Chapter 4 The ‘Extended Life’ of Performance

Curating 1960s Multimedia Art in the Contemporary Museum

In: The Explicit Material
Judit Bodor
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Over recent decades, museums have begun to re-evaluate the role of performance art within their collections and exhibitions. This essay reflects on my curatorial approach toward presenting Ivor Davies’s 1968 event-structured and multimedia work Adam on St Agnes’ Eve as part of the 2015 exhibition Silent explosion. Ivor Davies and destruction in art at National Museum Wales, Cardiff. I discuss how this approach differs from customary modes of exhibiting historical performance art in museums, including documentary archival displays or live re-enactments. Drawing on concepts of ‘changeability’ (Hölling 2017), ‘material multiplicity’ (Lillemose 2006), ‘remediation’ (Bolter & Grusin 1999) and ‘proliferative preservation’ (Rinehart & Ippolito 2014), I consider how Davies’s historical performance transformed in the context of the exhibition through its remediation into a performative archival environment and a re-performance. Here arises the question of what constitutes the artwork’s identity in performance. This essay concludes with a reflection on the necessary but often contentious material transformations of performance art in museological contexts and speculates on the relationship between the work’s material identity, authorship, and authenticity.

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