Funded PhD Project: Documenting Performance Art in Central and Eastern Europe, c. 1960-1989

Since starting this website, I have been contacted by a number of students who use it as a resource, which I think is great! It is a use for this site, and the information therein, that I had never anticipated or envisioned. So, if you are a student, thank you for reading! (thank you to everyone else who reads, too, of course).

With that in mind, I thought I would post this announcement, as it may be of interest to some. There is a new opportunity for a funded PhD project on the documentation of performance art in Eastern Europe that I will be supervising, starting in October 2014. So, if you are completing or have completed a master's degree and have a research background in Eastern European contemporary art and/or performance art, and you have a project that might fit in with the call below, please do be in touch and consider applying!

PhD Title:  Documenting Performance Art in Central and Eastern Europe, c. 1960-1989

Supervisor 1 – Dr Amy Bryzgel

Supervisor 2 – Professor Edward Welch

This project takes as its focus the documentation and dissemination of performance art from the former communist and socialist countries of Central, Eastern and Southern Europe, from the period of c. 1960-1989. Performance art in the West emerged as a self-conscious genre, and a deliberate alternative to the production of painting and sculpture for display in the gallery space. However, in Eastern Europe, artists such as Jiří Kovanda (Czechoslovakia), Andris Grīnbergs (Latvia), and Ion Grigorescu (Romania) often created performance art for a select group of friends and colleagues, and even sometimes only for themselves. If in the West, documentation was often an essential component of performance art, and necessary to exhibit the work in the gallery, in the East, the recording of performances, by video or photography, was more haphazard. At times, artists were intent on documenting their work for posterity, in the hope that someday, somewhere (outside of the totalitarian regime) it would have an audience. At others, photographs were taken simply as a record, without any thought that they would ever be seen.

While Peggy Phelan (1998) has argued that the documentation of a performance can in no way serve as a substitute for having witnessed it, this PhD project will seek to challenge that contention by nuancing understandings of the documentation of performance art in the Soviet bloc during the Cold War era. By examining the function of the recording and (after regime change at the end of the 1980s) dissemination of the work on the understanding and reception of performance art in the region, the study will explore what it means to document these ephemeral works merely as evidence that they occurred, instead of as an art object in its own right. How does this change the function of the photograph or video and its status as an art object? How does it change the relationship between performance and audience, and with what consequences? Projects that employ a comparative method, engaging several countries across Eastern Europe, are particularly welcome.

For more about the Elphinstone PhD Scholarships, and information on how to apply, click here. Please feel free to contact me at a.bryzgel (at) abdn.ac.uk if you have any questions!

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Amy Bryzgel

Amy Bryzgel is a lecturer in History of Art at the University of Aberdeen. She is currently conducting research on performance art in Central and Eastern Europe for a forthcoming book monograph.