- Emergency INDEX 2011 ed. by Yelena Gluzman and Matvei Yankelevich
Emergency INDEX is a book of wonders, a kind of bestiary. Open it to any page and you will find something worth thinking about: a performance that "brings the internal sounds of the human body to our ears" (171); a cultic dance/theater experiment choreographed around an enormous plastic "sac" (90); a "performative" lecture on UFOs, ley lines, and visionary architecture (312); a display of public/private breakdown in a Brooklyn IKEA (338); a restaging, with child performers, of Peter Handke's 1966 play Offending the Audience (112); a Twitter-fed simultaneous "group walk" through multiple cities (16); and much, much more. The venues are equally wide-ranging, from Jay Scheib at the Kitchen in New York City (22) and XXXY / Yehuda Duenyas at Rensselaer's Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (168) to Annette Arlander's stark environmental work on Harakka Island, Finland (64) and Felipe Faúndez Funtes's milk action staged "alone outside of a gallery in the streets of Belfast" (407). One performance took place at the banyan tree gates outside the Sultan's Palace in Yogyakarta, Indonesia (431).
The INDEX is a new annual periodical from Ugly Duckling Presse. Dedicated to "documenting performance annually," the 2011 INDEX collects photographic and textual evidence for 249 performances that took place during that year. Each performance receives a two-page spread, with image and vital stats (title, date, location, creator, and contact information) on the left and a written account on the right. The INDEX is a hefty, solid-feeling book, printed on matte paper and pleasing to hold. Entries are arranged in chronological order, from David Ford's Maximon (first performed in 1999 and only most recently in 2011) to Bridge of Fire Dance Troupe and Eliza Swann's The Struggle of the Magicians, which took place on 31 December 2011. Apart from a brief introductory essay from editors Gluzman and Yankelevich, there is little in the way of commentary or framing.
I am a "contributing editor" to Emergency INDEX, but my relationship to its panoply of performances is no different than that of any other reader. This is because, inspired by the "Artist's Chronicle" section of the magazine High Performance (edited from 1978 to 1997 by Linda Frye Burnham and Steven Durland), the editors of Emergency INDEX have taken a "non-curatorial approach" to documenting performance. Neither they nor any of the contributing editors exercised any curatorial power over the inclusion of performances in the INDEX. All photographic and textual documentation was provided directly by the creator(s) of each performance, so that "famous works appear alongside one-offs, celebrated artists next to unknowns." The goal of the INDEX is not to capture the best or most important works of 2011 but to offer a "snapshot" panoramic view of performance, a "democratic hodgepodge" that showcases the variety of what constitutes performance today. Performance, the editors suggest, can only be defined through its extraordinary breadth. This volume includes: "dance, therapy, poetry, protest, rehabilitation, scholarly research, theater, conceptual art, advertising, and many other fields utilizing performance" (vii). [End Page 185]
Beyond its kaleidoscopic survey of contemporary performance, the most interesting part of the INDEX is its index. Painstakingly compiled by Gluzman, Yankelevich, and the Ugly Duckling Presse team, it allows the reader to gain a sense of which terms artists are currently using to describe and contextualize their own work. From abjection to Zuccotti Park, these run the gamut of today's political and intellectual language. Among the most popular: animal, art, body, culture, experience, language, participation, text. A few unique but intriguing entries: Cuban Missile Crisis, Gurdjieff, Bruno Latour, Mad Libs, Tiresias. The index makes the INDEX invaluable as a resource for analyzing trends. Any scholar can look up their current pet concept and see if and where it appears. (In this context, absence can be just as interesting as presence: I note plenty of entries for technology but none for technique.) Other kinds...