Lucilla Meloni
Arte guarda arte: Pratiche della citazione nell'arte contemporanea

Re-enactment signifies the reconstruction of a designed object, an artwork, a historical event such as a battle, a revolution or a murder; or of a lifestyle (historical reenactment). Unlike remake, which refers to a new version, reenactment tends to be more faithful to the original. 

In recent years, this practice has spread through various areas of research, from design to music, film to fashion, new technologies, and even into social networks. It involves an about distant relation to history that differs conceptually from quotation in its adherence to a lost action that is borrowed and reconstructed on the basis of a program or script.

In art, reenactment generally refers to a performance—which is itself an artwork conceived as momentary and rarely repeated by the same author—which is redone, reshown, reactivated.

Mexican artist Luis Felipe Ortega is among the first artists to assume some of the most important body-art experiments. A multimedia artists with philosophical and literary training, he has conceived part of his work as a space where the echoes of thought, narrative and poetry meet and take shape, as can be seen in works inspired by Italo Calvino, Dino Campana and Gilles Deleuze. In 1994, in collaboration with Daniel Guzmán, he made a ten minute video called Remake: a reenactment ante litteram, which remains a referent, not only in Mexico but internationally.

After consulting the notes, critical texts, and period photographs of five works, the two artists reenacted performances by Terry Fox (Corner Push, 1970), Bruce Nauman (Self Portrait as Fountain, 1966-67; Bouncing in the Corner, 1968) and Paul McCarthy (Face Painting, 1978; Press, 1973) that had never been seen in Mexico.

The decision to revive those works and arrive at the reason for their representation stems, according to Ortega, from the connection he felt with certain artists from the nineteen sixties and seventies who had a particular relationship to literature and philosophy. Luis Felipe Ortega’s work is a reconstruction born fundamentally of his reading of descriptive texts that had informed the original work, and is thus mediated primarily by writing.

This process of translation is accompanied by the time residue inherent to re-enactment, where the contemporary performer/performance revives a work enveloped in a sort of aura that stems from the very nature of its medium, but also from its original commitment to the impossibility of reproduction.

Original in Italian. English translation from: Before the horizon. Luis Felipe Ortega (Turner-Marso, 2016)