Reading 5- Auslander, P., “The Performativity of Performance Documentation”

This reading explores the use of photographs as a form of documentation and how a performance is or is not classified as a performance if the only interaction with the audience is through photographs. Auslander uses this reading to explain two main performances the first is called “Shoot” where an artist got another artist to shoot him in the arm and he allowed photographs to be taken to capture this moment. The other is of an artist who jumped out of a second story window and had photographs taken that were edited to remove the safety net below.

Auslander explains that in “Shoot” the photographs are a form of performance because they capture what really happened and allows the audience the chance to see it for themselves. Whereas in “Jump” the photographs have been tampered with to show something that is not real, the only people that have or will ever see the real performance were those present at the time.

From reading this reading Auslander has really left me wondering the validity of photographs. How do we know what we are seeing is really what happened? How will we ever know if these photographs have been edited? Auslander explains that photographs are a great way to document performance but they are also not always reliable and it is the audience’s responsibility to choose to believe what they see.

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