Collecting the Ephemeral: How to Collect Performance?

By Regina de Con Cossío

Performance is one of the most complex art expressions in all senses. It is about experience, time and space. But how to preserve those moments that run like a breathe? Is it enough having a photo, a video or simply a paper to archive those experiences that set a trace on the memory?

We know it: collecting art is not simply about randomly gathering a bunch of art pieces, it is about supporting art but also preserve our history and memory. So here are some reflections about the difficult work that implies collecting performance art.

Ephemeral stands for the transitory, passing, and evanescent. By nature inapprehensible. It exalts the momentum and, if we were to go back to it, only the memory could be the vehicle. Isn’t any aesthetic experience always ephemeral?

If the ephemeral relies on experience its most radical representant would be performance. Known for being a live act, taking place in a particular time and and space where it is being watched, it demands that the spectator be there.

A theatrical aspect and bodies filling the room, duration leading to a discourse, every such representation is potentially a new representation.

How to collect performance at all not through the memory of it?

At first sight, it seems that documents and records might be able to fix the work of art for longevity. It has become tangible through a “non-original” record. Is there room for technology to adjust, through the creation of more virtual tools, to accomplish the activation of the momentum_notwithstanding that each momentum will be a new one. Wouldnt that possibly mean being live?

What awaits collectors in terms of acquiring perfomance artworks given the ongoing development of technology and new exploration of virtual reality?