Thirty years ago Harvey “courted” Pina and the relationship has proliferated into multifaceted bonds – first between the artists and New York City audience, but also between the stagehands and dancers, administrative staffers, ushers, kids who have grown up seeing Pina at BAM, and now between the Pina Bausch Foundation and the BAM Hamm Archives.
In 2010 both institutions embarked on what I believe has been a fruitful and thrilling collaboration, sometimes esoteric but always practical. Since that time, there were several visits to Brooklyn and Wuppertal, in all of which intensive work took place. In November of 2011 Dr Marc Wagenbach and I began to plan for a presentation in order to introduce to the New York audience the work of the Pina Bausch Foundation, and in particular the Pina Bausch Archive Project. Violaine Huisman, Humanites Director at BAM, felt the presentation would be a perfect finale to a special series of iconic artist talks planned for BAM’s 150th anniversary. The 16-month BAM 150 celebration included landmark performance and films, a commemorative book, special archival and art exhibitions. The iconic artist talks proved so popular that they have now become a permanent program at BAM.
The iconic artist talks highlighted 10 important artists examining the evolution of their work at BAM over the years, referencing onscreen projections of original performance footage and images from the BAM Hamm Archives. Dr Wagenbach and I decided to assemble a panel of key contributors from Tanztheater Wuppertal and the Pina Bausch Foundation to discuss the challenge of using archival materials to reconstruct performances and give life to Bausch’s oeuvre after her passing in 2009. Participants should be Salomon Bausch and Dr Wagenbach for the foundation, Robert Sturm and Dominique Mercy, artistic directors from the Tanztheater, and dancer Barbara Kaufmann, who works both with the company and on the archive project.
It is commonly believed that archives are repositories for materials that document past events, that is, history. The mission of an archive is to preserve and make accessible these materials so that future users might be able to interpret and reinterpret past events. Performance-based collections are complicated and we wanted to show how the work of the Pina Bausch Archive serves as both a repository that preserves legacy, and also how it functions practically in the day to day work of the Tanztheater, such as in restaging a piece. Therefore, we traced the restaging process of Two Cigarettes in the Dark that had been remounted in 2011.
We shaped the presentation around a series of questions we hoped would outline how the archives were created, how they can be used and finally what cannot be captured in the physical collection.
The talk was held in the Lepercq Space and had been sold out two months in advance. It was incredibly well received I believe the format of the presentation could be used going forward as a kind of template for the discussion of performance archives and how they function as living collections.