Performance and Reperformance

Marina Abramovic, The House with the Ocean View (2002), Sean Kelly Gallery.

As an artistic classification, the term ‘performance art’ is fairly contentious within the contemporary art world. Over the past 40 years, the artistic practice has evolved to encompass myriad forms and titles in an attempt to adequately categorize the genre. Artists, curators and scholars readily agree there are historical sub-movements within the genre, such as body art, live art, etc., but the term ‘performance art’ has been largely accepted as the definitive term and subsequently integrated within both art historical and popular discourse.  Some argue the classification of ‘performative’ is misleading and antithetical to the conceptual basis of most works done in the 1960’s and 70’s.  The term portends theatricality and therefore misconstrues or alters the intentions of the work because of the association with entertainment. 

So it is easy to imagine the contention and debate brought to the forefront of the art world when performance artworks made in the 1960’s and 70’s - when performance art really took off as an artistic practice - was featured within the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Museum of Modern Art in 2005 and 2010, respectively. The Guggenheim’s “Seven Easy Pieces” (2005) featured works by artists such as Joseph Beuys, Gina Pane and Vito Acconci.  Intriguingly, these seminal works did not feature the original artist but rather were performed by another, an artistic contemporary who has proclaimed her intentions to take control of the genre: Marina Abramovic.  She is responsible for coining the phrase ‘reperformance’ and much debate has occurred over the validity of the term, especially considering the debate regarding the antecedent term ‘performance.’

After MoMA’s “The Artist is Present” (2010), discourse surrounding the classification, considerations and contextual underpinnings of performance art received greater attention and the controversy intensified.  The issue, then, becomes whether implications arise when the same artist performs a work outside of its original context, or an artist performs the work of another. Are there acceptable situations or contexts with which the re-performance can be considered?

We believe that Re-performance is a pertinent subject that warrants further discussion; artists, institutions, curators and media are frequently bringing this theme to light, and debating about how to address this issue, especially how to re-create work without wounding the essence of the masterpiece.

Instead of having just one guest addressing the subject-matter, we concluded that it would be interesting to have different voices talking about this. We then decided to publish an open call on the ICI website asking people to submit their essays, articles and ideas around the Re-performance theme. The three submissions included offer diverse and relevant points of view on Re-performance.

Marina Abramovic and Ulay, Imponderabilia (1977).

Marina Abramovic, Imponderabilia Re-performance at Museum of Modern Art (2010).

About The author

Mariana Azevedo

Mariana Azevedo graduated from FAAP in São Paulo, Brazil, with a Bachelors degree in Social Communication in 2004. Mariana worked for three years at the Jewish Cultural Center, where her interest in curating exhibitions and cultural events developed. In 2010, she moved to New York where she is currently seeking her M.A. in Arts Politics at NYU. For this field of study she is currently conducting research on Brazilian artists that showed in New York in the last 10 years.

Sakina Namazi

Sakina Namazi graduated magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, from Rutgers University in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in Art History, minor in English literature, and holds a certificate in Historic Preservation.  Sakina is currently in her first year of the M.A. in Visual Arts Administration program at New York University. Her interest in curating stemmed from her involvement with the Zimmerli Museum’s exhibition, Honore Daumier and La Maison Aubert, where she helped research, write didactic panels as well as the explanatory labels for the exhibition. She has interned at notable cultural institutions such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and in the for-profit world Christie’s Auction. She currently interns at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Sakina is deeply interested in discovering how online publications, such as DISPATCH,  help shape and create contemporary art practice[s] and theoretical art discourse between individuals around the world.

Shannon Ryan

Shannon Ryan graduated from Wheaton College (Mass.) in 2010 with majors in Art History and English. She is currently a first-year student in the Visual Arts Administration at New York University and works in the studio of a decorative designer. She curated two digital exhibitions over the last year and, in the process, became interested in arts organizations’ use of new media, both practically and theoretically. Working with DISPATCH has allowed her to explore the benefits and implications of an arts journal located within a digital interface, expanding her research on arts organization’s deployment of new media.

Keeli Shaw

Keeli Shaw has a B.A. in Art History and Political Science from UC Berkeley and until last year, worked as a Production Coordinator in the Collections Information & Access Department at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.  Having relocated to New York to attend the Visual Arts Administration program at NYU, she experienced her first East Coast winter and found the arts scene to be a welcome escape from the elements.  Currently, she is a Project Manager with Local Projects, a New York based media design firm for museums and public spaces.

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