Curated by Bettina Knaup and Beatrice E. Stammer “Re.Act – performance art from the 60s and 70s today” could be seen from December 13th 2008 through February 8th 2009 at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin.
Documenting performative works from 24 artists spanning across two generations, the exhibition intended to document and reflect the diversity and complexity of feminist performative strategies which appeared within a wide range of social and political contexts. Including works by performance movements from Eastern and South Eastern Europe as well as the former GDR, the exhibition documented many artistic and socially critical strategies of the 1960s, 70s through today.
In the intersection between art and life, private and public, performance offered the ideal medium for examining, deconstructing or reinventing female identity back then, in this way forcing a certain reevaluation of the attributions of femininity in mainstream culture.
Among my favourite performers are Yoko Ono (J/USA) whose performance “Cut Piece” both in its historical and re-staged 2003 version could be seen, Valie Export, Ewa Partum and the younger Kate Gilmore (USA) with her strong sometimes mocking performances.
Without intending to be an historical survey but simply present historical positions together with more recent ones, establishing relations between both generations was really the goal. Moreover the exhibition intended to show women artists working today that what they are doing is more related to their predecessor’s achievements than they are ready to admit, sometimes out of blunt ignorance. What the exhibition failed to show however, is why today’s performers seem not to be interested in political strident, ideologically didactic but instead choose to mock certain gestures of the past and mostly transmit a certain sense of an impossibility of change or uneffectiveness of certain actions, thus undermining any possibility for idealism. Today’s disbelieve and sense of impotency or frustration remains to be understood and represents the most urgent question.