Sampler #1. Documents on the Stage presents a set of materials from the collections and documentary fonds of the Macba Archive, as a daily exercise in opening contents that usually remain hidden by the conditions of conservation and access proper to archival procedure. These samples indirectly evidence the strengths and weaknesses of this documentary collection, revealing both the institutional commitment to certain lines of acquisitions and the absence of those practices, periods or groups that to date have not had a significant presence in the incorporations. These samples are therefore presented as an essay on the contents of the archive as well as an exercise in self-analysis that opens lines of work and acquisition.

Documents on the Stage consists of a selection of documents that, from different points of view, relate to trans-disciplinary and ephemeral practices of a performatic nature, in the context of contemporary art – practices as diverse as performance itself, happenings, music, dance, theatre and other live arts. This compendium highlights a series of necessary reflections around the relationship between performance and the archive and its apparent contradictions: the former being ephemeral by definition, while the latter is based on conservation and permanence. In this context it is necessary to revisit the documentation of all the time-based phenomena associated with the dematerialisation of the artistic object, usually represented in the archives through photographs or audio and video recordings, but also through instructions, scripts, scores, theatrical texts, notes, waste, descriptive graphics and other documents that seek to provide contextual knowledge and possible interpretations, albeit not always literal.

A survey of this material emphasises the difficulty of documenting an ephemeral work that, on many occasions, involves the body. These types of perishable works – whose origins lie in certain avant-garde movements, especially the Conceptual art of the late sixties – signal a departure from the logics of the art market and institutional practices, seen as a political assertion and/or a declaration of autonomy. However, many of them – usually through the documentation they produce – end up being co-opted by the market and institutionalised museology, and turned into paradoxical works of art, as documents imbued with an aura.

The present selection also spotlights all those practices that, based on action in all its diverse manifestations, appeal more or less directly to participation, in the spirit of the post-avant-gardes that claimed the union and confusion of art and life. The performative, in its ontological sense, only happens in the present and can never be reproduced. However, through their own performances, artist publications and other types of documents, many artists have invited their viewers/readers to participate in events that involve updating, staging, materialisation, interpretation and recreation through processual instructions.

The exhibition includes photographic documentation and audiovisual records of actions, artist publications with instructions, ephemeral material related to events, preparatory notes, scores for sound interpretation, remnants and traces of performances, as well as sound recordings of musical performances produced by different generations of artists, from different disciplines and in different creational contexts. Likewise, in the context of the programme Idiorhythmias, on 6 May in the exhibition space, a performance of The Subversive Body by Aimée Zito Lema will leave traces of the action integrated with the rest of the exhibited materials.

Curated by

Maite Muñoz