ABSTRACT

In 2010 the activities of one institution alone crystallized the importance of continuing with the critique of assumptions about documenting and historicizing live art, which I introduced in my 1997-98 essay reprinted here. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, after 80 years of resolutely promoting and consolidating modernist conceptions limiting art to painting, sculpture, or possibly (in some forms) ‘high art’ photography or fi lm, mounted a number of key shows foregrounding the importance of performance and the performative in post-1960s art1. The most notable was the provocatively entitled, and heavily promoted, Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present, notoriously featuring the artist herself, seated in the gleaming white atrium of the Museum and soliciting encounters with visitors. This ‘presence’ of the artist complemented a large-scale retrospective of her performance works as recalled through vitrines of objects, photographs, video and fi lm documentation, and re-enactments of several key pieces by young artists and dancers2.