The LIMA Collection 2015: Performance: On Objects

For the second year, If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution’s director Frédérique Bergholtz and curator Susan Gibb were invited to curate a screening programme from their collection of media artworks that followed the thematic line ‘Performance’. Previously, they responded by bringing together a broad selection of works that spanned the historical scope of the collection to consider shifts in modes of performance that have occurred alongside, and in relation to, media arts development. This year they took a more focused view, zooming in on works that display an interest in object-invested performance practices.

Performance has often been posed as a challenge to objecthood through the ephemeral qualities of live action. This ephemerality is however something that media art intrinsically refutes by the very nature of its mediums’ abilities to record and document. Extending these propositions, the screening highlighted the co-existence and entanglement of objects and agents in complex networks of signification and exchange. It did this by presenting a selection of works that considered the affordance of objects—meaning how objects can act as catalysts and prompts to suggest or determine behaviour—rather than simply as results of action-based processes. 

The selection also included a focus on aspects of the body that are explicitly connected to tactile sensation and ways of apprehending the world, such as hands, feet and mouths, which through touch, taste, gesture, and movement, perform on, with and respond to objects for each artists’ respective formal and subjective concerns.

Informing the screening was a re-reading of Catherine Wood’s essay People and Things in the Museum (2013), in which she argues for how we might look more broadly at the place of live action or performance (art made of “the social”) within the conventions of the material object-focused art institution. In the essay she says, “Instead of conceiving of a progression evolving away from the object towards action, as certain thinking about the recent increase of attention towards “performance” does, how might we pause and focus on the reality of our more complex ecology in which objects and actions are imperfectly co-existent, even inseparable, and certainly mutually influencing?”*

*Catherine Wood, ‘People and Things in Museums’, in M. Copeland and J. Pelegrin (ed), Choreographing Exhibitions, Les Presses Du Reel , Paris, 2014 p.118

Susan Gibb

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