Framing Statement

The artist’s performance framing statement accompanying The Preserved, the Documented, and the Ephemeral:

Andrew Bracey’s gallery of ReconFigured paintings was the previous exhibition shown in this space. They concerned the idea of preservation and value in art, in a unique style. My Performance addresses the idea of art’s ephemeral nature in a gallery space, and how it can continue to exist through documentation, working with and taking inspiration from Bracey’s work. (Payne, 2015)

The performance was principally influenced practically and theoretically by Peggy Phelan, Sophie Calle, Joseph Beuys and Andrew Bracey, and explored the ideas of the ephemeral, documentation, and preservation. I was in a gallery space that had previously contained the ReconFigure series of paintings by Andrew Bracey. The performance took place on the 9th of May in The Usher gallery, and it was a durational performance that lasted 4 hours, from eleven until three.

I had compiled gallery condition reports for each of the paintings and had both digital and hard copies available in the space. The digital copies were accessible via QR codes that linked to the condition reports, and were placed around in the space close to where the painting they corresponded to had been mounted. The hard copies were all filed and in an archive box, in turn carefully unpacked onto a table with blankets and tissue paper on. After laying out the condition report I would remove the nitrite gloves I was wearing, and take a small piece of writing that corresponded to the picture, and read it aloud by the appropriate QR code. These extracts were feelings and comments on the picture from members of the Usher Young Creatives. This provided a contrast to the formal documentation of the condition reports, that was further emphasized by the ritualistic removal and putting on of the gloves. The gloves used in the performance were partly for costume, and partly for the purpose stated above in presenting the care being shown to the documents. I dressed fairly smart in black trousers and a shirt, a small element of my costume, yet that held meaning was having my trouser belt on backwards and my watch on the table. This is fitting with the practice of installing a gallery, that anything that could cause damage to the works is removed, or in the case of the belt, reversed. Each painting had its condition report displayed and textual extract read out 5 times, with it taking about forty-five minutes to do a complete circuit of all the paintings. The audience’s part in my final performance was as observers to the condition reports and the living scripts, with the minor interaction of viewing the digital copies of the condition reports via the tablets available.

Word count:441

Performing in the gallery

Performing in the Gallery – Fenia Kotsopoulou

Payne, S. (2015) The Preserved, the Documented, and the Ephemeral. [Performance Art] Lincoln, UK: The Collection and Usher Gallery, 9 May.


Analysis of Process

Initial introduction to Site Specific and the Gallery

Some of earliest theoretical introduction to Site specific performance was through the work of Mike Pearson, whose reference to Nick Kaye’s description of site specific art as “articulate exchanges between the work of art and the places in which its meanings are defined” (Kaye, 200, 1) This extract helped me to understand that the performances should not only be influenced by the site in which we were working, but say something back about the space. I wanted to ensure I achieved this, and that my work maintained a relevance to the site it was in, with both performance and site informing each other.

Our first experience of the Usher gallery and The Collection was on the 28th of January. These two museum buildings would provide the location and inspiration for all of our site specific performances. The Usher gallery is primarily for artworks and sculptures, with some artefacts, whilst The Collection is mainly concerned with archaeological items. The curator, Ashley Gallant, introduced us to the gallery spaces, in terms of their practicalities and more theoretical concepts of Museums as institutions. This included the limitations within the gallery spaces, such as no food, liquids, or pens due to the insurance requirements of the buildings. One of the key exhibitions we were introduced to at The Collection was the temporary Viewpoints gallery, which concerned what makes and what is art. The exhibition’s intent was to provoke thought on where art comes from, how it develops, what it is for, how it works, and to encourage thought on many aspects of an artwork that aren’t always considered. This immediately felt like it could provide a strong inspiration for a site specific performance, lending a location within the building and some theoretical concepts to work with. However it was the ReconFigure gallery of paintings by Andrew Bracey in the Usher that provided the initial inspiration to the development of my site specific performance.

Whilst I did stray from using Bracey’s works for a period, and considered an idea concerning the context of works within a gallery space, and how these works are perceived via changing this context. There was a short performance task, inspired by stimuli at The Collection and some of the content from Ways of Seeing by John Berger that provided some ideas for a larger performance. However this idea ran into several practical and theoretical issues. There was the issue of viewing reproductions rather than the actual works, which concerns a whole different concept, but more importantly it would have been difficult getting an audience involved with the work. As opposed to a theatre space where an audience come specifically to see something, our audience was to be the general public, and we might not get the same level of engagement. Therefore I looked for something that would work without needing to have the audience involved, but would still allow those to interact who wished too and enhance the experience of the piece for them.

I ultimately decided I wanted to do a performance involving the unique Bracey paintings. The purpose of the paintings also provided me with a starting point to begin researching and developing my performance. Twelve of the eighteen paintings were donated to the Madsen gallery in New York, yet not deemed of enough cultural or financial worth to be put on display. Bracey was given the opportunity to alter the paintings in his ReconFigure style. He described the work as ‘saving by changing’ (Bracey, 2015) in that the original work is being ‘destroyed’ by his alternations, yet without these alterations the works would likely be forgotten or destroyed in their entirety.

Research and Inspiration

The interest that I had in doing a performance concerning the ReconFigure paintings was hindered with a problem when I found that the exhibition was closing on the 19th of April. However instead of this putting me off the idea, it provoked me to research the ephemeral nature surrounding performance, and how it can apply to a gallery space.  This led me to the work of Peggy Pheland, and her book Unmarked: The Politics of Performance, where I found this extract concerning the ephemeral.


Unmarked:The Politics of Performance from goodreads (2015) Unmarked: The Politics of Performance. [online] Available from [Accessed 17th March 2015

“Performance occurs over a time which will not be repeated. It can be performed again, but this repetition itself marks it as ‘different.’ The document of a performance then is only a spur to a memory, an encouragement of memory to become present.” (Phelan, 1993,147)

Upon finding this I considered the idea of a performance concerning documentation and the idea of the ephemeral. I wanted to show that exhibitions in a gallery are just as ephemeral as a dramatic performance in a theatre, and similarly cannot be repeated. From here I explored the idea of how things can be preserved, and in turn to documentation of performance. Peggy Phelan says in Unmarked that “The document of a performance is then only a spur to a memory, an encouragement of memory to become present”. In my final performance what I was doing in the space had different levels of impact. This is fitting with Phelan’s statement, as audience members who had been in the gallery before and seen the ReconFigure pictures would more fully understand what I was doing, and react accordingly as my performance encouraged memories of the gallery.

Following on from this, further inspiration came from Phelan’s Unmarked in the description of work on paintings stolen in 1990 from the Garnder Museum in Boston. After they were gone French artist Sophie Calle made ‘recreations’ of them for the gallery space,

“Calle interviewed various visitors and members of the museum staff, asking them to describe the stolen paintings. She then transcribed these texts and placed them next to the photographs of the galleries. Her work suggests that the descriptions and memories of the paintings constitute their continuing “presence”, despite the absence of the paintings themselves.” (Phelan, 1993,146)

The idea of work being documented in its absence was one that felt relevant to the ephemeral nature of a gallery space that I was exploring, and also fitted with the idea of preservation in Bracey’s work. This was furthered by the potential use of condition reports as a way of documenting the paintings in gallery. Ash had spoken about the process in our first week, in our introductory talk about the gallery. I met up with him to discuss the process of logging the paintings in more detail, where he also provided me example blank reports to work from. Once I had a full in the logging of paintings I undertook the task of logging the paintings and their frames in the gallery space. I did this in a fairly short space of time due to the approaching removal of the paintings from the gallery.

However there was the problem that the condition reports were very formal and precise, and this was straying away from my inspiration in, and the purpose of, Calle’s work. To get a more human response to Bracey’s paintings that could play a part in the performance, I worked with a number the Usher Young Creatives. I had them individually examine one of the paintings, then come to me in the next room and write their thoughts down from memory. Once this had been done for each painting, I had a full ‘living script’ to use in my performance, providing a strong contrast to the formal condition reports. I intended to learn the script for the performance, so that it was a fully ‘living’ script, however due to the time constraints of my course I was unsure if I would be able to. This ended up being unintentionally beneficially to the performance, as having textual extracts to read off cards drew more attention to the contrast between the human and formal sides to documentation. It also reinforced that these were not my words that I was speaking, as this would have changed the intention of the piece somewhat. The ritualistic removal of the gloves between handling the condition reports and then the cards with the words on created a strong contrast than would not have been present without something physical to read from. There was also the added benefit of storing them together in the same file drawing attention to their similarities as forms of documentation.

Using Technology

To best show off the condition reports I decided to use QR codes to present the information in a succinct and easy way. Each QR code linked to one of the condition reports on Bracey’s paintings. Then to continue with the idea of preserving the gallery exhibition, I planned to mount each of the QR codes on the wall close to where the paintings they corresponded to had been mounted. Yet this was done primarily to maintain the order the paintings had been up in around the gallery, rather than for the QR codes to stand in for the paintings themselves. It was the condition reports that would be closer to this aim with the QR codes as merely a link to them, and even then the reports were provoking thought of Bracey’s paintings rather than standing in for them wholesale.

The first problem in using QR codes in my performance was that not everyone who came to view my performance might be able to read the QR codes. To make this element of my performance accessible to anyone who came to view it, I planned to have devices in the gallery space that could read the QR codes. To ensure the multiple people could participate at one time, I planned to have two devices for the audience to use. Originally I planned to use a phone and a tablet to read the QR codes and view the condition reports, however when viewed on a phone the formatting wasn’t very pleasing to view. Yet on tablets they were at the right scale, so I arranged to borrow two tablets from fellow students to ensure that the condition reports could be read properly.

Condition Report via tablet

Condition Report via tablet – Fenia Kotsopoulou

However on the technical rehearsal on the 8th I discovered that whilst The Collection building had internet access, the Usher Gallery did not. As the QR codes led to a document that was stored online, this was a huge problem. It ended up being easily solved by using a mobile phone with internet access, tethering it to become a mobile hotspot. With a charger attached to keep it going throughout the performance, this technology functioned effectively and the QR code interaction of the performance seemed to be a success.

Word Count: 1787

Kaye, N. (2000) Site Specific Art: Performance, Place and Documentation. Oxon: Routledge

Phelan, P. (1993) Unmarked: The Politics of Performance. London: Routledge.

Performance Evaluation

On the day of my performance a number of people came through the gallery. However it was hard to keep track of people coming and going in the gallery space sometimes due to the focus on the piece, in order to keep all of the actions precise and careful. Some of the audience has a good reaction to the piece, although a large number didn’t stray too far into the room to view the work. However people did take part in using the tablets, and examined the QR codes that were around the room.

Following on from the audience numbers, my performance presented how the public react to performance when it is in a non-traditional space and they are not present with the purpose of viewing the performance. However while that is a broad example towards non-traditional performing spaces and the public, the gallery has some unique points to itself. The noise levels throughout the day, and behaviour of people coming into the gallery space was very interesting. I observed a little bit how the public tended to all behave in the same ways, despite nothing telling them they had to. There were the subconscious conventions of the gallery being presented, and it was seeing this happen repeatedly over four hours that really showed me how inbuilt they are, as I hadn’t come across this in my previous shorter periods time in the gallery.

The repetition within the piece was something that felt very effective as it was being performed. In addition the definition between the formal condition reports and the human ‘living script’ felt defined enough for the audience to notice. This was partly found in the nitrile gloves being used to mark the transition between the two aspects. In turn the gloves became documentation for my performance itself.  This linked back in to the development process when we peeled potatoes in the gallery space to experience what Joseph Beuys has said, that “Even the act of peeling a potato can be a work of art if it is a conscious act” (Beuys, 1986) We found that the peelings of the potatoes were the documentation and traces of the performance. To this end, during my performance I left the used gloves in a pile on my document table that steadily grew throughout the course of the day, as a trace of my performance and indication of my piece’s duration.

Trace of Performance

Trace of Performance – Fenia Kotsopoulou

There is little I would look to alter for my performance if I were to perform it again. Something entirely possible, as my performance would still have relevance to the space, that Bracey’s paintings were presented there, and are now gone. I would probably seek to make some elements of the performance more professionally constructed. Better pictures of the paintings for the condition reports, and more uniform pieces of card with the text on, as they were many different sizes. I also feel that having my artist’s statement by the entrance to the room in the gallery could have been useful. As it would have hopefully helped more of the public to engage with the performance, especially as many members of the public didn’t seem to know what it was I was doing.

It also provided me with experience in working with a non-traditional venue. For example the limitations within the gallery space that we had to work around in our performances were something that wouldn’t be present in many other venues. There were also more practical elements of working in the gallery space, such as the acoustics of the room. Some of the wooden floorboards were extremely loud when stepped upon, and even small noises echoed slightly in the space. Being quite softly spoken I had to project to ensure I was unheard, which felt unusual to do in such a small room. I was also taught the importance of working with the management of the particular venue. Ashley Gallant was invaluable throughout the whole process of developing my performance. He advised me on many practical issues within gallery space to informing me on gallery practice concerning documenting the condition reports and my costume for the performance.

Word Count: 694

Beuys, J. (1993) Energy Plan for the Western man – Joseph Beuys in America. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows


List of Works Cited

Beuys, J. (1993) Energy Plan for the Western man – Joseph Beuys in America. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows

Kaye, N. (2000) Site Specific Art: Performance, Place and Documentation. Oxon: Routledge

Payne, S. (2015) The Preserved, the Documented, and the Ephemeral. [Performance Art] Lincoln, UK: The Collection and Usher Gallery, 9 May.

Phelan, P. (1993) Unmarked: The Politics of Performance. London: Routledge.