These days, the term “reenactment” usually refers to live reconstructions of historic events, often of a military nature, performed by hobbyists. In the U.S., there are many enthusiasts (primarily men) who take part in Civil War reenactments, while in Europe the Napoleonic era is the most popular.

In the world of visual art, there have in recent years been many reenactments of historic performances from the 1960s and 1970s – works which otherwise only exist in the form of photos, videos and descriptions. But what exactly is being reenacted, and what is the effect of the representation? Jackson Pollock already had the feeling that his existential “act” for the painting session filmed by Hans Namuth degenerated into “acting” in the sense of theatrical performance – something he found insufferable. Is it not the fate of reenactment to eventually become an image, a representation in the form of film, photo or video? And are such representations just part of a spectacle that breeds passivity or can they in some sense be performative, active?

Mainstream historical reenactment struggles with some of the same issues: reenactors are critical of Hollywood’s depictions of history and of media representations in general; however, not only do reenactors make photos and videos during their staged battles, their quest for a “period rush” is also influenced by watching films and over the last decade, reenactors have frequently been used as extras in historical feature films (for example Saving Private Ryan).

Against this backdrop, it is hardly strange that some artists make work which is based on ”aspects of” this culture of reenactment. Their work becomes a doubling and – in some cases – a critical questioning of mainstream reenactment. The exhibition Life, Once More couples examples of artistic reflection on historical reenactment with (registrations of) reenactments of performances, in an attempt to fight repetition with repetition, to break open and activate the past.

The exhibition includes work by Mike Bidlo, Bik Van der Pol, Rod Dickinson, Omer Fast, Andrea Fraser, Robert Longo, Eran Schaerf, Catherine Sullivan and Barbara Visser.

It is accompanied by a publication with text contributions by Jennifer Allen, Andrea Fraser, Peggy Phelan, Sven Lütticken, Barbara Visser and others.

The project Life, Once More is part of Exploding Cinema, the side program of the International Filmfestival Rotterdam which takes place from January 26 – February 6, 2005.

—Supported by

International Film Festival Rotterdam
Mondriaan Stichting