Inside the Gallery Space: Curating Performative Work in Johannesburg


38th AAH Annual Conference
Museum & Exhibitions Session: Performativity in the Gallery: Staging Interactive Encounters
The Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
29-31 March 2012

This paper explores the risk and reward of curating interdisciplinary performative work inside heterogeneous gallery spaces in Johannesburg. Taking a practice-led research, this case study emerges from the recent curatorial project Alterating Conditions: Performing Performance Art in South Africa (Bag Factory and GoetheonMain, 2011).
Both local and international scholars and cultural producers have emphasised the performative aspects of public space in Johannesburg’s inner city. Frequently, performative practice in South Africa is created either in the (rather undefined or sometimes alleged) public space or at least outside the gallery space. Already in her early writing, RoseLee Goldberg argued that space is related to art practice. How would one curate performative work inside the gallery in Johannesburg?
The medium based curatorial approach Alterating Conditions presented both emerging and established South African artists whose practice addresses the medium or concept of performance. Based on the artists’ interdisciplinary practice as the very starting point, the curatorial strategy intended to challenge the art historical canonization of performing arts-related and visual arts-related performance. How would the exhibition display address the connotation of presenting performance in the black box and the white cube, in relation to a project space and artists’ studios?
Finally, this paper examines how live-art practitioners deal with the particular South African notion of residue. Which conventions of documentation—between curatorial tactic, artistic intention or financial perspective—result from South African cultural producers’ claim to emphasise a representational format that could be visible (or possibly for sale) to the viewer once the performance is past?

Museum & Exhibitions Session
Performativity in the Gallery: Staging Interactive Encounters

This session explores participation, liveness, interactivity, process-based performative practices and performance for the camera in interdisciplinary practices, presented in visual arts gallery space. Live art and other multi-art form works that combine visual arts with performing arts such as dance and physical theatre have an intricate relationship with the canon of art history. Art history has been wary of live art’s tendency to encourage increased formal and conceptual risk taking and its interdisciplinary nature. Time-based performances have also challenged the conventions of documentation and the viewer’s access to art experience. A live art practitioner has yet to win the Turner Prize. The session focuses on the new research into the intricate relationship between art history, live and performing arts and museum and gallery space; what it means to present, curate and create interdisciplinary performative work for gallery space. The Museums & Exhibitions Group represents a wide range of practitioners, including art historians, curators and artists, considering performativity in gallery space.

Session Convenors

Outi Remes (The American International University London)
Marika Leino (Oxford Brookes University)


Eva Fotiadi (University of Amsterdam): From Event to Archive and to Event Again

Beryl Graham (New Media Art at the School of Arts, Design and Media, University of Sunderland/co-editor of CRUMB):  Histories of Interaction and Participation

Kaija Kaitavuori (Courtauld Institute of Art): Negotiating Contracts. Participative or Relational Art in the Gallery

Leah Lovett (Slade School of Fine Art, UCL): Crowd Control: Negotiating Art's Audiences

Amy Mechowski (Victoria and Albert Museum): Playing Ball: Friday Late, Live Art and the V&A

Helen Sloan (SCAN): Like Shadows: A Celebration of Shyness

Claudia Marion Stemberger ( Inside the Gallery Space: Curating Performative Work in Johannesburg

Cally Trench (Artist and Independent Curator) and Outi Remes (New Ashgate Gallery/Richmond the American International University London): At Play: Curatorial Notes about Playfulness


© — Claudia Marion Stemberger 2019