Reenactment, Again

I have watched the rise of the cottage industry of reenactment studies with a certain bemusement. My own work of reenactment (with the 2005 exhibition Life, Once More: forms of reenactment in contemporary art) was always part of a wider set of inquiries not just into performance, but into historicity and historicism, futurity and potentiality. Some of that work can be found on the articles page, particularly in the sections “Futurity, Potentiality, Emergence and Divergence” and “Time, Moving Images and Performance.” I haven’t written much that deals directly with reenactment since 2005, but I gladly accepted an invitation to re-reflect on the subject in an introductory essay for a new volume (expertly) edited by Cristina Baldacci, Clio Nicastro and Arianna Sforzini. As the title of my piece “From Re- to Pre- and Back Again” suggests, I also reflect on strategies of prefigurative preenactment.

Here’s the blurb:

Over and Over and Over Again

Reenactment Strategies in Contemporary Arts and Theory

Edited by Cristina Baldacci, Clio Nicastro, and Arianna Sforzini

ICI Berlin Press, 2022

Over the last twenty years, reenactment has been appropriated by both contemporary artistic production and art-theoretical discourse, becoming a distinctive strategy to engage with history and memory. As a critical act of repetition, which is never neutral in reactualizing the past, it has established unconventional modes of historicization and narration. Collecting work by artists, scholars, curators, and museum administrators, the volume investigates reenactment’s potential for a (re)activation of layered temporal experiences, and its value as an ongoing interpretative and political gesture performed in the present with an eye to the future. Its contributions discuss the mobilization of archives in the struggle for inclusiveness and cultural revisionism; the role of the body in the presentification and rehabilitation of past events and (impermanent) objects; the question of authenticity and originality in artistic practice, art history, as well as in museum collections and conservation practices.

The book is available in print, and can be ordered from booksellers as well as directly from the ICI; it is also online at the ICI site, with my introductory essay being here.