In Terms of Performance is designed to generate shared literacies for how we understand the goals, skills, and artistic traditions of experimental interdisciplinary work. Over the past few years we have gathered essays and interviews from key artists, curators, presenters, and scholars whose work reflects on relations among visual art, theatrical, choreographic, and performance art practices. To seed the conversation, we created a list of keywords: common yet contested terms in our current context, when museums are incorporating ever more time-based art forms, theaters are commissioning visual art for their stages, and symposiums try to make sense of how this cross-pollination changes the nature of curating, collecting, producing, authoring, documenting, and commissioning. Some of these keywords are older terms that have been resuscitated and redefined; others have made an appearance only recently. Our goal was not to produce singular definitions nor to commission encyclopedic entries but to share perspectives from distinct locations.
Unlike a static print publication, IToP is non-linear and richly cross-listed, enabling an unstructured browsing in which terms, contributors, and artworks connect intricately in a true web of reference. Click from a term to its entries, from an entry to its author, to his or her other entries, then to the other contributors on that keyword. We also asked contributors to list some artworks “for further reference,” in which the contested nature of their term is revealed, and/or artworks that they wish everyone knew about. Selected images of these works, appearing as you scroll down the text, function via “see also” links as stepping stones to related texts, providing alternate pathways through the site. Mirroring this flexible legibility, the texts can be selected, downloaded, and printed as a booklet tailored by the reader. We will continue to commission and add new essays and interviews to the site; an expanding roster of voices will ensure that the conversation grows and changes along with the discourse.
To provide a kind of spine in the galaxy of entries, we also conducted a set of extended interviews with major figures in art and performance, who reflect on their own experience with the poetry of miscommunication, the challenges and rewards of collaborating, and the history and future of intermediality. Finally, an extended conversation between the two of us explains the project’s evolution and muses on the stakes of literacy across disciplinary boundaries today.
—Shannon Jackson and Paula Marincola
Shannon Jackson is the Cyrus and Michelle Hadidi Chair in the Humanities at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is Professor of Rhetoric and of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies. In the fall of 2015, she was appointed the first Associate Vice Chancellor for the Arts and Design. Jackson’s research focuses on collaborations across visual, performing, and media art forms and the role of the arts in social institutions and in social change. The author of, most recently, Social Works: Performing Art, Supporting Publics (Routledge, 2011) and The Builders Association: Performance and Media in Contemporary Theater (MIT, 2015), Jackson coedited Public Servants: Art and the Crisis of the Commons (with Johanna Burton and Dominic Willsdon), which is forthcoming from the New Museum/MIT Press.
Paula Marincola was named the first executive director of The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Philadelphia, in June 2008. In that capacity, she leads the organization in developing and implementing its work as both a multidisciplinary grantmaker and a hub for knowledge-sharing around issues critical to cultural practice. Marincola is the editor of Questions of Practice: What Makes A Great Exhibition? (Reaktion, 2007), an anthology of essays on exhibition-making now in its fourth edition, and the coeditor with Robert Storr of Curating Now: Imaginative Practice / Public Responsibility (PEI, 2002). Prior to coming to Pew, Marincola was a curator of contemporary art at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, and Arcadia University, and an art critic for Artforum and other international publications.
The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage (the Center) is a multidisciplinary grantmaker and hub for knowledge-sharing, dedicated to fostering a vibrant cultural community in Greater Philadelphia. The Center invests in ambitious, imaginative projects that showcase the region’s cultural vitality and enhance public life, and we engage in an ongoing exchange of ideas concerning artistic and interpretive practice with a broad network of cultural practitioners and leaders.
The Arts Research Center at University of California, Berkeley, is a think tank for the arts. It acts as a hub and a meeting place, a space for reflection where artists, scholars, curators, and civic arts leaders from a variety of disciplines can gather and learn from one another.
ARC advances but also challenges the “cross-disciplinary” ethos in contemporary art practice by bringing innovators in the fields of visual art, public art, dance, theatre, music, architecture, film, creative writing, photography, and social practice into dialogue and debate. Participants share different histories, test perceptions of skill and innovation, and analyze the economic circuits and support systems that constrain and enable cross-disciplinary art practice.