Queer and gender criticism at taz.lab: performance art as an experiment

Politics on the human body – re.act.feminism is a current research project that turns feminist performances into immortal art.

The political voice of the body and its movements. Image: dpa

We often encounter the human body in public space as an advertising object. For example, flyers from wellness facilities advertise treatments with names like "Top Renew Rose Body Ritual" and promise anti-aging effects in 90 minutes. Our bodies seem to be mere shells, purged of every feature of differentiability. But then what do these bodies still have to do with us? Weren’t bodies at some point more? Weren’t they – us?

Since 2008, the project re.act.feminism #1 and #2 has been archiving feminist, queer and gender critical performance art. "A Perfoming Archive" is the name of the collection, which currently includes works by more than 163 artists and collectives. Alongside contemporary productions are videos, photographs and supplementary texts such as interviews and manifestos documenting works from the "performance decades" from 1960 to around 1985. re.act.feminism is an archive, exhibition and research project in one. Here we find it again – the body that demands subjectivity, that is political.

The curators of the project, Beatrice Ellen Stammer and Bettina Knaup, say that performance art is an experiment, a transgression of boundaries, and the antithesis of formalist art, which merely produces marketable art objects. Performance, on the other hand, is a form of representation at the interface of society, politics and art.

re.act.feminism – a performing archive will be present with a mobile archive on 20. April at the House of World Cultures.

Furthermore, the project bridges the paradoxical situation of making an art form, whose transience is in its nature, indefinitely durable through documentation. At the same time, however, it asks whether this really has to be a contradiction: When is a performance over – for example, when the lights go out on stage? How does it continue to have an effect when transported by the media? How does its reception function? Is there a life after the performance for the performance?

The archive shows works by icons such as Yoko Ono and Marina Abramovic, but also by lesser-known artists such as Birgit Jurgenssen or Nisrine Boukhari. Housed in five mobile wooden modules, an archive cabinet with four video stations, the archive, which is actually based in Berlin, likes to travel: in 20, re.act.feminism #2 was shown in Tallinn, Roskilde, Zagreb, Gdansk, and Barcelona, among other places – and is also on display in excerpts at taz.lab 2013.

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