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Publication - Dr Paul Clarke

    Performing Art History

    Non-linear, Synchronous and Syncopated Times in Performance Re-enactment Society’s Group Show (Arnolfini, Bristol, 2012)


    Clarke, P, 2018, ‘Performing Art History: Non-linear, Synchronous and Syncopated Times in Performance Re-enactment Society’s Group Show (Arnolfini, Bristol, 2012)’. in: Paul Clarke, Simon Jones, Nick Kaye, Johanna Linsley (eds) Artists in the Archive: Creative and Curatorial Engagements with Documents of Art and Performance. Routledge, London, pp. 116-142


    This essay interweaves what the book’s Introduction calls insider know-how and outsider knowledge, juxtaposing artists’ pages by the Performance Re-enactment Society (PRS) with critical-theoretical reflection, moving between the perspectives of arts practitioners and that of scholarly researcher. This structure troubles the distinction between creative and critical modes of practice, as the discursive framings transform the documents displayed on these pages, which also have the potential to make theoretical propositions. Curating the visual materials and writings from performance and restaging them in the context of this book has necessitated selection and transformation, which echoes archival practice; their dissemination in the form of this publication sees Group Show and the artworks cited in this Performance Re-enactment Society exhibition remediated again, passing from one medium to another.

    Through theoretical reflection on and documentation of Group Show, I will explore the implications of Elizabeth Freeman’s concept of ‘temporal drag’ (2010: 62) for the chronopolitics of art history, with specific reference to the embodiment of physical art objects through performance and the enactment of documents in gallery contexts. This addresses the potential of performance and such remakes to intervene in the conventional temporal practices and logics of exhibitions and art institutions, and to resist the ‘developmental time’ (66) of art history and the market. The chapter and case study explore agential interactions between bodies and objects across time, and performance, ‘not only as that which passes away’ (Lepecki 2010: 39), but as a mode of documentation, dissemination and gallery display. In Group Show, what is exhibited through performance are absent object-based artworks and this example will be used to trouble medial distinctions; to question the differentiations between immaterial or ‘dematerialized art’ (Lippard 1973) and material forms, like sculpture, which also have a temporality and produce ephemeral affects. The chapter will consider the economics of exchanges between artefacts and bodies; whether value can be placed in object-based artworks, in their immaterial reperformance or in the event of their reception by gallery visitors and the affects that they then embody. That is, whether commodifiable qualities lie in the material or immaterial products of works of art. The text and its accompanying artists’ pages raise questions around agency and authorship: who makes and signs the work, along with what and where the artwork is or happens. Finally I will touch upon issues of labour and its delegation in galleries and contemporary art.

    Full details in the University publications repository