Research Project: Archiving Performance

How does one archive a fleeting, ephemeral art form such as performance? Internationally, museums and archival institutions are showing a growing interest in archiving live performance. This entails many practical difficulties, as well as ideological issues. At the end of 2018, multidisciplinary artist Otobong Nkanga approached the CKV with the question of how her performances could be archived. The CKV seized this opportunity to start a research project around performance archiving. For this purpose, we are collaborating with the University of Antwerp (UAntwerpen). Lotte Bode has been appointed as project assistant.

Performance and sculptures 'Solid Manoeuvres', Otobong Nkanga, M HKA (2015)

2019-2020: Pilot Project Otobong Nkanga

Within UAntwerpen’s Theatre and Film Studies programme, Lotte Bode wrote a master’s thesis on archiving Otobong Nkanga’s performance practice. Together with the artist, she analysed the specific qualities of her performances. They then looked at how the works can be archived. Nkanga introduced the notion of ‘The Breathing Archive’, a non-traditional form of archiving in which there is room for growth, and the development of context-bound work.

In the January 2022 issue of Performance Research, Lotte Bode and UAntwerpen professor Timmy De Laet will elaborate on this metaphor of ‘The Breathing Archive’. The article will take a closer look at the aesthetic and socio-political implications of an archive as a breathing entity.

2021-2022: Research Trajectory & Symposium

During the research trajectory, the CKV reflects on the presence of performance in the M HKA collection: What are the needs of artists associated with the M HKA? How can the museum meet these needs? The CKV wants to build up expertise on archiving performance in order to share methodologies and tools with the field. The research will be presented in March 2022 at a symposium on archiving performance, organised by the CKV and UAntwerpen.

2022: Publication by L’Internationale

In 2022, Lotte Bode will contribute to an EPUB by L’Internationale about how institutions archive performance, offering a compilation of the interviews she has conducted with Otobong Nkanga. This EPUB will conclude the four-year programme Our Many Europes (OME).