PerformanceProcess offers a subjective approach to Swiss performance from 1960 to nowadays.
This project was first presented at the Centre culturel suisse – Paris, from 18 September to 13 December 2015. It was then rethought and presented in Basel, from 19 September 2017 to 18 February 2018, in an exceptional collaboration between three cultural institutions from Basel, the Museum Tinguely, Kaserne Basel, and Kunsthalle Basel, in partnership with the Centre culturel suisse – Paris.
This website, www.pprocess.ch, was designed by Swiss graphic designer Ludovic Balland. It documents and archives the works of the seventy-six artists, bands and companies that took part in PerformanceProcess in both Basel and Paris. Photos, videos, interviews, texts, and other information are presented here, thus forming the basis of a reference resource on Swiss performance.
In recent years, there has been a renewed interest for performance – a medium with numerous definitions and at the crossroads of various disciplines. As examples of this trend, several performance festivals have taken place: Performa Biennial in New York (2005), Nouveau Festival at the Centre Pompidou in Paris (2009 to 2015), and The Tanks: Art in Action section of the Tate Modern in London (active from 2016 onwards but first designed in 2012). In Switzerland, the Swiss Performance Art Award was founded in 2011. Obviously, PerformanceProcess is part of this trend, but it also stems from the multidisciplinary approach of the CCS, notably in the fields of visual and living arts. In Paris, PerformanceProcess aimed to showcase – in one location and on the same level – works from artists active in both of these artistic fields. Similarly, we pride ourselves in our subjective approach to performance, given that the artists chosen are not solely identified as performers, but also develop their work using performance amongst many other media. The word “performance” is, incidentally, used for convenience. Other words are also relevant, such as “happening,” “event,” “action” or “concert.” The historical field taken into account here ranges from 1960 to the present day. It starts with Jean Tinguely and his self-destructing machines built in the garden of the MoMA in New York (1960), and spans more than five decades in order to take into account the practice of artists that are now less than thirty years old.
PerformanceProcess at the Centre culturel suisse took the hybrid form of a festival/exhibition articulated in different sections with different formats, temporalities, and locations. For three months, an exhibition displaying documents and more than a hundred works by thirty-five artists was presented in the different rooms of the CCS. Twelve focuses were successively presented in the middle of the main room. These focuses consisted of five-day long monographic exhibitions, often accompanied by actions, the duration of which ranged from a few minutes to five days. In total, more than forty “performances” taking place in more than a hundred “shows” were presented at the CCS as well as in eleven partner venues in Paris. A symposium then shed light on theoretical and historical elements linked with performance and broadened the international perspective of the subject.
We wished for PerformanceProcess to be able to find a new reflection somewhere else after its first edition in Paris. To us, Basel presented an ideal context given the important role that performance plays in this city and the exceptional quality of its artistic institutions. Philippe Bischof, then director of cultural affairs for the canton of Basel City, was very interested by this initiative and helped connecting the different partner institutions.
After several discussions, the three institutions that were to form PerformanceProcess Basel present a choir-like “season” centred on Swiss performance and made of three distinct and complementary projects. At Museum Tinguely, the exhibition 60 Years of Performance Art in Switzerland, gathers works and documents by forty-one artists, bands, and companies active from the 1960s. More than fifteen performances over more than four months complement the exhibition. Kaserne Basel presents Performing Choreographies, with ten performances over six days, including two performances travelling in the public space. This programme gives the lion’s share to “works situated between performance and choreography, where bodies move in thousand ways, between exhibited ‘objects’ and organised choreographies through time and space.” New Swiss Performance Now, presented at the Kunsthalle Basel, explores the way young Swiss artists use performance by inviting twenty-four artists and groups to develop a “live exhibition in which no documentation, script, props, or any other vestige of performance will be exhibited.”
On 26-27 January 2018, a symposium co-organised by Museum Tinguely and Kunsthalle Basel in partnership with the Centre culturel suisse will accompany the season with conferences and debates with Swiss and international speakers.
Jean-Paul Felley & Olivier Kaeser