Documenting Performance

The Art of Performance Documentation, Panel – Martha Wilson, Yelena Gluzman, Matvei Yankelevich, Christa Holka, moderated by Johanna Linsley

Resistance, reenactment, appropriation, outsourcing (of labor)


Happenings, Allan Kaprow


Call Cutta in a Box, Remini Protokoll


Haircuts by Children, Mammalian Diving Reflex


Atlas Group, Walid Raad

Selfie GIFs, Alison Kobayashi, 2014


Performance Reenactment Society


History Will Repeat Itself Exhibition, Hartware MedienKunstVerein

Jeremy Deller's re-enactment of the Battle of Orgreave, film for Channel 4 directed by Mike Figgis and produced by Artangel

The Battle of Orgreave, Jeremy Deller

Marina Abramović: Documenting performance


Imponderabilia, Marina Abramovic and Ulay

Trademarks, Vito Acconci, 1970


Biting as much of my body as I can reach: turning on myself, turning in on myself: performance as locomotion across a boundary: connecting a region: absorption, by one organization, of a neighbouring organization: self-absorption.—Bite: getting to a point, getting through a point: brand of performance.—Applying printers’ ink to each bite and making bite-prints: identity pegs: identifiers of a certain position I have taken at a certain time: TRADEMARKS (title of the piece; September 1970): performance as the shaping of an alibi.—The bite-prints can be stamped on various surfaces (paper, a stone, a possession, another body): performance as opening a system, sharing a secret.
— Vito Acconci

Date Paintings, On Kawara


Yoko Ono, One Woman Show, MOMA




Roberta Breitmore, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Second Life


Playground, Ann Hirsch, 2013



Can Performance Art be Collected…and Still Maintain its Original Message…?
, Jen Ortiz, Hyperallergic

Props and other materials that were used in the staging of the work, photo and video documentation of the performance itself, texts and sketches created by the artists to underline the context of the work and the artistic intentions, but also original invitation cards, flyers, or even statements made by the audience watching or participating in the performance can become part of the work. How should we consider such a presentation of the “after-life” of a once original performance? How and to what extend can the once performative nature of a work benefit from its medial representation covering a multitude of aspects of the work, its context, the artistic concept, the making of and the reception of the work?
— Sabine Breitwieser, Chief Curator, Department of Media and Performance Art, MoMA

Yes, performance is ephemeral, but it takes a really talented and charismatic performer to make that ephemeral moment something that sears into your memory. Not all performers are created equal in this regard. And lately, the attitude is:

“I have something I would like to do in a performance that I am not physically or mentally capable of doing, so I’ll just hire someone to do it for me and say that it is my work while they run on treadmills or jump up and down all day or eat dirt.”

That is crap to me.

I think the best model for re-performance is the old career comedy joke, “The Aristocrats,” where everyone adds their own spin to the telling. No one owns a single interpretation, but over time, each person becomes known for their particular style. In performance, this takes the form of a score. It is a free, open source way of interpreting action and can be passed infinitely.

— Anya Liftig, Performance Artist

The Kiss, Tino Seghal, 2003

“For his part he is happy to market his physically impermanent art. He sells the pieces, for prices that reach into six figures, as editions; the sales agreements are oral; only the cash paid in is tangible. He stipulates that he or someone associated with him must oversee the execution of a sold piece.

If unauthorized changes are made, the result will be considered inauthentic, a fake. The edition of “Kiss” at the Guggenheim belongs to the Museum of Modern Art, which means MoMA alone has the right to execute or loan it. The Guggenheim, which has borrowed it, does not yet own a Sehgal.”
In the Naked Museum: Talking, Thinking, Encountering

See Also

“Presence” in absentia: Experiencing Performance as Documentation, Amelia Jones

Surrogate Performances, Philip Auslander

Can Performance Art be Collected…and Still Maintain its Original Message…?
, Jen Ortiz, Hyperallergic


traces, props, “mementos”
documentation as performance?
digital archive
online performance
scores, instructions, repeatability
truth, reality, fiction
not documenting

Performing User Final Show


Friday, April 22
ITP Lounge

An evening of performances by the students of the Performing User class. How do the technologies we use on a daily basis choreograph our actions, cause us to perform, and open spaces for improvisation? What are the ways we perform for each other, and how do the internet, mobile phones, and other networked technologies create new performance sites and possibilities? Come observe, interact, intervene, witness…

Preparing for the final

Choose one study you have done previously in class to do a second iteration of. This may be a further refinement of small details of the concept or performance, or a significant reworking. It should be about 5 minutes long.

I strongly urge you to take advantage of the liveness of the setting and perform in real-time, but if you feel that showing documentation of a performance is preferable, this is fine.

Some questions to consider:

  1. What were the strongest elements of the original? What were the weakest? What will you change?
  2. How does the public nature of this change the original study?
  3. Where will the audience be positioned?
  4. What instruction (if any) will the audience receive?
  5. How would you like your piece introduced? Will you begin immediately or read some text or give some explanation?
  6. How will the audience know when it’s done? (And how will you know?)
  7. What technical requirements do you have, what other logistics should we consider? (For example: will you use sound, video, laptop projected, something else?)

By next class (4/20) you should have a solid plan for the final. We will first talk through the show flow as a class, then I will meet with each of you one-on-one to talk through this and discuss any remaining questions.

Remote User

Ken Goldberg et al, Tele-Actor, early 2000s


The Tele-Actor is a skilled human equipped with a wireless camera who moves through and interacts with a live remote environment. Camera images are broadcast over the Internet to online participants, who interact by voting with a new interface.

The Tele-Actor system combines two ideas: (1) a human Tele-Actor who is more agile than a robot, and (2) collaborative control, which allows many people to simultaneous participate over the Internet.

Coco Fusco, The Incredible Disappearing Woman, 2003


The audience in the theater watches a drama unfold that is directed by four off–stage characters who appear to be transmitting instructions via the internet to three characters on stage. What joins the characters in this work is their relationship with Death, embodied on stage as a modern incarnation of the venerated Mexican archetype of La Pelona (the bald one).

The scenes on stage are devoted to fantasies about necrophilia that are loosely based on the true story of an American male artist who traveled to Mexico in the 70s to rent the body of a dead woman, have sex with her and document it as art. Fusco invokes this moment in the history of performance to explore what it means to have to play dead in order to live in all its political, techno–cultural and gendered implications. As the performers go through the requested sketches, they allude to real life situations of religious and political repression. However, as low–paid service workers catering to telematic consumers of violence, they dramatize these histories as endlessly rerun games in which actors are “meat puppets.”

Eva and Franco Mattes

No Fun, 2010

No Fun is the edited video of an online performance in which we simulated a suicide and filmed viewers’ reactions. It is staged on a popular website that pairs random people from around the world for webcam-based conversations.

Thousands watched him hanging from the ceiling, swinging slowly for hours, without knowing whether it was real or not. They unwittingly became the subject of the work.

Based on actual news, No Fun tries to create a situation of the most dire loneliness and affect, exaggerating the distance and lack of real engagement in online encounters, to slow down the endless social media flux with a moment of absolute reality.

Befnoed, 2014


We give instructions to anonymous workers to realize webcam performances. The performers are hired through crowdsourcing services, so we do not know who they are, where they are, or even their motivations. The resulting videos are then dispersed on obscure, peripheral or forgotten social networks around the world, in Cambodia, Russia, China, South Africa… Links to new videos are posted daily at

Lee Walton, Remote Instructions, 2007-Ongoing

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 5.48.19 PM

Remote Instructions is a web-central project that utilizes both the communication capabilities of the web and spectatorship of its users. From a central hub, Walton is collaborating with strangers globally via the web and orchestrating a series of video performances that will take place in real cities, neighborhoods, villages and towns around the world.

Micha Cárdenas, Becoming Dragon, 2008


“Becoming Dragon is a mixed-reality performance that questions the one-year requirement of “Real Life Experience” that transgender people must fulfill in order to receive Gender Confirmation Surgery, and asks if this could be replaced by one year of “Second Life Experience” to lead to Species Reassignment Surgery. For the performance, I lived for 365 hours immersed in the online 3D environment of Second Life with a head mounted display, only seeing the physical world through a video-feed, and used a motion-capture system to map my movements into Second Life.”

IDPW, Internet Bedroom, 2015


Valie Export, Facing a Family, 1971


Valie Export’s intervention in the electronic realm of television was pioneering work in 1971. In ‘Facing a Family’ she holds up a mirror – in the truest sense of the word – to TV consumers and the middle-class family. Broadcast as part of the ‘Kontakte’ magazine on Austria’s ORF television, her TV action aims to analyze not the programme but the reaction it produces: one family watches another family watching television. A feedback effect is produced. The leisurely, real course of time directs our attention to the speechless conditions produced by TV, i.e. to the TV medium’s coding of reality and perception.

Nam June Paik, Good Morning Mr. Orwell, 1984

“Good Morning, Mr. Orwell” was the first international satellite “installation” by Nam June Paik. It occurred on New Year’s Day, 1984.

The event, which Paik saw as a rebuttal to George Orwell’s dystopian vision of 1984, linked WNET TV in New York and the Centre Pompidou in Paris live via satellite, as well as hooking up with broadcasters in Germany and South Korea. It aired nationwide in the US on public television, and reached an audience of over 25 million viewers worldwide.

João Enxuto and Erica Love, Waiting for the Internet, 2015


Marcel Breuer’s Atlanta Central Public Library was designed in 1969 and finally completed in 1980. It embodied modernist notions that arrived late and never came to pass. Now it serves as a critical internet hub for the mostly poor population of downtown Atlanta. Despite the expansion of libraries in the suburbs, this library has been severely defunded, understaffed, with ongoing threats that the building will be sold or razed. This is happening despite a long cue of patrons waiting to use the few remaining computer stations to tend to life matters that have migrated online. Waiting for the Internet is a fixed frame durational video that surveys the computer lab waiting area for as long as it takes to get an open computer. On the morning of November 25, 2015, the wait for a public computer station at Atlanta’s Central Library was 40 minutes. This video documents that wait.

Sophie Calle, Detective, 1980


Calle was followed for a day by a private detective, who had been hired (at Calle’s request) by her mother. Calle proceeded to lead the unwitting detective around parts of Paris that were particularly important for her, thereby reversing the expected position of the observed subject.

Jill Magid, Evidence Locker, 2004

evidence locker

​In 2004, Jill Magid spent 31 days in Liverpool, during which time she developed a close relationship with Citywatch (Merseyside Police and Liverpool City Council), whose function is citywide video surveillance- the largest system of its kind in England.

The videos in her Evidence Locker were staged and edited by the artist and filmed by the police using the public surveillance cameras in the city centre. Wearing a bright red trench coat she would call the police on duty with details of where she was and ask them to film her in particular poses, places or even guide her through the city with her eyes closed, as seen in the video Trust.

Unless requested as evidence, CCTV footage obtained from the system is stored for 31 days before being erased. For access to this footage, Magid had to submit 31 Subject Access Request Forms – the legal document necessary to outline to the police details of how and when an ‘incident’ occurred. Magid chose to complete these forms as though they were letters to a lover, expressing how she was feeling and what she was thinking. These letters form the diary One Cycle of Memory in the City of L- an intimate portrait of the relationship between herself, the police and the city.

Ai Weiwei, WeiweiCam, 2014


WeiweiCam is a self-surveillance project by artist Ai Weiwei that went live on April 3, 2012, exactly one year after the artist’s detention by Chinese officials at Beijing Airport. At least fifteen surveillance cameras monitor his house in Beijing which, according to Ai, makes it the most-watched spot of the city. He described his decision to put himself under further surveillance as a symbolic way to increase transparency in the Chinese government. WeiweiCam consisted of four webcams that sent a live 24-hour feed publicly viewable from the website 46 hours after the site went live Ai Weiwei was instructed to shut down WeiweiCam by Chinese authorities. During the time was live it received 5.2 million views.

Wafaa Bilal, 3rdi, 2010


Bilal had a titanium plate implanted in the back of his head, to which a camera was attached. For one year, which began December 15, 2010, an image was captured once per minute and streamed live to and the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art. The website also showed his location via GPS.

David Horvitz, the space between us, 2015

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 1.48.16 PM

the space between us connects two people’s phones that are physically close. Once connected the app will display the spatial distance between each person and show an arrow pointing towards the other person.

On Kawara, I Got Up, 1968-79



Demo: WebRTC with peer.js

These examples demonstrate how to use peer.js to make data and video stream connections between browsers.

  1. all examples – zip

The following links may also be useful:


Study 5: Remote User (DUE 4/13)

In pairs, create a performance study that happens remotely over a distance. What are similar or related themes in your individual work that could be paired somehow? How might introducing the concept of “distance” or “remoteness” or “disconnection” add to or change these themes? What are the different types of distance or remoteness? Physical, emotional, time, understanding, etc…

Will you be connected to each other or to other people? How does the dynamic change in a performance with one performer vs two performers vs many performers? Where is the audience positioned in relation to the performer(s)?

By next week you need to have a partner and the core questions your study will address. The studies will be presented the following week (4/13).


Read (DUE 4/6)

Anonymous / Authentic User

Lynn Hershman Leeson, Roberta Breitmore, 1973-1979

From 1974 until 1978, the artist conceived of, constructed and ‘developed’ a fictional persona and alter ego: that of Roberta Breitmore. The creation of Roberta Breitmore consisted not only of a physical self-transformation through make-up, clothing, and wigs which enabled the occasional role-playing, but a fully-fledged, ‘complete’ personality who existed over an extended period of time and whose existence could be proven in the world through physical evidence: from a driver’s license and credit card to letters from her psychiatrist.”



Cindy Sherman, 1970s-





Lygia Clark

Emerging from the so-called Neoconcrete movement in Brazil during the 1950s, Lygia Clark’s work connects artistic and therapeutic practice. During the 1960s she began to create her Objectos Sensoriais, relational objects that the audience has to experience in an immediate wa – both physically and psychologically – and which CLark has described as ‘living organisms’.

Dialogue of Goggles, 1968


The I And The You, 1967


Collective Head, 1975


Pussy Riot, 2011-


The Yes Men, 2003-

The Yes Men are an activist duo and network of supporters created by Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos. The Yes Men operate under the mission statement that lies can expose truth. They create and maintain fake websites similar to ones they intend to spoof, which have led to numerous interview, conference, and TV talk show invitations.


One of the Yes Men’s most famous pranks is placing a “corrected” WTO website at (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade). The fake site began to receive real emails from confused visitors, including invitations to address various elite groups on behalf of the WTO, to which they responded as if they were the actual WTO.

Appearing in newly purchased suits, the Yes Men gave speeches encouraging corporations to buy votes directly from citizens. They argued that the US Civil War was a waste of money because Third World countries now willingly supply equivalent slaves. They also urged people to listen to the WTO instead of the facts. They then unveiled a gold spandex body suit that they claimed would allow productivity to increase, as managers would not have to oversee workers in person but could keep track of them via images on an attached screen as well as implanted sensors.



Ann Hirsch, Scandalishious, 2009

Amalia Ulman, Excellences & Perfections, 2014


On April 19, 2014, Amalia Ulman uploaded an image to her Instagram account of the words “Part I” in black serifed lettering on a white background. The caption read, cryptically, “Excellences & Perfections.” It received twenty-eight likes.

For the next several months, she conducted a scripted online performance via her Instagram and Facebook profiles. As part of this project, titled Excellences and Perfections, Ulman underwent an extreme, semi-fictionalized makeover.

LaTurbo Avedon

Kill Screen write-up


Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno, No Ghost Just A Shell

AnnLee is an avatar, a virtual being made in Japan for the animated film industry. She was intended as a third-rate character, one with few personality traits, designed to lead a brief life. In 1999, the French artists Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno found her image in the catalogue of Kworks, a Japanese agency that develops manga figures for animated films, comic strips, advertising, and video games. The prices of these images depend on the complexity of their character traits. The copyright for this one — a nondescript, expendable, empty vessel ripe for exploitation — was cheap: a mere $428 for her digital file.

Parreno and Huyghe bought this cipher, named her Annlee (aka AnnLee, or Ann Lee), gave her a cosmetic makeover, and, with Anna-Lena Vaney, set up a state-of-the-art video animation facility for her in Paris. They started filling her in, so to speak, and — expanding the French Surrealist tradition of the “exquisite corpse” — they lent her free of charge to other artists they commissioned to do likewise.

Ivana Basic, Ivana 1.0, 2014




Ayodamola Okunseinde, The Rift: An Afronaut’s Journey, 2015

The Rift: An Afronauts Journey is an Afrofuturist sci-fi time-space travel narrative and performance by Ayodamola Okunseinde. The speculative narrative follows the expeditions of Dr. Tanimowo, an Afronaut from the future, who travels back in time collecting archeo-biological artifacts in hopes of finding the reasons for the collapse of his culture. The Afronaut constructs his suit of african patterned fabric and other materials available to him in his current time-space. He designs, builds and utilizes 3 artifacts, a communication device, a food device, and a breathing device, that serve as functional apparatus which sustain him during his expeditions.


Masked DJs



Study 4: Anonymous User (DUE 3/23)

Create a performance that is a “mask” or a “disguise” that allows you to do or say things that you would never do as “you”.

All students should be prepared to present in two weeks, though we may not get to everyone on that date.


Read (DUE 3/23)

Jean Baudrillard, Simulations

Donna Haraway, Cyborg Manifesto

Ritual User

Ragnar Kjartansson, Me and my Mother




Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller, Walks


Faith Wilding, Waiting, 1972

Jae Rhim Lee, Green Urinal


Jae Rhim Lee, N=1=NPK=KIMCHI=N


Jae Rhim Lee, Infinity Burial Suit



Azra Aksamija, Nomadic Mosque



Rachel Perry Welty, Karaoke Wrong Number, 2005-2009


Tega Brain and Surya Mattu, Unfit Bits


Allison Parrish, Everyword


Allison Parrish, Deep Question Bot

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 11.58.13 AM

Darius Kazemi, Two Headlines

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 11.59.51 AM


Demo: Twitter Bots

These examples demonstrate how to create a Twitter bot that posts and responds to tweets.

  1. all examples – zip
  2. basic twitter bot
  3. wordnik random word tweet
  4. reply to tweet

The following links may also be useful:


Study 3: Ritual User (DUE 2/24)

Create a ritual performance. What is the motivation behind your ritual? Think about historical rituals, religious rituals, celebratory rituals, and artistic rituals. What are the rituals we perform as users of technology? In your ritual, is repetition used in an expressive or utilitarian way? Repeat this at least once a day for at least one week. Think back to the first two studies you have performed. What are the main themes or questions that are beginning to emerge? How might you design a ritual that will deepen and push these further?

By 2/24 please email the class mailing list with a brief description of the ritual you plan to perform.

For the in-class review you may either (1) present documentation of the ritual performed during the week, (2) perform the final repetition of your ritual, (3) some combination. Limit your presentation to 5 minutes or less. All students should be prepared to present in two weeks, though we may not get to everyone on that date.


Read (DUE 2/24)

America Has More Television Sets Than Toilets, Abbie Hoffman

User Difficulties

Augusto Boal, Theater of the Oppressed

The Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) describes theatrical forms that the Brazilian theatre practitioner Augusto Boal first elaborated in the 1960s, initially in Brazil and later in Europe. Boal’s techniques use theatre as means of promoting social and political change. In the Theatre of the Oppressed, the audience becomes active, such that as “spect-actors” they explore, show, analyse and transform the reality in which they are living.

Image theater, a social change tool developed by Augusto Boal, is one of the more widely used forms of Theater of the Oppressed, in which activists, students or any group are invited to form statues that represent a moment in time of an oppressive situation. The image can then serve as a springboard for critical group reflection in order to both understand the situation better and to try out possible “solutions.” Through the process of creating and working with the image, participants can decode the situation, dissecting each character’s personality, motivation and range of possible actions. Insofar as the participants identify with the characters, they can explore possible actions that they themselves can take in their lives.


Image theater is similar to forum theater in every way, except that everyone is holding still. This allows for both faster development and use of the process: whereas forum theater often involves a small team that develops and rehearses a skit for months, image theater can be created on the spot, collaboratively. In this way, image theater is an incredibly accessible tool to use in trainings, strategy development and direct actions.



Invisible Theater is enacted in a place where people would not normally expect to see one, for example in the street or in a shopping centre. The performers attempt to disguise the fact that it is a performance from those who observe and who may choose to participate in it, encouraging the spectators to view it as a real event.


Shigeko Kubota, Vagina Painting, 1965


Matthew Barney, Drawing Restraint

Drawing Restraint, 1987–present

Drawing Restraint 2, 1988


Drawing Restraint 10, 2005


Drawing Restraint 15, 2007


Bruce Nauman, Wall/Floor Positions, 1968


Among the most innovative early performance artists utilizing video, Bruce Nauman stands out for his infamous epiphany: “If I was an artist and I was in the studio, then whatever I was doing in the studio must be art. At this point art became more of an activity and less of a product.” He began using his body to explore the particulars of space, notably in the 60-minute film Wall-Floor Positions. Here, Nauman contorted into various positions in relation to his studio, becoming the very material he would sculpt.

Chris Burden

Shoot, 1971

Trans-Fixed, 1974


Locker Piece, 1971


White Light / White Heat, 1974


Marina Abramovic

Rhythm 0, 1974


Rest Energy, 1980, with Ulay


I was not in charge. In Rest Energy we actually held an arrow on the weight of our bodies, and the arrow is pointed right into my heart. We had two small microphones near our hearts, so we could hear our heartbeats. As our performance was progressing, heartbeats were becoming more and more intense, and though it lasted just four minutes and ten seconds, I’m telling you, for me it was forever. It was a performance about the complete and total trust.

Tehching Hsieh

One Year Performance 1980 – 1981

Art / Life: One Year Performance 1983-1984, with Linda Montano




On Kawara

Today, 1966-2014

Kawara created nearly 3,000 date paintings in more than 112 cities worldwide.



I Got Up, 1968-1979

Between 1968 and 1979, On Kawara created his information series, I Got Up, in which he sent two picture postcards from his location on that morning. All of the 1,500 cards list the artist’s time of getting up, the date, the place of residence and the name and address of the receiver another series of postcards, I Got Up At, rubber-stamped with the time he got up that morning. The length of each correspondence ranged from a single card to hundreds sent consecutively over a period of months; the gesture’s repetitive nature is counterbalanced by the artist’s peripatetic global wanderings and exceedingly irregular hours (in 1973 alone he sent postcards from twenty-eight cities).


Vito Acconci, Seedbed, 1972

In the piece, there is a low wooden ramp merging with the floor. The ramp extends across the width of the room, beginning two feet up the side of one wall and slanting down to the middle of the floor. Acconci lay hidden underneath the ramp installed at the Sonnabend Gallery, masturbating. The artist’s spoken fantasies about the visitors walking above him were heard through loudspeakers in the gallery. He mastubated for 8 hours a day for 3 weeks.


Ragnar Kjartansson, A Lot of Sorrow, 2014



National plays their song “Sorrow”, roughly 3:30 minutes, for six hours straight live.

Emma Sulkowicz, Mattress Piece, 2015

Begun in September 2014, the piece involved her carrying her 50-lb dorm mattress wherever she went on campus. She said the piece would end when a student she alleges raped her in her dorm room in 2012 was expelled from or otherwise left the university. Sulkowicz carried the mattress until the end of the Spring semester as well as to her graduating ceremony in May 2015.

Tameka Norris, Untitled, 2012



Wafaa Bilal, Shoot an Iraqi, 2008

Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst, Relationship, 2014

This is not a performance, but a photography piece. Relationship is a diaristic record of their relationship as a transgender couple whose bodies are transitioning in opposite directions (for Drucker from male to female, and for Ernst from female to male). As both subjects and makers of these photographs, Drucker and Ernst engage various elements of self-fashioning, representing themselves in the midst of shifting subjectivities and identities—making images that are simultaneously unguarded and performative, an extension of their narrative filmmaking practice. Collectively, the photographs become a cinematic document of their romantic, creative negotiation and collaboration.






Christine Sun Kim, Game of Skill 2.0, 2016


Daito Manabe, Expression Transfer, 2008

Christian Moeller, Cheese, 2003



Demo: Expression Detection

These examples demonstrate how to create a setup similar to Christian Moeller’s Cheese, using p5.js and the clmtrackr library.

  1. all examples – zip
  2. face tracking – dots
  3. face tracking – eyes open
  4. face tracking – mouth open
  5. face tracking – emotion
  6. face tracking – cheese


Study 2: User Instruction (DUE 2/10, 2/17)

Select or create a difficult task to perform. Consider: What makes it difficult? Why are you doing this? What do you hope to learn, do you think it will change you? How will you prepare yourself? Do you think you will be able to complete it? How will you know when it’s done?

Performing 2/10:
Aaron Montoya-Moraga (instructions study)
Jing Yu (instructions study)
Jonathan James Gallagher
Matthew Kaney
Serena M Parr
Yuli Cai

Performing 2/17:
Aaron Montoya-Moraga
Ravyn L Whitley
Matt Romein
Yuan Gao
Jing Yu
Zach Coble


Read (DUE 2/10)

Making a Spectacle: The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Diana Taylor

What is a study?

A study is a small scale sketch of one idea. It is a pre-determined presentation of one concept boiled down to its most essential parts.

For this class, each study should be no longer than 5 minutes and any media can be used to present to the class (from video to live).

User Instruction

References / Inspiration

John Cage

Aria, 1958


Cage wanted the piece to be singable by any male or female vocalist, and he wanted them to freely choose 10 different singing styles that could be rapidly alternated. Each style is represented by a different color and the shape of the squiggles indicates the general melodic contour. He was interested in constructing a complex intermingling of disparate styles and genres, but wanted to leave the particular pitches, durations and timbres to the performer’s discretion.

Fontana Mix, 1958


The score consists of 10 sheets of paper and 12 transparencies. The sheets of paper contain drawings of 6 differentiated (as to thickness and texture) curved lines. 10 of these transparencies have randomly distributed points (the number of points on the transparencies being 7, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 22, 26, 29, and 30). Another transparency has a grid, measuring 2 x 10 inches, and the last one contains a straight line (10 3/4 inch). By superimposing these transparencies, the player creates a structure from which a performance score can be made

Variations, 1958-1967


Variations IV was originally used as music for the choreographed piece by Merce Cunningham, “Field Dances,” with stage and costume design in the original version by Robert Rauschenberg (from 1967 the designer was Remy Charlip). Variations IV is the second work in a group of three of which Atlas Eclipticalis is the first (representing ‘nirvana’, according to Hidekazu Yoshida’s interpretations of Japanese Haiku poetry) and 0″00 is the third (representing ‘individual action’). It represents ‘samsara’, the turmoil of everyday life. As in the earlier Variations pieces, the materials here are transparencies (1 sheet with 9 points and 3 small circles) and a short written instruction. All points and circles are cut up for the creation of a program; 7 points and 2 circles are needed, which are all (except for one circle, which is placed anywhere on the map) to be dropped on a map of the performance space, creating places where actions might be performed. Lines are drawn from the placed circle to the points. The second circle is only used if one of the lines intersects it (or is tangent to it). The result is a graphic representation of where sounds may occur. Cage indicates that sounds may be produced inside and outside the performance space. There are no indications of durations, dynamics, etc.


Flux Year Box 2, George Maciunas, 1967


The Fluxus Performance Workbook, Edited by Ken Friedman, Owen Smith, Laura Sawchyn

Piano Activities, Philip Corner, 1962


The score—which asks for any number of performers to, among other things, “play”, “pluck or tap”, “scratch or rub”, “drop objects” on, “act on strings with”, “strike soundboard, pins, lid or drag various kinds of objects across them” and “act in any way on underside of piano”[23]—resulted in the total destruction of a piano when performed by Maciunas, Higgins and others at Wiesbaden. The performance was considered scandalous enough to be shown on German television four times, with the introduction “The lunatics have escaped!”

Lawrence Weiner, Two minutes of spray paint directly upon the floor from a standard aerosol spray can, 1968


George Brecht, Water Yam, 1963



Yoko Ono, Hide-and-Seek Piece, 1964


Yoko Ono, Cut Piece, 1965


Stanley Brouwn, This Way Brouwn, 1964

Between 1960 and 1964 he produced the seminal series This Way Brouwn, mapping the city of Amsterdam by asking passers-by to sketch for him on paper the way from A to B, then appropriating their drawing by adding his stamp “This Way Brouwn”. Upon arriving at the destination, Brouwn prompted pedestrians for further maps and directions to alternate locations. This process continued until he had fully traversed and accumulated drawn maps of the entire city.


Stanley Brouwn, Poste-Restante Letter, 1970


In the exhibition “Prospect 1969”, Brouwn instructed visitors to “walk during a few moments very consciously in a certain direction”.

Christine Sun Kim, Subjective Loudness, 2013



Miranda July and Harrell Flethcher, Learning To Love You More, 2002-2009


Adrian Piper, My Calling (Card), 1986


David Horvitz, 241543903

Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 5.56.04 PM

Martha Rosler, Semiotics of the Kitchen, 1975

Kelly Dobson, Blendie, 2006

Geumhyung Jeong, Fitness Guide, 2013

Zach Blas, Queer Technologies, 2008



Queer Technologies is an organization that produces products and situations for queer technological agency, interventions, and social formation. By re-imaging a technology designed for queer use, Queer Technologies critiques the heteronormative, capitalist, militarized underpinnings of technological architectures, design, and functionality. Products include, transCoder, a queer programming anti-language; and Gay Bombs, a technical manual manifesto that outlines a “how to” of queer networked activism; all are produced as product, artwork, and political tool and materialized through an industrial manufacturing process so that they may be disseminated widely.

Hans Ulrich Obrist, Do It, 1998



Workshop: Programmatic Score

A lot of instructions art involves randomness and questions the idea of authorship in art. The goal of this workshop is to create your own programmatic score (instructions) using code and randomness. There are several possibilities:

  • Create a sketch (using p5.js or any other library) to create a visual or text based composition that can be interpreted as a score for a performance.
  • You might choose to pull some text content from Wordnik. See examples below.
  • You might choose to pull some content from any other API you feel comfortable using.

Wordnik is a handy API for pulling various types of words to be used in your program. You can specify the part of speech, length of word, number of words, and many other criteria for your search. This is often used in Twitter bots and other language generation programs, as Darius Kazemi demonstrates. You might experiment with using this in your score.

  1. Sign up for a developer key here.
  2. Here are some p5.js+wordnik API examples to get you started.
  3. View the rest of the Wordnik API documentation.


Study 1: User Instruction (DUE 2/3)

Create a performance study inspired by or creatively interpreting one of the instruction sets you or your classmates found that reveals something about yourself. Some ideas or starting points:

  • Devise a new set of instructions inspired by the other set to be performed by yourself or the class.
  • Perform the instructions as stated, but in some unexpected way.
  • Perform some meaningful breaking of the rules.

See the post, what is a study? for guidelines.


Read (DUE 2/3)

Men, Machines, and the World About, Norbert Weiner
The Recombinant Theater and the Performative Matrix, Critical Art Ensemble (read as much as you like/can)

Found User Instructions

Our first topic is user instructions. I would like you each to spend some time looking at instructions or guides for using various technologies. This might mean a setup guide for your Nest thermostat, steps for creating an account, an advice column about how to use social media, an assembly instructions for Ikea furniture, etc. Think broadly about the terms “technology” and “instructions”.

Choose two that are most interesting to you and email a link, picture, or screenshot of each to

Matt Romein

My first exploration was following the instructions for creating an e-harmony account. I took a screenshot of every step of the process. It ended up being 174 steps. Here’s the slideshow of every step:

For the second one I went to wikiHow and picked something that almost anyone would theoretically be able to achieve without a instruction guide. This is a 6-step process for wearing a seatbelt. Step 1 is “Get into your car”. Step 6 is “Done”.

Cici Liu

Chino Kim


Jonathan Gallagher

One is the tutorial for, an online colour picker. The second is a set of instructions for a barbecue My friends and I put together last year.
Ikea grill instructions

Coolors example instructions

Aaron Montoya-Moraga

  1. the super straight-forward instructions on the microwave at home
  2. the instructions for using a printer, which I always find very complicated



Shir David

Here is the link for the first instruction guide, which is a mini-site for one of Lomography cameras- Spinner 360°. It can take 360° photos on film. And I hope that vintage instruction are also valid..I found this guide of an old typing machine.

Ravyn Whitley

Brita pitcher
Ikea table

Serena Parr

I turned to this “Top 10 Ways to Boost Your Home Wi-Fi” article in 2014 when my new house had a bad wifi connection and I realized I knew nothing about wifi. It’s funny to me that it’s presented as a “top 10” listicle, because it’s actually a how-to guide for setting up a good wifi system at home, starting with generally learning about wifi, to buying a specific kind of router, to thinking about the best place to put your router, then customizing how the router actually works.

Having set up so many home wifi systems before finding that article, it never even occurred to me to think about how wifi actually works- it just seemed like it did or it didn’t. The instructions that actually come with any wifi router seem so interesting to me now. They make the wifi system seem like magic, instructing you to watch LEDs blink without ever explaining what’s going on under the hood.

Matthew Kaney

Here were two sets of user instructions that interested me for their extreme contrasts in length and detail. One is from a new iPhone and the other is from my dictionary.


Zach Coble

After having no connectivity for two weeks and spending all day yesterday on a plane, I’m looking at airplane technology.

The safety instructions booklet:
The barf bag:

Yuli Cai





Yuan Gao

  1. the doc site for my recently received CHIP microcomputer:\
  2. the manual of a Waterpik water flosser, which I’ve just bought: