Curating Performance: Re/activation Strategies

full name / name of organization: 
Lucian Gomoll / Museum and Curatorial Studies, UC Santa Cruz
contact email: 

A panel/workgroup/exhibition for the Hemispheric Institute's upcoming Encuentro (conference) in Mexico City, March 17-25 2012

For more details and to apply online, visit:

5 curators/scholars and 5 artists will be selected for participation.

In 1968 Argentine artist Graciela Carnevale staged "El Encierro" (The Confinement) locking her audience into a gallery until they were forced to break through the front window in order to exit. In a related action from 1979, Chile's Colectivo Acción de Arte (or CADA) censored the Bellas Artes Museum by covering the entrance with a white sheet and parking a row of delivery trucks in front of it, declaring that art must be rediscovered in the landscape of everyday life. We might interpret these performances as examples of curatorial interventionism, or an attempt to redirect artistic production and audience attention beyond the limits of elite galleries. Indeed, as part of the transnational phenomenon sometimes referred to as the "dematerialization of the art object" in the 1960s and 70s, artists frequently worked with performance in direct opposition to mainstream art institutions, believing their works could not be collected or commodified. During the 1980s and 90s, artists like Coco Fusco, Guillermo Gomez-Peña, James Luna, Las Yeguas del Apocalipsis and Andrea Fraser continued to use performance as a potent mode of institutional critique that denaturalized the museum's role in colonialism and social control.

Today, and regardless of artist intentions, the remains or "leftovers" of performance art have come to be incorporated into museums and galleries (as well as classrooms) as surrogates for an event, mnemonic aids, performative fragments, or art objects in their own right. What's more, in recent years, performance artists and process-based works have been increasingly featured in mainstream exhibitions. Markers of this paradigm shift include the "laboratory" galleries of the Palais de Tokyo, Marina Abramović's popular and controversial retrospective The Artist is Present (2010), Museo del Barrio's Arte No es Vida survey exhibition of Latin American performance art (2008), the ongoing Performa Biennale, along with numerous Hemispheric initiatives that include the next Encuentro in Mexico. All of the above have led to a variety of results, mutually transforming the identity of performance art and its space of exhibition – and calling into question the roles of the artist, the curator, and the audience. What limitations do institutional spaces (such as the museum) pose for performance artists and curators of performance? What is the role of the curator in exhibiting new performances and/or reactivating those that have already taken place? What is the significance of performance in the history of exhibition, and what new display methods can it enable? How does the recent museological shift towards interactivity relate to performance and archival practices more generally?

We seek workgroup participants who are interested in developing a collaborative, transdisciplinary, and historically informed approach to curating performance. Activists, practitioners, scholars, amateurs and seasoned professionals from multiple disciplinary formations are welcome to apply. We will accept 300-350 word abstracts for conference papers, manifestos, multimedia presentations, performances, and other experimental formats that explicitly address curatorial concerns.

Possible Topics Include
• Curating Contemporary Performance Art
• Re-Performance
• Histories of Exhibiting Performance
• Display Dramaturgy, Experience-Driven Exhibitions
• Curating "Laboratories"
• Re/activating the Trace and the Index
• Organizing Performance Biennials, Triennials, and Other Events
• Performance Artists as Curators, Curators as Performance Artists
• Performance and/as Institutional Critique
• Curatorial Activism, Radical Curating
• Performance and the Art/artifact Debate
• Reverse Ethnography Strategies
• Curating Tourist Itineraries
• Performative Approaches to the Archives
• Activating Museum Transgressions
• Curating Feminist/Queer Acts
• New Media Display Practices
• Collecting and Documenting Performance
• Exhibiting Postcolonial Repertoires
• Commodification of Performance
• Relaying Trauma in Museums Galleries
• Collaboration and/or Curatorial Collectives
• Performativities and Virtual Exhibitions
• Provoking Visitors, Engaging Feedback