The two-day workshop will bring together scholars, museum professionals, curators, artists and students to discuss the methodological challenges of re-exhibiting and recording ‘minor’ exhibitions and performances.
Although the history of exhibitions is a relatively recent field, the literature on the subject is characterised by an emphasis on large-scale exhibitions. By contrast, the present workshop seeks to identify the contours of ‘minor’ histories of exhibitions and performances – that is, a historiography of events that, for various reasons, resist inclusion in grand historical narratives. Of particular concern are the curatorial and editorial strategies upon which contemporary art institutions rely to redisplay/reperform such events.
Chief among these strategies is ‘reactivation’. The notion of reactivation raises compelling questions about the possibility of representing artistic exhibitions and performances that, while deemed historically significant, can afford, or even demand, a certain distance from ‘objective’ recreation. Over the workshop’s two days, other strategies of re-exhibition – including reanimation, reenactment and reprise – will be discussed with reference to contemporary curatorial case studies.
The two-day workshop will take as its starting point the exhibition Celebration of the Body, a complex curatorial experiment organised in 1976 by the conceptual artist IAIN BAXTER& with his then partner Ingrid Baxter (together operating under the name of N.E. Thing Company) at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston, Ontario. The workshop will further reflect on the exhibition’s recent re-enactment by artist and curator Fabien Pinaroli at the Musée des Moulages in Lyon and at the CAP Saint-Fons.
Coinciding with the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, Celebration of the Body displayed hundreds of representations of the human body across a wide variety of genres and supports – from medical artefacts and ancient art objects to documentary films and athletic events. Despite its originality and scope, the exhibition has gone missing from surveys of landmark exhibitions.
The 2012 Summer Olympic and Paralympic games in London are an ideal opportunity to return to Celebration of the Body in order to reflect specifically on the body’s role in reviving ‘minor’ exhibitions and performances. Indeed, the question of corporeal presence is central to any reactivated art event, starting with the artist(s), curator(s) and audience member(s) involved then and now. In their restaging, these bodies find themselves inevitably mediated through, or buttressed by, reproductive technologies–whether PowerPoint, film or video. This workshop will pay special attention to the integration of the body with time-based media in the restaging of ‘minor’ exhibitions and performances, by featuring speakers whose own discursive and scholarly performances invite critical reflection on the capacity to (re)experience what once eluded historical capture.