#3 Curating As Expanded Conservation

Date: 18 November 2021, 2-6 pm, Zoom

About this workshop

A workshop co-convened by Dr Judit Bodor and Dr Hanna B. Hölling, and with contribution from artist/curator Prof André Stitt and Benjamin Sebastian and Joseph Morgan Schofield from ]performance s p a c e[.
The presentations examined how the intersection of curation and conservation might contribute to the way we engage with and conceptualize ephemeral practices. Following the presentations participants worked with an artwork from The Alastair MacLennan Archive discussing how might curatorial work support an artwork’s preservation, and vice versa?


Hanna Hölling: What does the work want? On the intersection of curatorial and conservation cultures.

This was a presentation about a canonical and yet surprisingly understudied work of art: Nam June Paik’s Zen for Film, or Fluxfilm No. 1, which was created during the early 1960s. One of the most evocative works, Zen for Film consists of a several-minute-long screening of a blank film; as the film ages and wears in the projector, the viewer is confronted with a constantly evolving work. Because of this mutability and the rich history of its display, the work undermines any assumption that art can be subject to a single interpretation. Taking this work as a single subject of an exhibition at the Bard Graduate Center Gallery (2015-16) and its accompanying book Revisions (2015), Hanna discussed how critical thinking about the work’s presentation not only contributes to the extended notion of its preservation but also allows us to better understand what an artwork is and what it might become.

Andre Stitt: Trace, Spectral Arc & Vanishing Point

In his presentation artist Andre Stitt discussed the relationship between preservation and presentation by considering how performance artists seek to embody physical action and memory as ‘live’ archives through the use of materials identified in their performance practice. He talked about how performance work is produced to include the constant process of accumulation and erasure, creating a layering of material and memory through curating ‘traces’, which he identifies as the practice of ‘act-archiving’, a term first used by artist Julie Bacon and is concerned with the relationship between live presence in the artwork (that of the artists and others) and the processes of historicisation. Throught the concept of act-archiving Andre explored his approach to curating the programme of trace: installaction artspace in Cardiff, Wales, over a ten-year period (2000-2010) and talk about Spectral arc & vanishing point, a durational performance by him and artist Alastair MacLennan at St. Paul St. Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand (2011).

]performance s p a c e[: PSX – A Decade of Performance Art in the UK.

Benjamin co-founded ]ps[ in 2011, and invited Joseph to join as co-director in 2020. In 2021 they curated PSX: a decade of performance art in the UK, a celebratory archival programme marking the 10th anniversary of ]ps[. The ]ps[ archive is an expanded archive. It is alive. In working with artists, ]ps[ begins from a place of attending to the needs – artistic, emotional and pragmatic – of the bodies which pass through it. As ]ps[ transitions into a new reality, with new leadership and looking towards new geographies, Joseph and Benjamin’s presentation was a dialogue and reflection on ]ps[‘ mission statement and manifesto, questioning what holds true and what needs to be reimagined.

Artwork discussed in the workshop from The Alastair MacLennan Archive

VIAL AVAIL (the presence of absence), 2020

A performance-for-camera work comprising of four versions (a,b,c,d) of 7:36-minute edited footage of one performance shot in the artist’s garden in Greenisland, Belfast on May 2, 2020. The video footage was edited with photographer Jordan Hutchings’ assistance and the versions were exhibited in four different festivals (never together) during the lockdown. The performance itself has emerged from MacLennan’s daily performative studio drawing practice from March 2020 onwards, which produced hundreds of drawings on A2 paper, each signed on the back with the same title ‘LIM(I)NAL’. Selections from the drawings were sent to curators of the festivals to be exhibited [if they wish] alongside the videos as part of festivals. The drawings (without the videos) were also used in an online performative exhibition curated by Judit Bodor and Adam Lockhart on the artist’s archive website. The work has now also been preserved on the archive website as the simultaneous display of the four versions of the video, video stills and digital images of a selection of drawings. The drawings themselves are not yet in the physical collection.

Bibliography and relevant resources


Hanna B. Hölling

Dr Hanna B. Hölling is Associate Professor in the Department of History of Art, University College London and Research Professor at Bern University of the Arts, Switzerland. Her research, publications and teaching focus on the art and cultural developments since the 1960s and 70s and on aspects of time, change, materiality and archive in relation to how we conceive of artworks in terms of objects that endure. Among her books are Revisions-Zen for Film (Bard Graduate Center, 2015), which accompanied an eponymous exhibition at the Bard Graduate Center Gallery in New York (17 September 2015–22 February 2016) and Paik’s Virtual Archive: Time, Change and Materiality in Media Art (University of California Press, 2017).  She is editor of Object—Event—Performance: Art, Materiality and Continuity since the 1960s (Bard Cultural Histories of the Material World series, 2021), Landscape (with Johannes M. Hedinger; Vexer 2019) and The Explicit Material: Inquiries on the Intersection of Curatorial and Conservation Cultures (with Francesca Bewer and Katharina Ammann; Brill 2019). Hanna currently leads on the research project Performance: Conservation, Materiality, Knowledge at Bern University of the Arts.

Andre Stitt

Andre Stitt & Alastair MacLennan: Spectral Arc/Vanishing Point, St. Paul St. Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand, 2011.

Andre Stitt was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1958. He studied at Ulster Polytechnic and Belfast College of Art & Design, Ulster University 1976-1980. From 1980-1999 he lived and worked in London increasingly travelling and making work internationally throughout the eighties and nineties. In 1999 he moved to Wales to take up a position as Director of Time Based Art at Cardiff School of Art & Design. He is currently Professor of Performance & Interdisciplinary Art at Cardiff School of Art & Design, Cardiff Metropolitan University and programme leader of the MFA. Working almost exclusively as a performance and interdisciplinary artist Stitt gained an international reputation for cutting edge, provocative and politically challenging work. A predominant theme in his artistic output is that of communities and their dissolution often relating to trauma, conflict and art as a redemptive proposition. His ‘live’ performance and installation works have been presented at major museums, galleries and specific sites throughout the world. He was director of trace: Installaction Artspace in Cardiff from 2000-2010 initiating a robust programme of international installation and performance work. Stitt’s performance art curatorial work includes Span2 International Project, London 2001, Flashes From The Archives of Oblivion (Chapter Art Centre, Cardiff 2007-8), RHWNT (Quebec 2003-4), Of Contradiction (Beijing 2005,) and Trace Displaced (Tramway, Glasgow 2008), the National Eisteddfod of Wales 2008 & Artspace, Sydney 2009.

]performance s p a c e[

Martin O’Brien and Rubiane Maia: PSX: 10 hours, 2021
]performance s p a c e[ at The Ugly Duck, Photo by Fenia Kotsopoulou.

]performance s p a c e [ is the UK’s only studio and exhibition space dedicated to performance art. Our mission is to facilitate the prime conditions for the production of performance art in the UK (and beyond). Currently based in Folkestone’s Creative Quarter (Kent), our organisation continues to cultivate time-based work that critically and physically pushes the boundaries of the body, time and space. ]ps[ remains an artist-led initiative, committed to our identity as a DIY, anti-institutional space supporting challenging and difficult work that embraces performance art as an ever-evolving medium. In 2021, ]ps[ marked our 10th anniversary with a special programme: PSX – a decade of performance art in the UK. After ten journeys around the sun – our bodies soaked in blood, sweat, tears, eco-glitter – we celebrated ]ps[‘ resilience, and the remarkable constellation of artists involved in ]ps[, by looking to the past, present & future(s) of performance art in the UK. We hosted screenings, talks, performances, exhibitions, bursaries, workshops and residencies, and the programme culminated in a 10-hour durational live work by 9 of the UK’s leading performance artists. PSX is a proudly intergenerational programme, marking both our international and local constellations and foregrounding the contributions of queer, Trans*, POC & womxn artists.