Capturing Performance

Participants investigate how to document the ephemeral.

In 2015, LI-MA and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam presented a forum event subtitled “Where net art and performance meet”, featuring documentation approaches for ephemeral works, such as performance and net art. This included a performance by JODI and talks by Annet Dekker (independent curator/researcher), Gabriella Giannachi (University of Exeter) and Vivian van Saaze (Maastricht University).


Documentation as a Tool for Conservation

With the arrival of ephemeral, conceptual, performance, networked, and processual works of art, documentation has become the focus of conservation and presentation strategies. Documentation can consist of many things, whether a performance created by an artist or a record of the work’s defining characteristics created much later by a conservator or a curator. Yet, as can be imagined, performative artistic practices challenge existing forms of documentation, resulting in new ways of thinking about how we register change. 

Documenting a performance artwork is about capturing a moment, in which many things happen simultaneously to form a layered experience. Yet, much of this experience is intangible, particularly when electronic and digital media are involved. For this reason, modern and contemporary art institutions continue to work on conservation strategies for ephemeral artworks, addressing questions such as the following: What knowledge and new methods for documentation, transmission and preservation of these works can be constructed? What can be learned from other strategies within the scope of the museum? And what do the changing needs of artworks imply for the role and function of the museum? 


Prior to the keynote talks was a live performance by the artistic duo Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans, also known as JODI, who presented the work THIS PAGE CONTAINS... In conjunction with this, seven people from various backgrounds, including researchers, artists and registrars, were asked to document this performance from their own perspective. Annet Dekker and Gaby Wijers, who invited the documentors, encouraged subjectivity, and collaboratively the documentors created an unusual yet informative representation of the evening.

These efforts resulted in six different examples of documentation: Luca Battich (AR) created an account of the event, combining his personal impressions with objective script logs; Molly Bower (US) and Nina van Doren (NL) put together a folder containing technical and subjective information in human-readable form; Michaela Lakova (BG) created a video reinterpretation of the performance; Hélia Marçal (PT) wrote a personal impression of the event; Thomas Walskaar (NO) made a video recording of the event from the audience;` and Julie Boschat Thorez (FR) put together a folder compiling the documentation of JODI’s performance and its dissemination. 

To view their results, click on the corresponding links below. See further down the page for more information on documentation and reinterpretation, and a contact form for specific questions.