Exhibiting the Ivor Davies Archive of Destruction in Art:an exploration of curating historical performance art in the Museum

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Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
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Thesis sponsors
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council
Award date2017
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Abstract

This thesis outlines, documents and evaluates my Practice as Research contribution toward the curatorial process of addressing the specific material identity of Ivor Davies’ performance work and destruction art practice for exhibition in National Museum Cardiff. The thesis comprises a contextual review (exploring the relationship between performance, curatorial practice and the Museum), exhibition case studies, and an analysis of the histories of Davies’
destruction art-related 1960s performance practice as it has been disseminated through publications, archiving and exhibitions. It introduces the strategies applied to the presentation of these artworks in the context of the artist’s 2015 solo retrospective exhibition – in particular, strategies of ‘remediation’ – and locates them in a differentiated understanding of the nature of the work on the one hand, and the needs of a museum exhibition on the other.
The research proposes ‘remediation’ (as opposed to reconstruction, re-enactment and other reiterative strategies that are widespread in current curatorial practice) as a suitable strategy for exhibiting historical performance art in the Museum, which bases curatorial decisions not on the similarity to the original (historical) event, but on recovering and preserving key elements and performative qualities of the work, thus providing a continuum between
historical and contemporary spectatorship. Through documentation and discussion of the curatorial strategies and processes applied (including archiving, exhibition design, and approaches to presentation) the thesis encourages reflection on the reproducibility of Davies’ performance artworks and the influence that exhibition has on these works’ appearance and
experience. The thesis provides new insight into the materiality of Davies’ performance work (exemplified in the exhibition particularly by the approach to the presentation of Davies’ 1968 multimedia experimental theatre event, Adam on St Agnes’ Eve, and his performance lecture at the 1966 Ravensbourne Symposium), which throws new light upon the formal diversity of performance in the UK in the late 1960s. By doing so, the thesis aims to provide
substantial new insight into curatorial practice with relevance to the further study of exhibitions of historical performance art in museum contexts more broadly