Acatia Finbow

Department: English
Discipline: English

Project Summary

My PhD project is entitled 'An exploration of the Value of Performance and Performative Art Documentation in the Contemporary Art Gallery' (working title). 

I will be considering the different types of value ascribed to documentation within Tate particularly, utilising documents and artworks from their archive and collection, dating back to 1972 and including works which have been programmed or acquired during the course of this research. I will be particularly considering how certain factors affect the accumulation of value by the document. 

My research will build on the ever shifting body of work around documentation of performance, following the shift from distancing documentation from performance to the valuing of the document as an artwork in itself. I will consider issues of the performativity of the document, the position of the document within the institutional structure of the contemporary art museum, and the potential roles that the document can play in relation to performance, audiences, and museums. 

As part of the larger research project, I have written a number of case studies and photo-based event summaries which have been published online as an outcome of the research project. To date I have written longer essays on Tino Sehgal and Rebecca Horn, and a number of shorter summaries of performance programme events at Tate, including the Fluxus Olympiad and Up Hill, Down Hall indoor carnival. The project publication can be found here:


Supervisory Team

Professor Gabriella Giannachi, Department of English. 

Dr Aron Vinegar, Department of Art History and Visual Culture 

At Tate, I am supervised by Jennifer Mundy, Head of Collection Research .

Wider Research Interests

I am interested in the position of performance within the contemporary art museum, both in terms of programming of events and in the collection of performance. This encompasses both performance art and broader definitions of performance, including theatrical performances and dance. 

This has lead to a greater interest in the work of women artists within performance art and performance, and the particular draw of 1960s and 1970s performance art to marginal artists of that time. I am aiming to explore the work of a number of women artists within my research. 

I have a particular interest in the work of Marina Abramovic from across the span of her career, and especially her MoMA retrospective 'The Artist is Present' for the precedent it set for live performance retrospectives in the contemporary art museum. I used it as a core case study in my MA dissertation in exploring the difficulty of exhibiting performance. 

The value narratives within current cultural and artistic policy are also of particular interest to me, both as part of my current research and in the broader scope of the current cultural landscape in Britain. I am interested in the language used around value, measurement, and quantification within the cultural industries, and how this may impact on communication between artists and organisations, and funding bodies. 

I have a particular interest in the documentation strategies carried out by museums, galleries, and individual artists, and how these relate to specific works. I am working on developing some aspects of a documentation strategy at Tate around their live events, in conjunction with the curatorial and conservation departments. I have undertaken interviews as documentation, and am interested in the ways in which personal experience, memory and knowledge can be captured through digital documents. 

As an interdisciplinary researcher, I am also developing an interest in the different attitudes taken towards performance documentation by institutions and practitioners in the visual arts and the performing arts, including considering where museums and theatres carry out similar practises of documentation. 

In 2016, I began work as a research assistant on a year-long pilot project looking at mapping socially engage, participatory art practices. I have been gathering information and data through archival research and reading about projects and potential case studies, compiling this information into a substantial spreadsheet. This has been used to create visualisations of the practices, which can be developed collaboratively. I am interested in this as an archiving practice, but also in the way that documentation might feed into this practice.