Acatia Finbow

Performance at Tate: Documentation and Documents in Research

Tate, as an institution, has engaged with performance in a variety of forms for over fifty years. The two year AHRC-funded project ‘Performance at Tate’ traces this history through collection objects, programmed events, and significant exhibitions across Tate’s multiple sites. In this paper, I will consider how documentation – as both a process and a product – was used within the research project.

Considering the document as an object of study within research, I will explore how ‘Performance at Tate’ used documents from the 1960s to the present as a means of facilitating and then communicating research around the presence of performance within objects, events, and programmes at Tate. In particular, I will focus on the creation of an online publication which made public a selection of previously inaccessible performance documents.

The research project also undertook a documentation workshop around the two-day event ‘If Tate Modern was Musée de la danse?’ I will expand on the techniques and strategies chosen by the research group, and what they intended to achieve. I will focus particularly on the use of non-traditional documentation strategies as a research tool through which the event was explored.

Finally, I will briefly touch on Tate’s future documentation strategies, arising out of my own work as a collaborative doctoral researcher. This will focus on my reflection on Tate’s previous practices, as a way to understand how institutional documentation can best fill knowledge gaps in the future, through flexible strategies around written and visual documents.

Acatia Finbow: Acatia is a collaborative doctoral research student, at Tate and the University of Exeter. Her interdisciplinary research considers the value of performance documentation in the museum, focusing particularly on live works in Tate’s collection, and events and exhibitions which have taken place at the Museum’s sites since the 1970s. She is interested in theories of value and valuation, the role of the document as an artwork, and changing attitudes towards documentation in museums.