Original Call for Papers

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The Future of the Document: documenting performance

Interdisciplinary Symposium: Monday 31st October 2016, at City, University of London

Organisers: Lyn Robinson & Joseph Dunne

Call for papers: Update 2/09/2016. Our call has now ended. Many thanks to everyone who has submitted an abstract. We will contact everyone by 30th September 2016, when we will announce the programme. Please go to our Eventbrite page if you would like to register to attend the Symposium.

Please note our Twitter hashtag is #docperform

One of the major concerns of library and information science (LIS) is collection and preservation of the record of humankind. In order to preserve something for future access we need to understand what it is we are saving. LIS considers preservation and access from the viewpoint of the document. This has prompted the question: ‘what is a document?’ The answer is far from straightforward, and has been debated since the end of the 19th century, when Otlet suggested that images, works of art and sculptures could be regarded in the same way as books, journals and papers, and later, in the 1950s, Briet suggested that even an animal might be considered as a document. The question has subsequently attracted the attention of other scholars too, including Buckland, Lund, Latham, Frohman, Gorichanaz and Robinson.

It would seem the question might be ‘what is not a document?’

Technological advances have given us digitization, which has added more complexity to the issue. Physical/analogue documents can be rendered in digital format, and the digital surrogates regarded as documents in their own right.

Further, the rapidly expanding and evolving trend towards digitization has led to a convergence of GLAM sector institutions, so that the work of galleries, libraries, archives and museums, in creating digital ‘documents’ has overlapped for some years now. This, irrespective of whether one considers an original painting or object in a museum, in any sense, a document.

This symposium goes beyond coalescence within the GLAM sector, to consider collection, documentation and preservation of performance.

Today all types of performance can simply be broadcast and made accessible to millions of people through their mediatization – be it theatre and performance art; rock concerts; political performances such as party conventions or the inauguration of the U.S. president; ritual performances such as funerals (e.g. Princess Diana’s) or papal blessings urbi et orbi; or sporting events such as the Olympic Games. A new dichotomy has emerged between live performance constituted by the bodily co-presence of actors and spectators and the autopoietic feedback loop and mediatized performance which sever the co-existence of production and reception. Mediatized performance invalidates the feedback loop.

Erika Fischer-Lichte, 2008

At some level, the event simply happens; at the same time, it cannot be defined merely as what occurs

Jill Bennett, 2012

Much work in this area has been undertaken, but often outside the LIS domain and in separate strands of the performing arts. Work in defining and documenting dance, performance, performance art and theatre has progressed in parallel, yet disparate projects, although the goals of documentation appear consistent.

This cross-disciplinary, one-day event will bring together scholars, practitioners, artists and other professionals from the fields of Library & Information Science and Theatre & Performing Arts, to start a conversation, and to foster a more interdisciplinary awareness of how we can answer questions of collection, preservation and access to the record of performance, an important part of our cultural heritage.

Abstracts of up to 250 words are invited for 20 min presentations.

Subjects for discussion may include, but are not limited to:

  • Definitions of the document / not a document.
  • What are the definitive characteristics of performance? Can these be recorded?
  • Does the process of documentation represent the performance, or it is a surrogate/new document
  • Who owns the document, the artist or the documenter?
  • Body memory
  • Projects documenting performing arts
  • Use of technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality or mixed reality to embody the essence of performance as a document
  • Online performance platforms – What opportunities does the Web afford artists wishing to reach new audiences? How can performing arts and LIS professionals collaborate?
  • Experiments with documenting and archiving strategies has lead many artists and scholars to see these practices as creative activities in their own right. What new art forms might arise out of them? Conversely, do LIS professionals consider their practice as artistic?
  • Lexicon of practices – Is there a language barrier between the performing arts and the LIS fields? How can this be overcome? What forums can be initiated to build dialogues between the two fields? What opportunities might arise out of this collaborative effort?

Please send your abstract (along with up to a 100 word biography) to lyn@city.ac.uk, and joseph.dunne@bruford.ac.uk by 1st September 2016. Notification of acceptance will be emailed by or before 30th September 2016. When you submit your abstract, please also register for the event (free). The symposium will take place on Monday October 31st 2016. Please contact either of us if you have any questions about the symposium.


Lyn Robinson is head of Library & Information Science at City University London. She is well known as course director for the library school #citylis. She has a longstanding interest in the nature of documents and the processes of documentation.

Joseph Dunne is Research Associate at Rose Bruford College. His PhD research investigated how archiving and documentation strategies can become the genesis of site-based performance practice. Joseph’s specialisms include audience participation, performance re-enactments, cultural memory, and theatre legacies.

Venue: The symposium will take place on 31st October 2016, at City, University of London, Northampton Square, EC1V0HB. We regret that we are unable to pay travel expenses to speakers or participants.

Booking a place: Attendance is free, but registration is required. Anyone with an interest in the documentation of performance is welcome!

Programme: tba

Sponsors: We are seeking sponsorship for our event. If you are able to contribute to costs for a sandwich lunch or drinks reception, please contact Lyn Robinson, lyn@city.ac.uk