Remake: PRS: In the Archive (2)

Cara Davies has been researching in the Arnolfini archives for Performance Re-enactment Society’s Group Show.  The show will respond to key works from Arnolfini’s past. Here is a selection of photos from the archives.

Archive image from the exhibition Magical Consciousness

Reading room catalogue for Tom Saddington’s performance The Can and Cigarette Package Project, 1980

Exhibition catalogue for Plastic, 1996

Exhibition catalogue for Boyd Webb’s Tableaux, 1978

I Cannot Offer You A Specific Proposal… by Michael Upton, 1972. Shown as part of A Sense of Place, 1981.

Brochure information on Arnolfini Building Site Tours taking place on 27 June, 2004.

Brochure Information on Quarantine & Company Fierce’s performance Susan and Darren, 2006.

Brochure information on Gina Pane exhibition, 2002.

Brochure information on Gloria’s performance Night After Night, 1993.



Remake: Invited Speakers: Rosemary Butcher and Stefanie Sachsenmaier

Between now and 15 September we will be introducing all of the invited speakers for the Remake symposium.

Rosemary Butcher is a leading British choreographer, and in the last twenty years her work has been presented in over forty countries. Butcher was the first student of contemporary dance at Dartington College of Arts in the mid-sixties, and between 1970-72 she lived in New York, where she was profoundly influenced by the Judson Church Group at their height. In 1976, Butcher brought the ideas she developed in New York back to London, for a large scale concert at the Serpentine Gallery.

In recent years, Butcher has been working on a sequence called After Kaprow, which, according to the project site, has been activated by her ‘recent enthusiasm for the practice and research that are involved in the recreation, reinterpretation, and recontextualisation of movement’. A re-invention of Kaprow’s seminal 18 Happenings in 6 Parts was presented at the Hayward Gallery as part of the Move: Choreographing You exhibition. Since then, this work has developed multiple strands, a few of which will include a DVD and collectiong of essays. In November 2012, a two-part piece called After Kaprow – The Silent Room + Book of Journeys will be presented at The Place in London.

Sadly, due to health issues, Rosemary Butcher will not be able to be present at the Remake symposium. Instead, her colleague from Middlesex University, Stefanie Sachsenmaier, will be reflecting on the After Kaprow work, as well as the broader context of both Butcher’s practice and issues in performance-making more widely. Sachsenmaier writes:

During 2010 I worked closely with Rosemary Butcher on her processing of Allan Kaprow’s archive of 18 Happenings in 6 Parts, as part of the making of her reinvention of the work, which she presented in November 2010 at the Clore Ballroom of the Royal Festival Hall in London. My presentation seeks to give prominence to Butcher’s voice and creative process, in focusing on how Butcher created and digested the initial reinvention, and how it moves on in a new project entitled After Kaprow: The Silent Room. It overall investigates her creative link to Kaprow’s work, which she identifies as located in the language, rather than the specific context the artist was working in.

Remake: PRS: In the Archive

Cara Davies has been researching in the Arnolfini archives for Performance Re-enactment Society’s Group Show.  The show will respond to key works from Arnolfini’s past. Here is a selection of photos from the archives.

1.	Promotional shot of Amikan Toren’s Actuality  (1983-4, exhibited at Arnolfini 1991)

Promotional shot of Amikan Toren’s Actuality  (1983-4, exhibited at Arnolfini 1991)

2.	Documentation of Rosemary Butcher’s Passage North East on the Quay side in front of the Arnolfini, 1976.

Documentation of Rosemary Butcher’s Passage North East on the Quay side in front of the Arnolfini, 1976.

3.	Promotional shot from of La Cuisine Hollandaise by Ger van Elk (1969) shown in the exhibit  catalogue for The Bed Springs Twang in Our House, 1992.

Promotional shot from of La Cuisine Hollandaise by Ger van Elk (1969) shown in the exhibit  catalogue for The Bed Springs Twang in Our House, 1992.

Archive image from the exhibition Sea Wall, 2011.

Archive image from the exhibition Sea Wall, 2011.


Remake: Invited Speakers: Pil and Galia Kollectiv

Between now and 15 September, we will be introducing the speakers for Remake. 

Pil and Galia Kollectiv are London based artists, writers and curators working in collaboration. From their website:

Our work addresses the legacy of modernism. It explores avant-garde discourses of the twentieth century in the context of a changing landscape of creative work and instrumentalised leisure. We are interested in the relationship between art and politics, and the role irony and belief play in its current articulation. We often use choreographed movement and ritual as both an aesthetic and a thematic dimension, juxtaposing consumer rites and religious ceremonies to find the underlying convictions of a secular, post-ideological society.

We also run xero, kline & coma, an artist run project space, we are the London editors of Art Papers, and we teach fine art at the University of Reading and elsewhere.

Pil and Galia are also authors of ‘RETRO/NECRO: From Beyond the Grave of the Politics of Re-Enactment‘, a critical response to the strategic use of re-enactment by contemporary artists. They figure a familiar analysis of this type of work as a troubled binary: it is either ‘a reactionary nostalgia for an idealized past where unmediated, live experiences were possible’ or else it is ‘a means of interrupting the march of time as progress and of rewriting canonical history against the forces of power and capital’. ‘Good’ re-enactments, then, are over-tasked with the burden of overturning capitalism, while ‘bad’ ones are blamed for commodifying what were otherwise pure and uncompromised expressions. Pil and Galia complicate this opposition by considering how artist re-enactments offer versions of history that are more akin to Foucault’s understanding of genealogy, which, they write ‘privileges the accidents, the coincidences, and the ironies that inscribe time with meaning’.

For Remake, Pil and Galia offer a performative lecture ‘In and On Absentia’. They write:

Under post fordism, the worker performs the self by ‘delegating’ (in the Bruno Latour sense) his or her subjectivity. ‘In and On Absentia’ is a performative lecture distributed through VHS tapes, in which the fragmented image of the self continues to work – both metaphorically and physically. A homage to David Cronenberg’s ‘Videodrome’, where the long deceased Dr. Oblivion perpetuates a media presence using an archive of tapes, the presentation considers the possibility of reenacting the document so as to undermine the ruling paradigm of individuality and produce repetitions that contest the demand to repeat and remake the self.



Remake: Week 4: ‘Begin Again’

Nik Wakefield, one of three postgraduate assistants on Every House Has a Door’s 9 Beginnings, reflects on the process so far.

Begin Again.

To begin with, Matthew Goulish told us about a piece of music John Cage wrote for violin that seemed impossible to play until Irvine Arditti did it using a method no one else had thought to try. Arditti said the way to play it and the way to listen to it was to imagine that it was constantly starting and restarting.

Henri Bergson envisaged time as an absolute force that drove life. Evolution is a creative process that is always manifesting newness. Duration is always moving and making.

Every House Has A Door’s 9 Beginnings is a performance that re-stages works by other artists. The nature of this performance is similar to Cage’s Freeman Etudes and Bergson’s conception of élan vital.

In one of the re-enactments there is an idea that each moments’ beginning creates a reality that exists not dissimilar to the one that we experience. I’d like to think that what can be taken away from this idea is that each moment opens possibilities that are as real as they are unknown. More important than the theory of parallel realities is that creative force acting in every second. I don’t know anything about other realities existing or not, but I do have a feeling that bringing attention to the act of beginning substantiates Bergson’s argument that the real is always greater than the possible. But of course all these beginnings have ended before so the question is what do we have now? The spillage of the past.


Remake: Every House Has a Door: 9 Questions

Over at the Arnolfini blog, Matthew Goulish (dramaturg for Every House Has a Door) answers questions posed by Bristol-based theatre company Sedated by a Brick. Running from 0-9, these questions relate to 9 Beginnings, the new piece being developed by Every House Has a Door for Performing Documents.

Here is one of my favourites:

1. How long is a beginning?

The beginning often ends clearly: at a moment when a second phase of the performance commences. One beginning is very brief, less than one minute. Another sustains itself for over seven minutes. But they all end at a point when we feel we have crossed a threshold, and there is no going back. In the space of the beginning, we as an audience are still asking what direction this performance will take. It seems there are many possibilities, almost pure potential. Then the beginning ends when a limit has been recognized for those possibilities, and the performance has narrowed irreversibly.

Remake: Invited Speakers: Adrian Heathfield

Between now and 15 September, we will be introducing the speakers from the Remake symposium. Adrian Heathfield will be giving the keynote presentation at the event.

Adrian Heathfield is one of the most well-respected writers and curators of performance in the UK.  From his website:

Adrian Heathfield writes on, curates and creates performance. His books include Out of Now, a monograph on the Taiwanese-American artist Tehching Hsieh and the edited collections Perform, Repeat, RecordLive: Art and PerformanceSmall Acts and Shattered Anatomies. His numerous essays have been translated into seven languages.

He is co-director of Performance Mattersan AHRC funded research project on the cultural value of performance for which he recently co-curated thePerforming Idea events (2010). He co-curated the Live Culture events at Tate Modern, London (2003) and a number of other performance and durational events in European cities over the last ten years. He has worked with many artists and thinkers on critical and creative collaborations including talks, written dialogues, creative writing and workshop projects.

He was President of Performance Studies international (2004-2007) and is now Professor of Performance and Visual Culture at the University of Roehampton, London.


Heathfield’s talk, titled ‘The Ghost Time of Transformation’, will draw on his background as both a scholar and curator. He writes:

The talk looks at questions of curatorial strategy in relation to performance and dance histories, and their re-activation and alteration through contemporary works. It focuses on what might be at stake, in temporal, experiential and mnemonic terms with new works and exhibitions that take fluid, processual and transformative approaches to the display of performance histories in the present. In particular it examines Moments: A History of Performance in 10 Acts (ZKM, 2012) both in terms of the revival of its constituent works and its curatorial sensibility. What is being re-performed and re-moved here, and what might such animations have to do with the survival and transmission of some of the more ineffable qualities of performance?

Remake Symposium: Invited Speakers: James Yarker

Between now and 15 September, we will be introducing all of the speakers for the Remake symposium. James Yarker co-founded the Birmingham-based Stan’s Cafe, and has directed all of the company’s major shows.
In 1984, the Leeds-based Impact Theatre Co-operative made a show called The Carrier Frequency, in collaboration with science fiction author Russel Hoban. In 1999, Stan’s Cafe remade The Carrier Frequency, working from grainy archival video. Both of these works have taken on a heightened status and have a much wider influence than the limited number of people who were able actually to see the shows.

In a 2000 issue of New Theatre Quarterly, Frances Babbage writes of the Stan’s Cafe revival, focusing on the missing original – the fact that of the audience of fifty who saw the Stan’s Cafe version with her, few had seen the Impact Theatre version in 1984. Indeed, not even the (re)makers saw the original production. Babbage writes:

James Yarker told us that in their search for performers the company specified that applicants should not have seen the original production. The task the company set themselves was to restage the production from the video. The making lasted two weeks: the first week marking through the video, the second week rehearsal. (98)

Part of the excitement of the Stan’s Cafe remake is mythologized absence and the romance of disappearance – and it’s clear that the makers worked to deliberately manufacture this mythology and romance. Interestingly, it’s also a mythology of the mistake. Babbage records Yarker saying ‘We have tried to be true to the video, being aware a the same time that the video may not be true to the show’. (98) This playful relationship to gaps and errors forms its own kind of integrity, quite separate from a slavish (and impossible) insistence on questionable authenticity.

At the same time, it’s possible to make too much of the absence at the heart of The Carrier Frequency remake. Yarker writes on the Stan’s Cafe website of the company’s interest in the 1980s as ‘the first decade in which video technology was cheap enough to allow small companies to document their work’. So in fact, the existence of extant materials created the context for doing the remake – not absence at all, but excess.

But perhaps even more than absence or excess, there is at the heart of the Carrier Frequency project a question of proximity. While none of the makers saw the Impact show, Yarker writes that many of them studied with Impact member Pete Brooks at Lancaster University, and were inspired by him and other Impact members. ‘At that time’, Yarker writes, ‘The Carrier Frequency and Impact hovered as a history we knew shaped us, but which we knew we could never really learn because, in theatre, you really have to be there’. The remake, then, worked as a way to get closer to something important, to build something like a community. Yarker wraps up his reflection on Carrier Frequency thus:

It may be thought that the avant garde should be iconoclastic, working in reaction against earlier generations. In truth, if feels as if artistic generations are very short, and we are driven to build on their best practice. This project is driven by respect and although it is ostensibly about The Carrier Frequency, it is also intended to celebrate a host of lost, but influential, shows.

More than ten years on, the topic of remaking performance is on everybody’s mind and lips and performance remakes are staged in museums and galleries and symposia (ahem). In this context, Stan’s Cafe’s Carrier Frequency takes on its own status as an original – an original remake. What has changed in the intervening years? What gaps, errors and excesses now structure integrity in documenting performance? What proximities are we attempting, and what do we want our communities or artists to look like?

Remake Symposium: Invited Speakers: Janez Janša

Between now and 15 September, we’ll be posting brief introductions and abstracts from the  international artists, scholars, writers, choreographers and theatre-makers who will speak at the Remake Symposium. Click here to book tickets for Remake.

In 2007, three artists based in Slovenia officially changed their names to Janez Janša, the name of the Slovenian prime minister. They also joined his centre-right political party. However, rather than operating under a collective pseudonym, the three new Janez Janšas have since continued to work independently on their own individual pursuits, whilst occasionally coming together to make collaborative work (such as the 2008 exhibition NAME – Readymade and the forthcoming documentary film My Name Is Janez Janša). This act of re-naming has no easy interpretation, but stages questions about over-identification and mistaken identity; repetition and the readymade; and the document as both vessel for history and agent of (administrative) reality. Some detailed critical writing on Janez Janša, Janez Janša and Janez Janša can be found here.

‘Our’ Janez Janša has the following biography:

Janez Janša is artist, writer, performer and director of interdisciplinary performances a.o. WE ARE ALL MARLENE DIETRICH FOR (with Erna Omarsdottir), PUPILIJA, PAPA PUPILO AND THE PUPILCEKS – RECONSTRUCTION and THE MORE OF US THERE ARE, THE FASTER WE WILL REACH OUR GOAL. His visual works include a. o. REFUGEE CAMP FOR THE FIRST WORLD CITIZENS  (with Peter Šenk), NAME Readymade (with Janez Janša and Janez Janša) and LIFE [IN PROGRESS]. His work contains strong critical and political dimension and it is focused on the relation between art and social and political context. He is author of the book on Jan Fabre (JAN FABRE – La Discipline du chaos, le chaos de la discipline, Armand Colin, Paris 1994) and has been editor in chief of MASKA, performing arts journal from 1999 to 2006. He is the director of Maska, institute for publishing, production and education based in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Janša will be giving a presentation titled ‘On Reconstruction’. He writes:

I will present some of my works (from 2006 to 2009), which are based on the performances made by artists in the 60’s and 70’s and show different strategies in dealing with the past and history.

Every act of historicizing is a construction of the past. We construct the past through the gaze of the present, with the gaze being constructed by a set of social, political, cultural, methodological, interpretative, and other factors. We historicize the past in the present, but we do it for the future. Every historicizing includes, on the one hand, the opening of the overlooked and concealed; it brings and strengthens the unheard voices, while, on the other hand, it closes or, better yet, uses this operation to package a certain chapter of the past.

Presentation will reflect terminological questions in dealing with history such as re-enactment, reconstruction, appropriation, quote…