The Body as Knowledge Carrier

Workshop with Bettina Kattinger and Marlies Surtmann


Performance takes place, and then it is already over. It resides in a participative space created between the performer and the recipients. Through diverse documents or translations this moment can be brought into an exhibition context or also a discourse with people who were not present during the Performance.

But how can this moment, the sensual impression, the physical experience, be conveyed? Is it possible to learn something about the original action through a physical, re-enacted situation? Can the body serve as a carrier for the transfer of performance art?

The work “Huddle” by Simone Forti, for example, was bought by the collection of the Museum of Modern Art New York. On the basis of instructions, reports, video and photo documents, this work is trained once per year with a new generation of performers. Tino Segal’s performances are not allowed to be recorded with either visual or acoustic media. The documentation “lives” in the performers and visitors. Here, the body acts as an archive.


But don’t the educators, collection holders, and archivists need to regularly repeat the performances in order to adequately pass on the work and so they don’t forget them? And consequently – especially in performance art – wouldn’t the experience through one’s own body be a very appropriate form of transferring the work?


This workshop attempts to make different aspects of performative, now absent works which were presented in the Kunstraum palpable and thereby create an individual access point for the participants. By assuming different roles, they develop an understanding of the performances through their bodily sensation. The works become tangible from different perspectives, be it through the role of the visitor, the curator, or the performer.


The varied experiences shed light on the works, the artistic practice, and the different roles in formal terms, while being incorporated in the literal sense of the word. The aim is to trigger a discourse on performance art but also to focus on physical experience as a method in the mediation of this fleeting art form.

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