Saturday, March 20, 2010

Can a repeated performance be an original?

Above, Tehching Hsieh during his year-in-a-cage performance in 1978 and ’79.

This NYTimes article by Carol Kino analyzes performance art form in the context of an art talk sponsored by MoMA.

Can performance be re-made?


The piece above is after Marina Abramovic and Ulay's Relation in Time, (1977). Below is the original:


So the answer is yes, sort of. Instead of re-performance, I prefer to talk about "versions" of the original.

Let's see: Relation in time (1977) is the original, which also works as a "version" of itself. Why? Even if Abramovic and Ulay were to perform it again, it would only be a version.*  Performance is an act of unfolding a per-for-ma-tive action.

Performance is something in-the-process of becoming-something-else, yet, in the end it's that which already passed. To top it off, there is the problem of context: Each performance, -being a whole that includes the performer and the public- is one and the same. The process cannot be duplicated because it's lost in time/space.

Interestingly, a version is also an original of itself. For the sake of argument, one can speak of a future version of Relation in time (let's say, Relation in time red, 2012) that stands out as so unique that from this point on, Relation in time red will be considered a high point to be followed. The original would still be Abramovic & Ulay's, 1977 performance, from this point on a sort of performance-score over which newer versions keep accumulating.

Cool, isn't it?    
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*I don't think one "makes" a performance like one makes a chocolate cake. Since there is no performance without performer, the latter is a necessary condition for the former. Every performer that "performs" (pardon my reiteration) is part of her performance.

3 comments:

R.L.R. said...

Triff, agreeing on that one, I see it as any other interpretative piece of art -musical or dramatic- which has a script / score that might be reenacted by other artists throughout history. It seems that Marina Abramovic has, once more, been a pioneer in this field when she staged at the Guggenheim Museum "7 Easy Pieces" (2005) reenacting some prominent pieces of Bruce Nauman, Vito Acconci, Valie Export, Gina Pane, Joseph Beuys and her own.

miamibourbaki said...

Thanks, RLR. When Abramovic came to Miami, I asked her about these things. She had this idea of re-performance as a way to keep performance alive.

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