"Her Body is an Archive" Julie Tolentino's "The Sky Remains the Same"
Duration: 01:14:58; Aspect Ratio: 1.818:1; Hue: 32.238; Saturation: 0.085; Lightness: 0.136; Volume: 0.184; Cuts per Minute: 0.067; Words per Minute: 10.163
Summary: Most archives that collect and conserve queer and GLBT content still
function according to neoliberal logic. They comply with common law that
regulates and legitimates the donated or purchased materials’ chain of
ownership, conservation, and display. But the human body acting as
archive exceeds and contests the notion of an archive as a site in which
capital accumulates to later evidence or support a memory claim. As
organic matter impacted by culture, the body acting as an archive is
“queer” in that its composition changes as it acts to conserve and
display. What changes – in the body or in the performances it agrees to
conserve-- cannot be predicted, as over time the actions that the body
conserves continue to affect it, and the particularity of that body as
an archive transforms the actions it incorporates. Classification, a
critical function of archiving, no longer separates, for the archivist
whose body also acts as an archive cannot help but relinquish control
over how works intermingle in and with the body. In this paradigm,
performances are made anew as they relocate and disperse throughout the
organism. Although the archivist has some degree of control over works
she stores, consciously curating what she desires to absorb and display,
the archivist’s agency remains limited for she cannot fully regulate
how and where performance locates itself in the body or its long-term
The body performing as archive cannot possess but instead becomes
possessed, affected and remade by the performances of others. Against
the juridical contract that accompanies a donation to an archive, when a
body becomes archivist and archive of performance, it transforms
performance into the evidence of the uncertain exchange that transpires
between donor and archivist and other donations. Conversely, the body as
an archive of performance undermines the institutional stability of the
archive for it can only be constituted if performance is expended.
This panel assesses Julie Tolentino’s proposition, put forward in her
ongoing archiving project “The Sky Remains the Same”, that the human
body is not merely a transmitter of repertoires. Instead we propose to
examine Tolentino’s work as a technology that demonstrates and
reconfigures social and political values as well as the archive’s
purpose. What changes when bodies are considered archives capable of
recording, storing, indexing, and redistributing others’ performances?
The New Museum’s recent show “Performance Archiving Performance”, which
included “The Sky Remains the Same” alongside other artist-driven
performance archiving projects, demonstrated that this paradigm might
offer an alternative to what can be understood as or known about an
archival event. In the show Tolentino violated the notion of
conservation as retention, energetically spending what she was charged
to retain in order to felicitously complete her task of conservation.
This roundtable discussion reflects upon the proposition in “The Sky
Remains The Same” that the human body performing as archive and
archivist of other’s performances might in fact offer a radical antidote
to the present epidemic of archive fever. How might an archive be a
metaphor for other forms of social organization? Can the receipt and
display of the archive’s materiality and its engagement with performance
as its content mimic practices of queer political relations also not
predicated on a similarity of exchange or juridical possession? What are
the consequences if an archive becomes legible only through expending
another’s performance and by utilizing gifting and dissipation as
techniques of conservation?
Debra Levine Introducing "Her Body is an Archive" Panel
Julie Tolentino’s career spans over two decades of dance, installation, and site-specific durational performance. Her diverse roles have included host, producer, mentor, and collaborator with artists such as Meg Stuart, Ron Athey, Madonna, Catherine Opie, David Rousseve, Juliana Snapper, Diamanda Galàs, Stosh Fila, Robert Crouch, Elana Mann, Mark So, Gran Fury, and Rodarte. Tolentino is deeply influenced by her extensive experience as a caregiver, an Eastern and aquatic bodyworker, a highly disciplined contemporary dancer, and as proprietress of Clit Club in New York. Her manifold, exploratory duet/solo practice includes installation, dance-for-camera, and durational performance engaging improvisation one-to-one score-making and fluids, including blood, tears, and honey. As an extension of her practice after twenty-five years in New York City, she designed and built a solar-powered live–work residency in the Mohave Desert called FERAL House and Studio, where she explores the remote forms of physical inquiry through landscape and texts. She has received numerous grants and fellowships. She is currently the editor of Provocations in the Drama Review-TDR (MIT Press). Her works have been commissioned by The Kitchen, Participant Inc., Invisible Exports, Performa ’05, and in the UK by Spill Festival, Tramway, DanceExchange, and queerupnorth. Recent tours include England, Europe, Myanmar, the Philippines (at Manila Contemporary and Green Papaya Gallery), and Theaterworks in Singapore. She has been presented at Broad Art Space at University California Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), Commonwealth & Council, Honor Fraser, PSI19 at Stanford, Perform Chinatown, and Install Weho. In 2013, she created new performance and objects for the Reanimation Library Project in Joshua Tree, FIRE IN HER BELLY at Maloney Fine Art, LACE Auction 2013, Body/Mind at Cypress Gallery, High Desert Test Sites 2013, and an Aaron Turner collaboration at Night Gallery, Los Angeles. She will be premiering new works at UCLA, NYU Abu Dhabi, and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in 2014. She is currently based in Los Angeles and Joshua Tree.
Tara Hart is the Digital Archivist at the New Museum where she oversees the Museum’s Digital Archive as well as analog holdings related to the Museum’s institutional history. At the New Museum, she co-organized “XFR STN,” an exhibition and media archiving project that focused on providing free video preservation services to artists. Recently, Hart co-organized a presentation of archival material entitled “Occupied Territory: A New Museum Trilogy,” (January 22—April 13, 2014), which focuses on three interrelated exhibitions from 1993 that interrogated globalization’s social, economic, cultural, and intellectual impact. Prior to joining the New Museum, Hart worked as an archivist at the Public Art Fund and subsequently the Fales Library and Special Collections, where she processed the Group Material Archive. She holds a BA in Visual Art-Media from the University of California, San Diego and received her MLS from Pratt Institute in New York.
Debra Levine is an Assistant Professor of Theatre at New York University and is an affiliated faculty member of the Department of Undergraduate Drama at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and The Hemispheric Institute for Politics and Performance. Debra’s work explores the intersection between performance, politics and new media/digital humanities in the 20th and 21st century through the lens of feminist and queer theory, disability studies, and visual studies. With Pamela Cobrin, she co-edited the recent 2012 special issue on “Aging and Performance,” for Women and Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, and edited the 2008 issue of Women and Performance on “Wasting.” Debra has contributed articles to GLQ, Women & Performance, e-misférica, Theatre Research International, and The Disability Studies Quarterly. Her digital book in process on Scalar, Demonstrating ACT UP, is a multimedia exploration of how, within the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), participation in public AIDS demonstrations exposed and enabled new paradigms of collective care for activists with HIV and AIDS. The work is a set of critical essays and acts as a digital archive and finding aid, linking private and public archival documents of AIDS activism from the 1980’s and 1990’s with the testimonies from the ACT UP Oral History Project. Debra has also directed extensively for the theatre and has produced a number of independent documentaries – three specifically about the crisis of AIDS in incarcerated populations in New York State and Oklahoma. She has worked extensively with women prisoners to organize inmate-directed AIDS peer education programs. Debra holds an M.F.A. in Theatre Direction from Columbia University and a PhD from NYU's Performance Studies program, and has taught at NYU, Barnard College and The Cooper Union.
Julie Tolentino on "The Sky Remains the Same"