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Remaking, remodelling, translating, and transcribing: A Fundamental Analysis

There is an intersection of art research and practice that is witnessed through the research, making, and interpretation of art re-enhancements of a performance-based nature. To gain a deeper understanding of the process of remaking, remodelling, translating, and transcribing, I have examined three texts: Blackson, R. Once More … With Feeling: Reenactment in Contemporary Art and Culture. Art Journal, 66(1) (Spring), 28–40. Bourdieu, P. (1977); Prada, F : When Attitudes Become Form: Bern 1969/Venice 2013; and Exhibiting the new art : “Op losse schroeven” and “When attitudes become form” 1969 / Christian Rattemeyer ; with additional essays by Wim Beeren … [et al.]. – Köln : Verlag der Buchhandlung, (2010). I shall first examine Blackson’s text; second, Prada’s exhibition; and third, Rattenmeyer’s text.


Once More … With Feeling: Reenactment in Contemporary Art and Culture

Interestingly, and by way of background, contemporary art appears to be increasingly concerned with the back-catalogue of art history itself, whether it be remodelled, re-enacted, or restaged. However, in the particular case of Modernism this was generally limited to the form of disavowal, or even negation. The creed of the Modernists was summed up by Ezra Pound’s ‘make it new!’ and attempted to make a break with any conservative text.

How does it relate to wide debates around ‘remaking, remodelling, translating, and transcribing’

Blackson suggests that this empowering trait differs from the reenactment from “its kin of simulation, reproduction, and repetition” and “is what draws both practitioners and audiences to it again and again.” Furthermore, Blackson distinguishes these activities in the following ways (and I agree with him): “Simulation, although similar to reenactment, differs in that it is an artificial and prescribed projection often constructed to facilitate the prediction of a future conclusion. . . . Repetition is an exercise often stuck in the present. Its anticipatory action lends itself to habit and is rarely intended to inspire a keener sense of awareness or personal agency. For these reasons, all reenactments are repetitions, but few repetitions become reenactments. . . . Imitations and reproductions are stand-ins, empty shirts rarely afforded a purpose or motivation beyond the limits of the original.” From this point of view, we might ask ourselves: from what did the reenactment in The Third Memory “liberate” Wojtowicz?

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Text

Performance art is typically based upon time and demonstrates its ontology as beyond any form of documentation. James Elkins contends that:

“Visual documentation, whether it is video or photography, brings with it an ideology and an aesthetic which prevent it from functioning simply as evidence. . .The visual becomes suspect: it is no longer evidential, but contentious. . . Performance art is, in this sense, immune from the danger of being reduced to documentary evidence.”[1]

This appears to be of very little concern for Blackson, since he believes that the “loose translation of eyewitness memory and historical documentation” of Seven Easy Pieces permits “the possibilities for and acceptance of reenactments that intentionally differ from their sources.”

However, one strength of the article is his definition of reenactment as “a creative act.” However, one weakness is that he appears conflicted because he accepts that reenactments are “slowly eroding the need for accountability to an original source” and yet still contain “the possibility for new experiences and histories to emerge.” It is precisely this negation of the original, this re-casting previously enacted performances as “new experiences”, that introduces the summary of reenactments like Abramović’s as weak remakes, deboid of any time-based authenticity, that transforms performance into vapid simulacra.

Relation to Subject Matter

These objectives—married with revisionist and deconstructive readings which occur in most disciplines—are fundamental to what Blackson states is the reenactment’s “emancipatory agency.” In putting forward a means of expression to a previously oppressed entity, re-enactments can assist he or she in recovering agency through the evolution of new narratives and representations that, in a sense, eclipse previously dominant re-enactments to present difference.

Blackson’s text examines the dependency between contemporary art and culture. He commenced his text by drawing upon an exhibition entitled We Could Have Invited Everyone. She asserts that that particular exhibition were in fact satisfied with the political statuses of their nations. She states that instead of fighting the status quo, these artists instead created their own paradigms, (micronations in the context of the exhibition).

Blackson asserts that artists use the reenactment for two common main purposes: to “rewrite” history by putting forward a forum for other various views usually kept beyond the boundaries of any “grand narratives” and to also deconstruct the accounts and images that have themselves made up these narratives.

How does the text enable a reading of the subject matter?

According to Blacksotone: “Reenactment is distinctive in that it invites transformation through memory, theory, and history to generate unique and resonating results.” From this, I have concluded that  such artists as Huyghe, Deller, and others, aim to bring attention to the systems and processes of empowerment through translating and remodelling. For example, Huyghe’s video exhibition Blanche-Neige Lucie (Snow-White Lucie, 2000), discusses the story of Lucie Dolène’s successful court case against Disney Voice  Characters over the intellectual property rights over Snow White in French. In Huyghe’s video (set in an empty film studio), Dolène utters “One Day My Prince Will Come”.  The descriptions of this work come from Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, ed., Pierre Huyghe,Catalogue for Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea (Milan:  Skira, 2004), 230.

When Attitudes Become Form: 1969

These two exhibitions take exhibition-making to a new paradigm. ‘When Attitudes Become Form: Bern 1969/ Venice 2013’ is an attempt to remake the exhibition ‘When Attitudes Become Form which was curated by Harald Szeemann and which ended on 22 March to 23 April 1969. For example, new walls and floors were developed on the inside of the Ca’ Corner to remake the exact specifications and design of the Kunsthalle Berne. The Artworks from the 1969 exhibition were kept as accurately possible in their original positions.

Strength and Weaknesses of the Text

There is a particular shortcoming that academic critiques commit every time the topic of being able to experience certain exhibitions in the past, other than being physically there, arise. Their published academic journals only deal with this specific issue lightly and they fail to expound on it.

The exhibition catalogue shows that Germano Celant has taken the time to clarify that a ton of research was done to create “When Attitudes Become Form: Bern 1969/ Venice 2013”. It is the product of digging into Szeemann’s collection, personal stories by artists, photos, and other documentation found at the Kunsthalle Bern library (“Why and How: A Conversation with Germano Celant”, in When Attitudes Become Form: Bern 1969/ Venice 2013, p. 403).

Furthermore, the catalogue possesses an overflowing amount of essays by respected writers and curators. Aside from Celant’s pieces, works of Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, Boris Groys, Claire Bishop, Charles Esche, Terry Smith, Jan Verwoert, and Jens Hoffman can also be found there.

However, no trace of the other 1969 seminal exhibition, “Op Losse Schroeven (Situations and Cryptoestructures)” was seen or brought up in the catalogue or the exhibition. This missing piece, which opened seven days before “When Attitude Become Form” at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, plays a valuable part in fully understanding the significance of “When Attitudes Become Form”, and it is elucidated in the Christian Rattemeyer-edited book called “Exhibiting the New Art: ‘Op Losse Scrhoeven’and ‘When Attitudes Become Form’ 1969” that was published by Afterall Books in 2010.

Relation of Subject Matter to Text

One of Rattemeyer’s essays has been included in the ‘When Attitudes Become Form: Bern 1969/ Venice 2013’ catalogue. However, only one citation of the book is present (check his essay’s footnotes), and no other mentions of it by him or other contributors are there. This dilemma presents the capability of exhibitions, writings, wall texts, press releases, catalogues, and others to generate myths. There is no question that both “When Attitudes Become Form: Bern 1969/ Venice 2013” and “When Attitudes Become Form” are commendable artworks, and that is due to their power to make and revise art history.

To learn more about the rights that a curator holds in every exhibition, it is recommended to find time to read “When Attitudes Become Form: Bern 1969/ Venice 2013”, as it presents an impressive, detailed analysis of this matter. Is it right to categorize “When Attitudes Become Form” as a compilation? If it is, can it be considered a copyrighted work? Can Szeemann claim to own its copyrights? Are Fondazione Prada and Germano Celant guilty of copyright infringement because of their “When Attitudes Become Form: Bern 1969/ Venice 2013”?


These above texts have allowed me to re-make, re-contextualise, re-imagine various pieces of art. What I have comes to realise is that there exist various strategies utilized by artists in remaking, remodelling, translating, and transcribing texts. What is a more difficult aspect is ascertain the intentions behind the various use of strategies such as homage, sampling, parody, and re-contextualisation. In doing so, it becomes more clear that various ways in which a performer and context can impact upon the meaning and interpretation of a piece.


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