Aesthetics of Documentation

Aesthetics of Documentation

Self-reflection, self-commentary, self-archivisation as part of the artistic process

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The formation of a self-reflexive apparatus played a decisive part in the development of Eastern European performance art. In the Western world, performance art – which is determined by transience, uniqueness, and a shared presence with the audience – has also always faced the task of integrating its documentability into the artistic process. In Eastern Europe, however, the documentation of ephemeral events took on a very special meaning. Not only did it reflect, as in the case of Western performance art, the problematic nature of passing on traditions of actions, happenings, and performances; self-documentation was moreover a strategic means of compensating for having been excluded from the general public within society. In this context, artists were compelled to assume all the functions that otherwise fall to contemporary art critics and the art market. The artists in Eastern Europe thus ended up becoming their own archivists, critics, and historians.

In this research area a workshop with artists, curators and researchers took place:
„Doing Performance Art History. A congress of actors and observers.“
Zurich Cabaret Voltaire, 3-5 November 2016

The contributions of this workshop will be published in ARTMargins Online.


Publications to date

Sabine Hänsgen: 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.

Sabine Hänsgen: 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.

Sabine Hänsgen: “Video Poiesis,“ in: Georgij Kizeval’ter (Ed.): Perelomnye vos’midesjatye v neoficial’nom sovetskom iskusstve. Sbornik materialov, Moskva: NLO 2014, 577-580.

Sabine Hänsgen: “Medien der Dokumentation. Zu den Performances der Moskauer Gruppe Kollektive Aktionen. Ein Gespräch mit Andrej Monastyrskij,” in setup4 artist´s publications, No. 1 – 03/2013 (Online Magazin. Herausgegebenen vom Forschungsverbund Künstlerpublikationen)

Sabine Hänsgen: “Video, Archive, Storage: Moscow Performance Art in the Age of Digital Repetition (Conversation with Andrei Monastyrski),“ in: ARTMargins. Contemporary East-Central European Visual Culture, 26/8/2000.

Sabine Hänsgen: “Aktion und Textkultur: Zur Performance in der zeitgenössischen russischen Kunst,“ in: Christa Ebert (Ed.): Kulturauffassungen in der literarischen Welt Rußlands: Kontinuitäten und Wandlungen im 20. Jahrhundert, Berlin 1995, 237–55.


Photo credits
Tibor Hajas: Performance on the occasion of the opening of the exhibition „Expozíció Fotó/Művészet”, Hatvany Lajos Múzeum, Hatvan, Hungary, 24 October 1976 – 31 January 1977. Foto reproduced in the exhibition catalogue: László Beke (ed): Expozíció Fotó/Művészet”, Hatvany Lajos Múzeum, Hatvan 1976, and on the website of Artpool Budapest,
Collective Actions: „Appearance” (Poyavlenie). Documentary confirmation (Dokumentalnoe podtverzhdenie) 1976,