Video Art Pioneers and Re-Enactment: Some Reflections upon Forms and Approaches Towards Media to Re-Enact, Re-Act and Re-Perform Early Video Artworks from the 70s and 80s

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In the past decade, the re-enactment of seminal historical artists’ performances has become an internationally growing practice. Several exhibitions and studies have been dedicated to the topic of re-enactment towards definitions, historical and theoretical contextualization and categorizations of this practice. A milestone artwork in the field can be considered Marina Abramović’s Seven Easy Pieces at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2005). In my presentation, I will argue from a theoretical and curatorial point of view that the re-enactment is particularly relevant for pioneering video performances and video artworks from the 70s and 80s. In fact, in these specific cases, the re-enactment opens a critical reflection not only on the historical piece, with its form and content, and on collective and personal memory and mediation, but also on the nature of the medium itself, that at the time was relatively new. The re-enactment enables to research the medium of the original piece, its documentation, the relationship between the artist and their body, the medium and the viewer, as well as the effects of the old ‘original’ medium and the medium with which the re-enactment is re-performed (that can be the original medium - the analogue video - or a contemporary one) and documented on the artists themselves and the audience. The re-enactment creates a new artwork (as a performance and possibly as a new video/media piece) that is at the same time independent and affiliated to the original video artwork and expands it in time and space. It can also inform its preservation. Live re-enactments of video artworks enable an enhanced audience’s engagement, interactivity and emotional impact on the viewer, and the involvement of different generations and contexts. The video artwork’s making process is uncovered in front of the audience’s eyes. I will present some cases studies from the AHRC funded research projects REWIND, REWINDItalia and EWVA (DJCAD, University of Dundee) analysing live re-enactments of seminal historical video artworks including Videosonata (da “Giorni”) by Claudio Ambrosini (VIDEOEX, Walcheturm, Zurich, 1979-2013, CCA, Glasgow 2015), Monitor Live by Stephen Partridge (Tate, London, 1975-2010) and Doppelgänger by Elaine Shemilt (Visions in the Nunnery, Bow Arts, London, 1979/81-2016). I will also discuss some results from the TV21 project (DJCAD, University of Dundee, 2014) led by Adam Lockhart & Sandie Jamieson which involved young people (16-19) creating their own video interventions influenced by the REWIND collection. My analysis will also include renown case studies, among which Michele Sambin’s re-enactment of Looking for Listening (1977-2013) as well as re-enactments involving new media as’s re-enactments of historical performances by artists including Abramović, Gilbert&George and VALIE EXPORT on Second Life (2007-2010), and Holly Frampton’s Critical Mass directed by Kelly Tribe (Whitney Museum of American Art, 2010). My presentation aims to contribute to open a debate on the nature, the status, and the definition of artists’ video and new media performances’ re-enactment towards an outlining and overcoming of its boundaries. Bibliography Jones, A. (2011)‘“The Artist is Present”: Artistic Re-enactments and the Impossibility of Presence’. The Drama Review, Spring 2011, Vol. 55, No. 1, Pages 16-45. Jones, A. Heathfield, A. (Eds.) (2012), Perform, Repeat, Record. Live Art in History. Bristol, UK/ Chicago, USA: Intellect. Lütticken, S., Allen, J., Phelan P (2005) (eds). Life, Once More: Forms Of Reenactment In Contemporary Art, Rotterdam: Witte de With. (2007) Marina Abramović. Seven Easy Pieces. Milan: Charta. Quaranta, D., Caronia, A., Jansa, J. (Eds.) (2009), RE:akt! Reconstruction, Re-enactment, Re-reporting. Brescia: FPE Editions.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2016
EventContemporary Film and Media Aesthetics : Culture, Nature, and Technology in the 21st Century. XXII International Conference of Film Studies - Roma Tre University – Department of Philosophy, Media, and Performing Arts, Rome, Italy
Duration: 24 Nov 201625 Nov 2016


ConferenceContemporary Film and Media Aesthetics
Internet address


  • video art
  • reenacment


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