by Jacques Doyon
MoMA’s major retrospective of the work of Marina Abramović marks museum institutions’ full recognition of the field of performance. In a way, this exhibition is the logical outcome of a movement of reactualization of historic performances that has been underway for more than a decade and to which Abramowic has contributed significantly. Moreover, a number of shows in Montreal have been devoted to aspects of performance in recent years. It is in this context that we devote the main part of this issue to the status and interpretation of the documentation of different forms of updating of historic performances: exhibitions, remediatizations, appropriations, and re-enactments.
Guest editor Anne Bénichou, art-history professor at the school of visual and media arts at the Université du Québec à Montréal, brings together detailed case studies and a contextual analysis of the main debates and positions taken on the status and uses of performance documentation within this movement. Artist and theoretician David Tomas presents the exhibition strategies that he implemented as curator for the retrospective of Tim Clark’s performances and works at Concordia University’s Leonard & Bina Ellen Gallery. Barbara Clausen, an art historian and curator who is very interested in these questions, analyzes the re-enactments of performances made by Luis Felipe Ortega and Daniel Guzmán, Seth Price, and Kelley Walker. Art historian and critic Cyril Thomas discusses remediatizations of performances made in the virtual world of SecondLife by Eva and Franco Mattes, Joseph DeLappe, and Lynn Hershman Leeson. Mario Côté, an artist and director, describes the reinterpretation that was necessary in his collaboration with Françoise Sullivan for the re-creation of her Danse dans la neige. Finally, Anne Bénichou’s essay offers a more general view of the context of current re-evaluations of historic performances and the theoretical issues raised by the use of documentation of these performances.
The issues of documentation are in the forefront of Ciel variable’s concerns in other ways as well. The magazine recently put online the complete content of more than twenty years of publication, and these archives offer an overview of the evolution of contemporary photography during this period. Art magazines in fact play an essential role of witnessing culture as it is being made – by documenting contemporary critique and creation – and forming the archive of what will be tomorrow’s heritage. This role, unfortunately, is often underestimated. The recent setbacks dealt to magazines, as they were shuffled among different priorities when the Department of Canadian Heritage’s program of support for the Canadian magazine industry was reorganized, offer just one more example. Even the interruption in publication of a magazine as important as Parachute raised no significant questions. It is time that all granting agencies re-evaluate their policies of support for magazines with a broader, and more coherent, view! Translated by Käthe Roth