In the Footsteps of Others at AAANZ

My colleague from the University of Canberra, Louise Curham, and myself are convening a session on reenactment at the conference of the Art Association of Australia and New Zealand, ‘The Work of Art’, to be held in Canberra 1-3 December.  Check out the call for papers. Proposals are due to Louise by 26 August. Here is our session abstract:

In the footsteps of others

Louise Curham (University of Canberra) and Martyn Jolly (Australian National University) 


This session follows on from the 2015 AAANZ panel on re-enactment and repetition as generative strategies used by contemporary artists. Extending those ideas, this panel explores the broader idea of ‘walking in the footsteps of others’ as an empathic, affective experience. Reenactment has surrounded us in contemporary art and museum practice. At AAANZ 2015, a panel convened by Lucas Ihlein and Louise Curham discussed “Re-enactment / Repetition / Reiteration / Re-performance as embodied research”. Developing from the lively discussion that that panel engendered, we ask again, why re-enact? We know the work re-enactment can do for traditional idea of preservation (Santone, 2008). We know the problems of trying to touch an authentic past, the queasiness of the syncopation of the time of the earlier work and the time of our work (Schneider, 2011). So why do it again? Perhaps it’s different if we ask why walk in the footsteps of others? This session invites reflections on the empathic, affective experience of 2 doing something that’s been done before, a strategy that contemporary curators, historians and artists continue to deploy, as performance studies scholar Rebecca Schneider puts it, we to try to get at a past that is not present and yet, through re-enactment, not not present. Through this lens of we can also again pick over the problems of the authentic original, the work re-enactment can do for preservation, along with what happens when we try to re-stage, re-enact and repeat from within the institution. Contributions are invited for this panel involving (but not limited to): • Walking in the footsteps of others – we think of re-enactment as putting us in a specific material relation to experiences from the past. What happens if this is reframed as an attempt to absorb something of the forces of the past, their affect? • How does re-enactment relate to reproduction? In reproduction the material end-result of the work of art is remanufactured. However in reenactment the process of art work itself is reconstructed. The reenactor becomes a reworker. • The experience of curation, the work of art history and making artworks as re-enactment • The impact of the experience of re-enactment. What might it do to audiences, be they readers, gallery visitors, peers? Why re-enact? • Discussion of ‘contact’ with work from the past – learnings about the original and its preservation and how we do the work of ‘archiving’ • Exploration of specific Australian contributions to this field. We also invite non-traditional and performative presentations which physically enact or re-enact as their creative / scholarly contributions to this panel (pending technical feasibility and approval of the AAANZ conference convenors).

One thought on “In the Footsteps of Others at AAANZ

  1. Boy, I am so dumb and so out of it now. I have utterly no idea what you’re talking about! Of course, I was never very good at art-critical theory, but I really can’t figure out this one at all! 🙂


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