate in the process of arts becoming public, and this implies that the economies and politics of becoming public are made manifest in the restaging. The re-enactment performs the exhibition as a performative work as well as the constellation by which it has been constituted. When within an exhibition the exhibits show something but also themselves, and when in the same way exhibitions show themselves as well as something, then the repetition of an exhibition represents an act of showing of a third order: it shows itself and at the same time the relations that constituted the original exhibition. In this respect, the renewed presentation of an exhibition allows for reflections on criteria, processes, and conditions of evaluation.



One of the most prominent characteristics of the show in 2013 was that it counteracted the performative structure of restaging exhibitions by giving priority instead to the idea of a reconstruction that was as close to the original as possible. According to the insistent claims in the catalog by the commissioner Miuccia Prada and the chief curator Celant, the central aim of the project was to display the former exhibits and the architecture of the former venue Kunsthalle Bern as “identically as possible,” “exactly as it was.”3 For this purpose they assembled as many of the original exhibits and recreated those that could not be tracked down or loaned or did not exist anymore (see Celant 2013c: 404). Among the various techniques they employed were the reprint; the reproduction of “exhibition copies” (in the case of Paul Cotton, Barry Flanagan, and Eva Hesse); the double-dating implying a new production (for example, in 1969 and 2013 for Neil Jenney); the replacement of the original exhibit by another work of the artist (for example, in the case of Alighiero Boetti, Barry Flanagan, and Claes Oldenburg); and finally the restaged performance. The latter could be implemented either by the artist’s estate, as in the case of Joseph Beuys and Sol LeWitt, or by the artists themselves, which Daniel Buren, Jan Dibbets, Joseph Kosuth, Keith Sonnier, and Lawrence Weiner were willing to do. Considering the aim of exact reconstruction, the small number of original exhibits shown in 2013 is significant: out of 148 artworks listed for the show of 1969, almost a third were remade in one of the manners described above and another third were missing entirely, among them the most performative, process-oriented, and ephemeral ones, such as the above-mentioned works by Byars, Klein, Nagasawa, Serra, and Zorio (Celant 2013a: 549–87; 2013c: 404). The aspiration to be as accurate as possible thus strengthened the character of the exhibition as a material work rather than as a temporal performance. For most of the works on display, this resulted in a tension with their conceptual focus at the time of their original presentation in 1969. The newly made works of 2013 contradicted—in their now permanent materiality—the impulse in the late 1960s to use temporality, ephemerality, and immateriality as a means to undermine commodifiable objecthood (Ferrier 2013). Their materiality in Venice also made them tradable for the first time and turned them into consumer goods and potential objects of fetishization. This tension betrays the historical evaluation by art historians of the then “new” art and the art market with its specific actualization. The neglected and marginalized were now set side by side with the economically high-valued. Those works that had been art historically established because of their conceptual nature are appreciated now as commodities because of their renewed presence as part of art market history. The 2013 show´s reference point is the value of the preceding exhibition, not the characteristics on which this valorization had originally been based. For the aesthetic concept of the art presented and its art historical categorization, this



attitude led to an economic transformation of the meaning of materiality and mediality. These historically transformative effects can be traced on a variety of levels. The publicity of the show in 1969 already fed into it. Right from the beginning, Szeemann had paid particular attention to careful documentation. Along with Balthasar Burkhard, who photographed the exhibitions at the Kunsthalle on a regular basis, Szeemann employed the New York photographer Harry Shunk to record not only the final installation of the show but also the installation process. He also invited the journalist Marlène Belilos, with her film team from the French-speaking Swiss TV, to report about the show even before its opening. In both cases Szeemann attached particular importance to conveying an atmosphere of relaxed collectivity. The image thus created reflected the ideals of the Italian artist and art critic Piero Gilardi, who had consulted Szeemann in the development of the exhibition. The dominant characteristic of the preparatory phase of the show and also of the show itself should have been, if it had been up to Gilardi, a collective, non-hierarchical and politically motivated process. This character, however, can neither be found in the installation shots of the final exhibition, nor in the preparatory process in which Szeemann actually remained in control of the selection, development, and combination of the exhibits.4 The photographic and filmic portrait of the exhibition, favoring working processes as integral parts of the works, went decisively beyond the conventions and possibilities of curatorial practice in 1969. The specific features that originated in the historical significance of the show were consequently reflected less in the show itself but more distinctly in its publicity media. With the photographs by Burkhard and Shunk and the filmic recording by Belilos, the exhibition turned into a picture, which contributed substantially to the image of the show that persisted forever after. The persistence of the publicized image continued also in the figure of the curator of the 2013 show. Celant felt particularly predestined and legitimized, as he wrote himself, to retell Szeemann’s curatorial narration due to the fact that he shared central artistic predilections with his Swiss colleague and was also personally involved in the Bern show as its opening speaker (Celant 2013b: 379). As a result he took over the role of an exhibition maker who, like no other, had become the central reference where the profession of the “freelance curator” and curatorial authorship since the 1960s are concerned. With Szeemann, the profession acquired a certain glamour, one which in the art field had so far been reserved mainly for artists.5 In relation to the figure of the curator aggrandized in this way, Celant performed the same curatorial role he played in relation to the artists he exhibited: in Venice, he curated Szeemann and his work. The biographical and art historical proximity to Szeemann was Celant’s certification of competence and authenticity. He stepped into the role of freelance curator that Szeemann had shaped, expanded, and valorized. Freelance curating had,



over the course of the last twenty years, acquired a status equal to that of artists, in respect to creative abilities as much as to social standing. Thus, participating in the Swiss curator’s symbolic capital, Celant’s role was not only defined by the actual task commissioned by the Fondazione Prada, but also by the upgraded status that the position had acquired over the forty-four years between the two exhibitions. The Philip Morris Company’s sponsorship was predicated on the prominent and lasting visibility that the artists, art works, and curator gained through the exhibition (Rattemeyer 2010: 19, 27). The conceptual focus, but also the genesis and the afterlife, of the exhibition was significantly connected to the sponsorship. Above all, however, in comparison to other contemporary and similarly oriented exhibitions, this sponsorship allowed for luxurious financial conditions in support of the travel of artists and curator, the installation itself, filmic and photographic documentation, the catalog and the circulation of the exhibition after Bern (Celant, 2013c: 404). The paradox that an exhibition of works experimenting with strategies of refusal to submit to the structures of the art market, or at least not to the extent demanded by the art market development of the 1960s, became one of the first exhibitions that was made possible by corporate sponsorship, counts as a historically significant characteristic of When Attitudes Become Form (Buchloch 2013: 504). It is here that disillusionment of the political and economic ideals associated with process-orientation, temporality, and ephemerality seem to be preordained, and are manifested in the lasting market success of that generation of conceptual artists. Over the course of this development, the focus shifted yet again from the performing process to the consumable product and to the consumable artist’s body, enabling the reenactment in the exhibition. If not the artists or their works themselves, it is their replacements that stand in for the economic and, above all, the symbolic capital associated with them. Caught up within the economics of visual appearances, When Attitudes Become Form could not evade the marketing of its own reputation, part of which was already by 1969 its acclamation as having “made ‘art history.’”6 On the contrary, its association with conceptual approaches and an avant-garde contemporaneity had transformed it into a commodity suitable for commercial galleries. In 1986, Bob Nikas put the market value to the test in the New York Bess Cutler Gallery, by showing art works that had been included in the 1969 show together with younger artists’ work under the heading When Attitudes Become Form and again two years later with slight changes at Hans Mayer in Düsseldorf, this time choosing the subtitle from Bern “Works–Concepts– Situations–Information.” Hans Mayer in turn converted the show into a commodity by buying it in its totality, exhibiting it shortly afterwards at Art Cologne and selling it again in 1992 to the Parisian gallerist Marcel Fleis (Stocchi 2013: 449).7



When Attitudes Become Form—Bern 1969 / Venice 2013 can thus be described as a reference to a historical exhibition in which the historical relations of those involved brought to the fore the mechanisms of valorization within the curatorial field. In the course of time, those who originally participated in the exhibition morphed into their own proxies, staging the ascent of their own economic and symbolic value. For all of those involved, the restaging in 2013 turned into an act that was historically transformative, a self-upgrading inscription into history. Through the substitution of the logic of performance for that of material work, the valorization of this process coagulated into the “look.” The exhibition’s historical contexts were replaced by its reputation. Processes were molded into an image, as with the change in sponsorship from Philip Morris to Prada the economics of visibility became even more dominant. By focusing on the image of its predecessor, When Attitudes Become Form Bern 1969 / Venice 2013 demonstrated the shifts of meaning that the various participants and their relations have undergone for marketing purposes. Instead of using these transformations of meaning in the process of restaging to undertake an analysis of the attributes of values, the Venetian show affirmatively put these values on display. It evoked the ever-ambivalent potential of marketability immanent in exhibitions. It also pointed to the fact that the specific techniques and strategies employed in publicizing art are decisive in either reconfirming or transforming the economic conditions of the field of art. BEATRICE VON BISMARCK (Leipzig/Berlin), teaches at the Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig in Art History, Visual Culture and was an initiator in 2009 of the MA in Cultures of the Curatorial. She was the main curator of twentieth century art (1989–1993) at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main; co-founder and co-director of the project-space Kunstraum der Universität Lüneburg at Lüneburg University (1993–1999) and (in 2000) the project-space “/D/O/C/K-Projektbereich.” Her current research interests include “the curatorial,” modes of cultural production connecting theory and practice, effects of neoliberalism and globalization on the cultural field, and postmodern concepts of the “artist.”

NOT E S This chapter was previously published in a greatly modified version in the German language book: Eva Kernbauer, ed. 2015. Kunstgeschichtlichkeit: Historizität und Anachronie in der Gegenwartskunst, Paderborn, Germany: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 233–48 under the title “Der Teufel trägt Geschichtlichkeit oder Im Look der Provokation / When Attitudes Become Form—Bern 1969 / Venice 2013.”



1. The publication Exhibiting the New Art‚ Op Losse Schroeven and When Attitudes Become Form 1969, edited by Christian Rattemeyer, takes up in its title Szeemann’s characterization of the exhibited positions as “new” art and extends to the exhibition Op Losse Schroeven (Situations and Cryptostructures), Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 15 March–27 April 1969 (see Rattemeyer 2010). 2. For further discussion of the temporally structured character of exhibitions, see von Bismarck, et al., 2014. 3. In the introductory texts for the exhibition catalog, Prada and Celant speak about it in terms of “as identical as possible,” a “reconstruction of that exhibition, exact and complete in all its parts,” of “[p]roposing this situation again at the Fondazione Prada, just as it was,” and the wish to come closer to “a strengthening and a reinforcement of the idea of recreating it‚ exactly as it was, in the eighteenth-century palace of Ca’ Corner della Regina, in Venice, in 2013.” See Celant 2013a: 377, 379, 390. 4. The role of Piero Gilardi has been elaborated in more detail in Rattemeyer 2010: 40, 46–50. 5. For a more detailed discussion of Szeemann’s part in upgrading of the role of the curator, see von Bismarck 2011: 180–91. 6. Handelsblatt, 16 September in the Harald Szeemann Papers, 2011. 7. The show itself and also its title, the catalogue and the architecture were taken as independent representatives of a historically significant break in art (von Bismarck 2015: 246–47).

R EF E R E NC E S Buchloch, B. H. D. 2013. “The Thresholds of 1969.” In Celant, When Attitudes Become Form: Bern 1969 / Venice 2013, 495–504. Celant, G. 2013a. When Attitudes Become Form: Bern 1969 / Venice 2013. Venice: Fondazione Prada. ———. 2013b. “Acknowledgments.” In Celant, When Attitudes Become Form: Bern 1969 / Venice 2013, 379–85. ———. 2013c. “Why and How: A Conversation with Germano Celant.” In Celant, When Attitudes Become Form: Bern 1969/Venice 2013, 393–421. Ferrer, Rafael. 2013. “Rafael Ferrer with Barry Schwabsky.” Brooklyn Rail, July 15. Retrieved 28 September 2018 from Ferriani, B., and M. Pugliese, eds. 2013. Ephemeral Monuments: History and Conservation of Installation Art. Los Angeles, CA: The Getty Conservation Institute. Giliardi, P., and F. Manacorda. 2010. “Temporary Artistic Communities: Piero Gilardi in Conversation with Francesco Manacorda, November 8, 2008.” In Rattemeyer, Exhibiting the New Art‚ Op Losse Schroeven’ and When Attitudes Become Form 1969, 230–38. Hunter, S. 1979. Art in Business: The Philip Morris Story. New York: Abrams. Kernbauer, E., ed. 2015. Kunstgeschichtlichkeit: Historizität und Anachronie in der Gegenwartskunst. Paderborn, Germany: Wilhelm Fink. Nagel, A., and C. S. Wood. 2010. Anachronic Renaissance. New York: MIT Press. Rattemeyer, C., ed. 2010. Exhibiting the New Art‚ Op Losse Schroeven and When Attitudes Become Form 1969. London: Afterall Books.



Rogoff, I., and B. von Bismarck. 2012. “Curating / Curatorial: A Conversation between Irit Rogoff and Beatrice von Bismarck.” In Cultures of the Curatorial, ed. Beatrice von Bismarck, Jörn Schafaff, and Thomas Weski, 21–38. Berlin: Sternberg Press. Roselt, J., and U. Otto, eds. 2012. Theater als Zeitmaschine: Zur performativen Praxis des Reenactments: Theater- und kulturwissenschaftliche Perspektiven. Bielefeld: transcript. Stocchi, F. 2013. “Every Critical Act is a Creative Act.” In Celant, When Attitudes Become Form: Bern 1969 / Venice 2013, 443–50. Szeemann, H., and Philip Morris. 2011. Correspondence in the Harald Szeemann Papers. Los Angeles: The Getty Research Institute Special Collections, 2011.M.30, box 288, file 4. von Bismarck, B. 2011. “Celebrity Shifts: Curators, Individuals and Collectives.” In Look at Me: Celebrity Culture at the Venice Biennale, ed. M. Schieren and A. Sick, 180–91. Nürnberg: Verlag für moderne Kunst. ———. 2013. “Harald Szeemann et l’art de l’exposition.” Perspective: La revue de l´INHA 1: 176–82. ———. 2015. “Der Teufel trägt Geschichtlichkeit oder Im Look der Provokation / When Attitudes Become Form—Bern 1969 / Venice 2013.” In Kernbauer, Kunstgeschichtlichkeit. Historizität und Anachronie in der Gegenwartskunst, 233–48. von Bismarck, B., J. Schafaff, and T. Weski, eds. 2012. “Curating/ Curatorial: A Conversation between Irit Rogoff and Beatrice von Bismarck.” In Cultures of the Curatorial, 21–38. Berlin: Sternberg Press. von Bismarck, B., R. Frank, B. Meyer-Krahmer, J. Schafaff, T. Weski, eds. 2014. Timing: On the Temporary Dimension of Exhibiting. Berlin: Sternberg Press.

CH A P T E R 3

Can We Curate Dance without Making a Festival? On Dance Curatorship and Its Shifting Borders ELISA RICCI


hroughout the 1990s in Europe, the terms curator, curating, and curatorial were introduced and increasingly used in the field of contemporary dance instead of, or sometimes as well as, terms like producer, artistic director, and eventually dramaturge.1 This might seem like a mere terminological issue, but it was actually a reflection of the fact that the tasks, the desires, and the expectations of artists, professionals, and audiences were changing. The need to borrow terminology from the visual arts mirrored the emergent experimental approaches toward presentation formats and the redefinition of professional fields. Paul O’Neill (2007) confirms this perspective when he observes that new terms often emerge and profile themselves in response to a persistent need of a certain linguistic community to identify a specific, burning topic. This chapter outlines several case studies investigated in the framework of a research and mapping process on curatorial practices that I carried out between 2009 and 2010 in Genoa, Italy, and in Berlin, Germany.2 My objective was to witness how these practices were dealing with the transposition from the visual arts of the terms curator, curatorial, and curating and how this shift heralded experimentation and change in the festival format and in the wider performing arts field. I also introduce some common features and divergent tendencies that arose during the research project both about institutional and independent3 curatorial practices. This allows me to draw a portrait of what it might mean to curate dance and the ways in which the borders of the field are shifting.



QUESTIONING THE FESTIVAL FORMAT AND SEEKING NEW DEFINITIONS To begin, two Berlin-based festivals are drawn to the center of attention: the Performing Art Festival—In Transit and Tanznacht Berlin, both of which have grown within and out of an institutional context. The Performing Arts Festival—In Transit, which took place biannually from 2002 to 2011 at Haus der Kulturen der Welt4 in Berlin, is a suitable starting point with which to observe how the transposition of the term curator may have happened. At the outset of the festival, its founders, artistic director and author Johannes Odenthal and artist-curator Ong Keng Sen, publicly stated their intention to break down the classic showcase format by integrating lectures, concerts, and creative laboratory processes into the festival’s structure.5 The two editions of In Transit curated by theorist and curator André Lepecki in 2009 and 2010 are of particular interest, for Lepecki managed to transform the festival into a rhizome-like web of performative, dialogical, relational, visual, and creative spaces. He involved artists of very different backgrounds and ages, as well as scholars, students, and the audience, confirming the experimental and transdisciplinary tendency that had been previously expressed by the festival’s founders. In Transit was one of the first festivals in Germany to adopt the term curator while experimenting with the festival’s format. At In Transit, the term curator was used as of the first edition in 2002 to redefine a position that had previously been called festival director or artistic director. This use of the term curator was clearly linked to a desire to introduce a process-oriented vision, assume a more creative role, bridge and facilitate dialogue between various disciplines, as the founders had affirmed during numerous interviews. The second Berlin-based case study is the biannual Tanznacht Berlin, initiated in 2000 as a one-night gala showcase for the presentation of choreographic excerpts from Berlin-based creators to cultural producers and the general public from Berlin and from abroad.6 In 2004 however, a four-day festival (Tanz made in Berlin) altered the one-night gala showcase by presenting entire works instead of excerpts. Curator Peter Stamer sponsored further significant changes, completely restructuring the festival into a semi-workshop form in the 2008 and 2010 editions that he was invited to curate. In addition to the presentation of choreographic works, in 2008 Tanznacht included concerts, films, lectures, and participative events with the audience. For this purpose, eight artists designed a temporary trailer park that served as an intimate location for living and performing during the festival, in its new but not yet renovated industrial location Uferstudios.7 The term curator was used for the first time in the 2008 edition of Tanznacht to describe the person in charge of the program who was previously called artistic director.



The evolution of Tanznacht reaffirms the idea that the use of the term curator in dance contexts went hand in hand with a drastic reconsideration of, and bold experimental approaches to, festival and showcase formats. In fact, for both Tanznacht and In Transit the transposition of terms from the visual arts heralded change. A further examination of other Berlin-based examples confirms this tendency. Among others, the introduction of the term curator to define dance and theater programmers arose also at the well-established Berlin theater HAU (Hebbel am Ufer Berlin)8 during the 2003 and 2004 seasons, as internal structural changes were in progress and the practice of thematic festivals introduced into their programming. Bettina Masuch, the dance curator in charge at HAU at that time, affirmed in an interview with journalist Michaela Schlagenwerth (2004) that the practice of thematic festivals was inspired by the visual arts. INDEPENDENT PRACTICES AND THEIR “ACTIVATING MOVES” Numerous independent practices and projects have emerged during the last twenty years alongside the institutional examples above. The initiators of these practices are artists, producers, curators, researchers, and hybrid professionals.9 These practices are characterized by temporary ever-changing collaborations. They are not rooted in institutional contexts and they are usually imagined by collective of actors with heterogeneous backgrounds who, after researching an idea and developing a format, find suitable locations and financial support, applying for public funding.10 While seeking support and a location for their projects they enter in dialogue with institutions (theaters, art centers, financing bodies). In some cases, they settle for the long term into so-called independent or artist-run spaces, or into rehearsal studios that are used for presentation purposes. From 2005 to 2010, I ran the nonprofit cultural association CinD in Italy together with Davide Francesca (architect and performer) and Francesca Pedullá (choreographer, teacher, independent curator). The profile of CinD corresponded to the description provided above: it was a seminal presentation and research project as well as a workshop series, developed out of a dialogue with city theaters and institutions. CinD had no stable location. Our projects were strongly connected with the city and its most urgent issues as we worked on the reactivation of abandoned historical buildings and industrial sites.11 Beside this personal example of independent curatorship in dance, there have been others like this, each one unique: Xing (Bologna), Associazione Culturale CQB (Genoa), Mikka Mokka (Berlin), ADA Studio (Berlin), Sweet and Tender Collaboration (Germany), Lucky Trimmer (Berlin), Lake Studios (Berlin), Ponderosa (Berlin) among others.12 Some curatorial practices and projects on



this list have been developing over the years while others are either quite new or struggling for survival. Some remain active, while others have disappeared or have reconstituted themselves in new constellations. The review of a heterogeneous selection of these independent curatorial practices and organizations reveals a prevalent feature, which I call an “activating move.” By using this expression I am referring to the fact that they “activate” temporary spaces for research, exchange, presentation, and formation. They also question market dynamics, attitudes about production and educational philosophies, and mostly operate under precarious conditions.13 These kinds of curatorial practices can be seen as modes of doing, ways of dealing with possibilities, a compound of ritual and improvisation, a manipulation of spaces, the development of networks. and the art of combining. They create spaces and therefore become “stories” (De Certeau 1998). It is in this sense that curatorial practices can become preparation rituals for social change since they cross borders, smuggle knowledge across them, dare to make unknown connections, and open spaces for critical positions.14 SHIFTING BORDERS And so, festivals like In Transit and Tanznacht 2009/2010 have moved beyond known structures and approaches and they have challenged traditional festival formats. Independent curatorial practices have served to “activate” critical spaces, in which to rehearse possible futures that deal with specific local conditions and concerns. This spectrum exemplifies what curator Kate Fowle characterizes as an “expanded” dimension of the curatorial field: “We need to complicate the dialectics and acknowledge the diversity of practices that continue to develop around artists and their ideas. We need to start thinking in terms of an expanded field of curating” (2007: 34). To emphasize this process of “expansion” and further challenge the borders of the field, the etymologic proximity between the verb “to curate” and its root in the Latin word curare (to take care) can be examined by looking at a definition of “care” from the field of ethics: Care entails qualities of attentiveness, responsibility, competence and responsiveness that can help construct better citizens, as well as making better moral agents. Care allows for neither neutrality nor distance and calls for self-reflection and constant reappraisals of one´s condition. In my language, care is a situated and accountable practice. Care is the key to social accountability and responsible citizenship. (Braidotti 2007: 119)

This point of view on curatorial practices offers the possibility to acknowledge the complexity at stake, and to connect the field of cultural, curatorial work to the field of political activism. Recurrent features I have observed in



the analysis of independent practices confirm the emergence of a shift toward a dimension of “activism,” in the sense of active critical space. These features are process-oriented approaches, focused on the creation of critical, dialogical spaces, as well as a pronounced transdisciplinarity. Process-oriented practices have to deal with a risk of failure, of not being considered “entertaining,” as demanded by the arts marketplace (Sternfeld 2010).15 In turn, these strong process-oriented and dialogical approaches assume what Rogoff has termed an “embodied criticality,” a critical position that becomes tangible within the experience of the process (Rogoff 2003). Moreover feminist philosopher Rosi Braidotti (2006) emphasizes “transdisciplinarity” as a precondition for sustainable standards and political reliability. How might potentially critical, political responsibility and sustainable standards finally emerge in tangible terms? How does the curatorial become “a mode of engagement in the world that cannot be anything but political” (Rogoff 2006)? Curated by Peter Stamer in 2010 at Uferstudios in Berlin, the 2010 edition of Tanznacht Berlin (the village.tanznacht) represented one example, if controversial,16 of what critical, politically responsible, situated, and sustainable practices might look like. Stamer affirmed that the concept for the village.tanznacht was created in response to the need of the Berlin-based international artistic milieu to move toward becoming a community aware of its own political potential and strength. He explains that the village was conceived as a “questioning device” to provide cohesion for the Berlin artistic community (Peter Stamer, pers. comm., 12 December 2010). In this context, Stamer choose a critical approach to deal with the responsibility and power-related task of inviting artists to festivals. Appointed curator of Tanznacht by the institutional directors, he in turn invited eight Berlin-based choreographers. The choreographers were then asked by Stamer to invite other choreographers according to principles of shared responsibility. This process resulted in a group of twenty-nine artists, along with Peter Stamer himself, who worked together over five weeks on the festival. And so, he redistributed curatorial power and responsibility beyond the borders of the curatorial field and among the artists themselves. This approach transgressed previously known dynamics and transformed the power hold by the curator to select artists into a critical instrument. The structure no longer resembled the traditional festival and showcase format of the former versions of Tanznacht but had become a collective work-think-tank-research session with six public events that challenged the expectations of both audience and press. It is worth mentioning that Tanznacht has always been supported by special federal funding, which has had a strong influence on the format by demanding that a public outcome be a precondition to obtain support. This is not a fund designed to support artistic work or research, nor residency-like activities. The fact that the funding was used in this case to pay the artists a basic



income over the five weeks of work, and not a fee for a one-night performance, challenged the guidelines. It certainly must have required negotiation with the funding institution or at least some stratagem to work around the guidelines. Both institutional and independent curatorial practices in the field of dance have been unquestionably evolving during the last twenty years, and at some level distancing themselves from previous festival formats, or at the least questioning their vitality. The use of definitions and terms borrowed from the neighboring field of the visual arts is one result of these processes of change. Because these borrowed terms do not entirely embrace the full complexity of the field, its constantly shifting borders and ongoing transformations, more changes and new terms are certainly still to come. ELISA RICCI is cultural producer, activist, and dramaturge. She has been initiating festivals, caring for projects, editing books, writing articles, and experimenting with forms of collective making in the field of contemporary dance since 2004. She has been a program advisor with theaters and dance centers in Europe. Since 2017, she has been enjoying her PhD research in dance studies at Freie Universität Berlin focused on the political and ethical challenges of transcultural curating in contemporary dance.

NOT E S I would like to thank Prof. Gabriele Brandstetter, Martin, Lea, Marina, and Gianfranco. 1. It was in the mid 1990s that the terms curator, curating, and curatorial begin to be used in the field of dance in English and also in German (Kurator, kuratieren). 2. This paper is based on field research for my master’s thesis “Curatorial approaches—Dance— Choreography” (2011) at the Master Tanzwissenschaft—Freie Universität Berlin (Master in Dance Studies) under the supervision of Prof. Gabriele Brandstetter. The research was carried out in Genoa and Berlin. In both cities I am active as an independent curator, or, as I prefer to say, as initiator of cultural projects in the field of dance. For this reason, I have been focusing my research on these two contexts. It is important for me to stress that, considering my involvement as a practitioner in both cities, I am not writing exclusively from the perspective of the academic researcher, but also and especially as a professional observing and analyzing her own field of action. Genoa and Berlin being very different from each other, do not allow for a generalized analysis of the field, but rather the acquisition of a certain perspective on the heterogeneity of curatorial activity in Europe. Of course, in the period between 2011 and the present I continued my research and my thinking evolved, so I consider my contribution to the Montreal symposium “Envisioning the Practice” (2014) and this text as an update of that research. 3. In the visual arts the use of the term independent curator goes back to the 1970s, specifically to the career of Harald Szeemann who was, one might say, the first curator to take his distance from an institution and start an independent career and independent projects. In this chapter, with the term independent I refer to curators who are not hired by an institution and


4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.


11. 12. 13.


15. 16.


often work collectively to realize projects. They usually apply for public funding and look for suitable locations; while doing this they may enter in dialogue with institutions, although their relationships with institutions are intermittent. Institutional curators are those hired by institutions. For more information about Haus der Kulturen de Welt, see For more on this, see the online archive of In Transit on the website of Haus der Kulturen der Welt For more information about Tanznacht Berlin, see their online archive at http://tanznacht For more information on this location, see For more information on this theater and its history, see programm/archiv/. With the term “hybrid professional” I mean to describe actors in the field who combine within their practice skills from different fields—artistic, academic, organizational, public relations—and who also refuse to be caught up in existing definitions en vogue in the art world. Often in Italy these collaborations take the legal form of a nonprofit cultural association, one whose status allows it to enter into dialogue with institutions and apply for financial support, which is not foreseen for physical persons, not even for artists. CinD curated projects between 2005 and 2009, when we decided to officially close the cultural association to continue collaborating in other forms and constellations. This partial list of examples, which is not comprehensive, takes into account projects and practices that developed between 2000 and 2018 in Genoa and Berlin. The work of Irit Rogoff played an important role at the beginning of my research to break modes of thinking in this field. For more on Rogoff’s thinking around “curating as smuggling” and “collectivities in curating,” see Rogoff (2004 and 2006). During the symposium Kunst des Anhaltens (The art of stopping) at Sophiesaele in Berlin in spring 2015, I had the chance to hear a talk by sociologist Oliver Marchart in which he introduced the idea of artistic practices as the pre-enactment of future events, referring in particular to the work of the Israeli group PUBLIC MOVEMENT. Could the idea of pre-enactment be transposed in the field of curating? For more on this, see http:// 4006512c81d0c8ac8381. For more on this, see also Rogoff (2010). The work by curator Peter Stamer at Tanznacht was highly criticized by the press for his curatorial decisions and public formats that were surely sometimes uncomfortable for audiences.

R EF E R E NC E S Braidotti, R. 2006. Transpositios: On Nomadic Ethics. Cambridge: Polity Press. De Certeau, M. 1998. Die Kunst des Handelns. Berlin: Merve Verlag. Fowle, K. 2007. “Who Cares? Understanding the Role of the Curator Today.” In Cautionary Tales—Critical Curating, ed. S. Rand, H. Kouris, 15–35. New York: Apexart. O’Neill, P. 2007. “The Curatorial Turn: From Practice to Discourse.” In Issues in Curating Contemporary Art and Performance, ed. J. Rugg, and M. Sedgwick, 13–28. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.



Rogoff, I. 2003. “From Criticism to Critique to Criticality.” Retrieved 15 March 2014 from ———. 2004. “We—Collectivities, Mutualities, Participations.” Retrieved 15 March 2014 from ———.2006. “Smuggling: A Curatorial Model.” Retrieved15 March 2014 from http://eipcp .net/transversal/0806/rogoff1/en. ———.2010. “Turning: The Educational Turn in Curating.” Retrieved 15 March 2014 from Schlagenwerth, M. 2004. “Ich bin meine Tänzer.” Retrieved 8 March 2014 from www.ber index.html. Sternfeld, N. 2010. “Unglamorous Tasks: What Can Education Learn from Its Political Traditions?” Retrieved DATE from:

CH A P T E R 4

Curating Performance from Africa on International Stages Thoughts on Artistic Categories and Critical Discourse ‘FUNMI ADEWOLE WITH JAREH DAS


first met Jareh Das1 at the British Library where we were both attending a one-day conference on digital archiving. I was excited because she was Nigerian, studying curating—the curating of performance art at that. A skill that was originally associated with the presentation of art objects in exhibitions, curating has expanded to include the presentation of live performance, be this under the banner of the visual arts or contemporary dance. Curators present artistic practices as part of dialogues and histories of ideas. Liz Wells (2007) states for instance, that curators are most effective at audience engagement when their goal is to “contribute to knowledge” in a particular area. She suggests, for instance, that the framing of an exhibition should be a result of a dialogue between the curator and the works of art on display, on one hand, and between the various works being exhibited, on the other. This, she says creates numerous levels of conversation that provide the audience with a space to think (Wells 2007: 31). It is because curating can create this “space to think” that I find it increasingly relevant for the presentation of performances from Africa. It helps stimulate an intellectual context and critical discourse for the artists’ work, which is often undocumented or overlooked. This chapter is about “performance from Africa” in the sense that I am writing about issues that relate to events, both in the continent and outside it, which present artists from several countries from the continent in one program. They are often festivals or exhibitions. Such events cannot be described as representing one country in Africa. The artists I discuss here are those who create work for the stage, screen, or gallery space and who present artistic work in



such contexts among others. There is not much writing on performance of this type in the African academia. Moreover, neither Euro-American definitions of art nor anthropological information about traditional African societies provide the right information to contextualize this kind of performance. At the time I met Jareh Das I knew little about performance art in Africa. From her I found out about the Nigerian visual arts teacher and performance artist, Jelili Atiku. Atiku is commonly known as “Lagos’s first performance artist.” He has apparently been making work for at least twenty years. Das is deeply impressed by Atiku’s ethics and his creative work. He creates work for his local area in Ejigbo, West Nigeria, as well as international biennales. I interviewed her to find out more and I share the complete interview here. I also share some of my experiences at a dance festival in Berlin in 2013, which returned to my mind after my conversation with Jareh Das. It was a one-off event called Moussokouma (“the speech of women” in the Bambara language) curated (there we have it) by Alex Moussa Sawadogo. My role at the festival was to conduct postshow talks with most of the seven female choreographers who were presenting their work. One reason curating has been co-opted by promoters of contemporary dance from Africa is the need to deepen the critical discourse in this field. The debates about the “authenticity” of contemporary dance for some time have obstructed all other kinds of debate. Vibrant, thought-provoking, critical, and artistic discourses, however, are valuable for the continent’s continual development. They constitute a site for reflecting on African modernity. THE DISCOURSE OF MODERNITY AND THE ART OF CURATING The discussion about modernity in Africa is an important one. It is about subjectivity, agency, strategy, social change, leadership, contemporary politics, and current affairs, in short, the well-being of the continent. African artists have been at the forefront of thinking about this. One of the conclusions of the first congress of black writers and artists that took place in Paris in 1956 was that “cultural expression” was linked to “political independence and economic growth” (July 1987: 44). It was this belief that fueled intracontinental festivals such as Dakar ‘66 and FESTAC ‘77, which played a huge role in promoting the practice of dance as a staged form in Africa (as opposed to a social, ritual, or ceremonial form). A book that addresses the topic of arts and modernity, and that has had a big impact on me, is The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa 1945–1994 (2001), edited by the Nigerian art historian Okwui Enwezor. It was published while he was the artistic director of Documenta 11. The book discusses artistic practices produced in Africa or by Africans in the run-up to independence and beyond. Most importantly it situates these practices—film, photography, graphics, architecture, music, lit-



erature, and theater within the histories of ideas that emerged during the fight for independence. The book brought home to me the vision, imagination, innovation, and courage with which a generation of African thinkers at the cusp of independence approached the future. They grappled with the twin ideas of what it meant for Africa to free itself from a colonialized mentality on one hand, but embrace nationalism and internationalism on the other. The latter disposition required assimilating certain ways that were associated with the colonizer’s culture. This has made modernity in Africa a contentious subject especially as there are definitions of modernity that describe it as having started in Europe and being spread around the world through colonialism. Currently, the aforementioned view of modernity is being contested as too linear and narrow. Olufemi Taiwo (2010) for instance, refuses the commonly accepted idea that colonialism modernized Africa. If it had, he argues, the introduction of capitalism to Africa would have included “building (or at least not hindering) the capacity of the colonized to compete in the capitalist marketplace.” He maintains that colonization actually stifled the innovation of Africans in exploiting the Western frameworks they had adopted (2010: 24). Additionally, Peter Geschiere, Birgit Meyer, and Peter Pels (2008) argue that modernity “as a historical phenomenon is still evolving” and each modern development has to be understood in relation to its own set of circumstances (2008: 2). They adopt a “genealogical approach” to modernity, which allows that various forms of modern phenomena existing at the same point in time can belong to different “genealogies” of social life. Thus, one person’s modernity could well be another’s tradition (2008: 4). They are cautious of blanket definitions of modernity for this reason. As a researcher who has spent a lot of time thinking about the role of arts in African independence, it was instructive for me to encounter Jareh Das, a younger researcher who is considering similar issues in this age of globalization. Another difference between Das and I that interested me was our disciplines. Das researches the visual arts and I research dance. We have both look into the production of performance for audiences but from different disciplinary perspectives. The visual arts in Africa have received more analytical attention in these contexts than dance. There are some useful books on dance in circulation written or edited by artists and scholars such as Germaine Acogny (1980), Francesca Castaldi (2006), Dominique Frétard and Salia Sanou (2008), Helene Neveu Kringelbach (2013), and Francis Nii-Yartey (2016) as well as a number of professional and academic articles. Nevertheless, there is only a small amount of writing in comparison to the quantity of dance productions that have taken place in Africa and have been produced by Africans around the world in the last one hundred years. Furthermore, until recently there has been little engagement in dance scholarship with the politics that surround the production of choreography. The idea of curating or “framing,” which are key concepts in the



visual arts are steeped in cultural politics. The scholarly engagement with cultural politics in the visual arts in Africa has supported the generation of critical discourses and the evolution of the field that is now known for performance. AN INTERVIEW WITH JAREH DAS ‘FUNMI ADEWOLE:: What led you to curating performance as opposed to or as well as curating visual arts? JAREH DAS: Whilst performance is central to my current PhD research—more specifically in the areas of audiences, witnessing, and the ethics involved—I would not necessarily separate performance from my wider curatorial concerns and interests, which are, of course, within the visual art context. Artists continue, as they have always done, to work across various media. Performance is one of them. I see contemporary art as all encompassing; art can be anything. This includes a wealth of modes of operating and I am continually intrigued by artists who work across a variety of media. Performance, in my opinion, continues to be as relevant today as it has been through time. Its immediacy, viscerality, and ability to “draw you in” is something that most can respond to. Curating for me is a process through which art theory and practice come together in the exhibition space, either to experience live works or objects that can be traditional or non-traditional. It provides a space for potential rethinking and shifting perspectives, with performance being a very direct and immediate way for audiences to engage with the artwork. Performance Art curating is something that is changing rapidly and perhaps in response to the commercialization of performance ephemera in the art market (by this I mean photographs, film, and physical ephemera—costumes, residues, etc. that can be sold), alongside major visual arts institutions rethinking of the role of performance within their program. We see the establishing of performance as separate from public and educational programming, which was where it was traditionally framed within the arts institutional context (museums). ‘FUNMI ADEWOLE: What do you find inspiring about Jelili Atiku’s work? What do you find inspiring about the way he works and has built his profile? JAREH DAS: The first time I came across Jelili Atiku’s work was through a recommendation by a good friend and fellow curator, Hansi Momodu-Gordon, who had worked with him during her time at the Centre for Contemporary Art Lagos, founded and spearheaded by the influential Nigerian curator, Bisi Silva. My initial encounter was naturally through documentation—through the film and photography of Me and Red, 2009. I was initially drawn to the immersive



Figure 4.1. Photo documentation of Jelili Atiku’s performance Agbo Rago at Ejigbo Ram Market, Lagos, Nigeria on Sunday, 27 September 2009. (Photo by Soibifa Dokubo, © 2009.)

nature of his work and the fact that this particular piece was performed in front of and for camera, i.e. the camera acting as witness. The role of “witness” is something I am interested in within the context of performance art, due to the ways in which this role shifts between audience and artist, as well as through time. Me and Red begins with Atiku hunched over, half-dressed in an enclosed red room that is covered in red tape. He begins to uncurl himself and move around the room in a choreographed manner. It culminates in him stripping the red tape off the walls, before assembling multiple shapes, which end up resembling sculptural objects. Atiku succeeds in collapsing the space of his performing body into the space of performance, both symbolically and metaphorically. As it turns out, this performance was tame, compared to his numerous interventions in public spaces—markets, buildings, art centers in and around Lagos—but the most proactive happening was in Ejigbo, where Atiku lives and works. The first time I saw the documentation—photographs and films of Atiku’s public performances—my first thoughts were that these works were both thrilling and provocative. In Agbo Rago, 2009, performed at the Ejigbo Ram Market, Lagos, for the 11th Lagos Book and Art Festival, the artist is on all fours as ram, as if in some sort of altered state, going amok at the cattle market unannounced. I thought immediately of what the effect of this would have on his unassuming



audience. I also instantly thought of my own encounters with Egungun masquerades as a child (mainly fleeing), but also of the implications and possible risks involved. Lagosians are not sympathetic to people who roam the streets as “mad men” or, to use the more appropriate expression, “craze-man.” Personal effects aside, for Jelili, Egungun is adopted for performance in public spaces, as a means of drawing on his Yoruba heritage. He sees it as a performative element used to make personal statements on a wide range of socio-political issues, fuelled by an individual’s duty of activism. Atiku finds it indispensable “to adopt an Egungun technique in exploiting the potentiality of public space as it becomes social and political, and the role art can play in this process.”2 ‘FUNMI ADEWOLE: Is there anything in particular that you think the curating of performance has to offer Africa? JAREH DAS: I think that Performance Art has a lot to offer the African continent, and whilst I am extremely wary of making sweeping generalizations across the continent, I will speak specifically here of what performance can offer Nigeria, as an Anglo-Nigerian. Performance Art is so close to the country’s diverse history of theater, dance, and drama. Perhaps Performance Art can be thought of more specifically as aligned towards Nigerian masquerades—Egungun being an apt example of one of the numerous forms of Nigerian theater. I hope that rather than for enjoyment, voyeurism, or spectatorship, performance will offer an avenue for activism and potentially aid in shifting ways of thinking that do not necessarily support individual differences in relation to gender, age, sexuality, tribal differences, etc. There is so much potential I feel, for performance to really instigate much needed change. ‘FUNMI ADEWOLE: What developments do you see happening on the continent in terms of curated performance? JAREH DAS: I think the fact that people are now adopting and using the title of “performance artist” is really exciting and progressive. There are artists proud to celebrate this way of working as opposed more traditional forms such as painting and sculpture. Contemporary artists of the African continent are no different from those in other parts of the world as they continue to work with a variety of media. Barthélémy Toguo, Meshac Gaba, and Issa Samb are prominent examples, and an exciting younger generation that includes artists such as Nástio Mosquito and Natalie MbA Bikoro-Harmata, who all have a practice with performance at its core. These developments in performance have been happening on micro-levels for a long time, whether or not they were called or defined as performance art is a whole other question of contention/debate. Performance art continues to feature in the program of not-for-profit organizations such as the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), Lagos, and Raw Materials



Company, Dakar, and biennials including Marrakesh, AFiRIperFOMA (initiated and founded by Jelili Atiku), Dak’Art, and the Luanda triennial. ‘FUNMI ADEWOLE: Do you have ambitions in regards to working in Nigeria? For example, delivering a course at Yaba College of Tech? JAREH DAS: Yes, this is something I think about, but I also need to understand how curating will work as a “deliverable” course at say Yaba Tech. It is something that will require an acute understanding of how to work together, as opposed to offering an “imported” version of knowledge transfer. I do hope and believe that curating becomes something that enriches, but more importantly inspires preservation and appreciation of contemporary art and the histories art, for a new generation of Nigerian curators and its diaspora. End of the interview with Jareh. THE CONTEXT OF DANCE PRODUCTION AND ART OF CURATING Jareh Das argued in her interview that a visual artist has the right to work in any medium, be that painting or be that performance. Her point got me thinking about artistic categories and performance from Africa. Artistic expressions in pre-colonial Africa, and even parts of rural and urban Africa today, tend to be approached holistically rather than as separate categories such as dance, drama, literature. For this reason, I would argue that an artist from Africa who draws on cultural practices and repertoire that have origins in pre-colonial forms (such as “the egungun” translated into English as “masquerade”) are making a “curatorial decision” when they decide to describe their work as “visual art” or as “dance.” In choosing to work under certain disciplinary parameters, they create art, which comes into dialogue with the dominant discourses, often EuroAmerican that shaped that category of art. If you accept this point of view about artistic categories you will accept that one of the challenges a curator of performance from Africa faces is how to facilitate a dialogue between audiences and artists so the artists’ understanding of their own practice is revealed. Curating performance should go beyond discussing contemporary arts from Africa solely in terms of it being a result of the impact of colonialism. This is what I enjoyed about the presentation of the seven female choreographers at the Moussokouma festival in Berlin in 2013. I had the honor of being invited to conduct post-show talks with the choreographers. The choreographers in the program were presented as individual artists and we were invited to engage with their personal perspectives on culture, politics or philosophy rather than with them as simply as producers of hybrids of Western and



African forms. On offer were performances by Bouchara Ouizguen (Morrocco), Mamela Nyamza (South Africa), Nacera Belaza (Algeria/France), Fatou Cisse (Senegal), Kettly Noel (Mali/Haiti), Nelisiwe Xaba with Mock J. Van Veren (South Africa), and Nadia Beugre (Ivory Coast). There was also the screening of a film entitled Goddesses by Sylvie Cachin. In the festival’s program, the curator Alex Moussa Sawadogo wrote about the choreographers in terms of their activism and their contravention of colonial and sexist narratives. The framing of the festival prompted me to look at the women as interventionists and find out about the situations into which they were intervening. I will recount my encounters and conversations with two of the choreographers, Nadia Beugre and Nacera Belaza. “You reminded me of a masquerade,” I said to Nadia Beugre after her performance of Quartier Libre. She smiled, extremely pleased with my assessment. The piece took place in a theater auditorium with no seating but two or three platforms in different areas of the room. Beugre starts her performance on one platform; in a slinky dress and high heels singing a soul song. She then wraps herself in the microphone cable, clambers down to the floor, and begs an audience member to release her. Finally someone does. She continues traveling through the space, stripping down to her underwear and turning, en route, a hanging curtain of plastic bottles into a coat. After dancing in this apparel she tips herself onto another platform then rolls off the other end, falling heavily to the floor. We worry that she is hurt, but she is not. She rises and continues. It was not just her journey across the space that made me think of a masquerade. It was the effect it had on us onlookers. We swirled around her. Some people stood as far away from her as possible, terrified of her unpredictable energy and others stood as near to her as they could, though alert and ready to get out of the way. I felt that Beugre was, among other things, challenging our understanding of spectatorship. Is the onlooker ever passive? Can the onlooker afford to be passive? I also wondered whether she was forcing us to act out our hidden dispositions toward whatever ideas we felt she represented. Nacera Belaza was as radical as Nadia Beugre. Her choreography included a radical investigation of stillness. She presented two short pieces. One of them, the solo Le Trait (the stroke), performed by her sister Dalila Belaza, was particularly striking. The stage floor was carved up into zones of various levels of shadow, an effect achieved through careful lighting. A soundscape gradually filled the space. The soft medley of sounds reminded me of the Muslim call to prayer, of people going to the river to fill buckets of water, of birds greeting the sunrise. The dancer positioned herself at the border of shadow meeting shadow. She was half- silhouette and half outline. At first, I was not sure whether the dancer was a man or a woman. Her clothing was nondescript, baggy, and black. I strained to see her face. She then spread her arms apart and spun on the spot for what seemed like fifteen minutes. She spun at almost the



same speed through out. Her limbs hardly changed position as she entered into and out of the varying shades of light and dark. Two or three people got up left not long into the performance. I also struggled. I struggled to see the dancer and then I struggled to find the dance. Finally, I gave up. I submitted to the experience, listened to the soundscape, and followed the spinning form and slowly I began to appreciate the shifts of weight of the body, the consistency in the movement of the feet powering the turning body and the strength of the serenely poised arms. The piece ended with a pair of feet (the rest of the body was hidden in the dark) scurrying out of the darkness into the semi-light and back into the darkness. I had my most in-depth post show discussion with Belaza. She spoke about crafting the space, through lighting and sound, and placing the “dancing body” within it. It was one of the most immersive performances I have experienced from a seated position in an auditorium. I was surprised to be so impacted by a performance I could hardly see. Said Belaza, the war in Algeria gave her the desire to return to her community’s contemplative traditions, but not by trying to showcase them. The curator can facilitate a way for the audience to engage with a choreographer’s work in relation to their own “genealogy” of modernity. The work of Beugre and Belaza left me with fresh insights into the philosophies behind traditional practices as well as an appreciation of the choreographers’ intervention in current discussions about womanhood and the recovery from war respectively. Moussokouma provided a context in which audience members could have conversations and debates with the artists and with each other. If a useful artistic discourse for contemporary dance is to be produced, notions of artistic integrity and authenticity have to be informed by the sociopolitical reality in which the contemporary dance choreographer is working and therefore the kind of art that is legible in that context. It has to be in touch with the dialogues their work ignites. For the dance in Africa today, this kind of artistic discourse is crucial, just as it is for performance art. The skill of curating has something vital to contribute to this conversation. ‘FUNMI ADEWOLE worked in Nigerian media before beginning a performance career in the United Kingdom in the 1990s. She holds a master’s degree in Postcolonial Studies and a doctorate in Dance Studies. She is presently a lecturer in Dance at De Montfort University in Leicester, England. Her interests include choreography, contemporary theater, narrative inquiry, dramaturgy, African modernity, multiculturalism, and cultural politics. JAREH DAS is a PhD student studying the curating of performance. Since 2013, she has been working with The Arts Catalyst as an AHRC-funded PhD student in Curating Art and Science partnered with the Geography Depart-



ment of Royal Holloway, University of London. Das’s doctoral research focuses on performing bodies, audience witnessing, and pain-based practices used by artists. It also considers performances that resist clear categorizations, i.e., focusing on live works that operate at the intersections of art and science encompassing the medical, cultural, and social. (More in endnote 1.)

NOT E S 1. See academic biography above, at the end of the chapter and just below Adewole’s biography. Das’s thesis Bearing Witness: On Performing and Documenting Pain in Performance Art explores what it means to “bear witness” to contemporary performance art. Through a series of artists’ case studies, she considers how pain is perceived and seen within this context. It also seeks to address the resistance and problems associated with theorizing the experience of pain within performance art. Das writes for various publications in the UK and internationally that include Bomb Magazine, Kaleidoscope, Asia Art Pacific, Harper’s Bazaar Art Arabia, This is Tomorrow, Arty, Contemporary Practices, The STATE, Aesthetica, FAD Art News, MOJEH, Paper Journal, and Wonderland Magazine. For some samples of her writings see the reference list (Das 2012, 2013, 2014a, 2014b). 2. Jelili Atiku in response to my comments on his performance, “I Will Not Stroll with Thami El Glaoui,” 2014, commissioned for the Marrakesh Biennial 5, Marrakesh, Morocco. The performance, which took place on 26 February 2014 (in the morning to afternoon at Sidi Nousa (outskirts of Marrakesh), and at night at the bustling Jamaa El Fnaa Square, were intended as social and political intervention.

R EF E R E NC E S Acogny, G. 1980. Danse Africaine. Frankfurt: Verlag Dieter Fricke. Castaldi, F. 2006. Choreographies of African Identities: Negritude, Dance, and the National Ballet of Senegal. Chicago: University of Illinois Press. Das, J. 2014a. “Samantha Sweeting by Jareh Das.” BOMB Magazine. Retrieved 18 March from ———. 2014b. “Nezaket Ekici: Emotion in Motion.” Harper’s Bazaar Art Arabia 15, March/ April: 149–51. ———. 2013. “Franko B: Because of Love.” Aesthetica Magazine. Retrieved 18 March from ———. 2012. “The Rise of Photomontage in the Middle East.” Contemporary Practices: Visual Arts from the Middle East 11: 66–73. Enwezor, O. 2001. The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa 1945– 1994. Munich: Presetel. Falola, T. 2013. The African Diaspora: Slavery, Modernity, and Globalisation. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press. Freire, P. 2005. Pedagogy of the Oppressed—30th Anniversary Edition. New York: Continuum. Frétard, D., S. Sanou, and A. Tempe. 2008. Afrique Danse Contemporaine. Paris: Cercle d’Art.



Geschiere, P., B. Meyer, and P. Pels. 2008. Readings in Modernity in Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Hassan, S. 1999. “The Modernist Experience in African Art: Visual Expression of the Self and Cross-Cultural Aesthetics.” In Reading the Contemporary African Arts: From Theory to Marketplace, ed. O. Oguibe and O. Enwezor, 214–235. London: INIVA. Jegede, D. 1999. “Contemporary Art in Post-Colonial Africa.” An Inside Story: African Art of our Time 32(2): 166–68. Neveu Kringelbach, H. 2013. Dance Circles: Movement, Morality and Self-fashioning in Urban Senegal. Oxford: Berghahn Books. Nii-Yartey, F. 2016. African Dance in Ghana: Contemporary Transformations. London: Mot Juste. July, Robert W. 1987. An African Voice: The Role of the Humanities in African Independence. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Mensah, A., ed. 2001. “La Danse Africaine Contemporaine.” Special Issue, Africultures 42. Oguibe, O. 2003. The Culture Game. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Taiwo, O. 2010. How Colonialism Preempted Modernity in Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Uchendu, V. C. 1997. “Modernization in Tropical Africa.” In African Society, Culture and Politics: An Introduction to African Studies, ed. C. Mojekwu, V. Chikezie Uchendu, and L.Van Huey, 260–75. Lanham, MD: University Press of America. Ukala, S. 2001. “A Harvest of Ghosts: The Story of a Collaboration.” In African Theatre: Playwrights and Politics, ed. M. Banham, James Gibbs, and F. Osofisan, 157–77. Oxford: James Curry. Wells, L. 2007. “Curatorial Strategy as Critical Intervention: The Genesis of Facing East.” In Issues in Curating: Contemporary Art and Performance, ed. J. Rugg and M. Sedwick, 29–44. Bristol, UK: Intellect Books. Web-based Information Related to Performance Art in Africa Processes_An_Intervention_with_Ewawo_-_The_Awaiting_Trial_Persons



Curation in performing arts is still a utopia for the field. It entails a process of investing ongoing research and engaging in deep intellectual reflection of the artistic practice to select projects, which will be presented within a certain selected context. The curator cares for the audience by making her intentions known and thinking about how the audience can experience the work. The curator cares about the field by listening to the artists. The curator cares for the collaborative essence of a performance by collaborating with technical staff and other colleagues. The care of the curator acts on the etymological definition of “paying attention” to something. It is the neck turning the head for a specific period of time, directing its focus for a certain vision. This care should not be mistaken for “cure”—it does not prescribe preconceived discourses or forms of criticality. Instead it provides room for a personal and unmediated experience of the art. One must have a clear intention of why bringing attention to a certain piece is vital. If this intention is not absolutely clear for everyone cared for by the curator, the work usually takes a loss. In order to achieve this utopian form of curating, one must be aware of the operating systems in the performing arts. Only by deeply understanding them can one find the ways to break free from funding and political pressures, and focus solely on the art and the care.

ISABEL SACHS holds an MA from City University London (UK) with a dissertation on curating performing arts. She founded an international production



company in 2010 based in Brazil, working across music, theater, and visual arts. In London, she worked at the Victoria and Albert Museum, East London Dance, and Block Universe International Performance Art Festival among others.

CH A P T E R 5

The Curating Nation Emergence of Performance Curation in Singapore and Its Impact on Cultural Politics KEN TAKIGUCHI


ingapore celebrated its golden jubilee in 2015. The narratives that traced the history of the island nation were reproduced all through the year under the banner of SG50. The significance of this year was even highlighted by the passing of the founding father of the country Lee Kuan Yew in March. Singapore was in a strange mixture of mourning and festivity. In this SG50 context, one of the country’s most prominent arts events the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) opened three days before National Day with themes of power, colonialism, and identity under the overall theme of “POST-Empires.” The message of festival director Ong Keng Sen read: “Symbolic of POSTEmpires is the moment when characters decline their Destiny as proposed by the Author. They reclaim their lives and, in so doing, refuse the power of the Author. Can we rewrite the History which has been written for us?” (Ong 2015a: 2) “The Author” in this statement strongly suggested the late Lee Kuan Yew whose national best-selling memoir was titled The Singapore Story. No less significant was his enlargement of the context of the festival from the nationaldomestic perspective, requested for the national arts festival in this special year, to a regional and even global scale by strategically using the pre-festival event called O.P.E.N. as an experimental platform to explore a wider range of issues and problems. Ong argues: In our part of the world, Asians are often controlled and liberated through tradition. So it is necessary for the O.P.E.N., in line with our 2015 theme of POST-Empires, to en-



gage with the idea of POST-Tradition . . . Projecting into the future, we propose a POSTGlobal approach in curating for performance arts with the question, “What happens to the world after Uniqlo and H&M?” (Ong 2015b: 2–3)

This strategic contextualization that suggested criticism of the performativity implied in the entire dazzling SG50 and probably the SIFA itself can be read as an indicator of maturity for the Singapore festival’s curation, which was once condemned by an arts journalist as “without clear artistic direction, it [the collection of world-class acts in the festival] becomes like a buffet table” and “we do not know what we are eating” (Oon 1999: 170). The number of Singaporean performance curators has been increasing, and their position has been established in the industry. Some of them even took influential positions in the regions. For instance, Low Kee Hong, former General Manager of the Singapore Biennale (2006–2008) and the Singapore Arts Festival (2009–2012), is currently the head of Artistic Development in Theater at the West Kowloon Cultural District, a newly developed and massive cultural center in Hong Kong. An independent dramaturge, curator, and producer, Tang Fu Kuen who had curated the Singapore pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009, was invited by the Tokyo Performing Arts Meeting, the largest performing arts market in Japan, as the first foreign curator of the TPAM Directions programs in 2015. Tang then became the first foreigner appointed as the artistic director of Taipei Arts Festival, for a term of three years starting in 2018. Why did Singapore, once dubbed “a cultural desert,” become a major producer of performance curators? Why did curation become so popular and influential? Why did the authorities invest in these practices? Shortcutting to the conclusion, I argue that it is because curation was recognized as an effective tool to transform Singapore’s weakness into strength by both artists and the government. Since its independence in 1965, which was virtually an expulsion from Malaysia due to conflicting views on the political and economic issues between the ruling parties, the government of Singapore has been highlighting the vulnerability of a country that has almost no natural resources and is precariously surrounded by a potentially hostile Muslim world (Tan 2008: 11). Turning the disadvantage of Singapore into its advantage has been enthusiastically sought after at every level of society in Singapore. And so in the late 1990s, curation, especially performance curation, was recognized as a creative strategy with which to achieve it. Artists took the lead in adopting curatorial approaches in their creations and the government later included them in their cultural policies. Although these two happened at completely different levels, the sociocultural conditions and contexts of that particular period of time allowed them be fused, and a cooperative (or co-optive) relationship between them emerged.



CURATION AND SINGAPOREAN THEATER MAKERS The national obsession for coping with the vulnerability of the country was used as a justification of the government’s authoritative and paternalistic approach to the political and social issues in Singapore. All available resources were mobilized for the survival of the state, and culture was no exception. A clear and consistent cultural policy existed from the early years of independence for the purpose of nation-building (Chong 2011: 17). Ethnic groups in Singapore existed independently, and the conflict among them, which often resulted in racial riots, threatened the existence of the newly independent country. The cultural policy of the dominant People’s Action Party (PAP) was directed at promoting a “universal” society and promoting English as the nation’s first language. The common, non-native and “universal” language was expected to promote racial equality and national unity that are required for modernizing the society at the earliest stage of its nation-building. Indeed, as W.L. Wee stated, “Singapore is indicative of what identity may become at the nation-state level when it wants to develop a state sponsored national culture that is able to mobilize the country towards the economic goal of becoming a first-world society” (Wee 2002: 132). It was theater doyen Kuo Pao Kun who condemned such a utilitarian policy with which the government controlled the language that was deeply connected to the people’s identity. Born in China and a resident of Hong Kong before moving to Singapore, culturally nomadic Kuo expressed his deep shock with the English-as-the-first-language policy by saying: “Has any other majority population ever committed such an extraordinary act of voluntary uprooting, preferring to its own language (a major world language) one which its former colonizer forced upon it?” (Kuo 2008: 173) and criticized the government’s policy as one that was solely meant for serving the capitalism that “has perpetuated a continuous uprooting of peoples from their personal neighborhoods, from their indigenous environments, [from] their linguistic groups, from their cultural communities and even from their national citizenship” (Kuo 2008: 172). In the modernization process of Singapore, according to Kuo, its people were coerced to detach themselves from their cultural roots, which made them orphans who do not have a history to trace back to their indigeneity and their own traditions. They now had even lost their mother tongues because of the policy to prioritize English as the country’s first language. Kuo later extended his argument by discussing how it was that Singaporeans would be able to transform their rootlessness into their strength through their ability to accept and absorb any kind of cultures, and thus to acquire universality, which he called Open Culture. He advocated that “[b]y creating a new platform contemplated by Open Culture, Singaporeans could rise from a state of cultural impoverishment to pioneer a uniquely new cultural richness, which



globalization promises every Earthian in the longer future” (Kuo 1998: 61). Kuo, however, was not able to provide a methodology to realize the Open Culture because of his untimely death in 2002. It was Ong Keng Sen, the director of the local theater company TheatreWorks, who developed a concrete methodology to take advantage of Singapore’s openness to diverse cultures through a curatorial approach to his theatermaking. It was Flying Circus Project (FCP), meetings and workshops organized by TheatreWorks and inaugurated in 1996 in which Ong started to incorporate curation as a core methodology of his artistic creation. FCP has since continued to be one of main pillars of his works in spite of several major restructurings. The first FCP was held at TheatreWorks in November and December 1996 with fifty traditional and contemporary performing artists in music, dance, and theater from Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, and Japan. All participants were handpicked by Ong himself after intensive research and meetings with the candidates in respective countries. The process of research and selection was indeed curatorial, and it allowed Ong to contextualize the juxtaposition of the artists in FCP along with his aims: (1) to examine how contemporary arts can be revitalized, reconnected, and regenerated through a juxtaposition with traditional culture, (2) to examine how these traditional arts can withstand the progress of modernity without lapsing into “museum” art, and (3) to create contemporary artists who are rooted in traditional arts and culture and yet be sufficiently adaptive to harness them and ultimately advance into the new millennium (Ong 1998: 121). FCP was meant solely for exchange among artists and did not provide access to the audience. Thus, if we adopt Bertie Ferdman’s definition of the role of the performance curator as a mediator between artists and audiences who provides “new ways to present, interpret, program, produce, finance, and experience work” (2014: 7), Ong’s role at FCP cannot be considered that of a curator because of the absence of audiences. Audiences came into his picture only when Ong developed theatrical productions based on his relationship with the participants of FCP. Lear (1997)1 was the first example of such developments. The performance directed by Ong himself juxtaposed Asian traditional performance styles including Japanese Noh, Chinese Jingju (Beijing Opera), Thai Khon dance drama, and Indonesian Pencak Silat martial arts on stage.2 Masters of these time-honored performance traditions were recruited along with contemporary artists, a direct reflection of the foundational idea of FCP. Lear toured Southeast Asian countries and Australia in January and February of 1999 and then the production was staged in several European countries later in the same year. Recalling with cynicism the reviews and questions posed by Western journalists during the tour, Ong states: “The implication [of these questions] was unmistakable: Asians should not step out of line by redefining



Figure 5.1. A scene from Lear, conceived and directed by Ong Keng Sen, 1997. Jiang Qihu (center), Chinese Jingju (Beijing Opera) actor, plays the Older Daughter. Peeramon Chomdhavat (to the right of the picture), Thai Khon dancer, plays the Younger Daughter. Lim Yu-Beng, Jefri Andi, and Benny Krisnawardi (far left) play the warriors. They were choreographed in the style of Indonesian Pencak Silat. (Photo courtesy of TheatreWorks [S] Ltd., 1997.)

their own values after these have been set ‘internationally,’ that is, by Westerners” (Ong 2001: 130). Responding to such a persistent East-West dichotomy, he insists that his theater is an advocate of the New Asia, a new reality for an urbanizing Asia in which we constantly see dynamic interactions between the traditional and the modern, specificity and universality. Ong argues: “The company of Lear is a symbol of the new society reflecting every single uncertainty surrounding it. It is one single society with diversity. A society that encounters another”3 (Ong 1999: 103). He took the position of a speaker representing the New Asia, one that has its own voices with which to resist the West. In Lear, Asian traditional performance styles were removed from their original contexts and implanted into the context of New Asia by Ong. W. L. Wee points out that Ong’s “Singaporean” characteristics helped him to take such a position. “As a Singaporean,” Wee argues, “he [Ong] possesses some knowledge of intercultural negotiations and the plural nature of the contemporary; local intra-Asia experiences lead to the possibility of a larger intra-Asia imaginary” (Wee 2004: 790). In addition, belonging to the generation raised in the English-as-the-first-language environment and educated in the United



States, Ong’s ability to participate in this “universal” discourse allowed him to take on the role of representing the New Asia. And the method with which he experimented in FCP and Lear, in which the traditions were contextualized and connected to the contemporary, worked well as a strategy to maximize the advantages of a new generation of Singaporean intellectuals. Nevertheless, his curation in Lear was heavily problematized by a number of critics, especially those from Asia. For instance, Indian critic Rustom Bharucha states: “For him [Ong], an ‘openness’ to other cultures is less a moral imperative than a creative opportunity to engage and play with the cultures of the world, whose forms, techniques and artefacts are available for his creative use” (Bharucha 2000: 14). Bharucha also condemns that the advantages of Singaporeans discussed above—“technical skills (particularly in copying traditional modes of expertise)” and “codification of the English language,” to borrow his words—would merely lead him to the consumption of the “Asian others” (Bharucha 2004: 11). Although Ong questions himself by asking “Am I using traditional arts only to gain personal recognition for my own projects? Am I buying ‘Asian art’ just like Europeans and Americans before, fascinated by otherness?” (Ong 2001: 129). Ong responded to criticism by questioning the absoluteness of the idea of tradition. He insists that “I cannot help questioning the stale binary of ‘traditional’ and ‘contemporary.’ I am still confused by these two terms. Something contemporary for one culture can be traditional in another. When it comes to this issue, an elusive continuum starts to appear” (Ong 2000). For him, the static notion of tradition itself is the convention that perpetuates the stereotypical image of Asia. The process of the reproduction is the reality of the “modern” in the region. Ong then insists that we can overcome such a reality only through collaborative efforts. Admitting that he would be dissatisfied with a production that simply juxtaposed many different languages and many different traditional forms after Lear, he later focused more on the dialogue among the individual artists of the company who came from different cultures with different histories, memories, and languages. Extending his commitments within the collaborative creation, Ong focused on establishing what he calls political curation, in which the curator not only provides the context but also invites and even facilitates the interventions from the participants that are meant to alter the context itself in FCPs in the 2000s. The 2000 edition of FCP had two significant features. First, the participating artists had opportunities to showcase their works to the audience during the FCP, and FCPs stopped being developed into large-scale productions like Lear, hence FCP became more like a curated festival (Lee 2001: 56). Second, the process in FCP was intentionally politicized, not only by the curators—Malaysian theater doyen Krishen Jit and Ong himself—but also by the participants.



Some of the significant issues, such as the possibilities of exchange, translation, cultural difference, and the relevance of ritual, were addressed and questioned through unplanned interventions into other people’s works. Observing the process, Helena Grehan (2004) found that tactics employed by the participants “punctuated the process for both participants and observers and allowed a space within which to question the structure and direction of the FCP and in turn to reflect who the workshops were for” (Grehan 2004: 580). This can be understood as Ong’s direct response to the critics who claimed that he had focused more on play than serious intercultural practice. It was, as Grehan observes, also an attempt “to extend the idea of [Kuo’s] Open Culture beyond surface appropriation” (2004: 572). Since the 2004 edition, FCP enlarged the scope to outside of Asia. It was because Ong felt that FCP had developed a concrete and solid ground for collaborations among Asian artists, and “began to perceive Asia more as the site where artists would continue their conversations” (TheatreWorks 2010). In FCP 2013, Ong intentionally calls himself a curator/artistic director of the project, and proclaimed that “[i]nternational curation can be responsible for the development of conversations in local arts communities and their audiences” (Ong 2013). Ong’s methodology of political curation of performing arts has been investigated and restructured through his response to the continuous challenges lodged against his practices. Through this process, Kuo’s Open Culture model was also reexamined, and the issues of tradition, modernization, and identity were deeply explored. CURATION AS THE NATIONAL VENTURE It is notable that Ong’s vision of New Asia was appropriated by the government of Singapore, which started to envisage arts and culture as an attraction factor in the international competition for skilled foreign workers and global capital as well as the tool to develop highly skilled, creative and globally mobile Singaporeans in the 2000s (Chong 2005: 556). Ong’s vision of New Asia, which advocated maximizing the capability of Singaporeans, was adopted in Singapore’s cultural policy as a blueprint of developing such “new” Singaporeans. Renaissance City Report released by the Ministry of Information and the Arts in 2000 was meant to set the basic cultural policy for the new decade and, more importantly, to define “an archetypal orthodoxy-friendly Singaporean by prescribing a variety of characteristics that would best equip Singaporeans to take advantage of the impending ‘Asian Renaissance’” (Chong 2011: 44). The term signified a rebirth or reawakening of the cultural histories of broader Asia, and the new Singaporeans were encouraged to take full advantage of the trend. In that sense, it was not merely a cultural policy report, but an attempt to define



ideal citizens, dubbed “Renaissance Singaporeans,” to meet the challenges the country would face. Chapter 5 of the Report defines the Renaissance Singaporean as “an individual with an open, analytical and creative mind that is capable of acquiring, sharing, applying and creating new knowledge” (paragraph 5). He is attuned to his Asian roots and heritage in an increasingly borderless world (paragraph 7) while at the same time plugged into global networks (paragraph 15). The Singaporeans, who benefit from their Asian rootedness and their cosmopolitan exposure to the world, are able to represent not only Singaporean perspectives but also pan-Asian voices (paragraph 22). The striking similarity between the definition of an ideal Renaissance Singaporean in the Report on the one hand, and Ong’s vision of New Asia and the role the Singaporeans in it on the other, does not, however, seem surprising when we understand the special position Ong and Lear occupy in the Report. They are repeatedly mentioned in the Report as examples of successful Singaporean artistry and artistic production (paragraphs 8 and 9 of chapter 2, and paragraph 25 of chapter 7). Quotes about Lear were also featured as a separate column in chapter 4. And so Singapore embarked on the nation-branding that highlighted the confluence of East and West, which was identified as a unique selling point for the creative Singapore brand and product (Ooi 2008: 292). The ability to appreciate and understand Asian cultures on the one hand, and to contextualize them and present them to the international market on the other, was a critical quality required for all Singaporeans. The ability to curate Asian cultures and values was recognized as essential, and became a core element of Singapore’s cultural agenda. Artists were expected to provide models in performing their curatorial roles, and the development of curators was given a high priority. Renaissance City Plan III, the second follow-up of Renaissance City Report released in 2008, listed curators as the creators of distinctive content for Singapore along with writers, composers, choreographers, and artists (Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts 2008: 17). These reports advocated developing the professional competencies of curators who are able to create and distribute Asian content locally and internationally. Performance curation was an important part in the plan for developing curatorial competence and methodologies, and artists have been participating in this national project, which has resulted in some new curatorial approaches. The M1 Singapore Fringe Festival, for example, has been attempting to establish a model for a curated fringe festival since its establishment in 2005. Former artistic director of the Festival, Alvin Tan admits that “[w]e understood that our approach was against what the ‘fringe’ had been.” However, he explains that:



Singapore has such a strong mainstream culture, thus we artists inevitably rebel against our mainstream culture throughout the year. We do not have to counteract the established Singapore Arts Festival. We do not have to stay distant from Esplanade [Theatres on the Bay, the largest theater complex in the country]. Rather, we should engage with them . . . It is our festival and we do not have to follow the colonial definition of fringe. We rebel against the very idea of “fringe.” (Takiguchi 2013: 5)

Two Singaporean curators based overseas whom I mentioned earlier—and interestingly enough, who both participated in Lear as performers—also have been experimenting with different approaches to curation. Tang Fu Kuen has established his unique position as a connector between Asia and Europe in his curated works including Pichet Klunchun and Myself (2005), a curated dance performance by Thai dancer Pichet Klunchun, French dancer Jérome Bêl, and the Colombo Dance Platform festival in Sri Lanka (2010), for which Tang was commissioned by the Goethe Institut of Germany. Low Kee Hong introduced the theme of memory and tradition with a clear focus on Asian works when he was in charge of programming the 2009–2011 editions of the Singapore Arts Festival in his role as the General Manager. In an interview conducted in 2012, he pointed out that Western performance curators were not very interested in the European and American artists, but that they want to look at Asian productions, and claimed, “This is a place for the Singapore Arts Festival to play a key role” (Takiguchi 2011: 4). The position these curators commonly share is significantly that of the Renaissance Singaporean—rooted in Asia and sensitive to the cultural specificity of the region on the one hand and capable of exposing themselves to the universal market and on the other, and so to participate in international discourse. Their activities were widely publicized through mass media coverage, various reports published by the government, and presented as a model of successful Singaporeans. When the Singapore Arts Festival was restructured into the Singapore International Festival of Arts, which introduced the role of Festival Director for the first time, the review committee claimed that “the local arts scene has reached a level of maturity and has the necessary artistic and curatorial talent required to undertake this responsibility” (National Arts Council 2012: 10). The assumption of Ong Keng Sen as the first Festival Director was treated as the demonstration of such maturity, and it marked the terminus of the national endeavor to advocate curation as an essential constituent of the nation. CONCLUSION Kuo Pao Kun developed his arguments about Cultural Orphan and Open Culture through his radical opposition to the government’s utilitarian approach toward culture. Nevertheless, when the methodology of performance curation



was proposed by Ong Keng Sen to concretize the Singaporeans who are open to diverse cultures, it was appropriated by the government because of its adoptability to a new cultural agenda in the context of the late 1990s and the 2000s. The artists, on the other hand, made use of the government’s desires to realize their own artistic visions. Theater is a genre that benefitted the most from the Singapore government’s “cultural turn” in the 2000s.4 Performance curation has already become an inseparable part of Singaporean culture. However, negotiations over the ownership of the methodology between the government and the artists are far from being settled. Artists will continue to struggle to find their own place in the curating nation. KEN TAKIGUCHI is a Japanese dramaturge and translator. He was based in Malaysia and Singapore from 1999 to 2016 and has participated in numerous intercultural theatrical productions. He holds a PhD from the National University of Singapore, and is a founding member of Asian Dramaturgs’ Network. He is currently working at Setagaya Public Theatre in Tokyo and teaching intercultural theater in Asia at the Tokyo University of the Arts.

NOT E S 1. Lear can be found in an online performance archive Asian Shakespeare Intercultural Archive ( where full-length videos can be viewed. 2. The play was written by Japanese playwright Kishida Rio based on Shakespeare’s King Lear. Hata Yuki, the producer of Lear, explains that choosing Shakespeare has “a universal existence” and was a way to avoid bias in favor of any Asian country (Hata 1999: 108), which reflects a shared sensitivity on the universal versus Asian specificity. 3. All translations from Japanese sources are my own, except when otherwise stated. 4. The National Arts Council’s grants dramatically increased from SGD 998,000 in total in FY1998–1999 to SGD 5,725,190 in FY2000–2001, then to SGD 6,755,989 in FY2001–2002. Significant increases can be observed in the post-Renaissance City Report period. The support for theater saw the largest growth from SGD333,000 in FY1998– 1999 to SGD2,474,068 in FY2000–2001, and to SGD2,942,616 in FY2001–2002 (Chong 2005: 558).

R EF E R E NC E S Bharucha, R. 2000. Consumed in Singapore: The Intercultural Spectacle of Lear. Centre for Advanced Studies research paper no. 21. Singapore: National University of Singapore. ———. 2004. “Foreign Asia/Foreign Shakespeare: Dissenting Notes on New Asian Interculturality, Postcoloniality, and Recolonization.” Theater Journal 56 (1): 1–28. Chong, T. 2005. “From Global to Local: Singapore’s Cultural Policy and Its Consequences.” Critical Asian Studies 37(4): 553–68.



———. 2011. The Theatre and the State in Singapore: Orthodoxy and Resistance. London: Routledge. Ferdman, B. 2014. “From Content to Context: The Emergence of the Performance Curator.” Theater 44(2): 5–19. Grehan, H. 2004. “Questioning the Relationship between Consumption and Exchange: TheatreWorks’ Flying Circus Project, December 2000.” Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique 12(2): 565–86. Hata, Y. 1999. “6kkakoku koraborêshon ‘ria’ no sonogo.” Kokusai Kôryû 84: 106–9. Kuo, P. K. 1998. “Contemplating an Open Culture: Transcending Multiracialism.” In Singapore: Re-engineering Success, ed. M. Arun and T. Y. Lee, 50–61. Singapore: Oxford University Press. ———. 2008. “Uprooted and Searching.” In The Complete Works of Kuo Pao Kun, Vol. 7: Papers and Speeches, ed. B. L. Tan, 172–79. Singapore: Global Publishing. Lee, W. C. 2001. “An Interview with Ong Keng Sen.” In Singapore Exposed: Navigating the Ins And Outs of Globalisation, ed. Lee G. B., 53–63. Singapore: Landmark Books. Ministry of Information and the Arts. 2000. Renaissance City Report: Culture and the Arts in Renaissance Singapore. Singapore: Ministry of Information and Arts. Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. 2008. Renaissance City Plan III. Singapore: Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. National Arts Council. 2012. Arts Festival Review Committee Report. Singapore: National Arts Council. Ong, K. S. 1998. “People-to-People Exchanges in Cultural Diversity: A Look at the Flying Circus Project.” In Japan-ASEAN Intellectual Exchange Open Symposium “Japan and ASEAN towards a New Dimension of Cooperation”: Proceedings of the Japan-ASEAN Open Symposium 4–5 March 1998, ed. C. G. Hernandez, 119–29. Manila: Institute for Strategic and Development Studies. ———. 1999. “Ria: Ichiren no deai no nakadeno omoi.” Kokusai Kôryû 85: 101–5. ———. 2000. “Encounters: Kaikô no kiseki.” ViewPoint 15. Retrieved 1 April 2016 from http:// ———. 2001. “Encounters.” TDR 45 (3): 126–33. ———. 2013. “Message from the Curator, Artistic Director.” Program Booklet of Flying Circus Project 2013: Burmese days [Brochure]. ———. 2015a. “Message from the Festival Director.” Program booklet of SIFA [Brochure]. ———. 2015b. “Message from the Festival Director.” Program Booklet of O.P.E.N. [Brochure]. Oon, C. 1999. “An Asian Buffet, but What Are We Eating?” The Straits Times, 22 June 1999, quoted in W. Peterson. 2001. Theatre and the Politics of Culture in Contemporary Singapore, 170. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press. Ooi, C. S. 2008. “Reimagining Singapore as a Creative Nation: The Politics of Place Branding.” Place Branding and Public Diplomacy 4: 287–302. Peterson, W. 2001. Theatre and the Politics of Culture in Contemporary Singapore. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press. ———. 2003. “Consuming the Asian Other in Singapore: Interculturalism in TheatreWorks.” Desdemona: Theatre Research International 28(1): 79–95. Takiguchi, K. 2011. “Presenter Interview: Connecting Memories to the Present: Singapore Arts Festival.” Performing Arts Network Japan. Retrieved 1 April 2016 from http://performing ———. 2013. “Presenter Interview: M1 Singapore Fringe Festival Approaching Its Tenth Year.” Performing Arts Network Japan. Retrieved 1 April 2016 from pre_interview/1312/pre_interview1312e.pdf.



Tan, K. P. 2008. Cinema and Television in Singapore: Resistance in One Dimension. Leiden: Brill. TheatreWorks. 2010. Program Booklet of Flying Circus Project 09/10 [Brochure]. Wee, C. J. W.-L. 2002. “From Universal to Local Culture: The State, Ethnic Identity, and Capitalism in Singapore.” In Local Cultures and the “New Asia,” ed. C. J. W. -L. Wee, 129–57. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. ———. 2004. “Staging the Asian Modern: Cultural Fragments, the Singaporean Eunuch, and the Asian Lear.” Critical Inquiry 30: 771–99.

CH A P T E R 6

The Curatorial Chronotope PETER DICKINSON


n a book devoted to the theory and practice of curation in the time-based arts, and especially in contributing to a section devoted to historicizing the global emergence of this phenomenon, it seems appropriate to situate the event of this writing in time and space. Which is also to say that, my editors’ deadline notwithstanding, I find it no mere coincidence that I should be revising these thoughts while in the midst of attending shows and artist talks and panel presentations and social events connected to the 2018 PuSh Festival, an international performing arts festival in Vancouver, Canada, with which I have been connected—as a spectator, former board member, and, most recently, as curator of a “critical ideas” series—for over a decade. On day five of the festival, I bumped into PuSh’s now former artistic and executive director, Norman Armour, at a sold-out concert by Turning Point Ensemble showcasing the music of Johnny Greenwood, Steve Reich, Olivier Messiaen, and Christopher Butterfield. I asked Norman, who in April 2018 stepped down from the helm of PuSh after almost fifteen years, how he was doing; he looked at his watch, smiled, and said “fourteen more weddings”—Armourese for that catalytic mix of careful planning and necessary contingency that goes into curating a succession of live encounters (most willing, some shotgun) between performers and audiences in the festival context.1 During his time at PuSh it was a running joke that Norman could not keep to time, neither in his curtain speeches nor in his appointments, for which he was invariably late. But if we accept that the curator, whether in the visual or performing arts, is a de facto timekeeper, both in the sense of staying on top of current trends in dispersed disciplinary fields and working to situate those trends transhistorically and transnationally, then it bears considering what kind of watch would best serve the job. Let me suggest that whatever the look of said timepiece, its function should be less chronometric than chronotopic.



The “chronotope” is Mikhail Bakhtin’s term for the fusion of “spatial and temporal indicators” in artistic expression (as specifically applied, in his case, to literature): “Time, as it were, thickens, takes on flesh, becomes artistically visible; likewise, space becomes charged and responsive to the movements of time, plot and history. This intersection of axes and fusion of indicators characterizes the artistic chronotope” (1981: 84). The curatorial chronotope sets these axes in motion, working at the interstices of aesthetic content and institutional networks to provide a platform for art and performance that is insistently contemporary, while simultaneously looking both to the future and the past. Such syncretism is built into the very act of curation as it extends across the plastic and time-based arts. In arranging and/or juxtaposing different artworks, objects, media, performances, aesthetic experiences, and critical encounters, the curator is asking us to believe in some idea or principle or mandate that unifies the disparate parts of an exhibition or a festival. Or, to borrow a theatrical metaphor, perhaps the curator is more properly asking us to suspend (however temporarily) our disbelief. Of chief importance, in this regard, is the idea that the past and the present cannot overlap. While we should instantly be disabused of this lie any time we see an Old Master painting exhibited in a new context, or a classic play or dance revived in repertory, it is the curatorial vogue for re-enactment as it has helped to bridge the visual and performance art/performing arts worlds over the last fifteen years that has arguably done the most to demonstrate how different times can be made to touch.2 For better or worse, Marina Abramović has consumed most of the critical oxygen on this front. But here is where a concept like the chronotope can help us sort through and make sense of—to curate, as it were—two different sets of data. On the one hand, what we witnessed in the relatively short distance traveled temporally (five years) and spatially (approximately thirty New York city blocks) between Abramović’s 2005 Seven Easy Pieces show at the Guggenheim (organized as part of the Performa festival, it is important to remember) and her 2010 Artist is Present retrospective at MoMA was the consumption and cannibalization of the historical importance of the then outsized presence of the now, Abramović’s attempt to revalue—and reevaluate—such works as VALIE EXPORT’s Action Pants: Genital Panic (1969) and Vito Acconci’s Seedbed (1972) having been overtaken by a disproportionate investment in her own hagiography (and that of her MoMA curator, Klaus Biesenbach, to judge by the documentary film made of the show).3 At the same time, the public attention accorded Abramović’s beatification by the art museum allows us to take a longer temporal view of the ways such spaces have sought to reorganize themselves in the twenty-first century. That is to say, the curating of performance in the museum is hardly new. What is new, according to critics like Claire Bishop (2012), and what Abramović’s celebrity status is symptomatic of within Bishop’s broader critique of the neoliberal thrust of much relational aesthet-



ics and delegated performance practices, is that the trend toward programming public performances in grand institutional spaces like MoMA’s atrium or the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall—or, for that matter, the Vancouver Art Gallery’s central foyer—is tied to boosting audience attendance figures and demonstrating community engagement and public outreach to state funding bodies and donors. With somewhat more faith in its positive applications, Bertie Ferdman has likewise demonstrated that the theorizing of curatorial practice in performance— as distinct from programming and presenting or producing conversations—also has a doubled genealogy. In a 2014 essay published in the journal Theater (and republished as part of this volume), she takes Ken Dewey’s intervention at the Theatre of the Future conference in Edinburgh in 1963 as an analeptic moment in what she calls the “dramaturgy of liveness” (6) that proleptically anticipates the kind of “institutional critique” of traditional festival programming embedded in the innovative set of curatorial strategies unleashed by Forest Fringe artists in the same city forty-four years later. In both cases, the performer-ascurator pivots upon an understanding of an Edinburgh that is interested as much in the longue durée of the structural frameworks that shape the production, distribution, and reception of work as in the in-the-moment apprehension of the content and form of the work itself. Following from Bakhtin, to the extent that the curatorial chronotope lives at the intersection of the world and the specific representational codes used to reproduce that world artistically, its spatial practices will always be at once local and global. That said, there is no denying the fact that the rise in focus on performance curation, and that the rise and importance of the performing arts curator, has coincided with the globalizing appetite for, and economic traffic in, performance along an international festival circuit. This phenomenon in many ways mirrors the global art market, which has similarly boosted the importance not just of the dealer, but of the curator (Documenta, anyone?).4 From my own perspective on performing arts curation in Vancouver, however, I would insist that the benefits of this global traffic for local artists and audiences far outweigh the kudos or ego aggrandizement that might accrue to any individual curator. For example, artistic directors from Theatre Replacement and Fight With a Stick (formerly Leaky Heaven), and from the dance company MACHiNENOiSY, have all publicly acknowledged that the programming of Forced Entertainment’s Exquisite Pain at PuSh in 2007 and Romeo Castelluci’s Hey Girl in 2008 had a profound impact on their own hybrid creation practices, especially in terms of borrowing from conceptual art traditions and influencing their respective approaches to scenographic and design-driven dramaturgy (see Ferguson 2013; and Yamamoto 2014). Similarly, the ongoing curatorial relationship that the Vancouver International Dance Festival’s Jay Hirabayashi and Barbara Bourget have established with the Japanese-based ensemble Dairaku-



dakan means that local audiences have, through return visits by the company, been able to deepen their appreciation for Akaji Maro’s unique brand of butoh. And at the 2017 Dance in Vancouver (DIV) Biennial, an event that is always overseen by an international guest curator (in this case, New Zealand’s Adam Hayward), an opening roundtable called “Why Shrink the World?” reminded me that what is at stake in chronotopic performance encounters between the local and the global is not just mutual creative stimulation, but also mutual political stimulation. To this end, Maori dance artist Jack Gray was especially eloquent on how the guest-host relationship implicit within any festival context might be rethought through Canada’s and New Zealand’s trans-Pacific Indigenous histories. The curator, then, is necessarily itinerant, helping to transport new aesthetic practices, important cultural knowledges, and agendas for social change across multiple borders. But she is also, and crucially, emplaced. So what does it mean to activate, in an ethically responsible way, a felt response to such conversations about aesthetics, knowledges, and agendas from here? In Vancouver, which sits on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples, including traditional lands belonging to the Musqueum (xwməθkwəy’əm), Squamish (Skwxwú7mesh), and Tsleil-Waututh (Səl’ílwətał) First Nations, this has meant, among other things, indigenizing the programming and presenting practices of many performing arts festivals in the city. At the same time, for such practices to be meaningful chronotopically—that is, person to person, body to body, across time and space—they have to extend beyond tokenistic nods to representational inclusion in terms of content. They must also embrace an idea of curation as a tending of souls,5 a concept that in the case of Indigenous artists, and notwithstanding the devastating legacy wrought by the Christian church upon Indigenous performance, ceremony, and spirituality, means asking tough questions about what infrastructural shifts need to be made in order to support artists whose work does not fit within a Western performance paradigm. In this respect, to the curatorial chronotopes of now-then and local-global in performance we must, per force, add one other: the institutional-interpersonal. For, if we take seriously the idea that curating, at some level, is as much about building relationships and systems of support as it is about showing work, then we must work to foster opportunities for peer-to-peer critical exchange about what curation can and should mean across disciplines and institutions and audiences within a specific time and place, including valuing diversity and complexity, fostering dialogue and debate, and interrogating and perhaps even jettisoning altogether current models for creating and presenting art. At DIV 2017, which showcased a suite of IndigeDIV listening and sharing circles on Indigenous creative practices coordinated by Raven Spirit Dance, one innovative strategy used in service of the institutional-interpersonal chronotope was to coordinate a series of “artist/presenter walk + talks,” in which out-of-town presenters could



sign up for ambles between venues with different artists, in order to learn more about their work and ideally to have a frank conversation about how they might disseminate that work to new audiences. As Shannon Jackson asserts in Social Works, it is only by “emphasizing—rather than being embarrassed by—the infrastructural operations of performance” (from research to grant writing to production coordination and management) that we discover “a different way to join aesthetic engagement to the social sphere, mapping a shared interest in the confounding of insides and outsides, selves and structures” (2011: 29). The chronotope helps to facilitate just such a mapping and in ways that, following from Judith Hamera’s own application of the concept to the Los Angeles dance community, are resolutely corporeal (2007: 72–73). Recall that for Bakhtin, time in the chronotope “takes on flesh” (84). This idea is especially pertinent to curation in the live arts; for, not only is the performance curator tasked with providing a framework (be it conceptual, political, or simply logistical) for the movement of different embodied disciplines across time and space, but she is also a person. In other words, in attempting to foster an ethic of care that ideally is at the heart of responsible and situated curatorial practices, it bears remembering that attached to the curator’s watch there is also a wrist. I grabbed Norman’s to congratulate him following a performance of Anthony Hamilton and Alisdair Macindoe’s Meeting on day nine of the 2018 PuSh Festival. My own body was still charged and buzzing with the energy derived from the precise merging of Hamilton’s complex choreography and Macindoe’s intricate sound design. Norman seemed more mellow, perhaps because he had previously seen the work at the Fusebox Festival in Austin, Texas. Or maybe his mind was already on the next step in his own professional journey. Nevertheless, I felt in our own momentary merging of pulses the curatorial chronotope at work: a sense of Norman’s vision of how this event might be experienced by a Vancouver audience now taking on flesh in my own performance memory. PETER DICKINSON is a Professor at Simon Fraser University, where he holds a joint appointment in the School for the Contemporary Arts and the Department of English and directs the Institute for Performance Studies. Peter has published widely on theater, dance, film, and performance studies. A produced playwright, Peter also blogs regularly about Vancouver performance at

NOT E S 1. Norman Armour has written about curating as a “conversation” with audiences in the special issue of the journal Frakcija (Summer 2010) devoted to curation in the live performing arts. PuSh began in 2003 as a modest performance series co-presented by Rumble Produc-


2. 3. 4. 5.


tions and Touchstone theatre, led by Armour and Katrina Dunn respectively. In 2005 it became a stand-alone festival, with Armour as its first artistic and executive director. I borrow the metaphor of times touching through reenactment from Rebecca Schneider. See her Performing Remains: Art and War in Times of Theatrical Reenactment (2011). Amelia Jones (2011) makes a similar point in her discussion of Abramović’s MoMA show. On the chronotope’s application to the specific temporal and spatial intersections of the global system of art world biennials, see Jason Hoelscher (2013). Rebecca Schneider pursues this aspect of curate’s etymology at greater length in “Dead Hare, Live” (2010: 64–65).

R EF E R E NC E S Armour, N. 2010. “Curators’ Glossary: Audience.” Frakcija 55: 96–97. Bakhtin, M. 1981. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, ed. Michael Holquist, trans. C. Emerson and M. Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press. Bishop, C. 2012. Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship. New York: Verso. Ferdman, B. 2014. “From Content to Context: The Emergence of the Performance Curator.” Theater 44(2): 5–19. Ferguson, A L. 2013. “Symbolic Capital and Relationships of Flow: Canada, Europe, and the International Performing Arts Festival Circuit.” Theatre Research in Canada 34(1): 97–124. Hamera, J. 2007. Dancing Communities: Performance, Difference and Connection in the Global City. New York: Palgrave. Hoelscher, J. 2013. “Art Circuit: The Biennial Complex as Dynamic Chronotopic System.” artcore journal 1(2). Retrieved 15 December 2016 from art-circuit-the-biennial-complex-as-dynamic-chronotopic-system-by-jason-hoelscher/. Jackson, S. 2011. Social Works: Performing Art, Supporting Publics. New York: Routledge. Jones, A. 2011. “‘The Artist is Present’: Artistic Re-enactments and the Impossibility of Presence.” The Drama Review 55(1): 16–45. Schneider, R. 2010. “Dead Hare, Live: The Curate and the Service Economy.” Frakcija 55: 62–67. ———. 2011. Performing Remains: Art and War in Times of Theatrical Reenactment. New York: Routledge. Yamamoto, M. B. 2014. “The Slippery In-Between.” Placemaking: A Decade in the City. 30 January. Retrieved 15 December 2016 from


Layers Harun Morrison

. . . layering spans of time to create alternate and expanded meanings between audience and artists, artist and artist, artwork and site, audience and site, artwork and other artworks, charging moments to expand consciousness, affirming the understanding that the matter and the immaterial are all time-based. . .

Harun Morrison is an artist and writer. He is co-founder of collective practice They Are Here (f.2006) with Helen Walker. From 2009–2016 he was Joint Artistic Director of Fierce Festival in Birmingham, UK, with Laura McDermott. See www and

CH A P T E R 7

More Weirdness, More Joy Performance Curation and Pedagogy at Danspace Project and the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance JUDY HUSSIE-TAYLOR

Figure 7.1. Raja Feather Kelly (standing), with iele paloumpis (seated), channels Ethyl Eichelberger during Life Drawings at Conversation Without Walls at Danspace Project, 15 October 2016. Part of Danspace Project’s Platform 2016: Lost & Found. (Photo by Ian Douglas, © 2016.)




ur world is cracking and artists are increasingly addressing personal and collective grief and violence in their work. Are curators up for that challenge?” When I wrote that two years ago, little did I know that our already fragile democratic order was about to be pummeled. During the US presidential election in November 2016, we were smack in the middle of Danspace Project’s Platform 2016: Lost and Found. There could not have been a more profound counterpoint to the cataclysmic election results. Lost and Found was a six-week performative consideration of HIV/AIDS and dance in New York City in the 1980s in conversation with a new generation of artists making dance and performance now. It was the eleventh guest artist-curated Platform at Danspace Project and it was curated by choreographers Ishmael Houston-Jones and Will Rawls. I was reminded of Lost and Found reading a short piece by Artforum’s David Velasco who, as senior editor, aspires “to identify techniques for showing the world a better idea about what it should be” (Velasco 2018). The Lost and Found Platform was a coauthored, collaboratively curated, living, breathing, generative force. It was “a better world.” Upon arriving in New York City in 2008, I was initially challenged by the restrictions of operating in a historic site, St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, a functioning church with weekly services, and shared with the Poetry Project and the New York Theatre Ballet (and until 2011 with Richard Foreman’s Ontological Hysteric Theater). I was deeply interested in the church’s iconoclastic history and in Danspace Project’s position in dance history. In January of 2010, we launched the artist-curated Platform series at Danspace Project, setting out to research new curatorial approaches to dance and performance. Artists Trajal Harrell, Ralph Lemon, Juliette Mapp and Melinda Ring were invited as the first curators for the new series.1 I was already engaged in a dialogue with each of them about representation, modes of address, and live art’s relationship to time, history, and architecture. The invitation to curate grew out of these conversations. I think they were surprised by the invitation. And I was inspired by their radical and rigorous responses. And so we began. The Platforms’ underlying design is informed by the “choreographic mind” to borrow Susan Rethorst’s phrase. I engage guest curators in what I think of as “structured improvisations” where some aspects of the “score” are well defined and others are intentionally open-ended. Initially, I gave the following curatorial prompts: within the limitations of Danspace, (1) how might we challenge the status quo of dance presenting?; (2) how might we consider curating as an act of inquiry and an extension of one’s artistic research?; and (3) how could we begin to frame Platforms as “exhibitions that unfold over time”? The fixed components of the design were, and still are: (1) a guest artist as curator; (2) a print publication; (3) a guest editor; (4) commissioned public performances; and (5) contexts to illuminate inquiry and research. Since 2010, we have pro-



duced eleven Platforms and eleven catalogs. We are currently working on our twelfth Platform and publication for winter 2018. Danspace’s Platforms are not festivals. They are not seasons. They are not conferences or symposia. They are a new genre in performance presentation. The Platforms bring to the fore ideas, questions, processes, and networks of relationships. They are temporary live exhibitions. They are research communities comprised of artists, curators, scholars, editors, and students. I have often playfully referred to the collaborative process of planning and implementation of the Platforms as “relational curation;” not to suggest a strong alignment with Nicholas Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics (2002), but more how these collective meanings are constructed through human interactions and social contexts. In 2010, Will Rawls asked me if I thought the Platforms were gendered. I immediately replied: “yes, feminine or feminist.” Might one think of the Platforms as a kind of curatorial Écriture feminine (Cixous 1981: 253), that is, a way of organizing cyclically, acknowledging that knowledge production and people move in multiple directions at once. The Platforms are predicated on a series of relationships. They are “structured improvisations” rather than fixed or formulaic structures. Is it the idea that we can trouble conventional grammar, art/ dance history also being a kind of grammar? These are productive and complicated questions. Questions lead to more questions. This is an experiment in engaging “infinite and mobile” (Cixous 1981: 253) complexity. Culturebot’s Maura Nguyen Donahue provides another perspective. “A couple weeks ago, in a piece on cultural equity, I pointed towards shifts in curatorial practices, but the Platforms have already been modeling them for several years. In some ways, they have leveled the turf and reached below the surface to expose the buried, interconnected, web of absent voices and perspectives” (Nyugen Donahue 2016). My interest in working collaboratively with artist curators was, in part, to forge relationships between artists of different generations. I believe there is productive tension between artists across time. It can often be contentious. But where there is friction, there is often a generative spark. From the first Platform in 2010 curated by Ralph Lemon, through the upcoming 2018 Platform curated by Reggie Wilson, artists, curators, and writers have activated intergenerational networks to reimagine how we contextualize and present time-based art today. Platform 2016: Lost and Found was the eleventh Danspace Platform and catalog. It was the second Platform in collaboration with artist curator Ishmael Houston-Jones. And, with more than one hundred artists and writers contributing in one way or another; it was Danspace Project’s largest to date. Houston-Jones instigated an intergenerational dialogue by inviting choreographer and writer Will Rawls, thirty years his junior, to join him in this curatorial endeavor. Each brought distinct perspectives and critical sensibilities to



the process. They interrogated ideas, histories, stereotypes, and assumptions, ultimately creating a finely embroidered Platform that was necessarily, exquisitely complex. One of the early ideas Houston-Jones and Rawls had was to compile files or “dossiers” of artists who died of AIDS and give them to artists, asking them to respond. Strategies for curatorial propositions, or “call and response” formats, have been critical to the Platforms since their inception. Offering an idea, a question, or a theoretical inquiry to an artist provides an alternative to the modernist myth of the solitary genius and avoids forced artistic collaboration. Ask and Listen. For Lost and Found, the proposition instigated a kind of recuperation of lost voices found by younger artists. One of the Lost and Found curatorial proposals was called Life Drawings. Nguyen Donahue wrote a response: Mariana Valencia was charged with Life Drawing Response #1 to the work of poet and playwright, Assotto Saint. She grounded us in a walked-out cosmogram, was delightful in versions of fake French Edith Piaf, and broke our hearts in a sing-along Fugee’s style “Killing Me Softly.” . . . Raja Feather Kelly’s Life Drawing Response #2 was for downtown drag performer Ethyl Eichelberger. Kelly had us stand for his 2nd performance of his proposed new national anthem, Barbara Streisand’s “Gotta Move,” questioning our blasé patriotism during his first attempt. He also schooled us on the queer positivity hidden in Selena Gomez’s “Good For You.” (Nguyen Donahue 2016)

The Platforms require significant time for open-ended conversation. As an investigative process that does not lead audiences to a foregone conclusion, it offers an approach where one enters through a side door, to paraphrase writer Claudia La Rocco, and where disparate but related ideas and artists “jostle.” Something the artist Lee Relvas said in an Artforum conversation with Helen Molesworth and A. L. Steiner has resonated with the emphasis on using choreographic and poetic curatorial strategies: What do you think . . . is the most important thing to get across here? It is bodies in proximity. That’s where the value lies, and that’s the value that can’t ever be empirically measured to anyone’s satisfaction, and that’s why I think we have to keep insisting on the importance of ambiguity, open-ended conversation, and proximity. More weirdness. More joy. (Lehrer-Graiwer 2015)

Christophe Cherix has written that a history of contemporary (visual art) curation is important because it highlights “a network of relationships within the art community at the heart of emerging curatorial practice” (Obrist 2010: 8). Using our diverse situations to activate relationships within our cultural communities, within the performance and dance communities and in our sociopolitical communities must be at the heart of our curatorial and life practices. Activating this network of relationships led to my participation in the founding of the first performing arts academic program in the United States. It was the



desire to create a place where those of us interested in performance curation could be in proximity to one another because too often our best curatorial conversations take place out of sight and in the margins. In 2005, I was asked by Sam Miller, at that time executive director of the New England Foundation of the Arts (NEFA), to interview a group of performance curators for the Contemporary Arts Center initiative (CAC). The initial CAC concept was to invite organizations with performing arts and visual arts departments to develop interdisciplinary projects and to share resources and knowledge across disciplines. I interviewed curator Philip Bither about his work with Sarah Michelson and Ralph Lemon at The Walker Art Center over the past two decades. We talked about the complexities involved in realizing Lemon’s and Michelson’s work. These discussions were about listening closely and working creatively to help realize artists’ visions. They revealed strategies and doubts about how one negotiates the limits of one’s situation to support artistic ideas for which there are often no precedents. At the time, I wondered why these conversations were so rare in the performing arts. And where would those interviews end up? How would new generations of performing arts leaders ever know about, critique or benefit from the working methods and histories of the artists and curators engaged in groundbreaking cultural production? It was in one of many conversations with Sam Miller that we first discussed a curatorial studies program in the performing arts. He writes the following about his early curatorial and artistic influences here: Well, for me, maybe it began at Wesleyan over 40 years ago when I was making my way as an undergraduate, moving through that intense, self-curated exposure to Rudolf Wittkower, Lucy Lippard, Ed Emschwiller, Nam June Paik, Twyla Tharp, Petrarch, Robert Ashley, Dougie Mitchell, Sam Rivers, Alvin Lucier, Sumarsam, and John Proletti, woven through that interaction with my peers, founding Second Stage with Jan Eliasberg, in each case responding to the impulse to construct creative conditions for ourselves, for others, the desire for difficulty, the collaborative necessity, meeting the demands of dematerialization, inspired by Lucy Lippard’s image of Beuys walking through that gallery, hare2 in hand, into our future. Or maybe it was at Jacob’s Pillow where, sitting behind Hunter House with Bessie Schoenberg and Jess Meeker, I asked Bessie what her secret was in being such an impactful teacher—“tell them everything you know” . . . and watching Ralph Lemon working toward “Persephone” and Pat Graney uncovering “Faith”—the rigor, the research, the responsibility. All that leads to systems design, to gap analysis . . . a process confirming that to care is to know and that knowing well is borne on the transfer of knowledge that matters. A straightforward proposition connecting past to future, practice to theory, studio to lab— another system, an open, expanding network, a missing platform, an idea factory—so that artists can find and be found by the allies and audiences they demand and deserve (Sam Miller, pers. comm., 12 November 2015).



What eventually emerged from these ongoing, decades-long conversations with Lemon and Miller about performing arts curation was the idea for the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance (ICPP) at Wesleyan University. Pam Tatge, Sam Miller, and I along with a maverick group of academics, artists, and curatorial advisors, jumped into the process.3 The ICPP was the result of collaboration, development, and advocacy; its existence demonstrates the competencies necessary for a cultural organizer in the twenty-first century. The founding team developed a pedagogy based on artists’ practices and providing context for those practices. We were in agreement that we were not aiming to promote a single methodology or curatorial model. We aspired to develop a curriculum that would reflect performing arts curators’ practices and to support students in their efforts to conceptualize, research, design, and realize projects by negotiating with artists and institutions. What began as a certificate program in 2011 became the first MA in Performance Curation in North America in 2016 and is currently under the direction of performance studies scholar Noémie Solomon. The ICPP’s curriculum practicum and thesis encourage diverse approaches to curation. Our early conversations concentrated on how we could accommodate a range of practices. How could the program encourage a curator working in rural Massachusetts or curators working with Cambodian immigrant communities and also guide a person working in the education department in a contemporary art museum such as Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) Boston or Yerba Buena Center for the Arts? How could we support a young theater producer developing a neighborhood program in Detroit at the same time as a person working to develop new performance programs for San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA)? We hoped the program could be nimble enough to resonate with practices that were outside of the contemporary art paradigm and for those for whom European art/dance history is not a primary reference. Shared concerns have emerged. There has been an increased interest in collaborative, collective, and nonhierarchical curatorial models. Although alumni are working as independent curators, as grant makers, directors of national festivals, and directors of university art centers across the country, they generally share an interest in their ethical and social responsibility as cultural organizers. They have activated a network to share resources and engage in critical discourse outside of the ICPP context. Jane Gabriels, one of the participants from our first class in 2011, co-organized the first international symposium in Montreal (with Dena Davida) entitled Envisioning the Practice: Montreal International Symposium on Performing Arts Curation, (10–14 April 2014). Gabriels and Davida made an effort to be inclusive through their open call to performing arts curators and scholars from throughout the world. This symposium was followed by the conception and publication of Curating Live Arts, the book in which this chapter appears, and has brought several of these graduates as well as a diverse range of voices into this burgeoning field.



Danspace Project Platforms and programs have been part of ICPP’s curriculum since its founding. From the beginning we invited ICPP graduates to curate programs. Since 2012, Jaamil Kosoko, Caleb Hammons, Heloise Darcq, Jane Gabriels, Ali Rosas-Salas, and Lydia Bell have offered fresh insight as emerging curators with interests ranging from interdisciplinary installations to intersectionality. Bell is currently Danspace’s Program Director, working closely with artists during their residencies as they develop new work. Anna Efraimsson designed the first course on performing arts curation in Sweden at the University of Dance and Circus (DOCH). The ICPP has helped to address a leadership vacuum in the performing arts and developed vital networks between generations. What does our situation require from us now? To continue to ask difficult questions, open-ended questions. And then to LISTEN. Only through an ongoing feedback loop of asking and listening can we create openings for more people, histories, contexts, proximities, weirdness, and joy. It is up to us—citizens, artists, culture workers, and curators—to be fierce in our imagining, in our support for radical voices and in identifying and creating “techniques for showing the world a better idea about what it should be” (Velasco 2018). JUDY HUSSIE-TAYLOR has served as Executive Director and Chief Curator of Danspace Project, New York City since 2008. She initiated and directs Danspace Project’s Platform series 2010–2018 and is editor-in-chief of Danspace’s catalog series. She curated Platform 2012: Judson NOW and co-curated Platform 2016: A Body in Places featuring Eiko Otake. She is a founding faculty member of and advisor to the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance (ICPP) at Wesleyan University and was appointed Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government (2014) and received a Bessie New York Dance & Performance Award (2017). NOT E S Many thanks to Jane Gabriels, Dena Davida, Lydia Bell, and Steven Taylor for their editorial input. 1. Danspace Project’s initial Platforms were: Platform 2010: I Get Lost, curated by Ralph Lemon; Platform 2010: Back to New York City, curated by Juliette Mapp; Platform 2010: Certain Difficulties, Certain Joy, curated by Trajal Harrell; Platform 2011: Retro(intro)spective/ Susan Rethorst, curated by Melinda Ring. Retrieved 23 July 2018 from http://www.dans 2. A reference to Joseph Beuys’ Action “How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare” (Wie man dem toten Hasen die Bilder erklärt), Schelma Gallery, Dusseldorf, 26 November 1965. 3. In addition to Miller, Hussie-Taylor, and Tatge ICPP’s 2011 Founding Faculty and Advisors include: Nicole Stanton, Katja Kolcio, and Eric Charry from Wesleyan University’s fac-



ulty, guest scholars Steven Taylor and Mari Dumet, guest curators Kristy Edmunds, Philip Bither, Doryun Chong, and Thomas Lax and guest artists Ralph Lemon, Annie-B Parsons, Kyle Abraham, and Ishmael Houston-Jones.

R EF E R E NC E S Bourriaud, N. 2002. Relational Aesthetics. Paris: Les Presses du Réel. Cixous, H. 1981. “The Laugh of the Medusa.” In New French Feminisms, ed. Elaine Marks and Isabelle de Courtivron, 253. New York: Schocken. Lehrer-Graiwer, S., ed. 2015. “Class Dismissed: A Roundtable on Art School, USC, and Cooper Union.” Artforum 54(2). Retrieved 1 August 2018 from issue=201508&id=54967. Nguyen Donahue, M. 2016. “Kinship of Caring: Lost & Found Congregation without Walls. Culturebot, 18 October0. Retrieved 1 August 2018 from 2016/10/26357/the-kinship-of-caring-lost-and-found-congregation-without-walls/. Obrist, H., ed. 2010. A Brief History of Curating. Paris: JRP/Ringier and Le Presses du Reel. Solomon, N., ed. 2015. Danse: A Catalogue. Paris: Les Presses du Reel and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York. Velasco, D. 2018. “The Power of Good-Bye.” Artforum 56(5)8: 21.


Ethical Proposals

CH A P T E R 8

Dancing the Museum THOMAS F. DEFRANTZ

Curator: from the latin curare, meaning to take care. But if it is about caring, who is caring for dance or dancing, let alone the dancers?


hen we were modern dancers, our steps offered evidence of “the new.” We danced in lines and sculptural forms that reached beyond obvious humanities; demonstrating abstractions and geometries made flesh. We proposed traditional dances in theatrical settings; we performed our research so that more people could experience the things we had discovered through our own bodies in motion. We valued emotion as a resource to create encounter, and we felt through our dancing. When we were postmodern dancers, we synthesized varied modes of dance imperfectly and reveled in the ways things did not match up. We gestured, strode, declaimed, and flew through the air with an icy detachment that confirmed our physical resilience. We smiled sometimes, but not often, more intent on the exploration of form as provocative failure to align for a unified result. We considered our dancing as an outcome of the research that produced it, the whole bound up in an intuitive stew of creative gesture. When we became contemporary dancers, we went back to dance class to hone an expertise of physical practice. We explored effort and flow and depended on ballet class to suture the gaps in execution presupposed by varied dance techniques that veered apart from each other. We used release technique to keep our movements lively. We listened to music in its entirety and danced with it; but we allowed for silences and pauses and assembled soundscapes and scores. We enjoyed phrases of movement, with beginnings, middles, and ends, and we smiled or frowned as the moment demanded. We ate up space and the real estate of the stage as contemporary dancers, illustrating how bodies in large motions produce large kinesthetic impacts.



When we became experimental, conceptual dance artists, we thought carefully about each and every physical choice we made. We improvised without needing to finish ideas or complete gestures. Sometimes, we did not move at all, exploring stillness as a resource and strategy for performance. Our dances were overlaid by social theory: critical race, gender, feminist, and queer ideologies became starting points for creative endeavor. We thought of audiences as allies in the exploration of ideas that might be obscure, provocative, sexy, or seemingly radical in public places. We thought first, and did second, allowing emotion to be a remnant created by and for the audience, but not really for us. When we became relational, live-art dancemakers, we considered what we wanted the experience of the audience to be, first and foremost. The participants|witnesses|attendees|gamers|players|guides|users who made up our public became the ultimate inspiration of the creative exercise. What they did and how they felt about it drove the experience. Our dancing served the relationship and the piece; not itself, and not, necessarily, us. Often, we did not dance at all for long swathes of this work; we allowed others to dance or imagine dancing as a way to abate the forces of commerce and society through choicemaking. We might have been naked, to allow others to manipulate us, or we might simply have rolled across the floor until others told us to stop. As we emancipated our audience, we thought, we created democratic spaces somewhat removed from the patriarchies of theatrical separations of audience and event. Now we dance in the museums, which welcome us, some of us, into their hallways and atriums and auditoriums. We are happy to be in these places, we think. But we soon come to recognize that the challenges of these spaces and their infrastructures create new variances in our practices; variances that we contend with in order to offer performance that inevitably encompasses all of the modes of dance described above. This chapter explores the ways that dance in the museum shifts across generations of theatrical dance practice to land, uneasily, in concert with the curator’s craft. We consider the embodied assumptions that surround the chronologically based namings offered above, and the ways in which these types of dance exceed or conform to possibilities of museum spaces. We will wonder at the gulf between the capacious physicality of dance practice, and the cultural capital afforded to museums that inevitably encourages choreographers to work in these rarefied sites. Ultimately, we will attempt to account for some of the ethical dimensions of dancing the museum for artists, even when the conditions of performance are far from ideal. Brian Rogers, artistic director of the Chocolate Factory, quoted in the New York Times: “Putting work made for a performance space, where there’s a social contract around how the audience and artist relate to each other, into a noisy museum space sometimes upends the intentions behind the work,” he said. “The social engineering aspects of it may seem



fascinating to a museum curator, but I wonder if that’s just grasping at novelty.” (Sheets 2015)

*** The problem is obvious: the twenty-first-century museum operations that include dance and performance programming offer higher-status presence for the few who are able to animate their galleries and halls. Dancers, tastemakers, and general publics view museums as generally stable sites of real estate, inherently more important than the civic theaters and community centers where theatrical dance usually happens. Dancing in the museums might be assumed to be more valuable than other kinds of dancing. More significantly, visual artists who work in museums have long been thought to be more worthy of critical scrutiny and public acclaim than choreographers or dancers. In each aspect of analysis, the museum trumps dancing and the dance, and offers an inevitably preferable mode of social recognition than performances in twentieth-century experimental theaters or on opera house stages. Exclusivity and a still-emergent cult of micro-celebrity drives the push for museum recognition in the largest venues—the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Whitney, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Guggenheim, and others. Naming the museums further reifies their ubiquity, so we end with this abbreviated list. Museums generally program fewer performances than twentieth-century venues staffed by a professional dance programmer or curator. The few allowed presentation within a museum roster arrive within an unassailable, hand-chosen elite. By blocking out the hoi polloi of artists who will never be tapped for inclusion for the museum’s roster, the institution stabilizes its authority to grant legitimacy to the few. Very few may be chosen, and even fewer will be successful in their deployment as artists of the body tapped by the museum to enliven its hallways. The museum stands as the unavoidable cultural arm of the state, even when its funding might come entirely from private donors; inclusion in its programming signifies legitimacy almost beyond reproach. The state accommodates the museum; in turn, the museum hires arbiters of taste—curators and performance programmers or consultants—who build collections that might belong to the state. In time, the objects of the museum become unflinchingly considered the property of the people who live in its legislative domain. And so, in joining this process, theatrical dance moves inexorably toward its collectibility as art object to be documented by the official annals of government-sponsored cultural achievement. MODERNIST ABSTRACTIONS Of course, dance has long been included in museum programming in Europe and the United States, and many artists have enjoyed the brief alignment of their



physical practice with the structuring assumptions of museum cultures. Choreographer Pearl Primus, who numbers among the early modern American dancers, frequently performed in museums in New York; her work suited the educational programming ambitions at the Museum of Natural History, at least. The celebrated ballet company the Dance Theater of Harlem offered their first public performances at the Guggenheim Museum as part of that venue’s commitment to showcasing important cultural practices alongside its collection of important objects. Primus performed at MoMA in the late 1940s alongside Mexican-American modern dancer José Limón, and she Figure 8.1. Virginia Johnson (dancer) also performed at exhibitions detailand the Dance Theater of Harlem in the ing the design artistry surrounding company’s official debut with a public modernist theater design. performance in the lobby of the New York In each of these cases, dancers Guggenheim Museum, 8 January 1971. offered creative work that might be (Photo by Suzanne Vlamis, © 1971, shown in opera house or tal theater settings. Dancing in the museums, the performers demonstrated connections among breathing, trained embodied practices, and the stilled collectibles that comprised vibrant, if lifeless, visual artistry. Dancers proved that modernist abstraction, so obvious in the Africanist-inspired tonalities of jazz music and rhythmic varieties of cubist painting and sculpture, could be constructed by people who used their bodies in angular processes of form. POSTMODERN ASSEMBLAGES A shift to the postmodern in dance, and the rise of quotidian performance experimentation led to explorations of form without obvious narrative meaning or even sculptural legibility. The revelation of task-based choreographic compositions aligned neatly with the “do your own thing” ethic of the 1960s and 1970s; and by the 1980s, well-established traditions in postmodern construction became featured by museum spaces constructed expressly for performance.



Postmodernists Jawolle Willa Jo Zollar and the Urban Bush Women and the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company were surely encouraged to show their original work in museums; postmodern choreographer Bebe Miller presented her work first in Los Angeles in 1988 at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, in the theater space affiliated with that venue. For many artists and audiences, postmodern dance placed a vigilant resistance to “making sense” at the heart of performance. Fragments of meaning and allusion were allowed to come forward within structures that offered opened possibilities to movement for its own sake. More than modern dance, postmodern dance in the museum assumed that movement could provide its own message in relationship to abstract artworks, and encourage audiences to find their own way toward response. Fragmented postmodern meaning also fit well with emergent neoliberal ethics of the 1980s that stressed the privatization of experience and responsibility. Audiences could be expected to figure things out on their own, without the intervention of “experts.” CONTEMPORARY FLOW Within a context that included conservatory-trained dancers who sought to honor their daily engagements with the controlled dispersal of weight and the predictability of line as affect, the rise of “contemporary dance” in the 1990s should hardly surprise. Contemporary dance returned to expertise as a resource for performers. Virtuosity, and an ability to carefully measure effort and affect, allowed contemporary dance to speak to the beginnings of social media exchange and the availability of social media platforms. Museum audiences enjoyed proximity to expertise, as dancers demonstrated heroic abilities in the hallways and atriums surrounding precious objects. Encouraged by reality television programs that valued histrionic emotional narratives, contemporary dance brought emotion back into relationship with dance technique. “Lyrical” dance, a subgenre of contemporary dance created in studio classes that allowed suburban teenagers an after-school activity, pitted visibly gasping breath and reaching appendages against sweeping Hollywood movie music. Contemporary dance confirmed the expertise of the performer no matter the choreographic circumstance. Contemporary dance switches codes among physical languages, but unlike postmodern dance, contemporary style sutures the diversity to create a blank, seamless whole. Contemporary dance offers direct response to increasing repertory company circumstances that require dancers to move effectively in divergent physical landscapes. Analogous to the ways in which museums became required to include some “outsider art,” some “contemporary art,” some “modern art,” and some “antiquary objects,” at least, contemporary dance allowed dancers to move effectively in varied circum-



stances, bringing bits of movement ideologies near each other whether those modes of movement belonged together or not. CONCEPTUAL OBSCURITIES A response to the overwhelming legibility of contemporary dance came in the development of conceptual choreography. Generated largely by educated European artists, or at by least artists who enjoyed imagining contemporary social theory as the basis for choreography, this movement sought to undermine placating initiatives of virtuosity. If visual art could be conceptual, as in the Suprematist paintings of Malevich or Duchamp’s readymades, dance artists could create works around physical stillness, or the removal of t-shirts, or the public practice of meditation. Placing bodies-as-objects in museum spaces often revealed the impossibilities of human liveliness to counter the changes of time that museum objects resist. While the objects remain, recontextualized by the shifting cultural circumstances that surround them, conceptual art that involved organic materials or dancers decomposed, demonstrating the decay of human effort within the strains of time. Conceptual art, like relational art, answered a rise in academic studies as impetus for the creation of performance. As cultural studies offered ways to consider critical formations of race, sexuality, gender, disability, class, or age, artists responded by creating works that seemed to riff off of these theorizations. The subaltern could speak, as in works by dance professor Taisha Paggett at the Whitney Museum, when she threw ceramic plates at a wall while dressed as an American domestic servant. Shifting the frame of performance from the assumption of obvious accessibility of gesture and movement that is somehow aligned to music, conceptual work raised questions simultaneously posed in venues of college classrooms. Conceptual work institutionalized experimentation as foundational to choreographic creativity; artists began describing themselves as researchers with laboratories for physical imagination. In an interesting twist, much conceptual art demonstrated a blank resistance to social responsibility outside of the circumstance of the performance. While the performance explored themes of social mobility or social justice, often the work created in these circumstances was resolutely directed only to the selective audiences who participated in museum events. RELATIONAL INTIMACIES Training for dance artists in the United States rarely includes exercises in closequarter work for invited audiences. Yet this circumstance of unrelenting prox-



imity tends to define dance in museum spaces. In the museum, dancers are expected to be available with the nearness of strip-club go-go performers; with the intimacy of family and a loving encounter. An attentiveness to subtle foldings of flesh or tensing of musculature are inevitably invited by intimate spaces of museums and gallery spaces; these circumstances also encourage rhetorics of “natural” movement as preferable to theatricalized gesture. The shift to intimacy aligns with the rise of relational artwork, or performance that considers the presence and participation of audience/viewer/witness in its construction and completion. Relational aesthetics, famously enlivened by Nicolas Bourriaud’s 1998 text, encourage the museumgoer to sense the implication of her presence in the construction of the artwork at hand; to consider her presence as integral to the possibilities of the art (Bourriaud 1998). In this idiom, we might consider the Untitled series by Felix Gonzalez-Torres that includes the 1991 (Go-Go Dancing Platform) that placed a go-go dancer on a small platform at arms-reach from museum visitors, or Tino Seghal’s This Progress of 2006 that requires the audience’s response to a situation for the work to be realized. These performance works imagine an audience who participates in the work materially; moving, responding to gestures by a commissioned go-go dancer, or possibly engaging a partner in a turn of public dance. Indeed, participatory artwork also grew in the 1990s and 2000s in creations like Gonalez-Torre’s Untitled (Arena) of 1993 that compelled dance to a waltz among museumgoers sensitively lit by a cascade of carefully placed lights. Participatory works implicate the audience in the construction of circumstances that allow visitors to “do something”; to somehow move in relationship to the opportunity created by the artwork. Choreographer William Forsythe’s The Fact of Matter (2009) and its arrangement of still rings invited visitors to climb and duck, pull, lift, or dodge a dense forest of objects to make their way through the gallery installation; dancing became a mode of locomotion among many that might be engaged to experience the work. The Heyward Gallery’s 2010 show Move: Choreographing You took the participation of its guests as a foundational assumption in the curation of work that aligned movement, gesture, dance, and playful interaction with art. These modes of early twenty-first century creativity implicate an unknowable, participating, moving body that is present in the construction of the work. The unpredictable participation of an audience is factored into the flexibility of the object/artwork’s platform: it must be open-ended enough to require presence, but not built around extravagant performance capacities that might cohere for another type of dance work. Participatory performance gathers around the narrowing desires of its participants, which might not include executing instructions carefully, or creating eddies of intense physical vibration through dance. So, while participatory artworks allow museum guests to demonstrate their physical knowledge through their own gestures and to affirm their own



presence among the historical objects generally surrounding them, these works are realized through wildly incommensurate levels of skill, or even interest, in the performative event. Two features come forward in considering the historical place of modern dance and its descendants, outlined above, in museum programming. First, most twenty-first-century curators of live art or performance in museum spaces know very little about the varied historical and ideological strands of these dance practices. Dance studies as a field has a brief pedigree, which reaches back reliably only halfway toward the first articulations of modern dance staged in museum spaces. The field of dance studies is fairly small and still emerging. So of course there are few, if any, full-time museum curators who might be able to articulate valuations of work by Katherine Dunham and Merce Cunningham within any particular context of dance as art. By the time we get to artists like Donald Byrd or Taisha Paggett, museum curators typically feign simple narratives of physical expertise or conceptual importance, without being able to articulate the specialness of dancing and its performance with any care. Second, dance exists outside of museum spaces and then is ported into its environs. Physical expertise in dance develops from varied impulses and ambitions for dancers, but inevitably also in relationship to its own history as dance. Dance tends to be taught body to body; apprenticeship in dance distinguishes its practice, and it is done in sites appropriate for its continuation. Tap dancing happens on wooden floors amplified whenever possible; ballet in pointe shoes requires appropriate marley surfaces; b-girling needs smooth surfaces that allow for uprocking and floorwork. Museums rarely have any of these particular circumstances for performance easily available; dance inevitably has to adapt itself in order to fit into the physical conditions of museum performance. Working in conditions that are often makeshift, amid nonexperts who do not understand the nuances of execution, dance and its dancers in the museum make do as we can, hoping that the alliance of art forms and artistic presentation will eventually effectively coalesce—somehow. ETHICS OF MUSEUM DANCE LABOR The ethics of dancing in the museum are compromised by unfortunate physical conditions for performance, and more so by the utter lack of physical infrastructure for the preparation and restoration of dancers in nonexistent “backstage” environments. Museums have literally no place to rehearse, as their performances tend to be in atriums, hallways, or lecture halls adjacent to galleries; performers are asked to dress and warm up in staff break rooms or hastily-converted classrooms or lobbies blocked off during the performance time. The circumstances surrounding dance labor in the museum enervate and disappoint performers.



This labor is not consistently supported by any particular union rules; performers are often paid per performance at the discretion of the lead artist or choreographer. Conversations surrounding these shifts into twenty-first-century performance practices and venues tend to be cloaked in sad, anxious anecdotes. “You should talk to my friend who was dancing for Deborah Hay at MoMA, she had a terrible experience.” “My friend was in that Cunningham project at the DIA; they had to dance all those hours without a break.” “There’s a forum online for people who were in the Tate show; they didn’t even have a place to shower, and they didn’t want to provide water to the performers! Can you imagine!” Heightened expectations around the museum as venue encourage heightened suppositions around the circumstances of performance. We dancers allow ourselves to think, “surely the museum will have solved the challenges of incorporating our performances into their structures, after all, they have the resources of the state, and they have great experience at feting artists to make them feel special, distinctive, and important.” But we are continually disappointed. In these sideways conversations, the museum and its agents are assumed to be powerful, experienced, and preternaturally accommodating. But of course, the newly minted “performance curators” that now enjoy line-item positions at more and more museums have little, if any, experience working with dancers as dancers. They may have general experience with visual artists—but any of us might be able to identify wide variances among visual artists and dancers, and our approaches to space, energy, time, and embodiment. Simultaneous to the installation of performance curators at many of the larger museums nationwide is the rise in approaches to curatorial practice now validated by Wesleyan University, among others, in new degree-granting master’s programs. At Wesleyan, the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance (ICPP) is maintained by a small group of professional presenters/curators from a half dozen high-profile venues. The ICPP grew from Mellon funding garnered by Sam Miller in his role as a senior performance taste-maker and longtime dance presenter, with hopes to begin to fill the huge gap that surely exists between research in dance and the business-minded role of the professional administrator/presenter/curator. Presumably, the ICPP intends to create a cohort of enlightened presenters who might have more than anecdotal information about what could constitute the practices of dance or live art. The idea might be to create a framework that prioritizes passion for the arts, and in particular the embodied arts, while assuming a business-savvy sensibility akin to an MBA in arts administration. We have recently experienced a rise in the founding of these programs, which, while surely begun with the best intentions, are always tied to the economics of borrowing and the creation of debt that surround the education industry. So, on one hand we have the rise of tuition-driven graduate programs at the largest universities, and on the other we have an emerging field, of sorts, that



has little infrastructure or intellectual history. The area of performance presenting has few foundational texts to refer to, or even “best practices” culled from experience or national (usually Europe-centered) discourses. And yet, the program at Wesleyan, like the many other MBAs that intend to focus on arts management, has emerged in this particular moment of academic debt-making. Cynically, or perhaps with eyes open, we can note that the funding to build these programs assumes their inevitability: the future of live art-in-the-world necessitates the institutionalization of live arts management as its own end. Is arts presenting a parasitic activity? We can make all sorts of arguments around the necessity of arts management and the ethical dimensions available to presenting practices; but, stunningly, the field just has not developed all that much yet. At the ICPP symposium in 2014, attendees were invited to experience “show and tell” accounts of recent achievements by established curators/ presenters (ICPP 2015). Again and again, presenters spoke to the seventy-five or so attendees gathered to talk about what they do and how they do it; what they have done; and where they felt successes and challenges—as in handling “difficult work” including corralling and educating audiences. The conversations among the presenters were almost entirely anecdotal, without recourse to academic debate, or the shaping discourses of shared historicizing narratives, or any apparent common theoretical framework. There was no debate on “what might constitute an audience or a public?” or “what differentiates live performance from the display of objects?” or “how can feminist theory and critical race theory illuminate our efforts toward ethical practice?” The keynote speaker, Kristy Edmunds from UCLA, talked in 2014 about the “gift” of presenting without irony or reference to Marcel Mauss’s articulation of the gift (Mauss 1950) and its varied critique by many theorists, or Fred Moten and Stefano Harney’s vital depictions of debt and black fugitivity (Moten and Harney 2013). To combine Mauss with Moten and Harney in a thumbnail formation: gifts come with strings, and they create debt; and debt may be more social than credit these days, because we all live in such impoverishment of social communion. Our progressive shared task as “taste-makers” or “creative consultants” might be to create spaces that resist gifting, debt-making, or social hierarchies that exclude most for the benefit of the few. We need social commons imagined through performance and shared art-making. For me, the ICPP event felt like initial steps toward self-recognition for a field that wants to be along a route to actualization and institutionalization. Many of the people gathered seemed to understand that other sorts of conversations might be possible or necessary, but the stabilizing academic methodologies for those discourses are not yet in circulation. The intuitive references to Mauss hinted at awareness of Jacques Rancière’s “emancipated spectator” (2009) or even Raymond Williams’s “structures of feeling” (1977). But in



general, a non-formalized rhetoric of the “pleasurableness of being in authority” and “trusting one’s vision” as a curator seemed to dominate comments and conversations. I certainly do not mean to pick on any person or group in this anecdotal offering, or to imply that the curators and presenters just need to read their Pierre Bourdieu, W. E. B. Du Bois, bell hooks, and Judith Butler again and they will do a better job, whatever that might be. My point might be that these curators are assembling within the architectural and ideological structures of the university, but in a Do-It-Yourself way that predicts yet another territorialized presence. As these divisional and departmental maps are being drawn, the implicit suitability of performance curating as an area of study and expertise worthy of presence in higher education, and also as part of the professional debt-machine, gnaw at our shared possibilities in dance and performance. We might hope that our presence as intentional scholars, artists, and researchers in these conversations can provide crucial historicizing narratives, and possibly help in the process to tilt away from “taste” as a guiding standard of discussion surrounding work and artistry, to reimagine these conversations toward questions of social capacity and social possibility. THOMAS F. DEFRANTZ received the 2017 Outstanding Research in Dance award from the Dance Studies Association. He directs SLIPPAGE: Performance, Culture, Technology, a research group that explores emerging technology in live performance applications. He has taught at the American Dance Festival, ImpulseTanz, Ponderosa, and the New Waves Dance Institute, as well as at MIT, Stanford, Yale, NYU, Hampshire College, Duke, and the University of Nice. He contributed the voice-over for a permanent installation on Black social dance at the Smithsonian African American Museum. DeFrantz believes in our shared capacity to do better, and to engage our creative spirit for a collective good that is antiracist, antihomophobic, protofeminist, and queer affirming.

R EF E R E NC E S Bourriaud, N. 1998. Relational Aesthetics. Dijon: Les Presses du Reel. Edmunds, K. 2014. ICCP Symposium Keynote Webcast. Retrieved 25 May 2016 from https:// BHtUxb1BVK&index=9. Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance (ICPP). 2014. Curating as a Verb: What is Artist Centered Curatorial Practice? Retrieved 30 May 2016 from Mauss, M. 1950. The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. Moten, F., and S. Harney. 2013. The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study. Wivenhoe, UK: Minor Compositions.



Rancière, J. 2009. The Emancipated Spectator. London: Verso. Sheets, H. M. 2015. When the Art Isn’t on the Walls: Dance Finds a Home in Museums. Retrieved 30 May 2016 from Williams, R. 1977. “Structures of Feeling.” In Marxism and Literature, 128–35. Oxford: Oxford University Press 5.

CH A P T E R 9

Curatorial Discourse and Equity Tensions in Contemporary Dance Presenting in the United States NAOMI M. JACKSON

Whether locally or internationally, in the end it’s clear: it’s about choice, about defining who is allowed to be a part of it, allowed to produce and present, allowed to earn money. Program makers have a function in the art market and however much their opinions may differ, together they delineate the limited field. Who they don’t see, who they refuse to see, has . . . almost no chance of being seen. —Florian Malzacher


his chapter considers a core ethical ideal of equity as it relates to the realm of dance presenting in the United States.1 In particular, the chapter examines the discourse—including rhetoric and practices—of curatorship that has arisen during the period from approximately 2004 to 2017, to sketch out both progressive and reactionary ways it promotes equity within the contemporary “experimental” dance scene. The chapter illuminates the existence of a dominant discourse of curatorship in the United States during the last decade, in order to reveal the extent to which specific networks, institutions, and individual power brokers shape our understanding of, and assign value to, contemporary dance. Using the career of Trajal Harrell as a focal point, the chapter examines the rise of the notion of “curation” in dance presenting, and its close connection to developments in the realms of visual arts and contemporary art center programming. More specifically, the chapter examines the limiting effects of conceptualism, European presenting trends, and economic changes, on the field of contemporary American dance presenting. The chapter concludes with examples and suggestions of ways to further democratize the presenting realm to make it more inclusive of varied voices.



SETTING THE STAGE Choreographer Trajal Harrell’s career provides an instructive trope to navigate the last decade of contemporary dance curation in the United States. On 1 and 2 October 2009, Trajal Harrell gave a solo performance at the New Museum in New York City. The work was the first of Harrell’s now celebrated series Twenty Looks or Paris Is Burning at the Judson Church (Twenty Looks). This performance was co-presented by Danspace Project and Crossing the Line Festival and was one of a few select dance performance events at the New Museum held in 2009. The performance was curated by Eungie Joo and organized by Travis Chamberlain, the curator of performance and manager of public programs at the New Museum. Telescoping out from this particular moment to examine the other primary US venues/festivals where Harrell has performed since 2004 reveals part of the deep structure of a powerful presenting network that both formally and informally shapes perceptions of contemporary dance in the United States.2 While other networks exist, such as the National Performance Network, and many artist-curators are working to strengthen local communities through culturally and aesthetically diverse performance programming, this network illuminates a “venue track” that has been shaping the dominant and elite discourse of contemporary dance, especially in New York City, on the national stages of major contemporary art institutions, and within the international dance presenting market place. Since the early 2000s, Harrell, along with a handful of other dance artists, has surfaced as one of the most frequently programmed performer/choreographers by these curators and others with shared values. Far from being arbitrary, or diverse in nature, each venue in this network acts as a node on a complex web of relations linking select spaces and individuals, ideas and dollars, across time and space. These institutions and individuals are committed to bringing “outstanding contemporary art” to audiences, as stated in the mission of the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (2018a). They act with great experience, insight, and skill to this end; and the artists that are privileged are equally dedicated to their work. However, this established group of presenters whose aesthetic and ideological alliances, in confluence with certain economic forces, effect the specific manner in which curation is defined and enacted in the United States—and participate in defining what is considered “the best” in “cutting edge” contemporary dance such that certain work is applauded and valued, and other work, variously denounced, made invisible, or simply overlooked. As Dutch sociologist Olav Velthuis observes, value in art is not determined by a property inherent in the work of art; “it is a property of people that have the power—that have the symbolic capital to say this is a good work of art and this isn’t” (2010).



One of the major axes of this web travels between The Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/Calarts Theater, based in Los Angeles), and the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art. These four institutions are part of the Contemporary Art Centers (CAC) network, which is an initiative of the National Dance Project (NDP), in turn a program of the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA). The CAC “is comprised of performing arts curators throughout the US who build collaborations and connections that support the work of innovative interdisciplinary artists and artist collaborators” (CAC website 2014). These curators represent eleven prominent institutions, and the traffic between them—especially the larger organizations—is indicative of strong connections that exist both formally and informally between the participating institutions and their curators.3 As explained on the CAC website, this small group decides whose work will be supported for CAC projects through a process of internal nomination rather than, for instance, an open call for submissions. The website declares: “Artists and companies are selected for support for the commissioning, creative development, documentation, contextualization, and touring of interdisciplinary work through nomination by CAC members” (New England Foundation for the Arts n.d.; my emphasis). Along with a formal process of selecting projects for specific CAC support, the members also more informally display a similar view of curatorship, and aesthetic/ideology, by presenting many of the same key dance artists as their counterparts even when they are not official recipients of CAC support, but with funding support from the NDP and NEFA, and foundations like the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. For instance, in November 2010, Harrell’s performance of Twenty Looks at the ICA/Boston was presented as part of the Co Lab series, made possible by “the National Endowment for the Arts, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the many generous individual donors of Summer Stages Dance and the ICA/ Boston, and the Contemporary Art Centers (CAC) network, administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA)” (ICA/Boston 2018b). In the fall of 2014, Harrell was again at ICA/Boston as part of the same Co Lab series with CAC backing, this time with The Untitled Still Life Collection, in collaboration with sculptor Sarah Sze. Meanwhile, in April 2014, Harrell’s Antigone Sr./Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church (L) was presented at REDCAT, without direct CAC funding, but in part with “generous support from the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project” (REDCAT 2014). Another of the major axes revealed by Trajal Harrel’s career trajectory aligns a number of venues, festivals, and individuals in New York City with certain overlapping aspects of the aesthetic/ideology of the members of CAC. Again,



these curators both function through formally supporting certain select artists in the form of co-sponsorship, and informally by recommending them to other presenters and funding bodies. These include, among others, curators at The Kitchen, Danspace, New York Live Arts, Crossing the Line Festival, and American Realness. Each of the spaces and festivals has their own unique history, and aspects that differentiate them within the contemporary dance landscape. At the same time, there are certain shared concerns that draw these curators to the work of a performer like Harrell, and make them participators in his success, along with others with a similar profile, as a contemporary dance artist in today’s contemporary dance art market. These concerns will now be examined in more detail. “CURATING” DANCE One of the main reasons for shared aesthetic and ideological interests across this dominant network is a recent attraction to a more cerebral discourse on dance. This fascination has been fueled by, and is fueling, a hunger for connections with the visual arts world along with the conceptual orientation of a certain sector of the European performing arts market.4 Indeed, the very discourse of “curation,” which has arisen during the last decade in the performing arts sector, is itself an indicator of this intellectual turn. While curation in the dance context can be traced to the 1970s, it is only post 2005 that one sees the term gaining rapidly in currency in the US contemporary dance context. That year saw the initiation of Performa, a festival that ran for three weeks with twenty-five thousand people attending events at more than twenty venues across New York City. The festival was organized by RoseLee Goldberg and its aim was and remains, according to the Performa website, to demonstrate “the critical role of live performance in the history of twentieth-century art,” and to encourage “new directions in performance for the twenty-first century” (Performa festival 2014). The year 2005 also saw the initiation of Under the Radar, followed in 2007 by Crossing the Line, two other New York festivals including curated contemporary dance events by the organizers. While Under the Radar was initiated by Mark Russell at the Public Theatre and focused on cutting-edge theater, Crossing the Line has been co-curated by Lili Chopra, Gideon Lester, and Simon Dove, with the support of the French Institute Alliance Française. Other key events followed. In 2010, the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance at Wesleyan University was established, along with the American Realness festival curated by Ben Pryor, and in 2012, the influential theorist Andre Lepecki co-taught a class on curating performance at New York University’s prestigious Department of Performance Studies.



The appeal of the curatorial rhetoric may be traced to its seemingly liberatory promise for both the visual and performing arts worlds. A curated event has the potential to challenge established canons and the primacy of individual art works to draw new, innovative relationships based on a particular theme. The idea of the exhibition or festival can take precedence over the individual pieces or artists/choreographers displayed or presented. As Peter Taub, who curates performing arts at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, explains it in C. Borrelli’s article (2013): “Curating is . . . scholarship, framing ideas, telling stories—showing the edge that exists between the thing curated and the rest of us.” In other words, curation provides the intellectual frame for looking at a work(s). In the case of Joo and Chamberlain who arranged the Harrell performance at the New Museum with the curators of Crossing the Line, this view is evident and moreover, shown to be closely tied to a nostalgic look back in time to a period when the arts in the United States were seen to be more closely interconnected, less institutionalized, beyond the mainstream, and more intellectual in nature. At a talk in 2011 at the Pew Center for the Arts & Heritage for The Museum Educator in the Expanded Field, Joo mentions the kind of “interdisciplinary, intellectual, . . . really complex landscape” that existed in the 1970s and should be revived as a challenge to limiting disciplinary boundaries perceived through recent professionalization of visual art, dance, theater, and museum studies (Joo 2011). Indeed, Harrell’s choreography epitomizes this stance insofar as the work is concept-driven and exists in relation to some of the conceptual minimalist experiments of the Judson Dance Theatre, a group of experimentalists including Yvonne Rainer and Deborah Hay whose multifaceted work also included humanistic body-based and politically engaged proposals. According to Harrell, Twenty Looks seeks to answer the question: what would have happened if in 1963 someone from the New York voguing scene in Harlem had come down to the Judson Church in Greenwich Village to perform alongside the early postmodernists? In the result, we see an African American performer/creator combining voguing movement with minimal pedestrian movement in a clever commentary on race, gender, sexual orientation, class, seduction, and the act of performance. By emphasizing the creative practice of the individual performer as well as embracing street or urban dance (historically low art forms) alongside canonical styles of Western dance (high art)—namely, ballet and modern dance, as well as postmodern release technique—we see in this piece an example of work that broadens the notion of what is possible in dance as expressed through a highly conceptual, historically oriented approach. Moreover, the discourse makes a space for and values African-American choreographers whose work has a strong cerebral element.5


Naomi M. Jackson

Each of these trends marks a progressive turn in contemporary dance, paving the way for greater inclusivity of conceptual dance approaches and dance forms, especially those from popular culture, as well as non-Western dance traditions, fused with postmodern styles. Insofar as the intellectual turn engages themes of deconstruction of established norms and traditions, it also closely aligns with queer and postcolonial theory, making valuable room for choreographers whose work relates to gender construction, homosexuality, race, and ethnicity.6 Behind the Curatorial Curtain I am increasingly concerned about the system in which they make that work—the festivals, the organizations, the institutions, the individuals who create the structures in which the work is presented and contextualized—who, in a spectacularly vertically integrated closed ecosystem, determine both which artists get funded and who gets presented and as such wield outsized influence in the aesthetic and practical choices of artists. —Andy Horwitz

The adoption of the curatorial perspective is clearly valuable, however, it is not synonymous with values and practices of equity, diversity, and inclusivity. The success of Harrell in both the United States and across Europe also suggests the very opposite of the democratization of contemporary dance. As argued through this chapter, Harrell’s work thrives within, and because of, a tightly knit network of relations, and convergence of cultural and economic shifts, that can also be seen as insular and inequitable in several important ways. Rather than opening up the field of contemporary dance to a broadly diverse range of presenters, choreographers, and choreographic styles, the dominant discourse in contemporary dance tends to be concentrated among a dozen or so key power brokers (individuals and institutions) in the presenting realm, and about the same number of favored choreographers, many of whom write on, make recommendations for, award/nominate grants/commissions/prizes to—and sometimes, even curate or manage—each other. As a report prepared for the Brooklyn Commune Project (2014) observes, “Even a cursory examination of the arts funding landscape reveals that there is a small cohort of curators, administrators and foundation program officers who influence policy and funding initiatives.” This document argues that because relationship structures among this small group are opaque, and substantial grants are awarded within a nomination-based model, “this create[s] a pervasive sense of exclusion and inequity.” It continues: This lack of transparency creates not only distrust but a sense of futility in many artists, as it creates the appearance that only a very few artists are supported, often repeatedly, while others are repeatedly turned down, or are never in contention to begin with . . .



Who are we missing by keeping these substantial grants within the nomination-based model . . . ? (Bartosik 2013)

The main reason for this recent entrenchment of attitudes and behaviors lies in the convergence of paths between the powerful network of US presenters of contemporary dance described above, with a select group of international leaders, especially from Western Europe, who favor the conceptualist turn.7 The US movement embracing the rediscovery of the postmodern dance of the 1960s and 1970s in the United States has paralleled the heralding of French-driven conceptual choreography in particular, with both trends finding strong advocates in the visual arts realm of contemporary art institutions like the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the New Museum. The American fascination with European conceptualism is evident, for instance, in the way French choreographer Jérôme Bel has been lauded since 2005, in a manner that directly correlates with the rise in curatorial discourse. In 2005, he received a Bessie award, and in 2007, he was invited by Goldberg to be part of Performa 07. In 2008, he spoke at Crossing the Line, and in the following years his was work performed again at that festival (2010), and at the Museum of Modern Art (2012). Throughout this period, Bel’s work was presented multiple times by CAC member institutions including the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA) (2008, 2010), ICA/Boston (2011), the Walker Art Center (2005, 2007, 2011, 2013), the Wexner Center for the Arts (2005, 2007, 2011), REDCAT (2007), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2007), and Diverseworks, Houston (2015). The embrace of Bel is understandable when one considers the backgrounds of many curators currently working with live performance in the context of major contemporary art centers and museums. Many have come to their current positions from diverse non-dance backgrounds, with degrees in art history, cultural studies, museum studies, or arts management, or other arts fields such as photography, film, sculpture, and theater. This means that although such curators might appreciate quality dancing and dance-making, they may also gravitate to work that is more “readable” as a series of easily decodable signs and fits well with theoretical trends influencing them from visual art and the humanities.8 Such, I would argue, is the case with the work of Bel and Harrell, whose pieces are often publicized and garner praise in terms directly aligned with current ideas of performativity and deconstruction. For example, the publicity for Twenty Looks at the ICA, Boston, in 2010 characteristically stated: “Like Yvonne Rainer or Trisha Brown, Harrell debates the very nature of performance—the role of seduction, glamour, and spectacle in dance and in the ways we present ourselves in everyday life” (ICA/Boston 2018b). Similarly, REDCAT’s publicity referred to Antigone Sr./Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson


Naomi M. Jackson

Church (L) in 2014 as “a genre-bending exploration of race, gender, sexuality, culture and history.” Critics then echo this “insider” interpretation in their reviews, as in, for example, a Boston Globe review titled “Looking at Identity’s Clothing”: “Harrell’s deconstruction isn’t so much about what we wear as how we wear it, how it makes us feel, and how others perceive us. As we watch him transform into different personae, we start to ponder the nature of identity, sexuality, and cultural assumptions” (Campbell 2010). This kind of circular sanctioning process within this particular elite artworld discourse is made clear by moments of rupture—when audience members are frustrated by the game and challenge it. In response to Harrell’s REDCAT performance, for instance, blogger Cliff Eberly observed, “I wanted an authentic, non-insider art viewing experience without the tropes of meaning nor histories.” He goes on to lament that the piece, “exposed an insecure desire to auto insert the work into the academic, performance art canon by reminding us of every nostalgic, ironic, funny, tragic, pop and historically relevant iconic and metaphoric HOUSE that may have run through Harrell’s mind as akin and provocative.” In an attempt to defy what felt to be a conformist directive, the blogger refused to participate when audience members were asked to consciously applaud the performance, stating, “don’t try to make me participate in some fake ritual of religion REALNESS” (Eberly 2014). Such comments point to an aura of preciousness cultivated around these “cutting edge” works that can transform an intended ironic perspective into a seriously oppressive discourse. Andy Horwitz has noted this potential in a scathing critique of the American Realness festival (2014b) in which he calls out the falseness of its claims of transgression, and the extent to which the festival not only reinforces the dominant institutional discourse of contemporary art, but in so doing loses touch with the “reality” of its own highly privileged positioning. He observes, “AR attempts to create a simulacrum of difference and transgression comprised of the signifiers of otherness and disenfranchisement while in fact being entirely of the system it purports to critique.” Other revealing moments occur when the dominant postmodern rhetoric clearly privileges the choreographer’s creative vision over and above egalitarian treatment of others engaged in the dance-making and presenting process. The kind of inequality possible in recent curatorial trends is evident in the ways performers have been treated in performances featuring the work of stars of the contemporary performance realm. Two high profile examples include Marina Abramović’s 2011 production for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and Deborah Hay’s 2012 Blues for MoMA curated by Ralph Lemon. In both cases, participating performers stepped forward to highlight ideological and economic injustices lurking behind alleged progressive aesthetics. In the case of Abramović’s piece, dancer Sara Wookey (2011) protested the low



pay and minimal safety precautions within the staging of Nude with Skeleton for a gala performance at MoCA (Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles). With Blues, dancer Kathy Wasik observed, “The lines Deborah drew in the piece and in the process of creating the work raise troubling questions surrounding race, gender, power, and money.” Wasik argued that due to the aesthetic framing (which failed to address power issues) and elevated status of Hay as a choreographer, “I felt stripped of my voice and my individuality” (2012). These individual dancers draw attention to the ways in which the current curatorial discourse can retain hierarchical and authoritarian elements of the “genius” creative artist tradition in dance history, along with the presenting structures that support it. Their comments also reveal that while the Judson Dance Theatre choreographers at one time might have operated in radically progressive, egalitarian ways on the margins of the dance establishment, now their work is being staged by mainstream institutions, which significantly reconfigures its meaning. Cultural historian Beatrice von Bismarck illuminates how these recent restagings of avant-garde art work originally created in the 1960s and 1970s become much less radical within today’s neoliberal, globalized art market. In her writing she demonstrates that “hand in hand with the alterations of the temporal and material conditions of the exhibits go a number of capitalizations, which affect the artistic works, but also the participating artists, the curators and the exhibition itself” (von Bismark 2013). Indeed, the post-2005 reinforcement of conceptually driven choreography has been further enhanced by an economic situation in the United States that favors dance aligned with Europe and contemporary art centers and art museums in the big business art market. A post-1980 Regan-era cut to direct funding for individual artists by the National Endowment for the Arts, and other restructurings of funding resulting from the “culture wars” of the late 1980s/ early 1990s, combined with European state funding for travel to dancemakers, has incentivized the presentation of this particular strand of dance (see Horwitz 2014a). Of special note is the establishment in 2004 of the National Dance Project’s French-US Exchange in Dance (FUSED) grants support for US and French artists whose works “have not yet—or have rarely—been seen in the partner country.” This program, the only country-specific one of its kind offered by the NDP, further institutionalized connections between curators in the United States and France. Programs like FUSED, and support from European embassies and institutes (like the Alliance Française and the Goethe Institut), have meant that it can be cheaper, or at least more affordable, to present a dance company with associated European support and funding, rather than (for instance) a US company traveling across the country. The devastation following the economic downturn in 2008 has also meant the CAC member institutions, prominent New York venues, and major US con-



temporary dance festivals, and their international partners rely on each other to help fund artists they want to present with the limited resources available. Although this has made for an increase in productive collaborative ventures, it has also meant tighter control of the contemporary dance market in the venue track economy.

DEMOCRATIZING CURATION We have inherited spaces and protocols for arts participation . . . I propose a process to identify new guiding principles based on community, dialogue, and empathy for the presentation of contemporary and experimental choreography. —M. Steinwald

According to the May 2009 report of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010), there were 1,170 self-declared choreographers working for performing arts companies, 80 choreographers working for colleges and universities, and 180 independent choreographers. This means at the very least 1,430 choreographers whose work was potentially eligible to be framed as “contemporary dance” at the time that Trajal Harrell’s Twenty Looks was presented at the New Museum, depending on how widely one wishes to open the aperture. If one considers the total number of choreographers given by the US Bureau for 2009—14,700—(which does not count the countless nonprofessional dance artists who were working) recognition of the potential problem with a system that favors a dozen or so dance-makers rises markedly. Changing the way curation is conceived entails a paradigmatic shift in values and processes, especially in relation to a dominant “star system/winner takes all approach,” valorizing that which is “new,” and reliance on a money economy.9 Some movement in this direction has already been visible in the institutions discussed in this chapter, such as at Danspace Project with the artist curated Platform series, along with collaborative approaches, such as by AUNTS in Brooklyn, New York, and SALTA in Oakland, California. Other examples include opening slots on a “first come, first served” basis and offering performance opportunities using a lottery system. Some arts institutions and dancer-run collectives are experimenting with barter and share-based economies offering rehearsal space to community members in exchange for organizing a performance, or using private residences as presentation sites in exchange for a unique interaction with artists. These approaches offer exciting processes of presenting to ensure greater diversity and inclusivity of multiple dance artists, styles, and perspectives. In so doing they enact the provident sentiments articulated in the code of ethics of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (2016):



Organizations are, at base, people, and it is up to the people working in the performing arts field—board members, executive leaders, staff, and artists—to demonstrate their ongoing commitment to the core values of integrity, honesty, fairness, openness, respect, and responsibility.

NAOMI M. JACKSON is Associate Professor in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre at Arizona State University. Her books include: Dance, Human Rights, and Social Justice: Dignity in Motion, co-edited with Toni Shapiro-Phim (Scarecrow Press, 2008), Right to Dance: Dancing for Rights (Banff Centre Press, 2004), and Converging Movements: Modern Dance and Jewish Culture at the 92nd Street Y (Wesleyan University Press, 2000). NOT E S 1. For the purposes of this article, equity is employed here as a broad concept that concerns equality of access, lack of discrimination, and due process. 2. Major US venues presenting Trajal Harrell 2004–2017: Danspace Project (2004, 2007, 2012); Dance Theater Workshop (2008, 2009); The Kitchen (2004, 2006, 2008, 2011); The New Museum, co-presented by Danspace Project and Crossing the Line Festival, 2009; The Kitchen, co-presented with Crossing the Line, 2014; Institute of Contemporary Arts/Boston (2010, 2011, 2014, 2016); American Realness (2011, 2013, 2017); New York Live Arts (formerly Dance Theater Workshop), 2012; Time-Based Art Festival (TBA), Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, 2013; Walker Art Center (2013, 2016); REDCAT, 2014; MoMA, 2016 (see 3. The institutions include Asia Society (New York, NY), Contemporary Arts Center (New Orleans, LA), DiverseWorks (Houston, TX), Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) (Boston, MA), MASS MoCA (North Adams, MA), Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago, IL), Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) (Portland, OR), REDCAT (Los Angeles, CA), Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN), Wexner Center for the Arts (Columbus, OH), and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco, CA) 4. There are of course notable exceptions, such as British curator John Ashford who created the massive AeroWaves project, which aims to give broad exposure to young dance-makers mainly working in Europe (see 5. Bill T. Jones, Ralph Lemon, and Kyle Abraham have benefitted from the patronage of the CAC and related institutions during the same period. 6. Miguel Gutierrez, for instance, has been presented many times by the CAC partner institutions since 2006, as well as prominently at the American Realness Festival on an annual basis. 7. The European presenters who tend to be in the market for this work come from European countries including the UK, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, and Norway. 8. This tendency is reinforced by those dance artists who were heavily influenced by the Judson Dance Theatre and are now in positions of authority at institutions including magazines, universities, and art centers, where they promote the work of this period. 9. For an example of studies of equity, see Mathur et al. (2010).



R EF E R E NC E S Association of Performing Arts Presenters. 2014. Retrieved 2 March 2014 from https://www percent20of percent20Valuespercent20and percent20Code percent20of percent20Ethics percent202016.pdf. Bartosik, K. 2013. Foundations, Funding and Philanthropy. Report prepared for the Brooklyn Commune Project’s research group Philanthropy and Funding within the Performing Arts. Retrieved 28 March 2014 from tions-funding-and-philanthropy/. Borrelli, C. 2013. “Everybody’s a Curator.” Chicago Tribune, 4 October. Retrieved 2 March 2014 from 31004-column.html. Brooklyn Commune Project. 2014. Retrieved 14 March 2014 from http://brooklyncommune .org/about/. Campbell, K. 2010. “Looking at Identity’s Clothing.” Dance review in The Boston Globe, 8 November. Retrieved 5 July 2014 from 2010/11/08/questions_of_identity_in_trajal_harrells_twenty_looks/. Eberly, C. 2014. “The Return of the RealNESS: Again & Again & Again: Trajal Harrell’s Antigone Sr./Twenty Looks or Paris Is Burnig at the Judson Church.” Retrieved on 15 May 2014 at Horwitz, A. 2014a. “Irrational Exuberance: The Performing Arts Market Explained.” Retrieved 10 March from ———. 2014b. “Considering Alastair, Questioning Realness.” Culturebot 19 June. Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston. 2018a. “Mission Statement.” Retrieved 15 September 2014 from ———. 2014b. Retrieved 15 March 2014 from: mance/trajal-harrell/. Joo, E. 2011. “The Museum Educator in the Expanded Field.” Talk for the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, 11 February 2011. Retrieved 17 February 2014 from ator-expanded-field-eungie-joo-and-pablo-helguera. Malzachar, F. 2010. “Cause & Result: About a Job with an Unclear Profile, Aim and Future.” “Curating Performing Arts,” Special issue, Frakcija # 55: 14. Mathur, A., A. Srivastava Ayaka Yoshimizu, K. Heintzman, and T. Wong. 2011. Equity within the Arts Ecology: Traditions and Trends Centre for Innovation in Culture and the Arts in Canada. Retrieved on 1 March 2014 from CPAFEquityWithintheArtsEcology-FINAL-EN_000.pdf. New England Foundation for the Arts. n.d. “National Dance Project Contemporary Art Centers Network.” Retrieved 1 April 2014, from programs/national_dance_project_contemporary_art_centers_network. Performa festival. 2014. “Mission Statement.” Retrieved 10 March 2014 from http://perfor REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/Calarts Theater). 2014. Retrieved on 10 August 2014 from Steinwald, M. 2014. “Noticing the Feedback: A Proposal to the Contemporary Dance Field, and/or This Revolution Will Be Crowdsourced.” Envisioning the Practice: International



Symposium on Performing Arts Curation, Montréal, 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2014 from Symposium2014.pdf. United States Bureau of Statistics. 2014. Retrieved 1 September 2014 from https://www.bls .gov/oes/current/oes272032.htm. Velthuis, O. 2010. “The Return of the 90s: The Art Market in Times of Crisis.” Critique, Value, Markets, Prices, 5 March 2010 by Juicing the Equilibrium at the Center on Organization Innovation at Columbia University. Retrieved 26 June 2014 from files/olav-velthuis.pdf. von Bismark, B. 2013. “Extra Academy #17: Beatrice Von Bismark, Capitalising Attitudes— Re-enacting Exhibitions.” Extra City. Retrieved 15 October 2014 from http://extra Wasik, K. 2012. “Skin Deep.” 9 November, The Performance Club. Retrieved 15 May 2014 from http://theperformance 2012/11/skin-deep/. Wookey, S. 2011. “An Open Letter to Artists.” The Performance Club, 23 November. Retrieved 12 December 2011 from


Holy Motor—a Mechanical Metaphor Surrounding the Live Arts Curator CÉCILE TONIZZO

A curator of live arts can be seen as a principle of composition, activated by different kinds of agents: people, places, collectives, concrete entities, or virtual spaces. This person is considered here as a constituent of the whole, one piece of a more complex mechanical body for which they might serve as a jack, a turbine, in other words a mobile element of an engine block (from the Latin motor = that which moves, a device that allows movement to occur, stemming from an energy source). And so they move, but what? The definition of art? The conditions, the fabrication of a context in which an artistic proposition is offered up to be seen? In the following schema, they serve as the exhaust pipe of a diesel engine. This kind of engine has the particularity of starting up with an internal combustion system (as soon as the fuel is injected, it ignites almost instantaneously without the need for a spark plug to fire it up). The live arts curator then invents links, transitions (shift levers); they open a space and a time in which the artist (injection pump) will be able to establish an artistic proposition (water pump) and where the spectator (fuel filter) will access a space for critical thinking (oil gauge) and “make the work” (out of the artistic proposition). CÉCILE TONIZZO is a French multifaceted artist who studied both visual and performing arts. Her strong interests in performance involve sound work and the influence of visual art. Since 2012, she has been working on a research around the notion of car customization: tuning9.

Holy Motor—a Mechanical Metaphor 

Figure CS.1.  Holy Motor. (Drawing by Cécile Tonizzo, © 2017.)


CH A P T E R 1 0

Noticing the Feedback A Proposal to the Contemporary Dance Field, and/or This Revolution Will Be Crowdsourced MICHÈLE STEINWALD


hen I asked a room filled with my peers to imagine an ideal future for presenting contemporary dance performances, they agreed on a set of qualities: a flexible space; a blurring of art and life; a place of abundance; a performance of life; and a ridding of greed, intolerance, and self-doubt. Here, everyone finds time to make art, has the freedom to explore, and has opportunities to be challenged. I then asked what a possible first step could look like to get to this utopian setting, and I received as many different answers as individuals involved. The answers pointed to early education, shorter workweeks, new economic systems, arts integration, meditation, and increased modes of perception. When I am in the audience, I feel the change that certain choreographers affect within their work. What they make on stage creates the change we were imagining. It is our turn, as presenter-curators, to initiate the conversation in order to shift our practice and support such efforts in social change off stage. It will take us time to identify the elements that shape a theatrical experience and evaluate each aspect for its inherent conditions on the live performance. I can think of many places to start. Within the admission process, there are ticket prices, seating tiers, front of house ushers, messaging, fluidity of the architecture, ability to meet one’s needs within the ritual of watching a performance even before it has begun, order of events, curtain speeches, program notes, and playbills. In marketing the performance, we can evaluate invitations, preparatory language, the distribution of the invitation, translation of artistic inspiration, educational content, historical context, curatorial intentions, background,



the inside story, the hook, the social network draw, the buzz, word of mouth, critical appeal, facts, logistics, and the aftermath. As we begin to untangle the conditions in which to experience live art, how we ticket and tell the art’s story determines the unspoken contract we make with patrons, and influences everyone’s ability to embody confidence and commit to the invited exchange. As for inhabiting a new and potentially utopian landscape, theorist and activist Stephen Duncombe explains, “the trick is to lead people out of what they know without simply replacing this old way of being, thinking, and seeing with a new one. You need to provide space for people’s own imagination” (Schultz and Peters 2012: 103, emphasis in the original). Stripped of desires to follow a prescriptive path, our guiding principles are noticeably in question. Artists who build ideological principles into the fabrication of their art, not just within the content of the finished production, are coming to the forefront of aesthetic contributions. Hierarchical institutional containers are unnecessary to prove accreditation; labels limit experiential value and are often unwanted by audiences who assume being integrated into the whole. There is an urgency and potential creative freedom to conceive of future parameters and outcomes collaboratively, with the artists and audiences together. Our globally connected community is saturated with artistic options and perpetually plugged into endless online discourse. The public sharing of our personal contributions is able to unclutter the noise of these offerings through relationships. There is a new dawn that draws from everything and everyone we know or have heard of, anywhere and at any time. Virtual boundaries have not been blurred; they have been obliterated. We have inherited spaces and protocols for arts participation. Modern theaters have been traditionally designed to separate the audience from the art in an environment that controls light, sound, and temperature while framing the stage, disorienting the viewer in order to suspend disbelief. The ability to cut out the everydayness of one’s outside life has been a perceived benefit to producing a world distinct from the one left at the door upon entering. In contrast, architecture of engagement starts with the premise of a gathering place, with central meeting areas where everyone has the ability to participate, design experiences, and openly share nature, well-being, inclusion, and compassion. “Architecture and urban design are social arts, that influence human actions and interactions . . . [and] can also be a catalyst for change, synthesizing emerging cultural values and weaving critical new strands into the urban fabric” (Taggart 2012). How do we flatten the hierarchical aspects of proscenium theaters into venues sufficient for the participation desires of today? Communication is circular and has room to include all sides of the conversation. When everything is accessible online for free, how can we continue to promote exclusivity and intimacy as a price of admission? There is no more substantial touring funding for artists to be distributed to new communities, we



need new reasons to host an event. Currently our combination of marketing and architectural systems prohibit our bodily intelligence and curiosity to be engaged. As a point of entry, choreographers have started to solve these deficiencies by keeping lights on in the audience during the show, having performers enter through the audience before walking on stage, and starting to interact on stage before the audience is completely seated—taking the art experience one step closer to a more inclusive environment. The word spontaneity is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website as “a voluntary or undetermined action or movement,” and is synonymous with naturalness, ease, uninhibited, and unrestrained. How could those words become principles that establish a live art experience that is equally empowering for an artist as well as an observer/participant? I hope to make an urgent field-wide suggestion to collectively examine our practices as a timely endeavor to maintain synchronicity with today’s artists’ works and those of the future. Through dance we learn to become sensitive to movements, nuance, and subliminal body language. Performance-artists and dance-artists who acknowledge observers as willing intellectual, emotional, and spiritual participants, and who invite audiences to be an extension of the performance itself start their creative process with the audience’s potential in mind. By defining a value system above their form, their creative foundation finds aesthetic solutions to move their political priorities forward. Their hope is to communicate intentions and perform an interdependent world. Dance’s gift to us is the deconstruction of any Cartesian notions, the reassimilation of our mind and body connection and its inherent intelligence, and an embodied wholeness. Dance is a body-centric art form that fundamentally aspires to join physical and energetic exchanges between humans. Bodies in movement create tones and textures. The space around the dance provides tension and landscape. Audience members are somatically inclined to receive meaning in proximity to actions. Within the role of curator, the field of presenting contemporary and experimental dance is open to a new heightened awareness and reevaluation of the best practices we have inherited and are currently employing to bring dance to the public. We have started to embrace a new sense of discipline and questioning of the terms that were constructed long ago. We have identified opportunities to support the live experience with external methods to engage dance audiences. Now it is time to evolve our practice to be inspired by the works of the artists we hold true and create supportive structures from the inside out, starting with the art. Imagination is an active pursuit and needs to be exercised. Health and wellness language is being cultivated and appropriated in the business world. Researcher and Ted Talk sensation Brené Brown, who has made breakthroughs digging around personal psychology to find the root of shame, explains that the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change is vulnerability. The only thing that cures shame is empathy (Brown 2012). It is time we let go of past behaviors



and move forward together into the future of performing arts integration and collective personal growth. I believe a boundary-ridden escape from the daily grind, using a variety of tension-creating devices such as existing architecture and invented instructions, could set the stage for events to layer within an environment. Now how can a space become tactile? How can a room be anthropomorphized? Works should not necessarily neatly fit into the settings they are performed in. Opportunities and limitations can become clearer in awkward placements and participation more obvious, while edges become potentially softer. Vantage points must be various: can greater distances expose patterns and increase insights into the craft, while at the same time, could proximal immersion lead to reflexive transformations? Acknowledging the use of intuition as a tool in the curator’s arsenal brings us closer to strengthening the empathetic potential in public dance performances. In the 2013 New York Times article about socially engaged art, Kristina Van Dyke, the director of the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, e remarked, “To me art is elastic. It can respond to many different demands made on it” (Kennedy 2013). Where is our flexibility and collegial trust to reinvent the conditions in which we do our work? Building off of Nicolas Bourriaud’s 1998 concept of relational aesthetics, could an existing environment be accommodating so that it is “the actual event that curates the work, not the other way around” (Eatock 2006)? According to Mathias Augustyniak of the design duo M/M Paris, “there is no such place called art or culture but it’s all interwoven” (quoted in Browne 2013). Could flattening the hierarchy between performances, art works, and creative interventions of different production scales enable interchangeability between audience and performers and solidify a cultural integrity? Invitational language needs to consider and be designed to encourage social encounters, with innuendos that heighten senses and activate one’s curiosities. Time that stretches around syllables and sharpens to find moments to wander and wonder will interrogate from the inside out and receive from the outside in. “When we are talking about complex communication between two people—interhuman situations—everyone knows that the more indirect communication is, the more effective the message” (Eatock 2006). Artists who value and prioritize generous layering of meaning inside their works and invite us in cellularly and spiritually, affect change physically. The musician and poet, Michael Stipe (2012) shares: “It is my belief that memory is our only real contribution to the universe after our death. Our memories, however banal or meaningful, gathered throughout our lifetime, go on to become the fuel, the powers, the energy that allows the universe to be as vast and as fantastic as we imagine it is.”2 Muscles in our bodies contain our memories. Dancers tap into the potency of movements. Everyone’s body is the antenna to understanding



movement in conversation, in film, on stage. Our mirror neurons bring a dancer’s embodiment of space, time, actions, and shapes directly to the audience and our past is released from watching their execution in the present. Our civilized society has placed barriers and doubt in our cellular comprehension of bodies in motion. Bringing back an embodied permission of full consciousness as an observer will bring acceptance in this world as understanding the complexity of our very human nature is innate in tuning into the frequency of dance. Outspoken and ever-evolving choreographer Tere O’Connor confirms that “choreography eschews singularity of meaning by its very nature” (O’Connor 2012: 12). And at the end of the day, what are we left with are our experiences. When we turn to ourselves to be present, we also commit to finding the solutions together. Science is mapping empathy, artists are tapping into this understanding, and we are responsible to adjust and evolve. I imagine future performances that are as small as a thought and as big as the sky, and with no hesitations; that there would be time to reflect with drifting layers and artistic options bumping into one another. Brown says: “Vulnerability is courage. It is about the willingness to show up and be seen in our lives and in those moments when we show up, those are the most powerful meaning making moments of our lives even if they don’t go well, they define who we are” (quoted in Tippett 2012). As audiences show up and participate, make meaning and create lasting memories, we too need to be present to experience the work we do in order to feel the meaning and execute the needs of the art works in public presentation. It will be messy and crystal clear all at once. We need to do this work together. So I hope this revolution will be thoughtfully embodied, vulnerable, communal, and crowdsourced for our “contemporary condition of overabundance” (Braverman and Villeneuve 2012) needs curation and we cannot do it on our own. What if empathy, in building and supporting live dance performance, was our goal? How would we promote and display performances differently? If we were to act intentionally with similar priorities, would we make different choices? By focusing on and researching artists who consciously and intuitively create systems and strategies to engage their audiences, what are our responsibilities and opportunities to do the same? Artists lead rigorous creative research established through choreographic choices. With that knowledge accessible, how can the conditions to present dance to publics mirror the artistic intentionality that goes into the development of a choreographic work? Could they be customized to match? Language’s expressivity can extend not only the invitation to watch but also the effect of experiencing the artwork. It is time to take advantage of the choices and opportunities a presentational platform gives all of us with these artists as our guides. I challenge us to ask these questions and start from the artworks, using the tools we have available in new ways. If empathy was our goal, how could the



meanings of the word spontaneity become principles in which we establish a live art experience that is equally empowering for an artist as well as an observer/ participant? I personally promise to embody my curatorial practice with these priorities and engage in conversation with my peers from this day forward. As I perceive abundance and opportunity, my approach changes. I engage my field as a whole being. I pledge to perform this shift in consciousness until it reveals new methods. MICHÈLE STEINWALD has an impressive assortment of curatorial, institutional, artistic, and educational bona fides. But the fact is, she would much rather talk to you about this one time, when she was nineteen, a controversial shot of her in Jana Sterbak’s meat dress got front-page play on all arts sections of Canadian newspapers, the same day they were covering Martha Graham’s death.


Excerpts from the essay “Noticing the Feedback: A Proposal to the Contemporary Dance Field, and/or This Revolution Will Be Crowdsourced,” originally published in its entirety on the Walker Art Center’s Fourth Wall digital vertical on 10 June 2013 and republished on, 31 July 2013, are reprinted with permission. Thanks to my classmates at Wesleyan University’s ICPP (class of 2013) and Thomas Lax.

R EF E R E NC E S Braverman, A. and P. Villeneuve. 2012. “The Creative Process: Peter Eleey.” The Aesthete. Retrieved 1 February 2013 from Brown, B. 2012. “Listening to Shame.” TED Talks. Retrieved 25 September 2012 from http:// Browne, A. 2007. “The Strong, Not So Silent Type.” The New York Times Magazine, 3 June07. Retrieved 12 December 2012 from magazine/ 03Style-paris-t.html?pagewanted=all. Kennedy, R. 2013. “Outside the Citadel, Social Practice Art Is Intended to Nurture.” The New York Times, 20 March. Retrieved 12 December 2012 from http://www.nytimes .com/2013/03/24/arts/design/outside-the-citadel-social-practice-art-is-intended-tonurture.html?pagewanted=all&_r=2&. Eatock, D. 2006. “Nicolas Bourriaud’s Concept of ‘Relational Aesthetics’ May Give Designers a New Set of Tools.” Eye e 59. Retrieved 12 December 2012 from http://www.eyemagazine .com/feature/article/part-of-the-process. O’Connor, T. 2012. “The Hudson Movement.” Movement Research Performance Journal 1.41: 12–13.



Schultz, S., and S. Peters. 2012. Open Field: Conversations on the Commons. Minneapolis, MN: Walker Art Center. “Spontaneity.” [Def. 2] (n.d.) Merriam-Webster Dictionary website. Retrieved from https://www Stipe, Michael. 2012. Serpentine Memory Marathon–Part One, The Space | The Arts—Live, Free and On Demand, 13–14 October. Retrieved 2 February 2013 from https://vimeo .com/61085692. Taggart, J. 2012. “The Architecture of Engagement.” Sustainable Architecture & Building Magazine. Retrieved 3 March 2013 from the-architecture-of-engagement/. Tippett, K. 2012. “Brené Brown on Vulnerability.” On Being. Retrieved 9 February 2013 from bed=1.

CH A P T E R 11

Email to a Curator An Introduction to The Curators’ Piece TEA TUPAJIĆ AND PETRA ZANKI

Figure 11.1. Tea Tupajić and Petra Zanki, The Curators’ Piece, Meteor festival, Bergen, 2011. Performing curators (left to right): Gundega Laivina, Florian Malzacher, Per Ananiassen, Sven Åge Birkeland, Priit Raud, Mark Yeoman, and Vallejo Gantner. (Photo by Monica Santos, © Herberg, 2011.)



Zagreb, 10 June 2009 Dear Sven Åge Birkeland, A few days ago we sent you an e-mail with the initial proposal for The Curators’ Piece, which we briefly discussed in Goldegg last month. As you noticed correctly, the project is weirdly constructed, but also very cool. We are happy that you are interested in it. This time we are writing to you to further clarify our motives and actions. Therefore, we will try to be as precise as possible, knowing that an e-mail is not the best medium for detailed explanations (especially since we know that curators receive hundreds of e-mails like this from artists). The Curators’ Piece is a project we are developing with chosen performing arts curators in order to present it at their festivals or venues in the form of a stage show. The curator takes part in the performance as a performer. Relying on the relations between the artists, the curators, and the audience, the project deals with the production of contemporary performing arts and the possibility of art’s influence on today’s society. We conceive it as a challenge to the art. Why art? What is it today? How does it get produced? Who are the artists? Who are the curators? Who is the audience? What can art do; and what is the role of the artist, the curator, and the audience in it? These are the key questions out of which the fictional material of the performance is composed. We invite curators we feel are relevant for the shaping of today’s landscape of contemporary performing arts. We invite them by e-mail (the way we are inviting you now). The project consists of the research phase and production phase. After the initial e-mail, and if the curator is interested in the project, we enter into the research phase. The work in the research phase is individual, one curator at a time. We use this phase to prepare the performance and, time-wise, we are planning on finishing the research phase by the end of 2010. In the research phase, we visit the curator at their place of work, or we follow him or her on a business trip. By getting information on his or her work, we are also getting to know the context he or she is engaged with. We use the research phase to articulate the materials that are the starting point for work on the performance. The production phase and the premiere are planned for 2011. The production process is developed through weekend residencies, starting in PS122 in New York and finishing in O Espaco do Tempo, Montemor-o-Novo, Portugal, where we will meet and work with the chosen curators. In this phase, the main aim is to find the right strategies for the performance and to establish a relationship between the audiences, curator-performers, and us. The invited curators are also the co-producers of the show. Five to seven curators perform in the piece. It will premiere and be shown at their festivals and in their production houses. Other organizations and festivals wishing to



support the project could be involved too, but there is enough time to talk about those possibilities later. We would now like to answer a couple of questions that you asked in your previous e-mail. The first and the key question: Why curators? While the artist and the audience have found their place in the recent discourse and practice of performing arts, the curator has been left behind, and his work, although very important, has remained invisible. Other than a few articles, there is no publication on the work of the curator in the performing arts. This seems unbelievable, especially knowing that it is impossible to talk about the production of the arts today without taking into account its key figures. In that sense, we are also wondering, like you are, how is it possible that proposals and invitations for collaboration on artistic projects never come from an artist, but always from a curator, and we, like you, don’t know the answer. One of the aims of this project is to make that transparent. You asked: “How did you select the curators?” On the one side, there is the curator’s engagement and interest in contemporary art. What is also important for us is the curator’s visibility and long-term presence on the scene. There is also the influence of his or her work in the field of performing arts. Additionally, it is quite relevant where the curator comes from—since if he or she is working in the context of developed economies (Western Europe and North America), he or she is shaping the cutting-edge scene and influencing other scenes in the world more than others. The courage of the curator to take part in this project with its different possible solutions rather than the usual procedures of selection and production of an artistic work is crucial. In the end, we try to choose curators whose programs correspond to our own artistic interest and who closely collaborate with artists. You were recommended to us by many people because of your dedication and long-term vision in creating BIT Teatergarasjen and because you ensured its influence on the performing arts in the Nordic region and in Europe. The other curators who join the project will be mentioned on our web page. We plan on publishing the materials from the research phase of the project there. What we need for the beginning is your short resume and three photographs that you think best represent you. Your question surprised us: “Is it by chance that the project is initiated by two young female artists from the Balkans, penetrating the Western European market and suggesting such a radical concept? Is that also a part of the project?” We hadn’t thought about that. It is interesting that the perception of the curator and that of the artist differ. It might also be true, as you said, that a male artist would construct the project differently. We tried to imagine what it would look like . . . Of course, emphasizing these details opens up the possibility for the promotion of The Curators’ Piece—but also puts the project in great danger. These labels might help in the short term, but are also disadvantageous for us (a



young, unknown artist is hardly an advantage for a renowned festival and any curator to accept the project). Another question, one that Christine Peters already asked in one of her e-mails, and that you touched upon too, is: What is your artistic motivation? Why now? What is at stake? In order to answer these questions we need to delve deeper, because the key to our motivation is in the question: Why do we make art today? We can’t be oblivious to the fact that art production isn’t happening in a vacuum, separated from the concrete economic and political situation. Art production is a production like any other. Still, there is a reason why we still decide to make art today. Basically, unlike any other production field, art has the possibility to reflect its own production and the relations that were set up by it. That ability for self-reflection opens a path to many inversions and for possibilities of reconfiguration. What we are interested in is to find a way in which theater today can be political. When we are talking about our interest in the political, we are talking about our interest in the phenomenon of labor, its premises, shapes, and, most of all: its consequences. We are primarily interested in our own labor in the field of art. With this project, we open up the possibilities for an action in our own factory. The Curators’ Piece redirects the focus to the very production of the artistic work, opens up a field for new thoughts and ways of perceiving performing arts. We have now really departed from the concrete proposal, which is the invitation for the research phase of the project. Please find more about it in the attachment. We are hoping that you will be just as interested as you were in our initial conversation. We are looking forward to the possibility of further collaboration on the performance. Cheers! Petra and Tea* Berlin, 14 April 2010 Dear Christine, While reading your last e-mail, we realized that we were now reaching the point where it was becoming difficult to explain things via e-mail. We’ve decided to focus on some basic issues where our motivation for making The Curators’ Piece maybe hasn’t been made sufficiently clear. The Curators’ Piece is a project that we would develop in collaboration with select curators and that will be presented at their festivals or venues in the form of performance. In this performance, the different work methodologies and parameters that define the work of a curator (such as choosing, relating, commu-



nicating, contextualizing, etc.) will be examined and staged. The curators are at the same time performers, co-authors, and producers of the piece. While the respective positions of the artist and the audience have both frequently been discussed in theater and dance performances, the curator has remained on the side and, so far, his/her work has stayed invisible. We’ve chosen our contemporary performing arts curators on the basis of several factors we deemed important for their work. On the one hand, it was the curators’ engagement, their interest in experimental art, and their willingness to take risks. On the other hand, it was the viability, visibility, and persistence of their work in the performing arts milieu. Moreover, the selected curators operate in the world’s most developed economies (Western Europe and North America), which has enabled them, more than others, to create a cutting-edge scene and to influence other scenes worldwide. Let us now briefly touch on the crucial question in your e-mail: “What I really miss is an articulate standpoint, which reflects and defends your motivation from an artistic point of view—Why now? What’s at stake?” In order to answer this, we really have to go deeper. Our motivation is rooted in the very fundamental question: Why do we choose to be engaged in art in this day and age? We cannot close our eyes to the fact that the production of art doesn’t happen in a vacuum, outside of a concrete political and economical situation. It is, at the end of the day, production like any other. Nevertheless, there is a reason why we choose to do art. Unlike most other fields of production, art is able to self-reflect on the very relationships established by the production of art itself. That allows for different inversions and reconfiguration proposals. When we talk about our interest in the political, we are talking about our interest in the phenomenon of labor, its premises, modes, and, most of all: its consequences. The labor that interests us here is above all our own, artistic labor. Or, in the words of Julia Bryan-Wilson: “What work does art do? How does it put pressure on systems of representation and forms of signification? How does it intervene in the public sphere? How does it function economically; how does it structure relations; how does it put ideas into circulation?” It seems that today these questions need to be addressed with even more care, more attention and seriousness than it has been done in the past. Since then, the questions you posed have been circling in our minds a lot: “Can’t an artist on his/her own make those things visible that feel important to him/her? Isn’t there any other way to reverse the power play and act selfempowered?” Could you please elaborate on them a bit more, because we are not sure what you had in mind? In its nature, this project is an action: with us choosing the curators and not the other way around, we subvert the decision-making processes, rules, and structures. A new perspective is being imposed on performing arts, putting its



very production into focus. In The Curators’ Piece we intend to create an artwork, in which at least for a moment the existing order is reconfigured so that another type of relation may emerge. Instead of inventing a new production system, we want to work with the existing one using its own self-empowering mechanisms. Of course, it doesn’t take long to realize that the curator is not the master of the performing arts world, or the production chain. There are bigger structures that affect curators’ choices. Curators are responsible to their sponsors and funders. They are also responsible to their audiences, having in mind the concrete and local, not only the imaginary, ideal spectator. In this project we are, however, dealing only with curators and not other instances, since they are the closest to the artists, and have, at the same time, decision-making power, while looking in the same direction as we are: to the benefit of the arts. As you see, the whole topic is far too complex to discuss through e-mail. Perhaps we’d better talk via Skype? Much love, Tea and Petra Zagreb, 1 January 2011 Dear Frie Leysen, Thank you so much for your interest in our project. We would like to give you here just a brief summary of its history, trying to keep it concise, and, if you find it interesting, we can always continue our conversation. As you may already know, a year and a half ago we started a project called The Curators’ Piece. It is a project in which we select and invite, via e-mail, the curators of festivals and venues in Western Europe and the United States to work with us on a performance. The performance is meant to be performed and co-produced by curators, and presented in their houses or venues. During our research phase, we spent seven days with one curator in his or her place of work: with Sven Åge Birkeland from BiT-teatergarasjen, in Bergen; with Barbara Raes from Buda, in Kortrijk; Veronica Kaup-Hasler from steirischer herbst, in Gotteborg; Lane Czaplinski from On The Boards in Seattle; Stefan Hilterhaus from Pact Zollverein in Essen; and Vallejo Gantner from PS 122 in New York. We used the research period to examine the means of production of the performing arts on the larger scale, as well as to get to know the curator and the specific sociopolitical conditions of their work. Toward the end of the research phase, we decided to invite all the curators who participated, as well as a few others, into a performance: a trial against art, under the accusation that it has not managed to save the world.



Instead of explaining ourselves theoretically, we decided to use artistic tools, fiction, and reality, to communicate about the project. We have done that in the form of e-mailed letters, one of which you are reading right now. These letters follow the course of the project, and are published once, one after the other, in various international performing arts journals. Two of these letters have already been published: the first one to Norwegian curator Sven Birkeland, in the Croatian art magazine Frakcija, and second to German curator Christine Peters in Le journal des Laboratoires d’Aubervilleirs. We are sending you both of those letters, to illustrate the idea. This third letter is an invitation to you. We invite you to take part in our performance conceived as a trial against art. We accuse art of being guilty of not saving the world. What we are aiming at with this is a call for a new responsibility of art. We believe that at this moment certain fundamental questions have to be raised again. In the world as it is now, art has to rethink its role, proving its value and importance. It has to look within itself and say something to address its value to the world. When we say art we mean all of us involved in the performing arts. We invite you to take part in our performance because your work has shaped the scene of the performing arts not only artists-wise, but it also served as model to an entire generation of curators. The social and political idea that you had in creating Kunstenfestivaldesarts is an example of art taking a role in modeling the social landscape in which it has been developed. Of course, not all of the curators that we asked to participate were interested in performing. We conceive the curators’ presence on stage rather as a tool, a means, a gesture. And, of course, as it is a performance, it has a specific production method, rehearsals, which might feel new to you as well. What the process of making a performance enables all of us to do, and why it is so intimate and precious, no matter one’s competency and interest in being a performer, is that it permits each curator to find a personal motivation to stand on stage, a personal cause worth fighting for, for the importance of art. We think it urgent to ask questions about the responsibility of art today, and to find a niche for art to participate in an active way in society. We are not proposing a new aesthetics of political art. What we propose is a shift of emphasis. And we propose it through theater, because of the necessarily public situation within which it operates. This performance is both a gesture and a statement. What is unique about this stage gesture is that it can come from all of us together: you in your curatorial practice, and us in our artistic practice. When all of the creators are standing together on the stage, the power of this gesture will be tremendous. The curators are the ones that are responsible for art today on the larger scale. It is in this sense that the performance is a gesture and a statement of and for the performing arts community today. In the ongoing crisis of arts, with, for example, funding cuts, art has to justify its existence in front of the audience.



When we started this process, it was clear that it depends mostly on one thing: the motivation and conviction of curators standing on stage to talk about the issues proposed: to participate in the trial. This has turned out to be a rather long email. There is so much to say, and the questions that we are raising in the project are so crucial for us that we cannot do other than put all our energy into it. We hope you don’t mind, and hope you will find it important to take part. Thank you once more for your interest, Enjoy holidays and hope to see you in Brussels! Tea Tupajić & Petra Zanki *Attachment to the email: The preparation phase of The Curators’ Piece In order to define the role of the curator in The Curators’ Piece, we first need to introduce ourselves and get to know the specific curator involved in the project. Therefore we propose an initial “zero” phase of work, which is the preliminary, preparatory phase of the project, necessary for entering the production phase later. In the research phase, we will deal with the role of the curator in the production of performing arts and his or her responsibility and influence on what art today can or cannot offer to society. We will be engaged with the constitutive segments of the curator’s work: the moments of selection, decision-making, contextualizing, and communication (e.g., with the artists, collaborators, employees, other curators, politicians, board, etc.). We will gain additional insight into the curator’s job through a series of conversations with his or her collaborators, audience members, artists, and critics. We will follow the schedule of selected activities accompanied by conversations with the curators. These activities and talks will help us focus on some of the more specific topics around which the frame for the performance will be formed (the schedule written below could be filled along the way with additional activities we both find interesting to research). Moreover, during our stay, the curator will get to know us better, he or she will become familiar with our artistic procedures and will have a clearer picture on how we will structure the rehearsal and production phase (e.g., who the curators involved in the performance will be, what the topics will be, the duration and audience set-ups, how the stage will be set up, and which stage activities of the final performance we intend to establish). The date for the first meeting could be any week from January to June 2010h), preferably in May 2010. Other than travel costs, per diems, and accommodation for two artists in Bergen that we kindly ask the curator to cover for us, no other fees will be sought in this preparatory phase.



TEA TUPAJIĆ is a theater director in Sarajevo. She initiates long-lasting projects exploring the potential of art when encountered with complex, controversial political issues. Her projects The Curators’ Piece, La maladie de la mort, Variete Europe, and The Disco were presented worldwide in both performing and visual art contexts. She is guest editor and writer for the Frakcija journal. She publishes and lectures internationally. PETRA ZANKI is an award-winning Croatian-American choreographer and theater-maker based in Seattle, Washington. Her works, such as The Curators’ Piece, Paces, and 365, have been performed across Europe, Canada, the UK, Australia, and the US to critical and audience acclaim. Her writings on dance and theater have been published internationally. Growing up in Croatia during the war, Petra’s main interest remains transformation of pain into landscapes of beauty for the benefit of humanity.


Translated from the original Croatian by Una Bauer and Marina Miladinov. Parts of this text have previously been published in: Malzacher, F., T. Tupajić, and P. Zanki. 2010. “Curating Performing Arts.” Special issue, Frakcija #55: 89–95. Tupajic, T., and P. Zanki. 2010. “The Curators’ Piece.” “Exhausting Immaterial Labour in Performance,” special joint issue. THK Journal for Performing Arts Theory & Le Journal Des Laboratories 17: 51–52. Keil, M., ed. 2017. Reclaiming the Obvious: On the Institution of the Festival. Lublin, Poland: Instytut Teatralny im. Zbigniewa Raszewskiego. Konfrontacje Teatralne Warszawa, 201–6.



Contemporary curatorial practice realizes encounters between viewer(s)/audience(s)/public(s) and artistic production, be it material or ephemeral in nature. This practice requires careful consideration of both the spatial and temporal conditions of encounter. By understanding and shaping these conditions alongside the practice of curatorial writing, curators establish a context, an interpretive lens through which artistic processes and production may be interrogated. Curatorial work acts as a bridge between the products or processes of artistic practice and viewer(s)/audience(s)/public(s) that exist outside of these processes. In the case of contemporary dance and performance curation, sites of engagement (theaters, museums, galleries, site-specific locations and beyond) are embedded with interpretive frameworks, playing a vital role in the development of curatorial methodologies. Curators must be cognizant of the historic and contemporary role(s) of these interpretive frameworks when seeking to open new avenues of interrogation in the field. In my research and curatorial work, as a member of the Nomadic Curatorial Collective, I investigate how experimental approaches to curatorial writing can open up new spaces of inquiry. My work focuses on curatorial and catalog writing for dance and performance, and explores the degree to which these forms of writing can support, rather than determine, the complexities of embodied practice.

VICTORIA MOHR-BLAKENEY is an award-winning curator and writer. She is currently Performance Curator at Public Energy in Peterborough, Canada, and has presented her research in North America, India, and New Zealand.

CH A P T E R 1 2

Curation as a Form of Artistic Practice Context as a New Work through UK-based Forest Fringe DEBORAH PEARSON

CREATIVE CURATION Curation is a creative act—the art of taste-making, gathering, juxtaposition— and its creative aspect is likely the reason many curators work in the field. But my question is: as an artist who is also a curator, can I legitimately classify my curation as a part of my artistic practice, or is it something else? German curator and dramaturge Florian Malzacher describes curators as “among the professions that are rather close to art but not artistic themselves—not directly artistic themselves” (2012: 10). The question of whether or not curation is artistic is perhaps less a question of creativity, and more a question of power and vulnerability. I will be exploring this topic through my own practice, as an artist who is also co-director of Forest Fringe. FOREST FRINGE Forest Fringe is an organization in the UK run by me and two other artists: Ira Brand and Andy Field. Our most high profile and long-standing activity is a performance space during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. Outside of our work at the Edinburgh festival, we tour curatorial projects that feature artists we have worked with and our own work, usually in the form of microfestivals to venues and festivals both nationally and internationally. We have been to Austin, Tokyo, Glasgow, Dublin, Bangkok, and Vancouver, among others.



The year we did not have a space in Edinburgh, in 2012, we responded with a book of DIY Performance Scores called Paper Stages, inviting artists to create performance pieces for the page. An audience member could only get one of these books by donating an hour of their time to a local Edinburgh charity. For several years we gathered audio pieces by artists into a traveling sounds library—a portable library, consisting of books that contained MP3 players— which allowed our artists to tour their work without leaving their homes. Our curatorial projects are as diverse and responsive as the work of an artist, developed similarly to an artist’s response to a commission—we dream around the resources and context on offer. But Andy, Ira, and I also often show our own work as part of Forest Fringe, which feels both problematic and natural, depending on how you look at it. RESPONDING TO EDINBURGH To understand Forest Fringe as an idea, as Foucault says, “We have to be there at the birth of ideas, the bursting outward of their force … struggles carried on around ideas, for or against them” (Foucault quoted in Eribon 1992: 282). In 2006, I lived in Edinburgh, and while I lived there I volunteered at a vegetarian cooperative arts café called the Forest, located centrally in Edinburgh, on Bristo Place. The Forest had an enviable studio space above their café which, until we took up residence, was largely unoccupied during the annual August theater festival save for a few spontaneously organized music gigs and parties. Ryan Van Winkle, chairman of the board for the Forest Café, envisaged a fringe festival venue for the Forest Café, but one that would align with certain principles in order to maintain the larger aims of the Forest Cafée: to put on free artistic events in Edinburgh and to counteract the commercialism of the Fringe. As I was someone who worked in theater and volunteered in the café, Ryan asked me to program the Forest Café fringe venue in its first year. In 2008, Andy Field, a friend and an artist whom I had scheduled during the venue’s first year, offered to be my co-director. He was working as a press officer at Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) in London at the time, and arranged some support from Battersea Arts Centre for 2008 in exchange for an office space throughout August at the Forest Café. As a BAC-supported venue, it became much easier to attract the kinds of artists and audiences that had been more reticent to get involved in the first year. The idealistic nature of what we were doing—running a fringe venue on a moneyless model in the middle of one of the most commercial festivals in the world—chimed with the press. We went on to win several awards in 2009, 2010, and 2011—including a special Scotsman Fringe First for innovating new ways of presenting work at the Edinburgh Festival, and the Peter Brook Empty Space Award. Andy and I still had no office, no salary, and no regular funding



for the organization, but somehow we began to be thought of and described as an “Edinburgh Institution.” RESPONDING TO ELSEWHERE In 2010, our project expanded to microfestivals at well-funded and wellresourced theater buildings throughout the UK: weekend-long events in which we would occupy a different venue’s space and fill it with the kind of activity associated with our Edinburgh venue. This was usually a range of small-scale interactive or intimate pieces, installations, and durational work, combined with several studio shows for a larger audience that could be finished or worksin-progress. The work we present at Forest Fringe is almost universally small scale, and what Forest Fringe was creating in our community was a way for small-scale independent theater to make a bigger impact by working and presenting in groups. We went on to expand the concept of microfestivals to international venues, where artists are able to charge a fee, and where we are able to charge a fee as producers. This became a way to sustain ourselves and our artists professionally. The financial model for Forest Fringe shares more in common with a freelance artist’s practice than with most production organizations in the UK. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is our no budget project. Our offer to artists of a free space to perform, accommodation (which we are able to provide through a grant from the Jerwood Foundation), and exposure at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is a sufficiently valuable offer that we are genuinely overwhelmed by the number of people interested in presenting work with us there. For our microfestivals, artists we work with are paid a fee that is provided by the commissioning venue, and we are paid a curator fee and occasionally an artist fee if we present our own work. Our financial model is as vulnerable and precarious as the financial life of a freelance artist. We are reliant on commissions and project funding rather than a salary. Venues approach us to create a microfestival or other curatorial projects for them because they appreciate some element of our curatorial model as being unique. In this sense our curation is treated, at least financially, as a piece of art. “TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER” Our concept is that of small-scale work gathered together to accomplish largescale exposure. Put more poetically, I could rephrase this as the idea that together we are stronger. But the word “together” in our case is complicated and problematic—which brings me to the complicated nature of power in the work



of an artist-curator or a curator-artist. As artists with our own practices, we show our work as part of a Forest Fringe program. I once made the joke that my relationship to Forest Fringe was like the advertisements on television about the anti-hair loss organization for men in the 1980s: “I’m not just the president, I’m also a member.” As artists who make smaller scale work, and who are not paid a salary for producing, Andy, Ira, and I sustain the Forest Fringe model because we need it as much as the other smaller scale artists we work with. But we are not, strictly speaking, in the same position as these artists. We have worked with around a hundred artists over the last eight years, some of whom we have long-term relationships with that blur into friendships and collaborations. One of our frequent artists was my flatmate for three years. I am also frequently hired as a freelance dramaturge for companies we have produced in the past, including Action Hero, Paper Cinema, and Dan Canham. This is a narrative that is likely familiar to many other curators. But even given these very close and long-term relationships with artists, Andy, Ira and I still choose whom we program at the Edinburgh Festival, and we do not guarantee longterm support to our artists. We often talk about wanting to share ownership of Forest Fringe with our artists, but that list of artists changes, and the process of selecting who makes it into our Edinburgh program creates a power dynamic that separates us as curators from the artists who are not us. We want Forest Fringe to be a home for artists, but I could make an uncomfortable comparison and say that as much as we love to share, Andy, Ira and I own that home. We are hospitable to our temporary flatmates and guests, but at the end of the day the lease is in our name. I recently had the opportunity to view something very like the artist-curator dynamic of Forest Fringe from the side of an artist. I was invited to participate in a project in Bergen, Norway, that was not unlike the work that we do and have done at Forest Fringe. Visual artist Vlatka Horvat was working with Volt: a venueless venue in Bergen run by another artist named Marie Nerland who works without an office. Vlatka created a week-long piece for Volt in an abandoned space in Bergen. She invited four different artists all working in different mediums, including me, to create imaginary tours of an abandoned shop in the center of town. This project shares many common traits with projects we have undertaken for Forest Fringe in the past, and being the curated artist in an artist-curator dynamic was both a familiar and an unfamiliar experience. What I came to appreciate was a different dynamic as a curated artist in this context. Although the piece I created was mine, the project was Vlatka’s, and I became aware of the need to represent her practice, not simply my own. As an artist-curator for Forest Fringe, I had always thought that my position as a fellow artist undid a hierarchical relationship with the other artists, because I was also vulnerable. What I realized through the experience of working on Disclosed Location was that the dynamic was inevitably hierarchical. This said,



being part of a project like this was also overwhelmingly positive and inspiring, particularly because Horvat is an artist rather than simply a curator, and seemed to understand my experience of working on the project more intimately and immediately, But as an artist and curator we were not on the same level nor were we doing the same job. I propose that we were both doing artistic jobs—but within different frameworks. FROM CURATOR TO ARTIST As a final point, the experience of curating Forest Fringe has undoubtedly bled into my aesthetic as an artist. I developed much of my work for unusual Forest Fringe contexts. As a producer I knew that these pieces needed to be easily staged and very flexible with few technical requirements due to the technical limitations of the spaces where we were working. A low-tech but high concept aesthetic has bled into most of the work I have made from then on. As Forest Fringe has never asked audience members to pay for tickets, I also find that money or commercial concerns essentially never enter into my thinking about work. One piece I made for Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto was for six audience members at a time and featured a cast of six professional dancers—one dancer for every audience member. Artists work with what is available to them, and, in my case, it was few technical possibilities coupled with no concern for ticket sales. Had Forest Fringe’s Edinburgh Festival home been located in a wood shop I may have taken up carpentry. I find that a central preoccupation in my work as an artist is also vulnerability. This is a quality I often do, but probably should not, show as co-director of Forest Fringe. And yet of all the things I do, Forest Fringe is perhaps the most precarious, the most vulnerable, and the most idealistic—balanced as it is upon the collective will I share with Andy and Ira to keep it going. CONCLUDING THOUGHTS Forest Fringe is an artist-led organization: in our composition, pay structure, and work-model, we work as artists. And yet in a Forest Fringe project we are not in the same position as the artists whose work we support. We take their feedback seriously, there is no “stronger together” without respecting the fundamentals of a community—but this is a community that, at its core, really consists of its three co-directors and whoever we are working with at the time. What is interesting is not whether or not our curation is art. I have always been wedded to defining words, especially a word like art, loosely and according to context. I am perhaps more interested in the fact that I feel any anxiety around calling



it art. This anxiety is also a result of how much time we spend administrating. Forest Fringe frequently does not feel like art; but then again, when I am trying to rewrite copy for a show or negotiate a contract, neither does my solo practice. The anxiety is also to do with an uneasiness around power and control: around the idea of artists being “employed by” or “chosen by” or “led by” us, and the desire to respect the autonomy of those artists and the pieces they present with us. I have also always disliked the idea that when I present work as an artist at Forest Fringe, my work could be viewed and responded to differently than the work of the other artists, by virtue of my role within our organization. Perhaps this is inevitable, although however idealistic it may sound, I do believe that the experience of watching a performance is itself a great leveler. Once the lights go down (or up, or off, or remain switched on), the art speaks for itself, and my work succeeds or fails by the same rules as the work I curated. But whether I created or curated the work, I am vulnerable—and risk and vulnerability are, to my mind, the fundamentals of any artistic project worth undertaking. DEBORAH PEARSON holds a practice-based PhD from Royal Holloway where she was a Reid Scholar under the supervision of Dan Rebellato. She is also a writer, live artist, and the founder and co-director of Forest Fringe. She frequently tours and collaborates internationally. Her work has been performed in sixteen countries and on four continents. Forest Fringe is a UK-based organization that defines itself as an “artist-led curation collective.” Deborah Pearson was born in Canada. NOT E

This essay was originally written in 2014 and accurately reflects Forest Fringe as it was then. As a fluid and shifting artist-led initiative, Forest Fringe has changed significantly in the ensuing years. The initiative is still run collaboratively by Ira Brand, Andy Field, and Deborah Pearson as an artist-led curation collective, but the collective decided to stop running a venue at the Edinburgh Festival after their tenth festival venue in 2016. Since 2016, their work focuses on a combination of international curation partnerships through microfestivals and international residencies, and their new initiative The Amateur Club, where the group is inviting participants to learn to make a film with them in 2019 through Somerset House Studios in London. If readers are interested in Forest Fringe’s past and current configurations, there is an archive and list of current projects at their website,

R EF ER ENCE Eribon, D. 1992. Michel Foucault, trans. Betsy Wing. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Malzacher, F. 2012. “About a Job with an Unclear Profile, Aim and Future.” Frakcija 55: 10–19.


The Artist-Curators

CH A P T E R 1 3

The Artist-Curator, or the Philosophy of “Do-It-Yourself” JULIE BAWIN


veryone recognizes the role that artists play today in conceiving and producing exhibitions, festivals, and other diverse cultural events. Whether conceived as complete works in themselves or as scenographic projects consisting, for example, in rethinking how to hang a museum collection or organize an evening of short performances, arrange exhibitions and events conceived by artists, these artist-conceived events have become such an integral part of the institutional artistic landscape that we sometimes forget their foundations, dynamics, and practices. When an artist organizes an exhibition or a performance, they are not only a creator acting within and for the institution; they might also be acting independently to create interventions in the public space, sometimes by choice or necessity, sometimes individually or collectively. Certain artists organize exhibitions or festivals in the spirit of community self-organization, inherited from the alternative cultures of the 1970s and 1980s. Others take the position of independent curators who present projects in unofficial spaces or act as directors of artistic events like festivals or off-biennales. Artists have also built structures that are meant to produce and give value to their own work. They might organize, in their own name, a temporary exhibition, event, gathering, or even establish a contemporary art institution. The idea of the artist taking charge of his or her own presentation is not new, whether autonomously or under the auspices of an existing organization. Art history has documented numerous initiatives that are founded on self-exhibition and self-presentation by individuals (such as Courbet’s Pavillon du Réalisme in 1855) or collectives (self-exhibition by Impressionists at Nadar in 1874). This model of autonomy originated in view of liberating creativity for everyone



and denouncing the alienation of creators within the dominant system, and is also found in other creative domains—beginning with nineteenth century literature through the phenomenon of self-publication. A writer like Balzac, for example, established a printing press to publish his own novel. Moving forward into the twentieth century, different kinds of initiatives multiplied, along with artists’ ambitions. Results were quite different. The self-exhibition practices of the first avant-garde—from the futurists of Fluxus to the surrealists—did not have the same configurations as later groups of activists and alternative collectives of the 1960s and 1970s, such as the Judson Church Group and the organizers of the Happenings. It is also interesting to note that alternative culture is composed of a widely divergent set of practices and strategies for action. It is useful, for example, to distinguish the events organized by improvised groups of artists in abandoned buildings from more structured collectives functioning as associations or cooperatives. Are there not in fact important differences between associations that operate within a single space and those of collective movements that present on-going events, festivals, and virtual galleries that operate without an actual physical space? The criteria for this independence can be understood in different senses. In Anglo-Saxon and North American countries, it somehow seems natural that artists take charge of their own work in this way. In Canada, there is the example of the Association of Artist-Run Centres network (AANPAC) that is an integral part of the larger contemporary arts landscape, and in German-speaking countries, artist associations have been part of a self-managing tradition since the end of the nineteenth century.1 The various modes of action of artists’ collectives bear witness to their activist character. Certain collectives generate close collaborations with citizen groups and so engage in shaping a place for exchange and collective creation. This is the case of Group Material, a collective that in 1982 took to the streets in New York City’s Union Square with a poster exhibition to protest the threats of real estate developers. This kind of self-organization is at the service of militant citizenship, and does not have the same aims as artist-run spaces run by collectives who are interested in battling a system that is alienating for artists. The example of artist-run spaces is particularly illuminating. In the wake of the social protests and activism from 1960 to 1970, artist-run spaces represent a movement that brings together a multitude of collectives joined through a spirit of community self-organization and by the values of exchange, cooperation, and solidarity (Detterer and Nannuncci 2012). Although quite different from one another, at their origin those spaces shared a number of common traits, among which is that the artists took charge of their own means of production. Self-management is thought of as a way to deal with artists’ precarious working conditions, as well as their difficulties in finding sponsorship within a network or in presenting their work in a gallery. In the 1980s, a his-



torically strong moment for the expansion of these spaces, they were particularly ambivalent in terms of their support of creative process. Although artist-run spaces were a powerful political force in the promotion of live arts, in the 1980s the artistic community was particularly struck by income inequality and career advancement. As sociologist Raymonde Moulin noted, established artists profited from this new development (1997). By organizing their own events in living spaces (apartments, lofts, workshops) or in abandoned sites (airplane hangars, garages, old factories), they were able to compensate for the lack of support from inside the institutional arts systems. They seized the right to present their work. The principal of do-it-yourself, that has been the basis for most exhibitions and performances in artist-run spaces, is not always a response to a financial situation in times of crisis. Vigorously arising within punk culture of the 1970s, this do-it-yourself credo is an ideology as well, and one that calls for taking a radical stand against the seats of power. Self-exhibiting, self-production, and self-publishing are strategies for producing one’s own support and also a way to create a parallel culture and to shake up, as Hans Ulrich Obrist and Laurence Bossé declared in view of artist-run spaces, “systems of hierarchy, with each artist fulfilling, depending on each case, different roles: curator, editor, publicity agent, etc.” (1997: 11). Even as it rejected the dominant cultural system, alternative culture built bridges with official institutions, and so, beginning in the 1990s, became an indispensable mediator for these influential networks. The figure of the artistcurator, which until that time incarnated an anti-institutional position, progressively changed its image. In place of those artists who practiced selfrepresentation within a group because it was impossible to do otherwise, was substituted the image of artists who were capable of reconciling creation and curatorial practice in both a controlled and autonomous fashion. The principle of do-it-yourself was not in this instance at the service of a collective and cooperative, because that was in conflict with the dominant ideology. But it was constructed as a claim to individual independence at both creative and economic levels. Well-known artists such as Damien Hirst, Maurizio Catelan, Marina Abramovic, Ai Weiwei, and also Bansky embodied this generation of artists who were at once experts, pragmatists, and also anti-establishment. These artists had reached the peak of notoriety and were able to afford the freedom to organize, with complete independence, events in abandoned spaces2 or in places that they themselves founded and managed. In this regard, the case of Marina Abramović is particularly instructive. As the representative of an artistic practice often difficult to present—performance art—she founded structures able to compensate for the inabilities of many institutions to exhibit and archive this artistic genre. In 2003, under the auspices of her Independent Performance Group, she worked with a collective of fifteen performers whom she directed in her role as curator. The objective was to prac-



tice re-enactments of historic performances—her own among those included, along with those of other well-known figures of the genre. This group ceased its activities in 2013. By then, she had another project in development: the founding of an institution dedicated to the defense of performance art. In 2013, the artist founded the Marina Abramović Institute (MAI) in an old theater in Hudson, New York. As well as being recognized as a pioneer of performance art, with work shown in the most reputable museums in the world, Abramović continues to cultivate her independence from the art world’s officially sanctioned culture, keeping in mind the importance for a younger generation to renew ties with the collective spirit of the Futurists, Fluxus, Dada, the Russian constructivists, Bauhaus, and Black Mountain College. If the “alternative” position of “star” artists like Abramović appears to be, on many levels, ambiguous—how can one be effectively inside and outside the institution?—she situates herself in reality beyond the habitual split between official and parallel cultures. When artists organize exhibitions themselves, or when they create their own foundations in view of promoting their work or defending their art, this affirms above all the idea that artists have qualities and competences that authorize them better than anyone else to exhibit creative forms that are rarely or poorly represented in public institutions. In this regard, artists of the minimalist and conceptualist generations played an essential role. By founding their work on the basis of process rather than materiality, visual artists like Daniel Buren, Joseph Kosuth, Michael Asher, Donald Judd and many others, played a role close to that of the exhibition organizer or museum conservator. In 1979, Daniel Judd developed his own foundation within a complex of old military buildings in Marfa, Texas, with the objective of showing institutions how to exhibit his work, as well as others of the minimalist and conceptualist movements. In the case of performance art, for which Abramović is surely a living legend, do-it-yourself takes on yet another resonance because the principle of independence is somewhat inherent to the practice itself. As RoseLee Goldberg has written: “By its very nature, performance defies precise or easy definition beyond the simple declaration that it is live art by artists . . . Indeed, no other artistic form of expression has such a boundless manifesto, since each performer makes his or her own definition in the very process and manner of execution” (Goldberg 2001: 9). By founding her own institution, Abramović sought, as did Judd, to expose institutional deficiencies; but less to demonstrate how to exhibit art that is a priori not possible to exhibit, and rather to preserve the principle of liberty and the community spirit with which it was naturally associated. When thinking about the practices and modes of action that are set into motion by artist curators, the initiatives of visual arts creators come to mind. There is nothing surprising about this because an exhibition—in the artistic domain and in its more general sense—refers to a visual offering of objects presented in



a certain order in a specific space. The materiality of what is shown is the most important aspect, to which one might add that the history of the artist curator is mainly dominated by that of the artist “scenographer,” by which I mean an artist who seeks new and novel solutions to mounting and arranging their own and other’s artworks in the exhibition space. In the field of performance art, the question of curating must be asked in another way, because the artist is positioned in a system of artistic self-representation, making work arising out of their own bodies, and also entangled with individual or collective selfpromotion. In the case of Marina Abramović, who practices performance art as an art of self-representation, she had no choice but to become her own manager and organize her performances according to an organizational system similar to that which functions in the world of theater, dance, and music. In its organization, The Marina Abramović Institute more closely resembles a theater rather than a museum or art center. However, along with the structural alliances that performance art shares with the performing arts, there is a close tie to the visual arts; the exhibition is as centrally important as the representation. The do-it-yourself ethos described is less of a desire to shift power and bring live arts back into the hands of artists, and more an invention of an autonomous field, a sphere of freedom within the phenomenon of the globalization of art and culture. The curating of artists, even if largely institutionalized today, is far from a homogenous and uniform field, and so the interest here in analyzing its multiple aspects. JULIE BAWIN completed her PhD in art history in 2004 (Paris I Sorbonne and the University of Liège). Her research is focused on the world of collections and collectors, relations between artists and institutions, the contemporary art market, and artists’ exhibitions. She published a monography based on her research L’Artist Commissaire in 2014. She was a Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique postdoctoral researcher between 2005 and 2009. Since 2010, she has been assistant professor at the University of Liège teaching a course in twentieth century art history and the methodologies applied to art history and archaeology. She also teaches nineteenth and twentieth century art at the University of Namur.

NOT E S Translated from the original French by Dena Davida. 1. André Ducret (1994) has written about the role that artists played very early on in Switzerland in developing public patronage. 2. This refers notably to the Freeze exhibition organized by Damien Hirst in 1988 in the abandoned warehouses in the Dockland area of London; the Fuck Off exhibition organized by



Ai Weiwei in 2000 in the fringes of the Biennale of Shangai; the festival of independent art No Soul for Sale organized in in 2009 by Maurizio Catellan and Massimiliano Gioni in the X space Initiative in New York; and also the recent exhibition Dismaland, coordinated by Banksy in the area surrounding an old open air swimming pool in Weston-super-Mare, a whale station near Bristol.

R EF E R E NC E S Bawin, Julie. 2014. L’artiste commissaire: Entre posture critique, jeu créatif et valeur ajoutée. Paris: Éditions des archives contemporaines. Detterer, G., and Nannucci, M., eds. 2012. Artist-Run Spaces: Nonprofit Collective Organizations in the 1960s and 1970s. Zurich: JRP/Ringer; Dijon: Les Presses du Réel; and Florence: Zona Archives. Ducret, A. 1994. L’art dans l’espace public: Une analyse sociologique. Zurich: Seismo. Goldberg, R. 2001. La Performance, du futurisme à nos jours. Paris: Thames & Hudson. Moulin, R. 1997. L’artiste, l’institution et le marché. Paris: Flammarion. Obrist, H., and L. Bossé. 1997. “ARS (Artist-run Spaces).” In Life/Live, 10–13. Paris: Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris.


“Soft-Curation,” Pollination, and Rhizomes YVES SHERIFF

Pollination. Although this term seems already well-used in art, it was very relevant in 2011 when I started a research and exchange platform with choreographers. Understood in botanical terms as different ways to transfer genetic information, pollination in a curatorial context refers to establishing a good environment in which creators exchange knowledge. All participants must engage in high quality conversations that are circulatory, nonbinary, multireferential, stretched in time, and critical in a formal and abstract way that includes the language of both dance practice and academia. Rhizome. This term, also in fashion now, refers to how, as a curator who takes care of one project to the next, the ensemble of projects I work on looks like an organic structure. I follow Deleuze and Guattari’s observation of the rhizome as having “multiple, non-hierarchical entry and exit points in data representations” (1987), an image that applies well to dance. Because of its particular exponential evolution of forms, the rhizome allows an expansion of propositions, connected one to the next with shared references but with possibly different and independent representations. This idea removes practice from an empirical and hierarchical history of dance, and situates it within a horizontal, self-perpetuating network. “Soft-Curating.” My practice of soft-curation, a term I invented, involves an ongoing dialogue between the choreographers and me. We discuss how resources will be shared; the quality of the questions that shape artistic content; how to situate the work in its social, political, and economic context; and how to seek consen-



sus regarding its relevance in all forms, and its contemporary resonance with the public. As a soft-curator, I am implicated in the experimentation of dance forms that questions the usual linear trajectory of production-making.

YVES SHERIFF is an independent curator who studied in visual and performing arts in Montréal. After fifteen years of working in well-known art institutions, wishing to rethink the process of making and the role of the curator, he initiated LES PROJETS DU 3e / THE 3rd FLOOR PROJECTS at Usine C in Montréal in 2012.

REFERENCE Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

CH A P T E R 1 4

Being in the Vanguard of Sensibility Artists as Curators in Performing Arts— a Study of Collective Affect KASIA TÓRZ

Figure 14.1. Never Sleep, neon sign by Tim Etchells, 2015. Source: Malta Festival, Poznań Archive. (Photo by Maciej Zaknewski, © 2015.)




ever Sleep. A neon sign bearing this two-word caption glowed over the entrance to Poznań’s Old Slaughterhouse for the three weeks of the Malta Festival in June 2015. Built in the late nineteenth century, the complex of massive red brick buildings once housed a factory but was shuttered in the mid 1990s. Now abandoned, it occasionally serves as a venue for different artistic events, yet it still carries the weight of its former purpose, leaving no passerby completely indifferent. I would like to propose this neon sign—made by Tim Etchells, the founding member of Forced Entertainment, one of the most renowned theater companies in Europe—as an exemplum, a message whose ambiguity lies not only in its metaphoric content (“Never Sleep” as a diagnosis of the condition of life in a post-capitalist, 24/7 hyperactive society), but which also carries a warning (a call to stay awake and be critical toward the world). It is here that the form, in which the caption has been incorporated, is hypervisible in terms of the manifestation of its meaning. Behind the message stand different possible agencies. Its authorship indicates that the neon sign is a work of art. However, because of its format and the way in which it was displayed, it can also be recognized as an unusual advertisement, not to mention the fact that it was commissioned by the festival, a structure involved in the production and facilitation of cultural life in the city. I bring forward all of these contexts in order to capture the specific situation in which the manifestations of curatorial attitudes are applied in the frame of a multi-element event: a festival. In this chapter, I will focus particularly on specific situations in which the person who proposes his/her point of view and individual narrative (the program) is an artist. Such is the case of the work I described above, the neon sign Never Sleep, one of the projects proposed by Tim Etchells who was the artistic curator of one strand of the program of the Malta Festival Poznań in June 2015, in the form of an artistic work presented within the thematic section (Idiom) “New World Order.” If someone were to ask about distinctive features of a festival, possible answers might come to mind such as: celebration, community, and surprise. One might add that the festival is a feast of the arts and an affirmative process of bringing them to an audience. However hard it is to deny such answers, I argue that they cover only a part of the festival experience and need to be expanded. And so, I would like to offer a vehicle for such investigations and share an experience involving the programming of the Idioms. What are the Idioms? They are the name we use for a way of programming at the Malta Festival, a way that triggered the decision to transform our thinking about the festival and to make it gravitate more toward the outside, contemporary world, and less toward an inward-looking celebration of the festival itself. The Idioms were born in 2009 within the structure of the Malta Festival Poznań, which at the time was a festival of performing arts with a tradition that went back nearly twenty years. In 1991, at the beginning, its program was in line with the social and political



changes occurring in Poland after the fall of communism in 1989 and the coming of a new era of freedom. Malta developed out of this dynamic, energetic process, sharing a sense of change, the reconstruction of social relationships, democracy, and an opening up to the world. It has since become one of the most important cultural events of the summer in Poland and a festival of street theater that has gained recognition throughout Europe. Although the growth was visible through the increasing number of performances and spectators, after a few years Malta began to experience an identity crisis. This breakdown of the festival’s sense of identity and the possible scenarios for its future also constituted a turning point that triggered the necessity to reformulate the philosophy and programming principles of the festival, and also to revise the way in which it was defined in relation to artists and audience. As a result of this internal reflection, a clear change in the programming was implemented in 2009 and was made manifest for the first time in 2010. The Idioms were an attempt to capture the dynamic changes under way in the world and in the performing arts. They grew out of the conviction that a festival is an extraordinary event in the life of a city and its residents and so should offer them a glimpse of not only the spectacular, but also the significant. In this respect, the basic inspiration for the turn to an Idiom-based approach was our perception of the outside world which is experienced on a daily basis through an abundance of images, information, and ideas that are often overloaded with meaningless, poor quality content that frequently pretends to be art, but which, in fact, very often serves only to entertain, offering superficial access to meaning. The reality around us is based on a feeling of instability and threat that is constructed out of superficial affects. From this perspective, the Idioms sought to redefine what is common by creating an engaging space and removing the alienating chasm between what is public and private, entertainment and elitism. The main themes expressed in the Idioms determine the narrative of every edition of the festival and are dedicated to different cultures or socio-cultural phenomena. Every year, a specific topic is analyzed, and a curator is invited to create a multidisciplinary territory where contemplation, critical thinking, wonder, and indignation are allowed. The key goal is to identify topics that carry a similar intensive energy, a potential for transgression, revolt and change, reaching out to a broader audience through events and challenging artistic encounters. So far, programmers and artists have dealt with themes such as: Flanders (2010), Excluded (2011), Asian Investments (2012), Oh Man, Oh Machine (2013), Latin America: Mestizos (2014), New World Order (2015), The Paradox of the Spectator (2016), and The Balkans Platform (2017). The strategy for proposing topics, which would be elaborated by a curator, involves searching for possible new ways of defining a contemporary shape for a theater that is suspended between three words: actor–audience–society. This issue is very important, especially in the context of the festival, which, on the



one hand should take responsibility for the audience—by inviting it to engage in a profound dialogue by offering it much more than just a high-quality program or ambitious entertainment—and on the other, should introduce new theatrical languages (here: the Idioms) and uncover new areas of experimentation. The basic assumption is that theater, from its very origins, has provided a space for conflict, agon, which enables a confrontation with the unknown, and serves as a laboratory for risky encounters. But, above all, theater is reliant on people and cannot perpetuate itself without them: both the actors and the spectators. It is about incorporating within the entire structure of the festival the idea of being involved in the contemporary world and employing strategies, modes of communication, and presentations that allow the audience to engage with the thematic idea and take part in discussion. Thus, the discussion evoked by participation—whether as an artist, spectator, or curator—might be seen as the real aim of the program, by agreeing or disagreeing with what we see, program, or produce. When talking about this kind of perspective, the curatorial practice resembles a bridge, or—as Frie Leysen called it—a “hyphen”: “The little sign between words. The little sign that brings the artists and an interested and demanding audience together. A small but essential sign for, without it, artists and audience wouldn’t find each other” (2015). This is another useful term to describe this mutual relationship between two realms: one belonging to practice, the other to the ideas. In 1982, Andrzej Wirth, a theater personality of Polish descent, created an exceptional space within the structure of the Justus Liebig University in Giessen, which he called Angewandte Theaterwissenschaft / The Institute for Applied Theatre Studies. Wirth aimed to gather under one umbrella a number of important perspectives on the making, understanding, and analysis of theater (drama, media, and staging practices). In 1998, Wirth confessed, “I was dreaming about a praxeologic approach in theatrology” (2002: 42), referring to the concept of “praxeology” that was raised in the 1950s by the Polish analytical philosopher Tadeusz Kotarbiński. He believed that all human activities should be regarded as having a purpose, with clearly defined goals based on practical experience. For over thirty years, this Institute has educated and shaped many artists, including She She Pop, Réne Pollesh, Rimini Protokoll, and Gob Squad. Over the years the school flourished under the programming direction of Heiner Goebbels, and today remains one of most renowned and influential centers in Germany for the study of the performing arts. Thanks to its tradition of merging theory and practice, it is now hard to imagine a festival that could initiate a dialogue about contemporaneity without reflecting on parallels or commonalities between science and art. The experience of the Idioms is heavily inspired by the context of applying ideas in practice. However, they serve as the backbone of a certain kind of philosophy for the festival, which—by introducing new artistic languages



(idioms) and aesthetics—offers access to a zone of risk, of challenging confrontations. The Idioms do not eschew interaction with daily, practical, and sometimes even ordinary experience, and they put ideas to the test by employing the sensibilities of the audience. Within this practice, the programming strategy of Malta can be seen as a mixture of both internal and external discourses. But what are the conditions for evoking these discourses? To what degree does a festival have the capacity to be recognized in a world where so many images and events are competing for our attention, as brief as it may be, and where our sense of time—how we spend, consume, and use it—has changed so radically? I argue that under such conditions we can no longer speak about an ideal mode of communication—one that occurs in a community that has the time and will to share thoughts and experience with a long-term perspective. The festival experience is more about switching into a different mode, tuning in to the unexpected, allowing the work of art (or the artists themselves) to introduce, if even for a moment, a sudden, fragile, and uncertain state of communication. From this perspective, the festival can offer the frames, environment, and tools for grasping such an outlook. By using the example of the neon Never Sleep sign, I want to underline a tricky situation that occurs in programming and whatever else we do as part of a festival, repertory theater, or any other artistic endeavor. Suspended between our own desires and imagination, between the marketing machine and a matrix of others’ expectations, we are sometimes inclined to make simplifications and think in opposites: mainstream versus experimental, pop versus high-culture, established versus unknown, festivalgoer versus amateur. Perhaps the only viable strategy with which to resist and avoid being reduced to these kinds of categories is to put our trust in personal intuition, instead of hiding it under the “objective” narrative, one that is never true. So how do we define a convincing programming strategy and explain why we do what we do? In a conversation with Enrique Walker, Hans Ulrich Obrist speaks about the meaning of silence and its ambivalence. Pointing out the problematic distinction between a conversation and an exchange that leads to the ultimate point of helplessness in communication, he claims, “there are things we cannot transcribe” (2011: 16). I think that this statement—whether we agree or disagree—might serve as a useful metaphor of applied curatorial practice today. Both “silence” as a lack of words and “void” as a ravaged “speechless” space are territories of a critical curatorial practice that make an attempt to reflect upon matters that lie in the margins of themes. The Idioms are programmed with a certain intent: to depict the “unspoken” and “unseen” not by illustrating it in a tautological manner, but rather by providing access to these zones and evoking an affective dialogue within the audiences. A festival has a paradoxical identity: it is idiosyncratic, individualistic, and somehow exists beyond time and space, but it also serves as a very fragile sensor



for the current Zeitgeist. The notion of time is also visible as a basic word used to describe a festival. It is always “an event.” The festival lives out its own life so that it has a continuity (or not) and consequences (or not). It might leave a trace in one’s mind and feed one’s soul. Or not. From this double angle, the role of curator is more affective, unspoken and unintelligible than measurable. To this Leysen would add: “Art should not please. On the contrary. Art has to show where it hurts in our societies, in our world. We urgently need the courage back to pick up this role of disturbers again” (2015). An experienced curator, Leysen has been artistic director of many important festivals. She argues that we should not underestimate the role of audiences and take their needs and expectations for granted, but rather have respect for their freedom of choice and the risk they take by going to the theater. Maybe the only solution in such a situation is a curatorial approach in which affect can establish an uncanny state that lies between power and powerlessness, between involvement as a participant and detachment as an observer; the practices in which artist-curators let the anarchistic aspect of affect speak, where they undermine hierarchies and explode fossilized structures. From this perspective, affect, instead of being an uncontrolled wave of emotions, could be considered a tool in the hands of these who are “in the vanguard of sensibility” (as Susan Sontag called her own position), a tool for disarming the paralyzing silence. KASIA TÓRZ is a performing arts curator, researcher, and editor. She graduated in Philosophy at the Warsaw University and in Cultural Diplomacy at the Collegium Civitas in Warsaw. Having completed a PhD at The Institute of Art of the Polish Academy of Sciences, she is now working on a book about Gisèle Vienne’s theater. Since 2008 she has programmed a thematic section of the Malta Festival Poznań called Idioms.

R EF E R E NC E S Leysen, F. 2015. Embracing the Elusive: Or, the Necessity of the Superfluous. Closing keynote speech, Australian Theatre Forum 2015, 20–23 January. Retrieved 6 June 2015 from http:// Obrist, H. U. 2011. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Curating* But Were Afraid to Ask. Berlin: Sternberg Press. Wirth, A. 2002. Teatr jaki mógłby być. Kraków: Wydawnictwo Akademickie.

CH A P T E R 1 5

Familias Artist-Activist Curation in the South Bronx, New York JANE GABRIELS

WHY FAMILIAS NOW? Familias (1995) is an example of “inreach” curating, an artist-activist inclusionary approach to curating/producing work. Created by Merián Soto and Pepón Osorio along with their dance company in the South Bronx, Familias is a full evening-length dance theater work produced and performed with members from local, Latino families. This project was realized through a coming-together of curatorial and artistic visions that sparked community-building in the borough through its creative process. As a “participatory art project” in the mid1990s, Familias was an early predecessor to current practices and theories (e.g., the works of Claire Bishop, Nato Thompson, Shannon Jackson, among others). Soto and Osorio’s “inreach,” created in 1994–1995, was well before the current legitimization of this work in community engagement and practice. Within the Bronx, Familias was also a new development. Previous experimental public art and community works—like Fashion Moda, Tim Rollins’s collaboration with K.O.S./Kids of Survival, sculptor John Ahearn who created work with Bronx native Robert Torres and neighborhood residents—had been rooted primarily in the visual arts.1 In terms of public performance works in the South Bronx, there was the unstoppable force of hip-hop, as well as other community sources like the musicians and dancers of Casita Rincón Criollo (Downhome Corner) also known as La Casita de Chema (internationally recognized as a “school and performance” space in a community casita; founded in the late 1970s), and Los Pleneros de la 21 (first founded in the Bronx in 1983, emerging from Rincón Criollo), which sought to re-enliven and promote the traditional Puerto Rican folkloric forms of bomba y plena. Other choreographers



in the borough created work primarily with their dance companies: Chuck Davies (1967; later founded DanceAfrica), Joan Miller (1970; Joan Miller’s Dance Players established in residence at Lehman College), and Jawolle Willa Jo Zollar (1981; founder of Urban Bush Women). In the mid-1990s, several community-based organizations were founded.2 There was an arts-based community development happening, and artists were leaders in re-empowering and rebuilding the Bronx. Soto and Osorio were accompanying the borough in its transformational efforts into more empowered narratives. This history is important as the Bronx is still “catching up” with its own documentation of artistic works and its history as a creative incubator of new works. Part of my work as a curator and producer in the South Bronx, primarily as director of the nonprofit arts organization Pepatián3 for nearly twenty years, is to support documentation and add to its performance archives. To further help “shore up” the Bronx performance scene, I completed a doctorate, writing about artists making work in the borough and local nonprofit organizations. In writing about Familias, I was interested in considering the effects of this work in the South Bronx and in positioning the borough as a further site for creative and scholarly research. I was also interested in what this mid-1990s project might reveal about creative and curatorial works that could be useful to other communities. WHY FAMILIAS NOW? In the Bronx, there is an urgent need to consider the impact of this project. When Familias was created in the mid-1990s, the Bronx had begun to recover from its previous two decades of neglect.4 Today, new large-scale developments are planned and moving forward in the South Bronx, and while the borough is still in a process of revitalization, gentrification pressures have arrived. It is vital that the borough continue to strengthen and empower its own histories, stories, artists, nonprofit organizations and venues, as well as audiences, residents, and other grassroots works. To feel the impact of this performance in an often-marginalized place like the South Bronx, and to bring us into the work, here is a description of the introductory section of Familias titled “Border crossing.” Familias opens with five dance company members holding hands and traveling across the stage with a strong punctuation to their movements. There is a light in the darkness that they move toward as much as they seem wary of it, looking to each other, looking out into the darkness, and again to the light. There is effort as they pull and push against and with each other—moving and then pausing, and moving again—with the empty stage also seeming to push and pull them along.



One dancer (James Adlesic) pulls the others in one and then another direction, propelling the group to follow until another dancer (Niles Ford) interrupts. The line breaks, they come back, huddled with their arms around each other’s shoulders, and waists. They breathe together before breaking apart again. Adlesic leads, while Ford anchors the moving line to slow down their trajectory. Again, the dancers break apart, spin in circles, release and come back together again, arms slung around each other, staring out. There is a feeling of ongoing elasticity as the dancers respond together, seeming at times out of control, or still in control but pushed beyond what is controllable, then moved into another place that whips them out and back into a pattern of being blown to find their feet again. There are stumbles, and still they hold on together. A hand slips out of an embrace and is pulled back into another. The space cannot conquer their desire to be together. Here are abstract questions and subtleties: What is a push if there is no pull? What is an elasticity of moving if there are no points in tension? What is leaving if you cannot go? There is a pull toward the next pocket of open space at full tilt with a grasp of hands to hold and this is the same line of hands that can also push back against the group in the continuous running. What is an individual here? There are individual movements, but there is not a separation. A family of differences, holding a line intact. Immediately after this opening scene, lights surface on two local participants (non-professional performers) sitting separately on couches pressed together. We see the man talking on a phone. The woman is pregnant and is getting up off the couch. He quickly hangs up the phone to guide her to the door. As they move slowly off the stage, the lights dim. As a gesture of inclusion, this vignette with local residents underlined how family participants and local environment helped anchor the project. In conversation, Soto explained to me that the opening scene with the dancers was created to show the plight and experiences of many immigrant families. Kathy Westwater suggested that if this piece were to be remounted, it would continue to have a strong impact today with immigrant families in the United States (Kathy Westwater, pers. comm., 11 August 2014). This is even more true today. COLLABORATIONS: HISTORIES, FAMILIES, ARTISTS, VISIONS Collaborators in this dance theater project include artists, activists, producers/ curators, Bronx and Latino family members, as well as local, creative influences and memories. Familias was initiated in 1994–1995 by producer Wally Edgecombe,5 the Director of the Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture housed at Hostos Community College (Bronx, NY). Edgecombe envisioned a significant performance project that would help celebrate the opening of new theater facil-



ities, the Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture, which opened in 1994 with a museum-grade art gallery, a 367-seat repertory theater, and an 884-seat main theater. He contacted artists Merián Soto and Pepón Osorio with whom he already had a working relationship.6 Soto and Osorio, originally from Puerto Rico, described the South Bronx as their “adopted community” (Soto 1999: 1). At the time, Soto and Osorio were raising their two sons and considering ways to connect and collaborate with other parents raising families in the neighborhood (Soto 1999: 1). Based at Hostos Community College, a historically significant location for Familias, Edgecombe envisioned celebrating the new theater by connecting it to the popular Bronx-based Teatro Puerto Rico. As a historical site of resistance since its founding in 1968, Hostos remains one of the few bilingual colleges in New York City,7 and has important historical ties in the Bronx. Between 1973– 1978, students, staff, faculty, and community members fought to prevent the Board of Higher Education from closing down the college. As chronicled by Hostos Professor Emeritus Gerald Meyer, this five-year struggle was one of the most prolonged and successful mass movements in New York City and, for large portions of the Latino community, the college was a real achievement in the fight against discrimination and for the right to bilingual education (Meyer 2003: 73). Hostos Community College speaks to the perseverance of Latino culture, specifically from the Spanish Caribbean, in New York City. Located in the Mott Haven section of the South Bronx, Teatro Puerto Rico in the 1940s and 1950s was to the Latino community what the Apollo Theater was to the African American community in the Harlem section of Manhattan (Verhovek 1987). Teatro Puerto Rico offered family-accessible, Spanishlanguage variety shows that featured jibaro/country music, comedians, Mexican movies, and popular music stars, icons like Bobby Capó, Tito Rodríguez, La Lupe, and Tito Puente, among others. During its “Golden Era” (1947–1956), Teatro Puerto Rico was “the place to go” where performers and families connected to share, enjoy, and reaffirm a shared love for the beats of the clave, to hear the music move through the room, to sweat together when moved to dance, to laugh with the big personalities on stage, to be there when the musicians let loose, to get lost in the rhythms. The venue was a meeting place that brought people together, collapsing the separation between performers and spectators until the show was in the audience as much as it was on stage. Teatro Puerto Rico was also part of hinting toward that connection with an island, with a culture, that was for many in New York City a temporary site for occasional visits and/or nostalgia for a culture in Puerto Rico that they were not immediately part of, but which was all around them in their South Bronx neighborhood. Among Soto, Osorio, and Edgecombe, none had lived in the Bronx in the 1940s or 1950s. The stories they heard, however, led them to explore this iconic, neighborhood legacy. Like Teatro Puerto Rico, Familias was like a long-



held whisper from this sense of public community fifty years ago when the South Bronx was home to neighborhoods of working class families who went out to enjoy live music, dance, and culture influenced by the Caribbean. The work connected to this previous time when Bronx neighborhoods and its public venues were intact; it leapt over the destruction caused in the 1960s and 1970s—the result of city agencies “planned shrinkage” to withdraw basic services like police, fire, health sanitation, and transportation which led, among other things, to a spike in fires that tore through the borough8—and took its inspiration from memories of a time when the borough’s organic growth was more possible. Familias worked with what was already there, and what had been there and was still present in memory and story; it underscored how these sites of culture were a fundamental part of the borough, and not forgotten. In its link to local narratives, this dance theater work inspired a community attuned toward cultural participation and collaboration. STRENGTHENING COMMUNITY THOUGH FAMILIAS To create Familias, Soto and Osorio involved members of eight diverse local, Latino families (Arroyo, Ayres-Toro, Balbuena, de León, García, Gómez, Grullón, and Rodríguez) from South Bronx neighborhoods. These residents, mostly from the Puerto Rican diaspora (including Nuyoricans—those with parents from the island but who grew up in New York City) as well as families from Chile and Mexico, collaborated with the lead artists along with their five-member dance company (James Adlesic, Patricia Dávila, Niles Ford, Merceditas Mañago, and Kathy Westwater) and other artistic collaborators (film/ video artist Irene Sosa and composer Carl Royce) for over fifteen months. To recruit family members to commit to the project, the artists connected with Nieves Ayres, co-founder and co-director of Vamos a la peña / “Let’s go to the rock,” a vital community space located close to Hostos Community College. Ayres was the “key person in the neighborhood who would endorse and anchor the project in the community” (Soto 1999: 2). According to Soto, the organization helped spread the word among their constituents, and provided needed community space for gatherings where artists and local family participants discussed the project, informally performed sections of Familias, and shared food together (Merián Soto. pers. comm., 15 August 2014). Soto and Osorio also paid stipends (approximate sum total of $10,000) to local participants, and one family member worked with Pepón Osorio as his assistant and another was paid to cook and feed everyone at group rehearsals. Additionally, Familias offered youth and children, who often had limited access to arts education in public schools, opportunities to be part of creating a contemporary, multidisciplinary performing arts project in their neighborhood.



Over this year-long residency period, dancers and other collaborators were “assigned” a family with whom they worked and developed close relationships. To support the collaborating artists in this intensive research, Soto and Osorio contacted Afro-Puerto Rican poet, shaman, and theater activist Maria Mar to offer dancers and collaborating artists workshops to help facilitate their group processes. Soto and Osorio then worked with the dancers and knowledge gleaned from their embodied experiences with local families to cultivate material. The dancers and lead artists further connected with the Bronx public through free workshops offered at Hostos: “Mothers and Teenage Daughters: Supporting Ourselves and Each Other,” and “Father and Son Workshop.” In these workshops, the dancers attuned their embodied listening and movement practices with local participants. These workshops and other open rehearsals provided additional meeting points with local residents. Production elements—video, original music played live—were further interwoven dramaturgically into the “inclusive” curatorial vision. Other Latino artists were folded into the performance at Hostos, among them: dancers Noemi Segarra Ramírez, Alejandra Martorell, and Bronx-based poet Sandra María Esteves. In response to the work’s intensive, local involvement, Familias’ sixnight run of performances was sold out (tickets: $10 to $15 with discounts available) in the 800+ seat main theater. Familias was made from a series of transversal moves that co-choreographed and co-composed a Latino/a community through the work. The project revealed and created a window into the South Bronx, and specifically Latino familial experiences in the borough. The families who participated in the project represented a range of experiences (as many in the Bronx are not nuclear families) with families headed by gay men, grandparents, and/or single mothers and fathers. By including different Latino (Chilean, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Nuyorican) residents, Familias also helped break the isolation and segregation within the Latino community. Involvement of local families along with multiple points of public access stirred up and supported feelings of community, of belonging. Familias was part of reclaiming and celebrating the Bronx as home. INREACH AS ARTIST-ACTIVIST CURATORIAL STRATEGY Instead of naming their desire to connect with Bronx-based and Latino residents as “outreach,” which refers to reaching out to new communities usually as an “other,” Soto and Osorio described their work as “inreach” into the borough of which they were also a part. Conceived by the artists as a conceptual approach, this term was also based on the need, as the artists described, for inclusion of often-marginalized Latino artists and their communities in the



contemporary arts (Soto 1994). “Inreach” implies that the reach is not an action that requires great mobilization; one does not have to reach far to connect with others. Familias used “inreach” as a guerrilla tactic, and in doing so, also revealed how artists are free to use existing terms and/or remake, reinvent, reconfigure these definitions to foreground how they create. Familias was also about creating a new family from those committed to the project. To make a family from families suggests a large and generous sense of family. Family becomes something to embrace, to grow, to include, to pluralize, and then to make singular. Familias became a familia. With an extensive creative period and multiple access points that allowed more to enter the work—via workshops, open rehearsals, in addition to the final performances—artists and residents opened up possibilities to make the borough itself part of their (distant) family. This approach focuses on generating collectivity through the work.

Figure 15.1. Photo for Pepatián’s FAMILIAS, created by Merián Soto and Pepón Osorio with dance company members James Adlesic, Patricia Dávila, Niles Ford, Merceditas Mañago, and Kathy Westwater, with participation of eight local families (Arroyo, Ayres-Toro, Balbuena, de León, García, Gómez, Grullón, and Rodríguez), presented at Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture (Eugenio María de Hostos Community College, Bronx, NY). (Photo by Tom Brazil, © 1995.)



As a pioneering project in art and community practices, Familias helped claim possibilities that were more than the existing, often-negative narratives of the borough. As local family member, Tonito Arroyo stated in the film The Making of a Family (1996): “It seems like they want to knock us down, us Latino people in the Bronx. There are lots of beautiful people who have struggled and really made it . . . and we don’t get credit for it.”9 Familias indicated another possible Bronx. It was a creative effort with layers of community support that worked, as Edgecombe stated in a conversation with me, “to bring the Bronx back”; not through a nostalgic sense of the past, but in recognizing and empowering what was present in the borough to continue supporting its own organic growth. This work activated an often-repeated motto I have heard from Bronxites. “We know how to make something from nothing.” This drive points to a creative impulse toward a “something”—that there is always a something, and never only nothing. It speaks to an existing sense of openness to a situation’s own futurity, and creates a sense of expanded potential and degrees of freedom even in challenges of daily survival. FAMILIAS LEGACY As one of the poorest congressional districts in the United States composed predominantly of communities of color, the Bronx, like many other similar marginalized sites around the world, is in an ongoing process of revitalization while meeting intense pressures of hyper-gentrification. As one community leader stated, “We don’t need to build consumerism; we need to build economic sustainability in our community.”10 Artists continue to play a role in sustaining communities. Ana “Rokafella” Garcia, pioneering b-girl and co-founder of Full Circle Souljahs hip-hop dance company, told me recently, “It is very important for me to show my work in the Bronx. People get lost here in drama or health issues, so it is important to show that someone is still surviving and creating their destiny through art here” (Ana “Rokafella” Garcia, pers. comm., 24 October 2012). Creating stronger local bonds is vital to withstand external pressures, which often act as dominant forces that decide when and where art exists. As a groundbreaking work, I argue that Familias offers recent artistic initiatives and organizations relocated to the borough,11 whether they realize it or not, foundational support. Similar to how Teatro Puerto Rico supported the artists in the mid 1990s, Familias is quietly sounding in the background. The success of Merián Soto and Pepón Osorio’s Familias, its influences and impact, as well as the longevity of Pepatián is part of what makes current work possible in the South Bronx. Having this legacy publicly and firmly part of the Bronx can be a resource that offers further support and empowerment to other artists, to art, and to community initiatives.



Familias was an artistic and curatorial breakthrough for art and community projects in the South Bronx. As part of local artistic-activist-curation legacies, Familias and inclusionary concepts like “inreach” help spark possibilities of growth by working with existing narratives and materials to create new limits, and valuable possibilities for other visions of utopias. Writing about Familias is an effort to “catch up” with documentation and contribute to the artistic and curatorial archive, and this work also keeps its knowledge public and traveling in the world for more conversations. JANE GABRIELS, PhD, is a performer, writer, and curator/producer. Her dissertation (Concordia University, Montréal) focused on artists, creative processes, curation, and nonprofits in the Bronx, New York, her professional and artistic home for twenty years with Pepatián. She co-organized symposiums on performance curation at the Université du Québec à Montréal (2014), Duke University (2015), and Concordia University with the University of Toronto (2017). In 2012, she graduated from the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance. Co-founder of the International Community of Performing Arts Curators (2012), she co-taught Canada’s first master’s level seminar in live arts curation at UQAM. Currently, she is Executive Director at Made in BC-Dance on Tour (Vancouver), a co-Director of Pepatián, and a visiting scholar at the Institute for Performance Studies, Simon Fraser University (2018–19).

NOT E S I would like to thank Merián Soto, Wally Edgecombe, Kathy Westwater, James Adlesic, Erin Manning, Thomas F. DeFrantz, Caridad De La Luz, Arthur Aviles, Maya Charney, Bertie Ferdman (thank you!), Rokafella, Arnaldo J. López, Dena Davida, and the symposium gatherings focused on Performance Curation and Communities of Color at Duke University (http://sites 1. Stefan Eins established Fashion Moda (1978–1993; most active 1978–1985) in a storefront on Third Avenue near 147th Street. Eins worked local government offices to get artists public spaces to mount installations in schools, parks, streets, and in the many abandoned apartment buildings. Another visual artist, Tim Rollins, launched the “Art and Knowledge Workshop” and collaborated with forty “at-risk” junior high school students to create original murals (K.O.S./Kids of Survival). Their collaborative work became so successful— with offers from colleges across the country, town halls in Europe, important collectors, and media—that the group eventually disbanded from the pressure (Berman 1999: 78). In the 1980s and 1990s, sculptor John Ahearn lived and worked in the Bronx. With Bronxite Robert Torres, he created casts of local residents, painting and installing the sculptures as outdoor friezes on building walls. 2. Nonprofits include: Nos Quedamos/We Stay (1992), The Point Community Development Corporation (1993/94), Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice (1994), For a Better Bronx (1995), and in 1995, Pregones Theater moved from Mott Haven to a new theater at 700






7. 8.

9. 10.



Grand Concourse. Just after Familias, choreographer Arthur Aviles returned to the Bronx in 1996 at the invitation of The Point to teach dance classes and create new performance works. Pepatián is a South Bronx-based organization dedicated to creating, producing, and supporting contemporary multidisciplinary art by Latino and Bronx-based artists (Pepatián 2010). Betti-Sue Hertz, one of the curators of the Bronx Museum’s 1999 exhibition Urban Mythologies: The Bronx Represented Since the 1960s, said that the subject of the exhibition would not have been possible five years ago: “the terrain was just too painful, too personal. There is a renaissance now. We can look at the negative imagery” (Waldman 1999). Hertz’s remark about the challenges to mount this exhibition “five years ago” was 1994, the year when work on Familias began. Born and raised in Havana, Cuba, Wally Edgecombe was Director of the Hostos Center for the Arts and Culture (1982–2013). Under his stewardship, the Hostos Center became one of the preeminent Latino arts centers in the northeast (Bronx Council on the Arts 2009), in addition to serving as a creative incubator and presenter of local artists (Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture 2011). Edgecombe supported and presented Soto and Osorio’s previous works, including Historias, Pelea de Gallos (The Cock Fight), among others. Soto is Artistic Director of Merián Soto Performance/Practice, and Professor of Dance at the Esther Boyer College of Music and Dance at Temple University ( Best known for his large-scale baroque and polemically charged installations, Pepón Osorio merges conceptual art and community dynamics. He is Professor of Art at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, a MacArthur Fellow, and was nominated to the National Council on the Arts (2016, see tyler.temple .edu/faculty/pepon-osorio). Boricua College is the other bilingual college in New York City. Author and pastor Heidi Neumark writes that city planner Robert Moses “tried to make the South Bronx a place of intentionally disorganized amnesia” with not “one shred of civic friendship in evidence” (Neumark 2004: 73). As Jeff Chang describes, it was a “deliberate program of slum clearance” (2005: 13). BronxNet Community Cable Producer and Editor Michael Max Knobbe and his team produced the documentary video The Making of a Family, nominated for a 1997 Emmy. Rev. Que English, senior pastor at Bronx Christian Fellowship, made this statement with regard to the opening of the Kingsbridge National Ice Center in the Kingsbridge Armory space in the Bronx (Harper 2014). BAAD!/Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance and Pregones Theater are the only two freestanding, professional theaters (unaffiliated with colleges or universities) in the borough. Other new spaces: WHEDCo’s The Bronx Music Heritage Center and Bronx Commons, Boricua College, Andrew Freedman Home, as well as current and future performance spaces planned at Casita Maria Center for the Arts and Education. Other nonprofits, focusing on participatory works mostly at alternative, publicly accessible sites, moved to the borough in 2011–2012: Dancing in the Streets, The Laundromat Project, and No Longer Empty. These projects are in addition to arts and community programming already happening at local venues in annual one-day events, like Pregones Theater’s annual Summer Block party (2005–present), The Point’s Hunts Point Fish Parade & Summer Festival (2003–present), and The Bronx Museum’s multiple weekend event, Boogie on the Boulevard (2014– present), among others.



R EF E R E NC E S Berman, M. 1999. “Views from the Burning Bridge.” Urban Mythologies: The Bronx Represented Since the 1960s, ed. Lydia Yee and Betti-Sue Hertz, 70–83. Bronx, NY: Bronx Museum of the Arts. Bronx Council on the Arts. 2009. “Wally Edgecombe, Director of the Hostos Center for the Arts and Culture, to be Honored at BCA’s BRIO Presentation Ceremony.” American Towns, 25 May. Retrieved 12 April 2012 from news/wally-edgecombe-director-of-the-hostos-center-for-the-arts-and-culture-to-be-hon ored-190098. Chang, J. 2005. Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation. New York: Picador. Gabriels, J. 2015. “Choreographies of Community: Familias and Its Impact in the South Bronx, NY.” Ph.D. dissertation. Montreal, Quebec: Concordia University. Harper, D. 2014. “Messier Helps Bring Huge Ice Center to NYC.” National Hockey League, 26 January. Retrieved 12 February 2014 from Homar, S. 2010. “Contemporary Dance in Puerto Rico, or How to Speak of These Times.” In Making Caribbean Dance, ed. Susanna Sloat, 211–27. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida. Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture. n.d. Retrieved 22 Jan 2011 from http://www.hostos The Making of a Family. 1996. Dir. Al Cacioppo . BronxNet, ¡Bronx Live! Film. Meyer, G. 2003. “Save Hostos: Politics and Community Mobilization to Save a College in the Bronx, 1973–1978.” Centro [of Puerto Rican Studies] Journal Spring: 72–97. Retrieved 19 April 2012 from Neumark, H. B. 2004. Breathing Space: A Spiritual Journey in the South Bronx. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. Pepatián. 2010. “Mission.” Pepatián Inc. Retrieved 3 July 2016 from http://www.pepatian .org/about/mission-statement/. Soto, M. 1994. “Pepatián Proposal.” Multi-Arts Production Fund/MAP. Pepatián, Bronx, New York. ———. 1999. “Familias: Anatomy of a Process.” New York State DanceForce Newsletter 4: 1–2. Verhovek, S. H. 1987. “Salsa and Heartthrobs: A Palace of Hispanic Life Returns.” The New York Times, 28 September. Retrieved 13 March 2014 from http://www.nytimes .com/1987/09/28/nyregion/salsa-and-heartthrobs-a-palace-of-hispanic-life-returns .html. Waldman, A. 1999. “Rubble to Rebirth: Tales of the Bronx; Art Captures a Changing Borough.” The New York Times, 7 April. Retrieved 20 March 2014 from http://www.nytimes .com/1999/04/07/arts/rubble-to-rebirth-tales-of-the-bronx-art-captures-a-changingborough.html.

CH A P T ER 16

What We Talk About When We Talk About Curating the “Unexpected” SYREETA MCFADDEN


diverse collective of New York-based writers and language arts educators Poets in Unexpected Places (PUP) moves storytelling into unconventional spaces by staging multidisciplinary performances, featuring accomplished poets, artists, dancers, and musicians from varied backgrounds and aesthetics. Using the element of surprise, PUP seeks to disrupt the frames that confine literature to the classroom and other traditional realms, and utilize poetry as a means to curate shared experiences between strangers, thus promoting community and dialogue in the public arena. PUP has developed partnerships with Urban Word NYC and the Juilliard School to execute curriculum around creative writing, performance, and public art. The group collaborates with universities, museums, businesses, and international arts organizations and local arts groups to present “Pop Up” installations for unsuspecting audiences across Europe, Africa, North America, and the Caribbean. PUP’s curatorial philosophy centers itself in mixing artists from the performance poetry tradition and poets from the academy who share aesthetic vision in craft, authenticity in voice and exposition, and risk. The craft in curation for PUP centers on the idea that poetry can animate space between seemingly disparate communities, across generations and identities: women, LBGTQ, men, black, white, Latino, Asian, millennials, and baby boomers. PUP participants are pluralistic reflections of society, a balanced mixture of race, gender, sexuality, age and class.



PUP assembles between eight to ten artists, situates them within the built environment, whether it is a public park, laundromat, subway car, or gallery, to stage “disruption.” Disruption usually manifest with a song followed by a poem. The participants present poems round-robin style immediately after the preceding poet concludes her/his/their poem. By the third seeded poet among the group, the public confusion of the disruption is supplanted by what is akin to a giddy delight. The public yields to the disruption and public spaces transform into a performance space. The composition of PUP artists is critical in installation to create a sense of energy that the “poet” can be anyone in the public space. It is a democratization of the genre that over time has become increasingly inaccessible in society. The public perception of poetry focuses on the notion that poetry is the providence of the privileged, upper class—an elite art that excludes working class citizens. PUP disabuses the public of this idea in its installations. It transforms the art into digestible, yet magical moments, borrowing its principles from the work of street and graffiti artists. “Surprise” is a critical component; the identities of the poets speak to individual sensibilities and connect the public to an art form that may have eluded them since grammar school. The participant poets and artists stories—poems—expose points of intersections as well as our shared humanity. For the conference Envisioning the Practice: International Symposium on Performing Arts Curation in Montréal in April 2014, and as presenters of interventions performatives, PUP curators Samantha Thornhill, Jon Sands, Elana Bell, and Syreeta McFadden collaborated with local performance art curators and poets (among them: Wired on Words curator Ian Ferrier, Jane Gabriels, Maude Payette, and visiting guests Regie Cabico and David Bateman), to create a roving poetry reading (“poetry scrawl”) in Montreal’s historic downtown district. The following is an account of the poetry scrawl as the embodiment of PUP’s curatorial philosophy. What we now know about spaces is that they carry a resonance beyond perceptibility. What we also now know about public spaces is that we are in an ever-changing dialogue with them. Perhaps we have learned that we must respect the air between us in those spaces. It seems the body remembers what we have tried to logic our way out of remembering: our interconnectedness that transcends time and thought. We try to honor and respect the spaces we inhabit and respect the spaces between us and if we show honor spaces, the spaces bend and shrink between us. We become one. What I can tell you of what I learned from my travels in Hawaii is that the Hawaiian people are cognizant of their relationship to space. I suppose that all island people show a particular depth of knowing the sacredness of space—at any point in time, land can shake and fissure, water can swallow you whole, air can snap spines and crack backs of bodies—the Hawaiian people, the native Hawaiian people—are deeply connected to land and sea. There is a reverence and a



full-bodied embrace of living. In a terrible and sorrowful world surrounded by opulent beauty, island people do not take life for granted. They recognize how temporary this all is. They risk delight. They face the unexpected. We think about the space between ourselves and others and the spaces we invite ourselves into with this practice of curating “the unexpected.” We try to manifest magic. We try to create something akin to magic. Serendipity first appeared as a word in 1754 and originates from Horace Walpole who, in a letter to Horace Mann, remarked that in the fairytale of The Three Princes of Serendip (1964), the brothers “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of” (American Heritage Dictionary Online), thus creating space for a new feeling, serendipity. Serendib is an ancient name of an old island that we now know as Sri Lanka. Marvelous. A charmed experienced. The ephemeral. Serendipity. While we are living in a tremendously connected world, we still struggle to discern the difference between what is “real” and “unreal” in our interactions with people. We hold these moments of truth and honesty with tight fists, and squirrel them away to feed us in hungrier times. It was Jon who insisted that Audre Lorde’s “A Litany for Survival” (The Black Unicorn, 1978) appear in our spontaneous performances. Lorde’s words are prayer, comfort, and promise. Perhaps that invocation is what led him to craft his own poem, investigating his relationships to spaces physical and personal, in his poem “The Shoreline”: I am talking to the air with my entire body, and if I was waiting for the perfect time to say HowDoYouDo? If I was waiting for a flow chart to say Trust is a risk like poetry; for a sign to spark in the back of all these dreams that said, Jon, let it ride; to hit send until I already had a transcript of the reply— (Sands 2012)

And on a rainy Sunday night in April in a Montreal ATM vestibule, Jon recites these words and leans into the space, crowded with local folk and travelers, scattered like an archipelago, each an island but inseparable for this moment, the air bends, the space contracts and we are once again Pangea. In this work, the idea that feeds us as writers and performers is to animate poems so that they become a lived artistic experience. I suppose it is fair to say that we seek to awaken our unsuspecting audiences, those sleeping giants within our bodies that have forgotten to feel and connect with the world, with space, with people around us. The moments are key. There is a risk in reaching out into a space hoping that the air will yield to your offering. We have seen this magic unfold twelvefold. Every space is unique. Centering my body in the archway of an old, empty, shuttered church, a small gathering of locals shivered with a chilled Sunday night Montreal wind.



I offer an old memory as poem, a gay black man carefree and dancing, before the world shook and fissured beneath our feet: I still see him dancing as I see him now in the helicopter, surveying the wreck, the smoldering heap of concrete, charred steel, wires twisted and gnarled veins the shattered spine of those magnificent buildings (McFadden 2015).

“How is that we got here so far past the beauty / of watching a body flail and sway in light?” (McFadden 2015) Time, equal parts kind and cruel, yet the beauty of memory as poem is the opportunity relive an old story anew. When spoken out loud, we shift the public space, a new memory is born and communities are formed. Auspicious. We are sensitive to the energy in the spaces where we share poems. We listen to them and we listen to the people who share those spaces. Magic is chemistry; a collection of unlikely ingredients—light, sound, wall color, concrete, pavement, trees, pigeons, water fountains, a child’s insatiable joy, subway pole, motion, toasting pint glasses—these elements with the alchemy of voice, song, breath, page, dance, bass, squat, didgeridoo, violin, is how we make honey. We are listening more than we are simply speaking a poem into empty public spaces between bodies. We understand that we are entering, quite briefly, a relationship—a marriage—in that ephemeral connection we risk our vulnerability and hop at the end of the poems blooming from our bodies that everyone comes out loved, seen, and awake. We are standing outside the bagel shop in one of the oldest parts of Montreal, and Elana is singing a love song as a poem to Nina Simone, whose life in many ways instructs us in the marriage between art and activism, risk and vulnerability, the very seat of our humanity. Tireless quest for a justice you could hold in your hands no more window washing no more “go slow” and those pirates still ain’t paid you your royalties yet. not belonging anyplace not America not Africa not the Caribbean even your fruitbearing garden in the south of France too small to hold that fireball rage (Bell 2015)



I should note here that we aim to charm public spaces, the air between ourselves and strangers. In these moments we use song is a kind of permission and an opening. Elana many times charmed the air, collapsing all the spaces that separate us from strangers with a voice that delights and comforts. “Blossom on the tree, you know how I feel . . . It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life . . . and I’m feeling good” (Bricussea and Newley 1964). Could it stand to reason that our conception and understanding of art stems from recognizing our relationship to air and space between objects and bodies? Art can breathe. Art can be a lived thing, yes. We know that we are able to understand worlds, ideas and images by adjusting our physical selves in relationship. We must make space for art in the world. We believe that we can make space for poems in the world, we believe that it is critical to make space for poems spoken out loud in the world. Jack Gilbert instructs us to “risk delight” in his poem “A Brief for the Defense” (2005), and further beseeches us to “have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.” We wonder aloud sometimes how good can manifest into action with a simple kind word. Beauty may enjoy our steady gaze but sometimes, she requires us to name the ways we witness her grace and acknowledge her humanity. When we enter the local pub to begin our literary wanderings at the end of the ACAQ Symposium, we were a little uncertain about how to make space to invite drinkers and late Sunday revelers into the ephemeral world of Poets in Unexpected Places. We understand the kind of holy that exists in a semi-public space where people take time to connect with their friends and neighbors in our busy and wildly complex world. Whatever intimacies between strangers in shared spaces that exist, we do not wish to annoy or rankle, but only to encourage and nurture a willing listener in the passing chance of meeting poem and reflection. We are deliberately practicing a kind of serendipity, if such a thing can be true. Though I never read the Three Princes of Serendip (Hodges Jamison 1964), I would wager that those bonhommes were consciously creating opportunities for discoveries and bridges between known and unknown worlds. I would wager that their chance meetings were able to proceed in part because their eyes and hearts were open; they believed in a something akin to magic. Poetry can be that unlocking, that kind of magic that butterflies in the belly, spills out in song, blooms with the right ordering of words to render emotion, the imperceptible into a body that occupies space, awaken some faint memory. It is Samantha who takes the opening spot to charm the air, the room, the beer and whiskey drinkers in this bar on a Sunday night in Montreal. Now everywhere I go I see the people I love in the faces of strangers, clinging to this story of this preacher and his wife the way her body clung to that truck. At that moment I understood the paradox



of the human struggle; sometimes, the same thing that slowly kills us is exactly the thing keeping us alive (Thornhill 2003)

It is the warm timbre of her voice that awakens a sleepy yet attentive crowd, the air bends, and space collapses. We watch this alchemical process unfold. Beauty nods, ears open, the air bends, the space between us shrinks. The crowd is moved. The unexpected embraced. SYREETA MCFADDEN is a writer and professor of English at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York and cocurator of Poets in Unexpected Places. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, Rolling Stone, BuzzFeed News, and elsewhere. She was a 2013 recipient of CEC ArtsLink One Big City Residency and a 2018 fellow at SPACE at Ryder Farm. She is currently working on a collection of essays about African Americans in the Midwest.

R EF E R E NC E S Bell, E. 2015. Elegy for Nina Simone. New York: The Brooklyn Rail. Retrieved 27 July 2018 from Bricusseand, L. (lyricist), and Newley, Anthony (lyricist). 1964. “Feeling Good.” [Recorded by Nina Simone]. On I Put A Spell On You. (1965). [Vinyl Album] New York: Philips Records. Gilbert, J. 2005. Refusing Heaven. New York: Knopf. Hodges Jamison, E. 1964. The Three Princes of Serendip. New York: Simon & Schuster. Lorde, A. 1978. The Black Unicorn. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. McFadden, S. 2015. Untitled for Charles. New York: The Brooklyn Rail. Retrieved 27 July 2018 from led-for-charles. Sands, J. 2012. “The Shoreline.” New York: Unpublished. “Serendipity.” [Def. 1-2.] (n.d.) American Heritage Dictionary Online. Retrieved 27 July 2018 from Thornhill, S. 2003. “Signs.” New York: Unpublished.



=SUM(dance + theater + music + media – genre specificity) + theaters + sprung floors + sited spaces (see forests, beaches, quarries, tops of buildings, parks, rivers, fire escapes, public squares, classrooms, abandoned buildings) + (visual arts institutions – stuffiness) + (audience participation – cheeziness (unless intended and architected)) + the artist(s) + audience + audience + (the constant nagging question of WHO IS THIS FOR?/never truly answering the question and pressing on anyway) + (funding needed/funding secured) + questions of community + questions of mortality + questions of economic development through the arts + placement of artistic practice inside a civic practice + (the artist(s) + the audience) + (the audience + the work) + the accolades + the walkouts + the postshow discussions + the preshow engagement plans + the deciphering of marketing materials + the fear you’ve made terrible mistakes (mostly re: budget and technical rider) + the show + the work + the performance + this community

SHOSHONA CURRIER is the Director of the Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston, Maine. She previously curated public performance for the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, taught Performance Curation and Cultural Production at the University of Chicago, and was an artist-in-residence at The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts.

CH A P T E R 1 7

Because I Love Art, I Want Art to Be Different The Project Perverse Curating and a Few Things I’ve Learned from It JACOB WREN

Form is not the eradication of the informal. Form is what emerges from the informal. —Stefano Harney and Fred Moten


erverse Curating is a project that began on 26 October 2011. It started modestly enough, with four short phrases jotted in a notebook: “perverse curating / rainbow or darkness / dressing up and acting normal / boring lecture on a fascinating topic . . .” From this overly simple, almost naïve, beginning, you might not yet see the project’s potential, and perhaps this potential has mainly one aspect and drive: once I started I could not stop. Since that moment it has continued to grow, having now been presented in many unexpected forms and contexts. In the most general sense, it is an undertaking that attempts to question how art and curating might be less smooth, might let in more of the perverse difficulties of politics, thought, and love, might be personal in ways that undermine professionalism without undermining artistic consequence. Whether or not it is readily apparent—whether or not it comes anywhere close to meeting some or all of its ever-mutating goals—for me this project reflects a genuine desire to implicitly critique some dominant forms of curating as being too smooth, too even, too well thought out, too together. Equally, there is a more constructive desire to propose strategies that are perhaps more perverse, anarchic, playful, unconventional, to suggest possibly impossible ways of putting thoughts, works, and even artists together.



In another sense it all began with the slightly ridiculous title: Perverse Curating. Could I think of any curatorial projects that were willfully, provocatively perverse? What might it mean for curating to be perverse? Much curating today is perhaps unintentionally perverse. I am, of course, asking what it would mean for curating to be perverse on purpose. To take the power dynamic implicit in any curatorial act and turn it inside out, make it more consensual and playful. These are all metaphors and analogies that I intend as useful, though at times also slightly painful, provocations. In this chapter I will explore four specific aspects of the project—online, plagiarism, presentations, and curating—and how they interrelate. 1. ONLINE Starting from the first of the four, I have been steadily adding short fragments, phrases, and sentences to a blog post ever since.1 These sentences, over time, have come to represent a kind of shorthand for everything I think and experience. For example: The international artist is a capitalist fantasy.

Or The idea that we know art is in many ways fundamentally reactionary and conservative, but still want to believe that it is radical and revolutionary, and within the space of this paradox there is room for much to happen.

Or I feel extremely alienated by the dominant discourse, but I also feel somewhat alienated by a long series of other, less dominant discourses.

These short sentences seemingly come from everywhere, from every level of my thoughts and life. They are reactions to things I have read, arguments had, realities that frighten, confuse, or piss me off. There are no guidelines or rules for what does or does not constitute a good short phrase or sentence. I do my best to include everything and to edit as little as possible. It is not stream-of-consciousness, since each of the short sentences is, in a way, a conscious statement or thought. But the connections between them, which form the document as a whole, are often more or less unconscious, and most likely reveal far more than I would like them too. Steadily the blog post continues to grow, having long ago become something that feels far too long for anyone to actually read in its entirety online. It continues to outgrow its usefulness and in this way continues to become more useful. When nothing is finished, everything is possible.



The ways in which Perverse Curating connects my off line world with my internet life might tell us something about the performative nature of curating the self in relation to an artistic practice, since these short sentences now regularly bleed into my Twitter feed, Tumblr posts, and Facebook status updates. Posting the same thing over and over again seems, to me, the more I consider the matter, to be the true essence of the internet.

As parts of the ongoing blog post they are like moments in a never-ending poem. But when shared individually on social media they seem far more like positions I personally hold and wish to convey. A moment in a literary text feels like a fiction (at least partially). Even when forcefully autobiographical, it always opens the possibility that it might not be entirely true, that a degree of craft or artifice has already shaded its meaning. But the same moment posted as a Facebook status is far more likely to come across as something I simply think and believe. The accurate analysis of my practice is not the analysis that most excites me.

There has been much written about social media as a form of curation, as carefully selected self-presentation, as advertising for a constructed version of oneself. But this sense of self-presentation has noticeably different parameters from the creation of a work of art. On social media, the illusion of accurately representing daily reality is somehow much stronger, even though at the same time we know this reality is most often not the full story, and is sometimes willful misrepresentation, if only through careful selection and omission. Everyone’s life seems better on Facebook. When I tweet: I stopped listening to depressing music, started listening to joyous music, hoping for less depression and more joy.

People ask me what joyous music I started listening to, and if the decision actually had a beneficial effect on my overall state of mind. It is far less likely to be seen as a metaphor or analogy then it might be when included in a longer literary text. People believe things on social media that in a work of art they would be far more likely to question. The ongoing scroll of the internet feed gives all statements an added sense of reality, in the same way that staring at the screen for hours on end becomes a natural extension of our daily thoughts and life. 2. PLAGIARISM Many of the short sentences in Perverse Curating come from me—in whatever sense it might be possible to mean such a thing (both online and off)—while many others are simply plagiarized. Sharing online content made by others is



an extremely common practice. How does this process of online sharing relate to earlier notions of plagiarism and current notions of curating? What do we do with all the material we compile online and how might this change the way we think about compiling artists for an exhibition or performance event? A monotonous male reality. Which seems just sort of staid and old. Tapped out. (Myles 2011)

There is no question that my general overuse of citations has much to do with the fact that I am self-taught. It is as if the autodidact wants to stand on the street corner and shout: “Look at all the books I’ve read and all the great sentences that can be found inside them! Does everyone know about all these great books?” (Perhaps within the academy, because your fellow students and teachers are often reading so many of the exact same books as you, this enthusiasm for sharing one’s reading-related enthusiasm is partly made redundant.) I want a literature that is not made from literature. (Kapil 2015)

In the never-ending Perverse Curating blog post, the quotes are not credited. This is the aspect that brings me closest to conventional plagiarism, blending others’ thoughts, phrases, and sentences seamlessly into my own. However, it is my intention at some point to start a second blog post in which I list all of the citations used so far, along with proper credits as to who originally wrote or said them. In one sense I am simply waiting for someone to call me on it. As soon as someone notices that I have used someone else’s words without acknowledging their origins, I will immediately act to rectify the matter. I assumed someone would have mentioned it by now, in an email, private message, or comment. But the Perverse Curating blog post has gotten 1,281 hits in its first three years, and so far either no one has noticed, or no one is particularly bothered by my transgression. I feel this oversight has much to do with how carelessly and fluidly information circulates online. They found themselves questioning ambiguity and its presumed neutrality in their work. (Spahr 2007)

When I post the exact same quotes on social media, or show them in presentations, I do always give proper credit (to the best of my ability.) So if anyone took the trouble to cross-reference my very long blog post with my social media use they would quickly realize what I am doing. But why would anyone do so? This is simply not the way the internet works, not the way people use it. If someone posts something on social media without giving proper credit it is not a sin to be uncovered but simply a normal part of daily internet life. I am mainly interested in the way my own thoughts fluidly blend with the thoughts of others, at times with and at other times without acknowledging that there is any factual difference between the two. It echoes a feeling I find myself fre-



quently perplexed by: reading something in a book that too strongly reminds me of something that I have previously written, read, or thought. Poets whose work supports the status quo often fail to acknowledge that their poems are just as political as poets whose work questions it. (Brown 2015)

When you curate an artwork or performance, you are of course not citing it, you are showing the actual work itself. But because you are often placing it in relation to other artworks and performances, the situation in some way evokes a certain logic of citation. This thing—this object, act, or statement—gains resonance in relation to all these other things, objects, acts or statements presented alongside it. I, as a curator, have put these two things, or many things, together, and this gesture of putting them in dialogue creates connections that allow us to think about it all more, or differently, than we could if we had encountered each thing separately. To be making something as yet unformed, unknown—to be living in a deferred moment—is the most seductive way to exist. (Davey 2012: 41)

Taking phrases and sentences written or spoken by others and presenting them sometimes as my own, and at other times properly credited, makes me fairly uncomfortable. In one sense it is an expression of arrogance and cultural privilege that must be denounced, in another sense it is something that happens so frequently online as to be almost invisible, and in yet another sense it is a minor sin that hopefully does little harm. When a curator presents a work by an artist they also get to put their name alongside it, also take on a kind of partial authorship that they arguably have or have not fully earned. You see the name on the wall, or in the program, and you do not know what, or how much, they actually did. Who gets credit, and how much? Who is credited, and whose name is left out? These ethically problematic aspects of the Perverse Curating blog post were previously invisible, until now, when I have made them apparent by writing them here. 3. PRESENTATIONS I have also given a series of presentations in which I make a selection of these short sentences, project each one on a screen behind me, and reflect freely upon what each one may or may not mean, and more specifically on what it means to me. I quickly select the sentences the day before in such a way that, during the presentation, I more or less do not know which sentence is coming up next. It is this freedom to riff on ideas that are unexpected that, for me, gives the presentations their ethical grounding. I do not know exactly what I will say before I say it, and this forces me to take a kind of in-the-moment responsibility for my own position and words.



When you’re born it’s real, when you die it’s real, everything else is a mix of reality and conventions.

A little bit of my artistic history might be required here in order to give context. For the past twenty-five years I have been making collaborative group performances that focus on the paradox of being yourself in a performance situation. I am interested in what it means to stand in front of a room full of people, often strangers, who are watching you, and to do so with as little armoring as possible, not hiding the fact that the situation is unnerving or even nerve-racking, being as vulnerable as possible without turning vulnerability into any kind of drama or crutch. I often say that I personally find performing to be humiliating, and do my best, while performing, not to conceal this particular aspect of my experience. Being yourself in a performance situation is the most subtle form of drag.

Like much of my other performance work, Perverse Curating presentations have a strong sense of preplanned structure and an equally important aspect of openness and improvisation. Because there are literally thousands of phrases and short sentences to choose from when making my pre-selection, it is a project that never triggers my more general fear of being trapped or of too often repeating myself. These presentations give me a feeling of possibility, a feeling that each time I do it there is the potential for me to genuinely surprise myself along with the audience, a feeling that has actually been somewhat rare during my twenty-five years of performing. At the same time, it is a process that understandably makes me more than nervous, since I never quite know what I am going to say, and there is certainly no guarantee that I will say anything of interest. When working on a new project, for me the hardest question is always when to fight and when to compromise.

One of the most striking features of these presentations is the long periods of silence, as I stare at the sentence on the laptop screen in front of me, wondering if I actually have anything worthwhile to say about it. Some of the sentences I speak about, while others I simply let pass by uncommented. During these silences I trick myself into believing I can feel the audience staring at the sentence as well, wondering where I might take it, and more interestingly, wondering what they might say about it if they were in my place. When I give these presentations at more academic conferences, I have the notion that these are the only periods of extended silence and contemplation that have occurred during the entirety of the event. And I wonder why gatherings for reflection and thought need to be places of nonstop speaking and reading aloud, often overscheduled, as if any extended period of silence would throw the entire undertaking into an irreversible state of existential despair (but I might only be projecting). All the artists I admire are such a strange combination of completely open and completely stubborn.



Giving these presentations clarifies, for me at least, some reasonably obvious aspects regarding how live performance differs from posting things online. Due to the manner in which each presentation is set up, it is extremely unclear at the beginning whether it will succeed or fail, and this collective sense of doubt is something the audience experiences all together. Being on stage, looking out into the room as the presentation progresses, it becomes palpable to me how different performing live feels from the thousands of hours I spend each year performing online. It is only in comparison that I can actually get my mind around just how fragmented and isolated a project’s online audience is, the degree to which they are not actually all together. Both the live situation and the online situation are extremely performative, but this fact says fairly little about the nature of each experience. 4. CURATING Perverse Curating is of course a deeply personal project, but it is my hope that it is not only personal, but that it also activates and questions a certain generalized artistic potential I feel is currently underexplored. Perhaps what I am searching for resonates most with one of Chantal Mouffe’s best-known terms agonism: a political theory that emphasizes the potentially positive aspects of certain (but not all) forms of political conflict. According to Mouffe, agonism is a necessary part of any democratic process (2000). There is no question that conflict is often valued in art, often as an end in itself, however I find myself wondering to what degree the democratic potential of conflict is valued in current structures and habits of art-making and presentation. Then I am nervous to use the word democracy in anything resembling a positive sense. So often representative democracy and electoral politics seem like a capitalist scam. Whichever party spends the most money on their campaign wins the election. A politician has two jobs: to get elected and to get reelected. John Dewey: “Government is the shadow cast by business over society” (1931). I am far more likely to use terms such as emancipatory politics. But I suppose, like any word, democracy can have both positive and negative meanings, as well as everything in between. The fact that air and water are still sometimes free is a deep pain in the hearts of capitalists everywhere.

Like everything in art, curation has enormous potential. However, I am unable to think about it without also thinking about power and structural imbalances. As an artist, the curator or programmer is, among other things, a person standing between me and my ability to show my work publicly in a structurally validated context. It is a person who has a certain degree of power over me and my practice. It can be a highly collaborative relationship, energizing, exciting, productive. I have had many positive experiences and relatively few negative



ones. But even when the experience is completely positive, the power imbalance inherent within it is never far from my mind. We need an accurate analysis of the situation to proceed, but the road to an accurate analysis leads only to further debate.

When I started my blog almost ten years ago, the main reason was that I was struggling with writer’s block. I was tired of sending my writing out to publishers and having it rejected, or accepted but with alterations that frequently made it feel less like my own. I would think about the various publishing opportunities open to me and it would kill at least some of my desire to write anything new. And then, suddenly, with this blog I could write just a few sentences and put them out into the world immediately. It did not have to be the greatest thing I had ever written. It could simply be a chance for a few interested readers to see my working process, and if they liked it to encourage me with their comments. To try things out and learn through doing. Jealousy of other artists is perhaps the most natural part of being an artist.

I can certainly engage in varying degrees of agonism with many of the curators and programmers I work with. But there is always the possibility that if I push too hard they might decide to never work with me again. I might have fewer opportunities in the future. It of course depends a great deal how and why I am pushing. I have no interest in difficulty for difficulty’s sake. However, there is a way of taking pleasure in various kinds of artistic and interpersonal difficulties that I am trying to get at by using the word perverse, which suggests a certain sexual charge that can be given and taken in things that are not necessarily enjoyed by everyone. This has to do with seeing the artistic potential of difficulty, a potential that has to do not with making challenging work but with opening things up between each other and between our, at times, productively conflicting ideas. A good conversation is a conversation in which one might change one’s mind.

The kinds of perversity I am hinting at—and there is no question I could have also chosen a different word than perverse to convey it—requires a great deal of communication and consent. It cannot take place in certainty but often begins when we admit we do not know, that we might have been wrong about something in the past and might still be wrong about many things in the future. That there is no point in working with others if we already think we know what good art is and what it is not, if we are not prepared to discover something, to surprise ourselves, through the process of collaboration. Such collaboration cannot even begin to take place when hierarchy and artistic bullying continue to take up too much space. Perversity abhors a star system. The assumptions that are in a discipline’s blind spot are in fact the same assumptions holding the discipline together.



I do not actually know if Perverse Curating clearly moves me, or us, toward any of these thoughts or desires. It is mainly something I do in my spare time, when I have a spare moment, compiling my short thoughts alongside the short thoughts of others. It has moved organically through a few different mediums and stages, and might continue to morph and reinvent itself in the future. It does not provide any real answers, just sort of rambles along and on, drifting toward something it can never actually fulfill. I wish I could say it made art more democratic, even in a small way, or brought along a certain degree of emancipatory potential, but I am afraid it does not have enough power for that. No curator or artist is going to change the way they do anything just because I tell them to. The change needs to come from somewhere else, from some sort of personal discovery, a stray word, phrase, fragment or sentence that hits you in the right way, in the moment you most need it, and gives you the opportunity to once again think for yourself, if only for a little while before other concerns once again take their rightful place. JACOB WREN makes literature, collaborative performances, and exhibitions. His books include: Polyamorous Love Song, Rich and Poor, and Authenticity Is a Feeling. As co-artistic director of the interdisciplinary group PME-ART he has co-created performances such as: Individualism Was a Mistake, The DJ Who Gave Too Much Information, and Every Song I’ve Ever Written.

NOT E 1. The full post can be found here: Jacob Wren, “Perverse Curating,” retrieved 14 Sep-

tember 2015 from

R EF E R E NC E S Brown, J. 2015. “Love the Masters.” In The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind, ed. Claudia Rankine, Beth Loffreda, and Max King Kap, 231–4. Albany, New York: Fence Books. Davey, M. 2012. “Polyvalence.” Art Journal 12 January: 41. Dewey, J. 1931. “The Need for a New Party.” In The Later Works of John Dewey, Volume 6, ed. Jo Ann Boydston.. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. Harney, S, and F. Moten. 2013. The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study. New York: Minor Compositions. Kapil, B. 2015. Ban en Banlieue. New York: Nightboat Books. Mouffe, C. 2000. The Democratic Paradox. London: Verso. Myles, E. 2011. Being Female. Retrieved 13 March 2018 from 2011/02/ being-female. Spahr, J. 2007. The Transformation. Berkeley, CA: Atelos.

CH A P T E R 1 8

Making Stage Contemporary Dance and Performance Curation in the Caribbean MAKEDA THOMAS


enter the space of curation as an artist; as a practice of the ideas and processes that inform my movement through the world. I enter, bringing the breadth of my experience, out of a particular context, forward into new spaces and contexts where whole new possibilities could be imagined. Curation can create new centers of possibility—in its balance of conceptualization and improvisation—from which new lines of flight can be taken. Space, over time, to “cite,” “sight,” and thus “site,” a specific and variable set of ideas through dance and performance. I offer four case studies of contemporary dance curation in the Caribbean, developed through my role as director of The Dance & Performance Institute, located in Port of Spain, Trinidad: Santee Smith’s October 2014 performance of NeoIndigenA for the Contemporary Choreographers Collective (COCO) Dance Festival in Queens Hall; the World Premiere of Ananya Dance Theatre’s Moreechika, presented at the Academy for Performing Arts in 2012; Trinidadian choreographer, Sonja Dumas’ Strange Tale of an Island Shade presented at the Academy for Performing Arts in 2013; and the July 2015 New Waves! 2015/Dancing While Black Performance Lab at NALIS Amphitheatre. These specific case studies were chosen for the range of curatorial contexts they provide—from the presentation of international dance works in the local context; of local dance in the local context; of dance in the region; and dance of the Diaspora in and out of the region. But also, each offers layered, intersectional considerations of curation in the Caribbean—how race, gender, sex-



uality, religion, economics, and politics factor into the work being made in the space and how it lives with its audiences. First, a word about the history of dance curation in the Caribbean.

The specific temporal and historical forces that brought the Caribbean to its contemporary context produced traditions that are linked to previous movements and moments throughout the Caribbean, creating a space where, as Trinidadian philosopher, Burton Sankeralli said in a New Waves! Institute lecture, “the modern precedes the traditional” (2013) and brings with it a cultural matrix of values, family life, education, attitudes and practices with property and money, religion, language, music, song, dance, and folklore. The paradox of that matrix means that often, even when we speak of being indigenous, we are already speaking of mixed descendants of Carib, Arawak, and West African people. When we speak of “Caribbean culture,” it also includes Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Belize, and Guyana. The only indigenous name on record for Barbados (Ichirouganaim) is the one that was used by Arawak peoples on Trinidad in reference to that island. When we speak of the Bookman of Trinidad’s Carnival—a principal character in the devil’s mas portrayals—we cite Haiti’s Jamaican-born Boukman Dutty who spawned the first free black republic in the western hemisphere. So that, when we speak of the Caribbean, we know that our genealogies and histories rest us at a vector of the struggle against imperialism. With that historical cultural vector—or Caribbean cultural dynamic—contemporary dance and performance in the Caribbean is interconnected, layered, diasporic, multidisciplinary, and with these legacies of implication, also include otherness, healing, decolonization, and resistance. Contemporary dance curation in the region reflects this and articulates a shared space with creative production—dance artists create art, and its performance contexts, and often provide the intellectual framework that surrounds it. Simultaneously considering both perspectives offers a meaningful dialogue between the two practices. What becomes recognizable, in this discourse, is a responsive articulation, rich with the symbols and structures unique to the space, in all its historical, contemporary, and future contexts. This articulation moves us toward a state of performance realities in which multiple trajectories thrive. This code—of the fullness of our realities as contemporary Caribbean dance artists—remains at the core of the Institute’s curation as it moves across the region. Like in July 2014 to Haiti, when guest artist, New Orleans native Michelle Gibson’s Second Line Aesthetics1 moved in procession through the streets of downtown Jacmel, recognizing—through curation—an important link in the Caribbean cultural zone.. New Orleans-based curator and art historian, Claire



Tancons, in her essay “Curating Carnival? Performance in Contemporary Caribbean Art,” considers procession a curatorial format. Tancons writes, “Space, it has been suggested, not the artwork, is the material of curators” (Tancons 2012). Trinidadian visual artist and mas commentator Christopher Cozier adds, in that same essay, “The line between curator and creative producer became blurred in a transient [exhibition] space, one without walls and in the public domain” (Tancons 2012). Through this blurring, the curatorial vision of the Institute finds focus. The Caribbean, as a site from which to strengthen historical, cultural, and artistic connections, simultaneously provides a platform to imagine new performative and curatorial strategies. Kónhnhe Kèn:tho í:ke’ (Santee Smith in NeoIndigenA [2014]) From the Kahnyen’ke Clan from Six Nations, in Ontario (Canada), Santee Smith is in Trinidad for a three-week artist residency with the Dance & Performance Institute. In 2013, the Institute initiated a special partnership with COCO Dance Festival2 to select and present performances by one resident artist. Santee’s residency with the Institute supported the creative development of an International Indigenous Women’s Performance Project with collaborating artist, Monique Mojica (Guna and Rappahannock Nations, Ontario; actor/playwright and artist-scholar). The Dance & Performance Institute was interested in positioning itself as a site where such specific, collaborative work could be researched and developed. The Institute was also interested in how the performance could provoke choreographers, dancers, and audiences to more expansive ideas of what it means to make contemporary dance in Trinidad and Tobago specifically, and to center Amerindian3 dance in this idea. With a mostly sold-out show held in the 800-seat Queens Hall in Port of Spain, Trinidad’s capital, the performance was part of a three-evening program featuring different works each night. Smith’s NeoIndigenA had the distinction of being the only to be performed on all three nights. The opening lines delivered in Mohawk in this performance of NeoIndigenA, are: “Kónhnhe Kèn:tho í:ke’,” which means: Kónhnhe . . . I am alive. Kèn:tho í:ke’s . . . I am here. These words are called out, Smith says, to “acknowledge my journey in the ritual dance and to creation and to ancestors.” At the time of the performance—late 2014—the Caribbean is being affected by the mosquito-borne Chikungunya virus, which sounds a bit like the Mohawk pronunciation of: Kónhnhe Kèn:tho í:ke’. A section of the audience filled with young people led a fit of giggles that—as the twenty-minute solo progressed—grew throughout the multigenerational audience. As the laugher continued, its energetic connec-



tion unmasked it as the face of limited interactions with work by Indigenous dance artists, as well as toward deeper colonial, social, and political histories. Smith’s collaborator, Monique Mojica, tells me later, “We often get this response from non-Native audiences in response to Native work. They laugh.” Perhaps that laughter was from a lack of understanding of the work as well as laughter at the performer/performance. The culture and history of First People has been meticulously and strategically subverted since the Caribbean, in its modern sense, began. Spanish slaving raids followed violent religious conversions, colonization, exploitation, subjugation, and systematic oppression. Textbooks are littered with language of how all Native people were “decimated” when permanent settlement began in 1592; and socially, when it is said, “the only real Caribs are dead Caribs” (Forte 2005). If we reject that all “Caribs” were “decimated” and that “the only real Carib is a dead Carib,” what is it that echoes in the laughter when Smith says, “I am alive. I am here”? If we want to claim indigenous dance—its culture and history—as part of Caribbean identity, but only in its retentive/traditional forms, then how can we access a contemporary and future space in which it is yet to be discovered? And how can this “discovery” be free of the perpetuation of those same legacies of erasure, slavery, colonization, and imperialism? Perhaps the laughter was also a kind of nervous gesture one makes when approaching, with overwhelming anxiety, a great challenge. Smith’s NeoIndigenA became a site/placeholder for questions about how we define diaspora; about othering and how we include contemporary indigenous artists in the production of dance and performance in Trinidad and Tobago. How do we rigorously engage, artistically and intellectually, with artists/ artworks and the context from which they create? What conditions must be created for this imagination to be enacted and reenacted? And to what kinds of knowledge could this critical engagement lead? In this movement between past, present, and future, we find context for what Mojica offered during their residency, that “When we heal ourselves, we heal our ancestors and progeny.”4 Smith’s NeoIndigenA is significant for its place in the now-memory of cultural production in Trinidad and Tobago, moving beyond the village competitions and into contemporary, experimental, critical forms through thinking about how those histories and cultures connect and intersect in the contemporary Caribbean landscape. dance your anger and your joys dance the guns to silence dance dance dance. (Nigerian Human Rights Activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, in Moreechika [2012])



Figure 18.1. Ananya Chatterjea in Moreechika, 27 July 2012. (Photo by Maria Nunes, © 2012.)

Moreechika is the third performance by Ananya Dance Theatre (ADT) in a four-year anti-violence artistic initiative researching efforts among women from global communities of color to resist the violent and capitalist misuse of four physical elements: land, gold, oil, and water. The piece was performed by Ananya Dance Theatre’s ten dancers—nine women and one man,5 along with puppets that moved “with the aim of epitomizing the mythical linkages between past and present” (Williams 2012). Foregrounding embodied knowledge and incorporating scholarly research, the performance of Moreechika was particularly fitting in Trinidad—the “land of oil and music”; where the greatest export, other than calypso music, is oil and gas—which makes up nearly half of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Moreechika explores the effect oil drilling projects have on global communities of color and portrays how women from these communities resist and survive systemic and hierarchical violence associated with these projects. The work contrasts the abundance of oil and financial gain with the scarcity and poverty of the communities nearby and around the oil drilling projects, bringing together many stories: the belief of the U’wa people of Colombia; the protests of the indigenous Kichwa women of Ecuador to the growing encroachments of Chevron oil; the debates in North America about the Keystone XL Pipeline through Native American lands; and the fight and martyrdom of Nigerian activist Ken Saro-Wiwa against Shell Oil. The performance is particularly res-



onant in Trinidad, as the audience included workers (and family members) of Petrotrin,6 and one of the evening’s sponsors was National Petroleum. Moreechika provoked further thought about what it means to make contemporary Indian dance in a cultural space where half the society is of East Indian descent, and raised questions regarding authenticity, identity, and responsibility to the land. ADT’s work in the space also represented a commitment to the question of how arts advance social justice, and how we speak of, evaluate, and teach such work. And how are you? Fine! FINE! How are the children? Very racist, thank you. (Louanna Martin in Strange Tale of an Island Shade [2013]) The New Waves! Commission Project presented The Strange Tale of an Island Shade created by Trinidadian choreographer, Sonja Dumas, in 2013. I attended the first iteration of the work, performed for a small group of guests in May 2009 at the Cotton Tree Foundation before it was presented as a twenty-minute solo in October at the historic Trinidad Theatre Workshop.7 My curatorial choice in selecting The Strange Tale of an Island Shade8 came out of watching the development of the work, how it affected audiences, and the kinds of discussions taking place around it (or not). The piece offers Trinidadian audiences the opportunity to consider the intersections of race, class, and color in the local context—with social hierarchies spawned from colonialism; ethnic commodification introduced by slavery and indentureship; and with acts of syncretism and transfiguration that shape Trinidad culture in its specific way. Dumas uses a series of episodic moments—with humor, historical text, and movement — to weave a story that explores Trinidadian “anxieties [. . .] ambiguity and discomfort about ‘otherness’, especially race, shade and class” (Dumas 2013). Strange Tale is quintessentially Caribbean in in its dealing with race and class — subtle, gnawing, enough to contain the paradox and paradigm of a multicultural people that cannot yet transcend racialist categories, language, and attitudes. This rubbing up of the notion of the ideal nation and the nation that exists not only “opens the discussion about the meaning of national unity and maturity” (Dumas 2013), it led to strong reactions from some audience members. People walked out. In a 2014 conversation I had with Dumas, her her concern for the resonances of the performance(s) was palpable: how it affected the space in which she lives and creates, space as in the city, the nation, in the dance theater landscape (Sonja Dumas, pers. comm., 14 April 2014). Just as palpable was the Institute’s cura-


Makeda Thomas

torial signal to facilitate these performative dialogues in productive and healing ways. The post-performance discussion, which is not a normal part of dance programming in Trinidad, was useful and engaging. Through curation, the Institute embodies its mission as a space “where vital conversations on the body, movement, cultural production, hybridity and diaspora could be had; where dominant discourses on art and culture could be challenged and where new progressive languages could be spoken; a space where dancers could dance and be healed from the laborious hierarchies of imperialism and colonization. . . .” (Dance and Performance Institute 2011). Infinite in every direction. That is “Black.” How do we frame “Blackness” in the Caribbean? Does the idea that “we’re all mixed” render “Blackness” null? When I speak of Black, I invoke my Garifuna maternal great-grandmother Christiana “Mami Dora” Somersol of St. Vincent, of my Warao paternal grandmother, Alma, of Venezuela, and my Grenadian grandfather, Joseph. I invoke Fenton—my paternal great great-great greatgrandfather, an African enslaved in Virginia who fought for the British earning 12 acres of land in Moruga. I invoke all those who I cannot name. I invoke the ancestors of my son—Carib, Chinese, East Indian, Spanish and African. I invoke them all. Its depth and complexity is infinite. As Rosa Clemente says, “My Blackness is one of the greatest powers I have.” (Thomas 2014).

What carries over, strips away, shifts, amplifies when the context for presenting these platforms is a place where Black culture is the dominant culture? This is what interests my co-curator, Dancing While Black Black founder Paloma McGregor, a New York-based artist born in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. The very name of the New Waves! 2015 partnering organization Dancing While Black initiated conversations in the local dance community about how Blackness is conceived in the local Caribbean context. There were those artists like Dumas (in consideration of her experience with Strange Tale) who had questions about whether the conversations surrounding the project would “do more harm, than help.” Designed to foster creative, collaborative, generative inquiry, the Dancing While Black Performance Lab was about working through paradox, contradictory tensions, and challenges to provide a model for artistic and creation production. As a curator, I was interested in the cross-currents of the Dancing While Black Performance Lab works and the discourses that came out of them — as much a reflection of the complexity of the aesthetics that connect Caribbean identity as it is a window to its function. This was demonstrated, significantly, by many artists on the program: Cynthia Oliver, of the US Virgin Islands, professor in the Dance Department at University of Illinois, and Artistic Director of the Cynthia Oliver Company (COCo CoCo Dance Theatre). Oliver—whose body of work has focused on women for years — honed in on a work that explores masculinity with five male performers.8 Oliver set the foundation for



a new project which that sought to “choreographically unearth ideas of manhood, those that are not merely mimetic external representations of form and style, but deeply rooted, nuanced understandings of the masculine” (Dance and Performance Institute 2015). Professor Nyama McCarthy-Brown’s Wanted also centered on Black masculinity, in a work danced with her three-year-old son, Kassim. Revolving around the mother-child relationship and how racial constructs filter the view of that relationship, the piece involved another Dancing While Black Performance Lab choreographer, Orlando Hunter, who replaced McCarthy-Brown in the duet with Kassim—a moving and powerful consideration of inheritance and family. Hunter’s own solo work, Mutiny/When will you re-cog-nize, was a continuation of his bodily research on Emancipatory Methodologies, with New Waves! Faculty, Trinidadian playwright, Tony Hall.9 United States-based scholar-artist Thomas F. DeFrantz’s solo, Performing Black, which he described in the program notes as a “performance disguised as a lecture, and a lecture that is a performance” (2015), balanced formality and presentation while simultaneously reading as highly personal. The ease of DeFrantz’s solo was a progression of Hunter’s virtuosic exploration. Curatorially, two theoretic practices were working in concert in the space: an explosion of the spaces in which Blackness is embodied and performed and an anchoring of those spaces through the time-space connection of black dancing bodies. In this case, Hunter’s work is anchored not only by DeFrantz’s work, but also by Oliver’s and McCarthy-Brown’s; and each gains momentum from the other. Imagining new ways of curating, as it could exist in the Caribbean, comes out of thinking about the relationship between the artists, the performances, and how the work engages the histories and imagines futures of that community, its audiences, and throughout its diasporas. By creating a dialogue within that multi-layered relationship, there is an opportunity to realize whole new possibilities in how the work, the artists, the very region is defined. If dance and performance curation, in some aspects, can serve to add value to that body of knowledge—produced for present and future uses and particularly for the process of decolonization in the Caribbean—the Institute and my role as curator are meeting our stated purpose. Let’s Dance! A 2013 Creative Capital grantee, MAKEDA THOMAS creates and performs internationally, while living in both New York City & and Port of Spain, Trinidad, where she developed The Dance & Performance Institute, an international community of performance artists, a forum for exchange, and a series of programs on contemporary dance and performance.




I thank my son, Shiloh, for his grace and patience while I worked on this chapter; all of the artists of the Dance and Performance Institute of Trinidad and Tobago, through whom this work has been possible; and Jane Gabriels for the opportunity to contribute. 1. From Michelle Gibson’s workshop description: “Second Line Aesthetic” involves improvised movement, brass music, and the embrace of communal ritual. We examine how specific movements like bucking, musical instrumentation like brass band compositions, and the improvisations of community members are central aspects of Second Line Aesthetic. We will move from Africa, through the Caribbean and into Congo Square through an exploration of New Orleans dance history and dance with live musicians (Dance and Performance Institute 2014). 2. COCO (Contemporary Choreographers Collective) Dance Festival was founded in

3. 4.


6. 7.

8. 9.

2008 by four choreographers—Dave Williams, Sonja Dumas, Nancy Herrera, and Nicole Wesley. American Indian. More appropriately called the Kalinago in Trinidad. From an artist talk by Mojica, programmed as part of Santee Smith’s Artist Residency, hosted partnership with The Philosophical Society of Trinidad and Tobago at Studio 66 in Barataria, Port of Spain. Chitra Vairavan, Sherie Apungu, Renee Copeland, Alex Eady, Brittany Radke, Sarah Beck-Esmy, Lela Pierce, Alessandra Williams (guest), Hui Wilcox, and Orlando Hunter. Petroleum Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited is the state-owned oil company. On October 2009, the piece was performed for the first iteration of the COCO Dance Festival at Queens Hall. In the New Waves! 2013 performance of Strange Tale of an Island Shade held 31 July at the Academy for Performing Arts in Port of Spain, Dumas presented a twenty-minute version of the work. Michael Mortley, Mark Eastman, Ricarrdo Valentine, Robert Young, and Orlando Hunter. Jouvay Process for Dancers comes out of playwright Tony Hall’s Jouvay Process Popular Theatre, an interventionist performance/production model for seeing art works happen. It is a framework for personal or group development, or for training artists to deepen their craft, and their consciousness, in direct relation to everything around them.

R EF E R E NC E S Angela’s Pulse Performance Project. 2014. “About Dancing While Black.” Retrieved 23 May 2016 from Chatterjea, A. Moreechika. 2012. Performance at the Academy for Performing Arts, Port of Spain, 27 July 2012. Continuum Dance Theatre. 2013. Strange Tale of an Island Shade. Academy for Performing Arts, Port of Spain, 28 July 2013. Dance and Performance Institute. 2011. “Dance and Performance Institute: Life, spirit and culture.” Retrieved 23 September 2016 from institutelife.



———. 2014. “New Waves! AYITI Retrospective.” Retrieved 23 September 2016 from ged-and-surrounded-by. ———. 2015. “Deeply Rooted, Nuanced Understandings of the Masculine: Cynthia Oliver for the New Waves! 2015/Dancing while Black Performance Lab.” Retrieved 2 August 2018 from DeFrantz, T. F. 2015. Program Notes: Performing Black. [Brochure]. Port of Spain, Trinidad: Academy for Performing Arts, 27 July 2015 Dumas, S. 2013. Program Notes: Strange Tale of an Island Shade. [Brochure]. Port of Spain, Trinidad: Academy for Performing Arts, 28 July 2013. Forte, M. 2005. Presence of Caribs: (Post)Colonial Representation of Aborginality in Trinidad and Tobago. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. Sankeralli, B. S. 2013. “Bodies Tale: Re-centering the Dance.” Lecture at New Waves! Institute. Port of Spain, 27 July 2013. Saro-Wiwa, K. 1993. “Poem.” In “Remembering Ken Saro-Wiwa – the Ogoni People & the Greed for Oil.” African Perspectives. Retrieved 22 July 2011 from https://afriperspectives .com/2011/07/22/remembering-ken-saro-wiwa/ Smith, S. 2014. “NeoIndigenA.” Performance at Queens Hall, Port of Spain, 3 October 2014. Stewart, J. 2004. “Spirituality and Resistance Among among African-creoles.” Paper presented at the Moving Boundaries: American Religion(s) through the Louisiana Purchase Conference, February 2004. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri-Columbia. Tancons, C. 2012. “Curating Carnival? Performance in Contemporary Caribbean Art.” Retrieved 23 September 2016 from Thomas, M. 2014. “Bring de Power: Orisha dance as a mobile technology of African-Diasporic identity making.” Paper presented at Collegium for African Diaspora Dance: Theories of Black Performance. Durham, North Carolina, Duke University. Williams, A. 2012. “Hungry Ghosts/Ananya Dance Theatre’s Moreechika at New Waves! 2012.” Retrieved 23 September 2016 from post/79695861/64/alessandra-williams-hungry-ghosts-ananya-dance. Williams, E. 1964. History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago. London: Andre Deutsch. Retrieved 23 September 2016 from historyofthepeop006593mbp_djvu.txt.

Figure CS.2. As We. (Photo by Nadège Grebmeier Forget, © 2015.)


As We




Engaged in Montreal’s visual and live arts community, performance artist NADÈGE GREBMEIER FORGET embraces interdisciplinarity and curation in her practice. She is the first daughter of a runner-up 1960s California Beauty Queen.

REFERENCES Brand, N. 2014. “Around the Table.” In 8 Days II/Projet BK, ed. Justine A. Chambers and Marie Claire Forté, 26. Toronto: Public Recordings Performance Projects. Ferret, S. 1998. “La fiction de l’identité.” In L’identité, 133. Paris: Flammarion. Poitras, J. 2007. “L’escalade des engagements et l’entêtement nuisible.” In Psychologie de la négociation, 75. Montréal: Les éditions Quebecor. Raqs Media Collective. 2009/2010. “Additions, Subtraction: On Collectives and Collectivities.” In MJ Journal of Contemporary Curatorship: Collective Curating N˚8, 11. Milano: Silvana Editoriale Spa. Bourriaud, N. 2004. “L’art des années 90: Participation et transitivité.” In Esthétique relationnelle, 31. Dijon-Quetigny: Les presses du réel. Jones, A. 2006. “Beneath This Mask Another Mask.” In Self/Image: Technology, Representation and the Contemporary Subject, 41. London: Routledge.

CH A P T E R 1 9

The Work of the Musician-Curator in Relation to the “Concert Scenario” MARIE-HÉLÈNE BREAULT


n the field of music in general, the term curation is infrequently used, often passed over for the more common designation of artistic direction. Even so, in the context of a contemporary music organization, many tasks associated with this more familiar position also fall within the purview of certain definitions of the curator’s role, in particular the functions of education and mediation. I refer particularly to the definitions provided by Jessica Morgan in her article “What Is a Curator?” (2013: 21–29), which positions the curator’s work as intimately tied to education. I refer also to Maria Lind who insists on the curator’s role as mediator (2013: 85–91). My reflections are informed by the experience I acquired between 2008 and 2013 as the general and artistic director of the new music concert producer, Erreur de type 27 (E27).1 These thoughts address the current situation of contemporary music curation in Québec, and aim to situate the work of the musician-curator in terms of the notion of the “concert scenario.” I will begin by presenting the specific subject of interest to me in this study, which is the concert as a privileged mode for presenting musical works in the field of new music. Several lines of inquiry currently inflect this coded ritual within the parameters broadly defined by the symphonic tradition. I will then discuss the trajectory and development of the musician-curator. Currently, those musicians who assume this role do not employ the title of curator. What is more, they often exhibit an autodidactic approach to this work. I will subsequently situate the musician-curator in relation to the artistic and aesthetic orientations that underlie the notion of the concert scenario and explore the solutions this idea might offer to current concerns surrounding the concert ritual. We will see that, in music, the work of the curator may impact the creation, performance, and reception of musical works, and that the theatricalization of the concert might contribute to a renewal of musical performance practices. I will illustrate my propositions through a selection of case studies drawn from E27’s programming.



THE CONTEMPORARY CONCERT: AN EVOLVING RITUAL In the field of concert music, as well as for music labeled “new,” “contemporary,” or “original,” numerous initiatives in past decades aimed at democratization have been implemented. These are geared toward reaching a larger audience, and revitalizing the concert by proposing alternatives to a more traditional mode of presenting musical works. Interrogating the concert ritual is a core concern for concert producing organizations, not to mention artists. To this end, the periodical Circuit, Musiques contemporaines, delved into an investigation of the future of contemporary music (Goldman et al. 2010: 92–128), posing multiple questions to artists working in the discipline. One such question reads: “How will the ritual of the concert evolve? Must it evolve?” This inquiry prompted a wide range of responses. Composer and author Nicolas Gilbert underlines the need for an intermediary between the listening public and musical works. For flautist, improviser, and composer Cléo Palacio-Quintin, interdisciplinarity can help break down concert conventions, while attracting new publics (Goldman et al. 2010: 100). In the same vein, the composer Hector Parra affirms: one of the goals of the younger generation of creators is to attain an expressive convergence, integrating sonic, visual, verbal, and conceptual expressions from diverse, even divergent, cultural strata within one unique and intense experience. The symbiotic relationships stitched among these artistic elements prioritize an attitude of integration, which can help foster new audiences that are more open to the future, and more amenable to forward-thinking and innovative propositions. (Goldman et al. 2010: 118)

Some artists also address the question of the spaces in which new music is presented. Detlef Heusinger, the artistic director of the Experimental Studio of the SWR, in Germany, interrogates the predominance of the proscenium stage, which he views as insufficient for “ambitious” contemporary music productions (Goldman et al. 2010: 106). For Luca Francesconi, artistic director and composer for the Biennale Musica, in Venice, the concert hall as we know it is redundant, although he claims that this is not necessarily true of the concert itself. In the same vein, the composer and pianist Morritz Eggert conceptualizes the concert of the future as a social event, distinct from the act of listening to music on a computer (Goldman et al. 2010: 114). As for my own point of view, I answered the question of evolution (Goldman et al. 2010: 110) when engaging with the criteria of arts funding organizations, those which support concert producers, the dissemination of works, the context within they are presented, as well as the impact they have on the public. For example, the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (CALQ) considers the importance and relevance of awareness activities, its coherence among the goals set by an organization, its strategies of communication, opera-



tion, and development, as well as the impact of the organization’s outreach. This is measurable, according to the CALQ, by public presence and recognition, as well as by general impact in the artistic field. Several of the CALQ’s evaluation criteria therefore address the roles of the “curator” (animation and sensitization of the public, communication strategies, influence in the field, etc.). What can we garner from these artists’ and funders’ approaches? First, that certain artists deplore the archaic nature of the conventional concert as a mode for presenting musical works. In the same vein, we might underline the conventional concert’s relative ineptitude in fostering an environment conducive to nurturing an interest in contemporary works among spectators, or to presenting expansive contemporary works, namely those that surpass classical presentation forms. Several musicians have also expressed a desire for the renewal of the concert form, rooted in an interdisciplinary approach, and including inter-artistic integration beyond mere juxtaposition. This approach envisions creating new concert formulas, wherein the relationship with the public and the communication between musicians and spectators are foregrounded. From the perspective of funders, the expectation is that concert producers will include in their programming not only activities aimed at presenting works (concerts as such), but also other activities tangential to concerts (workshops, master classes, pre-concert conferences, audience-artist discussions, etc.). Programming such peripheral activities fosters a more direct relationship with the public and contributes to educating spectators. These initiatives are therefore geared toward developing a broader appreciation of works and a better understanding of musical practices. PROFILING THE MUSICIAN-CURATOR In Québec, specifically designated curators are not found in most new music concert producing organizations. Given that term represents a relatively recent development in the performing arts, and even more so in music, few musicians self-identify as such. Even so, the tasks of curation are performed in these organizations. Most often, however, they are taken on by individuals who officially occupy other positions within the organization, and who usually do not employ the title of curator. In the framework of this article, I have chosen to consider Québec’s music scene, or more specifically, member organizations of the Groupe Le Vivier, a specialized organization for music presentation in Montreal, and which groups together about thirty music ensembles. The Groupe Le Vivier’s mission is to “foster the development of new music and to offer, through quality presentation, an open door on culture for everyone” (Groupe Le Vivier 2015). In most member organizations, curatorial tasks are taken on by the artistic director.



What can we make of the assimilation between artistic director and curator’s roles? Is there a way to distinguish between them in the field of new music? This depends on the definition of artistic direction with which we operate. If we understand this job as equivalent to programming, consisting primarily of choosing composers, works, and performers for these works, then curation becomes distinct in its additional concern for presentation spaces, modes for presenting works, and spectator experience. Alternatively, if we consider artistic direction more inclusively, comprised of artistic choices and aesthetic orientations as well as the functions of audience education, mediation, and communication, the distinction between artistic director and curator becomes less necessary. In the case of organizations with small teams that are composed primarily of musicians, and specifically in the case of chamber ensembles, the distinction is less relevant. For these groups, artistic direction is usually provided by a musician who fills several roles and takes on a range of tasks,2 including those implied in curation. From a practical perspective, it becomes less pertinent, here, to establish a distinction between artistic direction and curation, since the role of the multifunctional musician encapsulates both these spheres of activity, while also significantly surpassing their direct purview. For example, in the concert Espaces mixtes II produced by E27 in March 2013, I worked simultaneously as the general and artistic director of the producing organization, as programming director of the concert, as performer of the works Flute vs. Flute (flute duet) and Flute vs. Tape (flute and tape) by Andrew Staniland, and as co-composer, with Martin Bédard, of the acousmatic Replica. For this concert, I also participated in the set design with Alice Ronfard, and in the processes of editing the program notes and selecting peripheral activities (conferences given by invited composers, a CD launch in which the artists interacted with the public, etc.). And so, in the context of new concert music, curation is frequently undertaken by multifunctional musicians whose roles extend past this task. It is for this reason that I employ the term “musician-curator.” THE POSITION OF THE MUSICIAN-CURATOR AND THE NOTION OF THE “CONCERT SCENARIO” The aesthetic positions and choices of the musician-curator help define the mission and artistic orientation of ensembles or music organizations, while being directly linked to the events they present, including concerts and peripheral activities. According to such organizations, these choices are primarily made by the artistic direction and/or the team of employees and/or certain multifunctional musicians. These decisions address the following elements:


• • • • •


The works being presented (what are we playing?) The performers (who is playing?) The presentation spaces (where are we playing?) The approach to performing the pieces (how are we playing?) The reception and support of the spectator (who are we playing for?)

The work of the musician-curator, as I conceive it, consists of creating the most effective relationships between these elements. When thinking about this interrelationship, I work with the notion that I call the “concert scenario.” Emerging from the theatrical field, this idea is useful for guiding our choices as musician-curators, and provides certain solutions that I believe may help to renew the concert ritual. The concert scenario proposes a conceptual activity that intersects with programming, performance, as well as audience education and development. Integrating these different spheres, the work of the musiciancurator parallels, in a certain sense, a compositional endeavor. Effectively, if the composer composes musical works, the musician-curator composes these concert scenarios. In other words, the curator is not merely a programming director. The scenarios they imagine form a coherent trajectory, fostering a thematic thread that can unify sometimes disparate musical works, while guiding the spectator in their experience. The choices of the musician-curator also account for the way in which works are performed, presented, and communicated to the public. In addition, the musician-curator can act as a guide during the processes of creation and performance, accompanying artists as they create, interpret, and stage musical works. The musician-curator’s choices also impact the ways in which works are received by the public. In the field of music, then, the notion of the concert scenario implies that the concert as a whole is constituted through the actual work of structuring and artistic conceptualization, which takes into consideration the various artists and spectators involved. As an example, it seems pertinent here to discuss the event Aurores boreales, created around the Brousseau Inuit art collection of the Musée national des Beaux-arts du Québec (MNBAQ) on 21 January 2012.3 Between 2008 and 2012, the MNBAQ presented numerous E27 concerts in connection with a variety of permanent and temporary exhibits. The concert scenarios/events produced in this space emerged from the specific “constraints” provided by the themes of the exhibitions programmed by the MNBAQ. In the case of Aurores boreales, the chosen works were thematically linked to an exhibit dedicated to Inuit art (spirit, fertility, throat singing, worlds of cold and ice, whale bones). The choice to present aesthetically varied musical works within a single concert responded to one of the principle elements of E27’s artistic mandate.4 The concert was presented in the museum hall, in a cabaret format that injected the concert ritual with a certain dynamic energy, while stimulating



dialogue between the spectators and musicians. In concert rituals it is not uncommon for spectators to spontaneously engage in conversation with the artists during the intermission or after the concert. In addition, this spatial configuration ensured that the delineation between audience and stage was more fluid, fostering a less hierarchical relationship between musicians and spectators. What is more, this event was conceptualized as a “commentated concert” in which the musicians briefly explained the works to the audience before playing. These explanations acted as supplements to the program notes. The commentary from the musicians allowed the artists to share their perspectives on the works they played. Before the concert, the audience members were invited to visit the Inuit art exhibit accompanied by Titakti5 an electroacoustic fresco by Philippe Le Goff, created with sounds recorded in the Canadian Arctic. The works in the exhibit and the musical works in the concert therefore became mutually contextualized throughout the course of the event. This activity also encouraged the spectators to create their own links between and among the artistic universes of the exhibit and the concert. THEATRICALIZING THE CONCERT The notion of the concert scenario also accounts for its visual aspects. Of course, while concert music is heard, it is also seen, at least in the case of most instrumental and vocal works. In this sense, the notion of the concert scenario is linked to the vision of composer Elliot Carter, when he “speaks of some of his scores as ‘scenarios’ destined for musicians who are not only instrumentalists, but also ‘actors’” (Bosseur and Bosseur 1999: 118). This idea might also be considered alongside the practice of composers including Mauricio Kagel, Vinko Globokar, or Karlheinz Stockhausen, who worked in the field of instrumental theater, a genre that originated in the 1960s and proposed a dynamic and event-based conceptualization of the music field, while considering the spatial dimension of music and emphasizing new kinds of presentation modes and contexts. Instrumental theater works tend to individualize the role of the performer and rely on their inventive faculties. Often, these works demand a new form of virtuosity and/or encourage critical reflection on the social role of the musician. A curatorial approach based on the notion of the concert scenario would therefore integrate stage-settings and other visual elements within the concert, as well as movement and staging on the part of the performers, with the aim of theatricalizing the concert. This orientation would engage with works for which the theatrical dimension is determined by the composer or by the musician-curator who interprets them, in the physical and hermeneutical senses of the term. It may also arouse in performers a consciousness of their own



visibility on stage, helping them develop a stage presence that serves the goals of the piece. Thus, the performer becomes more involved, moving beyond the level of simple execution. A variety of artistic motivations may prompt this curatorial orientation. Acoustic concerns may present one factor: the spacing of musicians on stage/ in the venue impacts the sound perception of the spectators. This approach is sometimes privileged by composers and musician-curators interested in the projection of sound in a space, and in the diverse sonic configurations that are possible with acoustic and electroacoustic “instrumentariums” in venues other than the traditional proscenium theater. Some creators whose works question the oppositions between stage and audience, or artist and spectator, also employ this methodology. In addition, some creators may be inspired by the artistic potential in gestures inherent to playing instruments, and to instrumental sound production: the movement of fingers on keys, the intercostal movement associated with breathing for wind instruments, or other typical gestures that work to produce the sounds of a specific category of instruments. Essentially, in a conceptual approach, it is possible to consider these gestures as independent material, at the same level as the sonic or musical material. Otherwise, from the perspective of the performer, playing musical works that integrate a scenic or theatrical dimension demand a much larger investment of time than what is typically required, or even possible, in the world of classical concert music. In this field, the number of rehearsal hours is often limited to such an extent that to spend time on staging becomes impossible. In addition, works that incorporate movements or staging must often be played from memory. The performer therefore requires more preparation time than they would if playing from a score, in order to learn and commit to memory both the music and the choreography/staging. Some theatricalized instrumental works also ask the performer to take on a character, which implies certain skills. These elements are not typically required in the conventional repertoire, nor are they included in traditional music training (with the exception of singers, for whom these components typically form a significant portion of academic and practical curricula). Thus, learning and interpreting works that include staged or theatrical components demand specific capabilities from the performer: inhabiting a character, approaching movement with an artistic sensibility, becoming conscious of onstage gestures, and so on. Taken together, these demands, as well as the time spent becoming familiar with works comprising multiple dimensions, may foster in the performer a feeling of identification with the work that is greater than in the case of nonmemorized musical performances. This also has the potential to generate a strong sense of accomplishment, since the performer is asked to move outside



of their habitual skill set to perform in a hybrid space, between or among the boundaries of two or more art forms. The theatrical musician is no longer simply a technician, but also a veritable interpreter-creator. The concert Espaces mixtes II, presented on 13 and 15 March 2013 at the Salle Multi de Méduse (Québec), and at the Studio multimedia du Conservatoire de musique de Montréal respectively, was conceived from a curatorial position inspired by the notion of the concert scenario. This program presented a panorama of works, including various composites between instrumental and electroacoustic, in a variety of formations, from solo, to small chamber ensemble, to string quartet. From the transcription of instrumental work, to the electroacoustic medium, to utopic instrumental forms, it explored the limits of mixed repertoire.6 Entrusted respectively to theater director Alice Ronfard and technical designer Caroline Ross, the set and lighting design and staging of musicians helped assure the unity of the concert, while demarcating the progression of the program for the spectator. The ritualized (and pre-rehearsed) movement and positioning of musicians, and shifts in lighting, made the transitions between pieces legible without interrupting the stage action. Aside from the placement of musicians onstage and the movement between pieces, the staging also was also comprised of the postures and gestures of musicians as they played the works. For example, in the moment of greatest sonic intensity during Spectre by John Oswald, the musicians adopted a physicality that might lead the audience to believe they were possessed by the force of the sounds from the electronic tape. Under the auspices of the individual who conceptualized the concert’s trajectory (the musician-curator, holding the title of “artistic director” in the context of this institution), the staging of musicians and lighting in this project formed a constitutive element of the curatorial project.7 CONCLUSION This chapter offers a contribution to the definition, the profile, and the training of the musician-curator, in relation to curation in the contemporary performing arts in general. It attempts to position the musician-curator’s work within the current challenges of contemporary music organizations and ensembles in Québec. In doing so, this chapter opens a space for reflection on the usefulness of distinguishing between the roles of artistic director and curator in the field of contemporary music ensembles and concerts, accounting for the various contexts in which these operate. The evolution of the concert ritual, while largely linked to the aesthetics of contributing works and their creators, also relies on the aesthetic approaches and artistic choices of the musician-curator. In this respect, this chapter demonstrates how the notion of the concert scenario can illuminate ways of rethink-



ing concert conventions, establishing a more direct relationship between the artist-musician and the public, and proposing alternatives to the delineation of stage and audience in traditional concert halls. This idea also provides an opportunity, sometimes lacking in conventional concerts, to invest in the work of performers in more creative dimension by proposing a more dynamic and event-based conceptualization of the concert form. MARIE-HÉLÈNE BREAULT performs regularly with the Ensemble contemporain de Montréal and the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec. She earned a D.Mus. in interpretation and a PhD. in musicology from the University of Montréal, teaches flute at the Université du Québec à Montréal, and is executive director of Société québécoise de recherche en musique (SQRM). She is currently working on various creative projects with music and theater artists.

NOT E S Translation from the original French by Fabien Maltais-Bayda. I would like to thank all the artists who participated in the concerts cited in this article for their engagement, their talent, and the quality of their work. 1. This is an institution established in Quebec, where it presents most of its programming

and activities. 2. For example, in the saxophone quartet Quasar, artistic direction is assumed by saxo-

phonist Marie-Chantal Leclair. 3. The concert included several musicians: Jean-Luc Bouchard (percussion), Mélanie

Bourassa (clarinet), Marie-Hélène Breault (flute), Benoît Cormier (violin), Nicolas Cousineau (cello), Étienne Lafrance (bass), Catherine Meunier (marimba), Pamela Reimer (piano), Michelle Seto (violin), and Mary Kathryn Stevens (alto). 4. An improvisation by bassist Etienne Lafrance on Anerca I by Milton Barnes opened the concert. The word anerca means “spirit” in the Inuit language. The program then presented Fertility Rites by Christos Hatzis, a piece for marimba and electronic recording, using recordings of throat singing. The string quartet Cercle du nord I by Derek Charke was played next. This piece comprises a playing technique that uses clothespins to evoke throat singing. Then the program featured Icicle, a short piece for the solo flute by Boert Aitken, which explored the timbre of the cold and the crystallinity of ice. Next came Anirniit, a work by Arianne Nantel, then a student of the Faculty of Music at the Université de Laval. George Crumb’s work for three instruments Vox Balaenae, a title that translates as the expression “the song of the whales,” closed the program, recalling whale bone, one of the primary materials used in Inuit art. 5. Titakti is available from Empreintes Digitales. 6. It was comprised of, first, Les voix des hautes-gorges for clarinet, produced and recorded by Serge Arcuri. This was followed by Flute vs. Flute by Andrew Staniland, then Papalotl, a work for piano and recording by Javier Álvarez, then Interflow, a creation for small ensemble and recording by Christien Ledroit. After the intermission came Spectre, for string quartet by John Oswald, in which a non-amplified string quartet is measured



against a virtual orchestra “producing literally a thousand and one reflections, a wall of sounds, sails, vibrations, ghost events of the past and future that are continually present, while being virtually extended” (Erreur de type 27 2013). Then came Flute vs. Tape, a piece twinned with Flute vs. Flute, this time presented as a “musical battle” between a flautist and an electronic recording. The concert closed with the creation Replica, an acousmatic piece co-written by Martin Bédard and Marie-Hélène Breault. 7. This concert included: Marie-Hélène Breault (flute), Marie-Julie Chagnon (clarinet), Benoît Cormier (violin), Jean-François Gagné (alto), Émilie Girard-Charest (cello), Inti MAnzi (violin), Pamela Reimer (piano), and Geneviève Savoie (flute). The technical direction was undertaken by Steve Lalonde and the spacing of Replica was conceived by Martin Bédard.

R EF E R E NC E S Breault, M-H. 2013. “Du rôle de l’interprète-chercheur en création et re-création musicale : théories, modèles et réalisations d’après les cas de Kathinkas Gesang (1983–1984) de Karlheinz Stockhausen et La Machi (2007–2011) d’Analía Llugdar.” PhD dissertation. Montréal: Université de Montréal. Bosseur, D., and J-Y. Bosseur. 1993. Révolutions musicales: la musique contemporaine depuis 1945. Paris: Minerve. Empreintes Digitales. 2015. Retrieved 1 May 2015 from imed_9524. Erreur de type 27. 2012. Concert program from Aurores boréales. ———. 2013. Concert program from Espaces mixtes II. ———. 2015. Retrieved 1 May 2015 from Goldman, J., et al. 2010. “Enquête sur l’avenir de la musique contemporaine.” Circuit, Musiques contemporaines 20(1–2): 92–128. Gouhier, H. 1989. Le théâtre et les arts à deux temps. Paris: Flammarion. Groupe Le Vivier. 2015. Retrieved on 1 May 2015 from Ledent, D. 2009. “L’institutionnalisation des concerts publics.” Revue Appareil 3. Retrieved 1 May 2015 from Lind, M. 2013. “Why Mediate Art?” In Ten Fundamental Questions of Curating, ed. Jens Hoffmann, 85–91. Milan: Mousse Publishing, Fiorucci Art Trust. Morgan, J. 2013. “What Is a Curator?” In Ten Fundamental Questions of Curating, ed. J. Hoffmann, 21–29. Milan: Mousse Publishing / Fiorucci Art Trust. Stévance, S., and S. Lacasse 2013. Les enjeux de la recherche-création en musique: Institution, définition, formation. Québec: Presses de l’Université Laval.

CH A P T E R 2 0

Pseudo-, Anti-, and Total Dance A Self-Interview on Curation SALTA

Q: What is SALTA and what does it do? SALTA1 is a curatorial collective of seven dancers based in Oakland, California. Salta is also a Latin word meaning “to leap” or “to jump,” appearing in the Latin phrase: Hic Rhodus, hic salta! (“Rhodes is here, here is where you jump!”). The maxim originates from the punch line from Aesop’s fable “The Boasting Traveler.” In the story, a traveler claims that when in Rhodes, he performed an impressive jump, and that there were witnesses who could attest to his feat. A bystander interrupts him to interject, “Now, my good man, if this be all true there is no need of witnesses. Suppose this to be Rhodes and leap for us” (Aesop 2014: 22). The fable points to the importance of actually doing the deeds that we claim or aspire to for ourselves. Karl Marx cites the phrase “hic Rhodus, hic salta!” in his book The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon and offers an alternative translation: “a situation has been created which makes all turning back impossible, and the conditions themselves cry out: Here is the rose, here dance!” (Marx 1963: 19). It is in this spirit of leaping and dancing within present social and political conditions that SALTA formed as a collective. Responding to the precariousness of making dance in the Bay Area, we came together as a collective in 2012 with the intention of starting our own space for rehearsal and performance. Since that time, our aims have shifted, expanded, and changed to include projects that make space for dance to happen more broadly. From 2012 to 2016, we curated a free monthly performance series that took place in a different venue each month, collaborating with an ever-expanding network of spaces, communities, and performers. Admission to SALTA shows is always a nonmonetary donation to the free bar and boutique,



where everyone eats, drinks, and shops for free. This noncommercial context frees us to be inclusive, experimental, and eccentric in our curation. SALTA is in the practice of making sense of our love of dance, despite its historical implication in the hetero-capitalist white supremacist patriarchal art world. It is important to us that we continue to interrogate how and what we are doing, navigating our privileged relationship to resources and institutions. Consequently, in 2017 we began our newest space-making project; an artists’ residency in Mendocino County. By letting SALTA remain undefined, we are able to create shifting structures that can support many different aspects and needs of artists as they become evident to us. As a collective, we try things out as experiments, leaving space for our sense of what our group is and does to morph. Q: How would you describe SALTA’s curatorial stylings? We curate monthly events that offer an informal, inclusive space for people to show and interface with performance. The structure of our events is loose, and the aesthetic is DIY (do-it-yourself). Our primary focus is taking care of the artists we invite to perform and leaving room for the audience to take in the work and participate in variable ways. We create events that invite us to reimagine where performance can happen and how it is experienced. Alan Kaprow, one of the initiators of the1950s and 1960s Happenings in New York City, describes

Figure 20.1. Performance by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Alif lara la Revolución, at the CTRL+SHFT collective space in Oakland, California, 2017. (Photo by Chani Bockwinkel, © 2017.)



the events like this: “A Happening is rough and sudden and often feels ‘dirty.’ Dirt we might begin to realize, is also organic and fertile, and everything, including visitors, can grow a little in such circumstances” (Kaprow and Kelley 1993: 18). Similarly, our curatorial style embraces the dirty, the punk, the feral. We want to create a fertile ground for wild things to grow. Motivated by a scarcity of venues for artists to show experimental work and a growing weariness for traditional models for presenting dance, we offer a platform that we ourselves would want to participate in, a platform that is not concerned with hosting totally planned, precisely executed, and coolly managed dance performances. We are attempting to make space for experimentation not only in the performance itself, but also in the many different structures of viewing that we propose. Sometimes it is successful, and at other times, a total failure. Prior to working together as SALTA, none of us understood ourselves to be curators, so part of the project is sitting with the fact that we are not entirely comfortable with the role, and continually identifying things we want to try differently. This process of shifting our curatorial style has become an art practice, as well as an organizing project. Over the years we have employed various curatorial formats for our events. Some shows are closer to a party with simultaneous and overlapping performance art, dance, and sound, while others are more focused presentations of work. We have experimented with chain curation in which we invite an artist who invites another artist who invites another. We have organized evenings around spatial and thematic prompts: an evening of task-based performance, an evening of stale dance, an evening of cathartic dance, and so forth. We have invited guest curators to facilitate new formats, such as an evening called Short & Sweet of three-minute dances from Montréal’s Wants&Needs Danse (with curators Andrew Tay and Sasha Kleinplatz). We have co-curated events with Brooklyn-based collective AUNTS, with San Francisco’s FRESH Festival, with SOMArts, with our local mentors Margit Galanter and Abby Crain, and our friend and muse, Tyler Holmes. After a show, we always ask ourselves, “what did we learn?” We expect that our events will continue to shift and evolve, get weird, and fail gloriously as we continue to work with new artists and venues throughout the Bay Area. We find it is satisfying (although not always comfortable) to be in the same risk situation as the artists. For us, risk involves not being in total control of content. It means not choosing work based on submissions of finished works. This curatorial risk position is based on our desire as artists for more space for experimentation that is outside institutional platforms that demand product marketability. Because SALTA shows permit a great deal of artistic freedom, we are in the same position as the audience, often surprised by the work shown, and sometimes it can even feel shocking, challenging, or straight-up offensive.



In 2015, at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement and protests in Oakland, the political environment pushed us to critically reflect on our curation of artists rather than artworks, and to consider the impact of potentially offensive work on the diverse community we were interested in fostering. We crafted this statement to be read at the beginning of shows in an effort to stress how our events are communally created and everyone is responsible for criticality in art making/receiving: Welcome to SALTA. Thank you for being here tonight. We—SALTA, the performers, and you—are all responsible together for making this space what we want it to be. We hope you will be respectful and that in return you will find a generative place to experience dance. The platform SALTA intends to create is one that supports experimentation and new work. We recognize this can create spaces and work that might feel uncomfortable and possibly even problematic. We encourage you to respond and communicate your responses and feedback to us as well as the artists so that we can continue to create avenues of discourse and growth. Performance is in many ways an excuse to be together. Let’s think about who we are and the world we want to create. We invite everyone to think about how we are in spaces and with each other, especially people who identify as white, cis, cis-male, and able-bodied, ourselves included. Your body presence and mind presence are integral to the exchange tonight. Leave room for the possibility of transformation. It may not happen, but leave room.

Q: What was one of SALTA’s biggest curatorial failures and one of your biggest successes? Because SALTA events could be framed as chance performances, where the context rather than content is curated, we often find ourselves excited and nervous about what will follow. We know the elements, but we have no idea how they will combine as an event. Our chance combinations of space, time, structure, spectators, and performers—as well as the larger social and political climate—leave us to experience the dynamics of the event in real-time. Sometimes it is hard to bear. Sometimes it is mindblowingly amazing. Our most notable failure was an evening that ended in one audience member and fellow performer standing up and booing another performer, voicing criticism of racist, ableist, and related offensive material performed throughout the evening. It broke something open that had long been simmering under the surface: the forms of inclusion and exclusion that characterize contemporary performance in general, and the ways that SALTA is aware of these dynamics and implicated in them at the same time. In the wake of this event, we had some tough conversations among ourselves, and with performers and audience members. We took the opportunity to go on hiatus from curating and discuss how racism and other forms of oppression



manifest in the context of SALTA events. We watched an interview with bell hooks and Laverne Cox, and in the interview hooks says, “White people love safe space!” (Cox and Hooks 2014). She is of the opinion that silent safe space in not what we need. Instead, space should be made for loving, direct, and honest dialogue about problematic issues. So the question we are grappling with now is how to incorporate space for loving, direct dialogue within a performance event setting. After this event we began a process of nurturing opportunities to co-curate events with artists of color who share our interest in alternative models for presenting contemporary dance. Co-curation cannot be the only solution or approach to decolonizing our practice, but we have found that a mutually generative exchange has resulted from these collaborations and created space for folks to express and exorcise their political rage and their utopian visions. We recognize, of course, that it is not just about co-curating with artists of color. It is about actually connecting and sharing with the many people and communities doing work in Oakland, and, as always, being willing to fail. The event that was our biggest failure was perhaps our biggest success in that it allowed a floodgate to open for us and for our performance community, to address problematics inherent in performance, our collective structure and in the social world in general. It pushed us to question and expand our intentions, moving beyond the racialized and classed conceptions of what constitutes the “contemporary” or “experimental” in performance. Q: How does SALTA negotiate space and spaces? Since our first evening of performance in June of 2012, we have curated more than forty events, each held in a space donated to us. We have hosted performances in dance studios, houses, warehouses, theaters, galleries, cafes, museums, communes, spaces finished and unfinished, fixed and vanishing, old and new. Each has required a different vision of who might perform there and how, as well as a flexibility and openness from us, the performers, and the audience. There is a network of people who consistently come to our events because they are interested in the shifting environments, as well as new audience members at every show who may come because of an affiliation with the performers or with the space hosting us that night. This shifting of space reflects the inevitable and organic connection between art and its environment. We have seen how the atmosphere created by the physical size, aesthetic, or mission of the space contextualizes the performances in a particular way. Suddenly, an evening can become all about vag presence when hosted in a feminist space. Or SALTA in an art gallery can become about the creation of art objects. Or a dance in a small, crowded, hot room becomes necessarily intimate. We are interested in this space/content relationship and how this variable influences each event.



The structure of inhabiting new and donated spaces has allowed us to offer dance events that are free to audience members. It has also provided us with the opportunity to envision our performances and collective as having a different relationship to capitalism—where we rely less on funding and public/ corporate sponsorship, and more on connections and relationships with our surrounding communities and the resources they can exchange. Within this framework we have not had to align with values or missions we do not support. By not relying on a model of arts curation dependent on the interests of funders, we can provide a platform for artists to experiment without limiting themselves to predetermined or easily legible conceptions of “success.” We find this distancing from typical capitalization of art to be exciting, and frankly it cuts out a huge amount of bullshit. Q: How does SALTA approach collectivity? SALTA approaches our work together as multiplicitously as possible. We are invested in collaboration in a deep and essential way, but we allow for a fluid definition of what that means. We have no codified rubric for how to collectively run meetings, reach agreements, make decisions, curate, or run a show. We change how we operate, modifying and honing our approach, based on practical trial and error as well as wild imagination. SALTA’s process has been described as a swirl, and friends have remarked that the fact that we have no system points to how well it is working. Douglas Dunn’s description of The Grand Union’s process gets at an essential aspect of our own: “Whoever speaks, speaks. Whoever dances, dances (Dunn quoted in Ramsay 1991: 106).” We come together, identify what we are excited about, what needs to be done, and then we go do it. Working together is for us an attuning of this relational dynamic to keep our hearts and minds deeply invested in the process, the outcome, and the surprises that come with it. We find this to be a joyful model that also aligns with our politics: a commitment to commoning, pooling resources, creating space outside of institutions, and searching for alternate modes of working within and outside of hierarchy, patriarchy, and capitalism. Through collaboration, we want to investigate what becomes socially and artistically possible by working together horizontally. We connect with the way Ferdinand Lewis relays Goat Island’s description of working collaboratively: “‘Divisions between individuals and ideas of authorship are blurred. Through this we see that the creative material connects to others, and is completed by them.’ They go on to describe a ‘decentering expansion’ that ‘divests the work of an absolute author” (Lewis 2005: 1). While we are aware of some of the strengths of a more ambiguous, collective process, we are also sensitive to the ways that power can operate invisibly within any group. This informs our desire to remain self-reflexive and continue to evolve our working methods. We are also all good friends and that comes with the ups



and downs of learning how to communicate with each other as we navigate our patterns, tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses. Q: How is SALTA situated historically? We have been saying from the start of our project that our collective and series is “a historical process.” At the heart of this “historical process” is a reworking and redefining of what it means to be a dancer. As the traditional company model becomes more obsolete, we are holding space for the precarious freelancer, in the dance context and the broader political economic sense of the term. As artist-curators, we question what it means to dance (and to be dancers) at this historical juncture in which artists are facing a scarcity of gigs and funds, and austerity programs undercut educational opportunities as well as basic social services and infrastructure. In our area, the Bay Area, this juncture is compounded by a tech boom that is rapidly shifting the economies of our urban context. San Francisco has become too costly to live in, causing many people priced out of the city to move to Oakland. The influx of new, predominantly white, young professionals is displacing former residents—largely poor and working class communities of color. At the same time as we struggle with the precarity of our lives as dancers and underemployed service workers, we are daily faced with the realities of gentrification and our participation in it. The paradox of our role as both agents and targets of gentrification affects how we relate to venues we inhabit, performers we invite, and audience members who show up to our events. We hope this has encouraged a desire and willingness on our part to remain self-aware and creative as we strive toward feminist, antiracist, and inclusive support for performance and dancing. We seek ways for SALTA events to be accountable to the communities that have historically resided within Oakland and are committed to an ongoing dialogue about how to do this better. Q: How would you describe SALTA’s relationship to other collective projects? The seed of our project came from our relationships to the AUNTS performance series in New York and to a space in Los Angeles called Pieter. A few of us lived in New York and were inspired by the AUNTS events we attended. One of the people who founded AUNTS, Jmy James Kidd, moved to Los Angeles in 2009 to start Pieter, a dance studio and performance space. Several of us spent time at Pieter for residencies and performances, which sparked an interest in having a space of our own. Through conversations and support from Jmy, we decided to come together as a group and see what might be possible in Oakland. We seek inspiration from collaborative groups and movements who are also interested in opening up what it means to encounter an artwork and to encoun-



ter each other in the space of the artwork. We are in alignment with curatorial projects including AUNTS, Physical Education, 3AM, Wants&Needs Danse, and historic movements such as Judson Church, Grand Union, Gutai Group, Goat Island, NYC Happenings, and many others. We are looking to create space for dance that falls outside the typical consumer experience of performance. We attempt to show works in radical juxtaposition to each other and give space for the audience to be an active part of the event. Much about our aesthetic and interest in DIY production also comes from punk and anti-establishment ethics. Our events often emulate the way small independent bands play in people’s living rooms, basements, and garages. Some of us grew up participating in these punk scenes and continue to be inspired by the dedication of punks to making their own spaces and not waiting for opportunities to emerge from elsewhere. Q: What questions or concerns are pressing for you as a collective right now? The political questions that keep pressing are: In what ways do SALTA events participate in broader dynamics surrounding gentrification? As a group of white women and gender nonconforming people, in what ways can we actively support, and take leadership from, artists and communities of color? How do we understand the possible connections between demographics and aesthetic forms? What does decolonizing our series entail? We are always considering how our project will unfold. In the beginning we thought we would open a physical dance space, and instead we focused on creating and finding space everywhere. As our interests individually shift, and as we see other models of curation, we are figuring out how our malleable structure can change over time. We also are considering some of the financial resources that have come our way. Although the entrance to our events is nonmonetary and we strive to work outside commodified structures, we still do occasionally receive funding and honorariums for our work. What do we do with capital when we have it? In June 2017, we decided to use some of this funding to initiate the first of three annual residencies for Bay Area artists in Mendocino County. We invited seven artists from San Francisco and Oakland to come up to the mountains and bring a collaborator. Our hope with this project is that in subsequent years those who attend will structure the following years with us, allowing SALTA to organically grow in numbers through a shared project. Everyone who attended last year has been invited to meet with us to shape a vision of what the future will hold. We wish to create an entry point into the fundamental structuring of our project in an effort to open up our curatorial decision-making process to new communities and artists. We also wonder how our curatorial practice can continue to support our individual art practices and lives. Because we dedicate a lot of time to this project,



how can SALTA be a generative force for us? As we all navigate our own lives and decisions, how do we continue to find the same wave to ride? Q: How did you write this self-interview? We asked questions of ourselves and took turns answering and editing each other’s responses. We talked in person, on the phone, with people outside of the group. We reminisced. We went to the library. We riffed, edited, and rewrote. The text is composed of all of our voices.

SALTA is a collective based in Oakland, California. We are a group of women and gender nonconforming people who came together in 2012 to create a platform for dance and experimental performance. We host shows, divergent conversations, parties, and group processes. SALTA is in the practice of making sense of our love of dance, despite its historical implication in the hetero-capitalist white supremacist patriarchy. It is important to us that we continue to interrogate how and what we are doing, navigating our privileged relationship to resources and institutions.


Sections of “Pseudo-, Anti-, and Total Dance: A Self-Interview on Curation” (under the title “SALTA: A Self-Interview on Curation”) was originally published in “Critical Correspondence” on the website Movement Research 1. SALTA is Brianna Skellie, Chani Bockwinkel, Elizabeth Ardent, Layton Lachman, Mara Poliak, Olive McKeon, and Sarah Pritchard.

R EF E R E NC E S Aesop. 2014. “The Boasting Traveler.” In Aesop’s Fables, 22. New York: Sovereign Classic. Cox, L., and B. Hooks. 2014. “Bell Hooks and Laverne Cox on Transgender Politics.” Public Dialogue at the New School. Public Programs Express. Video published online 7 November 2014. Retrieved 10 December 2014 from v=Xuspy9vYMBA. Kaprow, A., and J. Kelley. 1993. Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life. Berkeley: University of California Press. Lewis, F. 2005. “Introduction.” In Ensemble Works: An Anthology, Ferdinand Lewis, 1–2. New York: Theater Communications Group, Inc. Marx, K. 1963. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. New York: International Publishers. Ramsay, M. H. 1991. The Grand Union (1970–1976): An Improvisational Performance Group. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.

CH A P T E R 2 1


Figure 21.1. Body Slam Collective performance at Envisioning the Practice: International Symposium on Performing Arts Curation, 15 April 2014 in Montréal. Performers (left to right): Rémy Saminadin, Greg Selinger, Nans Bortuzzo, Helen Simard, Victoria Mackenzie, Stéphanie Morin-Robert, Xavier Laporte, and Roger White. (Photo by Pascale Yensen, © 2014.)




ody Slam is an instantaneous composition collective, comprised of a group of interdisciplinary artists who are specialists in dance, poetry, and music. Greg Selinger is the founder of Body Slam, and while he is often labeled as “artistic director” of our collective, his role is ambiguous. Greg usually takes on certain administrative responsibilities, such as organizing group meetings and shows, and selecting specific artists from the collective’s flexible membership for public presentations; Body Slam performers Helen Simard and Stephanie Morin-Robert also contribute with administrative work and suggestions. However, many of Body Slam’s administrative and artistic decisions are made collectively, with leadership emerging from various members at different moments, such as: proposing and guiding group studio improvisation exercises for the day, or proposing a structure or theme before a public instantaneous composition. In April 2014, Body Slam was invited to be a “company-in-residency” of sorts at the Envisioning the Practice: International Symposium on Performing Arts Curation, organized in Montréal in April 2014. The members of our collective attended the entire four-day event and drew inspiration from the various papers, presentations, and discussions to create an hour-long, improvised performance that we presented on the final day of the conference. In preparation for this event, we met to rehearse and discuss how we understood the concept of curating in relation to our collective and our collaborative improvisations; the following text is a slightly edited (or, dare we say, curated) transcription of that conversation.

GREG SELINGER: So . . . I want to talk about this performance that we’re doing for the symposium, because it will allow us to begin to explore this idea of Body Slam as something that I “curate”. . . HELEN SIMARD: And that, I mean, is kind of how we are framing our performance for the conference? GREG SELINGER: Yes. HELEN SIMARD: . . . There’s kind of this idea of you as a curator of the collective? GREG SELINGER: Yeah, I proposed it under that context. Also, I think the main goal of this show is to really treat the Arts Curators Association of Quebec’s symposium as a kind of residency, so we’re going to try to go to as many of these nerdy academic talks as possible, and try to take in as much information as possible and talk to each other about it. So basically: to take as many ideas as possible from the presentations about the practice of curating and try to compare, contrast, and digest these ideas to use them as a starting point for us to talk about ourselves and for us to go off on riffs in all kinds of directions. Our performance doesn’t have to be like a purely dry danced, “music-ed,” essay; we



can definitely go off on personal tangents, but I want to use taking in as much information as possible from the conference as a starting point and as a kind of theme for the improv. HELEN SIMARD: So I guess, how would you say, that you understand curating and yourself as a curator? What’s curating for you? How would you define it? GREG SELINGER: For me, it’s about facilitating an encounter between awesome artists; about bringing these artists together in one particular context, where I believe they can fit together, and then trying to facilitate them to be able to do what they do at their best in that particular context, where everything will somehow fit together, whether in a clear way or an abstract way. HELEN SIMARD: So for you, how would that differ from defining yourself as a choreographer, artistic director or director of sorts? GREG SELINGER: The word choreographer seems to be getting more and more flexible these days and a lot of people outside of dance, when they hear “choreographer,” they think it’s the person who makes up all the steps. Clearly, with Body Slam, I’m nothing at all like that. I do often use the term “artistic director” when I’m applying for grants or shows, because I feel that it’s a simple term that makes it pretty clear that I’m the main person responsible for organizing bringing people together. But I feel that “curator” is more appropriate. I think the difference between artistic direction and curator is that “curator” is more about facilitating the artists in coming together to create a performance, whereas “artistic director” implies that I impose a clear, guiding vision for what I want the performance to be. I feel that with Body Slam I try to get in the way as little as possible, in order to facilitate bringing every member’s vision into this project as much as mine. Yes, I think that because of the dynamic nature of the intentions of Body Slam, the way that our intentions are shifting based on all the ideas that different people bring to the table, that “artistic director” makes it sound more like Body Slam is mine . . . I feel that I’m a little bit closer to a “curator.” ROGER WHITE: Can I just interject? GREG SELINGER: Yeah. ROGER WHITE: You said that the word “choreographer” is getting expanded. But do you think you could make the argument that the definition of the word “curator,” or the idea of what curation is, is also being expanded in the same way? GREG SELINGER: Yeah, definitely. Well, something that I remember reading when I was looking into why Dena Davida and Jane Gabriels were trying to



organize this symposium, was their interest in having this conference because curation actually is expanding more and more. It’s no longer just exclusively for museum curators, who choose which artworks or which artists are going to be put on display. ROGER WHITE: I’m not saying that you’re not a curator. But it’s funny that you would say “because the term ‘choreography’ has been expanded to include all this other stuff, I no longer see myself as a choreographer”—which I think is right, though. I mean, in a sense, you’re not necessarily a choreographer—but I think maybe there might be curators who feel that the same thing is happening to their profession. Do you know what I mean? GREG SELINGER: Yeah, that there might need to be new terms for what’s being called “curating”. . . ROGER WHITE: Yeah, it’s interesting stuff. Because I agree with you one hundred percent: what you’re doing with Body Slam, you’re not choreographing. And I think that in terms of artistic direction, if you say that title implies that you’re directing something. You aren’t necessarily directing all the time; you’re letting people do what they do. You’re building off of different people’s strengths to make a whole experience, right? Being like, “Ok, well, I know this person is good at that, and that person is good at this, so let’s bring these people together.” GREG SELINGER: Uh-huh. ROGER WHITE: And I might be off topic here, but in curating, there’s also the notion of taking care of the art . . . Like, a museum curator doesn’t only put the art on the walls, but they’re also charged with taking care of it afterwards and researching it and all this kind of stuff. I don’t know . . . you might say, “Oh Roger, you might curate music.” But I don’t see myself at all as a curator, personally. Hmmm, I wonder though: if I put a band together, am I curating a band? I don’t know. I think I’m just forming a band. Is a bandleader a curator? Or are they just a bandleader. I don’t think there’s a problem with the term “bandleader.” You think about James Brown . . . James Brown is on stage and says: “Okay! [snaps] trumpet solo: now!” And then there’s a trumpet solo. And then he’ll be like, “Take it to the bridge!” and the band goes to the bridge. I guess you could make an argument that he might be spontaneously curating, but in music, that’s called being a bandleader, and I don’t think there’s necessarily a need to change that terminology. VICTORIA “VICVERSA” MACKENZIE: It’s interesting because I’ve never even actually thought about the word “curation” in relationship to living and breathing things, like a live performance. I only think about it as kind of a fixed, inanimate



object, museum-type display. It doesn’t make sense for me, but it would maybe make sense more if we could discuss some of the words that are kind of synonymous with the concept of curation in performance. Personally, when I think of curation, I think of museums and installations and things like that. But I guess we have people in dance, like Dena Davida at Tangente, who could be called curators. Right now, I think of them as presenters . . . I just don’t have a synonymous vocabulary for curators in my brain. XAVIER LAPORTE BOISROND: Yeah, for me, it was super vague what curation was in the first place, when I read about the symposium. So I researched it on Google, what curating was, and it still isn’t clear for me. It seems to be somewhere between envisioning a project to promoting it, and being the link person between different projects or people. But that’s still pretty vague to me . . . and then trying to figure out the difference between the jobs of the booker and artistic director and curator? Will the booker be doing curating? And the artistic director: will he be doing booking as well? What tasks belongs to which title? It’s still very unclear for me what it is, and I hope the conference will enlighten me because now I’m not quite sure. ROGER WHITE: Yeah, me too [group laughter]. CLAUDIA CHAN TAK: If we talk about the difference between curator and artistic director, I find that in the context of Body Slam, Greg plays both roles. Because being a curator is organizing an event and creating an encounter between artists who have, for you, an artistic or conceptual link. Artistic direction is then to have a particular vision that you bring and the way in which you will bring the artists into a particular direction. And so for me, Greg is the artistic director of Body Slam when he prepares the grant applications or the call for projects or when he chooses the members of the collective. But he is the curator of Body Slam when he considers what date there will be to have a show and for what kind of event, and when he decides which artists would good for that: dancers as well as musicians and poets. You see, for me, to be a curator is rather the way you construct relationships for a particular event that you are organizing. On the other hand, the artistic director of a theater or a museum goes for the longterm vision, and that’s what “identifies” the company. HELEN SIMARD: So, for you, it’s partly a question of how it is inscribed in terms of time? CLAUDIA CHAN TAK: Yes, that’s it. And I think that is specific to each situation as well. For example, in music, the musicians in a “band” who make their own show with their own music, are not the same thing as if I, as a curator, make a special commission for a one-hour music performance with certain musicians



that I have brought together around a specific concept and so to create a work through this encounter. Will something emerge from this? Will there be something that emerges from this collective as a result of this event, this encounter? Or is it simply a gathering of artists in which each one comes with independent works that will be situated in difference places in the space without a real connection or encounter? HELEN SIMARD: Hmm, what you’re saying makes me think that it’s really about making connections, and about how Roger was saying that part of what a curator does is takes care of the art . . . I think that’s something that people who are in the performing art context can really think of: how a curator is “the person who cares for.” It’s not just a person who presents; it’s not just a booker; it’s someone who cares for the art—and in a live art context, the art is made up of living bodies. So it’s caring for those bodies, for the people who don’t just “make” the art but “are” the art, in a way. Maybe that’s a difference between people who would see themselves as curators as opposed to bookers. Maybe someone who sees himself or herself as a booker is more concerned with the business side of it: selling tickets, having a good show that starts on time and entertains the audience. Whereas maybe people who see themselves as curators in the performing arts are more interested in creating moments in time and space where there is a possibility for encounters between the work, the artist, and the spectator, in order to create an exchange of knowledge through a unique, embodied experience. ROGER WHITE: Maybe . . . but the cynical, paranoid part of me is like, maybe this is an attempt by academics to take over a career that already exists in order to co-opt it and then make it so that you have to get a degree to do it. That’s kind of what the paranoid me wonders . . . there’s a profession of booking or programming out there already. It doesn’t take a university degree and you don’t have to be an academic to do it. So all this theoretical discussion about curating makes the paranoid me wonder: is this an attempt by academia to be like, “Ok, it’s ours now”? And in order to go work as a booker, you’ll now need a certificate and you now need to hand your money over to the institution to get that certificate . . . you know what I mean? It’s not just your “job” now; it’s your “practice.” I’m not saying that’s what it is, but part of me can’t help but think that. GREG SELINGER: Yeah, that’s definitely worth keeping in mind while we listen to the different presentations at the symposium; it’s something that we might even be able to address in our presentation or even talk to other presenters about. Break down the fourth wall and have a conversation about it as we perform. And definitely, we need to bring our own ideas, our own thoughts—as paranoid or personal or tangential as they may be—to the table. I think bringing



our perspectives as practitioners to the symposium is as important as being able to echo and integrate the more abstract, theoretical perspectives presented in the various papers. ROGER WHITE: Anyway, we’re running out of rehearsal time . . . should we start Body Slamming? GREG SELINGER: Yeah! Let’s start Body Slamming. BODY SLAM is a Montréal multidisciplinary improvisation collective including dance, music, and spoken word. The group was founded in 2011 by Gregory Selinger to present six shows at the Montréal Fringe Festival. They continued to hone their skills with group practices and public performances at the Escales Improbables festival, Café l’Artère, Nuit Blanche, Marché d’arts vivants, Mile End Poets’ Festival, and Montréal arts interculturels. CLAUDIA CHAN TAK has been invested in dance, performance, and video for several years. A diverse academic, she graduated with distinction from Concordia University in intermedia and cybernetic arts, and the Université du Québec à Montréal in contemporary dance. XAVIER LAPORTE BOISROND is a Montréal-born spoken word artist who advocates for sustainable sustainability and a deeper telepsychic connection between the human and mycological worlds. He is also the host of the Throw Poetry Collective’s slam nights and organizer of the immersive show Pitch Black. VICTORIA “VICVERSA” MACKENZIE discovered her love for b-girling while studying contemporary dance in Montréal. Victoria has forever been a fan of hip-hop music and since entering the breaking scene has traveled and competed in various North American events, as well as forming the all-female Legendary Crew in 2011. GREG “KRYPTO” SELINGER marries dance with spoken word, exploring the mind-body connection. His autobiographical danced monologue A Piece of: My Heart (Breaking) has been presented in Montréal, Quebec City, Ontario, Germany, and Mexico. He has danced for Solid State Breakdance Collective, Alias Dance Project, Rhodnie Désir, and Kyra Jean Green, as well as The Dietrich Group’s Dora award–winning piece This is a Costume Drama. HELEN SIMARD is a Montréal-based choreographer, dance researcher, and rehearsal director. Her work examines the intersection between dance and mu-



sic, and has been presented across Canada and in Europe. She holds a BFA from Concordia University and an MA in dance from the Université de Québec à Montréal. ROGER WHITE is a musician, songwriter, composer, producer, and performance artist from Montreal, Canada. He is the lead singer and guitarist of Montreal-based power pop/space rock band Dead Messenger.


Exhibition as Events

CH A P T E R 2 2

A New Kind of Critical Elsewhere TRAVIS CHAMBERLAIN


n 2014, The New York Times reported on the Museum of Modern Art’s (MoMA) plans for an expansion to its campus in midtown Manhattan, including the construction of a new kind of hybrid space that would merge the qualities of a white cube gallery with a black box theater and be dedicated to the exhibition of performance. This new hybrid space—punningly referred to as The Gray Box—conjured an image of a versatile and state-of-the-art venue that would be primed to accommodate myriad demands of theatrical production in an exhibition-like setting (Pogrebin 2014). For many of us endeavoring to bring theatrical practices into a more recognized position within the fine art world, the announcement of MoMA’s Gray Box seemed an auspicious sign. Here was the most influential modern art museum in the world signaling validation of an increased commitment to our efforts, a gesture that might further assuage, in some small part, the shadow of prejudice cast by Michael Fried’s screed against theater and theatricality in his notorious 1967 essay “Art and Objecthood” (1967). As is well known within circles where visual art and performance intersect, in one fateful swoop Fried’s essay managed to simultaneously malign an entire artistic discipline and, perhaps not unwittingly, drag it irretrievably into a new sphere of art criticism. “Theater is now the negation of art,” Fried wrote in what was intended as a takedown of minimalist art, which he rephrased as “literalist”: Literalist sensibility is theatrical because, to begin with, it is concerned with the actual circumstances in which the beholder encounters literalist work. . . . Whereas in previous art “what is to be had from the work is located strictly within [it],” the experience of literalist art is of an object in a situation—one that, virtually by definition, includes the beholder. . . . There is a war going on between theatre and modernist painting, between the theatrical and the pictorial—a war that, despite the literalists’ explicit rejection of



modernist painting and sculpture, is not basically a matter of program and ideology but of experience, conviction, sensibility. (Fried 1967)

The announcement of MoMA’s Gray Box, in some ways, indicated that this decades-long war between the theatrical and the pictorial was, perhaps, finding room for compromise. It suggested that the art world was ready, at last, to accept that theater was more than just a quality of certain kinds of art, but a kind of art to be reckoned with in its own right. Theater, it seemed, was about to become the hot new object of the art world. The only specific details about The Gray Box included in The New York Times announcement were that “it would have acoustic absorption panels . . . and its interior would be visible from the street” (Pogrebin 2014). These details alone were to indicate how this new hybrid space had somehow taken the best of both visual art and theatrical presentation models and combined them to optimize conditions for the display of theatrical artworks and visitors’ experience of them. While many artists and curators working in theater and dance rejoiced to have our needs considered and included as part of the museum’s plans for expansion, some of us were also dubious: How much like a “real” theater, we wondered, would this new Gray Box space really be? Acoustic panels are great and all, but would it also have a sprung floor to accommodate dance? How about a lighting grid with automated LED lights? Would it have a backstage? Fly space? Would there be risers, and, if so, would they retract? Would there be dressing rooms? And would those dressing rooms have showers? Would there be a scene shop? A costume shop? Props and set storage? But also, what exact qualities would this hybrid black box/white cube space have of a gallery? Would the walls be modular? Would the floor be load-bearing? Would the room be painted white? Or black? Or would they split the difference and literally paint it . . . gray? Meanwhile, the fact that its interior would be visible from outside seemed less evocative of a theater or a gallery, than an aquarium. Enticed by a catchy name and too few details, the brief mention of MoMA’s Gray Box ignited our imaginations with an alternating mixture of hope, ambivalence, and cynicism. And then, at the beginning of 2016, The New York Times reported that MoMA had scaled back its planned redesign and The Gray Box had, alas, not made the cut (Pogrebin 2016). The magical space where all our wildest theater-nerd art-star dreams might come true had eluded us. Suddenly, the thing we had been so excited and worried about was no longer going to be part of our future. And strangely, some of us felt a sense of . . . relief. Rather than dreaming up artful sky’s-the-limit productions with revolving stages, moving lights, and multiple scene changes to dazzle visitors watching us from the other side of a glass wall, we returned to our ongoing investigation of exhibiting performance in museums as we have known them to be. These imposing arrangements of pristine white cubes designed for exhibiting (only some kinds of) art, we re-



minded ourselves, are compelling sites of critical inquiry with potential that remains far from being exhausted by artists and curators working with live art. The artist Yve Laris Cohen—whose work often reframes technical labor in performance and exhibition-making as both sculptural and choreographic practice—has addressed this potential, which, for him, exists beyond concerns of functionality. In an interview with Jenny Jaskey, a curator of the 2014 Whitney Biennial in which Laris Cohen’s work appeared, the artist stated: I benefit from [the art world’s] renewed interest in dance and visual art performance, but I’m not wild about some of the institutional modifications to the “white cube” made in an effort to accommodate dance. Accommodation is the wrong strategy. I respond more to barriers and constraints than I do gestures of inclusion. Often, new spaces in museums specially designed for performance have no use for me—they’re too slick, and their aspirational “neutrality” and flexibility paradoxically render them highly specific. (Jaskey 2014)

Several of Laris Cohen’s performances have centered around the construction of objects specific to the functional requirements of either visual art or performing art practice, which he then reconfigures in such ways as to render them no longer functional. For example, he might build a white gallery wall in an exhibition space and then saw through it, leaving a long gash in a support surface that would otherwise not merit closer attention (as in Cross Hesitation from Waltz, 2012); or he might construct a sprung wood floor, as would be used by a professional dance company, and then set it on its side so as to appear like a freestanding wall (as in Coda, 2012). In reframing the skilled labor of gallery installers and theatrical tech crews as performance, Laris Cohen exposes what goes on behind the scenes—both in a literal and metaphorical sense—as marginalized subjects for further consideration. The legibility of his work is, therefore, profoundly contingent on site: “[In my work] floors and walls with black and white patinas, respectively, were useful visual synecdoches for ‘black box’ and ‘white cube’—themselves synecdoches for not only the theatrical space and the exhibition space, but for dance and visual art as fields and economies.” Referring specifically to MoMA’s Gray Box, described by Jaskey as a “transitional space,” Laris Cohen continued: “Grey [sic] sits between black and white. ‘Between’ is not the sort of transitional zone that compels me. The transitions I’m invested in are among, within, and elsewhere” (Jaskey 2014). While visions of new spaces designed specifically with performance in mind are an impressive sign of the increasingly important position that performance has in museums, the history of performance within museums is far more interesting for the fact that it has also, in large part, been a history of intervention. In different ways, the exhibition of live performance in galleries, lobbies, or atriums—or any other museum space not specifically designed for performance—benefits from the disruption it creates within our expectations of the kinds of experiences those spaces have come to represent. In such cases, there



is a critical juxtaposition at work—not unlike the contingency of site in Laris Cohen’s work—that invites us to reexamine our assumptions about how medium and form are shaped by modes of display. Exhibitions of live performance in museums succeed, in part, by drawing attention to what Fried might term the theatricality of the museum as a site of public engagement, provocatively exposing the display of nearby objects and the institutional mechanisms that choreograph visitor experience as inherently theatrical conceits. The current out-of-placeness of performance in museums arouses a critical self-consciousness in the viewer that beckons one to look more closely at aspects of a cultural industrial complex to which one has become inured. The ultimate risk of spaces like MoMA’s Gray Box, of course, lies within the potential for performance to become sequestered and made to conform to rules of architectural intention (i.e., performance will no longer be interestingly out of place; it will be put in its place). We must trust the curators of those spaces to guard against that prospect when the time comes. For now, performance in museums remains wild and somewhat dangerous, often showing up where it is least expected in forms we never could have anticipated. Its unruliness is unbound by this moment of its proliferation within museums, and that is a very good thing. Puckishly manifesting itself among and within what already is, performance—at least for the time being—continues to delineate a new kind of critical elsewhere while making space (and meaning) where there only appeared to be none before. TRAVIS CHAMBERLAIN’s curatorial work encompasses performances, residencies, exhibitions, and community organizing, with a focus on the excavation of marginalized cultural histories and the advancement of emerging queer voices. Formerly Associate Curator of Performance at the New Museum and, prior to that, Artistic Director of Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn, Chamberlain is now Managing Director, Queer|Art, NYC. R EF E R E NC E S Fried, M. 1967. “Art and Objecthood.” Artforum June: 12–23. Jaskey, J. 2014. “Among, Within, and Elsewhere.” Mousse Magazine. Retrieved 3 August 2018 from Pogrebin, R. 2014. “Ambitious Redesign of MoMA Doesn’t Spare Neighbor.” The New York Times. 9 January. Accessed on 5 February 2018 from arts/design/a-grand-redesign-of-moma-does-not-spare-a-notable-neighbor.html. ———. 2016. “MoMA Trims Back Some Features of Its Planned Renovation.” The New York Times. 26 January 2016. Accessed on 5 February 2018 from https://www.nytimes .com/2016/01/27/arts/design/moma-trims-back-some-features-of-its-planned-renova tion.html.

CH A P T E R 2 3

Re-enact History? Performing the Archive! JULIA KURZ


his chapter will mainly discuss the research and exhibition project Up Till Now—Reconsidering Historical Performances and Actionist Art from the Former German Democratic Republic (GDR),1 which my colleague Anna Jehle and I curated at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Leipzig, Germany.2 I see my curatorial practice as being informed mainly by critical education theory. By this, I mean that I see myself as a learning person within the exhibition process like anyone else: those I invite, artists, educators, and the visitors to the exhibition. I constantly try to avoid imposing certain knowledge by offering multiple approaches to receiving the work. This means I try to stay continually inspired by all the new topics, meanings, and opinions that arise throughout an exhibition process. In line with this approach, the format of Up Till Now was particularly inspired by the object of its study, i.e., performance as a temporal and spatial process that occurs between people. Our subsuming display allowed the exhibition to be a space for events, a stage, a laboratory, a workshop, and a research archive, as well as a space to present art works. Indeed, in my perception, it unfolded like a performance art piece in itself, as a temporal and spatial process. You never know where this is going or if the result might meet with what you anticipated or wished for (and of course you always have certain expectations). If you encounter the total opposite of what was intended, some would speak about failure. But I would say that “to fail,” or to encounter any kind of conflicting situation, most of the time might be even more productive for a project than simply a “walk-through.” I find that these moments of agonism (Mouffe 2000) are the best opportunities to reflect critically upon the situations I facilitated and for which I am responsible, i.e. my very own practice.



“We might be more connected to each other through our worries, our matters of concern, the issues we care for, than by any other set of values, opinions, attitudes or principles,” Bruno Latour writes in his quasi-manifesto, entitled “From Realpolitik to Dingpolitik” (2005: 4). He calls the topics that unite us “things,” a term that he argues “designates both as those who assemble because they are concerned as well with what causes their concerns and divisions” (2005: 13). This is very much what I am interested in when facilitating exhibitions and their public programs: the constantly evolving processes around things, topics, questions—or urgencies (Rogoff 2008). To enable these kinds of encounters within Up Till Now, we were focused on announced public programs as a main part of the whole exhibition and research process. We had lectures, film-screenings, table talks (Tischgespräche), workshops, and a blog, plus six new commissioned art works, which were developed during the exhibition period and mostly entered the space during the last weeks of the process. Some of them remained as installations, some only left traces, which were later partly reused for a different set of events, and some just disappeared. As I am unable to fully address the entire project in the space of this chapter, I will focus on some of the conceptual details. But first, I would like to introduce you to a method I learned from a colleague, Manuela Zechner who is a researcher and artist and part of the Radical Care Collective, with whom I worked in 2013. She calls it the “Future Archive.”3 I will now use her method to allow us to travel through time. In a distant future: Some curators and art historians gather during an opening. On display: Re-enactments of historical performative works, documents like photographs, videos, props, the usual suspects when it comes to historical performance art. You know what I mean. Really old stuff from 2017. Something one of these people in a distant future might say: Crazy, in the second decade of the millennium—I think it was the third wave of feminism, wasn’t it?—they were still struggling so much with gender issues and racism, even in the cultural field. A possible reply: Yes, amazing, these works by “so and so” were, above that, really challenging the neoliberal system back then. Today, you cannot imagine that they still did not know how to deal with immaterial labor. Someone adds: Indeed. They still had money back then, right? Back to now: I propose this method because it might be able to explain in part what we were trying to achieve with Up Till Now. The main idea of the future archive is not only to imagine a future in which things have changed, and might be utopian or dystopian, whatever you would like to imagine. It is mainly about dealing with the status quo: the here and now and the starting point from where things might move into one or another direction. Clearly it is up to us,



and which topics we pick for this future scenario. Most likely we will choose topics we really care about, like the “things” Latour mentioned, and send them on a journey. Up Till Now wanted to travel not only forward but also backwards in time. This is the same way you might imagine a future to reread the past with its alternative endings in the here and now, considering that history is narrated and “constructed” according to certain questions.4 Artistic-performative positions and process-based forms of art in the GDR, until the end of the first decade of the new millennium, were regarded mainly as a countercultural movement against the dogmatic state culture of the dictatorship. To date, finally some research opens up its focus to other aspects. And yet, no archive exists for GDR performance art and actionist art. That was when I asked myself what else there might be to discover, and if—after the wall came down—a certain agenda seemed to become established about how to read, interpret, use these works. I certainly do not want to criticize the display of resistance, opposition, or counterculture, but—and this is my main point—within all these reflections about the nonconformist art scene, I noted a lack of discourse on what kind of debates were actually being created during the 1970s and 1980s through these art projects. Indeed, the texts about these performances I was able to find were often accompanied only by glyphic images, which testified that “something” had happened. For the most part, one could only guess what the performance might have been like. Moreover, what you could read about the practice in the GDR—both in interviews and text—mainly dealt with the working and living conditions of artists at that time. These conditions are important topics in respect to the instrumentalization of art in the socialist regime, where art was forced to follow political will and artists were heavily threatened by the GDR’s secret service: the Stasi. However, you really had to search deeply to obtain more specific information about, or descriptions of, the artwork itself.5 As mentioned, Up Till Now was comprised of various parts. We tried to explore new ways of exhibiting and documenting Performance Art, and how to integrate performances into exhibitions. As I said, our focus was the transfer of historical performances into a contemporary discourse in order to re-question this material. One thing that really puzzled me for example was the observation that after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, a number of performative artists described their works as “joking around” or “playful experiments.” Most of them, so it seemed, did not really refer to their works as “serious” art pieces. But was it really like that, or did the works simply not fit into the discourse of the new political and economic system? And was it not much more interesting to ask what made the artist feel that way about their pieces? In this way, Up Till Now became a process of re-encountering the artworks, without predetermining certain narratives and—in respect to the outcome of the exhibition—certain goals and expectations.6 This is especially true because, until that time, we wit-



nessed a lack of reflection on what these performances could mean for us today within the recent system in which resistance is even more difficult because there is no “inside and outside” the system to define. Some of our initial questions were: How could we deal with archival material within the exhibitions? Were there possibilities of imagining a performative/performing archive that was polyphonic and flexible, and extended not only over the exhibition process but also within the space? We understood all of the events taking place within this process as part of a living archive, starting with an empty room—our lab—and several invitations. We invited Jörg Herold, Via Lewandowsky (part of the group Autoperforationsartisten) and Gabriele Stötzer (part of the group Exterra XX), three artists who worked with performance during the GDR era, four young artists working on various questions of performativity,7 and several contemporary witnesses from the subcultural context of the GDR, among others. We also invited Barbora Klímová, an artist from Brno, Czech Republic, to show her very exciting project series Replaced Brno 2006, which included re-enactments of performances from Eastern Europe in the 1970s and 1980s.8 Moreover, Barbora was also invited to give a performance-lecture and a workshop with students of the local universities and art academy. During a public panel entitled “Encountering Performance,” visitors to the museum were invited to enter into a dialogue

Figure 23.1. Thomas Janitzky and Ich-AG Geige in performance (with Paule Hammer, Daniel Mudra, and Markus Psurek), 2013. (Photo by Peter F. Hermans, © 2013.)



with all the participating artists. Through roundtable discussions and screenings, artistic strategies and approaches became part of a contemporary discourse. Most importantly, we did not claim that Up Till Now was an objective or complete historical recreation of performance art from the former GDR, nor did we want to create a linear narrative or generally valid categories. At first, this caused some confusion within the regional scene of researchers and experts who were studying performance of that era. Instead, we began from our subjective starting point into a research process, which turned into a collective once more people got involved. Once again in reference to Latour (2005), we felt that approaching “things” should begin and end in the “always-new constellations” that gather around them, a term Beatrice von Bismarck (2012) often uses. We felt that our focus should be on what has actually been said, rather than a predefined methodological approach. So we continually adjusted the project with every new step. This approach was also applied to the permanent installation of texts and film material, which included documents from the private archives of Gabi Stötzer, Jörg Herold, and Via Lewandowsky, among others and which expanded and changed during the exhibition. But for the most part, the displayed research contained the texts I referred to above, that is the history of GDR performance that had already been written. There were scans of A4 and A3 prints from existing catalogs, research materials, and books that were accessible in the museum library. This collection of mostly diverse content allowed visitors to read about GDR performance, look independently through the material, and compare different texts or pictures of the same work in various catalogs. We made some effort to mediate the characteristics of the archives for the visitors, and to deconstruct them, addressing some of the difficulties of working with and documenting performance as a live medium. But the material could also be simply read.9 Moreover, this collection was a starting point for the artists of the younger generation participating in the project (Ana Hoffner, Elske Rosenfeldt, Stefan Hurtig, and Thomas Janitzky with the for Up Till Now newly founded Ich-AG Geige), and it transformed their work into a kind of “performative archive.” The process was a collaborative one, very much based on exchange, and practical in terms of theoretical reflection as well. It was very important for us that all the invited artists interweave the historical material with their own artistic practice, which meant the extraction of related content and formal aspects in order to create a discourse in the present. As such, Up Till Now was aimed much more toward being a conscious transformation of works, rather than having the ambition to restage or re-enact in close resemblance to the original. As you can see, and what was unexpected for most visitors, we did not put importance on the artifacts and documents nor focus on preserving and conserving. Rather, we emphasized their use, reuse, and appropriation: the reinter-



pretation of a work’s productivity and reception in today’s climate. What does this create between past and future? We all know that history is a construction, serving mostly a certain political agenda relating to questions of power such as: who is allowed to deal, in which way, with what historical material. For example, with Up Till Now, we often faced the objection that the time had not come yet to look at GDR performance in this way, i.e. to shift the focus from the macro-political level to the individual pieces. But, honestly, what is this way? Clearly, it is really important for any scientist to having an agenda or certain interest. But I would really like to question these restrictive politics of the archive and remembrance that we encountered here, even in a supposedly unproblematic field like performance art. What we are criticizing is the practice of categorizing, which had created powerful narratives here through exclusion, and we proposed another way to this way. Obviously this issue should not be discussed exclusively in the field of science, nor in cultural politics, but should be present in our everyday practice. For me it is important to say—as simple as it sounds—that we should be very aware of when and why we reproduce narratives. Especially in the arts, and from my point of view as a curator and art educator, we have an amazing opportunity to question this practice and to challenge anything that evolves out of that. We can explore alternative ways of introducing things, instead of supporting a canonization that supports dominant knowledge. And so, I am especially interested in encounters within exhibitions, which I like to envision as a kind of coming together on an equal level. Every element—whether the artist, audience, prop, artwork, or text—brings specific knowledge to a project that is articulated in various ways during the process of encountering each other. As a curator, I understand my work as a facilitator and moderator. This means that the important objective for me is the experience itself within the exhibition complex. In respect to time and context it is impossible to re-enact precisely the same piece, or in other words to step into the very same river. I am not interested in doing that. The reason we decided to look for novel ways of delivering the works, to actualize and recontextualize them, was that we do not believe in the idea of a final state of the piece or a total reconstruction, which of course can be interesting from an art historical perspective. But stepping into a process-based negotiation, which uses, for example, the methods of appropriation (Jörg Herold, for example, appropriated his own work from 1985), enabled us to reactivate questions and momentums and so to propose new meanings. Together with Via Lewandowski, we decided to discuss and work on a performance piece he delivered in 1991 in Graz, Austria, after the Berlin Wall had already come down and in which he had already addressed the changed circumstances of both his artistic practice and the political system. Even though the questions that arose out of this project are no longer present for



Via’s practice, they tell us a lot about the reception of his cultural background in the West, and are still very up to date in the context of globalization. Exhibitions, performances, and events can be those spatiotemporal structures in which things can become public in the form of encounters (von Bismarck 2012). One must remember that the exhibition makers, as well as visitors and objects, are all parts of the sequence in parallel with the constellations that are established within the exhibition. As Irit Rogoff once suggested, “The exhibition is more an occasion, which is characterized by its potentiality, rather than by its manifestation” (Rogoff 2011). JULIA KURZ is a curator, writer, and educator who has worked for the Museum of Contemporary Art Leipzig, Werkleitz—Center for Media Art in Halle (Saale), the Zachęta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw, the Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle in Berlin and with independent transdisciplinary collectives. She has an MA in theater and Arabic studies, and participated in the postgraduate master’s program Cultures of the Curatorial at the Academy of Fine Arts, Leipzig (2011–2013) where she has been teaching since 2016.

NOT E S 1. The German Democratic Republic (GDR) was a state within the Eastern Bloc, established in the Soviet Zone after World War II and it existed from 1949 to 1990. During the process of the German Reunification in 1990, the German Democratic Republic joined the Federal Republic of Germany. 2. For further information visit: (German only), http:// (a documentation brochure, German only), or (English language press release). 3. Available at 4. This is why I started to examine performances of artists working in the GDR era during my studies in theater and postcolonial studies. Some aspects of the “handling” of GDR performance made me suspicious. Readings of performance works from this era were very much guided by specific intentions: to display resistance, opposition, and a counterculture in the then socialist workers’ and farmers’ state, the German Democratic Republic (today’s former East Germany), but only in opposition to the current politics of the now reunited Federal Republic. 5. Fortunately, this has changed recently, as there is more and more research being conducted on this topic. 6. I was just guessing, but believed that this attitude might have stemmed from the often repeated opinion during the 1990s that, in a closed society like East Germany, the “real” discourse on performance—namely discourse coming from the West—reached the arts scene via smuggled catalogs during the 1980s. As such, German performance from that time period was often understood as late replies to works by Wiener Aktionismus, Landart, or Joseph Beuys, and for that reason were judged by some to be not very relevant. If you hear



something like that being said repeatedly about your work, I suppose you might believe it after a while. There is a lot that can be said about adapting to or reproducing stereotypes— which, of course, is not unique in terms of the reunion process between East and West Germany. 7. We invited Ana Hoffner, Vienna, Austria (; Stefan Hurtig, Leipzig (; Thomas Janitzky, Leipzig; and Elske Rosenfeld, Berlin (www 8. For more on Barbora Klimová’s project Replaced Brno 2006, please visit www.barborakli 9. We chose to display our research in this way, as simple copies, since it is the way we most often encounter historical performance art, before we try to dig deeper.

R EF E R E NC E S Latour, B. 2005. “From Realpolitik to Dingpolitik—or How to Make Things Public.” In Making Things Public, ed. B. Latour and P. Weibel, 4–31. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Mouffe, C. 2000. The Democratic Paradox. London and Brooklyn: Verso Books. Rogoff, I. 2008. “Turning.” e-flux Journal #0. Retrieved 7 March 2014 from journal/turning. ———. 2011. “Looking Away—Participating Singularities, Ontological Communities,” 2 February. Retrieved on 24 March 2013 from von Bismarck, B. 2012. “The Exhibition as Collective.” In Cultures of the Curatorial, ed. B. von Bismarck, J. Schafaff, and T. Weski, 289–303. Berlin: Sternberg Press.

CH A P T E R 2 4

Choreographing Archives, Curating Choreographers Yvonne Rainer, Xavier Le Roy, and the Dance Retrospective FABIEN MALTAIS-BAYDA AND JOSEPH HENRY

I don’t know anymore, because my knee is not the way it was. —Yvonne Rainer, 22 March 2015


wrote down the above quotation while observing an open rehearsal at Dancemakers Centre for Creation in Toronto.1 Rainer was teaching her now canonical dance work Trio A, first choreographed in 1965, to a group of dance and performance artists, with the help of Sara Wookey, one of just a few dancers that Rainer has authorized to teach the work. The process unfolded through a sort of conversational pedagogy, in which teaching and learning operated in multidirectional flows. Rainer would explain, demonstrate, and repeat movements with the group, and in uncertain moments like the one above, Wookey would interject with her knowledge of the work. In other instances, I saw Wookey noting adjustments, or reviewing discrepancies between her instruction and Rainer’s. Throughout these exchanges, the choreography was constantly reiterated across bodies, through language, and in the minds of everyone in the room—choreographer, transmitter, performers, spectators. We can think about this event, and all the movements, discussions, and observations that comprised it, as an historical encounter. What is more, we can read it as an encounter with history as process: something we come to know, or re-know, or, as in the comment we opened with, something we might come to not know anymore because things, like knees, have changed. Viewing the rehearsal at Dancemakers reminded me of another account of an historical en-



counter. In her essay “Practicing Trio A” (2012), Julia Bryan-Wilson describes learning the piece from Rainer in a class at the University of California, Irvine. A scholar who resolved to try dancing, Bryan-Wilson writes, “I set myself the task of learning something I had read about and studied for years from a radically transformed perspective” (Bryan-Wilson 2012: 66). In this text as well, history becomes process, shaped by Bryan-Wilson’s modulating relationship to Trio A. These examples lead us to a number of questions, one being: how do we engage with or come to understand this process of history, when not everyone will learn Trio A as Bryan-Wilson did, or watch Trio A being learned as I did? What other approaches are available for performing and participating in dance history? An emerging curatorial typology, the dance retrospective, may respond to this query. In 2014, we saw two such exhibitions: Yvonne Rainer: Dance Works, which ran in July and August at Raven Row in East London and Retrospective by Xavier Le Roy, on display throughout the fall at MoMA PS1. These examples operate within a specific Euro-American art historical genealogy, and their subjects are canonical within this framework. In addition, they represent only two cases of numerous dance retrospectives that art institutions have mounted in the past few years, including exhibits of work by Trisha Brown, Simone Forti, and Sasha Waltz, among others. In the instances surveyed here, live performance coincides with its own documentation: scores hypostatize through collaborators and archives distribute modes of representation. Audiences shift away from the one to one dynamic of the proscenium into a spectatorship more ambiguous or ambulatory. Yet what does the live dancing body do to museal dynamics, and how do these exhibitions reconsider how dance histories are formed and experienced? The intersection of dance and the visual arts circumscribes the curatorial format of the dance retrospective, where more fluid ontologies of authorship and spectatorship may emerge. OUTLINING CONTEXTS, CONSIDERING PRECEDENTS A great deal of scholarship has been dedicated to the role of dance in visual art institutions, and while we will not rehash the breadth and volume of these discussions here, a number of observations are essential for framing our inquiry. First, despite frequent emphasis on novelty in conversations surrounding dance in museums and galleries, this phenomenon is not entirely new. In a 2014 special issue of Dance Research Journal edited by Mark Franko and André Lepecki (2014: 3), the writers list Isadora Duncan, Ruth St. Denis, and Mata Hari as “predecessors” of the current moment, and choreographers since the 1960s, including those affiliated with the postmodern dance movement in New York City, have frequently integrated dance within visual arts spaces. Even so, as



Franko and Lepecki observe, “the scale, prevalence, and consistency in presenting dance currently . . . suggest that something else is taking place right now” (2014: 4). Claire Bishop echoes this sentiment, noting that more historical examples feel “completely different in tenor and ambition to what is going on today” (Bishop 2014: 3). Dance in spaces typically designated for visual art has increasingly proliferated, part of a wider institutional embrace of performance writ large: MoMA’s atrium space and reclassification of its Department of Media as the Department of Media and Performance exemplify this trend. Second, the relationship between dance and visual art institutions has historically functioned co-constitutively. Franko and Lepecki quote Rainer, who emphasizes the “deep relations and concurrent developments . . . between dance and the visual arts since World War II” (Franko and Lepecki 2014: 1). Franko and Lepecki explore this mutually influential relationship in reference to specific works by Le Roy and Boris Charmatz, which “divert both the institutional function of the museum and the institutional function of choreography away from their previously immovable positions and redefine both through the act of dancing” (Franko and Lepecki 2014: 3). Similarly, just as dance can reshape and remodel the form of the retrospective, this mode of display exerts an equal influence on dance. Third, the contemporary encounter between dance and the artworld raises important questions about how we understand dance history. “Dance becomes museal when it highlights and accumulates evidence of its relation to the historical past: to the past of art, as well as to its own past,” Franko and Lepecki write. “As an archival site, the museum inspires dance to emulate the artifactual quality of the archive while also transforming it—and itself—into a new version of the act” (2014: 3). For Franko and Lepecki, museality is necessarily an historicizing operation. Museums induce archivality into their objects under the logic of the collection.2 Such institutions, in their broadest guise, periodize and locate their objects into chronological and geographical domains. While the notion of a strictly linear chronology may have recently diminished in currency compared with thematic curation, aggregation still dominates as the primary museal strategy. Of course, the archival nature of these sites is a source of both potentials, and problematics. Significant scholarship has demonstrated the processes of exclusion and oppression that form the archive, and are perpetuated by it.3 What is more, academic discourse has often placed the live arts in antagonistic opposition to the material archive (Schneider 2011: 107). We do not suggest that these issues are inconsequential when dance is presented in the museum, indeed they must be considered seriously. Rather we posit that the historicizing function of museums and other exhibition spaces offers a range of new approaches for presenting dance historically. Compared with the contemporary situation of dance in visual art institutions, and despite the recent scholarly turn toward exhibition histories, the ret-



rospective as a curatorial mode has suffered a paucity of academic discussion. João Ribas addressed this “lacuna” (Ribas 2014) in his presentation “Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Solo Exhibitions So Different, So Appealing?” at the City University of New York Graduate Center’s conference Exhibit A: Authorship on Display, which would be published in the journal Afterall (2015). He writes, “There seems to be no comprehensive empirical history of the solo exhibition as a form, and important examples of such exhibitions . . . have not been presented as central within exhibition histories” (Ribas 2015: 5). This exclusion is especially problematic given the significant role such exhibitions actually play in the economies and ecologies of art production and presentation (Ribas 2014). By focusing our inquiry specifically on two dance retrospectives, we position this chapter, in part, as a preventative measure against similar omissions in newly developing discourses around dance curation. Ribas suggests that, despite the lack of significant discussion surrounding the “historical, methodological or ideational aspects” of the solo show, “there are a set of tacit or implied conventions that are commonly employed in its production and reception—what we might call the ‘grammar’ of the solo exhibition.” Ribas explains that the retrospective exhibition tends to employ “chronology, in the sense of a narrative (often biographical), formal, or conceptual development that is spatialised within an exhibition.” Ribas also identifies the retrospective’s evaluative function as a “marker of relevance” and the assumption that these exhibits represent “the artist’s voice” necessitating “curatorial self-effacement” (2015: 6). As Ribas noted in his presentation, “the most interesting types of exhibitions likely challenge all of these assumptions in a critical way” (Ribas 2014), and indeed, we suggest that the dance retrospective may lean toward such interrogative gestures. The proliferation of contemporary dance companies formed around the work of high-profile choreographers presents an institutional analogue to the solo exhibition in dance. These groups operate to confirm the importance of individual dance makers, while demonstrating the teleology of their creative development, and providing a seemingly direct vessel for artistic intentionality. The breadth and number of such companies, including Crystal Pite’s Kidd Pivot, Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s Rosas, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Eastman, and Akram Khan’s eponymous company, to name only a few, suggest their prevalence and impact. Dance reconstruction also shares the valorizing and canonizing operations of the solo exhibition. This is particularly evident in discourses surrounding the practice, which frame it in terms of transmitting or preserving the artistic production of particular dance makers, or to transpose Ribas’s language to this context, marking the “singular contribution” made by certain choreographers to dance history. Each of the retrospectives we consider here involves some form of reconstruction, newly po-



sitioning this practice within exhibitional frameworks, and offering a range of historiographic approaches to dance curating. A MATERIAL FRAMEWORK FOR EXPERIENCE At Yvonne Rainer: Dance Works, a number of videos were installed in a large space on the main floor of Raven Row gallery. They played on monitors positioned atop spindly-legged tables, with chairs to sit, and headphones to listen. I sat watching one of these—Grand Union Tapes from 1972, as I recall—when a family member with whom I was visiting the gallery tapped me on the shoulder, and ushered me toward a row of wooden benches. One of the gallery’s regularly scheduled performances was about to start in the adjacent room. Unremarkable and mundane as this occurrence may have been, it was a reminder of the exhibit’s unique composition. According to Raven Row, the retrospective “was the first to present live performances of Rainer’s dance works alongside other aspects of her practice” (Yvonne Rainer: Dance Works 2014), which the gallery lists as including “theoretical and lyrical writing, sketches

Figure 24.1. Dancers in training for Trio A by Yvonne Rainer, with Pat Catterson, July 2014. The dancers (left to right): Rebecca Stancliffe, Morrighan MacGillivray, Sam Kennedy, and Antigone Avdi. Photo courtesy of Raven Row, London. (Photo by Eva Herzog, © 2014.)



and scores, photographs of performances, documentary and experimental films, and an audio recording of one of her early performative lectures” (Yvonne Rainer: Dance Works 2014). In the first room upon entering the exhibit, the spectator saw a projection on the back wall, the film Hand Movie (1966). All other materials, primarily choreographic scores and notes, were positioned on a set of tables. Throughout the rest of the gallery, black-and-white photographs documenting rehearsals and performances of Rainer’s work were laid flat on the gently inclined surface of floating counters that lined the walls of each room. These were punctuated with monitors showing sections of videos. For the daily performances, spectators seated themselves somewhere on a couple rows of benches along one side of the largest space in the gallery, which earlier they may have traversed to see videos in adjacent rooms. The regularly repeated program included Rainer’s “celebrated works Trio A (1966) and Chair Pillow (1969), as well as . . . the very rarely seen Talking Solo and Diagonal (both 1963)” (Yvonne Rainer: Dance Works 2014). The exhibit was characteristic of Tate Modern curator Catherine Wood’s approach to dance history, and to Rainer’s oeuvre more specifically. The promotional language used by the gallery is, in fact, reminiscent of Wood’s 2007 volume Yvonne Rainer: The Mind Is a Muscle, in which she investigates the choreographer’s 1968 dance program. Wood asks us to “[p]icture Yvonne Rainer’s ‘evening-length work’ The Mind Is a Muscle (1968) not via the inventory of fragments that testify to it as a historical fact—black-and-white photographs, diagrams, descriptive notes, reviews, lists of names—but as a live event” (1). While conceding the usefulness of documentation, she asserts that it should not “mask or block our imaginative understanding of how the event operated in time, and how it has been transmitted as live knowledge since” (Wood 2007: 2). Wood’s explanation of her methodology raises an issue that has been pervasive in debates surrounding dance’s history and historicity: the role of the document and the archive. DOCUMENTING DANCE, DANCING DOCUMENTS Critical and scholarly discussions surrounding many dance retrospectives emphasize the novelty of the exhibition model for its ability to coalesce documentation with performance, bringing together elements that span, even imbricate, the archive and the repertoire.4 In reconstruction practices, dance works tend to be presented in more conventional proscenium theatrical settings, where performances are accompanied by little more than program notes or didactic ephemera. Meanwhile, dance archives or institutions like the National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs, New York, present documentation and material artifacts, rarely integrating live dancing bodies. The dance retrospective,



it seems, may be salient for its curatorial inclusion of both these elements. In the exhibits we consider here, documentation is included as material on display. As our earlier anecdote demonstrates, Raven Row’s exhibit prompted an experiential overlap between performance documented on film, and performance happening live. A similar instance: on the first floor I watched Rainer dance Trio A on a monitor. The footage came from a 1978 film produced by Sally Banes, which, as Bryan-Wilson observes, has been a remarkable agent in the work’s dissemination and canonization (Bryan-Wilson 2012: 57). A few floors up I gazed at a photograph I had seen before of Rainer performing the work. She stands in the center of the frame, her left leg firmly perpendicular to the wooden floor, as her right is extended diagonally outward. Her torso leans in opposition to her elevated leg. We see motion in the swath of hair flung across her face. Later, I sat on one of three benches watching three dancers move through the same piece. Rainer’s gestures transferred from Banes’s recording to their live iteration there, prompting a reflection on their qualitative differentiation. As Trio A was reiterated across media throughout the space, it was repeatedly made available to the spectator through multiple experiential and epistemological points of entry. The exhibition format can aggregate choreography’s various mediated forms, from score, to video recording, to body in space. And this can have a number of consequences. First, the diffused representation of a work can, in fact, shore up its canonicity; magnitude increases with volume. In the dance retrospective, the practitioner under investigation ostensibly warrants a discursive and archival plurality. Accruing as many voices as possible, the curator tracks the afterlives of a specific dance piece as means to establish its historical posterity. The more a given dance generates newspaper clippings, films, textual testimony, or even choreographic adaptations, the more its impact can be effectively quantified in canonical retrospectivity. An institutional byproduct of this is the expenditure of hiring numerous collaborators and dancers to actualize a dance retrospective: human bodies can function as mediatized corollaries as much as print or moving image, a point on which we will expand later. Second, and perhaps more interestingly, the reiteration of choreography across media can enrich our epistemological understanding of it. As Rebecca Schneider writes, “The same detail of information can sound, feel, look, smell, or taste radically different when accessed in radically different venues or via disparate media” (2011: 104, emphasis in the original). If Rainer’s retrospective combined the standard artifacts of documentation with performance, Xavier Le Roy explored different ramifications of the archive. The exhibition was divided into a large, open area, flanked by staging platforms of sorts. Upon a viewer’s entrance into the gallery, a performer would whistle a tone like that which starts a factory shift, and the usually three danc-



ers would assume clockwise positions in the large chamber. They then executed a series of actions: some performers would engage incoming participants and discuss the premises of the exhibition. Others would begin performing segments of the Le Roy repertoire, which for this exhibit consisted of the choreographer’s solo works from 1994 to 2010, usually bracketed by a recitation of the segment’s origin, its date of inception, and occasionally a personal backstory. The number of performers in the large area seemed to stay constant, and the most common configuration was two dancers moving through Le Roy’s motions and one annotating the proceedings. One older female dancer explained her leave of absence from dancing, while a colleague outlined the piece an adjacent performer then undertook. In a separate gallery space behind the three primary areas, Le Roy installed computers and catalogs, the more typical accouterments of the visual art retrospective. Leading from that space was Le Roy’s installation Untitled from 2005. There, in nearly complete darkness, two human dummies were on the floor, slouching against the wall, their faces occluded by large black hoodies. In Retrospective, Le Roy established a circuit of archivality: dancing bodies themselves enacted documentation, accounting for the historicity of their own movements: one dancer narrated the origin for Xavier makes someRebutoh from 2009, a piece prompted by Charmatz’s request to Le Roy that he choreograph a butoh dance in just two hours. The figures in the back room almost cheekily parodied the archivalization of Le Roy in their mimetic trickiness; collaborators were both props and agents. Pere Faura, one of the dancers who participated in the first iteration of Le Roy’s Retrospective at the Fundació Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona, explained in an interview that while creating the exhibit, documentation played a role in transmitting the choreographic material: He taught us some things . . . and we also went with our own computers, and tried to learn parts by ourselves . . . There was a lot of documentation that we were free to read or not. He gave us tools. And then if you wanted to, you could watch an entire video, or different versions of it, or read articles he wrote about the pieces. (Pere Faura, personal interview, 21 May 2015)

If the dancing body acts as a signifying entity that juggles the affective resonance of somatic presence with its coded semiotic production, the Le Roy retrospective created an aesthetic field in which dance occurs in a wider span of medialization. Le Roy’s choreographed gestures sometimes quoted found movements, aestheticized by their inclusion in choreographic sequence. In some instances they cited the vernacular of everyday actions, like bowling or holding a baby. In other moments, as Faura explained, the dancers cycled through “iconic references: Jesus Christ, [a] muscle man, Saturday Night Fever, Charlie’s Angels” (Pere Faura, personal interview, 21 May 2015). Visual culture scholar Jill Bennett has explored the notion of “intermediality,” in which actions, gestures,



and images are not to be understood for their semantic content per se, but for the ways in which they are translated across media infrastructures. As Bennett writes, “The exploration of mediality in this sense implies more than—the opposite of—a focus on medium or mediation, since it reveals the condition of being-in-a-medium” (Bennett 2012: 87). This, it seems, is reflected in Le Roy’s approach to the mediality of the retrospective, and its contents. The curatorial genre understands its own retrospectivity to highlight dance’s perpetual autoarchivality, where bodies might historicize themselves as and through media. The retrospectives we examine accordingly engage, and complicate, the binary that discussions on dance historiography have often perpetuated between material archives and embodied knowledge. Schneider “[resituates] the site of any knowing of history as body-to-body transmission” (2011: 104), asserting: There can be no fixity, no complete arrest, even in the gentlest bed of the archive. There will always be the trip of the eye as it reads, the tongue as it mouths. Dwelling in the dust, texts themselves necessarily meet bodies engaging in repetition and revision, the citing and becoming that is also choreography. (2011: 107)

Schneider describes the systems through which bodies and archives interact as “architectures of access” (2011: 104), and in the context of the retrospective, bodies repeatedly access and engage the archive. Instances of documentation, and the laptops, video recordings, photos, and articles in which they are materially manifest, acted as architectures of access for the dancers participating in Le Roy’s Retrospective as they learned the material they would perform. These same documents had a subsequent role as architectures of access for spectators attending the exhibit, as in the computers available in the back room. Dance history, here, became something like a heuristic phenomenology, as spectators’ bodies moved among, and interacted with, transmission materials. This process may therefore provide a strategy for subverting the assumption that embodied knowledge is ephemeral, always on the point of disappearing, and it might redress some of the exclusionary operations of the material archive. If, as Schneider suggests, “the idea that flesh might remain challenges conventional notions of the archive” (2011: 107), perhaps the juxtaposition of bodies and documents, curatorially framed in conversation by the dance retrospective, might foster productive tensions and confrontations. This mode of display consequently takes on a major premise of live art: that the body somehow guarantees pure, unmediated presence and affect, and its documentation a diminished or compromised trace of that presence. As Amelia Jones has argued, “there is no possibility of an unmediated relationship to any kind of cultural product, including body art” (Jones 1997: 12), including dance. “The specificity of knowledges gained from participating in a live performance situation,” she writes, “should not be privileged over the specificity of knowledges that develop in relation to the documentary traces of such an event” (Jones 1997:



12–13). Drawing on the Derridian supplement, Jones contends that the performing body necessarily depends on the context of its reception, from the signifying aesthetics of its presentation to the projective, identificatory dynamics of its reception. In fact, the performing body’s documentary manifestations necessarily become part of the discursive being of the performance itself. Trio A, for example, as an historical object of retrospectivity, accounts for both its live instantiations and its mediated representations. CURATING CONDITIONS FOR ARTISTIC NARRATIVES I’m just hoping that all these different times, periods, and kinds of work that I did will talk to each other and will make a whole that makes sense. —Simone Forti I think, in a way, that’s the curator’s job. —Jennie Goldstein

While the dance retrospective may challenge the generic distinctions between performance programming and exhibitional display, it tends to pledge allegiance to one institutional mainstay: the author. The dance retrospective necessarily binds curatorial engagement with the author-function. As both Helen Molesworth and Ribas have noted, the retrospective exhibit has historically been inseparable from the identity of the artist whose work it presents (Molesworth and Mostafavi 2013; Ribas 2014). Rooted in, or emerging from, this precedent, the dance retrospective necessarily evokes the artist as subject, the artist as author, and the artist as singular. As the example of Le Roy’s Retrospective demonstrates, however, this curatorial format has the potential, in drawing upon these conventional operations, to complicate, problematize, and reimagine them. Faura explained Le Roy’s task for the performers: “Make your own retrospective with [the work] or within it.” Given this instruction, Faura observes, “[the work] becomes a bit personal. It is not so much about this act of glorification that is doing a retrospective; it is also about the performer” (Pere Faura, personal interview, 21 May 2015). Before we explore how Le Roy complicates the authorial nature of this exhibition format, we must answer one basic question: if “glorification” of the subject is so inherent to retrospective form, why not do away with it completely? As scholar Søren Overgaard notes, there is danger in “merely reversing priorities, privileging the public and/or social over the subjective” (2007: 4). He explains that, “the price of downplaying or ignoring the subjective and individual is ultimately to make sociality incomprehensible . . . without subjectivity there is no intersubjectivity” (2007: 4, emphasis in original). And indeed, we find subjects in Le Roy’s Retrospective. As Faura notes,



“the audience would go through Xavier’s retrospective, but also the performer’s retrospective” (Pere Faura, personal interview, 21 May 2015). The exhibit is not the retrospective of an undifferentiated mass; rather it comprises the retrospectives of related individuals, fostering their intersection. In the context of the exhibition, these entities—performer, choreographer, audience member—can be read as “Internarrative Subjects” (Maan 2010: xix). This identification, offers an alternative to Paul Ricoeur’s Narrative Identity Theory, which assumes that a “whole and unified narrative is necessary for a whole and unified identity” (Maan 2010: 51). Ajit K. Maan writes, “An Internarrative Subject has not one but several narratives (which are not mutually exclusive) and consequently has multiple selves (which are not mutually exclusive). This alternative self creates her contingent identity in the narrative crossover, in the crossover from one narrative too another” (Maan 2010:51). Thus, while Le Roy’s retrospective engages the format’s imbrication with artistic subjectivity, it does so in a way that challenges how this subjectivity is formed and understood. The exhibit does not frame Le Roy, and the corpus he has produced, as a stable subject with a cohesive career of artistic production. Rather, we encounter the choreographer and his work through the multiple narratives of dancers, who are, in turn, also Internarrative Subjects. I recall one performer describing various instances in his dancing life that contributed to his eventual collaboration with Le Roy. He performed choreographic segments from various artists he had previously worked with, and by moving through these multiple embodied narratives, he simultaneously shaped his own internarrative identity and that of the exhibit’s subject. If the richness of the dance retrospective’s format may be its dynamic of imbricating “mediated” and “live” components, it is authorial retrospectivity that secures an archive of plausible materials. While canon-formation represents reflexes of power, a byproduct is the opportunity for curators to, in fact, highlight the constructedness of that formation in deemphasizing the transcendent role of the performance itself. By casting Rainer, for example, one of the most canonical dance practitioners of the twentieth century, as an authorial aggregate of recordings, notations, scores, and performers outside her strict field of intentional production, the author expands to include its transmedialization, to echo Bennett. While the standard dance retrospective on stage may merely solidify a legacy of its subject matter, the exhibition format, in opening up valences of spectatorship both discursively and phenomenologically, attempts to understand how dance history itself is made. The task for dance curators remains then, to work beyond a paradigm tacitly suggested here, that the more medialized an event the more complex, or even politically responsible, it may be. Le Roy’s intervention into this “archivophilic” syndrome was to explore the body itself as document, to upend the sanctity and easy delineation of both ephemera and live performance. The dance retrospec-



tive must also account for both the new qualities of media that proliferate in the everyday, and for the hagiographic impulse still endemic to market logics. Responding to its own historicization and to the demands of evolving artistic ecologies, the dance retrospective may articulate both dance history, and its continuance. Returning to Le Roy’s Retrospective, there is a moment when, in a group of dancers, each states the year their respective piece was first performed, before they performed it. Their utterances do not roll off the tongue confidently. Rather, the performers take their time, they hesitate; sometimes it seems they are still making up their minds as to which section they will perform even as they are speaking. Declaiming these years, the dancers do not merely delineate a timeline of past dance-making, but also mark the imminent opportunity for a new, embodied experience of choreography. While the notion of a past history remains a rich target for curatorial investigation, the notion of an historical present may, in fact, signal a more urgent endeavor. JOSEPH HENRY is a PhD student in the art history program at the City University of New York Graduate Center and was a 2017–2018 Helena Rubinstein Critical Studies Fellow in the Whitney Independent Study Program. He has written for Art in America, The Brooklyn Rail, Performa Magazine, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and The New Inquiry. FABIEN MALTAIS-BAYDA holds an MA from the University of Toronto›s Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies. He was a 2016–2017 Dance Writer-in-Residence at Dancemakers in Toronto and was shortlisted for the Ontario Association of Art Galleries art writing award in 2017. He writes for Canadian Art, Canadian Theatre Review, The Dance Current, esse, and Momus, among others.

NOT E S Thanks, first and foremost, to the editors of this volume for encouraging us and providing a space for us to pursue this project. Thanks to Pere Faura for sharing his experience with us. Thanks also to Claire Bishop for her guidance and advice, and to Sky Goodden and Flora Dunster for their work editing articles in which we began developing some of these ideas. 1. Founded in 1974, Dancemakers is Toronto’s second oldest contemporary dance company. This rehearsal formed part of the project “Transmitting Trio A,” which included lectures, workshops, and performances. The project was presented and curated by FADO Performance Art Centre, in partnership with Dancemakers and Public Recordings. 2. It is important to note that, while the distinctions between collection-based museums, and other art institutions, like galleries, are relevant, the exhibition formats practiced throughout these spaces consistently imply collecting and accumulating as central operations.



3. For example, Jacques Derrida and Eric Prenowitz address the archive in relation to Freudian psychoanalysis in their text Archive Fever (1996), and Paul Ricœur discusses the subjective construction of archives in Memory, History, Forgetting (2004). Diana Taylor examines the colonial privileging of the archive over forms of embodied historical knowledge in the Americas in her volume The Archive and the Repertoire (2003). 4. Diana Taylor delineates the archive as composed of “supposedly enduring materials (i.e., texts, documents, buildings, bones),” while the repertoire comprises “embodied practice/ knowledge (i.e., spoken language, dance, sports, ritual)” (2003: 19).

R EF E R E NC E S Bennett, J. 2012. Practical Aesthetics: Events, Affects, and Art after 9/11. London: I. B. Tauris. Bishop, C. 2014. “The Perils and Possibilities of Dance in the Museum: Tate, MoMA, and Whitney.” Dance Research Journal 46(3): 63–76. Bryan-Wilson, J. 2012. “Practicing Trio.” October 140: 64–74. Derrida, J., and E. Prenowitz. 1996. Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Franko, M., and A. Lepecki. 2014. “Dance in the Museum.” Dance Research Journal 46(3): 1–5. Galili, D. F. 2013. “Reframing the Recent Past: Issues of Reconstruction in Israeli Contemporary Dance.” In Dance on Its Own Terms: Histories and Methodologies, ed. M. Bales and K. Eliot, 65–96. New York: Oxford University Press. Goldstein, J. 2014. “Simone Forti in conversation with Jennie Goldstein.” Movement Research: Critical Correspondence. Retrieved 30 June 2018 from publications/critical-correspondence/simone-forti-in-conversation-with-jennie-goldstein. Henry, J. 2015. “Ryan McNamara and the Afterlife of Performance.” MOMUS. Retrieved 15 June 2015 from Henry, J., and F. Maltais-Bayda. 2014. “Criticism Project Altered Twice: A Dual Response to Xaiver Le Roy’s Retrospective.” MOMUS. Retrieved 15 June 2015 from http://momus .ca/criticism-project-altered-twice-a-dual-response-to-xavier-le-roys-retrospective/. Jones, A. 1997. “‘Presence’ in Absentia: Experiencing Performance as Documentation.” Art Journal 56(4): 11–18. Maan, A. K. 2010. Internarrative Identity: Placing the Self. Lanham, MD: University Press of America. Main, L. 2012. Directing the Dance Legacy of Doris Humphrey: The Creative Impulse of Reconstruction. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press. Meijers, D. J. 1996. “The Museum and the ‘Ahistorical’ Exhibition.” In Thinking About Exhibitions, ed. R. Greenberg, B. W. Ferguson, and S. Nairne, 5–14. New York: Routledge. Molesworth, H., and M. Mostafavi. 2013. “Curating: 3 Models; The Retrospective, Historical, and the Archive.” Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, 14 August. Web. Retrieved 18 June 2015 from Overgaard, S. 2007. Wittgenstein and Other Minds: Rethinking Subjectivity and Intersubjectivity with Wittgenstein, Levinas, and Husserl. New York: Routledge. Ribas, J. 2014. “Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Solo Exhibitions So Different, So Appealing?” Lecture presented at Exhibit A: Authorship on Display in City University of New York Graduate Center, New York, 7 April. ———. 2015. “Notes Toward a History of the Solo Exhibition.” Afterall 38: 4–15.



Ricœur, P. 2004. Memory, History, Forgetting. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Riedel, C., Y. Waltz, and P. Weibel. 2014. Sasha Waltz: Installations, Objects, Performances / Installationen, Objekte, Performances. Ostfildern: Hatje/Cantz. Schneider, R. 2011. Performing Remains: Art and War in Times of Theatrical Reenactment. New York: Routledge. Seigel, M. B. 1998. “Bridging the Critical Distance.” In The Routledge Dance Studies Reader, ed. A. Carter, 91–98. New York: Routledge. Taylor, D. 2003. The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Thomas, H. 2004. ‘Reconstruction and Dance as Embodied Textual Practice.’ In Rethinking Dance History: A Reader, ed. A. Carter, G. Morris, and L. Nichola, 32–45. London: Routledge. Transmitting Trio A. 2015. Open Rehearsal at Dancemakers, Toronto, March 22. Wood, C. 2007. Yvonne Rainer: The Mind Is a Muscle. London: Afterall. Yvonne Rainer: Dance Works. 2014. Retrieved 15 June 2015 from exhibition/yvonne_rainer/.



THE TITLE AS THE CURATOR’S ART PIECE.1 In the Roman Empire, the curator was the civil servant and public administrator of public utilities such as transport, hygiene, policing, . . . In the Middle Ages, their mundane activities acquire a spiritual meaning, at a time when “solicitude” can be applied to both the souls of the people and their worldly affairs. Without a doubt, these practices have provided the framework for the duties of the modern-day curator.2 The curator should be like a dervish who circles around the artworks. There has to be complete certainty on the part of the dancer for it all to begin, but once the dance has started it has nothing to do with power or control. To a certain degree it is a question of learning to be vulnerable, of remaining open to the vision of the artist.3 L’“auteur d’exposition” ... peut revendiquer d’être l’équivalent d’un écrivain, d’un cinéaste, d’un dramaturge ou d’un poète. Mais à ces conditions . . . : reconnaître, de sa fonction, ce qu’elle a d’implacablement arbitrale et dictatoriale; avouer que son magistère est exercé non pas affectivement mais au contraire avec violence, de façon solipsiste, fonction de qui sélectionne, admet ou exclut, arrange et combine selon son bon plaisir (toute création authentique est abusive, éliminatrice et sectaire) . . .4 I am the curator of my own misery.5 This is propaganda, you know, you know.6



STEVE GIASSON (1979, Québec) is a conceptual artist. He is pursuing a PhD in the program Études et pratiques des arts at the Université de Québec à Montréal. He lives and works in Montréal. See and www.perform

NOTES/REFERENCES 1. Brüggemann, S. 2018. Show Titles # 347. Retrieved on 28 January 2018 from html. 2. Lebovici, E. 2015. Introduction to the Exhibition Slip of the Tongue, Curated by Danh Vo in Collaboration with Caroline Bourgeois. Palazzo Grassi, Punta della Dogana from 12 April–31 December 2015. Retrieved on 28 January 2018 from 3. Pagé, S. 2008. Quoted in D. Birnbaum, “The Archeology of Things to Come.” In A Brief History of Curating, ed. H. U. Obrist. Zurich, Switzerland: JPR Ringier & Dijon, France: Les Presses du Réel, 236. 4. Ardenne, P. 2003. “De l’exposiƟon (de l’art) à la surexposiƟon (du commissaire).” L’Art même n°21. Bruxelles: Ministère de la Communauté française. 5. Gordon, D. 2010. I Am the Curator of My Own Misery (ballpoint pen drawing on wall). Tate Collection / National Galleries of Scotland, London / Edinburgh. Retrieved on 28 January 2018 from gordon-i-am-the-curator-of-my-own-misery-ar01181. 6. Sehgal, T. 2002. This Is Propaganda (art performance, 1 person). Tate Collection, Tate Gallery, London. Retrieved on 28 January 2018 from http://www

CH A P T E R 2 5

Exhibiting Dance, Performing Objects Cultural Mediation in the Museum ERIN JOELLE MCCURDY


ince the emergence of modern art museums during the interwar period, curatorial efforts and economic resources have been chiefly devoted to the acquisition and exhibition of object-based art. These priorities are reinforced by the widespread adoption of white cube gallery design, a setting that encourages the visual apprehension of static things. In recent years, however, dance and the performing arts are receiving increased curatorial attention in major modern art museums. At first glance, this well-documented trend appears to be an unlikely one. What accounts for the improbable migration of dance into this visual arts context? Why are curators interested in performance, and what does dance gain from its curation in these historically object-oriented institutions? The influx of museum performances can be partly attributed to a deliberate reorientation in the museum world at large. As the last century drew to a close, funding cutbacks and competition with the tourism industry caused museums across disciplines to prioritize the production of experiences. Museums, “once defined by their relationship to objects,” consequently became “defined more than ever by their relationship to visitors” (Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 1998: 138). Although masterworks continue to hold a place of pride in art museums (Conn 2010: 28), major modern art institutions now devote unprecedented attention and resources to the curation of performances and interactive events. This privileging of visitor experience coincides with the evolution of curatorial practices. While curators were once considered the caretakers of objects, constant change in the field of art and the redefinition of museum aims have led to the perpetual evolution of this position. For Søren Andreasen and Lars Bang Larsen (2007:



27), the curator is defined through his or her acts of mediation, meaning that “the curator is not something; the curator does something.” In the current visitor-centered and experience-centered context of modern art museums, what curation often does is mediate culture by fostering connections between individuals, artists, the institution, and the art. While cultural mediation is an umbrella term, capturing a wide range of activities and actors, in its most general sense, it is concerned with “the process of gaining and negotiating knowledge . . . through exchange, reaction and creative response” (Mörsch 2015b: 14). Among the many aims of cultural mediation is the desire to make art accessible to publics through the facilitation of meaningful experiences (Culture pour tous 2014: 5). Unlike art education, a term that emphasizes pedagogical aims and can evoke the top-down transfer of knowledge, mediation highlights the process of negotiation at the heart of cultural transmission (Mörsch 2015a: 20). In modern art museums, performances have been advantageously used to mediate exhibitions, enhance visitor experience, and provide opportunities for participation (and, in some cases, co-creation). Considered through the lens of cultural mediation, dance curation in modern art museums can thus be understood as a strategy of performing arts transmission that reciprocally contributes to the museum context. In order to examine the potential benefits of exhibiting performances in twenty-first century modern art museums, this chapter analyzes two programs at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. MoMA’s influential history,1 its status as a tourist destination, and its recent efforts to curate dance make it an interesting focal point for this investigation. Flip Book (1–3 November 2013), the first program that will be analyzed, was organized around a choreographic work by Boris Charmatz that pays tribute to Merce Cunningham. A multifaceted program unfolding over the course of exhibition hours, Flip Book incorporated oral history, documentary film, and audience participation. The second program, There Will Never Be Silence (12 October 2013–22 June 2014), was an exhibition that included work by Cunningham and other artists. Through special performances and art objects requiring visitor participation for their co-creation or completion, the exhibition encouraged museumgoers to engage with the art on display. Drawing on firsthand observations, exhibition texts, and promotional materials produced by MoMA, this chapter argues that the curation of dance and performing arts in modern art museums can be a mutually beneficial form of cultural mediation, enhancing performances and animating exhibitions, while ultimately enriching visitors’ experiences. A BRIEF BACKGROUND The presence of live dance in modern art museums is not novel. Yet, earlier instances of dance in museums tended to be secondary events or after-hours



concerts as opposed to primary programming presented within a curatorial framework. By contrast, in the twenty-first century, it is not uncommon to have a department devoted to performance curation, and high-profile institutions have begun to develop strategies for acquiring and exhibiting performance-based art.2 Performance curation is a relatively new way of conceiving of dance within museums, and, not surprisingly, the popularization of this term coincides with the recent heightened profile of dance in the visual arts world. At MoMA specifically, an institutional interest in dance can be identified at different points throughout the museum’s history. In 1940, MoMA’s Dance Archives were established, and by 1944, the archives were transformed into a curatorial department, eventually named the Department of Theatre Arts. Significantly, this department was responsible for the collection and exhibition of ephemera and visual art connected to the performing arts, not the curation of live performances (Bishop 2014: 64; Elligott 2009: para. 3). Although the department was short-lived and dissolved in 1948, dance resurfaced again at MoMA in the 1960s and 1970s—this time through sporadic performance events (Bishop 2014: 64). Despite featuring contributions by pivotal dance artists, these events were not framed as part of the museum’s core curatorial activities. Over the last decade or so, however, live dance has become a more regular curated aspect of MoMA’s programming.3 In 2008, the museum extended the responsibilities of its recently formed media department, renaming it the Department of Media and Performance Art. And, at the time of this writing, upwards of twenty dance performances have since been curated, including choreography by Yvonne Rainer, Trisha Brown, Deborah Hay, Ralph Lemon, Simone Forti, Teresa De Keersmaeker, and Trajal Harrell, among other influential artists (MoMA 2014). EXHIBITING DANCE Over three consecutive weekends in 2013, MoMA mounted one of its most radical dance programs to date, Musée de la Danse: Three Collective Gestures. The series of dance-based exhibitions4 was curated in collaboration with choreographer Boris Charmatz and the Musée de la danse he directs in Rennes, France. During the first week of the program, dancers roamed the museum sharing choreographic works in transitional spaces and in galleries alongside the art. The second week, a durational dance work by Charmatz unfolded over exhibition hours in the museum’s second floor atrium. For Flip Book, the program’s final installment, the atrium was temporarily transformed into a theater complete with seating, a raised dance floor, and sound and lighting equipment. Through performances, oral history, and visitor participation, Flip Book, diverged from the object-oriented exhibitions and authoritative narratives often associated with MoMA.5



As a choreographic work, Flip Book pays homage to prolific American choreographer Merce Cunningham, using the 1997 publication Merce Cunningham: Fifty Years as its source material. The book, produced by Cunningham’s archivist David Vaughan and edited by Melissa Harris, documents the choreographer’s life and work through personal snapshots, portraits, candid rehearsal photographs, and performance documentation. It also features reproductions of other visual materials, including posters, costume designs, and choreographic charts. Charmatz’s choreography recreates these images in the order that they appear, producing a “flip-book” that reanimates Cunningham’s legacy. Transposing arrested moments into full-bodied, three-dimensional vignettes, the work is a forty-minute mutable tableau in which each image energetically unfolds into the next, bringing the book to life. Although Flip Book does not resemble Cunningham’s choreography, it borrows from his artistic practices. By allowing the images and their order to determine the dance, the work references Cunningham’s well-known use of scores and chance operations. In Flip Book, Cunningham’s legacy is not treated as a fixed entity, despite its documentation in a book. Instead, history is harnessed as source material for interpretation, creation, performance, and play. Differing from dance reconstructions or revivals, which strive to authentically reproduce choreographic works (see Archer and Hodson 2000; Hutchinson Guest 2000), Flip Book offers an alternative relationship to dance heritage.6 At MoMA, the work functions as a sketch paying tribute to Cunningham’s life, choosing breadth and spirit over depth and accuracy. It dances through history; it does not attempt to retrieve a piece of it. The curation of Flip Book by a museum exhibiting modern, postmodern, and contemporary art is complementary on multiple levels. While Flip Book is a contemporary choreographic work, its subject matter is historical. Charmatz’s engagement with dance’s past bears an obvious connection to the preservational impulse of museums. Nonetheless, the structure of Flip Book, with its myriad versions and contributors, and loose treatment of dance heritage subverts any single authoritative historical perspective. Since its development in 2008, Flip Book has had several iterations. Amateurs, professionals, children, and even former Cunningham dancers have performed the ever-evolving work. With each new cast, Charmatz returns to the score, animating the book anew. In the context of MoMA, the ephemerality and multiplicity of this dance work, varying with each remount, cast, and even performance, served to diversify conventional notions of authenticity in the museum. Simultaneously, by celebrating Cunningham, who is frequently lauded as one of the most influential American choreographers of the twentieth century, Flip Book contributed to visitors’ understandings of dance, an art that has been historically underrepresented within the museum’s walls. Not limited to an isolated performance, Flip Book was mediated through a multifaceted program that spanned opening hours. In the museum, visitors



were granted unique opportunities to engage with Flip Book, the artists, and Cunningham’s legacy. Each day began in the atrium with an improvisational talk by Valda Setterfield. Equipped with a headset microphone, the former Cunningham dancer shared anecdotes with visitors gathering in the space. She wistfully recounted the familial atmosphere of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and recalled days spent rehearsing capped with group dinners at the automat. She also reflected on Cunningham’s creative process and offered glimpses into his personal and professional partnership with John Cage. Venturing into more recent territory, Setterfield relayed her experiences as a previous cast member of Flip Book, offering museumgoers an insider’s perspective and interpretation of the dance that would be performed later that afternoon. Throughout, Setterfield took questions, which allowed visitors to ask about the topics that interested them and play an active role in directing the course of the oral history. The result was a personal and interactive engagement with both the history of Flip Book and that of Cunningham, as Setterfield’s memories bridged the distance between past and present, art and audience. During this interactive oral history, the current cast, including the understudy, entered the space to warm up, rehearse sections of the work, and occasionally pose their own questions to Setterfield. As the dancers moved around clad in brightly colored costumes layered with rehearsal clothes, audience members witnessed choreographic fragments, and watched as spacing issues were resolved and transitions were refined. With Vaughan’s book on hand, dancers cross-referenced their body positioning against the score, ensuring that the images were recreated faithfully. This open rehearsal pulled back the curtain on Flip Book, exhibiting the often-invisible labor behind a dance performance, including the conditioning of bodies, the rehearsal process, and the frequently unseen efforts of the understudy. At the same time, a film documenting a previous iteration of Flip Book was screened on the back wall of the atrium. Featuring some of the same cast members and a seemingly identical white dance floor underfoot, the film had an uncanny effect, presenting a different version of the same dance. For the museum visitor, three perspectives of this single choreographic work were being presented simultaneously: Setterfield’s oral history of the project, the footage of a previous performance, and the live rehearsal of what would be performed that afternoon. Following the rehearsal, Charmatz took over the microphone to share his firsthand account of Flip Book and then invited visitors to learn a version of the work under his direction. Participants ranging from children to seniors, inexperienced dancers to professionals, assembled on the dance floor, gathering around a copy of Vaughan’s book. Charmatz began to assign gestures to the volunteer cast and choreograph transitions between the tableaus. By recreating the choreographic forms in the photographs, the visitors learned about Cunningham through their own bodies. And, through the repetitive rehearsal process, volunteers and onlookers alike gained insight into how choreography is pro-



duced and polished. As he would with any cast, Charmatz gave the volunteers corrections. He urged them to command attention, commit to shapes, and be expansive in their transitions, emulating aspects of Cunningham’s movement style. Then, the volunteers became part of the history of Flip Book by informally performing their version of the work for other museumgoers. When the visitors’ performance was complete, the daily program culminated with two performances of the work by its professional cast.7 Accompanying the performances, a copy of Vaughan’s book was displayed in front of the audience, perched on a black music stand under a small light. As the performance unfolded, a member of Charmatz’s team turned the pages in time with the choreography, enabling museumgoers to view the score alongside the finished work. The setting for all of these activities was MoMA’s central atrium, a spacious white cube temporarily outfitted with some of the elements of a black box theater. There was a raised stage, metal risers for audience seating, and sound and lighting equipment. However, this performance space lacked curtains, wings, or a backstage—conventions that often serve to contain the final product of a performance in theater settings. When offstage the dancers remained visible, and without a segregated sound or lighting booth, the actions of the designers and technicians were also on display. While Flip Book included programmed performances, its curation in the modern art museum allowed multiple dimensions of this choreographic work to be exhibited for visitors. Stretching far beyond the limits of a conventional theatrical performance, Flip Book unfolded over the course of five hours, displaying its own past lives, invisible labor, technical elements, and score. By offering an interactive oral history and opportunities to rehearse with the choreographer and perform the work, the program also facilitated visitor participation. Moreover, the discussion and rehearsal process gave insight into the unique history and practices that characterize the artistic discipline of dance. The result was the multidimensional mediation of a dance work as opposed to the staging of an isolated performance. PERFORMING OBJECTS Elsewhere in the museum, in a series of adjoining white cube galleries, Cunningham and Cage were conjured again, but this time through an object-based exhibition. Titled There Will Never Be Silence, the exhibition was organized around the earliest surviving score of Cage’s 4’33”, an experimental performance that premiered in 1952 and consists of four minutes and thirty-three seconds of scored silence divided into three movements. While the original score is lost, MoMA acquired 4’33” (In Proportional Notation) (1952/53), the work’s second score. On its cover, in seriffed block letters, Cage’s handwriting



specifies that the work is intended “for any instrument or combination of instruments.” Inside, its white pages are sparsely punctuated with vertical lines drawn in black ink, measuring out the periods of silence proportionally rather than on a standard musical staff. As a graphic score drawn by a prominent twentieth century composer, the work is a visually interesting object. Signed by the composer, displayed on a white pedestal, and encased in glass, its material value was conveyed to the visitor.8 Its significance, however, also derives from its connection to a landmark performance event, which “upended the conventional structure of music, shifting attention from the performer to the audience” (MoMA 2013: para. 1). While Cage’s score served as the centerpiece of There Will Never Be Silence, it was one of many exhibition elements that mediated culture while blurring the boundaries between objects and performances in the museum. Several other scores were exhibited as precious art objects in There Will Never Be Silence. Across the gallery from 4’33”, two roughly square pieces of graph paper, seemingly ripped from notepads, were framed, matted, and hung as works of art. Each page featured a grid of squares drawn in ballpoint pen. Diagonal lines hatched across some quadrants, some were numbered or renumbered, and the word “choice” was scrawled across a select few. The wall text accompanying the grids informed the visitor that they were choreographic charts produced by Cunningham (1952a; 1952b) using chance operations for his 1952 choreography Suite by Chance. The exhibition also displayed an original copy of Grapefruit, a collection of event scores by Yoko Ono (1964). Under glass and opened to the page describing Kitchen Piece, the book instructed the reader to “Throw all the leftovers you have in the kitchen that day on the canvas. You may prepare special food for the piece” (Ono 1964). The exhibited scores by Cage, Cunningham, and Ono, among other artists, operated in the museum on multiple levels. As art objects, they represented key developments in performance and performing arts, pointing to an art historical narrative beyond their objecthood. They could also be admired for their aesthetic and material properties. Cunningham’s graphic grids and Cage’s proportional notation are both visually interesting works bearing the mark of these well-known artists; this makes them valuable works of art in their own right. Ono’s book, produced through offset printing, is not singular in the same sense, but its rarity as a first edition served to fetishize its materiality in the museum. The visitor could look but not touch, as he or she observed the texture of the paper, the quality of the print, and the condition of the spine. In addition to their materiality, these scores signaled past and future performances of the works they chart or script. Simultaneously present and absent, the exhibited scores existed in a territory between the material art object and the immaterial performance. They gestured to events that have taken place, that will take place, or perhaps ones that might unfold in the visitors’ imaginations. Throughout the



lives of these objects, they are entwined with the events they animate and are animated by. There is something incomplete and participatory evoked by their exhibition in the white cube, encouraging the visitor to engage on levels beyond the visual appreciation of their objecthood. While these scores pointed to past or potential performances, the exhibition also included objects that have the capacity to perform, such as Zen for Film by Nam June Paik (c. 1965). Devoid of sound and images, this work consists of twenty minutes of silent 16mm film leader looped through a humming projector. With each screening, Zen for Film is defined by the projecting apparatus and its environment, as well as the deteriorating materiality of the film leader. Dust collected on the lens and filmstrip paired with the characteristics of its projection surface contribute visual elements, while the ambient noises of the projector, venue, and audience members form a sound score, turning each screening into a performance event (Uroskie 2014: 30–31). In the gallery, the museum visitors become co-creators as they inadvertently contribute to the film. Not unlike the performing arts, each screening of Zen for Film represents a unique iteration of the work within its life span despite its relative stability as an object. While performing objects encouraged visitor completion through imagination or co-creation, it should be noted that the exhibition also encouraged visitors to engage with art on a conceptual level. The transitional space outside of the exhibition was transformed into a Learning Lounge. Replete with texts by Cage and other key thinkers, the lounge offered visitors an opportunity to examine key documents that had informed the curators as well as the art on display (Platzker 2013: para. 7). Enhancing the exhibition, the lounge functioned as a tool of cultural mediation, facilitating self-guided explorations of the ideas behind the exhibited objects. Alongside these materials, There Will Never Be Silence included live performances as a strategy of cultural mediation that brings art history to life.9 In conjunction with the exhibition, contemporary dancer and choreographer Eszter Salamon performed her Dance for Nothing in the Werner and Elaine Danheisser Lobby Gallery (15–16 January 2014). Developed by Salamon in 2010, the work consists of a recitation of Cage’s seminal talk Lecture on Nothing paired with unrelated movement. Performed for two consecutive nights and followed by an audience discussion, Dance for Nothing offered visitors an opportunity to engage further with the concepts presented through the exhibition, albeit after museum hours and in a separate, ticketed space. MoMA also animated the exhibition with unticketed, more immediate, and thus more accessible performances. Twice daily over a two-week period (7–21 February 2014), twenty-eight performances of 4’33” were presented during museum hours in a transitional space adjacent to the exhibition. The interpretations “were part of a



new initiative to offer pop-up activities and spaces at MoMA in order to engage audiences with the ideas explored in exhibitions and enliven the non-gallery areas of the Museum” (Armstrong 2014: para. 1). Performed by eight guest artists and twenty members of MoMA’s staff, the interpretations offered diverse treatments of the score. Lizzi Bougatsos, for example, spent four minutes and thirty-three seconds kneeling over an ice cube wielding what resembled a black conductor’s baton, as she directed its transformation into a puddle of water (Armstrong 2014: para. 2). As a multidimensional exhibition involving various performance elements There Will Never Be Silence was not restricted to conventional object-oriented curatorial practices. The exhibition acknowledged the performing arts through the integration of scores, while art requiring visitor co-creation encouraged participation and invited ephemerality into the gallery. Furthermore, the learning lounge, Salamon’s solo, and the live interpretations of 4’33” fleshed out the objects and ideas conveyed through the exhibition. Using experiential and audience-centered approaches, the exhibition provided an environment where objects performed meaning and performances enhanced public understandings of the art on display. CONCLUSION The increased presence of dance in major modern art museums can have positive outcomes for both the visual and performing arts. As this analysis has shown, exhibitions can benefit from the incorporation of performance. Performances can animate objects in museum collections, while objects with performative elements can contribute to visitor experiences by encouraging imagination, participation, and even co-creation. Although the performing arts can enhance exhibitions, they also stand to gain from their inclusion in modern art museums. The museum offers opportunities to explore new relationships between the audience, the artists, and the work. In the white cube, choreographers and dance artists can depart from the established conventions of theatrical venues, and connect with publics in new ways over the course of museum hours. This is not to say that there are not potential drawbacks to the inclusion of performance in these historically object-oriented settings; however, as dance becomes increasingly commonplace in major modern art institutions, it is useful to take stock of how this development can improve the transmission of the visual and performing arts, while enriching the museum experience. In the twenty-first century, as curatorial practices continue to evolve, the modern art museum is evolving too, becoming a hybrid site where performances can be exhibited and objects can perform.



ERIN JOELLE MCCURDY holds a PhD and MA in Communication and Culture completed in 2017 jointly at Ryerson University and York University in Toronto, Canada. Her doctoral dissertation “Where Flesh Meets Bone: Dance in the Modern Art Museum” investigates the spatial implications of dance curation in major modern art institutions. Erin also holds a BFA in dance and has performed in Canada and the United Kingdom. Her choreography has been featured in the Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival and the Toronto International Dance Festival. She is a founding member of Nomadic Curatorial Collective.

NOT E S This research was supported by Ryerson International and the graduate program in Communication and Culture at Ryerson University. Special thanks to my supervisor Dr. Sophie Thomas at Ryerson University for her valuable feedback. 1. Often credited as the first US museum devoted to modern art, MoMA is widely acknowledged for its popularization of white cube gallery design, and for its role in establishing the modernist “canon” and dominant narrative of modern art. 2. This expansion of the curatorial role into the domain of performance was the impetus behind “Collecting the Performative,” a twenty-two-month research network investigating emerging approaches for the collection and conservation of non-material art, initiated by Tate Research in April 2012. 3. Ana Janevski, Associate Curator in the Department of Media and Performance Art at MoMA, remarked upon the institution’s recent shift from programmed events to curatorially framed performances while moderating “An Evening with Boris Charmatz, Simone Forti, and Ralph Lemon,” a conversation panel held at MoMA 21 October 2013. 4. Despite being dance-based, MoMA’s website promoted Musée de la Danse under its “exhibitions” subheading. 5. It must be noted that Flip Book was previously presented at Tate Modern in September 2012, another major modern art institution at the forefront of performance curation. During museum hours, visitors could freely attend the dancers’ warm-up and rehearsals, which were accompanied by live interpretation by Valda Setterfield. Performances of the work, however, were ticketed and held outside of opening hours. 6. This is not to say that one type of historical engagement is preferable. Arguably, it is beneficial to explore dance history in a variety of ways. Flip Book offers an alternative perspective amid the increasing “museumification” of dance and the burgeoning reconstruction industry. 7. The MoMA cast of dancers consisted of Boris Charmatz, Ashley Chen, Raphaëlle Delaunay, Christophe Ives, Lénio Kaklea, and Mani A. Mungai. 8. While photography was permitted throughout Flip Book, photographs of this objectoriented exhibition were strictly prohibited. This is presumably because some of the exhibited items were on loan. However, forbidding photography within There Will Never Be Silence reinforced the modernist view of the art object as a singular masterpiece. 9, These performance descriptions draw on promotional materials, secondary accounts, and documentation, as they were not experienced firsthand.



R EF E R E NC E S Andreasen, S, and L. Bang Larsen. 2007. “The Middleman: Beginning to Talk about Mediation.” In Curating Subjects, ed. Paul O’Neill, 20–30. London and Amsterdam: Open Editions and De Appel. Archer, K., and M. Hodson. 2000. “Confronting Oblivion: Keynote Address and Lecture Demonstration on Reconstructing Ballets.” In Preservation Politics, ed. S. Jordan, 1–20. London: Dance Books. Armstrong, J. 2014. “‘Is This a Social Experiment?’ Performing John Cage.” Inside/Out: A MoMA/MoMA PS1 Blog, 19 March. Retrieved 10 May 2015 from https://www.moma .org/learn/moma_learning/blog/is-this-a-social-experiment-performing-john-cage. Bishop, C. 2014. “The Perils and Possibilities of Dance in the Museum: Tate, MoMA, and Whitney.” Dance Research Journal, Special topic issue Dance in Museums. 46(3): 62–76. Cage, J. 1952/53. 4’33” (In Proportional Notation), ink on paper, 279 x 431 mm. Museum of Modern Art, New York. Charmatz, B. 2013. Flip Book. Musée de la danse. Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1–3 November. Conn, S. 2010. Do Museums Still Need Objects? Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Culture pour tous. 2014. Glossary: Cultural Mediation and its Keywords. Retrieved 10 May 2015 from Cunningham, M. 1952a. Suite by Chance (Movement Chart II C-D-E Extensions), ballpoint pen and pencil on graph paper, 178 x 172 mm. Museum of Modern Art, New York. ———. 1952b. Suite by Chance (Space Chart Entrance and Exit), ballpoint pen and pencil on colored graph paper, 178 x 178 mm. Museum of Modern Art, New York. Elligott, M. 2009. “Another Modern Art: Dance and Theatre.” MoMA. Retrieved 10 May 2015 from Hutchinson Guest, A. 2000. “Is Authenticity to be Had?” In Preservation Politics, ed. Stephanie Jordan, 65–71. London: Dance Books. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, B. 1998. Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage. Berkeley: University of California Press. Mörsch, C. 2015a. “English Terminology.” In Time for Cultural Mediation, trans. Proverb, 20– 21. Zurich: Institute for Art Education of Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK). Retrieved 1 February 2015 from ?m=0&m2=1&lang=e. ———. 2015b. “Intro.” In Time for Cultural Mediation, trans. Proverb, 14–15. Zurich: Institute for Art Education of Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK). Retrieved 1 February 2015 from Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). 2013. “There Will Never Be Silence: Scoring John Cage’s 4’33”.” Retrieved 10 May 2015 from exhibitions/1421. ———. 2014. “Performance Program.” Retrieved 10 May 2015 from visit/calendar/exhibitions/974. Ono, Y. 1964. Grapefruit, artist’s book, offset printed, 138 x 138 x 32 mm. Museum of Modern Art, New York. Paik, N. J. 1965. Zen for Film, 16mm film leader (silent), 20 min. Museum of Modern Art, New York.



Platzker, D. 2013. “Reading John Cage.” Inside/Out: A MoMA/MoMA PS1 Blog, 18 November. Retrieved 10 May 2015 from 18/reading-john-cage. Salamon, E. 2014. Dance for Nothing. Werner and Elaine Danheisser Lobby Gallery, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 15–16 January. Uroskie, A. V. 2014. Between the Black Box and the White Cube: Expanded Cinema and Postwar Art. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Vaughan, D., and M. Harris, eds. 1997. Merce Cunningham: Fifty Years. New York: Aperture.

CH A P T E R 2 6

The Curator’s Work Stories and Experiences from Tino Sehgal’s Events VÉRONIQUE HUDON


n the spring 2013, artist Tino Sehgal presented two works at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal that posed a number of challenges to traditional curatorial practices. The first of these works entitled Kiss (2002) showed a couple in a carefully choreographed sequence of eight minutes that is repeated in a continuous loop, engaged in representing famous kisses drawn from throughout art history. The second work entitled This Situation (2007) was based on discourse and exchange: the performers are there to discuss. They shared with each other and with visitors the recitation of quotes on a number of issues from throughout the last five centuries of human thought—drawing from philosophy and economics, aesthetics and politics. They simply stood there discussing these ideas one after another, playing out a more or less anachronistic salon. These exchanges were punctuated with unspoken rule that the “players”1 applied to accentuate their exchanges physically and verbally. For example, every visitor who entered the space was greeted with “welcome to this situation.” In the face of these kinds of forms, which lie halfway between installation and performance, we might from the outset ask a simple question, naïve in appearance: where is the work? Of course, art history of the last century has accustomed us to a gradual disappearance of the object—of the work as object— relentlessly upsetting the ontological status of the work of art to the point to which we today recognize that the work does not quietly hold still within a framework that can be installed on museum walls. Nevertheless, because of the way they value experience through their immaterial essence—at the expense of a fixed object or material persisting in time—the artistic proposals of Tino Sehgal, presented as living situations, are surprising even to the most experienced critics. Moreover, and this is an essential element that I will try to ad-



vance here, the artist prohibits all documentation of his work in every possible way. No material trace of these works is allowed to survive, and this is very clear until faced with the legal provisions that govern the presentation of the works by the museums. There is no paper contract: the transaction between the institution and the artist (or representatives of the artist) must be oral, notarized, and no physical trace can remain of even this operation. This is the way in which Sehgal enters deeply into his way of bypassing any material existence of the artwork. In short, the work is fundamentally immaterial: nothing remains— no trace, no contract—nothing can testify to its existence except the stories of the performers and the spectators who created the experience. COMMUNITY IN ACTION Since Seghal’s work resists all forms of physical transmission, denotation, and description, his work is based on oral and corporal memory. His ban not only has the simple objective of preventing any documentation of the presentations for posterity, but also implies that the production of the work occurs through direct transmission between artists and collaborator-interpreters. Seghal puts in place different strategies, but one of the particularities of his work is that the piece in its entirety relies on its capacity to generate modes of exchange and transmission. And so the processes of production of the work are based in the mediation of the immaterial work. In the case of Kiss, the mediation originates from the artist (or a collaborator designated by Seghal: in Montreal, it was Asad Raza) and is passed on to the performers, but also from the performers to the other performers. For example, Kiss is transmissible from one dancer to another, for a dancer can become a trustee of the piece (the choreography) and transmit it to other dancers. The works often form a series and so there are several existing versions in the world, permitting the institutions that acquire the work to consider loaning the work to a third party. This also allows the same work to be disseminated throughout the world. The terms of transmission vary from one work to another. In This Situation, the “players,” as Seghal calls them, are selected from the host city. Seghal chooses people who represent the intellectual life of the city and who will be the principal interlocutors, able to simulate discussion.2 And so, exchange is established within a local microcommunity. This community is a crucial element of the work, which is based on a set of discussions. Its very survival depends on this community and its capacity to transmit and memorize the choreography. The various stakeholders become key players for the work to take place and so this community provides a part of the existence of the work, but various institutional players, such as the visitors, also take part. By making the community an essential element of the work’s existence, Seghal already mitigates, in part, the lack of documentation and also a critical



apparatus generated by the host institution. In fact, the interpreters, whether they are dancers or players, become the living memory of the work, as they ensure the conservation of the latter. Likewise, their testimonies also participate in the exchange and commentary, in diverse locations and on various occasions such as exchanges organized by the museum, testimonies of their experiences online or simple impromptu exchanges with the visitors outside the exhibition. Sehgal also impels institutional stakeholders to become involved, since they must comply with several rules concerning the conservation and presentation of the exhibition. It is important to remember that he not only prohibits any documentation, he also controls the different modes of exhibition and presentation. The mandate to enforce the ban is simply another facet of the score of the piece and of its staging, which brings an entire network of museum guardians and professionals, journalists and ordinary visitors into play within the rules of his game.3 The institutional stakeholders also become involved in the work, as curators and directors must apply the rules determined by the artist, this being their realm of responsibility. They are also privileged participants in the transfer of the work that is orchestrated according to its protocol: it is an oral assignment in the presence of key people. In other words, the acquisition of a situation constructed by Sehgal is validated by an oral statement and by the presence of a witness. He refuses to allow the acquisition to be based on documentation (which is theoretically necessary for its acquisition into the museum), and so produces no certificate, unlike many conceptual artists before him. Because it is Sehgal who defines the terms of the licensing agreement, this transaction is an essential part of the artistic proposal. It forms as a result of artistic approaches of which one of the most famous is undoubtedly that of Yves Klein, one of the pioneers in the “zone of immaterial pictorial sensibility” (zone sensibilité pictorial immatérielle). Indeed, the transaction generated interest because it is perceived as a “moment” that participates in the work. Thus, most institutions will create exchanges on the subject in parallel to the exhibit and deliver their testimony or disseminate information about it online (as was the case at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal). This transaction is an event in itself, and often attracts the attention of many journalists and commentators, both positive and negative. The testimony is the primary mode of description of the work in that it affects different modes of action of the latter, while also being transparent with the institution. The institutions will then each apply all of the rules a little differently, but most will engage in a minimal interpretation of the work as it is passed on principally by word (AGO 2006 and 2010; Fondation Nicola Trussardi 2008; Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal 2012; MCA 2007). And so the issue of power between the artist and the institution is central to this work. Sehgal largely assumes the role of curator, since his work takes into account methods of exposure and conversation. He creates a situation that involves all of the institutions he directs. He exploits the context of the exhibition



as material in the same way as would canvas or paint. The exhibition space becomes a place of speculation about the representation of reality itself, the reality of the art system. Through the “regulation” of the discursive work practiced by the cultural institution, Sehgal makes evident, although in a paradoxical way, the discursive functioning of the art system that is structured around rules. It demonstrates that somehow we can replay or reconstruct our ways of establishing art and that basically, perhaps, art is a game in which we can review the structure, codes, and function. THE MUSEUM AS A FRAME The institution is the real frame for Sehgal’s work and the situation forces everyone to play a role. It should be noted that there are no material frames surrounding the “performances.” There is nothing that leads us to believe that the work Kiss is about to unfold, as the usual signage of the museum—frame, pedestal, label—is erased according to his rules. There is nothing that calls attention to the specific codes of the performing arts either—no stage, dimming of the lights, black box space. In short, the usual rituals that surround presentation or representation of works and that serve to guide the visitor or viewer in his experience are absent here. Moreover, the work might just as well be behind us or in the next room, as it moves, it provokes interactions. The work is everywhere. It is the situation that makes it, in a certain way, transparent or “invisible” as some would say. The difficulty in framing the work, in isolating the artistic representation in an autonomous sphere that is more clearly detached from the context of the exhibition, troubles our understanding of what belongs to art and what is real. The work situates itself in a transparent manner inside the institution in such a way that it exposes the institutional space. The fact remains that the work does in fact have a frame. It overflows, it encompasses the whole of a situation, which itself unfolds in time and space, although the boundaries are difficult to define. Especially because mobility is also part of its mode of existence, since it can also be repeated and loaned by the purchaser, there are often several copies of the work. The action of the performers occurs in a place, the museum, this same context giving meaning to their actions and to Sehgal’s entire artistic proposal. Nathalie Desmet, an art critic interested in empty exhibitions, explains Sehgal’s works as belonging to a “museum”: “His proposition is to create a different kind of relationship with the viewers within the institution and push against the production of objects in order to interest them in another kind of production that fits within in a logic of nonproduction (déproduction)” (2009: 91). The museum or gallery as a framework engages in a wide range of conservation and communication activities, but these institutions are also structured by rules, which are more or less ex-



plicit. These rules are based on values traditionally associated with the artwork from which flow the dominant methodologies: the permanence of the work, the skills of the artist and the autonomy of the artistic field. Sehgal replays the rules differently and redistributes power by interfering in the activities of the institutions themselves, and also by giving the performer/collaborators and viewers a greater responsibility for the work in view of its perpetuation and also its history. The various participants literally mediate the work through time. But what is surprising is that they also constitute the work: performers (players and/or dancers), conservators, curators, viewers, etc. This is why one could speak of “inaction” (désoeuvrement), in the sense of Frédéric Pouillaude’s meaning, when he writes about choreographic practices, and the inability of philosophy and aesthetics to think of them within the model of “work” (2009). Effectively, Sehgal’s practice4 is close to that of choreography in its existence and transmission modalities: by the positioning and the setting into motion of the body in space, learning the score is accomplished by means of oral and intangible instructions. This practice troubles, and wavers between, two features related to the concept of work according to Frédéric Pouillaude: the work as a public shareable object and the work as a surviving object that must be able to transcend the limits of time. It is also interesting to note that the artist’s intention is not made explicit nor inscribed in the material. Indeed, it very difficult to state with certainty the specific intent of the artist, if not in interviews, testimonies, and exchanges that remain relayed by a third party and are never fully immune to interpretation. Mediations traditionally kept on the sidelines of the works are here thrust into the forefront. This reduces the emphasis on traditional methods of mediation and could be organized in the mode of indirect mediation, in that they are linked to the production of the exhibition (label, accompanying text, etc.). Instead, Sehgal amplifies the importance given to active mediation, that is to say those modes that are composed in order to interpret the artwork. Sehgal compels the various stakeholders in their mediation activities: he brings them to engage in active mediation in direct contact with the public, and also emphasizes the work of interpretation by the visitor. This gives great importance to the public, as their exchanges and witnessing become privileged forms of mediation, and as they themselves are exacerbated by the work’s immateriality. An important part of the communication passes through “viral mediation” in the sense that information about the exhibition spreads in the form of rumors via the public and the performers/players. In fact, the artist leads the visitors, performers and all the institutional players to reassess the foundation of a work’s reality, and the importance that all forms of mediation play, at once essential to the public existence of any work but also never completely neutral. By limiting the mediations of an institutional kind, Sehgal consciously favors public mediation. He illuminates the modalities of reception and interpretation.



This way of working might be seen as close to that of a curatorial approach. Sehgal creates a situation in which the public and stakeholders pursue a long discussion and the actions that follow. The exhibition is part of a “discursive event” like those of Reesa Greenberg, who museologist Jerome Glicenstein describes as follows: A phenomenon that would not be as finite and fixed as temporally fluid; less an isolated construction and more a relational structure by its internal and external connections; less like a lecture and more like a conversation—in other words, the exhibition as a discursive event. According to her, such a model would “emphasize the oral rather than the written; the social rather than the individual; the poetic rather than the expected; and permeable and random means rather than interpretations based on interpolation, interrogation or iconography . . . What matters most is the quantity of discussion that is generated, for how long, in what sectors of society and, most importantly, to what effect.”5 (Greenberg quoted in Glicenstein 2009: 239, emphasis in the original)

Thus, we can say that through the means of the artist-curator, the artist inscribes mediations within the heart of the work and not at its periphery. Sehgal highlights the fact that the works, in order to become public, go through a framework and certain forms of demonstration, from which they have emerged. The curator shares this space with the institution and the artist. This intersection of curatorial practice and artistic practice opens a field of possibilities for the medium of the exhibition, both in thought and in practice. The stance of the artist-curator highlights the issues latent in art and relating to the legitimacy and credibility of a practice. It creates works that actively question the institutional codes and modes of reception. It should be noted that the origins of curatorial practice emerged from groups of artists who wanted to challenge institutional practices, literally by removing art from the institution—for example, as was the case with Land Art—but also by creating their own independent places. Rather than rejecting these practices, the institutions have moved closer to them over time. Paul Ardenne calls this attitude “institutional permissiveness” allowing artist-curators to intervene in the museum. This transformation is part of a journey that began in the 1970s with the democratization of the museum. It was one that brought the curator into direct contact with the public, including a renewal of the modes of mediation in which the viewer plays a crucial role. As part of these institutional changes, greater importance is given to the presentation of works that move toward an integration of the independent curator and the artist-curator. Today, various curatorial initiatives have proliferated to the point that we accuse museum directors of playing the show business card and to not paying enough attention to their primary functions. Indeed, it cannot be denied that certain museum practices more closely resemble a show or a marketing strategy. Nevertheless, we must recognize that Sehgal, far from making the museum into a spectacle, arouses disappointment



in some viewers who come with these kinds of expectations. Nothing is readily available to the viewer in terms of simple aesthetic pleasure, rather the viewer is called on to be actively engaged in the given situation to give it meaning, their own interpretation. The interpretation that the viewer gives will be related to his or her immediate experience, itself related to the set of rules that define the appearance, the action and the evolution of This Situation or Kiss. The work of reception requires procedures in order to read and interpret one’s own experience of the work and is less focused on visibility. It also signifies a great simplicity of presentation, the body in motion and in interaction, without artifice, in which we can even confuse the dancers/players for the spectators. In the end, what do these works show us? By being “immaterial” they demonstrate that the register of the work depends on its ability to situate itself in time, over time, rather than by its material objectiveness. These works propose that art is perhaps not located where it is usually sought in galleries and museums, which is to say in the visible material, but rather to be found in its ability to enter into an individual and collective memory. And it is this idea that the artist literally puts on display by making the transmission and the direct experience of the work a crucial challenge to the existence of Kiss and This Situation. It also makes evident that the visibility of the work is conditioned by our beliefs and often instituted by the art world. Sehgal also reactivates the history of art, as evident in his inclination toward citation. Kiss takes up the iconography of famous paintings and sculptures (Auguste Rodin, Constantin Brancusi, Gustav Klimt, Jeff Koons), and This Situation, as well as the quotes that are spoken without mentioning their authors, replays the iconography of famous paintings through the postures adopted by the “players.” By doing this Sehgal chooses to reactivate a cultural memory, to put memory to work and to reinterpret these images by linking them together. He creates a network of images, he expresses the “how?” of the image. He summons what George DidiHuberman (2002) called the “surviving image,” (l’image survivante) those images that persist through time and reappear in the form of reminiscence, “[. . .] this afterlife of the images,” says Didi-Huberman “this capacity of forms to never completely die and which reappear when and where they are least expected” (2002: 19). Sehgal unfolds the images’ own memory of occidental culture, and he puts the image on view through the body. The persistence of Kiss and This Situation is also made manifest through its mode of continuous presentation, in which pairs of dancers or players replace each other without interruption during opening hours, and so the work is playing in a loop. Sehgal affirms that its parts do not have a beginning nor an ending (Griffin 2005: 219). He aspires to a work that is lasting, that offers an art that is at once permanent and living (Sayej 2006: 21). The end of the work is hard to define, as the work on the series can be replayed endlessly or at least until the erosion of the human memory that relays it. These works do not really end in the sense that they cannot



be spatially bound, but they are also persistent in time through the images that they summon and their possible reiteration. Sehgal’s refusal of documentation or description is the refusal of a single approach to the work and its definition. This kind of “event-work” brings out different discursive and narrative issues, which emphasize the work of interpretation and its legibility in relation to what makes it an “event.” This event offers multiple points of view. We must understand the importance of the experience in the event as a phenomenon in the sense that the “subjective” and the “objective” side of the description are inseparable, since the event is one and the same with its modes of understanding, ownership, and experience that are made manifest through a “production.” To describe these works, one must accept the impossibility of successfully making a description that might be considered “objective” by listing the materials or transcribing the sequence of actions. The situations are subject to variations and to possibilities: the work eludes us in part by the complexity and variety of the relationships it forges. Attempting to describe it is to jump into the ongoing discourse and to reactivate one’s own memory of events, what one experienced at the museum along with the performers, what happened that remains of this experience (or if nothing happened, to forget). Similarly, it is also to plunge into a shared experience that connects us to a common narrative. To describe these works is to read and reread them in light of their possibilities. A responsible and controlled subjectivity is preferred to an elusive objectivity. This bias overlaps with that of the curator who intervenes in the presentation space to formulate the mediations that orient the manner of looking at the artwork. VÉRONIQUE HUDON is a researcher, author, and curator of living arts; her place of intervention is between the stage and the book, the theater and the gallery, her work touches on the exhibition and the dramaturgy, writing and performance. She is a PhD candidate in the Studies and Practices of the Arts Program at the Université du Québec à Montréal. Her research focuses on curation of the live arts, especially choreographic and performative exhibitions in museums. She currently collaborates with several periodicals in the arts field.

NOT E S Translation from the original French by Valerie Buddle and Dena Davida. 1. This term is used by Tino Sehgal in public interventions or reports to define the role of the participants within the framework of This Situation. 2. This process is commonly known to the public and is part of the information disseminated by the host institution. It is also found in numerous testimonies in which it is mentioned that the members are selected from the host city, As stated on the official website of the



Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art: “The performers were very carefully selected from local intellectual and dance milieus by Sehgal’s producer, who worked with them for several weeks to prepare the exhibition” Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (2012). 3. Some of the articles that discuss these issues Bishop (2005), Bousteau (2001), Colin (2006), Cotter (2010), Davis (2010), Gauthier (2005), Heiser (2004), and Hoffman (2003). 4. I will not elaborate on the artist’s links with dance, in which he designates himself as a choreographer, but will only underscore that his work can be seen along with French conceptual choreographers such as Jérôme Bel and Xavier Le Roy, more recently with Boris Charmatz at the Musée de la danse (Dancing Museum) and also with les Ballets C. de la B. 5. As quoted by Jerome Glicenstein (2009): Greenberg 1995.

R EF E R E NC E S Ardenne, P. 2003. Art. L’âge contemporain. Une histoire des arts plastiques à la fin du XXe siècle. Paris: Éditions du Regard. Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). 2006. “Swing spaces” [exhibition text]. Retrieved 14 April 2014 from ———. 2010. “Sculpture as Time: Major Works.” New Acquisitions [exhibit text]. Retrieved 14 April 2014 from Bishop, C. 2005. “No Pictures Please: Claire Bishop on the Art of Tino Sehgal.” Artforum International 43(9): 215–17. Bousteau, F. (2001). “L’extraordinaire exposition de Tino Sehgal au Guggenheim.” Beaux-arts magazine 311: 82–89. Colin, A. 2006. “Tino Sehgal: Adepte du progress.” Special issue. artpress August-SeptemberOctober: 110–11. Cotter, H. 2010. “In the Naked Museum: Talking, Thinking, Encountering.” New York Times, 1 February, C1–C2. Davis, B. 2010. Photos for Tino. Artnet. Retrieved 14 April 2014 from http://www.artnet .com/magazineus/reviews/davis/tino-sehgal1-7-10.asp. Derrida, J. 1978. La vérité en peinture. Paris: Flammarion. Desmet, N. 2009. “Une relation impossible: les expositions dans lesquelles il n’y a rien à voir.” Nouvelle revue d’esthétique (3): 85–92. Didi-Huberman, G. 2002. L’image survivante: Histoire de l’art et temps des fantômes selon Aby Warburg. Paris: Minuit. During, E., and G. Didi-Huberman, 2002. “Aby Warburg, l’histoire de l’art à l’âge des fantômes.” artpress: 18-24. Fondation Nicola Trussardi. 2008. “Presentation of the Tino Sehgal exhibit by Tino Sehgal, Villa Reale, Galleria d’Arte Maderna Via Palestro, Milan.” Retrieved 14 April 2014 http:// Gauthier, M. 2005. “Tino Sehgal pour que se poursuivre la discussion.” Artpress 313: 44–45. ———. 2007. “Tino Sehgal: la loi du live.” Les Cahiers du Musée national d’art moderne 101: 17– 41. Glicenstein, J. 2009. L’art: une histoire d’expositions. Paris: PUF. Greenberg, R. 1995. “The Exhibition as Discursive Event.” In Longing and Belonging: From the Faraway Nearby, ed. Lucy R. Lippard, 120–25, here 123. Santa Fe: SITE Santa Fe. Griffin, T. 2005. “Tino Sehgal: An Interview.” Artforum International 43(9): 218–19.



Heiser, J. 2004. “This is Jorg Heiser on Tino Sehgal.” Frieze 82, April: 62–63. Hoffman, J. 2003. “This Is Tino Sehgal.” Parkett 68: 192–94. Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA). 2007. “Tino Sehgal: Kiss” [press release]. Retrieved 14 April 2014 from 20Sehgal.pdf. Muracciole, M. 2007. “L’objet de ce commentaire: récit de quelques échanges avec Tino Sehgal.” Les Cahiers du Musée national d’art moderne 101: 42–47. Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. 2012. “Tino Sehgal.” [press release]. Retrieved 14 April 2014 from Pouillaude, F. 2009. Le désœuvrement chorégraphique: étude sur la notion d’œuvre en danse. Paris: Vrin. Romano, C. 2010. L’aventure temporelle. Paris: PUF. Rothenberg, D. 2008. “Welcome to this Situation: Notes on Being an Artwork.” Reality Sandwich. Retrieved 14 April 2014 from ation_notes_being_artwork/. Sayej, N. 2006. “Terms and Conditions: Selling Tino Sehgal.” ArtUS 15: 20–23.



CH A P T E R 2 7

Framing a Network, Charting Dis/Courses Performance Curation, Community Work, and the Logic/Anxieties of an Emerging Field ROSELLE PINEDA


he notion of performance curation is one of the key aspects of contemporary curating. While performance became one of the central forms and modes of inquiry in expressing the state of contemporary art as practices became more expansive, time-based, hybrid and collaborative (Lippard 1997; Jones 1997; Auslander 2006; Laurenson and van Saaze 2014; Heathfield 2004; Bourriard 1998; Bishop 2012), the curatorial became an imperative in the field of performance as a manner of making sense and dealing with “new radical aestheticism” and new art markets, brought about by independent theater and other performance practices in the 1980s and the 1990s (Malzacher 2010). However, as the debates around the concept of performance have come to a state of “sophisticated disagreements” (Carlson 1996), and while the language of contemporary curation is still too “nascent, or at best tentative” to be able to articulate “what really constitutes contemporary curating” (Fowle 2012), the notion of performance curation remains “rare,” “unheeded,” “undebated” (Malzacher 2010), or, at best, an “emerging field” despite growing contestations. There are many exciting possibilities, as well as crippling anxieties, surrounding “emerging fields.” For instance, performance curation as an emerging field could be viewed as “oppositional,” “alternative” (Mowitt 2015), the “great white hope” and “transformative agent” (Sellar 2014), or as a way of moving forward from more hegemonic and well-established fields such as Curatorial and Performance Studies, but it could also be stuck in a perpetual state



of discourse and/or “emergence” for fear of becoming the new hegemony and/ or to always accommodating new and diverse ideas, cultures, arenas, and directions. Within the range of possibilities and anxieties, moving forward or being stuck, that emerging fields could offer, there is a need to expose the underlying frame, or simply state where the hope comes from. As sound scholar John Mowitt, in his book Sound: Ambient Humanities writes, “What rarely appears in the formation of a field are the political and theoretical stakes of that formation . . . ‘unique possibilities’ of ‘thinking,’ possibilities that, in tracing the limits of the sayable, expose a field in its grammar, its logic, and its rhetoric” (Mowitt 2015: 9, emphasis in the original). This chapter presents the imperative exposition to the logic and frame of the possibilities, as well as anxieties in pushing for performance curation as an emerging field, particularly through my notes and experiences from the fields of performance, curation, and community work. COMMUNITY WORK AND PERFORMANCE “Love the poor, be humble, and be careful.” This was the motto of Pamela Jane del Mundo Kapiz, aka Ka Yanan—a red fighter, a cultural/community worker of the New People’s Army (NPA), an armed revolutionary group in the Philippines, and recently, a martyr of the people. One does not have to be a red fighter in order to find some resonance with these guiding principles, but for most of us who have spent most of our lives working in depressed areas and communities, we know what “feelings of love” for the poor she was talking about. It is the kind of love that expands our horizon from our individual comfort zone toward service to others—the “moving force” to make “actual deeds” (Guevara 1965). We know what amount of humility is needed and embodied in order for the community to trust us as outsiders; the humility in learning from various stories, situations, challenges; and the humility in reflecting on our own attitudes, subjectivities, and egos in the process of getting involved in the community. Finally, we know what being careful means, because to choose a life of activism is to choose a life that challenges the powers that be, which can be dangerous, and because we need to be caring and careful of each other within the community and of ourselves as well, so we may have enough love and strength to be humble and continue on with the struggles that we face in our community work. As an activist and cultural worker, I come from a very specific teaching and method of producing and practicing art that treats art as propaganda and a pedagogical tool, and our greatest audiences are the elusive “masses.” This means that form is secondary to content or to the meanings, narratives, ideas, and lessons that a chosen form tries to connote. There is a saying that we have



always kept in mind while conceptualizing and producing art, and that is: “If the masses can’t understand, art is ineffective and/or an outright failure.” However, as an artist adept to the complexity of how performance impacts audiences and communities, I have always been skeptical about this over-simplistic and linear relationship between content and form or between ideas and aesthetics. In performance, the body becomes a whole narrative in itself, a whole idea, layered with movement, site, and time where performance unfolds; it becomes a complex world of aesthetic narratives and meanings that I believe, if understood and used properly, can be a potentially powerful tool for education, community, and even propaganda work. It can be a strong bridge between contemporary activist cultural work and the people. I imagine performance curation as a potent concept and/or field in which I can merge my two great loves together—community work and performance— and by doing so, hopefully become more efficient as both a performance maker and an activist-community worker. PERFORMANCE CURATION AS COMMUNITY WORK I view performance curation as community work and vice versa. I draw from the curatorial principles and practices of “curare/to care for,” “engaging the public,” the “essential link between theory and practice” (Sellar 2014: 22) and the critical rigor that comes with the process of producing, programming, and presenting, that are very important in drawing up curatorial concepts. I also draw from the community work principles and practices of engagement and pakikipamuhay (community integration), building relationships and belongingness, community-based processes and strategies, community gatherings, accountability to the communities, and long-term commitment to the people that community work demands. Both sets of principles allow me to use performance creation in community work and to use community work in my performance creation. PERFORMANCE CURATION AS PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT I have always been critical of the snotty reputation of art as not being accessible to everybody, and although there are different manners of experiencing and understanding art, I have never supported “teaching people how to see” and/ or “art literacy” as a kind of agenda for art pedagogy. I have always believed that if there was something amiss between art and the public, the greater responsibility is with art, not the public. Engaging the public means building publics as well, but it is our responsibility in the art field to make the connections and



make concepts accessible to the public, no matter how difficult or abstract some concepts are. It is our task to create spaces for dialogues between art and communities that will open up possibilities for participatory meaning and narrative making. In a sense, being conscious of the performance curation—bodies, presence, manners, gestures, movements, re/presentations, concepts, narratives, frames, ideas, philosophies, etc.—element in community engagement, expands our lenses from narrow statistics, indicators, and deliverables toward a more qualitative evaluation of engagement, relationship, and impact in communities. PERFORMANCE CURATION AS CARE GIVING Curation, meaning to care for or be custodians of artifacts and other material objects that are deemed important in the history and heritage of cultures and societies, merged with the language and materiality of performance, which necessitates a kind of expansive and relational aspect to the “curatorial care,” is a very important aspect in curation that makes it necessary and intricately connected with community work and vice versa; both fields of work are in the occupation of love, tending relationships, and care giving. However, both the practice and theory of community work and performance curation are not all about romance, love, and good intentions. On the contrary, there will always be a greater struggle, risk, anxiety, and accountability in drawing “caring” as a primary source of art making. For example, in the book Curating Difficult Knowledge: Violent Pasts in Public Spaces, it was exemplified that there is still a great need to “exhibit” and present what E. Lehrer and C. Milton call “difficult knowledge” or “violent, tragic, horrific, and painful . . . experiences of war, genocide, disasters, and human rights violations” (2011), but this need to exhibit, present, display, collect, and stage this knowledge does not come without the difficulties and anxieties in meaning-making and truth-telling. It becomes the responsibility of contemporary curation to expand the traditional practice of the curation “outside museums to encompass heritage sites, memorials, and other (including virtual) locations along increasingly interlinked spectrum of spaces dedicated to connecting publics with difficult histories” (Lehrer and Milton 2011) and to include time-based projects, happenings, events, and other projects that center on community activities and spaces. In this sense, we need to think of curation not only as selection, design, and interpretations, but as care-taking—as a kind of intimate, intersubjective, and interrelational obligation—that raises key questions about responsibility, suffering, protection, and so many other loaded terms that we have to deal with in organizing and working with communities. Who are “we”; on whose behalf are we speaking; what symbolisms are being used and displayed; what do those



symbols represent; how do we choose what to re/present; how do we choose whom to engage with; what narratives, concepts, and ideologies are being highlighted in our projects? These are only some of the key questions to be asked when we think about making community-based projects. Oftentimes, failures and total dissolution of performance concepts, forms, or programs are the point of engagement, curatorial efficiency, and curation. When this happens, we turn to the relationships that we tended throughout the process for grounding and ask more questions. How do we care for artists in a vulnerable state; how do we care for the audience, whom we provoke so much to react and/or move in certain ways; and finally, on the communities that surround the art: are we causing more harm to these communities, how do we ensure accountability, how do we become more discerning of what needs to be done? CONCLUSION: THE POLEMICAL STANCE OF PERFORMANCE CURATION I realize that the field of curation is loaded with so many contentions; however, particular attention is pointed at the egocentric methods and work ethics of curators, whether artist-curators or seasoned “rock star” curators. This conundrum makes an emerging field like performance curation a skeptical endeavor. So why engage in this field? For one, because this is a field that traverses other highly contentious mother fields such as Curatorial and Performance Studies and compels anybody working in this emergent field to have critical rigor and engagement. We are not starting from scratch in either practice or scholarship, we have to be able to engage effectively in both performance-making methods as well as scholarship in order to expand the conversation in this emerging field. There are some things—issues, contentions, and/or needs—that are not being answered by larger or more established fields, I presume, and so that is why emerging fields are coming to the fore. The “great white hope” might be too big an expectation, but the polemical challenge of performance curation as an emerging field is real. I reckon the value, if not necessity, of performance curation in [re]thinking about community work in a more complex and creative manner will hopefully set “new directions” for community art engagement practices. I also reckon that the curatorial should look into the values and demands of community work in order to have a more holistic and grounded creative practice. These are important challenges that should be addressed. The community offers a different story. There is a stronger demand for curators and artists to be malleable about their artistic visions as well as themselves. Moreover, emphasis should be



placed on the idea of curatorship that is hinged on collaboration and even collective ownership among participants. In this sense, the curator only becomes a tool for contingency, sometimes the necessary bridge between and among the many languages operating on the ground. One of the major roles of the curator in communities is not to bridge art and its publics [communities] but to bridge the disparate and various languages operating on the ground; to understand how these languages work, translated, and transformed into another—from one aesthetic language to another, one form to another, one site to another, one person to another, one consciousness to another, and one community to another— in the hope that the curator becomes a key to articulation, rather than the sole proprietor of artistic vision. A curatorial performance vision is fluid not in the sense of directionless or the necessarily postmodern contention of contemporaneity, rather it is a grounded fluidity that is self-aware of the development of ideas, the trajectories, and the new directions that it is taking. It is both flexible and grounded, more akin to the absent and the underlying than the materially present. It is a conversation between and among the people we are tending relationships with to build creative and critical communities. In the end, I could only hope that from these starting points, we might find intersecting drill points and new trajectories for networking, charting, or maybe, new anxieties. This is my part of the conversation, and I hope that we may always find our strength to love softly, struggle hard, stay humble, and be careful, for our days ahead. ROSELLE PINEDA is an educator, researcher, performance maker/curator, dramaturge, artist-activist and cultural worker. She teaches art and communities, performance, theory and criticism, at the University of the Philippines. She is an active community and cultural worker, and founder of the Aurora Artist Residency Program and Space (AARPS), the Performance Curators Initiatives (PCI), and the Pangkat Gatilyo Hip-Hop Theater Collective. She is currently finishing her PhD in Creative Arts with a focus on performance curation at the University of Wollongong in Australia.

R EF E R E NC E S Auslander, P. 2006. “The Performativity of Performance Art Documentation.” Performing Arts Journal 84: 1–10. Bishop, C. 2012. Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship. London: Verso. Bourriard, N. 1998. Relational Aesthetics. Dijon: Les Presses du réel. Carlson, M. 2004. “What is Performance?” In The Performance Studies Reader, ed. H. Bial, 68–73. London: Routledge.



Ferdman, B. 2014. “From Content to Context: The Emergence of the Performance Curator.” Theater 44(2): 5–19. Fowle, K. 2012. “The ICI Perspectives in Curating.” In Thinking Contemporary Curating, ed. T. Smith. New York: Independent Curators International. Guevara, C. 1965. “Socialism and Man in Cuba.” In The Che Guevara Reader, ed. D. Deutschmann. 355–381. Australia: Ocean Press. Guy, G. 2016. Theater, Exhibition, and Curation: Displayed and Performed. London: Routledge. Heathfield, A. 2004. Live: Art and Performance. London: Tate Publishing. Jones, A. 1997. “‘Presence’ in Absentia: Experiencing Performance as Documentation.” Art Journal (56)4: 11–18. ———. 2011. “‘The Artist is Present’: Artistic Re-enactments and the Impossibility of Presence.” TDR/The Drama Review 55(1): 16–45. Laurenson, P., and V. van Saaze. 2014. “Collecting Performance-Based Art: New Challenges and Shifting Perspectives.” In Performativity in the Gallery: Staging Interactive Encounters, ed. Remes, MacCulloch and Leino, 27–41. Bern: Peter Lang. Lehrer, E., and C. Milton. 2011. “Introduction: Witnesses to Witnessing.” In Curating Difficult Knowledge: Violent Pasts in Public Places, ed. Lehrer, Milton, and Patterson. London: Palgrave Mcmillan, Kindle edition. Lippard, L. 1997. Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972. Berkeley: University of California Press. Malzacher, F. 2010. “Cause and Result: About a Job with an Unclear Profile, Aim and Future.” Frakciia: Performing Arts Journal 55: 10–19. Manalili, A. 1990. Community Organizing for People’s Empowerment. Philippines: KapatiranKaunlaran Foundation. Mowitt, J. 2015. Sounds: The Ambient Humanities. Oakland: The University of California Press. Sellar, T. 2014. “The Curatorial Turn.” Theater 44(2): 21–29. Smith, T. 2012. Thinking Contemporary Curating. New York: Independent Curators International.


Curate Natalie Doonan

In 2011, I founded the SensoriuM, a collaborative performance art project that uses artist-led tours and tastings to engage conversation about current food issues, such as privatization of food and empowerment through sharing foraging skills. Some of these performances raise questions about the relationship of artists to colonization and gentrification. The religious etymology of the word “curate” suggests the complicity of museums with colonization and the roots of contemporary Western art in practices of uprooting evil, domesticating the savage and taming the wild. Museum collections are made up of objects that have been appropriated from everyday life through dispossession, under the settlercolonial auspices of “development”—be it cultural, spiritual, or economic.   To curate live arts means to shift from caring for relics to tending relationships. In contemporary performance art, there is a growing interest in practices of foraging, urban exploration, walking, gardening, cooking, and eating, all of which concern human–nonhuman relationships (including animal, plant, and non-organic relations). Given the pedagogical nature of curation, which entails the cultivation of a space through organizing a collection, the curator of this genre of live arts must then ask: What is the significance of these activities to historical and ongoing processes of colonization? Is the contemporary curator of live arts, for instance, complicit in gentrification by organizing performances in contested urban spaces? Natalie Doonan is a new media and performance artist in Montréal working in visual art, sensory studies, performance studies, and cultural geography. Her research focuses on the connections between taste and place.

CH A P T E R 2 8

Food=Need Constraints, Reflexivity, and Community Performance PAM PATTERSON


erformance, curated as a strategy in/for community practice, offers a site for joint doing and reflecting. While objects can stand apart from their makers, performances cannot. Integral to community performance curation, is the necessity for community building—an emphasis on relationships, social structuring, and culture. In the doing, the boundary between performer and audience becomes blurred and each participant is implicated in exploring the possibilities for reflexivity. Adding a time constraint to this activity both restricts and enables the project, building in both a sense of urgency and of consequence. This writing speaks to Food=Need, a collaborative community performance enacted by WIAprojects (Centre for Women’s Studies in Education, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto [OISE/UT]) and the Davenport Perth Neighbourhood Community and Health Centre (DPNCHC) and Food=Need OCADU, inspired by the first event, and curated by a diverse team of Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD University) students, faculty, staff and WIAprojects community members. Food=Need, as a first iteration, was collectively curated by a three-person team: Trisha Lamie, Leena Raudvee, and me. Both Trisha and I work full-time as teachers and academics. Leena is an artist. I took the lead as program/project director, chose the artists (in consultation with the others), wrote the grants, and facilitated our ongoing collaboration with the DPNCHC community. Over the year preceding the November event, various conversations emerged among the curators, with the artists, and with our various community contacts—such as Arts4All at the DPNCHC and the Dufferin Grove Park Community group. The working group grew in size becoming more of a loosely formed social col-



lective. And, as we worked as a three-member curatorial team within the social collective, all of us became more delicately nuanced in our observations of process and of each other. Various “food” narratives were performed over the three-day event: a formal workshop was given at a university, an evening gathering occurred in a home kitchen, a day of bread baking happened in the community center kitchen, Spanish seniors spent a day dancing with tea towels, and other participants spent an afternoon communing with a chicken at a farmers’ market. Each event acted as a map or metaphor for food and for revealing the complex relationships—needs, wants, anxieties, or pleasures—that many of the collective, performers and community members had with food. The three curators made decisions on space use as the larger social collective discussed food anxiety. Group reflection happened during and following each event; curatorial debriefing took place daily. Using reflexivity as a critical tool, curators, the working collective, and community members improvised, amplified experiences, and altered the environment. One artist totally changed the focus of her performance from sharing warm, baked potatoes at STOP 103’s community bake oven behind the DPNCHC to addressing personal issues of food and mortality. She wanted a change of venue. We talked. We worked it out. Following on the first DPNCHC event, I facilitated a second Food=Need using a different curatorial grouping within OCAD University. The curatorial collective included students, staff, faculty from design and art, community activists, and WIAprojects’ interns. We screened a film made by Diana Piruevska from footage she took from the DPNCHC event; facilitated a discussion with a panel composed of education, community, and food activists; mounted an exhibition; and held a food party and workshop. It was interesting to observe how unique each Food=Need project was and to examine the different dynamics. As curator for each, I was the constant in each project. In choosing to do two versions of this and to allow time between each project for reflection, I found spaces were used very differently and unusual program dynamics occurred. This creative use of time—and people and resources—interrupted my patterned or habitual ways of knowing and allowed me to be open to creating new potentials for each community exchange. Food=Need interactions and conversations also compelled collective participation and reflection. The various contexts, the people, and the shifting thematic defined the conditions for each. The activities that evolved spoke to complexity, diversity, and pragmatics and to the necessity for the adoption of an attitude whereby a complex social collective, could pursue different agendas, be informed of each other’s perspectives, and be motivated to find ways to work together.



As curators, we needed to be cautious, humble and caring—not always easy to do when under pressure, exhausted, or in the heat of the moment—and to understand knowledge as dynamic and potentially volatile. Trusting in the collective community’s commitment to knowing, I activated purposeful gatherings during and after each project. My intention was that these reflective moments would trigger other possibilities—future events, or individual or collective learnings, or insights. Difference, limitation, and learning became key concepts in relation to these projects and continue to influence my practice as performance curator. I need to be prepared for the unpredictability of diverse places, occurrences, and people. Brent Davis and Dennis Samara (2008) note that diversity cannot be assigned or legislated; it must be assumed to be present. Similarly, it is unlikely that diversity, even if expressed, will be recognized and valued if the task set for the collective is trivial. Internal diversity is outward oriented in that it enables novel actions and possibilities in response to rich contextual dynamics. But commonalities among participants is equally important as this can promote stability. An influential arts educator and activist, dian marino also spoke to this complex dynamic: I advocate difference but I also advocate connectedness. To me being different in a creative way means that I’m willing to connect my difference to other people’s differences. That can be a paradoxical connection—that people would want to be clear about their different positions, where their differences are located, and then also wish to figure things out collaboratively, collectively. Frequently when we encounter difference, we don’t explore it; we try to manage it. Perhaps we can search for common threads while we appreciate our differences. (marino 1997: 45)

It is a delicately balanced process working as a curator with this performative interplay between diversity and congruence. The failure or success of each project can be measured by how well members of a community are included and meaningfully engaged. This speaks to a curatorial performance model that employs a reflective practice that embraces difference and values inclusion. PAM PATTERSON’s performances, research, teaching, and curatorial projects focus on embodiment in art practice, performativity, women’s and gender issues, and arts education. She founded and directs an arts-informed feminist research, performance, educational, publication program WIAprojects, University of Toronto, in 2004. As a performance and visual artist, she was a founding member of FADO Performance and ARTIFACTS and continues to exhibit and perform internationally. She currently teaches in the Faculty of Art at OCAD University.



NOT E I would like to thank the Art Curators Association of Québec for inviting me to participate in Envisioning the Practice, April 2014 in Montreal, and the many artists and facilitators who contributed to both iterations of Food=Need and generously provided me with images, feedback, and inspiration.

R EF E R E NC E S Davis, B., and D. Sumara. 2008. “Complexity as a Theory of Education.” Transnational Curriculum Inquiry 5(2): 33–44. Retrieved 25 May 2014 from .php/tci/issue/view/67. marino, d. 1997. Wild Garden: Art, Education, and the Culture of Resistance, ed. C. Cavanagh, R. Clarke, and F. Cristall. Toronto: Between the Lines.

CH A P T E R 2 9

ARC.HIVE of Contemporary Arab Performing Arts Memory, Catastrophe, Resistance, and Oblivion ADHAM HAFEZ


he Arabic-speaking region of the world is seen as a place of turmoil: revolts in Tunis, wars in Baghdad, or the pan-national summits on the future of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It does not emerge onto our horizons because of artistic trends in Beirut, aesthetic ruptures in Damascene theaters, Cairo’s underground electronic music scene, or Casablanca’s contemporary dance festivals. For many citizens in the world, the Arabic-speaking region is a violent mystery. The “West” (which is just as geographically challenging to locate as the Middle East) tdoes not remember the last time Arabs danced, but remembers wars on terror in the search for “Holy Petroleum.” While this sounds like dark humor, it is the ongoing reality that shapes the peoples living there. And, while readers of this chapter can perhaps name several choreographers from Europe or the United States, how many Arab choreographers can they name? How many Classical Arabic Music composers can they name? How many Arab cities under attack, at war, and in revolt do they remember? What is Saltana, and what is Tarab or Zar? To be an artist living in Egypt now, is to be an artist facing oblivion daily,1 and facing the possibility of annihilation physically and conceptually. Not only were bodies on Tahrir square threatened, but their knowledge, libraries, and theaters were and still are equally threatened. The fragility of architecture that cares about memory is terrifying. The fragility of libraries, of theaters, of temples, of shrines. The fragility of bodies that remember and speak. Bodies of flesh, or bodies of wood, paper, or stone.



The Khedivial Opera House (the old Cairo Opera House) was inaugurated in 1869, making it the Arab world’s and Africa’s first opera house. The Egyptian National Theatre was also built in the same year; an architectural gem in the Belle Époque downtown Cairo as part of the Ismailian project of establishing a “Paris Sur Nil.”2 One hundred years before those two theaters were established, the Institut D’Egypte was built in Egypt, under the orders of Napoleon, as the oldest scientific society outside of Europe. All aforementioned buildings were set on fire between 1971 and 2011. Within those forty years, Egypt’s memory was being gradually evacuated. Artifacts sold on the black market, archival documents left to rot in abandoned buildings, or dances disappearing in the face of Wahabist tides. Forty years that witnessed the shifts of alliances after Nasser’s death and the Naksa,3 the fall of the socialist regimes, multiple Arab wars, fall of walls and empires, Camp David, and the Arab Spring. And, while Egypt’s history is grand, grandiose beauty does not stop a fire. The Cairo Opera House burned down in 1971 with fires set on its four corners at the same time, even though it was located on the same square as the

Figure 29.1. The Opera Square in Cairo (2017), site of the former Khedevial Opera House (the first opera house on the entire African continent), which burned to the ground in a fire set in 1971, and was turned into a garage and mall. (Photo by Adam Kucharski, © 2017.)



central fire station. In 2008, The National Theatre was destroyed by flames as well, on that very same square, across the street from the central fire station. In 2011, on 17 and 18 December, the building of the Institut d’Egypte was set on fire—always by unknown forces—and left to burn. I stood there with colleagues from work, volunteers who met on that very day and formed together an action group: “Save the books.” Books were extracted from the building and were transported by massive vehicles to the National Archives to be dried and vacuum-sealed in vaults. Possibly the only way to save the burning documents was to shroud them in plastic, and bury them in the belly of the monstrous National Archives,4 where a police unit is there to keep track of who reads what in a large notation log book by the gates. To protect is to shroud, it is to hide, and sometimes, it is to bury. The thought of the inevitable death of these books, through invisibility or through annihilation, was a violently poetic reminder of the state of what we produce as Arab performing artists. Our material will die, inevitably, through the fallen infrastructure of disseminating and presenting Arab contemporary performance, through falling into oblivion as ideological governments pass through their ruptures ever more, and through direct attacks and orchestrated destruction leaving nothing but ashes and a few oral memories behind. In December 2011, the ARC.HIVE of Contemporary Arab Performing Arts was created as a necessity and in answer to an emergency; to create an archive of contemporary Arab performing arts blurring research and preservation. The choice for its title was to poetically and performatively remember the interruptive experience of archival work in Egypt. ARC.HIVE: a coughed-up archive, an archive that is interrupted and that is interruptive. The project team started to collect material— in all possible forms—from Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, Palestine, Jordan. There were no archives that said: “Arabs also danced. They sang, and they wrote theater.” But, there were always archives that generated fear, xenophobia, orientalist curiosities fed by regimes of terror. The task was to create a two-unit archival project, situated on two continental sites to protect materials collected, and to disseminate new critical work as widely as possible. HaRaKa5 (the research platform leading the project) set up a working space in Cairo to collect, catalog, and digitize the material. The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center would be the first partner to receive material for public viewing. Cairo would conceive of a “hub” for ARC. HIVE, which would be central and accessible, for the material to be present and visible within the Arabic-speaking region’s dense city. ARC.HIVE’s contribution to curatorial practices goes beyond merely providing documentation of performances that are made accessible to curators and programmers visiting the sites. It sees the curatorial practice as a constitutive one, like performance, and to this end it produces discursive practices from commissioning new work in performance or published text to organizing



public platforms. These activities go beyond presenting material, as they engage with what frames are there to conceptualize or host contemporary Arab performance today, and how such frames contribute to political discourses on Arab bodies and their agency. Without essentializing, but rather inviting the artists to contribute to the creation of such curatorial frames, the discursive practice is as crucial to ARC.HIVE as the documents it collects. Given the obvious Eurocentric (or Western centric) nature of academic or programmatic projects that primarily engage with contemporary performance, ARC.HIVE aims to shift such performance work outside of the gaze that essentializes it, rendering it obscure, kitsch, or obsolete. With the absolute lack of non-Arabic publications dedicated to Arab performing arts, and the lack of academic programs that teach about the history of Arab performance to Western scholars, ARC.HIVE’s attempts are but a drop in a large ocean of labor to be conducted. ARC.HIVE’s dream is to save the material from oblivion, and move it directly into visibility and friction, hoping for intelligibility and intercomprehension. The project produced the bilingual publication Cairography to publish and translate texts that shape the critical and aesthetic landscapes we operate within the world(s) of contemporary performing arts. And while publications aim at a particular readership, and hence a particular “demography,” ARC.HIVE produces artistic encounters for general audiences. It adopts a curatorial role that produces panels, public performances, rehearsals, studio visits, or other forms that maybe fragile or institutional. The space of the archive happens outside of the archive, and its concern is larger than its physical size. The city, the building, the institutions involved, or the artistic collectives and companies, become and (in)form the space for ARC.HIVE’s mission to continue unfolding, and to continue changing in order for it to survive. ARC.HIVE of Contemporary Arab Performing Arts is perhaps a long poetic-political research process. An impossible list of tasks that activate latent questions on meaning and sense, on artistic values within academia and art markets, on languages (corporeal, verbal, institutional, or other) and constitutive acts, on curating or performing. The project departs from a servile position through its aim to provide missing material, to compliment stories through other stories that are equally vital and relevant, and to think of our world as a mesh. It is a host and a guest all at once. At its core, ARC.HIVE is a curious dialogue, a decentralized action, and a friendly provocation at a time of catastrophes. Syrian choreographer Noura Murad who was unable to send her DVDs directly to me in Cairo for the cataloging, had but one option: she placed her documents in an envelope and gave it to someone working near the Lebanese/ Syrian border, who knew someone working at the German Embassy in Lebanon, who knew someone working at the Goethe Institut in Cairo, and that



someone knew how to reach me to give me the envelope. To protect sometimes is also to shroud, to give away, and pass information from one hand to another, in any form possible. ADHAM HAFEZ is a choreographer, composer, performer, and theorist. Founder of HaRaKa, Cairography and the Adham Hafez Company, he directed TransDance, Cairo’s International Festival for Contemporary Dance and Performance. With an MA in Choreography from the Amsterdam Theatre School (Netherlands) and an MA in Political Science from SciencePo School (Paris), he is now a PhD candidate at New York University’s Department of Performance Studies.

NOT E S 1. Since 2011, several contemporary art spaces in Egypt have witnessed extreme challenges in light of multiple legal changes and constitutional ruptures. Such institutions include The Townhouse Gallery, Contemporary Image Collective, Rawabet Theatre, and the Cairo Modern Dance School among others. 2. Paris by the Nile was the name given to that old new Cairo, born out of Khedive Ismail’s interest in a new Egypt that is modern and multicultural. A reinvented and displaced Hausmannian fantasy. 3. Naksa means “setback” in Arabic. On 5 June 1967, Israel declared victory in the Six-Day War; resulting in a massive political and financial blow to the Egyptian regime, the further displacement of Palestinian people, and the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. 4. The notorious institution continues to perform as a fortress, where access to the documents it houses is limited to those who successfully obtain a governmental permit. Scholars, artists, researchers, and laymen have no access to such documents without the very-hard-toobtain permit. Readers accessing the archive must leave their full personal information in log books each time they read a book. 5. HaRaKa (movement in Arabic) was established in Egypt in 2006 by the Adham Hafez Company, by a group of artists, scholars, and researchers concerned with movement and performance.

CH A P T E R 3 0

Collective Walks / Spaces of Contestation Site-Specificity, Community Involvement, and Mobility Employed as Curatorial Strategies in the Creation of Participatory Performances MARIANE BOURCHEIX-LAPORTE


ollective Walks / Spaces of Contestation, a multilayered project realized in 2013–2014 through the artist-run center1 UNIT/PITT Projects’ curatorial residency program, involved the commission of four site-specific participatory performances presented in and around Vancouver, Canada, a gallery exhibition, a series of discursive events, and a series of artists’ books. At the time of the project’s development phase, contestational movements like the Indignados, the Arab Spring, Occupy, and the Printemps Érable had recently occurred, bringing collective uprisings, the occupation of public space, and citizen prise de parole to the forefront of global media’s attention.2 This wave of popular mobilizations—and the many others that have followed—notably crystallized, on local and global scales, the effectiveness of the occupation of public space as radical political action. In the era of mobile communication, which increasingly allows for virtual citizen mobilization, the collective physical occupation of public space—taking back the streets, squatting a plaza, organizing a public procession—has remained a key element of the tactical unfolding of activist and contestational movements. Of particular interest is the way in which this process, through the actions of a self-organized collective body, allows for the critical revaluation of the notion of “publicness” and how it manifests through and in public space.3 These ideas served as point of departure for the conception of Collective Walks / Spaces of Contestation, which positioned the collective occupation of



public space—beyond a politicization and reclaiming process—as a performative and participatory event structure. Specifically, the project’s curatorial premise looked at the ways in which a collective body may momentarily interrupt the established order that regulates a space and, through this intervention, reconfigure the nexus of relations that order that space. This process was understood as one that opens possibilities for new subjective positions, which fall outside of codes and hierarchies that otherwise govern public space; radical individuation through collective mobilization.4 To engage with these notions, four artists/collectives5 whose practices are embedded in performative, site-specific, and relational research were invited to collaborate with a community group to realize a performative “collective walk”—i.e., a performance in public space in the form of a public procession. CURATORIAL STRATEGIES When elaborating Collective Walks / Spaces of Contestation’s curatorial framework, I thought it essential that the artists work in partnership with community groups. This strategy served to counter the problematics of soliciting viewer participation in a site-specific context of presentation in which the majority of the audience is incidental. In such a situation, it is not possible to predict the audience’s reception of the work, and opportunities for mediation are limited. Following Claire Bishop’s ideas, participation was instead considered “inextricable from the question of political commitment” (Bishop 2006: 11) and, throughout the elaboration of the conceptual and formal parameters of the performances, “emphasis [was] on collaboration, and on the collective dimension of social life” (Bishop 2006: 10). Accordingly, participation devised through the involvement of community groups in the development and presentation of the performances served to position collaborative practice at the heart of each project. From a curatorial standpoint, the collective walk, as a specific manifestation of the collective occupation of public space, was of particular interest for its nomadic character, and therefore its implicit reliance on movement and time— elements to which performance is inextricably tied. This structuring parameter was conceived of as a medium for embodied experience through which the utilitarian functions of the street would give way to the formation of new sociabilities. Of course, how this could manifest would be contingent on the sites in which the performances were to take place, hence the importance given to site-specific considerations in the creative process. Critical engagements with the notion of site served to position Collective Walks / Spaces of Contestation as part of a wider spectrum of artistic and activist practices addressing the interwoven economic, social, and cultural realities that affect relations in Vancouver



and produce one’s experience of the city. Like many global metropolises whose development plans have capitalized on foreign investments and the ricochet effect of appealing to members of the “creative class,” Vancouver’s urban context is marked by neoliberal ideology, gentrification, and the resulting marginalization of groups of residents.6 Further, it is important to note that Vancouver was built on Indigenous land and that none of the three local First Nations ceded their ancestral right to occupy the territory.7 As a result of extensive engagement with these ideas, the four performative projects realized through Collective Walks / Spaces of Contestation attest to the scope of possibilities tied to the conception, realization, and presentation of performative-works-as-collective-ambulations, or conversely collective-ambulations-as-performative-works. THE PEOPLE’S PROCESSION AGAINST THE PIPELINES Artist and composer Gabriel Saloman, whose practice is notably concerned with social formations and protest,8 collaborated with the Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion (BROKE), a grassroots citizen collective

Figure 30.1. Photo documentation of site-specific performance The People’s Procession against the Pipelines. Gabriel Saloman in collaboration with the Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion (BROKE), Burnaby, British Colombia, 12 April 2014. (Photo by Ash Tanasiychuk, © 2014.)



opposing the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline.9 Together, the artist and members of BROKE devised a performative procession that mapped the existing and planned trajectories of pipelines in the city of Burnaby, a suburb of Vancouver, in an effort to render visible underground oil-transporting apparatuses through the physicality of bodies in space. The project’s resulting form closely resembled that of an activist demonstration, which is not surprising given that its underpinning ideas are directly connected to socio-political claims. Effectively in Canada, opposition to hydrocarbon pipeline development is closely tied to opposition to tar sands and natural gas exploitation, which represent high-stakes environmental issues in the country.10 Consisting of a large demonstration passing through multiple areas of the city, a rally, and a protest flotilla, The People’s Procession against the Pipelines was organized in the manner of an artistic manœuvre.11 Interweaving site and context-specific performative interventions with street political actions, speeches, and chants, this work blurred distinctions between artistic practice and activist action. Doing so, it aptly illustrated the transformative process—of both participants and spaces—that occurs through collective actions, be they of an artistic or activist nature. An intervention of the performance collective The Pom Bombs, who choreograph activist cheerleading routines; the presence of performers dressed as salmon “swimming” in a river that the procession crossed in its path; and the distribution of signs that had been individually silkscreened in a workshop organized through the Burnaby Art Gallery are examples of the artistic elements that punctuated the event. However, it is important to note that, positioned within the framework of social practice, the procession, its many elements, as well as every step leading to its realization, are constitutive of the work, including connections established with participants. Gathering approximately five hundred people, The People’s Procession against the Pipelines, enabled residents of the Vancouver area, members of the activist and artistic communities, and members of local First Nations to share a singular experience through embodied collective mapping. As a result, participants’ presence in space served as radical manifestation of the social dimensions of a project with potentially devastating environmental impacts. IN PURSUIT OF PERPETUAL MOTION Following her interest in processes through which information is transferred, recirculated, and becomes obsolete, performance and media artist Lauren Marsden12 conceptualized a project in dialogue with the physical and institutional structures of the Vancouver Public Library (VPL). The artist initiated a partnership with the VPL and worked with librarians in charge of sorting and selecting material to be deaccessioned, i.e., removed from the collection due to



damage, lack of user interest, or obsolete content. In the months leading to the project’s presentation, librarians charged with the task of identifying material to be deaccessioned selected books that caught their interest because of particular content, graphic design, or associated anecdotes.13 In the second phase of the project, the artist collaborated with a group of ten dancers who were mandated to develop a short routine, consisting of a few movement phrases, in response to the content of a book of their choosing among the librarians’ selection. As a result of this dual collaborative process, the artist led the development of a durational performance in which the dancers ambulated in and around the VPL’s main branch—a circular architectural structure resembling the Roman coliseum that takes up an entire city block in downtown Vancouver—while balancing the books on their heads. Each time a book fell, the dancer who had dropped their prop would come to a halt and execute their dance routine, momentarily interrupting the library’s or sidewalk’s circulation flow. After pursuing this choreography for two hours, the dancers assembled single file and traveled from the library to UNIT/PITT Projects (a 1.3 km-walk), where the performance ended after the dancers placed the books they were carrying onto the gallery’s floor. As they were performing, the dancers mixed in with the crowd of library users and passersby, who were surprised by the sight of walkers balancing books on their heads and executing a contemporary dance routine each time a book fell. Effectively, the work had qualities similar to that of a flash mob and the dancers’ performance caught the public’s attention and animated the atmosphere in and around the library. The work initiated impromptu conversations and gatherings, caused laughter and surprise, and even inspired passersby to dance as well. Through these disruptions, the work temporarily inflected the space so as to augment the perception and experience of its codes by the incidental viewers present on site. Effectively, the piece called attention to, and rendered visible the VPL’s physical and institutional structures and in doing so, invited viewers to reflect on the ways in which such structures contribute to the circulation of knowledge. UNLEARNING WALKING CLUB Inspired by the long history of walking clubs,14 the Unlearning Weekenders Collective, artists Zoe Kreye and Catherine Grau,15 developed a program of five walks, open to the public, that invited participants to “unlearn” through the sensorial exploration of Vancouver’s urban environment and its surroundings. Building from a practice seeking to expand modes of “knowing” the external world16 and considering the collective walk as a structure with potential to engender new forms of being together, the artists organized a series of weekly



rendez-vous devised as occasions for the formation of temporary collectives. Through this structure, drop-in or recurring members of the Unlearning Walking Club contributed to sculpting, through performative and collective experiments, collaborative explorations of modes of being in the world. Akin to a manifesto for deconstructing prescribed interactions with the natural and built environment as well as a practical guide to forge new models of experience, the artists elaborated a series of walking scores, which aimed to deconstruct dominant experiential paradigms—Eurocentric, rational, and codified behavior—that influence our relationship to space and others. Grau and Kreye used these instructions to punctuate their weekly walks with physical exercises, guided sensory meditations, improvisations, and interventions using relational props and found objects. Examples of these include inviting participants to: travel from point A to point B while maintaining physical contact with one another and avoiding urban furniture and other obstacles, feel the environment by bringing their bodies in contact with natural elements in a forest, and use objects encountered on the walks as extensions of their bodies in movement-based explorations. Focusing on playfulness, movement, and body consciousness, these exercises momentarily deprogrammed participants’ learned behavior and brought about a renewed appreciation of surrounding physical and social landscapes. LA FÊTE PERMANENTE Didier Morelli, whose performative research dismantles constraints—physical, temporal, social, and identity-based—imposed on the body,17 devised a project inscribing itself within a pedagogical artistic practice. Working with students, teachers, youth, and social workers of the Britannia Secondary School Outreach Alternative Program—a special-education program for at-risk Indigenous youth in the multicultural Commercial Drive neighborhood in East Vancouver—the artist invited a group of marginalized teenagers to claim and interact with public space in a perspective of self-affirmation. Using performative exercises as a means to bring the students to affirm their presence and subjectivities, La fête permanente critically revalued the notion of spatial occupation. Doing so, this initiative aligned itself within processes aiming to affirm Indigenous presence in the city, and drew connections with the Indigenous solidarity movement Idle No More.18 Over a four-month period, the artist led a series of workshops that introduced the students to various performance practices and brought them to discuss concepts such as the multiple declinations of collectivity, ambulatory embodied experience, and the different implications of a contestational act. The artist also invited the students to participate in physical group exercises and



movement-based explorations—for example, the students working collaboratively to move through a space using string as relational prop—as well as map their daily travels through the city by accomplishing ephemeral interventions in space—for example, by accomplishing chalk drawings, leaving objects as traces of presence, and collecting found materials. Through these activities the students were invited to reappropriate their space and concretely affirm their presence in it—a presence that dominant discourses have historically rendered invisible. Positioning the collective walk as an autonomizing action, this project demonstrated how participatory pedagogy, utilized as an artistic device, may serve as springboard not only to elaborate new collective relationships, but also to question dominant paradigms and create new spheres of knowledge. GALLERY EXHIBITION In addition to the collaborative relationships and performances described above, Collective Walks / Spaces of Contestation unfolded through complementary programs, including a series of presentations, a gallery exhibition, and the publication of a series of artists’ books—expansions that were conceived of means for lateral documentation and further explorations of the project’s underpinning ideas.19 While a detailed discussion of these parallel undertakings is beyond the scope of the present text, an overview of the six-week evolving20 gallery exhibition presented at UNIT/PITT Projects in parallel to the presentation of the performances serves to further detail the artists’ engagements. Gabriel Saloman exhibited signs produced with members of BROKE during a printmaking workshop and that were used in the procession, reproductions of archival documents tied to the history of pipeline development and oil industries in Burnaby, and a reflexive sculptural work. For her part, Lauren Marsden presented a minimalist installation: books used during the performance were deposited on the floor by dancers when they reached the gallery. These books constituted material archives of the event: pages undulating from contact with the rain, corners rounded by numerous falls, and dirty covers served as traces of the performance. The Unlearning Weekenders created an evolving installation composed of clay sculptures, wooden logs, walking sticks and other natural elements encountered in the walks. This installation served as the artists’ temporary studio and also became a gathering point where participants would meet before and after taking part in Unlearning Walking Club events. Finally, throughout the weeks leading to the final walk with students of the Outreach Alternative Program, Didier Morelli realized a wall mural that, akin to a largescale drawing board, sketched out his ideas and documented the workshops he led. The mural served as support on which students incorporated material they



had created or gathered during the workshops and carried to the gallery in the project’s culminating procession. CONCLUSION Motivated by a desire to respond to global popular uprisings and examine their tactical unfoldings through a performative lens, Collective Walks / Spaces of Contestation researched possibilities to activate public space through collective experience. Taking cues from activist contestational movements, the project examined possibilities to inflect social relations in a given space through the actions of a self-organized collective body. As the title of this chapter indicates, emphasis was placed on engaging with the particularities of the sites in which the works were presented, the process of collaboration drawing from the particular vantage points of community partners, and the formal characteristics of walking. The artists’ engagement with these ideas led to the development of performative works that positioned the collective walk as tactical material, performative event, and social form with potential to foster the formation of new social and spatial relationships. These performative manifestations, as well as Collective Walks / Spaces of Contestation’s overall declinations (including an exhibition, conferences, and publications), stand as demonstrations of artistic research into the (re)politicization of public space, here rooted in the particular context of the city of Vancouver, through collective-mobilization-as-aesthetic-experience. MARIANE BOURCHEIX-LAPORTE is a visual and media artist, independent curator, author, and independent researcher based in Vancouver, Canada. She holds an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Simon Fraser University (Vancouver, British Columbia), where she will be undertaking doctoral studies in Communication starting in September 2018.

NOT E S This essay is a modified version of the original, which was published as a curatorial essay in the event catalogue for Collective Walks / Spaces of Contestation exhibition and performance series: Bourcheix-Laporte, Mariane. 2014. Collective Walks / Spaces of Contestation. Vancouver: UNIT/ PITT Projects. 1. In Canada, artist-run centers are collectives and nonprofit organizations in the visual and media arts characterized by an artist-driven governance model. Since the early 1970s, artist-run centers have historically constituted themselves as an alternative institutional form in relation to both market-driven economies and institutionalized exhibition systems. For





5. 6.


8. 9.



more information, see Artist-Run Centres and Collectives Conference (n.d.) and Pacific Association of Artist-Run Centres (2018). Other protest movements would follow including mass protests in Turkey, Brazil, and Venezuela. More recent examples of collective mobilizations include mass movements such Black Lives Matter, #BeenRapedNeverReported, #MeToo, and numerous manifestations in the wake of Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States in 2016. It is interesting to note that in Canada, coming together in public space to demonstrate is a fundamental right inscribed in the constitution. However, it is possible to limit this right, as demonstrated by the situation in place in Québec since 2012. In the wake of the events of the Printemps érable, in which québécois university students vigorously demonstrated to contest a rise in fees, the right to demonstrate was put into question through the implementation of Bill 78, and more recently with the bylaw P-6 in Montreal: all public demonstrations must be regulated by police and their itinerary divulged in advance. Further, police brutality often impedes the right to protest as it dissuades citizen involvement, not to mention the steep fines protesters often receive. I draw here from Henri Lefebvre’s ideas, through which we can infer that, both in its actual and figurative form, the street constitutes “conditions of the possible” that “can only be realized in the course of a radical metamorphosis” (Lefebvre 1996: 156). In this framework, occupying the street can be seen as intervening in “spatial practice” through which “a society secretes that society’s space; it propounds and presupposes it, in a dialectical interaction; it produces it slowly and surely as it masters and appropriates it” (Lefebvre 1991: 38). In an urban context influenced by capitalist or neoliberal ideology, such mobilization amounts to an intervention in the organization of space derived from a spatial practice that privileges the privatization of public space and of our experience of it. According to Lefebvre, “spatial practice under neocapitalism . . . embodies a close association, within perceived space, between daily reality (daily routine) and urban reality (the routes and networks which link up the places set aside for work, ‘private’ life and leisure)” (Lefebvre 1991: 38). Taking to the streets can therefore stand as an action that “de-privatizes” space and the impact of its organization on subject-bodies that occupy it. In 2013–2014, all participating artists were based in Vancouver, with the exception of Catherine Grau, a member of the Unlearning Weekenders Collective. With a rental vacancy rate under 1 percent according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (2017) and rising costs of living, the context is particularly marked by economic disparities between residents. The term “First Nations” refers to Indigenous communities. According to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (Government of Canada 2015) “there are 617 First Nation communities [in Canada], which represent more than 50 nations or cultural groups and 50 Aboriginal languages.” On 25 June 2014, the City of Vancouver finally recognized, though a unanimously voted City Council motion, that Vancouver is located on territory belonging to the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tseil-Waututh Nations. For more information on the artist’s practice see Gabriel Saloman (n.d.). For more information on BROKE, see Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion (n.d.). The Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project notably proposes to increase by almost three-fold the existing pipeline’s capacity to transport oil products from Strathcona County, Alberta to Burnaby, BC. For more information, see Kinder Morgan (n.d.). In the months leading to the project’s presentation, BROKE and the artist sought the support of many other activist groups and citizen collectives, who partook in and expanded the scope of the event, including local factions of organizations such as Greenpeace, Rising


11. 12. 13.

14. 15. 16.

17. 18. 19. 20.


Tide, and Forest Ethics Committee, as well as the Tsleil-Waututh Nation’s Sacred Trust Initiative. Term used in Québec visual art discourse to designate participatory artistic interventions. See Guy Durand, Richard Martel, Pierre Monat, and Alain-Martin Richard (1990). For more information on the artist’s practice, see Lauren Marsden (2018). Lauren Marsden was particularly interested in the process by which librarians detail the reasons why a given book is deaccessioned by including a description on a card inserted in the inner cover of a deaccessioned book. See Rebecca Solnit (2001). For more information on the artists’ practice, see Catherine Grau and Zoe Kreye (n.d.). See Mariane Bourcheix-Laporte (2014) for an account of a twelve-hour collaborative performative walk realized by the Unlearning Weekenders in Vancouver in 2013, which their contribution to Collective Walks / Spaces of Contestation was built on. For more information on the artist’s practice, see Didier Morelli (n.d.). Idle No More is a Canada-wide movement that promotes Indigenous Sovereignty and land protection. See Idle No More (n.d.). See UNIT/PITT Projects (n.d.; 2014) for further information on Collective Walks / Spaces of Contestation conferences and publications. The exhibited works evolved throughout the duration of the exhibition; installations created by the artists expanded, changed form, or were relocated over the course of the exhibition’s run. This fluid process mirrored that of the performative works that were presented (and evolved, depending on the work, before, during or after their presentation) and served as sounding boards allowing for the materialization of thoughts and the exploration of key concepts through visual means.

R EF E R E NC E S “Artist-Run Centres and Collectives Conference.” n.d. ARCA. Retrieved 14 January 2018 from Bishop, C. 2006. “Introduction: Viewers as Producers.” In Participation: Documents of Contemporary Art, ed. Claire Bishop, 10–17. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press and London, UK: Whitechapel Gallery. Bourcheix-Laporte, M. 2014. “Unlearning Weekender’s Procession.” C-Magazine 121: 47. “Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion.” 10 January 2016. BROKE: Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion. Retrieved 14 January 2018 from https:// “Housing Market Information: Rental Market Report Vancouver CMA.” 2017. Ottawa: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation: 1–43. Retrieved 14 January 2018 from https://www Durand, G, R. Martel, P. Monat, and A. Richard. 1990. “Pour une pratique transgressive des années 90.” Inter Art Actuel (47): 1–62. Grau, C., and Z. Kreye. n.d. Unlearning Weekenders. Retrieved 14 January 2018 from http:// Government of Canada. 2017. “First Nations.” Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. Retrieved 14 January 2018 from: 00013795. Idle No More. n.d. Idle No More. Retrieved 14 January 2018 from



Kinder Morgan. n.d. “Project Overview.” Trans Mountain. Retrieved 14 January 2018 from Lefebvre, H. 1991. The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell. ———. 1996. Writings on Cities, trans. and ed. Eleonore Kofman and Elizabeth Lebas. Malden, MA: Blackwell. Marsden, L. 2018. Lauren Marsden. Retrieved 14 January 2018 from http://laurenmarsden .com/. Morelli, D. Didier Morelli. Retrieved 14 January 2018 from Pacific Association of Artist-Run Centres. 2018. The Pacific Association of Artist-Run Centres. Retrieved 14 January 2018 from Saloman, G. n.d. “Gabriel Saloman.” Diadem Discos & Library. Retrieved 14 January 2018 from Solnit, R. 2001. Wanderlust: A History of Walking. New York: Penguin Books. UNIT/PITT Projects. n.d. Publications. UNIT/PITT Projects. Retrieved 14 January 2018 from ———. 2014. “Collective Walks/Spaces of Contestation.” UNIT/PITT Projects. Retrieved 14 January 2018 from collective-walksspaces-of-contestation/.

CH A P T E R 3 1

Sound Citizen Curating Sound Art in the Distributed Public Sphere MORTEN SØNDERGAARD


his chapter explores the notion of “sound citizens”—the accidental audience of sound art in public spaces, who are affected and in turn affect the art work itself. The central question is: “What characterizes the role of the ‘sound citizen’ and how does this role reflect the situation and constitution of the ‘distributed public sphere’?” In the 1960s, Jürgen Habermas defined the modern public sphere as a “citizen sphere” that is constituted by a literary awareness of laws, newspapers, and reflective texts (Habermas 1961: 52–70). Moreover, the public space becomes a metaphor for a “physical and open” citizen space facilitating dialogue and debate. However, the very constitution and composition of this citizen space, and indeed the notion of “the citizen,” has been changing rapidly since the 1960s (starting in the Western democracies, but later spreading globally)—undergoing several transformations in the process. Literary awareness was partly and increasingly being replaced by “media awareness” during the 1970s and 1980s, which, in the digital age, has transgressed even further toward a “distributed awareness” (embodied and textualized on several technological platforms and at the same time changing the configuration of the physical public space and the very notion of the city as the place for citizens and one of complexity) (Hayles 2008:16). Today, the situation of the citizen always involves mediation to some degree. With ubiquitous information technology everywhere, we are now living in a distributed public space with limited or edited openness, and with boundaries between private and public that are blurring even more. Today’s citizen is challenged by this fight for their attention, but also by the ever-decreasing time in



which attention actually occurs or is possible. The very premise of the citizen, the sphere s/he inhabits and in which s/he operates, is transforming to a such a degree that, according to Slavoj Zizek, s/he risks losing the capacity to be aesthetically open to reality (2014: 31). In what follows, I will argue that the process and practice of curating sound events counteracts the most manipulative elements of the technogenesis and distributed cognition (Hayles 2008: 15) that we inhabit and live by today. It does this by pointing to or acting out the possibilities that are proposed by the destruction of the frame through which we perceive the world and engage in it (Zizek 2014: 32). This radical change takes place in our relationship to reality, accompanied by a radical change of reality itself. Nowhere, I will claim, does this more clearly impact on the role of the citizen in the distributed public sphere than in sound art. THE EVENTUAL FRAMING OF ART Zizek defines the space of an event as that which separates an effect from its causes. As such, the event points toward a gradually widening gap in the basic epistemological framing of (our concept and use of) “reality,” which could briefly be paraphrased thus: an event is either a change in the way reality appears to us, or it is a shattering transformation of reality itself. As a third position, the one I would like to employ in this chapter, Zizek puts forward the notion that events are a reframing: a change of the very (conventional cognitive) frame through which we perceive the world and engage in it. In its most radical configuration, the event may even be a destruction of that frame, in the sense that it stages “the surprising emergence of something new which undermines every stable scheme” (Zizek 2014: 6). He calls this destruction of the symbolic order “enframing” (inspired by Heidegger’s concept of Gestell1). On the one hand, enframing poses a danger to the “total enframing,” in which technological manipulation reduces the human to an object devoid of being aesthetically open to reality. On the other hand, it promises the possibility of approaching “concrete universality” which, according to Zizek, sees events not just as empty containers of specific content, but as “an engendering of that content through the deployment of its immanent antagonisms, deadlocks and inconsistencies” (Zizek 2014: 9). However, it is specifically the notion of events as the (cognitive) reframing of the symbolic order of art which I will pursue in what follows. Here, the space of the event is specifically connected to the surprising emergence of new meaning that undermines every stable scheme—and this, as I will show in the following, is a universally concrete feature in the practice of curating sound art events.



SOUND ART AS EVENTUAL REFRAMING Generally, curating sound art is a reframing process. Moreover, curating also has the possibility of pointing out genealogies, or what I understand as “concrete universalities,” in the deployment of reframing. As a case study of this, I will revisit the curated event Under Cover—Sound / Art in Social Spaces, which took place 22–25 March 2003 presented by the The Museum of Contemporary Art in Roskilde, Denmark.2 The physical setting of Under Cover was the main square in the center of the old Danish city of Roskilde, Stændertorvet (the Estate Square). With a name and function going back to the sixth century, it has always been a place for commerce and social gatherings. Both national and private events take place here. It also played an essential role in the formation of the democratic state of Denmark in the 1840s, since the Stændertorv was connected to the local stænderforsamling (estate assembly), which were (pre-democratic) regional representations of national power and also the coordinating centers of the proposal for a democratic constitution to the king in 1848. In fact, it was from the Estate Square in Roskilde that the procession (we would perhaps today call it a demonstration) set off to demand of the king that he sign his power over to an elected body representing the people of Denmark. He complied, and the result was the birth of the first modern constitutional democracy-monarchy. So, the name should perhaps more rightly be “Constitution Square,” but even this historic reference and function is operating “under cover”: it is only a passive part of the political unconscious of the modern citizen passing through the square today.3 The first purpose of the curated project Under Cover was to make that basic political archeology active and present. To reframe the meaning of the square and the citizens using it, as it were, through the deployment of sound art into the (many) social spaces and functions of the square. The idea was to transform it into a “constitutive” square of new political meaning, adding other unconscious framings to it. One additional unconscious framing of the square, which is largely ignored, is the fact that the process of building a national democratic public sphere almost instantly triggered a war (technically a civil war) with Schleswig-Holstein (now part of Germany). Thus, the square in Roskilde constituted both a positive and negative in the (democratic) political subconscious of Denmark (and, I would claim, civil democratic constructions in general): national legal representation (liberte, egalité et fraternité) and war. Ideally, Under Cover would reframe this political unconsciousness of the square and connect it to the contemporary public square and citizen sphere. Thus, Under Cover was curated as an event, or rather: an eventual reframing and a time to operationalize the political references of the square. Citizens would become sound citizens.



One of the essential pieces was placed in the center of the square and worked with the political unconscious directly from the premises of the everyday life of the square: The Sausage Stand—A Social Meeting Place by Rune Fjord. Selling sausages to people, Fjord asked them which national flag they wanted on their sausage. When they responded, he asked them why they wanted that particular flag, spurring a discussion about cultural contexts, democracy, and war. The exhibition opened one and a half years after 9/11, and in the same week it was announced that Denmark had entered into the war with Iraq on the side of the US-led coalition. This was the first time Denmark waged war since 1940, and the first time ever outside its own territory. The sausage stand, then, was reframing the habitual event of buying a quick lunch without reflecting about much more than food and work, into a different cognitive situation where unconscious political patterns emerge—symbolized by the national flags and the ensuing conversations. It is sound art as eventual reframing at its most basic, since the material of the piece was the voices of the people buying the sausages and entering into the conversation. The sausage stand, moreover, became a symbolic container and “stage” for interviewing the sound citizen. EVENT AND ITS DOUBLE—REFRAMING JOHN CAGE In 1969, Dick Higgins described how post-cognitive art showed up in the late 1950s and employed a totally different approach to life, reality, and artistic processes: the focus has come off the individual and his identity . . . or off the emphasis on new means of perception . . . It came to be, instead . . . the process as process, accepting reality as a found object, enfolding it by the edges, so to speak, without trying to distort it (artistically or otherwise) in its depiction. The work becomes the matrix. (Higgins 1969: 10)

What Higgins describes here, I would claim, is art as a reframing event. Art is using the reality we encounter in our daily lives and the metaphors we live by as material for a discourse on change; Art is seeking out relational dialogues rather than merely pointing at the superficial and effective. The art work becomes a matrix, a collection of new frames, which transmits a silent reality running underneath or parallel to cultural reality. “Urgent, unique, uninformed about history and theory . . . central to a sphere, without surface, its [i.e., sound’s] becoming is unimpeded, energetically broadcast . . . It does not exist as one of a series of discrete steps, but as transmission in all directions from the field’s centre” (Cage 1939). Cage and Higgins are both voicing an early discourse of a reframing of the symbolic order of art. A discourse that is aimed at making life into artwork, and use the potential reality that is found there as material.



In Event and Its Double, Brandon Labelle addresses this early layer of discourses in the reframing of art by John Cage. The eventual architecture of LaBelle’s work, which was commissioned for Under Cover, is literally reframing what is generally known as the first “happening” that Cage “composed” at Black Mountain College in 1952. The original event was shaped by chairs positioned in a “split crossing figure” through and around which circulated sounds, texts, images, and a number of different artists. Labelle’s event reframes this figure as architectural structures on the relatively secluded part of Stændertorvet, the Castle Square in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art. The Museum building was built as a Royal Castle and Bishop Residency in the seventeenth century, replacing an older structure there. Being the first example of Danish Baroque architecture, it was not only the setting for the beginning of the democratic process, but also of a much darker moment in Danish history: the loss of Scania to Sweden. The peace treaty was signed the same spot where LaBelle’s Event and Its Double was now standing (there is a stone marking the spot). The reframing of references to matters held in the political subconscious, not only referred to Black Mountain College and Cage, but also the “old” architecture of the museum from which noises were transmitted live to the structure on the museum square. A huge reconstruction project was going inside the museum at the time, so the noises entering the Event and Its Double presented the unreal sonic appearance of subterranean construction work happening outside our perceptive field. The citizens entered this eventual dobbeltgaenger, as it were, through the live transmission and their own movement, in the double sonic architecture of Black Mountain and the Royal Castle in Roskilde. Both the reframing of the symbolic order, by pointing toward the live event as a new frame for art, and also the passage from war to peace and back again, were references operating undercover and in the social spaces that the eventual architecture was creating. THE SOUND OF DISTRIBUTED COGNITION IN THE BANK The possibilities of going undercover as an artist are limited by the detour of the political unconscious. The artist is always involved in an unconscious political discourse to some extent, but the ability of the citizen to recognize that and to enter into political discourse is transformative. However, neither the hierarchy of the arts nor the traditional framework of the political unconscious remain untouched by the cultural change triggered by media culture and information technology. Thus, Fredrich Kittler famously claimed that the boundary between media and life are blurring—and that we face a(n) (un)sound culture dominated by superficial effects: “The general digitalization of information . . . erases the difference between individual media.



Sound and image, voice and text have become mere effects on the surface . . . Sense and the senses have become mere glitter” (Kittler 1987: 102). If we accept Kittler’s point of view, the citizens of the distributed public sphere are facing a situation that is radically different from that of traditional aesthetic perception—and, moreover, it is a radicalization of the positions of Cage and Higgins. Voicing a similar skepticism, Jacques Attali questioned the sense of ubiquitously mediated sound, and the effect it might have on the citizen. Digital media, according to Attali, creates a kind of “survival space”: “Equivalent to the articulation of a space, [sound] indicates the limits of a territory and the way to make oneself heard within it, how to survive by drawing one’s sustenance from it” (Attali 1985: 20). It seems to me that the most important point in relation to the role of Under Cover is not that art as “art” is dissolving or that art becomes “something else,” but how this situation is being acted out. In other words, how it is being reframed? And what this means, among other things, is that art is looking to reframe the public sphere through the staging of events.

Figure 31.1. Front of BG Bank in Roskilde, Denmark, where the In Line sound intervention piece by Carl Michael von Hausswolff was installed during the Under Cover exhibition sometime in April 2003. (Photo by Morten Søndergaard, © 2003, used with permission from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Roskilde, Denmark.)



In his sound art work In Line, Carl Michael von Hausswolff reframed art’s direct references to sustenance (and the transformation and transportation of money) in the daily lives of the citizens. As a live event, it served as the most direct and concrete way to make the public sphere connect to a universality in the Under Cover project. By redesigning a bank’s waiting-line ticket system and exchanging the very dull (and irritating) calling loudspeaker sounds with newly composed variations of “pleasant” sounds, In Line balanced hazardously on the edge of the un-political and the unconscious. EVENTUALIZING TWIN TOWERS—THE SILENCE REFRAMED Stephen Vitiello premiered his composition 9-11-02, which, as the title indicated, was based on sound recordings from Ground Zero in New York a year after the event that transformed so much—not least the Twin Towers that disappeared and US identity that was reframed almost beyond the bearable. “Today, the frenzy with which musical theories, general surveys, Encyclopedias, and Typologies are elaborated and torn down crystallizes the spectacle of the past. They are nothing more than signs of the anxiety of an age confronted with the disappearance of a world, the dissolution of an aesthetic, and the slipping away of knowledge” (Attali 1985: 18). One might go as far as to say that the citizens are like walking events who need to be reminded of their political role of reframing culture, memory, and meaning. This field creates what Helga de la Motte-Haber has characterized as prerequisites for social meetings in public spaces: “because sound art is framing immediacy and communality through auditory sensory experience, it is conditioning social encounters in the public sphere” (de la Motte-Haber 1999: 226; translated from German by the author). Thus, the stage may be set for a reframing of the cognitive status of art: by virtue of the social encounters staged by the art events described above, people became aware of the unconscious structures that penetrate the democratic culture, and in this sense it was “political.” Not because the encounters pointed toward a certain position. But because they enabled social meetings and dialogues across the borders of humans and technology, not through the destructive event of enframing, but rather the inquisitive event of reframing the distributed sphere in pursuit of the sound citizen. In this chapter I have argued that in Under Cover—Sound / Art in Social Spaces, the space of the event is specifically connected to the surprising emergence of new meanings that undermine every stable scheme. I have further argued that this is a universal feature in the curation of sound art events. Finally, I am claiming that this reframing of the cognitive status of art is essentially what makes it “live art”: it is the framing of art as an event and the citizens who are the real political actors of the distributed public sphere.



MORTEN SØNDERGAARD is a curator, art critic, theoretician, and associate professor of interactive media art at School of Communication, Art and Technology at the University of Aalborg in Copenhagen. He founded the International Sound Art Curating Conference Series in 2012, was Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Roskilde (1998–2008) and at Re-new Digital Arts Festival in Copenhagen (2010–2013). He has published and edited on the topics of media art, sound art, and the electronic archiving experience.

NOT E S 1. The notion that technology designates an attitude toward reality that we assume when we are engaged in such activities. 2. See their website here: 3. The curatorial inspiration for Under Cover came from a reading of Frederic Jameson (1982: 11), especially the following passage: “In . . . a society, saturated with messages and with ‘aesthetic’ experiences of all kinds, the issues of an older philosophical aesthetics themselves need to be radically historicized, and can be expected to be transformed beyond recognition in the process.”

R EF E R E NC E S Attali, J. 1985. Noise: The Political Economy of Music. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Cage, J. 1939. Silence: Lectures and Writings of John Cage. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press. de la Motte-Haber, H. 1999. “Klangkunst: Tönende Objekte und klingende Räume.” Handbuch der Musik im 20. Jahrhundert. Volume 12, Laaber: Laaber-verlag. Habermas, J. 1962. Strukturwandel der ôffentlichkeit Zu Einer Kategorie der Bürgerlichen Gesellsachaft. Neuwied: H. Luchterhand. Hayles, K. 2008. “Distributed Cognition at/in Work: Strickland, Lawson Jaramillo, and Ryan’s slippingglimpse.” In Frame: Journal of Literary Studies 21(1): 15–29. Retrieved 8 January 2017 from buted-cognition-atin-work-strickland-lawson-jaramillo-and-ryans-slippingglimpse/. Higgins, D. 1969. Foew and Ombwhnw: A Grammar of the Mind and a Phenomenology of Love and a Science of the Arts as Seen By a Stalker of the Wild Mushrooms. New York: Something Else Press. Jameson, F. 1981. The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act. New York: Cornell University Press. Kittler, F. 1987. Gramophone, Film, Typewriter. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Zizek, S. 2014. Event—Philosophy in Transit. London: Penguin.


Curation as a Practice of Radical Care A Definition NICOLE L. MARTIN

The call to curate performance, particularly for and by communities of color, is constitutive of a practice of radical care. Curators of performance act as authorized witnesses. They have the responsibility of formalizing space for the breadth of humanity and installing embodied life in honorable ways. Curation as a practice of radical care earnestly unveils structural antagonisms that work to displace non-normative bodies. Curation as a practice of radical care ensures the visibility and viability of artists who are viewed as living on the margins and whose work is too often left unsupported by institutional bureaucracy. As a practice of radical care, curators of performance are suspicious of the way performance aesthetics reinforce the invisibility of whiteness. They understand art does not exist independent of social, historical, and political influence. Perhaps, most importantly, curators of performance enact radical care by remaining grounded in community and connectivity and in mobilizing their practice through profound grace.

NICOLE L. MARTIN is Director of Academic Affairs for the Lewis Honors College at the University of Kentucky. Her research focuses on pedagogy, performance, and critical race studies.


Institutional Reinventions

CH A P T E R 3 2

Rethinking the Role of Institutions and Curators in a New Interdisciplinary Age PHILIP BITHER


he tension between contemporary art, particularly contemporary performance, and institutions is not a new thing. Neither are the questions that arise about the organizational co-option of radical art making or even the irony that can accompany notions of an institutionalized avant-garde. The idea too that our current interdisciplinary age is a brand new thing is belied by a century of cycles of merging artistic disciplines, periods when a previous generation’s artists were actively breaking down barriers between art forms. All of that said, institutional reinvention of the past decade in the visual but also in the performing arts has been occurring at a scale and speed far exceeding past movements. Highlighted by leading museums establishing new curatorial positions and sometimes even full departments, these shifts are also seen in the emergence of new graduate curatorial training programs, global conferences, live art festivals absorbing exhibition programs and other forms of visual art display, expanded journalistic as well as scholarly publishing efforts (like this one) covering live and interdisciplinary artistic practices, and even a general rethinking of the role of institutions in the life of artists and communities. Four years ago, I asked choreographer-turned-interdisciplinary artist Ralph Lemon, who I had worked with since the late 1990s on a range of dance, performance, and installation works at my institution, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, to accept a commission and our commitment to develop and premiere his newest work Scaffold Room.1 Lemon asked that we exchange thoughts about this invitation in writing. It began with the question he wrote me: “Now



that I have built my own (mobile, scaffolded) theater/space why do I need yours?” The question itself reflected an ambivalence many artists, established and emerging, feel today: are the institutional reinventions that we are witnessing dramatic enough to serve the rapidly changing needs of artists, which often include an artist’s need to control the frame and the context within which they work? My written response back to Ralph spoke not only to the Walker’s evolving practice, but I think to the aspirational desires of many organizations today. I wrote him: Institutions, particularly those devoted to contemporary aesthetics, depend on artists to upend standard structures of engagement, and to experiment with form in new ways. We were drawn to Scaffold Room not just because it is the next leg of a fascinating 18year institution-artist relationship, but because it forces us to question in real time issues that Walker leadership and curators often discuss but don’t put to the test enough: Can the lines between visual art and dance and performance be transgressed in new, deeper ways? What does it mean to be truly interdisciplinary vs. multidisciplinary? How do we value a creative work, even when no physical object remains? Can memories be “collected”? Can we collect something, but not possess it? (Bither 2014)

While the Walker represents a different paradigm than the standard contemporary art museum—we are a multidisciplinary art center that has long valued and supported a wide range of artistic disciplines including live performing art forms—I too have witnessed, sometimes helped lead, an evolution from being a center where separately curated departments of Visual Art, Moving Image, and Performing Arts generally kept to themselves, operating independently, drawing from their hard-earned discipline-specific knowledge bases. We were not in the habit of necessarily sharing these separate practices cross-institutionally. Today there is a consistent effort to collaborate across departments and forms, and with it attendant negotiation, translation, and at times heated disagreement about aesthetics as well as about the structures that are best suited to developing, producing, documenting, conserving, interpreting, commissioning, or collecting contemporary forms, and how those forms are asked to engage with a public. Elsewhere in this publication Rie Hovmann Rasmussen (2018) surveys the rise of independent director-curators of the 1990s and 2000s, which she writes fostered experimenting with the role of the institution [museum] in parallel to the experimental contemporary art practice. She bemoans the post-recession decline of these efforts, witnessing a now sometimes awkward attempt to balance these strategies with aspects of corporatization, which can lack the interpretive or critical rigor that museums regularly apply to art objects. While her condemnation of most dance, music, or theatrical works offered within these institutions reflects the (visual) art world’s widely held suspicion



of these forms as “mere entertainment,” she balances this perspective with an essential critique of the ways museums often relegate through language and frame live art programming as primarily existing in service to the object-based exhibitions. I think of this as the curse of the “related programming,” which are typically selected and shaped by educational department staffs who lack training within live art disciplines and who then unconsciously “instrumentalize” these forms. Rasmussen sees the parallel relegation of performance to strictly exhibition opening nights as a practice designed to serve the institution’s event planning and fundraising needs, and the interconnected socializing needs of its donors, at the expense of the work itself. Thankfully, these practices, particularly at institutions that are building separate performance departments or staff, are in decline. She is perceptive and empathetic about some of the challenges now faced by institutions just beginning to engage in this realm—the “constant need to produce performances, the lack of production time, or the narrow type of performances presented.” These speak to the level of investment and training required of institutions who want to, with authenticity and rigor, seriously engage in supporting live art forms. Turning to those inhabiting the emerging role of performance curator, Marta Keil (2018), also in this book, offers an insightful critique and a sensitive unpacking of the distinctly unique set of skills that these global roles require. These roles, according to her, are exemplified by the itinerant employee whose economic viability is dependent on building and then burnishing their own self-brands through incessant travel, writing, speaking, and the constant need to find and proclaim what is new and “ahead of the curve.” She effectively captures the privilege (spoken and unspoken) and attendant overwork and unchecked ego that can constitute these positions, as well as their continual engagement with, and support of, brilliant minds, sometimes nurturing and sometimes challenging them. It is no wonder that in countries like the United States with its near nonexistent state support for culture, these positions also have to carry a host of fundraising, producing, and marketing responsibilities, thus demanding that live art curators proceed with a level of self-criticality to insure one is not overly tempted to program work primarily to attract audience or funds, but at the same time needing to strategically position one’s own choices effectively within and outside one’s institution. To succeed within this context, one must be skilled at often contradictory things—selfless and ego-driven, entrepreneurial and academic, passionate and analytical, humble yet forcefully opinionated, politically guarded but also fearless. In my work, I feel fortunate to be able to lean heavily on the Walker’s mission, whose clarity and courageousness, has long served for me as a talisman.2 While there remains understandable suspicion, even animosity, within segments of the dance and experimental theatrical worlds about the embrace (some say colonizing) of live art forms by the museum world (Horowitz 2012),



I remain more optimistic, seeing this movement as a generally positive response to the global-minded, digitally informed artistic innovators of our time. There are, after all, significant things to learn from one another: the performing art and dance fields are beginning to draw from the visual art world’s commitment to preservation, to art history (albeit sometimes defined narrowly), to deep scholarship and to spatial / visual expertise. Alternatively, the museum world is beginning to draw on the interpersonal, artist-centered skills that successful curators and presenters in performing art worlds employ to navigate artforms steeped in oftentimes difficult, collaborative, collective human dynamics; as well as the ethos of information-sharing and co-commissioning/co-presenting practices that have evolved over time and now define performing art fields. Audience engagement skills as well, which are taken for granted in live art presenting, are not fully understood or fully valued in the museum world, particularly within the nuances of experiential, time-based interactivity with a public. Audiences, in strictly visual art circles, are sometimes viewed as a necessary evil, an aspect of art presentation better dealt with by marketing, education, or visitor service staffs, rather than as an essential ingredient for curators working in the live arts. On a more general level, the philosophical, ephemeral, and at times improvisatory nature of live performance offer essential structural lessons for the museum field as well. We are currently experiencing a profound moment of reinvention in which the role of institutions needs to be questioned and needs to call on the artist’s vision to be reimagined. As artists and their surrounding worlds change, the organizations that serve them and offer their work to the public must change as well. PHILIP BITHER has served since 1997 as Senior Curator of Performing Arts for Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center, where he commissioned and developed more than 175 works in dance, music, and performance. He currently chairs the Jerome Foundation Board and helped found the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance (ICPP) at Wesleyan University. He travels globally, researching performance, and speaks and writes nationally. NOT E S 1. Archived on the Walker Art Center website at ingarts/2015/11/24/thomas-j-lax-on-ralph-lemon-an-afterword/. 2. Walker Art Center Mission: “The Walker Art Center is a catalyst for the creative expression of artists and the active engagement of audiences. Focusing on the visual, performing, and media arts of our time, the Walker takes a global, multidisciplinary, and diverse approach to the creation, presentation, interpretation, collection, and preservation of art. Walker programs examine the questions that shape and inspire us as individuals, cultures, and communities” (1989).



R EF E R E NC E S Bishop, C. “Unhappy Days in the Art World? De-skilling Theater, Re-skilling Performance.” The Brooklyn Rail. Accessed on 10 December 2011 at art/unhappy-days-in-the-art-worldde-skilling-theater-re-skilling-performance. Bither, P. 2014. Author’s personal correspondence with Ralph Lemon, 20 May. Horowitz, A. “Cultural Practice and Cultural Production.” Culturebot. Accessed on 21 October 2012 at

C H AP T ER 33

The Curator as a Culture Producer MARTA KEIL


t the beginning of the 1980s in Europe, the profession of curator started to seep into theater. To my mind, its presence in the performing arts is a consequence of the systemic changes occurring in European performing arts at that time: the substantial growth of the international festival circuit and development of networks between artists and producers; the creation of new spaces, enabling the progress of independent projects and shifting the focus to a nascent, non-institutionalized system of work that is unlike the workings of already established (and frequently entrenched) repertory theaters. Simultaneously, one can observe the following shifts in the aesthetics in the field of performing arts in the 1970s and 1980s: the departure of artists from linear narration, psychological credibility, and the representation of “the real.” Thus, the entrance of the profession of curator onto the cultural scene has been spurred by both aesthetic and socio-economic changes. This was chiefly because theater and dance artists needed support in developing their work in the new, increasingly international art production system and circuit. Further, as the result of a new paradigm for aesthetics, there was a need to invent a new language to speak with the audience and to communicate between the artist and the viewer. These systemic changes were visible quite early within performing arts institutions in Europe. The 1980s saw the emergence of a number of indie/offoff cultural institutions, including Kaaitheater in Brussels, BIT Theatergarasjen in Bergen, Kampnagel in Hamburg, and many more. The present-day premises of Kampnagel and STUK were squatted in the early 1980s; already at that time they constituted epicenters of social engagement, being beehives of left-wing activity. In 1981, the biggest network of performing arts, IETM (known back



then as Informal European Theater Meetings), was initiated. In 1982, Andrzej Wirth established the Institute for Applied Theater Studies in Giessen, which pioneered the merger of theory and praxis in theater education. In 1983, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker founded the Rosas Group in Brussels, and in 1986, Jan Lauwers alongside Grace Ellen Barkey funded Needcompany, while 1987 saw the establishment of Eurokaz in Zagreb. The consequences of these shifts became almost immediately visible, not just in the system of theater production, but in the means of theater distribution and in the redefinition of the notion of theater and dance; the entire idiom has undergone a change, as corroborated by Hannah Hurtzig’s remark about emerging curatorship in European performing arts: “They [the curators] created a different style of how to talk about theater and dance, how to write about performance. Within a very short time they were running the discourse” (Brandstetter et al. 2010: 23). This bottom-up takeover of the debate on performing arts took the shape of an intellectual, critical, and academic coup, but primarily it manifested itself as unprecedented artistic praxis—as trailblazing work in the domain of the arts. Not unlike the visual arts, the dual process was accompanied by a thorough critique of institutionalized (repertory) theater as well as of the ways of presenting plays, performances, and interdisciplinary projects. At that time, theater and dance increasingly stepped beyond the traditional, architectural “black box,” and went looking for new spaces to adapt, among others, postindustrial sites and converting them into arts centers. The theater and dance of the 1980s is remembered not solely for the emergence of independent physical premises devoted to the development of performing arts in the fullness of their diversity, but also for the aesthetic premises that were put into practice by advocates of the performative turn in Europe, for instance by artists like Robert Wilson, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, and Robert Lepage. In terms of theory and practice, this turn was fruitful, yielding unsurpassed meta-theater, typified by the blurring, and frequently camouflaging, of the performances’ framework as well as by the inclusiveness of its governing paradigm, in which audiences were invited to be actively engaged in performances and, often, in one way or another, to participate alongside performers in their onstage endeavors. Thus, the late 1980s and the early 1990s saw a radical change as far as a considerable section of independent theater was concerned, bringing to the fore: new industry standards in terms of hierarchies and structures; freelancers instead of full-time employees; collectives or independent groups of performers in lieu of ensembles associated with (public) repertory theaters. Of the utmost significance at that stage was the dawn of new centers for culture, which worked toward conceptualization and implementation of interdisciplinary programs, in consequence attracting patrons of a different kind, quite dissimilar from the target audience flocking to somewhat intradisciplinarian repertory theaters.



The systemic art production shift that was masterminded and orchestrated then required demanding and time-consuming cooperation between the pioneers and the state officials, among others, the Ministries of Culture, responsible for the allocation of funding. It was the task of curators to convince the decision-and-policy-makers to change outmoded ways of distributing financial resources, in particular with regard to theater and dance production. Subsequently, as a direct result of these negotiations, activism, and heartfelt lobbying, the so-called independent arts centers entered the theater and dance circuit, beginning to share the stage with repertory theaters and festival organizers, which practically put an end to the monopoly-like dominance of repertory theater as a normative model of how theater and dance institutions should operate. The outcome of this sea change is clearly visible at present in Belgium and the Netherlands, where the performing arts production system revolution first took root (with Aktie Tomaat in Amsterdam 1969 as its symbolic beginning) and where the so-called independent field constituted the core of theater production—at least as long as the financial cuts in the public sector destroyed the great part of the Dutch infrastructure of performing arts field in 2011. This does not mean, however, that these alternative models introduced almost three decades ago are flawless and exemplary. This is because art production in these independent centers is contingent upon temporary/seasonal projects, making artists and curators alike overtly dependent on the political context and topical issues inherent in the public grant system. Furthermore, project-oriented by default, the grants systems favor what is deceptively called “flexible” employment, turning its so-called “beneficiaries” into precarious freelancers—free to come and go, but at the same time lanced by constant fear of redundancy as full-time employment does not programmatically fall within the grants system’s remit. On the contrary, what is valued and often imposed on curators, artists, and other culture producers is permanent mobility and never-ending flexibility, which have engendered notoriously precarious labor conditions as well as analogously entrenched and unstable terms of employment. The late 1990s saw further progress of the independent theater and dance circuit in Western Europe: international cooperation started to bloom, among others thanks to the mushrooming of theater festivals. At the turn of the century, another significant phenomenon rose in prominence, namely the festivalization of the theater milieu in the post-communist countries of Eastern Europe that had recently opened their borders (and economies) to the West. Simultaneously, in the late 1990s, the Balkans provided most fertile ground for the development of impressive intellectual powerhouses. Researching and critically commenting upon contemporary performing arts, they were affiliated with two influential magazines: Maska in Ljubjana and Frakcija (2010) in Zagreb. The evolutionary advancement of the budding alternative theater and dance movement in the region continued into the early 2000s, as new educational and



academic centers surfaced, including Walking Theory in Belgrade (in 2000) and Nomad Dance Academy in Belgrade (in 2005). Also, local nexuses of professional cooperation emerged, such as the Balkan Express Network. What seems to me of prime significance here is that the development of the curatorial is only one of the elements of the systemic economic shift that Europe has been experiencing (and complying with) since the rise of free enterprise, namely, the move to late capitalism. Since the 1970s, Western culture has been witness to paradigmatic economic, social, and political changes concerning processes and conditions of production: a transition of the capitalism from its industrial phase to the late, postindustrial, cognitive one where the car factories have been replaced by the factories of knowledge (Raunig 2013). In Western countries, one of the cores of the late, third-phase capitalist production—the production of subjectivities, their desires, and the interrelations between them—has moved outside the industrial factories to the social ones: to the streets and into social networks. Cognitive capitalism is based on creativity, on knowledge and innovation, and its main products are new subjectivities along with their needs, wishes, aspirations, emotions, affects, and ways of communicating. Production takes place outside the factories and never ceases. Thus, the changes in the modes of production have been deeply interrelated with the political and social changes in understanding, using, and distributing the notion of time, temporality, and duration. On the one hand, a full-time employment model has often been replaced by the project-based system characteristic for the late-capitalism societies, which results in the temporality of labor and the need to be involved simultaneously in several different projects. On the other, what is required the most is an incessant state of being productive, updated, online, ready to produce new ideas, connections, analysis, innovations, affects, etc. There is no border between the fields of work and of life, no interval in the producing process. As a consequence, one can observe an increasing phenomenon of precarious conditions of working (the requirement to be constantly productive, accompanied by a state of insecurity and lack of stabilization, which would allow long-term planning): a culture producer (an artist, researcher, critic, curator, scholar, etc.) is always in between projects, always ready to create, to adjust to the changing conditions; she remains constantly flexible and mobile. These economic changes (and the resulting social ones) have had, in my opinion, a critical impact on the ways in which art has been produced and distributed over the last several decades. And the figure of the independent (meaning: not employed full-time by an institution) curator seems to be emblematic of the new tendencies in the Western mode of art production. The curatorial labor is based on establishing contacts, constructing networks of relations and mediations; actions are projective and by definition have a temporal framework; even in a project spanning many years, the date of its completion is known. Accessi-



bility and alertness are central, as is openness to new ideas or contacts, for they result in new projects. What matters is the ability to establish many relations, but at the same time to carefully select the most valuable ones; the ability to remain receptive to information and to intuit the directions of actions; unceasing commitment (stellar qualifications do not suffice; passion and full commitment is a requirement); enthusiasm; mobility—but also the ability to assert one’s autonomy and defend one’s choices. If the basis of production in cognitive capitalism is nonmaterial work, which consists in the production of knowledge, generating communication, forming networks and migrating, then it appears that almost the entire contemporary festival industry plays within these rules. The work of a curator who travels from one festival to another appears to be the fulfillment of the most utopian goals: it is nothing but pleasure, the opportunity to realize one’s passions, travel, meet new people, form new relations, build one’s own network of connections (sounds like a permanent holiday, doesn’t it?). It is no coincidence that it is virtually impossible to separate the private and professional life of a curator. In late capitalism, in an economy governed by reputation, the distinction between work and leisure has been obliterated. The knowledge we produce will not come into being without a free flow of information, ideas, conversation; without what we like to call creative action and what Michael Hardt calls affective labor: emotional support, passion, an exchange of inspirations, and so on (Hardt 1999). The product is so tightly enmeshed with personal competences, so closely related to individual emotional potential and to one’s experience, that the terms “private” and “professional” are rendered essentially indistinguishable. Apparently, the success of a curator as a cultural producer boils down not only to the very process of work, but to the ability to preemptively single out and publicize an exceptional phenomenon. Being a gifted scout—a finder of valuable trends, captivating if budding movements, and engaging phenomena—is of prime importance. However, being a trendsetter—a curator capable of identifying, critiquing, marketing, publishing, distributing, and promoting a given phenomenon/art work/artist—is equally crucial. Whether chitchat or talks, dialogue among curators is based on personal relations; what is even more relevant than the money brought to the table is your personal commitment. For instance, what you have to say about the play you have just seen speaks volumes about the honesty and passion of your arts-related choices, recommendations, and curatorial suggestions. In other words, your ability to build social relations is your calling card; your credibility as a curator is built brick-by-brick by your set of unique professional competences and by your social predispositions alike. The methodological research of “the curatorial,” to use the term introduced by, among others, Beatrice von Bismarck and Irit Rogoff (Rogoff and von Bismarck 2012), a notion which in turn encompasses the profession of a curator itself as well as curatorial praxis, enables one to lay bare the normative matrix



governing contemporary art production and distribution and to look closely at the interrelated mechanisms of selection, presentation, and evaluation that accompany art praxis. Such research indisputably corroborates the fact that the presence and visibility of artists (their existence on the art circuit) is not solely the sum total of their talent, luck, and serendipity, but it is dependent on the decisions made by the powers that be, which is to say those who are responsible for the shaping of the circulation of the arts and for the building of audience-artist relations—in short, cultural producers worldwide. The process in question is by no means transparent. It is painfully lacking in clearly defined rules and noncontestable, “objective” criteria. To a considerable degree, the work of a curator is based on affects and personalized competences. To my mind, a curator is a cultural producer equipped with a certain toolbox of competences, working in a clearly defined economic and social context, which makes a marked impact on her professional activities, thereby turning her more often than not into her own product, into a marketable commodity. Tellingly, the profession of an independent curator, i.e., a freelancer working on a project-to-project basis rather than one employed full-time by an institution, emerged in the late 1960s and the early 1970s (in performing arts a decade later), virtually in tandem with the evolution of the job model into a postFordist one and with the transformation of free market economy into late capitalism phase. The very core of immaterial work lies in the generation of communication, in the creation of networks of information exchange, in the production of knowledge. A curator works in a network—not in a hierarchical (vertical), but in a rhizomic (horizontal) system. This does not mean, however, that her agency is curtailed; it is rather the vectors of a curator’s influence that aim at different directions. The curatorial practice and, primarily the curator’s decision-making process, as described in the present article, is by no means transparent. Understandably, visual artists have for decades critiqued the potentially complacent positionality of curators. What artists find objectionable is the nontransparent mechanism of the redistribution of power; the unclear rules of inclusion and exclusion that the artists find they frequently fall prey to; the elitist enshrining of the precarious condition that victimizes a large proportion of the art world/ creative sector workers; and—finally—the thorny issue of ownership (who is the author of an exhibition/performance/installation/festival? The artist? The curator? The audience members?). The profession of curator is definitely lacking in clear-cut rules and verifiable, “objective” criteria. On the one hand, the curatorial practice depends on personal choices, experience, relationships, affections, on one’s point of view. On the other, the curator’s competences and experiences are never being shaped on an individual path—on the contrary, the curatorship is deeply rooted in the social network, is generated on a common ground of the ideas exchanges, on the



relationship with an artist, a critic, a viewer. To a considerable degree, I believe that curatorial practice is the product of late capitalism, and as such it embodies its core values and mechanisms, eventually becoming its (often objectified) partner in crime—a tool legitimating and justifying late capitalist rules. Being its product, the profession of a curator provides self-incriminating evidence of precarious labor conditions. Hence, the positionality of a curator generates ambivalence, which requires heightened alertness and unbridled self-reflexivity. In my opinion, the curator’s position, being emblematic for the art production system and a result of the late capitalist changes in Western economies, is a highly political one. Thus, a critical reflection on curatorial practice seems crucial for better understanding the mechanisms of redistributing values and power relations in the contemporary performing arts field. MARTA KEIL is a performing arts curator, researcher, and dramaturge based in Warsaw, Poland. She created and curates the East European Performing Arts Platform (EEPAP). Between 2012 and 2017, she curated, together with Grzegorz Reske, the Konfrontacje Festival in Lublin. She has cooperated as curator and dramaturge with Agnieszka Jakimiak, Rabih Mroué, Agata Siniarska, Ana Vujanović. She is the editor of the books Reclaiming the Obvious: On the Institution of Festival (2017) and Dance, Process, Artistic Research: Contemporary Dance in the Political, Economic and Social Context of “Former East” of Europe (2015). She is a PhD candidate at the Polish Academy of Science’s Art Institute.

NOT E Translated from Polish by Bartosz Wójcik.

R EF E R E NC E S Berardi, F. 2009. The Soul at Work. Cambridge: Semiotext(e). Boltanski, L., and É. Chiapello. 2005. The New Spirit of Capitalism. London: Verso Books. Brandstetter, G., H. Hurtzig, V. Sutinen, and H. Teuchies. 2010. “This Curator-ProducerDramaturge-Whatever Figure.” Frakcija 55: 23. Hardt, M. 1999. “Affective Labor.” Boundary 2: 89–100. Hardt, M., and A. Negri. 2011. Commonwealth. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Raunig, G. 2013. Factories of Knowledge. Cambridge: Semiotext(e). Rogoff, I., and B. von Bismarck, 2012. “Curating/Curatorial.” In Cultures of the Curatorial, ed. B. von Bismarck, J. Schafaff, and T. Weski. Berlin: Sternberg Press: 21–33.


Definition of Curation SALTA

curation means both to take care and to poison curators are bearers of poison apples. it can be okay; it can be alright. hella serious also observation: gay signs are everywhere. imagination: no more power dance fuck bois. OR here’s to the abolition of the racist, capitalist hetero-patriarchy and loving each other and our bodies wildly and expansively and with consent. consent: ask listen respect. embodiment: body. body. body. body. look at that word over and over and it disappears. the severe, unfuckingreal reality of bodies and everybody we mean yeah all of that. VAG PRESENCE we want to celebrate you. we are open to wildcards. we are open to failure. we are open to having our minds blown. it’s really about making popcorn. and hanging out and seeing what happens. and being open to being called out. and to keep trying.



witches pushing out all the snores.

SALTA is a collective of women and gender nonconforming people who came together in 2012 to create a platform for dance and experimental performance in Oakland, California.

CH A P T E R 3 4

How to Build a Manifesto for the Future of a Festival “Festivals as Thinking Entities,” a Conversation with Judith Blackenberg, Daniel Blanga-Gubbay, Silvia Bottiroli, and Livia Andrea Piazza, initiated by Silvia Bottiroli and Berno Odo Polzer SILVIA BOTTIROLI

HOW TO BUILD A MANIFESTO FOR THE FUTURE OF A FESTIVAL How to Build a Manifesto for the Future of a Festival (2015) is an editorial project of the Santarcangelo Festival Internazionale del Teatro in Piazza. Four bilingual books (in Italian and English) gather essays and artist texts written by a number of different authors sharing a common question about the curatorial work of the making of a festival: how we can think about the future of a festival, how the future can be foretold, imagined, acted, shared, and lived? The four publications constitute an imaginary journey, from Build the Time to Switch the Scene, Take the Floor, and Not Only but Also. Following the idea of a shared manifesto, we first thought about time, and particularly about the qual-



ity of the time, between one festival and the other: how do we use this time, how is work done and made visible? The second step was a question about the context and the possible “switches of the scene,” the modes of translation, and bringing an object into a different context, particularly through language: what language do we use, how do we play the complex and multifaceted exercise of continuous storytelling and translation? Just before the actual festival, we published a kind of reader, related at the same time to the very gesture of “taking the floor,” entering the public space and making a speech about historical and political reality, entailed by a festival, with the specific curatorial question we were focusing on: how can art take the floor in the realm of reality? What can art do, what is it allowed to do in our societies? Finally, the last publication was edited after the festival by the Laboratory for Experiments in Performance and Politics Aleppo that had already accompanied the previous editions by articulating a final question in the form of a printed poster and addressed to the next book. This publication corresponds to a double shift: the floor was now given to a guest, and the book was not edited by the editorial collective that had started the project. And, even more significantly, Not Only but Also dealt with the time after the festival and thus with the possibility of expanding the actual festival into one, or many, hypothetical ones, with an act of imagination that transformed the publication into a catalog of another festival—not the future one, not the festival that should have been done, just another, possible (and in some ways impossible) one. Why should a festival initiate a publishing project and produce a set of theoretical and imaginative tools to think about the future of an art organization? What gives festivals the possibility of producing and sharing knowledge differently? Santarcangelo Festival has been going through a radical transformation during the last few years, becoming a privileged platform for the production and the presentation of artistic work, one that puts together international contemporary artists and a very specific, local context. Repositioning a festival also means producing, communicating and discussing a certain vision and some fundamental questions on the identity, role, responsibilities, and potentialities of festivals as art institutions themselves, and on the specific artistic trajectory that a festival can set. For us, publishing a series of books responded to the necessity of creating a different platform for the theoretical work and curatorial research that stands behind an actual festival; explicating how a performing arts program is not only an intense, ephemeral event, but also the visible part of an ongoing, patient, and often invisible work. The time before a festival, as well as the time after it, is an obscure and yet dense moment of creation, reflection, struggles, sudden changes of directions, possible and impossible wishes, strong beliefs, obsessions, failures and falls, and an infinite series of new beginnings. One of the main things one



can learn doing a festival—and making art in general—is that every day brings a new beginning and the very possibility of starting all over again. Some questions keep reemerging, some stay open and unanswered forever; and some experiences build a body of knowledge that instead of vanishing, pushes the whole work process further and further again. It is all about trusting an invisible path, taking each question seriously every time, enjoying the process of making and the idea of being, walking in unknown landscapes. How to make public these qualities and values of the curatorial work? How to discuss what a festival is, not only in terms of what performances compose its program but how it operates, thinks, lives, and changes the everyday and overtime? How to Build a Manifesto for the Future of a Festival is an attempt at a gesture of collective thinking and making in order to respond to these questions. “Festivals as Thinking Entities.” republished here from Build the Time, precisely documents a dimension of thought, exchange, and conversation that lies at the core of the questions grounding How to Build. In December 2014, in Brussels, together with Daniel Blanga Gubbay and Livia Andrea Piazza, we organized a series of meetings around the concept of interruption, in the space of Aleppo. On that occasion, I invited Berno Odo Polzer, with whom I was already exchanging ideas and thoughts about the making of festivals, to engage in a public conversation and we agreed to focus on “festival as thinking entities,” a phrase that had appeared in our dialogue. Other people joined us and a dense conversation emerged that included Judith Blackenberg, with whom exchanges on curating have been continual and intense. A few weeks later, when we were planning the contents of Build the Time, that conversation came to mind and so we decided to go through my notes and try to recreate the spirit and the contents of that day. The text you find published in these pages comes from a deep, friendly conversation and is comprised by its informality, its sudden shifts, its overlappings, and misunderstandings. The conversation’s very form is important to me: this text freezes a moment in time and a context of collective thinking and talking, rooted into the curatorial and research practices of each of us and into a specific place and time—the time of big political strikes in society and specifically for art in Belgium, and the time preceding three different festivals, MaerzMusik/ Berliner Festspiele in Berlin, Festival de Keuze in Rotterdam, and Santarcangelo Festival. This is now the time after. After the strikes’ interruption of productivity in Belgium, after the radical changes in the art system that engaged the three festivals we were busy with at that moment; after the cycle of How to Build had been published to constitute an accomplished project and at the same time, an open invitation to imagine the future of a festival together. Republishing this text in this book is meant to allow the ephemeral to deal with its desire for duration, and to place a private conversation in the public



dimension of a major publication in the field of contemporary performance. It is an ambitious gesture and also a generous way of sharing some deep concerns, thoughts, and desires about what festivals can be if they dare to consider themselves as “thinking entities.” How to Build a Manifesto for the Future of a Festival is a project by Silvia Bottiroli, Marzia Dalfini, and Giulia Polenta for Santarcangelo Festival Internazionale del Teatro in Piazza, made in collaboration with Aleppo: A Laboratory of Experiments in Performance and Politics. FESTIVALS AS THINKING ENTITIES BERNO ODO POLZER: I see a festival as a problem, as there’s something pretentious in framing spontaneity. Yet as a format festivals are very captivating, but in their proliferation it’s hard to say if festivals are still a state of exception. How could they become one again? DANIEL BLANGA-GUBBAY: Conceiving of a festival as an exception brings the risk of reinforcing it as a norm, I think. Rather, how could a festival be something in and of itself rather than a counter-norm? JUDITH BLACKENBERG: And what elements of the norm do we actually want to question? BERNO ODO POLZER: For me, it has to do with the attempt to create a certain continuity as well. DANIEL BLANGA-GUBBAY: In fact: how can you blur the difference between one moment and another. . . BERNO ODO POLZER: . . . knowing that at the very moment you name something, you make it impossible to perceive it! The point is how to create an emancipated spectatorship that can create its own capacity for framing. DANIEL BLANGA-GUBBAY: But framing takes the risk of neutralizing the unexpected power of something. . . BERNO ODO POLZER: Yes, this was my issue in Thinking Together.1 I’m interested in tactics that make an idea glow, introduce a twist, and in working on something that anybody is equally expert of. That’s why for this edition of Berliner Festspiele I decided to work on time. We know that forms don’t lie, and a festival is all about proposing a certain form. In this respect, I’m very interested in creating a non-organized time.



DANIEL BLANGA-GUBBAY: The question is in fact how you can create conditions for possibilities, back away from looking for an outcome but still create the conditions for one. LIVIA ANDREA PIAZZA: During the meeting The Art of Being Many in Hamburg2 there was a session on timing and on the decision to produce time collectively. What I found interesting there was the attempt to measure and plan time in a different way. BERNO ODO POLZER: The same happened in a certain way at Truth is Concrete,3 where the main idea was that overexposure produces a certain kind of effect, but that idea also happened to be a delicate, painful failure. DANIEL BLANGA-GUBBAY: The problem is how to keep space for the unforeseen. It can only grow in the cracks of an architecture of the foreseen, I think. SILVIA BOTTIROLI: Like clouds or smoke. DANIEL BLANGA-GUBBAY: Like an iceberg. BERNO ODO POLZER: A question that I’m busy with at the moment is what a festival can be when outside of its own temporality. What kind of temporality does a festival produce? I mean temporality as a qualitative aspect, a specific way of moving within time. JUDITH BLACKENBERG: We can see time either as a line or as a surface, and temporality as three-dimensional. DANIEL BLANGA-GUBBAY: Is a festival anachronistic per se? Is it a moment that exceeds temporality? LIVIA ANDREA PIAZZA: The time of the new is always in the meantime, and I think the time of a festival is always a bit autonomous from the time outside of itself, on different levels: in the unexpected and the surprising, and also in the meantime of something else. That’s where the political aspect of it lays: it opens to possibilities outside of the time of the festival. BERNO ODO POLZER: I see festivals as existing in an autonomous time, a chronosphere, a time and space that separates itself from the time outside. SILVIA BOTTIROLI: I’m particularly interested in the possibility of creating a meantime into the already existing time—that’s what Cristian Chironi’s project Audio Guide4 does for example, in the weekly marketplaces of some towns. LIVIA ANDREA PIAZZA: And that means providing the possibility of creating a future.



DANIEL BLANGA-GUBBAY: But the risk of any heterotopic place is that you neutralize it by saying that it is something else. Maybe we could think about the concept of interruption of a flux, as with the example of a strike. BERNO ODO POLZER: A strike always is an interruption in relation to a certain notion of productivity—in that respect it is defined by the fact that during a strike you cannot move things from A to B, and not by the fact that you spend time with family and friends instead. This makes me think of how different genealogies merge in a festival: religious ceremonies, festivities, carnivals . . . Festivals today seem to have all of these traits. DANIEL BLANGA-GUBBAY: But carnival is exactly one of the genealogies of a state of exception that reinforces the norm. BERNO ODO POLZER: Plus, states of exceptions are the celebration of a particular occasion, which is not necessarily determined in terms of time: funerals, marriages . . . DANIEL BLANGA-GUBBAY: And miracles as well. What is extremely productive is the border between: the last hours of carnival for example, when some people still think it’s carnival and some others think it’s not anymore. When is the moment you decide it’s a state of exception? How can you enter into a state of exception? How can you enter a festival—little by little? Usually, you suddenly find yourself in the middle of it, without understanding how you got there. BERNO ODO POLZER: Maybe one way is to add new beginnings . . . LIVIA ANDREA PIAZZA: Or to have the festival not be ready on the day it’s supposed to start. JUDITH BLACKENBERG: Or have unexpected things in the program. BERNO ODO POLZER: What would actually be a surprise; what are the conditions for a surprise? LIVIA ANDREA PIAZZA: The fact that the audience has to activate itself and do something, for example, if the festival seems not to be ready when it’s supposed to start. One of the conditions for a miracle is being many, being a multitude. BERNO ODO POLZER: I’m thinking of the opening as a gathering—being at the same place, waiting together for something to happen. And as Berliner Festspiele will start on the day of the solar eclipse, I think the opening should be about waiting for the eclipse together.



DANIEL BLANGA-GUBBAY: And in that case, what you’d be experiencing is just the passing of time and nothing else, being the time of simply the movement of planets, a natural movement. BERNO ODO POLZER: This makes me think of the final words of the book Waste Your Time by Julian Pörksen:5 “Come to the theatre! Waste your time!” DANIEL BLANGA-GUBBAY: That’s an interesting link to the risk of the functionality of art nowadays—the invitation to “waste your time” can then be a form of resistance, a concept of “waste” that is not linked to economy. BERNO ODO POLZER: Deep down it’s about accepting unplannability, learning to cultivate a different relation to contingency, not to wrap it up again in the direction of what it can be good for. For example, what is the political economy behind durational performances? BERNO ODO POLZER: What is the “thinking” part of “festivals as thinking entities”? What are the conditions and the procedures behind that, what could “thinking” mean in the frame of a festival? Does it express itself only in a discursive domain or also in the way the festival functions? DANIEL BLANGA-GUBBAY: In other words, what does “thinking” mean within a festival and how is it different from thinking in a university, for example? I think the difference is that what you present as art in a festival is in itself a thinking entity, so how can theory be anything other than a tool for justification of what you’re doing? Artists are thinkers and art is a way of thinking. In a festival context, what can happen is that a dialogue is triggered, or not, in the juxtaposition of two or more objects. LIVIA ANDREA PIAZZA: I would say, it’s a matter of making something visible plus, or by making it unreadable. You can see a work of art as a thinking entity, but I think it’s more difficult to see a festival like that. The curatorial process should then be to make the links between works unreadable, so that they produce resistance, conflict, misunderstanding. BERNO ODO POLZER: A festival could ask questions without giving answers, which would also be a way to relate to consumption as an attitude toward art. I wonder if in a festival you can “quote,” the way you do in a written text for example: to use something as an objet trouvé, create a tool of differentiation, bring a consistent part of something and put it in your context. DANIEL BLANGA-GUBBAY: That brings us to the concept of sampling, if you think you can quote from the present as well and create an archive or rather an unexpected objet trouvé.



LIVIA ANDREA PIAZZA: That brings us back to the risk of misunderstanding and sharing uncertainty. And to the difference between the politics of use and the politics of misunderstanding. BERNO ODO POLZER: Then, what if we conceive festivals as open and thinking entities? How can a festival produce texts that are rather precise yet open, not closed statements? LIVIA ANDREA PIAZZA: I think it does this when the festival is incomplete. BERNO ODO POLZER: So, we understand potentiality as a notion of reducing precision? SILVIA BOTTIROLI: Rather, as something triggered by art works and festivals when they are both thinking together. DANIEL BLANGA-GUBBAY: As in a conference, where the most productive moments are the coffee breaks. BERNO ODO POLZER: If we mean festivals as thinking subjects, there’s an agency that comes as something that produces thought. DANIEL BLANGA-GUBBAY: Rather, a festival is a subject that gathers different kinds of thinking entities: works, artists, public . . . Plus, it’s a thinking entity in itself. That’s where its complexity and potentiality lays. LIVIA ANDREA PIAZZA: In the space between its parts. SILVIA BOTTIROLI: But do you think festivals have a specific mode, a specific quality of thinking? DANIEL BLANGA-GUBBAY: I think what festivals provide that the university doesn’t is precisely the possibility of thinking by way of different kinds of forms. In festivals, art can be a subject of reflection rather than only an object of reflection—which in universities and conferences only happens as an exception to a norm. BERNO ODO POLZER: And what does this thinking want to produce? Are we doing science? Are we providing a specific kind of access to the world? Or. . . ? DANIEL BLANGA-GUBBAY: Thinking can also be completely unproductive, just a form of sharing. But then, can we really raise questions without assuming any responsibility for giving answers? BERNO ODO POLZER: That’s a good question. I can reply by saying that I get less and less interested in thinking that is not political. So I’d say that festivals are entities that think politically.



DANIEL BLANGA-GUBBAY: That’s about the responsibility of assuming one position or another. LIVIA ANDREA PIAZZA: In any case, festivals already happen in the public sphere: they can have a strong political value but are not politics in and of themselves, and the responsibility for the answer belongs to another public sphere. I think art should have its own space. BERNO ODO POLZER: In other words, we could state that festivals cannot not think. By making a festival, you offer statements, even if you don’t want to. DANIEL BLANGA-GUBBAY: I’m more and more interested in the outcome, and how to rethink the productivity of it. The risk is that when uncertainty becomes a space of consensus, it’s not productive anymore. LIVIA ANDREA PIAZZA: There has to be production, because if you only focus on potentiality there will be endless reproduction. If you only raise questions and leave answers open, the space for incremental change is so big that there is no space for the radical one. BERNO ODO POLZER: We might then think about the way of answering, the mode of production and not the product. Festivals are empty forms: which answers can an empty form provide? DANIEL BLANGA-GUBBAY: The Piattaforma della danza balinese in Santarcangelo,6 for example, was an answer in terms of the form itself, and it raised questions in terms of its contents. BERNO ODO POLZER: In Thinking Together, the point was exactly how the festival could shape a form and a content at the same time. Or, in other words: what is the specific thinking of a festival? Does a festival provide a different economy of attention? A bigger diversity of participating entities? The possibility to be exposed to different objects and procedures? In the end, perhaps festivals produce a visibility of thought. LIVIA ANDREA PIAZZA: And if they are becoming more and more places for theory, they should rather be places for thinking. DANIEL BLANGA-GUBBAY: It’s a kind of latency: something that is invisible and yet there, something that is not happening and that’s still happening anyway. SILVIA BOTTIROLI is a curator, researcher, and educator, and holds a PhD in contemporary performing arts from Pisa University. She taught at Bocconi University in Milan and IUAV University in Venice from 2011, and in 2018



was appointed Artistic Director for the master program for theater makers and curators at the DAS Theatre of the Academy of Theatre and Dance, Amsterdam University of the Arts. She was Artistic Director of Santarcangelo Festival in Italy from 2012 to 2016. JUDITH BLANKENBERG works as a programmer for Grand Futura and Noorderzon Performing Arts Festival in Groningen. Until March 2016, she curated Festival De Keuze in Rotterdam. DANIEL BLANGA-GUBBAY is a Brussels-based researcher. He teaches at the Royal Art Academy, coordinating the Arts and Choreography department, works as programmer for the Kunstenfestivaldesarts in Brussels, and is the initiator of Aleppo. LIVIA ANDREA PIAZZA is a researcher and practitioner in the field of performing arts. She engages in collective research within Aleppo and Critical Practice Made in YU. BERNO ODO POLZER is a curator, dramaturge, and researcher in the fields of contemporary music, sound-related art, and performance, and the artistic director of MaerzMusik / Berliner Festspiele in Berlin.

NOT E S This transcribed discussion was originally printed in a modified form in an in-house soft cover publication: Bottiroli, S., and G. Polenta, eds. 2015. How to Build a Manifesto for the Future of a Festival. Santarcangelo, Italy: Santarcangelo dei Teatri & Maggioli Editore. 1. Curated by Berno Odo Polzer in Darmstad in summer 2014, Thinking Together was a transdisciplinary platform devoted to investigating our relation to time, understood as an important political category that determines the ways we live, work, and produce. The project pursued diagnoses of current time regimes, time structures, and the experience of time in late capitalist societies, from political, scientific, philosophical, and artistic perspectives, in search of new political imaginaries concerning our relation to time. The nine-day format consisted of informal seminars, lecture-performances, presentations, discussions, work groups, film screenings, listening sessions, and other experimental discursive formats. 2. At the end of September 2014, The Art of Being Many gathered in Hamburg artists, activists, researchers, and participants from all over Europe and beyond for an assembly of assemblies. Sharing experiences from real-democracy movements and artistic experimentation they wanted to explore new ways of coming together: collective insights into the materiality, the timing, the agenda, the desires, and the catastrophes of being many. Building an assembly hall and a camp, it became a laboratory in and of itself: a collective of friends and strangers with many voices and bodies including those of ghosts and things. 3. Truth is Concrete was a week-long round-the-clock marathon camp curated by Florian Malzacher in the frame of the Steirischer Herbst Festival in Graz, in September 2012. For 170



hours, more than three hundred artists, activists, theorists, young professionals, and students lecture, perform, play, produce, discuss, and collect useful strategies and tactics in art and politics. The marathon was a platform, a toolbox as well as a performative statement. It was a machine that ran nonstop, and was surrounded by a camp-like living and working environment, a social space with its own needs and timings. Truth Is Concrete created a one-week community, mixing day and night, developing its own jet lag toward the outside world—at the same time being open and free for everybody to join. 4. Audio Guide is a project made by the visual artist and performer Cristian Chironi in local markets. With the artistic tool of the audio guide, the artist leads the audience during a tour, creating a kind of diffused museum that unsettles the market features by short-circuiting images and sounds and displacing them elsewhere. 5. Julian Pörksen. 2013. Verschwende deine Zeit. Berlin: Alexander Verlag. 6. Organized in the frame of the Santarcangelo Festival in 2014, the Piattaforma della danza balinese stemmed from a powerful doubt that questions belonging to the “here and now” and from a burning desire that launches itself “elsewhere.” Rather than an exotic picture or the evocation of another world, the Piattaforma della danza balinese was an unexpected climate change that affected the normal calendar of a festival by way of a concentration of choreographic objects and a series of parallel activities. The platform was curated by three artists—Michele Di Stefano, Fabrizio Favale and Cristina Rizzo—and the festival’s artistic director Silvia Bottiroli, that together activated an unprecedented form of presence and created, in addition, an actual place open every day of the festival with a various and rich program, an uninterrupted flow of dances, interviews, workshops, roundtables, impromptu performances, philatelic productions, cocktail preparations, and much more.

CH A P T E R 3 5

The Curatorial Gesture as a Decolonial Gesture ARNALDO RODRÍGUEZ BAGUÉ


he Foro Permanente de Performance (FPP) is a curatorial performance platform that I initiated as a thesis project at the beginning of my graduate studies in Cultural Management and Administration (2013–2015) at the Universidad de Puerto Rico, Recinto de Río Piedras (UPRrp). The FPP focuses on performance practice, thinking, documentation, and curating—inside and outside of the academic context—by generating transdisciplinary dialogues, collaborations, and productions between students and artist-professors. The platform is conceived from the artistic and intellectual lineage of the Woman and Gender Study Program’s (WGSP) academic and institutional context. The WGSP is a small academic program in the General Studies Faculty (GSF) composed of one coordinator, art historian Maruja Garcia Padilla, and a small interfaculty community of docents, artists, and students. Some of the WGSP docents are among Puerto Rico’s most compelling performance artists, such as experimental dancer and choreographer Viveca Vázquez, philosopher and performance artist Bernat Tort, and dance, theater, and performance artist Pepe Álvarez Colón. Through Foro Permanente de Performance’s first curatorial project Idea de Nexo, I argue how performance curating, when thought of as a decolonial gesture, can generate the conditions to destabilize Puerto Rican academia’s modern/colonial epistemological order—articulated through the island’s historical colonial and political condition as a non-incorporated territory under the rule of the United States—by producing an alternative cultural space for performance-based knowledge production in its academic context.



IDEA DE NEXO (2014) Idea de Nexo was a two-day performance program that took place in the General Studies Faculty’s lobby and in one of the Humanities Faculty’s classrooms. With these performance programs we intended, through its process, to make visible the university’s modern/colonial epistemic, marketable academic canons and cultural policies that “establish a frontier between useful and useless knowledge, between doxa and episteme, and between legitimized and unlegitimized knowledge” (Castro Gomez 2007: 82). The main intention of Idea de Nexo was to map UPRrp’s performance practice courses, offer a diverse performance program at the General Studies Faculty for all student communities, generate alternative cultural and pedagogical processes as intervention, and also as an expansion of the current performance practice within the curriculum. The nexus was a convergence of three courses: WGSP’s Gender and Performance taught by experimental dancer and choreographer Viveca Vázquez, the Fine Art Department’s Ephemeral Art taught by visual artist Migdalia Barens, and the Interdisciplinary Studies Program’s Performance Poises taught by dancer, and theater and performance artist Pepe Álvarez Colón. These three courses are directly related to body, space, time, and experience, but with distinct idiosyncratic practices and theoretical perspectives in regards to performance practice. Viveca Vázquez recently celebrated her thirty-year career in a retrospective exhibition titled Choreography of Error: CONDUCT (2013) at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico. Choreography of Error is her conceptual approach to experimental dance turned pedagogical process, and consisting of body awareness, movement invention, and dance improvisation through the theoretical lenses of Gender and Performance Studies. Vázquez’s performance approach to the WGSP makes the body, through practice, a stage for gender, racial, class, national, and colonial discourse, and underlines Foro Permanente de Performance’s curatorial practice. Migdalia Barens is a visual artist whose pedagogical performance process is sourced from improvising conceptual structures. Pepe Álvarez Colón, one of Vázquez’s dancers and now colleague, understands the body as an artistic and pedagogical tool for performance practice. His practice lies within the intersections of improvisation, post-dramatic theater, performance, and live arts. For Álvarez, the term “poises” drives his artistic and scholarly ventures within the binomial concept pensamiento-creación, a reference to ways of doing and to embodied knowledge. From their respective artistic lineages, each professor offered different approaches to improvisation within the pedagogical process as a means to arrive at conceptual ends. To generate an effective collaboration with the artist-professors and their students, I offered to document their semester-long performance practices and digitally archive them. As the semester progressed, the video documentation



was posted on Foro Permanente de Performance’s digital archive of Idea de Nexo. The students from one course could see the development of the performance practices of another course through the documentation. This led to the expansion of the student’s experiences of the performance courses. Some students from Ephemeral Art began attending and accompanying the Performance Poises course, and vice versa, and are currently collaborating in other projects outside of the UPRrp course load. This documentation work of a pedagogical performance process also became a way to curate performance digitally. On 13 May 2014, Vazquez and Álvarez’s students presented their collective performances. Vazquez’s focused on how the individual and the collective body are engendered within the spatial dramaturgy of her classroom. The audience entered the empty classroom where one of the performing students indicated on which side of the room the audience was to sit. Álvarez’s collective performance used the General Studies Faculty’s lobby architecture to compose a site-specific dramaturgy from which to propose to the audience where and when to move as the performance occurred. By contrast, on May 14, Barens’ Ephemeral Art course was an improvisatory dialogue and an appropriation of the lobby’s architectural space. Two hours before the collective performance started, each student picked the space in which they were going to perform their individual time-based performance actions. Idea de Nexo’s curatorial approach focused upon the professor’s pedagogical process and its interactions between improvisation and spatial specificity.

Figure 35.1. Performance during Idea de Nexo in the General Studies Faculty’s lobby, 13 May 2014. (Photo by Migdalia Barrens, © 2014.)



CURATING PERFORMANCE AS A DECOLONIAL GESTURE When the GSF was restructuring its curriculum in 1999, the then WSGP coordinator, feminist theorist, and writer Mara Negrón, invited Jacques Derrida to present a lecture titled “The Future of the Profession or the University without Condition (Thanks to the ‘Humanities,’ What Could Take Place Tomorrow).” Accessible to students, copies of the lecture publication remain at the WGSP’s Reading Seminar made Derrida’s “university without condition” and “event” ideas into conceptual tools for students to critically reimagine the university from a gender perspective. As a cultural management graduate student working in the Women and Gender Studies Program, I explored Peruvian scholar Victor Vich’s notion of the gestor cultural (cultural manager), which operates from the triple agency of the curator-researcher-activist to curate a performance platform (2007). With two apparently contradictory concepts in the platform’s name—performance and permanence—I had to ask myself how can Idea de Nexo think and act ephemerally through performance’s bodily practices in order to rethink the General Studies Faculty academic context’s epistemic “permanent” structures. As a performance documenter and a student in Migdalia Barens’ Ephemeral Art course, I performed Idea de Nexo’s curatorial statement titled As if: Como si (2014). And so, I walked around the General Studies Faculty’s lobby with a microphone hooked up to a rolling speaker, randomly reading fragments from Derrida’s The Future of the Profession or the University without Condition (Derrida 2009). While performing, I approached “the audience” by putting the book and the microphone in their hands. Sometimes they read one sentence or two pages. Everyone who read Derrida reacted in different ways. Some asked questions afterwards about what they had just read. Some readers had an understanding of the text and kept reading. It seemed to depend on the random starting point of their reading, as well as their own interest level and/or my interaction with them. A couple of people recognized Derrida’s book and gave the book back to me so I could continue As if: Como si’s “profession of faith” to “open and publicly declare and commit oneself, in a sworn act of faith, to produce, [to curate,] and profess [bodily and practice-based] knowledge” (Derrida 2009: 34). Following Santiago Castro Gómez’s proposal to decolonize the Latin American university as a knowledge-producing institution in Decolonizar la universidad: La hybris del punto cero (2007), Idea de Nexo and As if: Como si favors an transdisciplinary and transcultural space for the experimentation of knowledge production of performative forms produced through Caribbean performance practice genealogies. The temporal production of this space is a “delinking” from the colonial gaze of the General Studies Faculty’s pedagogical-institutional context. These local bodily and practice-based knowledges are considered “epistemic [geopolitical] obstacles” and excluded from the “modern epistemic



maps” in the academic’s “merchant logic of cognitive capitalism” of the General Studies Faculty. They are a means to go against the grain and to temporarily displace Puerto Rican academia’s engagement with a “logic that goes beyond binary pairs (“mind/body, subject/object, matter/spirit, [theory-practice], reason/sensation”) that mark the formation of Occidental modernist thought (Castro Gomez 2007: 89–90). Thinking about curating, documenting and archiving performance through Derrida’s notion of event is a way to produce an alternative cultural space for experimentation in the production of bodily and situated knowledge production. Curatorial thinking that makes the impossible possible and/or the possible impossible as a processual and contextual epistemic interrogation does the work of a decolonial gesture—through a multitude of singular oeuvres that “abandon” themselves to [improvisation], to the arbitrary, to dreams, to imagination, to hypothesis (Derrida 2000: 34). The opening of this “event”—a generating platform—through the engagement with the overwhelming force of local performance genealogy, generates transdisciplinary collaborations between students and artist-professors. This ephemeral, improvisatory, and collaborative event is a possible way to start decolonizing the university’s modern-colonial epistemic order. In doing so, this event also makes visible those same artist-professors whose performance practices, while constituting the island’s historic and current experimental and political panorama, are also invisible in the art archives of the university’s library’s modern, disciplinary, and alphabetic logic. These artist-professors are continually marginalized and/or excluded from the island’s academia. This “event” generates their work with students in ways that are not as easy for academia to ignore. ARNALDO RODRÍGUEZ BAGUÉ is an interdisciplinary artist and curator from San Juan, Puerto Rico, who engages with gestating cultural processes and curating performance in an academic context. He received his MA in Cultural Management and Administration from the University of Puerto Rico, Recinto de Río Piedras, where he trained in visual anthropology and art practices. He was the curator for Foro Permanente de Performance and now lives in Chicago, Illinois.

NOT E I would like to acknowledge the generosity of Dena Davida and Jane Gabriels, and their heartfelt support to open a space for me in this book project. I also want to thank the Women and Gender Studies Program’s coordinator Maruja Garcia Padilla for her unconditional support, as well as my collaborators, mentors, and friends, the artist-professors Viveca Vázquez, Pepe Álvarez Colón,



and Migdalia Barens. I’m especially grateful to the undergraduate students from whom I learned so much.

R EF E R E NC E S Castro Gomez, S. 2007. “Decolonizar la universidad: La hybris del punto cero.” In El giro decolonial: Reflexiones para una diversidad epistémica más allá del capitalismo global, ed. S. CastroGómez and R. Grosfoguel, 79–92. Bogotá, Col.: Universidad Javeriana y Siglo del Hombre Editores. Derrida, J. 2002. El futuro de la profesión o Universidad sin condición. Madrid: Editorial Trotta. Vich, V. 2011. “ Desculturalizar la cultura. Retos actuales de las políticas culturales.” Gestioncultural IPR. San Juan, Puerto Rico. 4 May.


Proposing Intervals— Curating as Choreography Gabriele Brandstetter

An open question, which always has to be raised—and answered—is whether one may regard curatorial practice as the opening of a space and a situation in which something can happen: a roomful of possibilities or the creation of “contact zones.” Might it take us a step forward if we were to switch viewpoints? If we were to switch the emphasis by adopting proposing intervals that shed new light on the time-space structures? Depending on the individual case, the conditions and framework might be found that would enable a curatorial practice to be acceptable as a gift. By this I mean the term curare in its double and ambivalent meanings: one is curare, from the Latin, referring to one of the oldest cultural practices. This means, in a broad context, “caring for,” a tending, a “cultivation” of the environment, and often also the control of operations including the power associated with them. This dimension of “doing” refers to action based on a relationality in curatorial matters—economic, political, aesthetic, ethical, and environmental. The other, almost opposite meaning of curare is—owing to a false etymology—“gift” in its German meaning of poison! Curare is the collective term for a vegetable poison (used mainly on arrows used in hunting). Its effect is fatal, causing muscular paralysis. In medicine the active agent of curare has been used in small doses for therapeutic purposes. So we have curare as present and curare as poison. Could we not benefit from looking at the double meaning of curare in this way, at the practice and reflections of those at whom the curatorial is aimed? May we expect a homeopathic dose of a “gift” (a gift of “poison”) that attacks fixed patterns of perception and thought, shakes up political and economic struc-



tures, and causes today’s wait-and-see attitudes to be transformed by something whose nature is as yet unknown?

GABRIELE BRANDSTETTER is Professor of Theatre and Dance Studies at Freie Universität Berlin and since 2008 co-director of the International Research Centre “Interweaving Performance Cultures.” Her research and publications focus on the history and aesthetics of dance from the eighteenth century until today, theater and dance of the avant-garde; contemporary theater and dance, performance, theatricality, and gender differences; and concepts of body, movement, and image.

CH A P T E R 3 6

Are You Not Entertained? Curating Performance within the Institution RIE HOVMANN RASMUSSEN


n this chapter I will address the role of performance in relation to exhibition programs in art institutions. Despite the fact there are critical discussions among theorists, artists, and curators on how performances are being presented within art institutions, there is a lack of in-depth debate on the effect curatorial and institutional strategies have on, for instance, the type of performances presented and the kind of audience engagement it produces. I will, through the concept of “New Institutionalism,” discuss how the development of art institutions has influenced performance, as it has gained significance over the past two decades. Though I will mainly address art institutions in Europe, I acknowledge that the institutional landscape differs in each country due to local economic and political situations and that this discussion also has a role outside a European geopolitical landscape. NEW INSTITUTIONALISM

Swedish theorist and curator, Jonas Ekeberg, introduced the term New Institutionalism in 2003 in the first issue of Verksted published by the Office of Contemporary Art Norway. The term already existed within the social sciences as a way to describe a renewed trust in the effectiveness of institutions after World War II, but Ekeberg wanted to give the term new meaning and instead used it to refer to an experimental art institution (Kolb and Flückiger 2014: 20).1 Ekeberg tried to identify the curatorial, educational and artistic practices in the late 1990s and early 2000s that had changed the way art institutions operate. The concept followed the rise of the independent curator in the 1990s,



who introduced unorthodox curatorial practices as they themselves entered the institutions (Doherty 2004:3). This curatorial development within art institutions initiated criticism and debate of the institution itself, critically engaging with not only the content of the exhibitions, but also communication and its form (Ekeberg 2003: 13). With this development, institutional critique as we know it from the 1970s up to the 1990s—with artists such as Andrea Fraser, Fred Wilson, and Hans Haacke—was internalized by the institutions. The art institution now functioned as a place for production, critical debates, and dialogue as well as a site for research. Within this structure, the exhibition program was expanded in order to focus on dialogue and participation, allowing a proliferation of projects and events—such as artists in residence, talks, workshops, publications, and performances (Ekeberg 2003: 11). To give some examples of New Institutionalism, Ekeberg pointed toward the work at the Rooseum Center for Contemporary Art in Malmö with Charles Esche as director in the early 2000s and Palais de Tokyo in Paris with initiatives by Nicolas Bourriaud and Jérome Sans. Here these director-curators experimented with the role of the institution in parallel to an experimental contemporary art practice (Ekeberg 2003: 9–10). With budget cuts following the economic crisis in 2008, the situation for art institutions changed along with its structure; while some emerged to become bigger institutions, others simply closed.2 Additionally the lack of support for experimental institutional initiatives was also affected by the gradual turn toward neoliberal or populist cultural policies in Europe (Kolb and Flückiger 2014: 22). Despite connecting New Institutionalism with a specific historical situation around the millennium, many contemporary curatorial strategies still resonate and support these concepts in their exhibition programs at art institutions. Following the economic crisis we have additionally seen a corporate turn in these institutions that advocate increasing audience numbers, turning audiences into consumers, and where budgets dictate the exhibition programs of art institutions. Consequently, many institutions today navigate between critical and corporate strategies. This turn is most obviously seen in bigger institutions, but it is also becoming more and more common for smaller institutions, where expanding the exhibition program also serves the purpose of attracting larger audiences. In addition, there is a focus on showing temporal exhibitions and many events that makes the art institutions seem productive and consequently legitimize their existence to funders, policy makers and taxpayers (Dimitrakaki and Perry 2013: 10). PERFORMANCE WITHIN THE INSTITUTION With the slightly passive-aggressive title “Are You Not Entertained?,” my concern with the function of performance within today’s art institution can be no



secret. That art institutions are run as corporations have been emphasized as problematic on many occasions by theorists, curators, and artists stressing the possible effects it might have on various aspects of the art presented.3 With a rising number of different performances, from performance art to dance and music, presented within institutions, it seems relevant to look at the strategies behind the use of performance. Alongside this increasing interest, bigger institutions have instrumentalized performance into entire departments or specific dedicated spaces such as Tate Modern’s The Tanks: Art in Action. Of course, this interest in showing performance also emphasizes an effort to give value to actions, a value that has historically been assigned only to objects. What may be noticeable is the terminology sometimes used for programs that present performances. Jens Hoffmann uses the term “expanding programming” (2010), but other terms such as “additional program” or “event program” are also common. This terminology indicates that there is, outside the exhibition program, a place where these other programs happen. This may have the effect of still keeping performance at the outskirts of “real art” and allowing different values to be assigned to different types of artistic practices. This increased interest in presenting performances opens up the question: what kind of performance practices does this navigation between the desire to present performance and the need to comply with corporate strategies encourage? No doubt there are many performances that may comply with these structures, but it is noticeable that despite a great interest in curatorial discourse and institutional critique when it comes to exhibitions, communications and formats, there seems to be very few critical discussions on the role and curating of performance within art institutions. In spring 2012, I worked together with the staff and the newly appointed artistic directors at Kunsthal Aarhus in Denmark on the artistic program Systemic Series (2013–2014). Despite the fact that the term New Institutionalism was never directly addressed nor denied, it is clear that in many ways the institution was echoing the institutional ideas of the late 1990s and early 2000s, as described by Jonas Ekeberg. The program not only sought to change the previous ways of exhibiting at the institution, but also tried to rethink it as a place for transdiciplinary and critical practices encouraging exchange and participation. Likewise the program focused on transparency and criticality, not only as a part of the artistic practice, but also as a reflection within the curatorial work and the institution itself. In Systemic Series, performance played a significant role as it served to broaden the span of artistic practices, activate the exhibitions, allow artists to become more accessible to audiences, as well as function as an attraction to the program and the institution. Performances were also discussed in terms of exclusiveness and spectacle to emphasize how the institution itself can perform.



One of the more popular ways to include performance in the exhibition program is to present performances at opening nights of new exhibitions. This curatorial strategy is chosen because it might serve the purpose of securing audiences and/or larger audiences for the performance, but the structure of the opening entails a specific kind of audience engagement. Openings of exhibitions are first of all where the audience is invited to view the exhibition for the first time. However often it also serves as a social and networking event for artists, art professionals and the institution as such, where the exhibition itself becomes as an environment, which enables this specific kind of professional exchange. Performances presented within this environment therefore serve as a slight interruption. Only some performances are suited for this kind of environment, which is determined by the structure of the performance and how it can comply with the format of the opening. Often the length of a performance is a constraint. The work presented must allow audiences to return to their conversations within a reasonable time. The audiences then experience only those performances that are not too disruptive, and which may be seen as more of a form of entertainment. At the conference Is the Living Body the Last Thing Alive? The New Performance Turn: Its Histories and Its Institutions held at Para Site in Hong Kong in April 2014, the importance of the living body in the institutional space was emphasized and referred to as “the performance turn,” echoing previous acknowledgements of change in contemporary art discourses like the curatorial turn and the educational turn. Here the cultural critic and theorist Boris Buden discussed how this performance turn is linked to a focus on event economy that positions performance as the producer of a memorable product for the audience (2014). It is worth questioning which type of artistic value this position might assign performance practices, when it becomes a means of attracting and satisfying audiences at openings. Furthermore, using performance to serve audiences places the audience on the other side of a form of commercial transaction. At its worst, this could alienate the audience from having a critical perspective of performance practices (Proctor 2013: 56–57). Performances are of course not only shown at openings; it is also common among many art institutions to present them during specific event nights, at conferences or talks, or as a part of residencies and workshops. This allows for more diverse performance practices to be presented. One of the tendencies in presenting performance practices that may be seen as encouraged by institutions today, are delegated performances, as described by curator and researcher Claire Bishop. The term identifies performance practices where nonprofessionals or specialists in other fields are hired to present the work to the public, but differ from theater and cinema tradition by hiring performers to act on behalf of the artist (Bishop 2012: 219). It is a practice that perhaps should also be seen in relation to the increasing interest in dance and



choreography within the art institution. One of the most well-known for this practice in the contemporary art scene today is Tino Sehgal, whose work has been shown in many art institutions and biennales, like Tate Modern in London, Kunstverein Hamburg, Magasin 3 in Stockholm and at Venice Biennale and Documenta 13 in Kassel. Likewise renowned artists such as Tania Bruguera, Martin Creed, and Spartacus Chetwynd have also presented what could be referred to as delegated performances. Their reliance on a collective body, and no longer only on the body of the artist, affords delegated performances the advantage of being able to be repeated. This may have had the effect of accelerating the institutionalism of performance and may furthermore have facilitated its collectability (Bishop 2012: 224). These strategies may be more desirable for curators and institutions as a way to attract audiences by promising the spectacle and “presentness” of the performance. Nevertheless it is important to note that this collectability and possible repetitiveness of these types of performance practices also plays a role in attempting to give value to performances on the same level as object-oriented practices. It can allow for performance to stretch over a longer period that may be as long as the exhibition itself. This can serve as a way to integrate performance into the core program. With the current interest in presenting performances there seems to be a move away from relying only on video and photographs for the documentation of performances, which may give way to boredom, passivity, and a sense of absence. Performances that can be in some way repeated seem to be of specific interest and have affected the way performances are viewed within art institutions. Here artists are often encouraged to perform their own work on several occasions. These kinds of works are not to be confused with reenactments that were popular around the early 2000s, which critically explored memory and how performance is inserted within art history. Rather, these performances, where the same work is presented several times for different audiences and in a different institutional setting, does not explore their past presentation, but are rather presented as a singular event, repeated. An example of such work is when Joan Jonas performed Reanimation at Performa in New York, Documenta 13 in Kassel, and Bildmuseet in Umeå, Sweden. WE, THE INSTITUTION The popularity of performance is not only seen within well-established art institutions, but there is also an increasing number of alternative art spaces and events now dedicated to the presentation of performance. Some of these alternative initiatives critically explore new ways of working with performance that



differ from that of the art institutions. In their attempt to think differently about their work with performance, they also highlight some of the problems with the current presentation of performance. At the performance space Lilith Performance Studio in Malmö, Sweden, they dedicate a significant amount of time and space to the production of only a few performances. This stands in contrast to the often lack of production time for performances at art institutions, where exhibition programs are packed with lots of events including performances. What might be interesting with these alternative spaces is how they dare to consider breaking with the current privatization and corporate strategies and their effects on the role of performance. Their work echoes in many ways the plea made by curator and lecturer Nina Möntmann to art institutions in her essay “The Rise and Fall of New Institutionalism” to orientate themselves toward other “areas besides the corporative business of globalized capitalism” (Möntmann 2009: 157). Regardless of my concern with the function of performance within art institutions, I am far from ready to reject the art institutions as a place for exploring performance. Rather I would say that the responsibility is on all of us to think differently about the presentation of performance, as Andrea Fraser states: “It is not a question of being against the institution: We are the institution. It’s a question of what kind of institution we are, what kind of values we institutionalize, what forms of practice we reward, and what kind of rewards we aspire to” (Fraser 2005: 105). RIE HOVMANN RASMUSSEN is a curator, writer, and critic based in Copenhagen. In January 2017, Rasmussen co-founded the exhibition space meter in Copenhagen. She previously worked as a curator for the artist-run space NLHspace and Kunsthal Aarhus. As a part of her curatorial research she attended the international curatorial course CuratorLab at Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm. She has an MA in Contemporary Art Theory from Goldsmiths and a BA in Art History from Copenhagen University.

NOT E S 1. Other terms were introduced as well to indicate this development of art institutions: Charles Esche suggested “Institutional Experimentalism” and Jorge Ribalta suggested “Relational Institutionalism” (Kolb and Flückiger 2014: 20). 2. For example, the Rooseum Center for Contemporary Art became a branch of the expanding Moderna Museet in Stockholm, while Museum of Contemporary Art in Olso emerged with other national museums in Oslo under the national Museum of Contemporary Art, Architecture and Design.



3. Among the critics are artist Hito Steyerl, curator and critic Nina Möntmann, and curator and researcher Claire Dohert.

R EF E R E NC E S Bishop, C. 2012. Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship. London: Verso. Buden, B. 2014. Is the Living Body the Last Thing Alive? The New Performance Turn: Its Histories and Its Institutions. Para Site International Conference, Admiralty, Hong Kong, 3–5 April 2014. Dimitrakaki, A., and L. Perry. 2013. “How to Be Seen: An Introduction to Feminist Politics, Exhibition Cultures and Cultural Transgressions.” In Politics in a Glass Case: Feminism, Exhibition Cultures and Curatorial Transgressions, ed. A. Dimitrakaki and L. Perry, 1–21. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. Doherty, C. 2004. “The Institution Is Dead! Long Live the Institution! Contemporary Art and New Institutionalism.” Engage 15: Art of Encounter 10(2): 6–13. Ekeberg, J., ed. 2003. Verksted #1: New Institutionalism. Oslo: Office of Contemporary Art. Fraser, A. 2005. “From the Critique of Institutions to an Institution of Critique.” Artforum 44(7): 278–85. Hoffmann, J. 2010. “A Plea for Exhibitions.” Mousse Magazine 24. Retrieved 3 March d2014 from Kolb, L., and G. Flückiger. 2014. “‘The Term Was Snapped Out of the Air’: Interview with Jonas Ekeberg.” On Curating: (New) Institutionalism 7(1): 20–23. Möntmann, N. 2009. “The Rise and Fall of New Institutionalism: Perspectives on a Possible Future.” In Art and Contemporary Critical Practice, ed. G. Raunig and G. Ray, 155–159. London: MayFlyBook. Proctor, N. 2013. “Feminism, Participation and Matrixial Encounters: Towards a Radical, Sustainable Museum (Practice).” In Politics in a Glass Case: Feminism, Exhibition Cultures And Curatorial Transgressions, ed. A. Dimitrakaki and L. Perry, 48–65. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

CH A P T E R 3 7

Bodies in Museums Institutional Practices and Politics VÉRONIQUE HUDON WITH BORIS CHARMATZ


t was in 2009 that Boris Charmatz created Le Musée de la danse (Centre chorégraphique national de Rennes et de Bretagne in France), which is devoted to dance with a conceptual and popular approach. Distancing itself from a traditional concept of the museum and art history, the Musée de la danse exerts a certain critique of the place of museums, which have historically been more attentive to artistic objects (in the visual arts/spatial arts) than those that are embodied (live arts/time-based arts). As director of the Musée de la danse, Charmatz began the interview by discussing what is at stake in contemporary dance in order to question the inclusion of this artistic practice within the museum context, while demonstrating its transformative power inside the institution. VÉRONIQUE HUDON: What do you believe is the necessity and the critical potential of bringing dancing into museums? To what extent does this initiative challenge a history of traditional art and so participate in a rewriting of this history? BORIS CHARMATZ: When I took my first classes in art history, I understood only a little later that in this art and this history, neither music, nor dance nor theater were included. Inversely, I didn’t understand why dance history in France never mentioned, among others, performances of artists from the 1960s and 1970s and their challenges. And this is without speaking of adopting an expanded vision of what “dance” was within modernity and which was only glanced at obliquely: from Charlie Chaplin to Aernout Mik, from Raoul Hauseman to Esther Ferrer or Mike Kelly.



It’s not only about the principles which aim to widen this or the other canon. I had an actual, extremely PHYSICAL sensation when seeing to what extent the poetic and sound experiences of Kurt Schwitters were largely minimized. And I sincerely believe that the Vienna actionists were part of the history of dance, whether we admire or hate them. I have had the very specific sense that it was only after recognizing a dance practice, one that was socially, historically and economically underestimated, that it would be possible to reinvent something for art. However, the Musée de la danse wasn’t founded in order to bring dance into museums, but to invent a new kind of public space through, and for, dance. I had the impression that educational and theatrical institutions were not sufficient venues for presenting dance in all of its complexity. The theoretical dimensions were having difficulty in finding their place in these kinds of venues. The idea of a musée de la danse allowed for a renewal of the terms of reference for a collection, a museum, of dissemination, and so a renewal of art itself. The Musée de la danse proposed the idea of an “expanded” dance (une danse élargie), one which could be read, thought, discussed, and experienced in a complex manner, which was exhibited and also inhabited by visitors. Nevertheless, we are a micromuseum. If we are “proud” of having produced the first monographic exhibition of Jérôme Bel,1 invited Yvonne Rainer to Rennes, or proposed the first exhibition of a war dance, we don’t have the pretention of remaking history. At best, we make history through experimental projects that permit us, in a certain way, to improvise a museum rather than simply execute its predefined function. Rather than simply respond to invitations from contemporary art museums that were open to dance, it seemed more urgent to invent our own institution, which would then have the power to enter into dialogue with these museums. The Musée de la danse doesn’t try to conform to the rules and to the habitus of these museums, but rather proposes to them that they change. VÉRONIQUE HUDON: To what extent does the Musée de la danse subscribe to the projects that were proposed by conceptual artists in the 1960s and 1970s and their political contestations—institutional critique, questioning the predominance of visuality, determination to escape the merchandising of art—and to what measure does it dissociate or distance itself from them, if this is the case? Also, in what way are these ideas linked to, and so participate in dance history, and to the practices of certain choreographers? BORIS CHARMATZ: I’m not a historian. But I adore, for example, integrating dances from the 1930s with those of Steve Paxton and Jennifer Lacey or Xavier Le Roy (in his project Ouvrée, artistes en alpage 2000). For example, I believe that one shouldn’t get fixated on the art from the 1960s and 1970s without understanding that improvisation, a certain minimalism, or indeed a rapport



with politics, had already been proposed by artists from the beginning of the last century. This example is emblematic: certain artists from the 1960s and the 1990s are coming together to “rediscover” choreographic scores from the beginning of the twentieth century. In a framework of the so-called natural, the alpages, we are improvising a project which is linked to the “here and now” with a strong research question and historical context. The first time I improvised with Steve Paxton, I pulled him by the t-shirt and walked on top of him from his head to his toes. It was a sign that art today cannot be imagined without him, but also that the confrontation was probably worth more than disciplined admiration . . . without mentioning the principal sign: that he was sufficiently free to “let go,” to take a risk and to try something new. I like to imagine the 1960s and 1970s as years filled with contrast: in many ways, the choices of Yvonne Rainer were in opposition to those of Simone Forti (temporary physical retreat and conceptual fight against never-ending improvisations completely embodied and subjective). In that historic moment that seemed to us so much in unison, there were opposing directions. For my generation, for whom the work began at the beginning of the 1990s, recalling the 1960s and 1970s was particularly instrumental in refusing to see what our work had to do in the present. We would consequently provoke a rupture with the standards of an art of spectacle-for-spectacle that was so highly valued almost everywhere, but were also part of the critique that employed the idea of a “return to the 1960s” so that we could turn our attention away from what was happening (and not continue to promote those pompous choreographic objectives). Or more simply, let’s just say that we were accused of refusing dance “as it was” and of pulling away from reality to lock ourselves into culturalist visions. On the contrary, we were trying to affirm art history as completely being part of “reality,” and that the body was in fact a cultural construction, and in consequence it would be naïve to invent an art without involving the mind or the body within this construction. The Musée de la danse represents a place of passage between institutional critique and what I call experimental institutional construction. Institutional critique has embarked now on a movement of another nature, which is leading to the elaboration of new institutions, variously individual, fragile or invisible. In this sense, artists like Yvonne Rainer or Steve Paxton had a great deal of difficulty, in the beginning, understanding why it was NECESSARY to throw oneself into this adventure in the first place. They were constantly suspicious of musealization and institutionalization. With good reason! But it seems that the foundation of the Musée de la danse reponds to an urgent call to reappropriate and to invent: the museum which seeks to “conserve the past” is suddenly given the potential to reinvent its essence and the art which follows. There is one of these ruptures that I can name, and which appears within an era in which the largest collection of dances and is named Youtube. . . This being said, the



Musée de la danse isn’t positioned in opposition to these historic ideologies, rather the tendency is to include them! We are a genuine (micro-) museum in which historic ideas confront anguishing contemporary realities. VÉRONIQUE HUDON: The practice within the Musée de la danse is characterized by the large space given to discourse, itself linked to the actual experience of the dancers (and non-dancers) and of the visitors/spectators in the museum spaces. How do you explain this reversal between a museum devoted to the conservation of objects (and their collection) and the emergence of embodied practices by way of performance art and dance that paradoxically reactivate the discourse? What role is played by the notion of “experience” in the developments and approaches of the Musée de la danse? And in what way is this “experience” distinguished from that which is traditionally recommended with artistic objects in the context of a museum? BORIS CHARMATZ: I am quite moved by your formulation of the paradox in repositioning the place of discourse in museums by means of an art form that, on the contrary, has often been distinguished as non-discursive, and even non-intellectual. Dance and performance art bring together discourses that have traditionally taken place on the margins of the materiality of works, and within the very experience of art. Along with this, dance renders visible the work: dancers have bodies which reveal the work of other bodies, security guards, guides, technicians, visitors. It also establishes a principal of incertitude: one can never be completely certain about places and hierarchies, notably the trilogy author-work-visitor (because dancers can notably “be” several works of several authors, and even constitute their own mediation and carry on their own discourse). In the end, it carries concrete and sometimes healthy risks and dangers: the work can be unpredictable, the question of authenticity is displaced, the objects risk being damaged or masked by the presence of live artists. And of course, dance and performance art redefine what makes history, memory, rapport with past and present, and poses an outstanding question to the aesthetic and economic regime of the museum: is it possible to make a collection or a museology that is truly open to the conceptualism that is presented by the live arts? Discursiveness, the visibility of the work of the art work, the principle of incertitude, risk, the problematization of the history and the memory at work in museums, violà, these are some of the indications that the museum experience is in mutation. These mutations are the source of conflicts, as made visible with the brouillon2 project (in which a team of artists confront certain visual art objects which are continually moved around), or the exhibition Moments.3 All this being said, I think back to the text Alte Meister (Ancient masters) by Thomas Bernhard (1988): the museum then obtains an experience of solitude. Being



alone in front of immobile objects. The Musée de la danse doesn’t construct this possibility. In the face of fearing the death of live arts, the very first action of the Musée de la danse was to make a happening called “to strangle time” which supported the negative fantasy of a kind of Musée Grévin for dance! Dance doesn’t kill the immobility of art. It comes into the museum because, on the contrary, it is tormented by immobility, by what Jean-Luc Moulène called “the Fix.” VÉRONIQUE HUDON: In an interview that was published in Dance Research Journal (2014), you evoke the dancer as an “agent who serves art” in opposition to the fact that art works are often at the service of the artist. Further on in the interview you add, “I have the feeling that it is at once wide-ranging and precise that the physical and conceptual tools dance has developed in recent years can permanently modify art in the broad sense—if one considers dance, choreography, and performance in the broad sense.” Can you clarify this “sentiment” today and/or formulate a hypothesis concerning the developments, tools, or transformations that can bring the physical and/or corporeal work into the museum? Is it possible to put forward new knowledge and understandings that emerge from these practices? Is it possible to imagine that the “research” that springs from these practices will be able to modify institutional politics or contribute to modifying them? BORIS CHARMATZ: Dance and performance are mediums that can behave inside a museum in such a way as to modify their DNA and generate artistic spaces that are not already present. It seems to me that the most active museums can once again reorient themselves to opening their collections and museologies, reorient the very idea of what composes collecting and museology. The performative turn of museums permits a large number of unsatisfied artists, and certain intellectual and concrete options stemming from the theater world, to find grounds to expand: a new generation of choreographic artists is in the process of emerging and for whom the center of art, the public space, the museum, are part of their practice, their possibilities, their historical intelligence. The museum, above and beyond all discourses on the habitual and dogmatic spatial framework they offer (white cube, operating hours, type of visit), propose a strong intellectual tradition: publications, historical confrontations, attempts at intercultural assemblages. It’s this mental space that accompanies the new generation of artists. And it’s extremely exciting. VÉRONIQUE HUDON is a researcher, author, and curator of living arts; her place of intervention is between the stage and the book, the theater and the gallery, her work touches on the exhibition and the dramaturgy, writing and



performance. She is a PhD candidate in arts studies and practices at the Université du Québec à Montréal. Her research focuses on curation of the live arts, especially choreographic and performative exhibitions in museums. She currently collaborates with several periodicals in the arts field. BORIS CHARMATZ has been director of the Musée de la danse at the Centre Chorégraphique de Rennes et Bretagne since 2009, and is transforming the center into a new model for arts centers. He is one of France’s seminal conceptual choreographers of the “new wave” of the 1990s, widely toured and published. He is author of the monograph Je suis une école, a book of interviews with Jérôme Bel Emails 2009–2010, and a book series Entretiens with Isabelle Launay.

NOT E S 1. Jérôme Bel en 3 sec. 30 sec. 3 min. 30 min. 3 h, from 1–26 February, 2011 at the Musée de la Danse / St. Melaie, Rennes, and from 6–26 July 2011 at the École d’art, Festival d’Avignon in France. 2. brouillon, an exhibition in partnership with La Criée, centre d’art contemporain et Le Pavillon, laboratoire de création du Palais de Tokyo; 12–13 June 2010 at Le Garage in Rennes, France; and 23–24 February, 2013 at Argos in Bruxelles, Belgium, in partnership with the Kaaitheater’s Festival Performatik. 3. “Moments, a History of Performance in 10 acts.” From 8 March to 29 April 2012 ZKM, Karlsruhe. At the origin of this exhibition is the ten-minute film The Witness of Ruti Sela.

R EF E R E NC E S Bernhard, T. 1988. Maître anciens. Paris: Gallimard DRJ. 2014. “Interview with Boris Charmatz.” M. Franko and A. Lepecki, eds. “Dance in the Museum.” Special issue, Dance Research Journal 46(3): 49–52.


Curating History, Curating Resistance JAAMIL KOSOKO

People are trapped in history, and history is trapped in them. —J. Baldwin

My work as an artist and curator is deeply concerned with the point at which the past becomes clearer and rendered more real than the present. My practices are in constant dialogue with history. I want to conjure an investigation of physical, spiritual, and intellectual remembrance, using my investigation as a sociopolitical anchor to connect my vision and curatorial process to the viewer. This idea of interfacing the past with the present to reimagine the future is an explicit force within the psychic union shared between most (if not all) of my works in performance and visual installation. While much of the work I produce and put on stage is abstract, when collected together these pieces decode a narrative that is wild, spontaneous, sexy, absurd, and comical. I find myself searching for more diversity when looking at performance curation on the national and global scale. I see too few curators and producers of color working behind the scenes within larger institutions to organize and create the equity and inclusion we are in dire need of within the cultural sector. I look



forward to this no longer being an issue. I want to be able to meet with cultural institutions and see a mixture of demographics working on staff and as artists on stage. I imagine greater accountability for cultural venues to honor the fact that there is a social responsibility that comes with the power of being a presenting and/or exhibiting agency.

JAAMIL KOSOKO is a Nigerian American curator, producer, community organizer, and artist. He is a 2017 Princeton Arts Fellow and a 2017 Cave Canem Poetry Fellow. He lectures, speaks, and performs internationally.

REFERENCE Baldwin, J. 1998. Collected Essays. New York: Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., 119.

CH A P T E R 3 8

What Can Contemporary Art Perform? And Then Transgress? EMELIE CHHANGUR


f every molecule in our body is made of dying stars, new constellations are in constant formation. New clusters of individuals, affected by positions in relation to other reborn stars, appear every day. The unprecedented union of our bodies in movement—across time and space—can influence events yet-tohappen and bring new forms into the world. That is, if we are charged with enough of the right kind of energy. Ideas, after all, thrive in the motion of inbetween things; the movement of the in-between can cause seepages that dismantle the structures once set in place to limit the flow. For me, this notion of an in-between movement opening up new possibilities in static structures—for instance the art institution, to name just one—toward the promise of a not-yet-fixed future is a productively destabilizing position through which to envision what might constitute a choreographic methodology of the curatorial. For me, the choreographic is the practice of movement. To choreograph is to orchestrate the conditions that allow bodies to move unencumbered through time and space, and, depending on the score, to arrange or direct the conditions of that movement to produce a desired effect. A choreographic curatorial practice then is a practice-in-movement that has the potential to seamlessly evolve aesthetic frameworks into social encounters. It is a dialogical practice that is brought about through sustained relationships created through collaborative working networks that set in motion relations between different people, ideas, and spaces where the brokering of divergent viewpoints, perspectives, and forms of artistic production is a central part of the curatorial work undertaken. It is in these volatile spaces in-between relational moments that a choreography of the curatorial is set in motion.



To choreograph the curatorial is to mobilize those elements that encircle what has traditionally been considered the work of curators. But here the “putting together,” “the presentation of,” “the ephemeral moment,” “the spatial situated-ness,” and especially “the thinking through connections made by accident” are interstices; for me, they are a means, but not a curatorial end. My own curatorial research over the past decade has taken place in close collaboration with artists using residency-style situations that often blur binary or hierarchical distinctions between artist and curator, audience and participant, and contemporary art and pedagogy. I am interested in the ways in which non-artists can be active participants in the production of artwork as well as be catalysts for defining new possibilities and references for aesthetics through the creation of performative and participatory situations. Rather than making authoritative statements about themes, concepts, or art, my projects are often long-term, complex creations that result from intense working relationships with other people whereby the very process of making the project performs the ideas contained within it. That is, I learn from each unique situation and choreograph my curatorial approach from there. For me, the resulting form that a project might take is, by necessity, always connected to a set of interrelated activities that precede it. Today I want to put forth a kind of curatorial practice that requires one’s own movement; a movement that can take us beyond the traditional context of art and be moved by something that is not yet there while being sensitive to the subtle shifts and developments that guide participatory or socially engaged projects forward, staying open as they veer off into different, often unpredictable, directions and adapting to them. Take for example a three-year project I orchestrated with Panamanian artist Humberto Vélez for the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) titled The Awakening/ Giigozhkozimin in Ojibway. Giigozhkozimin brought together two divergent groups of individuals—members of the Mississaguas of the New Credit First Nation and a group of young Parkour athletes from the Greater Toronto Area in a collaborative performance that we staged at the Art Gallery of Ontario in May 2011. Through a series of gatherings, feasts, workshops, and organically developed skill-sharing sessions—which took place on the New Credit Reserve and at the Parkour Gym in downtown Toronto over the course of the three years of making The Awakening—the two groups slowly began to trust one another. Through working together to create a single project that we all had an equal stake in, we created a new kind of enabling through a real obligation to one another, even if it was, in the end, a performance. The many issues and obstacles that arose between the two groups as well as between them and the institution—the “real work” of “working through” this project—as well as the many negotiations, challenges, and barriers we crossed together along the way—were often the moments where new ideas emerged or became instances



that allowed for meaningful exchange to happen. Crises and contradictions created permeability in the project that let outside influences seep into the project’s development, creating as well the possibility of addressing the notion of cultural complexity itself as a subject and as a strategy. This way of working also forced the commissioning institution to follow the path of the project’s collaborators, to learn how to problem-solve differently rather than to impose a critical path of timelines and deadlines on the work being created. We had to learn other protocols than institutional ones. In this context, curatorial practice is not designed to further the disciplinary knowledge of contemporary art, but rather to engage in different historical, social, and culturally submerged practices, and to work in relation to them, making sure that local knowledge, cultural protocols, and ethics not only inform the shape the project takes, but also the future practices of the gallery itself and the ways in which the individuals inside it work. This is a form of institutional transformation I have come to refer to as “in-reach.” By incorporating different kinds of cultural and aesthetic influences, different forms of social organization and economies, and differing cultural contexts and forms of expression into the art institution as a curatorial methodology, “in-reach”—which of course is positioned as the reverse movement of traditional “top-down” practices of gallery “outreach”—is designed to transform the very nature and function of the institution from within, or from the bottom up. Or—in other words—to turn it inside-out from the outside-in. This is the social practice of curating that occurs in and through movement, a movement we initiate and then follow as a dynamic process of reciprocal relation. Responding to the specific needs of individual artists and learning from the individuals and groups with whom I have worked (and quite often with whom I continue to work)—in particular those not considered part of the “art frame”— begins, for instance, first and foremost by changing the way in which the institution functions in relation to its programming, in short, its “disciplinary management.” Taking on three-year projects means letting go of what has traditionally been a central goal of the contemporary art gallery: to produce exhibitions on a seasonal rotation with a three-week installation period followed by a static three-month exhibition where a public comes and views art on display. Incorporating new methodologies into the institution itself in order to change it from within takes time, and trust, and the commitment of the gallery staff, granting bodies, and administration (the institution) as well as the individuals and groups we seek to engage in the process of this transformation (the community), hoping that those same individuals and groups will continue to engage the institution in the future, only now on their terms and without binary opposition to/with one another. It means rethinking how the gallery views its own trajectory from a project-by-project timeline, to a seamless, ever-evolving entity where change is not always visible in spatial or representational terms.



Choreographing the curatorial means moving with the demands our projects instantiate and, through this, evolving our practices into new directions. Over the process of Giigozhkozimin, it was important to incorporate into the gallery the world-concepts, protocols, and processes that originate in Indigenous societies, as well as to adopt traditional modes of Indigenous decision-making, with the goal of arriving at consensus through discussions that involved careful listening, equal opportunities to speak and be heard. It was crucial. Through this we arrived at a hybridization of methodologies that met the particularities of the project’s needs without projecting onto the project’s processual nature incommensurable teaching and learning practices, not to mention art world expectations of what participatory art should be and do. In the end, this project was about how cultural traditions are enacted not just staged. Our ongoing negotiations over the three years of working together revealed that The Awakening’s significance lay in its process of becoming: both where we were going and, more importantly, how we were getting there. Acknowledging the differing forms of knowing that this process would take—from Indigenous to institutional to somatic—was a first step toward communicating with each other. Knowledge, in this context, was not what we already knew, for our frames of reference were so different from one another’s anyway, but how we came to know our differences and our similarities when confronted by the challenges presented by this project. These types of long-term projects are not easy and they are often very emotional, exhausting, and full of contradictions, conflicts, and power dynamics as they have at their core something far more important at stake than just making art. They are about brokering new forms of social relations between individuals and groups who have differing concepts of and relations to culture, power, and to the art institution itself. In the context of Giigozhkozimin, curating was a process through which the problems arising from the project could be inhabited and grappled; the problems actually were vehicles to access what lay beyond the boundaries, for instance, the suppressed, unacknowledged, uninvited, and uncomfortable feelings that came with collaboration across generations and cultures. It was my role to deal with these things head-on not as an obstacle, but an integral part of actual project. As a Canadian, I was already implicated in the issues this work was bringing to the foreground and entrenched within those boundaries that could kept us from moving forward. These boundaries—be they social, cultural, or economic—are not curatorial, they are systemic. In thinking through what might constitute a choreographic approach the curatorial, I want to think beyond curating in positional terms (i.e., power-relation terms). A choreographic form that engenders a curatorial act—that is, what brings things together in order to set things in motion through time and space—is what opens these “boundaries” and these static systems up



Figure 38.1. Humberto Vélez, The Awakening/Giigizhkozimin, 2009–2011. Performance documentation. A participatory collaboration between the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation and Parkour. Project commissioned by the Art Gallery of York University and curated by Emelie Chhangur. Performance staged at the Art Gallery of Ontario on 14 May 2011. Image courtesy of the artists and the Art Gallery of York University. (Photo by Len Grant, © 2011.)



to dynamic potentialities. The opening up may not always be generative but it is always productive, its impact sometimes manifesting itself much later than the time-space of the actual project because the curatorial act has set something in motion beyond our control. GIIGOZHKOZIMIN Faith Rivers, one of the members of the New Credit Cultural Committee, wrote to me in an email two days before the performance: I am very overwhelmed with all the involvement the team has had with our First Nation and I just have to say Chi Miigwetch which means a Big Thank You in Ojibway . . . . I can feel people and I get good feelings from everyone on your team, thanks for that. I know it is a lot of work for you and I can empathize, just don’t forget to breath . . . on Saturday we can give a huge sigh of relief and say yes! We did it!

Together, we had come a long way. On the morning of 14 May 2011 in New Credit, Len Grant—the photographer who was documenting the performance—headed out by taxi to the New Credit Reserve at 8 o’clock in the morning to document the Mississaugas’ journey to Toronto for the “big day.” When the Mississaugas arrived at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) we greeted them with tobacco ties made by the members of the AGO Youth Council. Behind the scenes was complete chaos. Parkour were helping smudge boys as they put on moccasins while the young Mississauga women braided the parkouristes’ hair. Some of the Elders were sewing and stitching, putting the final touches on the banner that had been made specifically for The Awakening. Around Walker Court, friends, family, and complete strangers gathered by the hundreds in anticipation of “Toronto’s civic ceremony.” The performance began with a procession outside and the simultaneous preparation of the altar inside Walker Court. At the front doors of the AGO, where Philip Cote (of the Tecumseh Collective) was blessing everyone with sweet grass, the gathering of fifty-plus Misssissaugas, Tecumseh family members, the two youth councils, First Nation Elders, gallery staff, and young Parkour athletes certainly was surreal. Curious onlookers took photographs of this unlikely charged “political” image of contemporary Canada coming together in a new association. Inside, an Indigenous Elder in full regalia, lighting a smudge pot, smoke rising upward in Walker Court, the smell of sweet grass filling the galleries, was an equally uncommon sensory and olfactory experience that disrupted the usual serenity of the AGO. Following the Fire Spirit dancer, the Chief of the Mississaugas carried the Sacred Eagle Staff, followed by a representative from each of the youth councils



carrying our banner. The Parkour, youth councils, Tecumseh family members, Mississauga dancers, and drummers maneuvered their way through the hall that snakes its way through the AGO lobby toward the Walker Court. With all the performers settled in position, a magical silence filled the space. Philip Cote, the Master of Ceremonies, his voice echoing Louis Riel’s famous quote through the galleries surrounding Walker Court, announced: My people will sleep for one hundred years but when they awake it will be the artists who give them their spirit back. This ceremony is our call for a new time. A time of understanding, respect, tolerance, unity, and imagination. We would like to light a new fire for the future, invoking the spirits of our ancestors.

Halfway through the performance the audience was called upon to help us reach out to the spirits. The entire room, in unison, repeated the word “awakening” four times in Ojibway, the Mississauagas’ mother tongue. Giigozhkozimin Giigozhkozimin Giigozhkozimin Giigozhkozimin Perched atop Frank Gehry’s massive snaking spiral staircase that towers over Walker Court, parkouristes Dan, Shawn, and Gerome catwalked up and down the wide ledges of the staircase, their movements becoming more frantic as energy built toward a climatic peak. The time had arrived: the eagle descended in one fell swoop from the staircase and joined the Mississauga dancers and the rest of the Parkour in celebration. The sprits had heard our call! Elder Garry Sault thanked the Parkour spirits by offering them tobacco. The spirits danced alongside the fire spirits. And then the Fancy Dancer and Grass Dancer entered the circle to join in celebration. After the performance, Elder Garry Sault explained what the Parkour’s role meant to him, “They typified the spirits that are around us in our everyday lives but people don’t pay attention to them. So by calling to them, they appeared . . . in full focus. We’re calling on the rest of humanity to come awake because that time is here.” At the end of the ceremony, the audience was invited to join the circle of drumming and dancing. Everyone poured into Walker Court, almost trampling one another in their enthusiasm to participate in this unique celebration. Indigenous youth taught strangers to powwow dance. Other Parkour in the audience back-flipped off high ledges. After about fifteen minutes, over a loudspeaker, AGO staff asked everyone to leave. But no one left. All the participants were so proud. Everyone was crying. The Awakening struck an important emotional chord with Torontonians.



It reminded them again of who we are as Canadians, a mix of so many different people, places, and traditions that are present across time as is marked by our current historical moment. Full of people from all different cultural backgrounds, ages, and abilities, dancing, drumming, and singing together that day, the spirit in Walker Court would never be the same. Before the Mississaugas boarded the bus to return to New Credit, one of the young Mississaugas gave Humberto a sacred eagle feather, the highest honor one can receive from First Nations. The Awakening had been for the people, not the institutions. For the Parkour, the art institution was no longer a nameless, faceless entity that was off limits. On behalf of all urban youth, they owned their presence at the official museum that day and felt validated by being allowed to be themselves there. “It was a really good opportunity,” Dan said after the performance was finished. “It was a bit scary going into it but after we got to know the Mississaugas, it was super positive. We’ve built a really good bond between us. It’s really opened my eyes about other people. When we first began, Humberto kept calling us artists, which I didn’t understand until right now.” Two days after the performance Dan text messaged me to say: “the [Parkour] group got together yesterday and I just wanted to say that we already miss the project—A LOT!” The Mississaugas were tired of always only belonging in the historical section of museums and being kept in the past by ethnographers and anthropologists. Chief Brian LaForme said, “The performance sends a message to the people of Toronto that we’re still here, our presence is still here, and we’re not going anywhere anytime soon. It’s great to see, you can feel the energy here— the place has been transformed by us.” Indeed, it was a historic event for everyone who attended that day, whether participant or audience. The Awakening restored the art gallery as a site for bridging communities and as a catalyst for defining national identities not as an authoritative representation but as an emergent moment. The Awakening was not only about the affective possibilities of participatory art, however. Nor was it solely about the participants’ experience during the process, or the audience’s reaction at the performance. As a “newcomer” to Toronto, on his very first site visit, Humberto said to me, “It’s a Canadian legacy for the future that we need to look into with this project.” To this day, the collaborators are still in communication with the AGYU and each other. And Humberto is one of my dearest friends. Projects like these change those involved and those who bear witness to them. They do not just end when the artist goes home: we continue to have an obligation toward one another. The enabling is the real purpose of these kinds of curatorial projects after all.



EMELIE CHHANGUR is an artist and award-winning curator, and writer based in Toronto where she works as the Interim Director/Curator at the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU). She is known for her process-based, participatory curatorial practice and the creation of long-term collaborative projects performatively staged within and outside the gallery context. Over the past decade, she has been committed to inventing ways to enact activisms from within an institutional framework, questioning the nature and social function of the contemporary art gallery through embedded criticality and new methods of what she has named gallery “in-reach.”


Situation Critical What Comes Next for the Field of Performance Curation? TOM SELLAR


an there be any doubt that the recently expanded role of performance curator may alter—or rescue—the live arts in the tumultuous new era now at hand? Institutions find themselves reevaluating their missions to meet social, economic, and political imperatives. Independent curators have launched inspired and nimble new hybrid platforms. Performance curation has also increasingly secured a place in academic research and teaching, with international conferences, four new masters-level programs, and publications allowing for the presentation of new ideas, documentation of projects, and the cultivation of a discourse that could bring together disparate sectors of performance and put theory and practice into productive interplay. It is an exciting series of developments. If we observe the last decade’s shifts in curatorial practice in the visual arts—as we need to—the precedent becomes hard to ignore. In that sector, the curator’s function has broadened and deepened far beyond mere authorial exhibition-maker or champion of individuals and movements (in the vein of Harald Szeemann and Walter Hopps), and certainly eclipses traditional notions of collection stewardship. As dematerialized contemporary art spins out into public and virtual spaces, so have those who facilitate, organize, imagine, and research its making and presentation. In her essay “Who Cares? Understanding the Role of the Curator Today,” Kate Fowle points out (deliberately echoing Rosalind Krauss’s 1979 essay in October arguing for an expanded definition of sculpture) that in today’s prevailing mode, art practices today work across media, in multiple phases bringing new temporalities, “extending their own spatial parameters into conceptual and virtual realms, as well as experimenting with the role of the public in the ‘completion’ of a project” (Fowle 2007).



Of course, this is already common practice in progressive theater, dance, and performance work, which no longer relies exclusively on some 8:00 PM presentation of a finished product for an audience’s consumption in a formal aesthetic forum. Performance routinely spills over into additional layers: months of artistic research and residence; public programs, activism, and participation; creative investigations of the community and architecture surrounding a given project, its makers, or its presentation. From the moment a founding generation of performance centers were established in Europe and elsewhere in the 1980s, boosted by the growth of an international, globalized network of festivals in the last twenty years, curators and artists have sought to confront and alter the values of those essential institutions. Many such projects are documented in this volume, so many of them striking breakthroughs, by people who have worked side by side with choreographers, directors, performers, and other makers to imagine, improvise, and experiment with new modes for live performance. Sometimes they call themselves “curators” and sometimes not. Some have set out to make projects happen and make documentation, archiving, and theorizing an afterthought. Others have immersed in layered and ambitious research with artists, growing individual projects and perhaps long-term platforms to accommodate their discoveries. It is important to acknowledge that artists themselves have led the charge, and in articulating the curator’s role, the primacy of the artist should not be forgotten. This volume offers many splendid examples of the artist-as-curator. Dancer and choreographer Boris Charmatz discusses (with Véronique Hudon) his controversial renaming of the Centre Choroegraphique National de Rennes et de Bretagne) to the Musée de la danse upon assuming direction of the institution, an experiment that instantly compelled a new space for dance, a redefined relationship with its public, and a reasserted connection with the intellectual discourse around the form. Others, such as Silvia Bottiroli and the Santarcangelo Festival, have sought to reimagine the parameters of the festival, building on a series of publication projects to challenge the public to help envision its future. The UK organization Forest Fringe (discussed here by Deborah Pearson) has taken over buildings for inventive and elastic microfestivals since 2010, small in scale but grand in community-making value—and a reproducible, continuously permutating model. Not everyone seeks to transform performance infrastructure from within the institution. Some curators have turned to organizing tactics to shed ingrained modernist assumptions about individually-generated oeuvres (and their archives), and to resist vestiges of colonialism still embedded in many artistic platforms and traditions. Arnaldo Rodriguez Bagué discusses initiatives—such as Foro Permanente de Performance—to make visible the often-invisible performance genealogies of Puerto Rico, including collaborations and improvisatory processes, local knowledge and cartographies that might be created more



collectively. Under states of emergency following the last decade’s political tumult, performance curators in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia, Palestine, and Jordan joined together for strategic collaborations and fresh approaches to archiving and disseminating research. As Adham Hafez describes, the transnational ARC.HIVE of Contemporary Arab Performing Arts, launched in 2011, bypasses the myopic European and North American culture machines to nurture more receptive spaces for reflection, education, and dialogue. Drawing on experiences in education, activism, and artivism with indigenous groups in the Philippines, Roselle Pineda asks if curation should be regarded more potently as organizing—a core function with potential to transform. Curatorial labor—always nomadic, mostly precarious—rarely becomes visible; efforts in this volume to frame, articulate, and advocate for it may go a long way. As Marta Keil points out in her essay on “cognitive capitalism,” curatorial practice as it is currently defined too closely correlates to cultural values of “late capitalism.” Expanding and redefining professional practices means challenging the larger systems. This may be one of the most important imperatives to take away from this anthology: in the present century, the work of curating is inseparable from the need to remake structures, to hold social experiments, to intervene in local, national, and international narratives. The collection of curators’ perspectives into this anthology signals another important advance: exposure and durability of ideas. Theater, dance, and performance have long endured special problems in archiving—poor quality video recordings that obscure or exclude important elements of live interaction; the difficulty of turning live ephemera into material artifacts; the anti-intellectualism of too many producing organizations uninterested in supporting research or contextualizing apparatuses. (It is rare even to see books and journals for sale at performances these days, the assumption being that audiences care only about their immediate, immersive experience but not the existing discourses around it.) So when it comes to documenting and reflecting on the curation of those same performances, we cannot not be surprised that there are few platforms for sharing creative research and a true paucity of spaces for critical reflection and debate by practitioners. One encouraging development is that some of the organizations discussed in these pages have built publications solidly into their overall frameworks; for instance Judy Hussie-Taylor recounts how Danspace Project’s vibrant Platform series, curated by guest artists each year, makes a print publication with a guest editor a central component of each themed inquiry, not just an afterthought. The professionalization of this field is relatively recent and a corresponding pedagogy is even more so. We are just beginning to identify the touchstones, the prior practices and, of course, the luminous personalities and impresarios who have historically defined the field. Who knows how much rich curatorial thought has already been lost, never making it into performance history?



Recently—inspired by dramaturg Norman Frisch, who raised the question in Montréal at Envisioning the Practice: International Symposium on Performing Arts Curation in 2014—I began researching the 1990 Los Angeles Festival, a sixteen-day event (curated by Judy Mitoma and Peter Sellars), which gathered 1,300 artists from the nations of the Pacific Rim and unfolded in neighborhoods across dense, polyethnic Los Angeles. The scale and ambition of the project were breathtaking then—and appear even more so in today’s budgetdepleted, market-obsessed landscape. Yet there is no formal archive, no book or commemorative materials—only interview features and a few superb articles by critics survive, along with correspondence and program materials and a series of segments shot by the local public television channel showing individual performances and artists. That is worth pausing over for a moment: how can today’s practitioners learn from this monumental feat, get inspired by it, and put it in front of bright students in our burgeoning curatorial studies courses, if there is no documentation? If an undertaking on the scale of the 1990 Los Angeles Festival can nearly disappear in just twenty-five years, what hope is there for the rich histories of past centuries, or the complex collaborations happening far away from media centers like Los Angeles? The conclusions to draw from this rich collection are clear. First, this field should place greater value on creative, analytical, and polemical writing and find more ways to build it into the profession. That is, curators and artists working in live performance forms should consider making archiving, documentation, and critical reflection essential elements of their projects when they initially conceive them. Of course, there will be understandable reasons to reject this practice, but its merits should be underlined: writing brings clarity and longevity to artists’ and curators’ work, allows others to learn from it, and links the sometimes lonely isolation of the studio or rehearsal room to what Beatrice von Bismarck usefully calls “the curatorial,” a wider sphere of acquired creative knowledge and a community of like-minded makers and thinkers. Publications add permanent dimensions to the ephemera of the live performance event. They invite artists, curators, and readers into a free space for creative reflections that may propel their thinking and cultivate informed spectatorship. New platforms for performance curators to write will certainly appear, building on this anthology’s example. Second, this collection makes clear that the resurgent interest in the performing arts curator—as opposed to presenter, producer, or programmer—is about more than just aspiration, more than simply an attempt to professionalize a nascent field. This is about fixing our gaze on new priorities and agendas for performance forms. From redefining neighborhoods to rethinking the neoliberal economy, culture workers are setting their sights on challenging social orders and political structures, taking risks in format, theme, and structure to trigger or envision change. Among the successful interventions on view in this volume are



the disruptive awakenings of Poets in Unexpected Places (or PUP, as described by Syreeta McFadden) in New York and Montreal; communities exploring food and the narratives around it in Food=Need (in Pam Patterson’s chapter); and the dance project Familias (see Jane Gabriels’s article) making eight families the lead artists for a piece reflecting on their experiences in an Afro-Caribbean-Latino Bronx neighborhood. In discussing the values of experimental choreography in these pages, Michele Steinwald urges curators to investigate an “architecture for engagement,” not taking formats for granted, whether a program takes place in an inherited auditorium or some other kind of assembly. Faced with the contingencies of the twenty-first century—economic inequality, racial justice, environmental and humanitarian crises, lives supersaturated with digital media—the instigators of live performances have begun to question and change habits, offering audiences fresh ways of seeing. Effecting change will become an essential element of curating, along with care, stewardship, critical thought, and conceptual daring. With this publication, performance curating advances, as the work of so many creative professionals finds written expression. Let us hope that gradually writing and publishing will become essential to live performance initiatives, just as those activities are valued in other precincts of curation. These expressions will nudge curation—and also the performing arts themselves—closer to the wider stream of knowledge, building a repository of ideas and endeavors. TOM SELLAR is Professor in the Practice of Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism at Yale University, where he teaches graduate courses in curation, criticism, and contemporary global performance. Since 2003 he has served as Editor of Yale’s international journal Theater (Yale School of Drama/Duke University Press) for which he edited two special editions on performance curation: Performance Curators (2014, co-edited with Bertie Ferdman) and Curating Crisis (2017). His criticism and arts journalism have appeared in publications including Artforum, BOMB, the Village Voice, and the New York Times. An independent curator, he lives in Brooklyn, New York.

R EF ER ENCE Fowle, K. 2007. “Who Cares? Understanding the Role of the Curator Today.” In Cautionary Tales: Critical Curating, ed. S. Rand and H. Kouris, 10–19. New York: apexart.



Figure CS.3. Original drawing. (Created by Michel Herreria, © 2017.)

Ce pèlerin des frontières cultive l’art des voisinages inattendus. Tout à la fois passeur, entremetteur, traducteur, assembleur, il va de-ci de-là, toujours composant avec ce qui lui arrive pour mêler son métier à sa vie. Certains y verront la fantaisie d’un passe-muraille, d’autres la ruse d’un braconnier. En tout cas, c’est un drôle d’oiseau qui nous ouvre à la poésie du réel. Prenons-en soin. This traveler across borders cultivates the art of unexpected proximities. At once a transporter, translator, and assembler, he wanders here and there. He is always



coming to terms with whatever happens to him, so that he might combine métier and life. Some might see in him the fantasies of an unremarkable person, others the cunning of a poacher. In any case, it is indeed a strange kind of animal who is able to open our spirit to the poetry of reality. Take care of him.

Michel Herreria is a visual artist who lives in Bordeaux, France, and has developed work which questions our rapport with our existence, others, and behavioral rituals. His artistic language takes multiples forms: painting, video, animation, political and social intervention, and gallery exhibitions. Jean-Paul Rathier is a university lecturer at the University of Bordeaux Montaigne, and also a contemporary theater director in Bordeaux, France. In 1984, he founded and currently directs the artistic and cultural association Script, uniting twenty artists from many disciplines for community-oriented creation projects.

N ot es English translation by Lise Drolet, Phillip Khaiat, Michèle Steinwald, and Michael Trent. More on the author’s perspective can be found in his French language essay “De quoi le commissariat aux arts actuels est-il le nom?”


Abramović, Marina, 72, 108–9, 143–45 Academy for Performing Arts (Trinidad), 182 Actionist Art, 228–33. See also Viennese Actionists activism in the arts (artivism), v, 51, 53, 142, 169, 186–87, 276, 322, 371, 373, 374 ARC.HIVE, 287–91 Familias, 158–63 Food=Need, 283–84 People’s Procession against the Pipelines, 295 Pineda, Roselle, 275–281 The Pom Bombs collective, 295 radical art-making, 315 Radical Care Collective, 228 SALTA dance collective, 204–12, 327 “Save the books,” 289 virtual citizen mobilization, 292 aesthetics, xix, 2, 74, 153, 316 of the 1970s and 1980s, 321 approaches of the musician-curator, 202 in the Caribbean, 188 of the performing body, 244 a new aesthetics of political art, 130 a new paradigm for, 321 new possibilities and references for, 364 a new radical aestheticism,” 275 Relational Aesthetics, 80, 95, 119 (see also Bourriaud, Nicholas) Second Line Aesthetics, 184 (see also Gibson, Michelle)

Africa academia, 47, 55–56 African performance artists, 51 Atiku, Jelili, 47, 49– Dakar ’66, 47 Das, Jareh, 46, 48–52 Enwezor, Okwui, 47–48 FESTAC ’77, 47 masquerade (the egungun), 52–53 and modernity, 48–49, 54 Momodu-Gordon, Hansi, 49 (see also Centre for Contemporary Art [Lagos]) performance art curating, 49 Silva, Bisi, 49 agonism, 179. See also Mouffe, Chantal American Realness (festival), 104, 108 Anaya Dance Theater, 186–187 Arab bodies, 287–91 their agency, 290 restrictive politics of, 232 archive(s), 5, 227–33, 236–37, 240, 374 “architectures of access,” 244 archival plurality, 242 ARC.HIVE of Contemporary Arab Performing Arts, 289–90 auto-archivality, 243 “Future Archive,” 228 MoMA’s Dance Archives, 253 New York Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, 289 Up Till Now project, 227–33 ARC.HIVE (of Contemporary Arab Performing Arts), 289–90



Arias, Lola, 24–25 Armour, Norman, 71 Art Gallery of York University, 364–66. See also The Awakening / Giigozhkozimin in Ojibway art market(s) and capitalism, 48–49 distributing Asian content, 66 and equity, 101–110 European performing arts market, 104 expansion after 1945, 18 Forest Fringe financial model, 135 the global art market, 73 marketing When Attitudes Become Form, 32–35 marketing the performance, 116–18 new art markets in 1980s and 1990s, 275 Art of Being Many meeting (Hamburg), 333 artist-run centers, 40, 142–43 Association of Artist-Run Centres network (Canada), 142 in Canada, 299–300n1 UNIT/PITT, 292 arts management, 2, 98, 107 art institutions as corporations, 350 Body Slam collective model, 214 Cultural Management and Administration program, 340 gestor cultural (cultural manager), 342 self-management, 142 arts networks, 2, 41, 101–2, 143 Association of Artist-Run Centres network (Canada), 142 between artists and producers, 320 Balkan Express Network, 323 between generations, 84 global networks, 66 independent presenting networks, 4 of information exchange, 325 Atiku, Jelili, 47, 49, 50–52, 55n2 AFiRIperFOMA, 52 Agbo Rago, 49–50 Me and Red, 49–50 Attali, Jacques, 308–9 Audio Guide, 333, 339n4

authenticity in contemporary Indian dance, 187 of contemporary dance, 47, 358 informed by sociopolitical reality, 54 in the museum, 254 The Awakening / Giigozhkozimin in Ojibway, 364, 366–70. See also Art Gallery of York University Ayres, Nieves, 159 Bakhtin, Mikhail, 72–73 Barens, Migdalia, 342. See also ephemeral: Ephemeral Art course Bel, Jerome, 107, 356 Belaza, Nacera, 53–54 Bennett, Jill, 242–43 Berliner Festspiele, 335 Beugre, Nadia, 53 biennales AFiRIperFOMA, 52 Biennale Musica (Venice), 195 curatorship, 20 Marrakesh Biennial 5, 52, 55n2 off-biennales, 141 rise in the 1980s, 18 Singapore Biennale, 60 Venice Biennale, 60, 352 Bildmuseet in Umeå (Sweden), 352 Birkland, Sven, 129 Bishop, Claire, 72–73, 237 “delegated performances,” 352 participation as political, 293 BIT Theatergarasjen (Bergen), 320 Black Box, 23 the black box (theater), 224–26, 266, 321 Black Mountain College, 144, 307 Blackenberg, Judith, 331–37 black writers and artists, congress of, 47 Black Lives Matter movement, 207 Black masculinity, 188–89 Blues, 108–9 the body, 327 of the artist, 34 black dancing body, 54, 188–89 body-based proposals, 105 dance as body-centric, 118 the dancing body, 54, 236, 242


as document, 246 embodiment, 97, 120, 327 as a narrative, 277 as a pedagogical tool, 340 as a signifying entity, 242 as a social construction, 357 Bottiroli, Silvia, 329–37, 373 Bougatsos, Lizzi, 259 Bourriaud, Nicolas, 95, 349. See also relational: aesthetics and art the brouillon project, 358. See also Charmatz, Boris Bruguera, Tania, 352 Bryan-Wilson, Julia, 127, 236, 241 Burkhard, Balthasar, 33 Burnaby Art Gallery, 298 Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion, 295 Cage, John, 255–58, 306–8 Cairography (publication), 290 Cairo’s cultural institutions Institut d’Egypt, 289 Khedivial Opera House, 288 capitalist, capitalism anti-capitalist, xvii artist as a capitalist fantasy, 174 capitalism in Africa, 48 capitalist hetero-patriarchy, 328 capitalist marketplace, 48 capitalist scam, 179 cognitive capitalism, 323, 344 late capitalist rules, 323–24, 326 post-capitalist society, 150 third-phase capitalist production, 323 care, 2, 4, 57, 82, 278, 376 of audiences, 374 care of artists, 205, 279 caring for art, 216, 218 an ethic of care, 75 of museum collections and material objects, 18, 278, 351 radical care, 311 Radical Care Collective, 228 La Casita de Chema, 155 Celant, Germano, 29–37


Centre for Contemporary Art (Lagos), 51–52. See also Africa: Momodu-Gordon, Hansi Chamberlain, Travis, 102. See also New Museum Charmatz, Boris, 237, 252–3, 373 the brouillon project, 358 discursiveness, 358 an expanded dance, 356 experimental institutional construction, 357 Flip Book, 253–56 Moments, 358 Musée de la danse (Dancing Museum), 355–59 Three Collective Gestures, 253–56 Chatterjea, Ananya, 186–87 Chetwynd, Spartacus, 352 Chironi, Cristian, 333. See also Audio Guide choreography in Africa, 48 choreographer’s role, 215–16 conceptual, 94, 107, 109 of the curatorial, 363 across media, 241 new embodied experience of, 246 in Tino Sehgal’s practice, 267 various mediated forms of, 241 Choreography of Error: CONDUCT, 341. See also retrospective(s); Vàzquez, Viveca chronotope Bakhtin’s definition, 72 (see also Bakhtin, Mikhail) curatorial, 72–73 institutional-interpersonal, 74–75 “citizen sphere,” 303 COCO Dance Festival, 182, 184 Cohen, Yve Laris, 225 collaboration, 40, 58, 81, 125, 181, 208–9, 293, 318 with citizen groups, 142 collaborative curatorial models, 83 of community partners, 299 between curator and artists, 364 in curatorship, 280 across generations and cultures, 366 between students and artist-professors, 340–42, 344



collective events collective curatorial events, 83 collective-mobilization-as-aestheticexperience, 299 Collective Walk / Spaces of Contestation, 292–99 Food=Need, 283–85 Foro Permenante de Performance, 342 Up Till Now, 227–33 collectives (artistic), 141–45, 321 AUNTS, 110 Body Slam, 214–220 CinD, 40–1 CiNE, 21–22 dancer-run, 111 Forest Fringe, 24, 134–38 Group Material, 142 How to Build a Manifesto for the Future of a Festival (editorial collective), 329–31 Impressionists at Nadar, 141–42 Nomadic Curatorial Collective, 132 Poets in Unexpected Places, 166–71 Radical Care Collective, 228 SALTA, 204–212 Colón, Pepe Álvarez, 340-1 colonization, colonialism, 185, 188–89, 282, 373 in Africa, 48 (see also Africa) colonial discourse, 341 colonial epistemological order, 340 pre-colonial forms, 52 in Trinidad culture, 187 community art, 156, 159, 275–80, 283–85 collaboration with community groups, 292, 299 community-based organizations, 156 community-oriented paradigms for art, 2, 22–23 dialogue, 110 engagement, 73, 156 self-organization, 141–42 conceptual choreography, 94, 358 concept-driven dance, 104–6 European conceptualism, 107 French-driven, 107 post-cognitive art, 307

“concert-scenario“ in music, 194–202 evolving ritual, 195–96 public reception, 198–99 theatrical dimension, 199–200 constellation, 16, 18, 231, 233 constellational, xviii spatiotemporal, 31 Contemporary Art Centers network, 103 creative producer(s), 17, 25, 60, 156, 163, 184 Creed, Martin, 352 critical education theory, 228 Crossing the Line Festival, 102, 104 Cuidades Paralelas (Parallel Cities), 24–25 “cultural mediation,” 5 bringing art history to life, 258 in the concert scenario, 198–99 curator as mediator, 17, 62 of ephemeral cultural products, 30 live performance as a strategy, 258 in the museum, 251–52, 258, 293, 318 Cunningham, Merce, 96–97, 252, 254–57 curare (meaning of Latin root for curate) to care for, 42, 90, 277, 346 as a gift or present, 346 to poison, 346 religious etymology, 282 “Curating Carnival?,” 183–84. See also procession(s) curation of artists of color, 207–8 as care-giving, 278–79 caring for relics, 282 as choreography, 346 as a creative act, 133 as community work, 277 as cultivation (tending of an environment), 346 “Curating Carnival?,” 183–84 curating “difficult knowledge,” 278 curatorial work as a bridge, 132 as custodians of artifacts, 278 in a dance context, 105 decision-making process, 320–26 displacing non-normative bodies, 311 as engagement in historical, social, and culturally submerged practices, 365


in European performing arts, 321 the expanded field of, 41–42 (see also Fowle, Kate) as framing, xviii, 19, 48, 105, 109, 304–9 independent, 40 as opening boundaries, 366–67 political curation, 64–65 as a practice of radical care, 311 procession as curatorial format, 184 reflexivity as a tool for, 284 rooted in the social network, 325 “soft curation,” 147–48 of sound art, 305–10 steeped in cultural politics, 48 as structurally radical, 22 as tending relationships, 282 transparency, 28, 106, 350 typology, 236 curator(s) as art star, 18 auteur d’exposition, 249 as authorial exhibition-maker, 372 as caretaker, 18, 147, 218, 251, 278–79, 372, 376 being cautious, 285 being humble, 285 bridging languages, 280 as civil servant, 249 as culture producer, 320–26 “the curator’s moment,”18 curator-as-auteur, 18 the curator-researcher-activist, 343 as custodian, 278 as facilitator, 232 granted cult status, 18 independent curators, 3, 18, 38, 40–43, 60, 83, 141, 268, 323, 325, 348, 372 intuition as curator’s tool, 119, 153 as mediator, 195 the musician-curator, 194–202, 216 as performer, 127 “rock star” curators, 279 curatorial conferences, xxii–xxiii, 2, 179, 299, 316, 337, 372. See also Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance


curatorial education André Lepecki’s class at New York University, 104 curatorial studies programs, xxii, 2, 20, 82–83, 104, 275, 375 graduate curatorial training, 315 models, 18–19 Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance, 20, 83–84, 97 professionalization of the field, 374 The Curators’ Piece, 123–130 Cynthia Oliver Dance Company, 189 Dance and Performance Institute (Port of Spain), 183–84, 188–89 Dance Festival in Queens Hall, 182 Dance for Nothing, 258–59 dance in museums, 17, 90–99, 132, 236–46, 252–69, 263–70, 315–17, 355–60 bodies-as-objects, 94 Dance Research Journal special topic issue, 236 live art dancemakers, 91 performance curators, 107 Dance Research Journal, 236, 359 Dance Theater of Harlem, 92 Dancing While Black Performance Lab, 182, 188. See also McGregor, Paloma Das, Jareh, 46, 48–52. See also Africa Danspace Project Platforms, 20, 23, 79–80, 84, 102, 110, 374 Lost and Found 2016, 79–80 Davies, Chuck, 156 de Keersmacker, Anna, 321 de la Motte-Haber, Helga, 309 decolonization, 208, 211 in the Caribbean, 183, 190 of the Latin American University, 343–44 in the university, 344 DeFranz, Thomas F., 89–100, 189. See also Performing Black Del Mundo, Kapiz aka Ka Yanan, 277 democracy, xviii, 179, 306 democracy-monarchy, 305 national democratic public sphere, 305



the (democratic) political subconscious, 305 social, xvii democratization of concert music, 195 of contemporary dance, 106 of the museum, 268 of the poet, 167 Derrida, Jacques the archive, 247n3 notion of “event,” 343–44 university without condition, 343 Dewey, Ken, 15–17, 25–26, 73 dialogue, 46, 52, 54, 64, 74, 79–80, 110, 147, 152–53, 166–67, 177, 183, 290 between arts and communities, 278 between audiences and artists, 52 dialogical, 39, 42, 363 performative dialogues, 188–89 between spectators and musicians, 199 between visitors and artists, 230 dialogical, 39, 42, 364 diaspora Caribbean, 182, 188, 190 Indigenous, 185 Nigerian curators, 52 Puerto Rican, 159 “distributed awareness,” 304 diversity, 63, 74, 106, 285, 361 do-it-yourself, 99, 141–45, 205, 211 DIY Performance Scores, 134 “do-your-own-thing“ ethic, 93 Documenta 11, 47–48 Documenta 13 in Kassel, 352 documentation, 28, 33, 49, 156, 236, 240–43, 254, 289, 298, 340–42, 352, 372–73, 375 Le Roy’s body as document, 245 New York Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, 289 Tino Seghal’s refusal of, 264–65, 270 dramaturg(e), 2, 11, 20, 22, 38, 60, 133, 136 dramaturgy (dramaturgies) of liveness, 17, 73 practice as constitutive, 290

site-specific, 342 spacial, 342 documentation ARC.HIVE’s documentation of performances, 289 of the Bronx, 156, 15 in the Cunningham Flip Book, 254 in Idea de Nexo, 342–43 importance of, 375 at the National Museum of Dance, 240 prohibited by Tino Seghal, 265, 270 for When Attitudes Become Form, 33–34 in the Yvonne Rainer and Xavier Le Roy retrospectives, 240–43 Dumas, Sonja, 187–88 Duncombe, Stephen, 117 durational performance, 135, 253, 296, 335 Dutty, Boukman, 183 Edgecombe, Wally, 157–58, 162 Edinburgh Festival, 16–17, 24, 73 Ekeberg, Jonas, xviii, xx, 348–49, 354 Emancipatory Methodologies, 189 embodied, embodiment artistic objects, 356 arts, 97 collective mapping, 295 criticality, 42 (see also Rogoff, Irit) curation, 11 disciplines, 75 experience, 218, 246, 293, 298 historical knowledge, 247 improvisations, 357 knowledge, 186, 243, 341 life, 311 listening, 160 narratives, 245 pensamiento-creación (embodied knowledge and ways of doing), 341 practices, 92, 247, 358 Envisioning the Practice: International Symposium on Performing Arts Curaton (Montréal), xxii, 167, 214, 375 Enwezor, Okwui, 47–48 ephemeral (ephemerality), 5, 29–32, 34, 132, 242, 254, 259, 298, 318 Ephemeral Art course, 341–44


equity in the contemporary dance scene, 101–11 cultural, 80 curators and producers of color, 361 Erreur de type 27 (E27), 195–202, 331 Esche, Charles, 349 Espaces mixtes II, 201 Esteves, Sandra Maria, 160 ethics, xx, 11, 41, 47, 49, 83, 177, 365 anti-establishment, 211 best practices, 98, 118 of care, 75 of “do your own thing,” 92 of equity, 101 of museum dance labor, 96, 98 neoliberal ethics of the 1980s, 93 presenters’ code of ethics, 110 sustainable standards, 42 work ethic of curators, 279 Eurocentric experimental paradigms, 297 nature of academic or programmatic projects, 290 Eurokaz, 321 Event and Its Double, 307 Ewezor, Okwui, 47–48 Exhibit A: Authorship on Display conference, 238 “expanding programming,” 350 Familias (dance theater project), 156–63 “inclusive” curatorial vision, 160 impact in the South Bronx, 156 as “inreach” curating, 158 production process, 159–60 Ferdman, Bertie, 19, 62, 73 Festival de Keuze (Rotterdam), 331 La fête permanente, 297 Field, Andy, 24. See also Forest Fringe Fjord, Rune, 306 Flip Book, 252, 254–56. See also Charmatz, Boris; Cunningham, Merce Flying Circus Project, 62 Fondazione Prada (Venice), 29 Food=Need, 283–84 Ford, Niles, 157


Forest Fringe, 24–25, 73, 133–38, 373 artist-curator dynamic, 136–37 microfestivals, 135 Foro Permenante de Performance, 340–44 Forti, Simone, 357 4’33” (In Proportional Notation), 256–58. See also Cage, John Fowle, Kate, 41–42, 373 Frakcija theater journal, 21, 129, 322 Franko, Mark, 236–37 Fraser, Andrea, 349 FRESH Festival (San Francisco), 206 Frisch, Norman, 375 “Future Archive,” 228 Garcia, Ana “Rokafella, 162 gentrification (effects of), 162, 210–11, 282, 284, 294 Gibson, Michelle, 183. See also Second Line Aesthetics Gilardi, Piero, 33 Goldberg, Rosalee, 19, 104, 144. See also Performa event Gómez, Santiago Castro, 343 Grapefruit, 257 Grau, Catherine, 296–97 The Gray Box (at MoMA), 223–26. See also space(s) Group Exterra, 230 Group Material, 142 Ground Zero, 309 Gubbay, Daniel Blanga, 331–37 Guggenheim Museum, 91, 93–94 Haake, Hans, 349 Habermas, Jürgen, 303 Hafez, Adham, 287–91. See also activism in the arts Hamilton, Anthony, 75 Happenings, 16, 18, 142, 205, 278 Ken Dewey’s Play of Happenings, 16 NYC Happenings, 278 Harrell, Trajal, 79, 101–3, 110–11, 253 Antigone Sr. / Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church, 103 The Untitled Still Life Collection, 103 Haus del Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, 39



Hay, Deborah, 108–9 Higgins, Dick, 306–8 Hoffman, Jens, 350 Hopps, Walter, 372 Horowitz, Andy, 108 Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture, 157–58. See also Edgecombe, Wally Houston-Jones, Ishmael, 79–81 How to Build a Manifesto for the future of a festival, 329–38 Hunter, Orlando, 189 Hurtzig, Hannah, 321 Ich-AG Geige, 232 Idea de Nexo, 340–43 identity, 108, 245, 297, 306 and artists, 244 in the Caribbean, 185, 187–88 of festivals, 330 Malta’s identity crisis, 151 paradoxical festival identity, 153–54 Paul Ricoeur’s Narrative Identity Theory, 145 Singaporean identity, 59–61, 65 US identity after 9/11, 309 Idle No More movement, 297, 301. See also revolutionary events immateriality, 32, 264, 267 In Line, 309 independent theaters and arts centers, 322 Indigenous artists and performance, 74 at-risk Indigenous youth, 297 dance artists, 185 decision-making, 366 First Nations’ communities, 300 First Nations’ Elders, 368 Idle No More movement, 297, 301 Indigenizing programming, 74 International Indigenous Women’s Performance Project, 184 land, 74, 294 legacy of Christian church, 74 as of mixed descendance, 183 Performance Project, 184 societies, 366 trans-Pacific histories, 74

Informal European Theater Meetings, 320–21 in-reach (also inreach), 154, 160–63, 365, 371 “intermediality,” 242–43 “Internarrative Subjects,” 245 International Sound Art Curating Conference Series, 310 Institute for Applied Theatre Studies, 153, 321 Institute of Contemporary Art (Boston), 83, 102, 107 Institute of Contemporary Arts (London), 19, 23–24 Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance (ICPP), 20, 83–84, 97 ICPP symposium, 98 institution(s), institutionalism institutional critique, xx, 17, 21, 24, 73, 108, 349–50, 355–57 institutional reinvention, 5, 316 “institutional permissiveness,” 268 New Institutionalism, xviii, xx, 348–49, 354 rethinking role of institutions, 315 The Rise and Fall of New Institutionalism, 353 Is the Living Body the Last Thing Alive? The New Performance Turn: Its Histories and Its Institutions (conference), 351 Jackson, Shannon, 75 Jonas, Joan, 352 Joo, Eugenie, 102 Le journal des laboratoires d’Aubervilleirs, 129 Judd, Daniel, 144 Judson Dance Theater, 105, 109 June Paik, Nam, 258 Kaaitheater (Brussels), 320 Kahnyen’ke Clan from Six Nations (Canada), 184 Kaegi, Stefan, 24–25 Kampnagel, 320 Keidan, Lois, 19, 23–24 Keng Sen, Ong, 59, 62–63, 67–68. See also Singapore International Festival of the Arts


Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara, 252 The Kitchen (New York City), 104 Kitchen Piece, 257 Kittler, Fredrich, 307–8 Klein, Yves, 265 Kleinplatz, Sasha, 207 Klímovà, Barbora, 230–31 Kreye, Zoe, 296–97 Kunsthal Aarhus in Denmark, 350 Kunsthalle Bern, 32 Kunstverein Hamburg, 352 Kuo, Pao Kun, 61–62 La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, 93 Labelle, Brandon, 307 labor, 96–97, 225, 290 affective, 324 curatorial, 374 of a dance performance, 255–56 economics of, 25 in the field of art, 126–27 immaterial, 228 of museum dance, 96–97, 108–9 precarious conditions for artists and curators, 322–24, 326 temporality of labor, 323, 326 Laboratory for Experiments in Performance and Politics Aleppo, 330 LaForme, Chief Brian, 370 Lagos Book and Art Festival, 50 Lamie, Trisha, 283 Lauwers, Jan, 321 Le Roy, Xavier, 235–37, 241–46, 356–57 Lear, 62–64. See also Sen, Ong Keng Lecture on Nothing, 258. See also Cage, John Lee, Kuan Yew, 60 Lemon, Ralph, 20, 79–80, 82–83, 108, 254, 315–16 Lepage, Robert, 321 Lépecki, Andre, 39, 104, 236–37 Lewandowski, Via, 232–33 Limón, José, 92 Lind, Maria, xvii, 194 Live Art Development Agency, 19, 26 live arts, xvi–xx, xxii, 1–8, 20–25, 107, 143–44, 374–78 curation of live arts, 75, 133, 253, 282


a dramaturgy of liveness, 17, 73 Live Art Development Agency, 19 live arts festivals, 315 the live event, 307 live performance in museums, 28–31, 226, 235–246, 251–59, 264–70, 315–18, 355–60 The Living Archive, 23 Los Angeles Festival (1990), 375 Low, Kee Hong, 60, 67 Maan, Ajit K., 245 MaerzMusik/Berliner Festpiele (Berlin), 331 Magasin 3 (Stockholm), 352 Malta Festival Poznan, 23, 150–54 Malzacher, Florian, 101, 123, 133, 275 Empty Stages, Crowded Flats: Performativity as Curatorial Strategy, 21 Truth is Concrete marathon camp, 338–39n3 marino, dian, 285 Marsden, Lauren, 295 Maska, 322 materiality, 29, 32, 33, 77, 144–45, 257–58, 278, 358 Mayer, Hans, 34 McCarthy-Brown, Nyama, 189 McGregor, Paloma, 189. See also Dancing While Black Performance Lab mediation, 194, 197 citizen mediation, 304 “cultural mediation,” 5, 258 curator’s acts of, 252 between work and public, 4, 264, 267, 268, 270, 293 Meeting, 75 Michael, Carl, 309 Miller, Bebe, 93 Miller, Joan, 156 Miller, Sam, 82–83 minimalist (art), minimalism, 105, 144, 223 Mississaguas of the New Credit First Nation, 364 Mitoma, Judy, 375 modernism, modernity in Africa, 47–48 genealogical approach, 48



modernist abstraction, 92 modernist assumptions, 373 Occidental modernist thought, 344 in Singapore, 61–62, 64 in the United States, 355 Moments exhibition, 358. See also Charmatz, Boris Momodu-Gordon, Hansi, 49. See also Centre for Contemporary Art [Lagos] Möntmann, Nina, 353 Moreechika, 186–187 Morelli, Didier, 298–99 Mouffe, Chantal, xix agonism, 180, 227 Moussokouma Festival (Berlin), 52–53 Mowatt, John, 276 Murad, Noura, 290 Musée de la danse, 254, 355–60, 199 Museum of Contemporary Art in Roskilde, Denmark, 305, 307 Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico, 341 Museum of Modern Art (New York City), 91–92, 22–26, 252–60 atrium space, 73 Dance Archives, 253 Deborah Hay’s Blues, 97 Department of Media and Performance Art, 253 Department of Theatre Arts, 253 French-driven conceptual choreography at, 107–8 Marina Abramović retrospective, 72 MoMA PS1, 236 programming dance, 253 museums’ relationship to visitors, 252 Mutiny / When will you re-cog-nize, 189 nation, nationalism national discourse, 342 national identities, 371 national narratives, 374 nationalism, 48 nation-branding, 66 nation-building, 61 pan-national summits, 288 transnational, 71

National Dance Project (USA), 103, 109 National Museum of Dance, 240–41. See also archive(s) National Theatre Wales, 23–24 Needcompany, 321 Negrón, Mara, 343 NeoIndigenA, 184–85 neoliberalism, xvi, 74, 93, 109, 228, 249, 294, 349, 375 New Asia, 65–66 New England Foundation for the Arts, 103 New Museum (New York City), 102, 105 New Waves! 2015 / Dancing While Black Performance Lab, 182–89 New York Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, 289. See also archive(s); documentation New York Live Arts, 104 9-11-02, 309 Nomad Dance Academy (Belgrade), 323 Obrist, Hans Ulrich, 81, 143, 153 Oliver, Cynthia, 188–89 O’Neill, Paul, 18 Ono, Yoko, 257 Ontario School of Art and Design, 283 Osorio, Pepón, 155–60. See also Pepatiàn Oswald, John, 201 Ouvrir, artistes en alpage, 356. See also Le Roy, Xavier Padilla, Maruja Garcia, 341. See also Universidad de Puerto Rico Palais de Tokyo, 349. See also Bourriaud, Nicolas Paper Stages, 24 Para Site in Hong Kong, 351 Parkourists, 364, 368–69 participatory art, 321, 364, 366 artwork and performances, 95 audience engagement, 351 Collective Walks/Spaces of Contestation, 292–99 Familias, 155 meaning and narrative making in, 277–78 Paxton, Steve, 356–57


Pearson, Deborah, 24–25, 73, 133–38, 373 See also Forest Fringe Pepatiàn, 156, 161, 164n3. See also Osorio, Pepón Performa (7) event (New York), 19, 104, 352. See also Goldberg, Rosalee performance art, 144–45, 232, 227, 358 curators in museums, 97 departments in museums, 350 as entertainment in museums, 351 Performance Art in Africa, 51 the “performance turn,” 351 Performance Poises course, 341 performative, performativity, xvii, 21, 60, 107, 167, 184, 230, 343 “collective walk,” 292–94, 296–99 curating, xvi–xxi, 175, 179 forms, 343 the performative turn of museums, 359 performative-works-as-collectiveambulations, 294 Performing Art Festival—In Transit, 39–43 Performing Black, 190. See also DeFranz, Thomas F. Perverse Curating project/blog, 173–81 agonism, 180 being yourself in a performance situation, 178 democracy, 180 perversity, 180 plagiarism, 175–79 social media, 174–75 Peters, Christine, 23. See also archive(s) Piattaforma della danza Balinese (Santarcangelo), 337, 339n6 Pilgrim, Geraldine, 23 Los Pleneros de la 21, 155 Poets in Unexpected Places, 166–67 Polzer, Berno Odo, 331–37, 339 The Pom Bombs performance collective, 295 Pörksen, Julien, 335 post-cognitive art, 306. See also Higgins, Dick postcolonialism postcolonialist theory, 106


POST-empires, 59 pre-colonial, 52 post-dramatic theater, 342 postmodern construction, 92 contention of contemporaneity, 280 dominant rhetoric, 109 fragmented meaning, 93 release technique, 105 styles, 106 postmodern dance, 17, 89–93, 104–108, 236–246, 254 Prada, Miuccia, 29. See also Fondazione Prada (Venice) Primus, Pearl, 92 procession(s) at The Awakening / Giigizhkozimin, 367 carnival, 334 Collective Walks / Spaces of Contestation, 293, 295 as curatorial format, 184 The People’s Procession against the Pipelines Second Line, 295 Trinidad Carnival, 183 (see also “Curating Carnival?”; Tancons, Claire) producer, xvi, 4, 17, 25, 38, 40, 127, 135, 137, 156–57, 375 booker, 217–18 co-producer, 21, 124 creative producer, 184 culture producer, 320–26 festival producer, 23 music concert producer, 194–96 producers of color, 361 Pryor, Ben, 104, 108 PuSh Festival, 71 Quartier Libre, 53 queer artists who died of AIDS, 81 ideologies, 90 positivity, 81 theory, 106 Radical Care Collective, 228. See also Zechner, Manuela and “Future Archive”



Rainer, Yvonne, 5, 105, 107, 236–41, 245, 253, 256–57, 357. See also Trio A; Yvonne Rainer: Dance Works Ramirez, Noemi Segarra, 160 Raudvee, Leena, 283 Raven Row gallery (East London), 236, 239, 241 Raw Materials Company (Dakar), 51–52 Rawls, Will, 79–81 Reanimation, 352 reconstruction of dance, 238–39 240, 254 of GDR performances, 232 of When Attitudes Become Form, 32 REDCAT (Los Angeles), 103 re-enactment, 31, 72, 143–44, 228, 230, 352 relational, xviii, 39, 346 aesthetics and art, 72, 94–95, 119 (see also Bourriaud, Nicolas) curation, 80, 78 dialogues, 306 dynamic, 209 live-art dancemakers, 90 props, 297–98 research, 293 structure, 68 repertory theater, xvii, xix, 72, 320–22, 153, 158, 321, 364 residencies, 43, 160, 184, 185, 205, 214, 292 retrospective(s), 236–46 Marina Abramović’s Artist is Present, 73 Merce Cunningham Flip Book, 252, 254–56 Viveca Vàzquez’ Choreography of Error: CONDUCT, 341 Xavier Le Roy’s Retrospective, 236, 241–43 Yvonne Rainer’s Trio A, 241 revolutionary events Arab Spring, 288, 292 fall of the Berlin Wall, 229 Idle No More Movement, 297 People’s Procession against the Pipelines, 295 Le Printemps érable, 292 Ribas, João, 238

Riel, Louis, 369 Rivers, Faith, 368 Rogoff, Irit, xviii, 324, 233. See also embodied: criticality Roosem Center for Contemporary Art in Malmö, 349 Rosas, 321 Russell, Marc, 104 Salamon, Eszter, 258–59 Saloman, Gabriel, 294 SALTA dance collective, 204–12, 327. See also activism in the arts; collectives San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 83 Sankeralli, Burton, 183 Sans, Jérome, 349. See also Bourriaud, Nicolas Santarcangelo Festival Internazionale de Teatro (Piazza), 329–32 Saro-Wiwa, Ken, 186 The Sausage Stante—A Social Meeting Place, 306 Sawadogo, Moussa, 52–53 Scaffold Room, 315. See also Lemon, Ralph Second Line Aesthetics, 184. See also Gibson, Michelle Segarra, Noemi, 160 Seghal, Tino, 95, 263–73, 352 déproduction (nonproduction), 266 as event-work, 270 the exhibition as discursive event, 268 Kiss, 263–64, 266 This Situation, 263–64 Sellars, Peter, 375 SensoriuM, 318 Setterfield, Valda, 255 Singapore arts and culture M1 Singapore Fringe Festival, 66–67 Open Culture policy in Singapore, 61, 65 Renaissance Singaporean, 65–67 Singapore Arts Festival, 60 (see also Low, Kee Hong) Singapore Biennale, 60 Singapore International Festival of Arts, 60, 89 The Singapore Story, 60 Smith, Santee, 184–85


social media, 93, 323 as a form of curation, 175 virtual citizen mobilization, 292 Youtube, 357 SOMArts, 206 Soto, Meriàn and Pepón, 155, 158–59, 161–62, 164. See also Pepatiàn Sound: Ambient Humanities, 276 sound art, sound events, 304–10 as discussion, 306 In Line, 309 “sound citizen,” 303, 305 Under Cover—Sound / Art in Social Spaces, 305–9 space(s), xix–xx, 71–75, 114, 184, 204–11 artist-run spaces, 142–45 alternative spaces, 22–23 black box, 224–26, 266, 320–21 community space, 157, 159 dance in museum spaces, 236–38, 251–59, 350, 352–3, 358–9 exhibition space, 49 independent spaces, 40–42 for new music presentation, 195–97, 200 occupation of public space, 292–93, 297 performance in museum spaces, 90, 92–96, 223–26 public spaces, 50–51, 166–71, 278, 284, 356, 373 reframing the public square, 294–309 white cube, 224–25, 251, 256–58, 359 spectator(s), 6, 151–152, 158, 240, 243, 264, 269, 358 as consumers, 2 as creators of events, 5 emancipated spect-actors, xxi emancipated spectator ( Jacques Rancière), 99, 332 experience, 197 new spectator relationships in new music concerts, 196–201 spectatorship, 18, 51, 53, 236, 245, 376 Spectre, 201


Stamer, Peter, 42–43. See also Tanznacht Berlin Steve Paxton, 356–57 Strange Tales of an Island Shade, 182. See also Dumas, Sonja Systemic Series artist program, 350 Szeemann, Harald, xvii, 18, 29–30, 33, 372 Taiwo, Olufemi, 48. See also Africa Tan, Alvin, 66–67 Tancons, Claire, 183–84 Tang, Fu Kuen, 60, 67 Tanznacht Berlin, 39–43 taste as a guiding principle, 99 curation as taste-making, 133 taste-makers, 91, 97–98 Tate Modern, xvii, 73, 240, 350, 352–53 Taub, Peter, 105 Tay, Andrew, 207. See also Wants&Needs Danse Teatro Puerto Rico, 158–59 Theatre Map of Wales, 23. See also National Theatre Wales The Theatre of the Future, 16 TheatreWorks company, 62 Teatro Puerto Rico, 158 There Will Never Be Silence, 253, 257–59. See also Cage, John Thinking Together, 338n1. See also Polzer, Berno Odo time in the chronotype, 75 constraints, 284 the time of the festival, 330–37 in Tino Seghal’s work, 263, 266–67, 269–70 “to strangle time,” 359 (see also Charmatz, Boris) temporality, 30–32, 323–33, 372 Waste Your Time, 335 time-based arts, 20, 71, 77, 80, 276, 278, 318, 342, 355 Tokyo Performing Arts Meeting, 60 Tomaat, Aktie, 322 Tort, Bernat, 340



transforming industrial spaces into theatres, 39, 40, 321, 323 Traverse Theatre, 16–17 Trinidad Carnival, 183. See also “Curating Carnival?”; procession(s); Tancons, Claire Trinidad Theatre Workshop, 188 Trio A, 235–36, 241, 244, 246. See also Rainer, Yvonne True Riches, 24 Truth is Concrete marathon camp, 333, 338–39n3. See also Malzacher, Florian Under the Radar Festival, 104 Undercover—Sound Art in Social Spaces, 305–6, 308 Universidad de Puerto Rico Cultural Management and Administration, 340 Woman and Gender Study Programme, 340 Unlearning Weekenders Collective, 296 See also Grau, Catherine; Kreye, Zoe UNIT/PITT Projects (Vancouver), 392, 293, 296 Up Till Now—Reconsidering Historical Performances and Actionist Art from the Former German Democratic Republic (GDR), 228–32 Vamos a la peña, 159 Vaughan, David, 254. See also Cunningham, Merce Vàzquez, Viveca, 340–42 Venice Biennale 53rd, 60 (see also Tang, Fu Kuen) in Kassel, 352 Verksted publication (Norway), 348–49. See Ekeberg, Jonas Vich, Victor, 342

Viennese Actionists, 229, 356. See also Actionist Art Vitiello, Stephen, 309 Volksbühne theater (Berlin), xvi von Bismarck, Beatrice, xviii, 18, 109, 231, 375 von Hausswolff, Carl Michael, 309 Walker Art Center, 15–17, 316–19 Walking Theory (Belgrade), 323 Wanted, 189 Wants&Needs Danse, 206 Waste Your Time, 335 Wells, Liz, 46 Wesleyan University, 20. See also Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance (ICPP) Westwater, Kathy, 157 When Attitudes Become Forms (Bern 1969, Venice 2013), 28–35 white cube, white box, 224–25, 251, 256, 259, 359 Whitney Museum, 20, 91, 94 Curatorial Program, 20 Wilson, Fred, 349 Wilson, Robert, 321 Wirth, Andrzej, 153, 321 Wood, Catherine, 240 Wookey, Sarah, 108–9, 235 Workshops, 62, 65, 160–61, 196, 228, 295, 297–99, 349, 351, 364 Yvonne Rainer: Dance Works, 236, 239 Zechner, Manuela, 228 Zizek, Slavoj, 304 Zen for Film, 258 Zollar, Jawolle Willa Jo, 156 Zone of immaterial pictoral sensibility, 265