Histories of Performance Documentation traces the many ways in which museums have approached performance works from the 1960s onwards, considering the unique challenges of documenting live events. From hybrid and interactive arts, to games and virtual and mixed reality performance, this collection investigates the burgeoning role of the performative in museum displays.

Gabriella Giannachi and Jonah Westerman bring together interviews and essays by leading curators, conservators, artists and scholars from institutions including MoMA, Tate, SFMOMA and the Whitney, to examine a range of interdisciplinary practices that have influenced the field of performance documentation. Chapters build on recent approaches to performance analysis, which argue that it should not focus purely on the live event, and that documentation should not be read solely as a process of retrospection. These ideas create a radical new framework for thinking about the relationship between performance and its documentation—and how this relationship might shape ideas of what constitutes performance in the first place.

chapter |12 pages

Introduction Practical histories

How we do things with performance

part I|77 pages


chapter 1|6 pages

Museum of Modern Art, New York

Stuart Comer, Chief Curator in the Department of Media and Performance Art; Michelle Elligott, Chief of Archives; and Ana Janevski, Associate Curator in the Department of Media and Performance Art

chapter 2|7 pages

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Jay Sanders, Engell Speyer Family Curator and Curator of Performance

chapter 3|7 pages

Tate, London

Catherine Wood, Senior Curator International Art (Performance); and Pip Laurenson, Head of Collection Care Research

chapter 4|7 pages

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Jill Sterrett, Director of Collections and Conservation; Rudolf Frieling, Curator for Media Arts; and Frank Smigiel, Associate Curator for Performance and Film

chapter 5|6 pages

Van Abbemuseum, EINDHOVEN

Christiane Berndes, Curator and Head of Collection; and Annie Fletcher, Chief Curator

chapter 6|6 pages

The Kitchen, New York

Tim Griffin, Executive Director and Chief Curator

chapter 7|6 pages

Walker Art Center, Minneapolis

Philip Bither, William and Nadine McGuire Director and Senior Curator, Performing Arts; Eric Crosby, Associate Curator, Visual Arts; Robin Dowden, Director, New Media Initiatives; and Fionn Meade, Artistic Director

chapter 8|6 pages

Performa, New York

RoseLee Goldberg, Founding Director and Curator

chapter 9|6 pages

LIMA, Amsterdam

Gaby Wijers, Director

chapter 10|18 pages

Pics or it didn’t happen

Text by Catherine Wood, including an interview with Amalia Ulman

part II|107 pages


chapter 12|17 pages

At the edge of the ‘living present’

Re-enactments and re-interpretations as strategies for the preservation of performance and new media art

chapter 13|17 pages

Documenting interaction

chapter 14|16 pages

Screen capture and replay

Documenting gameplay as performance

chapter |16 pages

Afterword The intention of the artist and the point of view of the audience

Performance documentation revisited