Authenticity and it’s issues comes with documentation

 Conversation with bandu manamperi and looking into performance art in SriLanka

Performance art once under the radar undertaken a new emergence ,with a new shade of light. The new emergence  in a time period of globalization and digital monetization , time based art forms like performance art with ephemeral value has transcended into the form of ‘commodified object‘.

Concept of collecting contemporary art has change, collectors have to re-educate themselves so that the idea becomes sought after as a physical object”

In a period that the ephemeral artworks are instructed to be documented and the documentation and the secondary residues of art objects in the momentum of been collected ,archived and becoming acquiring pieces .Artists in the periphery of performance medium facing with new challenges that the artists of the 60’s and 70’s did not face their time period ; authenticy , re-enactment , documentation upholds ,archiving , becoming major discourses that has to be upheaval at present times .

As in the contrary of Sri Lankan art, performance art practice began with the ‘90’s trend’ that addressed the violence and trajectories ,as well as against the modernists views and commodification of art .Yet these “social expressionist” artworks of the para modernists period was somehow been given spaces that has been commodified .  From the years 2015 with performance art platform initiated by Theertha collective, engrossed in the process of performance art as a stand alone art in the contemporary art world of Sri Lanka. The new transcendent  medium in global art world has its effects in performance art form in Sri Lanka.

Today artists are been constantly pressurized to create document full form of their work , which is not a necessity for time based art forms .That can effect; as artists tend to consciously get intact with the documentation that the transcendence of the form disrupts. Artists are further pushed into parameters in order to gain commissions, grants, projects:produce digital archiving for galleries , museums, residencies. Documentation acts as an authoritative validation of authenticity ,residues and connects with the authorship .

Court of dusseldorf ruled that the museum Scoloss Mayland in Germany does not have the right to display the photographs taken by Manfred Tischer of a 1964 performance by Joseph Beuys (The silence of Marcel Duchamp is overrated). The court ruled in favour of  V.G.Bild Kunst , an organisation that collects copyright payments for German artists and their estate representatives.

 Such situations /incidents conclude the domain that, documentation, that once captured a momentary position has now changed its position to commodified objects .  As the collectors , archivists, running behind time based art work, any tangible materiality, to hold the residues that in future will act as eligible witnesses of the momentary art work. Which holds onto copyright issues and other legal issues of plagiarism that can come forth with it.

On the 5 th March 2019 ,Singaporean artist Lee Wan passed away. With that comes recalling of a past as Lee Wan was the first person to introduce the medium of performance art , capturing mass crowds , with intense workshops in Sri Lanka . His performance ‘the yellow man ‘ was enacted during his time in Sri Lanka and evoked a new form of art practice .The situation has made performance artists of Sri Lanka,  move into handling archives as well as take measures on copyright claims of their documentations,;which was never part of their early agendas  .

Bandu Manamperi recalls an instance of his public performance in 2015 ‘Dead Fish ‘,  that he was never interested in having specialized documentors for his public performances , yet there was this incident that a student with a good ability to capture a photograph had captured an imagery of a moment of him holding the fish and had sold the imagery of documentation .The artists had witnessed that there is no possibility to hold on to the documentations which public captures, everyone has their own digital materials to document and it has become a casualty. Yet this was an act of plagiarism and copyrights issue, the legal actions were never initiated ,but performance artists are now in a periphery ,how can one minimize these incidents?

There are strong performance works with poor documentation and I know weak performances that have amazing documentation or artifacts . So documentation makes how we value a performance piece ?

The collectors are enthusiastic to collect the ephemeral or the second life to the body . As an installation ,video, photograph, poem , object or memory . These are not the same work , they are a version , another form , a replica, that will never be the same as the original. But that doesn’t diminish its value . 

The fact that  technologies mediatizations such as video , photography, develops frustration for the spectators whom,desire for the real bodies and intimacy that these mediatizations cannot give; which interrupts the ‘feedback loop’ or the ‘energy dialogue that transforms and goes back to the ‘primer spirit’ of ‘who you are’.

Bandu Manamperi in his performance ‘iron man ‘ which is series based enacted in Jaffna,in front of the reconstructing department of police in Jaffna . Documentation of these performances has never been exhibited and some instances have never been documented.The documentations are mere imagery taken by peers and the public, therefore they are not strong documentations .

The issues arise at present times with galleries, collectors as well as residencies requiring the documentation to be well performed as well . Many require the documentation to be somewhat

“As if they were part of the entire performance”

Bandu Manamperi

Bandu, recalls his meeting with  Amit Kumar Jain . Amit Jain , is a dedicated museum professional for the last ten years , interest extend over most facets of art making and museum management ,which includes acquisitions,collection,research and establishing residencies.Amit had made emphasis on that artist can and also needed to document and also work on the documentation .The later ‘Iron man ‘ series that was taken in Colombo in front of the municipality was then documented through video and imagery . The documentation was exhibited in 2016 India Art Fair and was part of a installation that was auctioned afterwards .Parallel to the installation of the documentation ,the artist had his live performance of ‘iron man Bandu states that documentation always consists of a limited perspective ,that one must not rely on the documentations judgement.

How do we document,how can we document …there are no solidiatry ways to document an ephemeral artwork .

Bandu Manamperi

Like a couple in a wedding as the photographer or the videographer has the control of manipulating the frameworks and the couple, performance artist or the art work cannot be controlled, the medium of videography and photography has its own language ,but one must understand that they are been captured edited by professionals .

Theatre has the ability to this as the framework is minimal, the audience is not required and in photo performance we are able to capture and frame work it much better.

“Or like Nikhil Chopra we cannot control the space and the audiences documentation .”

Bandu Manamperi 

As Philip Auslander Auslander states performance at one level raw material for documentation“He also states that,”documentation is performative “, as it contains an active and a passive representation of the event as it can cut the hierarchy of the artwork and documentation . Hence performance co-relate with the term “presence in Absentia” , which Auslander clarifies enabling to trace its engagement through the residues,documentation which are traces of absentee that correlates to the live .Hence further ,documentation is performative as it contains the the ‘liveness’ of the ‘live’.

The performative of performance documentation, Philip Auslander

Bandu’s later performances have been documented by Dhanushka Marasinghe . The documentation of the works likewise; Singapore biennale performance and the stages of the performances have been documented by Dhanushka . Bandu notified that as an artist that he believes , Dhanuska implies his own aesthetics while handling the medium (secondary medium) , hence Bandu states that the document-or in  carries his credits and at many other times; the documentor is merely given a payment abiding that , they are not allowed to utilize the documentation for their own purposes . 

In the case of Anoli Perera the documentation , photo documentation of the work is taken under her name as the concept , the script of the work has the artist’s authority. But instances of public performance this situation is quite different as the public can have their own documentation . Bandu states that ;

A documentation can never capture a ‘live performance.

Philip Auslander and fischer Lichte state the passive and activeness of “performative documentation“,  that enables to co-relate, process the reading and viewing through the documentation. The subjectivity and the recreation of the performance through the ghostly bodies leads to an interpretation of the audience’s cathartic and transformational generating. That revolves with the hermeneutics of performance art and documentation,  which creates a ‘documentation audience’.

Performance cannot be saved , recorded , documented or otherwise participate in circulation of representations of representations:once it does , so it becomes something other than performance . To the degree that performance attempts to enter the economy of reproduction it betrays and lessens the promise of its own ontology . 

When I was dragging the fish ,when you see the photographs of the documentation of it , you cannot see the audience’s reactions …the ones who yawn looking at it to the man who will come and stop it ……you cannot document and also edit the video like video art , or like in cinema , the capturing is impossible…..documentation resides as a memory ….memory of that situation of that instance

In dance platform 2014 the performance enacted , the documentation was done by the organizers ,so …they control what to document and what not to …and what to edit off….according to how they want”

The authority of the performance and the documentation collides and makes a joint authoritarianship. While both the artists for the performance received a price for the enactment; the legitimacy of handling the rights for the documentation by the artist vise versa with the authorities is still something unknown to be handled. Bandu Manamperi notifies the lack of researchers , to know further on the legalities, documentation rights, authorship rights of these ephemeral art practice ,which is a major lack of audacity .

The legalized actions needed to be set up soon and how artists needed these to be established . 

The case of Marina Abramovic and Ulay on the joint workmanship projects has been a crucial juncture that revoked the necessity, as the two giants went heads to tails for their rights of authorship on profits gained from sales to the significant authority to display their works . As one portion the incident occured that Ulay was prohibited from displaying their collaborative projects together, and the court declared that the artist doesn’t need permission for exhibiting from his collaborative partner under the law , if the exhibitioning was not under commercial cause. The case of 1976 performance “Akiton” (There is a criminal touch to art ) was a solo work by Ulay was not under their joint contract (1999 contract ), yet she offered he work for sale and exploited the agreement by blocking Ulay out of the occasion ,Violating the copyright claim , according to Amsterdam court.

The title of Abramovic ‘ 2010 MOMA exhibition ,”The Artist is Present “was ironically referenced in the lawsuit.According to Ulay’s explanation’ ‘ the artist is present’ borrowed from their epic 90 day performance series ,’Nightsea crossing’ which was performed between 1981 and 1987. 

As for Bandu Manamperi’s position , the question revolves with how he deals with such a situation if it ever occurs with his collaborative performances ?; He recalls the duet performances of his and Constantine . For instance the performance ‘Me and my image at the dance performance , how the production cost given by the organizers are split. He believes that he has a great mutual understanding with his long term partner which he acknowledges. Yet He tends to believe that it is a necessity , but these situations have not yet arrived doesn’t mean that propositions needed to be built .

Concept of collecting contemporary art has change, collectors have to re -educate themselves ,so that the idea (behind a piece )become as sought after as a physical object”

Marina Abramovic

Tino Sehgal sells his verbal transactions in front of a lawyer with no contract ,including instructions of how to re -enact his works,and also instruct how the documentations to be taken.

Bandu Manamperi’s performance ‘dead fish ‘ (2015) ;he makes multiple drawings and paintings, are materials which contains as the scripts ,concepts, developments of his performance that later moved through the performance ,and transcends with stages (process of the performance).The series of these paintings ,drawings and the video installation of the process or stages were been monaterized by the artist.

The question arise that yes,there is a tangible object evoke within time based or relational aesthetic works .That tangible to called  as original , residues that traces back to the performance; archival cannot be directly negotiate as performance art residues ,documentation acts as a temporal in the point of vanishing: ghostly bodies of time .Yet at present it has been created its identity into an “Art Object” and also been pushed to be archived.In the second chapter we have converse how an independent performance artist been given funds or monetary value to their ‘labour’ or ‘act ‘ .Yet regard the temporal residues has tend to taken as “artifacts” been preserved ,which indicates been given later a monetary value.

My idea was to establish moral rules .If someone wants make a performance , they must ask the artists for the rights and pay for it ,just like it’s done with music or literature”.

Marina Abramovic

The statement of Marina further concludes that time based art work, yes,carries a material of originality yet the residues , documentation which merely suggests its existentiality becoming a monetary value. Artifact has become a case against the medium’s identity.

This could be that of :in the age of reproduction the documentation produced as such gives a value to the performance event and to the live .Which creates an immense auratic authenticity to the performance and performer. The auratic value desire for the real event to be produced ,enhanced, performed.The auratic value generates a cult value of reproduction , to serve a consumerist , reproductive, exhibitionist purpose.

Whatever that has touched my body ,the sense of that time becomes residues , become archives ,yet it does not capture the real -realness but a momentary suggestion”.

“The shoes that i collected ,iron board are just residues, they are not monumental pieces or documented or museum pieces ,artifacts .they are mere capturing of memory of time ,documentation”.

Performance is always at one level raw material for documentation that the final product through which it will be circulated , identify, justify and replace reality.

Bandu Manamperi

Hence Bandu denies the factors of monitoring and documenting consciously in front of a camera .He would prefer to carry the ephemerality ,the “vanishing point ” of the medium . What if the art world , collectors , obsessed buyers wanted them to be valued ,collected , monetized , 

The performance is unlikely to have a resale value , except again to someone who might be obsessed with the artist’ idea”

Bandu Manamperi

Yet what we discussed above that artist has and always has the choice of what the artist intention is though.I think it’s challenging because we see museums now trying to collect performance art and there is always the question of what they even should collect ,how you would even say this is the object.And that’s the problem that a lot of strong feelings about what form their documentation should take or what type of object leftover after performance might be turned into artworks and that’s just part of an artistic process too.

Documentation, any form of archaic material of the performance and its liveness should therefore exists in the form of the repertoires .The bodies of documentation or repertoires exist with embodiments that have memory existence within.Memory which acts as a transformative ,multiple ,noble , nature close to the essential ephemerality of performance that Auslander states.’ Memory evidence tension ,a kind of fractured schizophrenia ,which Terry Cook an archivist mentions further that the performance archive should be remembered as if it exists as a human memory or the institutional archive. ‘The repository of that which will not go away 

At present with the age of ‘social media platforms” and stages have transformed into bodies of repositories .

The ‘spectators’ primary actions would be either witnessing the live event or by constructing an imagination of the live through the ‘liveness’ of the documentation. The social media platform sites that most of the new generation sites of uploading for spectator ship; as the online viewers are able to access the uploaded performance from time to time. There is always an attempt that the internet has inability to carry the “ liveness “ of the performance enacted. 

At times the “ validation “ era,social media platforms can create only a frame of validating the performance through the visual presence and the number of “ likes” given to the representation. The aura tic impulse of the performance enactment gets subjugated to harsh validational criticism that might not contain a clear picture. Theertha Performance Platform and many performance artists use these platforms for interconnectivity and live documentation through live video projection has hence can be part of this new form.

The public performance of the fish been dragged off ,the action of removing its intestine with my bare hands , been watched by spectators .The crowds who surrounds me and the passersby whom travel within buses will witness a glimpse that is partial taken by the memory.That consists of the dialogue with past and present leap with time and histories to the times of a bomb blast in Sri Lanka .Can we carry all that and include as memory into the archive or make it documented “

Bandu Manamperi 

The spectators or the audience who tends to reconstitute or reconstruct through the documentation of performance tends to exist as “Documentation audience ” . These witnesses,

One tends to recall the bomb blasts ,like how they would explain the bomb blast to another witness of the metal balls pieces pass near their ear.. the memory the witnessing tends to change such as their way of documenting .The volatile aspect of a performance is of that “

Hence carries their own partial narration , signifier of their memory .The documentation and the repertoires hence acts as the repositories of the memory that builds as an archive ; which can be called more evidently as an ‘archiviolithic’.

The archive acts as a memory stored in a human psyche ,that also recalls-also do not contain ‘truth’ but are performative and transformative when (re)visited.The archive illuminates that engagement of transformation that facilitates the re visit and the propagation tends of it and the bodies that embodies the lives to be presence as well.


  1. Anonymous June 29, 2020 at 12:05 am


  2. Anonymous June 29, 2020 at 12:15 am

    Awesome work Chathuri!

  3. Vithushana A S June 29, 2020 at 7:46 am


  4. Terranzov June 29, 2020 at 1:48 pm

    Great effort ✌️🖤

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