January 16, 2018 - Para Site - Is the Living Body the Last Thing Left Alive?: The New Performance Turn, Its Histories and Its Institutions 
Newest publication by Para Site and Sternberg Press
January 16, 2018

Para Site

Cover: Is the Living Body the Last Thing Left Alive? : The New Performance Turn, Its Histories and Its Institutions

Is the Living Body the Last Thing Left Alive?: The New Performance Turn, Its Histories and Its Institutions 
Newest publication by Para Site and Sternberg Press

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Is the Living Body the Last Thing Left Alive?: The New Performance Turn, Its Histories and Its Institutions 
Newest publication by Para Site and Sternberg Press

para-site.art
Facebook / Instagram

Para Site is delighted to present our newest publication, Is the Living Body the Last Thing Left Alive?: The New Performance Turn, Its Histories and Its Institutions.

Edited by Cosmin Costinaș and Ana Janevski, designed by Wkshps, New York, and co-published with Sternberg Press, the book is expanded from the 2014 eponymous conference organised by Para Site and includes eighteen commissioned essays and conversations by André Lepecki, Bojana Cvejić, Claire Bishop, Catherine Wood, Xavier Le Roy, Boris Buden, Amy Cheng, Fernanda Nogueira, Miguel A. López, Nelly Richard, Inti Guerrero, Anthony Yung, Carol Yinghua Lu, Goran Sergej Pristaš, Ruth Noack, Adrienne Edwards, Simon Soon, Patrick D. Flores, David Riff, and Mårten Spångberg, as well as inserts by eleven artists and groups including Firenze Lai, Simryn Gill, Belkis Ayón, Rabih Mroué, Tetsuya Ishida, Emily Roysdon, Manuel Pelmuș, Yangjiang Group, Eisa Jocson, Victoria Lomasko, and Gauri Gill. Dedicated to the renewed encounter between dance and performance and the institutions of global contemporary art, the book proposes that a “new performance turn” has emerged in the second decade of the century, and looks at its correlations with other shifts in practices, discourses, and broader society.

The starting point for this research was to consider the complex notion and definition of performance, demonstrating a variety of ways to understand its practice as well as its historical transformation. The term “performance,” used since the mid-20th century, is a capacious term encompassing different artistic productions, from dance to practices derived from and connected to formal considerations and conversations found within the visual arts. One of the book’s premises was that the new performance turn, in addition to being informed by the various histories and historiographies of twentieth-century performance, is connected to the emergence of contemporary dance as a new field of discourse and thinking over the past 20 years. In the mid-1990s, the field of dance, already engaged in a belated contestation of late-modernist structures and formulations, absorbed the renewed discourses of institutional critique, postcolonial theory, and gender/queer reevaluations of the body and performativity. It also encountered the emergence of theory as a distinct category in the constellation of artistic and institutional concerns.

The new performance turn is closely related to, on one hand, the increasing tendency to bring contemporary dance into the museum, with more artists working in and around dance, and more museums, art centers, and biennials striving to deepen their commitment to performance in order to develop new aesthetic forms and new modes of production; on the other hand, this “turn” is also related to specific developments in dance and choreography that took place in the mid-1990s. Given the double meaning of “performance”—as a live element in the arts and as a reference to economic productivity—the economic and political conditions behind this shift are not to be underestimated: the new developments in dance and choreography in the mid-90s were often caught between apparently resisting the commercialization that was engulfing the object-based art world, and serving as the perfect products of the immaterial experience economy, where memory itself is a prime commodity. The precariousness of working conditions and the devaluation of labor are at stake in both the dance world and neoliberal society today; consequently, they are two important features of the new performance turn. The field covered by performance has also been expanded and blurred by growing discussions on performativity and its implications for language and power within broader areas of artistic and social practice.

The book tries to think about performance as more than a medium, beyond its liveness and ephemerality, and rather as a series of questions and reflections about how art mediates social relations among people. In trying to trace the institutional and historical realities that allowed the new turn to happen—which in the book’s editorial view were distinct from the circumstances that included living bodies in exhibition spaces and of dance performances in museums from at least the 1960s—the book looks at performance as a new instrument for curating and organising meaning. While doing so, it asks whether the energy of performance has conveniently suspended a crisis in the vocabulary of curating as well as a crisis in the artistic and intellectual missions of museums, overburdened by the pressure to perform in the neoliberal economy of entertainment. The dramatic formulation of the title should be read in this key, of an attempt to collectively question the fundamental directions of our field.

While these developments are global, the resources needed to mobilize such processes (and the large budgets required for many dance productions) mean that they are primarily visible in the few centers of cultural power dotting the world. However, a loosely related history of performance art as a category of visual art stretches back several decades and is composed of multiple, fragmentary, and geographically dispersed stories, many of them marking older turning points in their respective contexts, be it Japan in the 1950s, throughout Latin America and Eastern Europe in the 1960s and 1970s, China in the 1980s, or parts of Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe in the 1990s.

The book looks at these interconnected stories, with contributors from different contexts and representing different methodologies of approaching performance, as well as performance traditions. While the scope of the book goes beyond the traditional Western art centers that have determined the dominant narrative of the performance turn, it was not the book’s intention to give an overview of the world history of performance or of a global scene, nor to provide a minority historiography. Numerous blind spots remain, even for the fragmentary intention and limited ambition of this project. Taking Hong Kong as a vantage point, this publication wanted instead to highlight recent efforts of art historians in different parts of the globe to retrace performance genealogies, given how non-Western histories of performance have been recuperated, translated, integrated, or excluded from the new institutional realities of contemporary art. Which histories are privileged and which are dismissed? Does the new paradigm of performance need these histories, and are they legitimate historical precedents for this new paradigm? Or is the new performance turn too much a product of our time? Are its roots in the performance art of the late avant-garde too vaguely defined? 

 

ISBN: 978-3-956791-18-5
Language: English
Hard cover, 224 pp, 220 x 280mm

This publication would not have been possible without the generous support from the Robert H. N. Ho. Foundation. 

If you are interested in purchasing this publication or would like more information, please visit Para Site's website

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