Books

Glanc, Hänsgen, Krasznahorkai, Louveau, Sasse (Hg.): “Performance Art (as) Theory“ (in English)

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We plan to publish a book which collects texts and performance documentations that represent the scope of theoretical discussions on performance art between 1950 and 1990. It is important for us to show that these theoretical debates took place in a continuous dialogue and interconnectedness with parallel theoretical debates in the West. The book also intends to draw attention to a multitude of genres in which theoretical approaches were articulated: manifestoes, letters and artist correspondences, performances, commentaries, conversations etc.

 

Sylvia Sasse: Subversive Affirmation? Is Affirmative Critique Possible? (in German and English)

ja sagen

Sasse will write a monograph on the phenomenon of subversive affirmation. Subversive affirmation takes place when actions or performances simulate or reenact cultural or artistic activity and, in the process, foster effects of alienation or excess that expose and subvert the reiterated activity in its act of functioning. The reconstruction and the reenactment of this activity is simultaneously associated with an epistemological interest for both producers and recipients of the action; an interest that involves an attempt to reflect the repeating activity in its fabricated nature, function, and affect transactions. The artistic action thus attains a cultural-analytical function for the recipients as well.
In the context of other repetition processes, the aim is to embed subversive affirmation in a broader cultural-theoretical and philosophical context – in comparison to the simulacrum (Barthes), to reenactment (Robin G. Collingwood), and to the affirmative (Nietzsche, Deleuze, Butler, and Brock). Moreover, the theoretical concepts resulting from artistic practices shall be analysed (e.g., Slavoj Žižek’s concept of overidentification).
The planned study will not analyse the method of subversive affirmation solely as an artistic device, but rather also as dissident or political practice of the 1968 movement, and as a state-invoked one, dealing primarily with self-affirmation and, in certain cases, also with a state-provoked simulation of underground practices. In the proposed project, a first attempt will be made to study political counter-actions in the KGB archive and potentially also in documents from the GDR’s Ministry for State Security.

 

Kata Krasznahorkai: State Security Archives and Performance Art (working title) (in English)

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Happening and performance art were the devil’s watchwords for official authorities of cultural surveillance in communist Europe. If the fine arts in general received relatively little attention from the authorities in comparison to literature and music, then the appearance of the terms ‘happening’ and ‘performance’ were cause for “heightened alarm”. This blank space of the happening became a contested area in culture, one which stood in as a surrogate for protest. The planned volume will initially attempt, using the example of Hungarian state security records, to evaluate the documents of secret service files as new art-historical sources aiming to highlight a new area in performance studies as well. The goal is to see which mechanisms and structures the states’ regulatory authorities used in order to keep track of and pursue the “great danger to the state order” supposedly emerging from the happening and performance scenes.

These documents offer an insight into the parallel theorizing of the happening on the part of the artists as well as that of the state security service. Since 1966, the happening set off a process in Hungary which resulted in a decades-long, constant paranoid fear of an entire genre in state cultural policy. The exact definition of the happening was thus of fundamental and existential importance, and was pursued simultaneously by the artists as well as by official cultural policy. It became a contested term; one which stood proxy for the so-called neo-avant garde. How did the secret services attempt to acquire this information, and what sort of interactions took place between secret agents and performance artists? What was it that artists of the happening and performance scene in Cold-War era Eastern Europe knew, that the secret services so desperately also wanted to know?

In the planned publication, with reference to specific happenings in Hungary, the juridical and strategic-operative techniques of subversion with which the state purposefully acted against the art movement of the happening will be investigated. Incorporated in this analysis will be not only the written testimonies of the subversion and infiltration techniques of the state security service, but also instructional and film materials, which were produced for agents so that they might adopt the behavioral patterns of their “roles” (“cover stories” (“Legenden”) in secret service jargon), and which consequently, in a way, become notations and instructions for the “performances” of the agents themselves.
This process is in the records, which can serve as an immense, for research as-yet undiscovered archive material, and which, in its own bizarre way, sometimes comprises a branch of contemporary art criticism – equally as instructive as the power of art itself, of which the authorities had such a deep-seated fear.

The goal of the project is to examine the sharp division between official statecraft and so-called performance art that is still dominant today in the history of art. This also brings about urgent current questions, to which the Cold-War era Eastern European performance scene – the uniqueness of which emerged under a specific set of circumstances – may also provide relevant questions and answers.

As what is today more urgent than asking ourselves: how do we handle our civil rights when state surveillance becomes commonplace? How do our behavioral patterns in the analog and digital public spheres change when we know we are being surveilled, and that our personal data is being analyzed? What forms of resistance can take place against the repressive measures of state control? How does the relationship between work, public life and art shape society? In this context, the “archive of the archive” – that is the historical archive of the state security records – play an as-yet not entirely exhausted and important role: because it is only from within those power structures themselves that it can become clear that they need to change.

 

Nastasia Louveau: Pair Performances (in English)

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Nastasia Louveau’s doctoral project on Pair Performances will provide some context on Socialist Yugoslavia’s performance art scene and its plethora of collaborative work throughout the 1960s to the 1980s. Heavily based on archival material, this book sets out to investigate the diverse forms of pair work and the ‘performing pairs’, as it might help us gain some insight into gender and societal issues in Tito’s Yugoslavia and also reconstruct how this discourse possibly helped fashion a new definition of art.

 

The Performative Accomplishments of Soviet Cybernetic Romanticism (working title)

Tomáš Glanc

In the years spanning 1962-1981, the group Dviženie (‘movement’), under the leadership of artist and visionary Lew Nussberg, carried out a series of unlikely projects. They built strange cybernetic landscapes, created visions of the future, shaped public space, and, in Crimea, staged erotic games and welcoming parties for alien delegations.
They were, on the one hand, deeply anchored in the underground of unofficial art; on the other, they were also commissioned by the central committee of the communist youth organization, Komsomol. The book describes their extraordinary practice, which has become as controversial aesthetically as it has politically.

 

Editions

Group Collective Actions: Trips out of Town (translation and publication project)

Kollektive Aktionen: Reisen aus der Stadt, 1976 – 1989.
Edited by Sabine Hänsgen, Sylvia Sasse, Georg Witte
Zürich: Diaphanes

The performances of the group Collective Actions played a significant role in the development of an alternative space for communication in Russian-Soviet culture during late communism. They facilitated the self-organization of a subcultural art scene apart from the state-controlled cultural sector, access to which was regulated by strict censorship policies. The common objective of the “Trips out of Town,” having taken place since 1976, is the collaborative journey of a group of participants into the countryside around Moscow—usually into a wide, empty field.

Minimalist activity on a white field of snow stimulated the participants of „Collective Actions“ to create a multitude of commentary, philosophical reflection on the concept of performance, in particular the correlation between space and time, between participants and spectators, between perception and knowledge.

By the final days of the Soviet Union, the group had published in samizdat five documentation volumes, each encompassing several hundred pages, in the form of typewritten texts bound together in book form. These volumes comprise descriptive texts, narratives written by participants, theoretical speculations, discussions, diagrams, maps and photographs that were complemented by video and audio recordings. In the case of „Collective Actions“, such multi-perspective documentation—where the process of communication within an unofficial cultural scene became the material of art—not only set out to record the traces of past events, but it is to be understood as part of the process creating an event. Documentation as such becomes a issue, it is questioned with regard to its potential for generating evidence.

With the translation and publication of the documentation corpus of the group Collective Actions from the Soviet period we want to provide a broader foundation for the reception of Eastern European performance art in an international context.

 

Reedition

MoskauMoskauVideostuecke 680 425

Günter Hirt / Sascha Wonders:
Moskau – Konzept – 1985. Performance Poesie Kunst
Moscow – Concept – 1985. Performance Poetry Art
Москва   – Концепт – 1985. Перформанс Поэзия Искусство

Wuppertal: Edition S Press (Media pack: DVD, memory card, and accompanying booklet in English, Russian and German)

Video pieces with the group “Collective Actions”: Andrei Monastyrski, Nikita Alekseev, Dmitri Prigov, Lev Rubinstein, Joseph Backstein, Ilya Kabakov, Erik Bulatov, Oleg Vassiliev, Ivan Chuikov, Vladimir Naumets, Irina Nakhova, Vadim Zakharov, among others.

In the 1970s and 1980s, an alternative art scene emerged in Moscow, which developed its activities beyond censorship and the state’s cultural establishment: most notably, these activities took place in apartments, studios and in nature.

Within this circle of friends and artists developed a “domestic culture of the avant-garde”, which drew from this paradoxically intimate publicity an imaginative, creative energy. Texts, images and objects provided the occasion for a constant artistic exchange, which in turn assumed the character of a performative self-staging.

The planned re-edition makes the video pieces – which were recorded in 1985 – accessible again in a digital format, and enables likewise a new examination of the historical recordings. Poets and artists who have since achieved international renown are once more to be seen in the artistic milieu in which they began their work.

In the accompanying publication, Sabine Hänsgen and Georg Witte (aka Sascha Wonders and Günter Hirt) reflect – more than 30 years later– on not only the significance of these video pieces for the aesthetics of Moscow conceptualism, but also the principles of their own act of documentation, which aimed at an archiving of artistic situations that were otherwise excluded from the official cultural memory.

 

Articles

Sabine Hänsgen

Sabine Hänsgen: Poetic Performance: Script and Voice. In: Staging the Image: Dmitry Prigov as Artist, Writer and Performer. Edited by Gerald Janecek, with an introduction by Tomáš Glanc and Sabine Hänsgen (Slavica Publishers, Indiana University, in print)

(unter dem Pseudonym Sascha Wonders, Hg./Üb. zusammen mit Günter Hirt):
Wsewolod Nekrassow: Ich lebe ich sehe. Gedichte (russisch/deutsch). Vorwort von Eugen Gomringer, Münster: Verlag Helmut Lang 2017.

Conversations with Andrei Monastyrski: Questions about the History of Collective Actions, General Questions regarding the Aesthetic History of the Moscow Archive of New Art Circle (MANI). In: Thinking Pictures. The Visual Field of Moscow Conceptualism. Edited by Jane A. Sharp, New Brunswick: Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University 2016, S. 64-75.

Am Rande, im Verborgenen, im Visier. Interview mit Sabine Hänsgen von Olga Martin. In: nachgefragt: novinki im Gespräch mit Autor_innen aus Osteuropa. Hg. von Susi K. Frank, ‎Anne-Christin Grunwald, ‎Miranda Jakisa Alfrun Kliems, Magdalena Marszalek und Sylvia Sasse, Norderstedt: Books on Demand 2016, S. 66-79.
Russische Übersetzung :
Moskovskij konceptualizm 80-ch: Interview s Sabinoj Chensgen. Besedovala Ol`ga Martin. In: http://gefter.ru/archive/19732 (17.10.2016)

Polaroid – Link – Means for a Series. Three Performances from the Videotheque of the Collective Actions Group: Dedications to Inspection Medical Hermeneutics. In: Extending the Dialogue. Edited by Urška Jurman, Christiane Erharter, Rawley Grau, Ljubljana / Berlin / Wien 2016, S. 210-239.

Acţiuni Colective: conceptualismul moscovit şi performanceul / Collective Actions: Performance Art of Moscow Conceptualism, in: Arta, Nr. 14-15 / 2015, p. 20-25.

Ed./Transl. (under the Pseudonym Sascha Wonders, together with Günter Hirt, Ainsley Morse, Bela Shayevich): Entfaltung von Maßnahmen. “So ein / Gesetz / Der Erhaltung / Ein Gesetz / Der Erhaltung / Wovon?” Gedichte von Wsewolod Nekrassow In: karawa.net # 008 / Lichte Verbrechen

 

Sylvia Sasse

KGB: The Art of Performance. Action Art or Actions against Art? Artmargins, http://www.gss.ucsb.edu/artmargins/.

 

Nastasia Louveau

“1 & 1. Paare und Dualitäten in der Performancekunst des sozialistischen Jugoslawiens” in: Paare: Inszenierungen von Beziehungen in den Künsten. Herausgegeben von Jenny Schrödl, Magdalena Beljan, Maxi Grotkopp. Berlin: Neofelis Verlag 2017 (in print)

 

Kata Krasznahorkai

“Surveilling the Public Sphere. The First Hungarian Happening in Secret Agents Reports”, in: Performance in the Second Public Sphere, Katalin Cseh-Varga/Adam Czirak (ed), Routledge, (in print)

“Happeners als Black Panther. Gewaltsames Wissen in Happenings der Künstler und der Staatssicherheit” in Ungarn, in: Forum Modernes Theater (forthcoming).

International Parallel Union of Telecommunications (superintendent: Tamás St.Turba) Strike//2016, in: Art and Work, MIT, (in print)

“Streik Macht Frei. Verweigerung und Streik als künstlerisches Material bei Tamas St.Auby”, in: Dietmar Rübel, Friederike Sigler (ed): Streik/Arbeit, (forthcoming).

“Das Happening vor Gericht”, in: Sandra Frimmel, Mara Traumane (ed): Kunst und Literatur vor Gericht, (forthcoming).

“Mach ein Stuhl! Tamas St. Auby und Tehching Hsieh”, in: Vera Wolff, Kathrin Rottmann (ed), kritische berichte, 2016/3, S. 34-43.

“Heightened Alert: The Underground Art Scene in the Sights of the Secret Police—Surveillance Files as a Resource for Research into Artists’ Activities in the Underground of the 1960s and 1970s” , in: Bazin, Jérôme, Pascal Dubourg Glatigny, and Piotr Piotrowski (ed), Art beyond borders: artistic exchange in communist Europe (1945-1989), Central European University Press, 2015. P. 125-139.

Geheimdienst und Underground. Wie Spitzel unser Wissen über Kunst vermehren, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 07.1. 2012, „Bilder und Zeiten“, Z3.

 

Photo credits
Raša Todosijević, What is Art? (Was ist Kunst?), 1978, Arhiva SKC, http://www.arhivaskc.org.rs/foto-arhiva/velike-manifestacije/7601-dtrasawasistkunstaquinada.html.
Bazon Brock, Die stärkste Kraft des Widerstands ist das Ja-Sagen, http://www.bazonbrock.de/bazonbrock/themen/affirmation/.
Vlasta Delimar, Željko Jerman, “Vlasta i Željko,” Arhiva SKC, http://www.arhivaskc.org.rs/foto-arhiva/neidentifikovana-gradja/11960-f11-38.html.