Performativity in the Gallery

Staging Interactive Encounters

by Outi Remes (Volume editor) Laura MacCulloch (Volume editor) Marika Leino (Volume editor)
©2014 Edited Collection X, 258 Pages


This book coincides with an increase in the programming of live art elements in many galleries and museums. Traditional art history has, however, been wary of live art’s interdisciplinarity and its tendency to encourage increased formal and conceptual risk taking. Time-based performances have challenged the conventions of documentation and the viewer’s access to the art experience. This book questions the canon of art history by exploring participation, liveness, interactivity, digital and process-based performative practices and performance for the camera, as presented in gallery spaces.
The essays present both academic research as well as case studies of curatorial projects that have pushed the boundaries of the art historical practice. The authors come from a wide range of backgrounds, ranging from curators and art producers to academics and practising artists. They ask what it means to present, curate and create interdisciplinary performative work for gallery spaces and offer cutting-edge research that explores the intricate relationship between art history, live and performing arts, and museum and gallery space.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Illustrations
  • Introduction
  • Part I Art History and its Challenged Position to Performative Encounters
  • 1. Lies, Lies, It’s All Lies I Tell You!
  • 2. Collecting Performance-Based Art: New Challenges and Shifting Perspectives
  • 3. Exhibiting Performance, Staging Experience
  • 4. Histories of Interaction and Participation: Critical Systems from New Media Art
  • 5. From Event to Archive and to Event Again
  • Part II From Curator to Viewer
  • 6. Participation in the Gallery: (Re)negotiating Contracts
  • 7. Playing Ball: Friday Late, Performativity and the Victoria and Albert Museum
  • 8. Heckler, Performance, Participation and Politeness: Using Performance Art as a Tool to Explore the Liminal Space between Art and Theatre and its Capacity for Confrontation
  • 9. Crowd Control: Encountering Art’s Audiences
  • Part III Curating Participation in the Gallery: Case Studies
  • 10. At Play: Curatorial Notes about Playfulness
  • 11. Attending the Gallery
  • 12. Like Shadows: A Celebration of Shyness
  • 13. South African Live Art and the Representation of its Residue: On Gabrielle Goliath’s Stumbling Block
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index
  • Series index

← viii | ix →Illustrations


Plate 2.1

Tania Bruguera, Tatlin’s Whisper #5 (2008), installation view during Living Currency, Tate Modern, London, 2008. Courtesy: the artist and Tate Modern.
Photograph: Tate Modern.

Plate 7.1

Cathrine Alice and friends in Gallery 50a, Renaissance Ball, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 29 January 2010. Photograph: anonymous.
Courtesy: Cathrine Alice.

Plate 9.1

TRIPOD, Ghost in the Machine, performance. Woburn Research Centre, London, 2011. Photograph: Thomas Jenkins. Courtesy: TRIPOD.

Plate 10.1

Cally Trench, Vegetable Thieves (2010), At Play 2012, New Ashgate Gallery, Farnham, 2012. Photograph and courtesy: the artist.

Plate 12.1

Alex May, Shadows of Light (2010), interactive video installation, Phoenix Brighton, 2011. Photograph and courtesy: the artist.


Figure 1.1

Invitation to attend Living Thing, Galerie Krinzinger, Innsbruck, 1979. Photograph and courtesy: the author.

Figure 4.1

Screenshot from a mobile phone device, showing image by Jan Rothuizen from the Stedelijk Museum’s augmented reality application AR(t): Jan Rothuizen, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 2010. Photograph and courtesy: Stedelijk Museum and Jan Rothuizen.

Figure 4.2

Digital image by Jan Rothuizen from ← ix | x → the Stedelijk Museum’s augmented reality application AR(t): Jan Rothuizen, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 2010. Photograph and courtesy: Stedelijk Museum and Jan Rothuizen.

Figure 5.1

Recollections: Bewogen Beweging (1961) and Dylaby (1962), Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 2011. Photograph and courtesy: Stedelijk Museum.

Figure 7.1

Gallery 50a (The Renaissance City 1350–1600) during Renaissance Ball, 29 January 2010, Victorian and Albert Museum, London. Photograph and courtesy: Victoria and Albert Museum.

Figure 8.1

Lee Campbell, Lost for Words (2011), performance, Testing Grounds, South Hill Park, Bracknell, 2011. Courtesy: South Hill Park, Testing Grounds.

Figure 10.1

Leszek Blyszczynski, Personal Puzzles (2011), At Play 2012, OVADA, Oxford, 2012. Photograph: Cally Trench. Courtesy: the artist.

Figure 11.1

David Barnett, Sam Belinfante, Bruce McLean, A CUT A SCRATCH A SCORE (2011), Cooper Gallery, DJCAD, Dundee, 2011. Courtesy: the artists. Photograph: David Barnett.

Figure 11.2

David Barnett, Sam Belinfante, Bruce McLean, A CUT A SCRATCH A SCORE (2011), Cooper Gallery, DJCAD, Dundee, 2011. Courtesy: the artists. Photograph: Ross Fraser McLean.

Figure 13.1

Gabrielle Goliath, Stumbling Block (2011), artist’s sketch. Courtesy: the artist.

Figure 13.2

Gabrielle Goliath, Stumbling Block (2011), GoetheonMain, Johannesburg, 2011. Courtesy: the artist. Photograph: Anthea Pokroy.

← x | 1 →OUTI REMES


This book explores participation, liveness, interactivity, process-based performative practices and performance for the camera and online in interdisciplinary practices in a curated gallery space. Live art and work that combines visual arts with performing arts such as dance and physical theatre have a complicated relationship with the canon of art history. Traditional art history has been wary of live art’s tendency to encourage increased formal and conceptual risk taking and is cautious about its interdisciplinary nature. Time-based performances have also challenged the conventions of documentation and the viewer’s continued access to the art experience.

The book has developed from an academic session organized by the Museums & Exhibitions Members’ Group Committee of the Association of Art Historians (AAH) at the 38th Annual AAH Conference (Open University, Milton Keynes, 2012).1 The group represents the interests of AAH members working in museums and galleries in the United Kingdom and internationally. The group offers funding, advice, news, a network for professionals, and academic and professional practice sessions, often with the aim of fostering collaboration between university academics and museum professionals. The group represents a wide range of practitioners, including art historians, curators, art producers and artists. This richness of art practices and the spirit of interdisciplinary collaboration are reflected in the wide knowledge base of the authors represented in this collection of fourteen essays. The book brings together authors with a wide range of backgrounds, ranging from curators and art producers to academics and practising artists and includes academic research as well as artists’ and ← 1 | 2 → curatorial case studies of projects that have pushed the boundaries of art historical practice.

The call for proposals for the conference session in 2011 coincided with a surge in live elements being programmed at major exhibition venues. Marina Abramović’s The Artist Is Present, a performance of 700 hours, at the Museum of Modem Art (New York, 2010) was visited by 750,000 people.2 Tate Modern launched The Tanks, a fifteen-week festival of performance and events in 2012. After years of absence of live performance, Spartacus Chetwynd (2012) and Tino Sehgal (2013) secured nominations for the Turner Prize, the most discussed visual arts prize in the UK. The Hayward Gallery exhibitions such as Move: Choreographing You (London, 2010–11) invited the viewer to become a participant in installations and sculptures by visual artists and choreographers from the last fifty years. Laurie Anderson, Trisha Brown, Gordon Matta-Clark: Pioneers of the Downtown Scene, New York 1970s at the Barbican Centre (London, 2011) revisited the 1970s New York art community, which worked fluidly between visual art and performance. The Barbican Centre and the Hayward Gallery have a long-standing interest in multi- and interdisciplinary work as they programme performance and music as part of their wider offering. However, the live offer has not always extended to gallery spaces and, as demonstrated by the Trisha Brown, Gordon Matta-Clark exhibition that favoured art-historical documentation of historic events rather than curating new live work for the gallery.

While the national organizations have had a hesitant start, many British regional galleries have championed live art, often with a support from the Arts Council. For example, in South East England, Testing Grounds, a not-for-profit agency, has supported diversion, unexpected outcomes, and risk-taking in smaller venues and co-organized live events in the region in ← 2 | 3 → partnership with performance and visual arts venues, including gallery spaces such as the Permanent Gallery (Brighton, 2007–10) and Bracknell Gallery at South Hill Park (Bracknell, 2009, 2011). A strong focus has been on inhabiting new territories across art forms and contexts that are not usually explored together with new possibilities for unexplored approaches to artists and audiences.3 Rules and Regs, another platform, has focused on residencies and also worked in some gallery settings such as Quay Arts (Isle of Wight, 2011), apace (Southampton, 2008) and South Hill Park (Bracknell, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011). The residencies invited artists to make new work in response to rules devised by a curator exploring new ways of working that challenged the artists’ previous practice. Each month-long programme was curated by a different organization and culminated in a public exhibition of work. While the residencies produced performances, the focus was on the process rather than the outcome.4 The South Hill Park model of the programme for example opened the centre’s Bracknell Gallery for the use of three artists for a period of four weeks, allowing open access for the public to the artists, the creation of new work and the artists’ professional development, but required risk-taking from all parties. While these regional projects are often less well-documented and reviewed than bigger London shows, they have developed critical mass and introduced new audiences to live events in galleries.

Presenting reflections and new research from the field, this book focuses on the exploration of the intricate relationship between live and performing arts, and between art history and museum and gallery spaces. It explores what it has meant and means today to present, curate and create interdisciplinary performative work for gallery spaces. It is divided into three parts: Part I considers art history and its challenged position in relation to performative encounters. Part II focuses on a shift away from the curator to the realm of the viewer. Part III presents three case studies by curators whose curatorial positions have included participation at the heart ← 3 | 4 → of their gallery-based projects. While there are books about live art and performance, this edited collection aims to address a gap in the market for books that consider performativity in relation to the history of art and gallery spaces, one of the most exciting forms of contemporary art today.

Part I begins with Mary Oliver’s ‘Lies, Lies, It’s All Lies I Tell You!’.Oliver returns to her personal history of performance art and 1980 when she responded to an open invitation to be part of the international performance art festival in Innsbruck and Living Thing by the artist group Reindeer Werk led by Dirk Larsen and Tom Puckey. The work consisted of simply ‘living’. In relation to this and other historic events, Oliver considers the value of the artist’s work that struggles to achieve museum status in the coded systems of display. She asks whether a live act is secondary to the document, and if no document is left behind, what is the place for such work in the history of art.

Pip Laurenson and Vivian van Saaze in ‘Collecting Performance-Based Art: New Challenges and Shifting Perspectives’ discuss historical barriers of collecting non-material and live performances. The authors consider live works acquired into Tate’s collection, which have found forms to exist over time. Laurenson and van Saaze ask what are the skills needed for enactment. Whilst the non-materiality and liveness of performance may seem inherently challenging to a museum collection, this chapter reconsiders this assumption and the points of friction in the art world that is object-bound and focused on the art market. They suggest that the challenge has been a process of active engagement – the networks which support the work and the sector’s dependency on social and political context, people, resources and other transitory circumstances outside the museum. This, for the authors, contradicts the museum’s tendency for containment and control.

Maria Chatzichristodoulou [aka Maria X] considers the shift that has occurred in the status of performance and live art within the mainstream art context in the last decade. Art forms based on liveness have moved from the periphery to the centre through the programming of major cultural institutions. Maria X asks whether performance still continues to challenge the established art world and market as it did in the 1960s and 1970s or whether its new status reflects changes in the market that have allowed or ← 4 | 5 → even promoted this shift. Reflecting on this new status, Maria X considers how digital performance has been received by institutions and the performance world, problematized by the challenges of the new digital category.


X, 258
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2013 (December)
art history liveness museum
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2014. 258 pp., 4 coloured ill., 11 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Outi Remes (Volume editor) Laura MacCulloch (Volume editor) Marika Leino (Volume editor)

Outi Remes is the Gallery Director of the New Ashgate Gallery, Surrey. She is the author of many publications, including Conspiracy Dwellings: Surveillance in Contemporary Art (with Pam Skelton, 2010), and the curator of numerous projects, such as the Rules and Regs live art residencies and the At Play exhibition series (with Cally Trench, 2009-12). Laura MacCulloch is Curator at Royal Holloway, University of London, where she is responsible for a collection best known for its nineteenth-century paintings. She began working with contemporary art during her time as Curator of British Art at the National Museums Liverpool, where she curated exhibitions by the winners of the Liverpool Art Prize and acquired works by artists such as Haroon Mirza, Lubaina Himid and Yoko Ono. Marika Leino is Senior Lecturer in the History of Art at Oxford Brookes University. She has written on early modern sculpture and the history of collecting. Her book, Fashion, Devotion and Contemplation: The Status and Functions of Italian Renaissance Plaquettes, was published with Peter Lang in 2013.


Title: Performativity in the Gallery