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TBA 2010: The Art of Performance Curation

Jennifer Calienes, Director of the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University, offers some thoughts on curatorial practice in the field

By Claudia La Rocco September 12, 2010

Most people probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how a given performance makes its way from studio to stage, and what happens to that art once it’s had its (usually very short) run. Jennifer Calienes, the energetic and thoughtful director of MANCC (pronounced Man-see), has made it her life’s work. Many of the new works we see today owe their existence in part to a residency at her Florida research center, where smart play and risky experimentation are encouraged.

These days, since the institutional visual art world has increasingly gotten into the live art game, curatorial issues are an oft-discussed (and disagreed upon) topic of conversation. Preservation, for example: what does it mean to preserve work that exists fully only when being performed? If it lives in time, how do you freeze it for all of time? And should you even try, or is this a betrayal of the work’s intentions? You can’t put performance in storage and drag it out every blue moon for a survey show. You can’t nail it to the wall (well, maybe with artists in the Chris Burden tradition…)

And preservation is just one thread. How do we value work when it has no product, and therefore no recognizable market in a capitalistic society? How do we keep histories and traditions alive when the art is always disappearing? Think about it: if you miss a show at TBA, for you it’s gone. You can’t go back and check Maria Hassabi out of a library.

One of the TBA events I was really sorry to miss was yesterday’s informational session on a new graduate-level Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance. Luckily Jennifer, who spent a couple of days at TBA before hopping on a plane this morning (at 6. Yikes…), was there, and kindly agreed to share a few musings on the subject:

’First, it seems most appropriate Sam Miller would present his vision for a new graduate program to tackle curatorial practice within time based art forms at the TBA Festival. He has a track record like no other and the ability to create a learning environment that balances artistic excellence with creative inquiry, addresses social and cultural contexts and mandates innovative entrepreneurial behavior.

While the title curator might more easily be understood through a museum and exhibit based context, Miller’s notion of curatorial practice extracts key concepts and strategies from the visual and performing arts. He raises real questions about how to improve our own practice for artists, audiences and institutions. For instance: how do we collect, acquire and preserve time-based art? Perhaps something for an audience to ponder at their next performance…but definitely one I find myself questioning specific to dance and how best to address documentation, form and translation. I guess I’m most interested in his framework for the new program as it tackles questions the field is still addressing.

Another thought had to do with lineage. If Jérôme Bel were to create portraits of the performance-based curators and administrators, Miller’s work would be a common thread through many of us who hold these titles across the country. It’s the story behind the storytellers and perhaps one that will never be told. But it makes me appreciate Cathy’s vision for this festival and the artists brave enough to share and question their own history and lineage.’

For more information on TBA events, visit PICA. A more comprehensive list of upcoming events can be found at our Arts & Entertainment Calendar.

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