P02. Documentation Performance

Watching/reading in class:
Janine Antoni, Art21 episode
Martha Rosler, Semiotics of the Kitchen
Mary Kelly, Post Partum Document
Senga Nengudi’s ‘Performance Objects’

Why we’re doing this:
What means or modes of documentation (videotaping, audio taping, scripts, drawings, artifacts, comment cards, correspondence, artist’s books, etc.,) appeal to you and your work?
How and when will you document your work? Will an audience be present? If you document your work with an audience present, does this change the nature of the event or enhance the quality of the documentation? If you choose to re-stage the performance for the purpose of documenting your work, does this choice change the nature of the event or enhance the quality of the documentation?
Will your documentation create the sense that the viewer has witness the performance? Generate a sense of loss for an event one has missed?
How does your documentation create opportunities to reflect on, reconsider, or extend your work? To create new work?

Documentation poses an interesting set of questions for performance art & artists. The lack of documentation and poor quality of what little documentation we have of performance art can often be attributed to resistance or refusal to document performances. This resistance can come from many sources such as questioning the gallery system and the relationship between art and money. It can also stem from the idea that the power of performance is founded in the ephemeral, and that most of us will “miss” much of what constitutes performance art because artists and critics tell us we must be “present” to fully grasp and experience the work. At the same time, documentation is itself a performance that sets in motion a series of exchanges (viewer and documentarian, performer and audience, document and documented, etc.). And, of course, documentation is at the center of much of performance artist’s work (think, for example, of Mary Kelly’s Post Partum Document). This performance asks you to take up these questions as you consider documenting the work created for this course (and/or creating documentary work). Think about all the ways you have seen performance art documented: photographs, video, books, detritus from performances, webpages, blogs, paperwork… what else?

  1. Brainstorm ideas for your documentation performance in a sketchbook. Do research on your favorite ideas. You will present this brainstorming and research to the class for feedback.
  2. After selecting your idea, you will display your documentation in the art space (or other suitable space).
  3. In addition to your performance, please prepare an artist’s statement for incorporation into, display alongside of, or distribution with your work. Your statement should consider the following questions:
      • What is this work about? (This is the idea, theme, message, or concept for your piece. Think of this as the thesis statement for your work.)
      • Why do you want to do this work? (This is your explanation of the importance of the work and what it means to you)
      • How will you do this work? What is it made of or out of? (This is how you envision the performance happening—medium/a, actions, texts, audience/performer relationship, etc.)
      • What do you want this work to do or accomplish? (This is the outcome or experience you anticipate for the work)
      • How does it relate to gender?

4. Make sure you have arranged for someone (probably someone else in the class) to document your performance (probably, though not necessarily via video and still photographs)

5. Execute your assigned exhibition committee duties:

1. Promotions Committee (Erica, Jess)

– designs a poster for the event
– writes a press release for the event

– creates Facebook event
– prints out posters (at least 20) and hangs them up around campus and around town

2. Hanging Committee (Brandon, Rachel)

– Tags
– collects all the info for the tags for the pieces in the show [includes the artist’s name, title, date, media]
– prints out all the tags on transparent stickers for the pieces in the show
– puts up the tags next to the works in a uniform fashion
– hangs all the work [involves measuring the height and spacing of the works; leveling the work]
– lights all the work
– Assembles the exhibition binder (contains a resume and artist statement from each artist)

3. Reception Committee (Diana, Natasha)

– arranges all food/drink (have people sign up) and sets-up/takes-down the refreshments table at the event
– plans music and how to play music
– arranges for someone to document the event via photography/video
– make sure everything from the reception is cleaned up and taken care of after the reception is over

4. De-installation Committee (Tim, Shae)

– removes all artwork from the space
– patches nail holes
– paints over patches
– sweeps/vacuums the space
– do anything else necessary to return the space to its original state or better than you found it

6. There will be a class critique of the exhibition.

7. After completing the exhibition, you will complete a self-analysis on Angel of elements/principles of design in the piece you performed.

  • Discuss your work in terms of the components of an artwork (subject/form/content/context)
  • How does the work engage with elements and principles of design continued from the study of 2 and 3 dimensional design such as balance, color, contrast, direction, reflection, repetition, scale, shape, value/brightness, and space?
  • How does the work engage with the elements of 4 dimensional design (architecture, topography, light, movement, sound, and time)?
  • How does the work engage with the principles of 4 dimensional design (causality, duration, energy dynamics/intensity, interactivity, musicality, simultaneity/juxtaposition, spatial relationships, speed, and transitions)?

8. Deinstalling the exhibition.

9. Upload documentation of your performance to our YouTube Channel.


  • sketchbook planning – 2pts
  • artist statements – 3pts
  • completion of the performance – 4pts
  • completion of exhibition committee duties – 3pts
  • self-analysis of elements/principles of design in the piece you performed – 8pts
  • participation in critique – 2pts
  • deinstallation – 2pts
  • documentation quality and on-time upload – 2pts