Collecting the Present

International Seminar

Wednesday, 21, Thursday, 22, and Friday, 23 September 2022 - Check programme
Organised by
Museo Reina Sofía and L’Internationale
With the support of
Co-funded by the European Commission’s Creative Europe programme and with the patronage of Mario Cader-Frech, a member of the Museo Reina Sofía Foundation
Inside the framework of

This seminar reflects on how performative artistic practices are inserted inside a collection and its institutional framework. In her essay Unmarked. The Politics of Performance, Peggy Phelan asserts that “performance's only life is in the present. Performance cannot be saved, recorded, documented, or otherwise participate in the circulation of representations […]. To the degree that performance attempts to enter the economy of reproduction it betrays and lessens the promise of its own ontology. Performance's being […] becomes itself through disappearance”. And so what are the implications of this collecting the present?

To spark this debate, an approach is set forth from different perspectives — theory, practice and ethics — convening voices from inside and outside the museum as an institution. A series of lectures and events with different artists, theorists, curators and researchers brings together different viewpoints and reflections around working conditions with performative works of art. The lines of analysis include: a discussion on the impossibility of preserving the living, the notion of archive as an artefact for the historical documentation and interpretation of performance and the conditions offered by museums as an instrument to reactivate the strengths of these types of practices.

Furthermore, inside the framework of the encounter is Performing Collections, a digital publication which assembles texts, interviews with artists and case studies on the experience of collecting performance in art institutions. It is devised by the collections work group from the L’Internationale confederation of European museums, inside the project Our Many Europes. Europe’s Critical ‘90s and the Constituent Museum.


Lydia Antoniou is a curator, cultural producer and feminist film researcher. She sees her work in the sphere of public programmes as open forums for coming together, debating and exchanging and as catalysts for collectively organising and building solidarity. Moreover, she has been working as an assistant curator at documenta 15, where she has been part of the work group on the Lumbung Gallery project.

Roger Bernat creates performances where the audience shapes the work. His projects have been performed at documenta in Kassel and at the Venice Biennale and São Paulo Biennial. Some of his latest pieces include No se registran conversaciones de interés (MUCEM, 2016–2017), The place of the Thing (documenta 14, 2017), Flam (Festival Grec, 2019), ENA (Teatre Lliure, 2020), Desnonissea (CASM, 2021), PIM PAM (34th São Paulo Biennial, 2021) and Terra Baixa (Teatre Lliure, 2022).

Benvenuto Chavajay lives and works between San Pedro La Laguna and Guatemala City, creating work characterised by its strong social content and political critique. His most salient exhibitions include group shows at the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA), in Long Beach, California; Trans at the Centro Cultural de España en Guatemala, Guatemala City; and Los Desaparecidos at Espaciocé!, in Antigua Guatemala.

Clémentine Deliss works across the borders between contemporary art, curatorial practice and critical anthropology. She is currently a lecturer in Art History at Cambridge University and an associate curator at the KW Institut for Contemporary Art in Berlin. She was previously director of Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt, and a lecturer at Technischen Universität Wien and on the SVA’s MA Curatorial Practice in New York. Her most recent book is The Metabolic Museum (Hatje Cantz, 2020).

Jennifer Fitzgibbon is a researcher and administrator at The National Irish Visual Arts Library, a public centre which focuses on documenting twentieth- and twenty-first-century Irish visual art and design, conserving and expanding its collections via collaborations between artists, designers and cultural organisations.

Dora García is an artist who has developed works on the rhizomatic associations of anti-psychiatry with the series of books entitled Mad Marginal, since 2010, the film The Deviant Majority (2010) and the performance project The Inadequate, first presented in the Spanish Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale (2011). Moreover, García has used classic forms of television to investigate Germany’s most recent history (Die Klau Mich Show, documenta 13, 2012), attended Finnegans Wake reading groups (The Joycean Society, 2013), created meeting points for hearing voices (Hearing Voices Café, since 2014) and investigated the crossroads between performance and psychoanalysis (The Sinthome Score, 2013, and Segunda Vez, 2018). She is currently working on the film project Amor Rojo (Red Love), on the Marxist feminist Alexandra Kollontai and the impact of her legacy on third-world and intersectional feminism. 

Lola Hinojosa is head of the Museo Reina Sofía’s Performing Arts and Intermedia Collection.

Bojana Kunst is a philosopher, playwright and performance art theorist who is a professor in the Institute of Applied Theatre Studies at the Justus Liebig University in Giessen, where she directs an international MA programme in Choreography and Performance. She previously worked as a researcher at Univerza v Ljubljani and Universiteit Antwerpen (until 2009), and also as a visiting professor at Universität Hamburg (2009–2012). She has published Artist at Work: Proximity of Art and Capitalism (John Hunt, 2015) and Življenje umetnosti: prečne črte skrbi (The Life of Art: Transversal Lines of Care, Maska, 2021).

Marcella Lista is an art historian who has been chief curator of the New Media Collection at the Centre Pompidou in Paris since 2016. Her most recent projects include Esma / Listen (Beirut Art Center, 2016), A Different Way to Move: Minimalismes, NEW YORK, 1960-1970 (Carré d'Art, 2017) and Anarcheology, Eric Baudelaire, After, and Harun Farocki: Images Against Themselves (all at Centre Pompidou, 2017).

Isabel de Naverán holds a PhD in Fine Arts from the University of the Basque Country and is an independent researcher. Part of the research group ARTEA, her studies explore the crossroads between art, contemporary choreography and performance in curatorship, publishing and written projects. In 2010, she founded, with Beatriz Cavia, Miren Jaio and Leire Vergara, the project Bulegoa z/b, the Office of Art and Knowledge, in which she was involved until 2018. She is the author of the books Envoltura, historia y síncope (Caniche, 2021) and Ritual de duelo (Consonni, 2022), and is currently a live arts consultant in the Museo Reina Sofía’s Public Activities Department and an associate researcher at the Azkuna Zentroa Centre of Contemporary Society and Culture in Bilbao.

Rosario Peiró is head of the Museo Reina Sofía’s Collections Area. 

José Antonio Sánchez is a lecturer in Fine Arts at the University of Castilla-La Mancha (UCLM), in Cuenca, and a founder of the research group ARTEA and the MA in Arts Practice and Visual Culture, run jointly by UCLM and the Museo Reina Sofía. His most recent publications include Cuerpos ajenos (La uÑa RoTa, 2017) and Tenéis la palabra. Apuntes sobre teatralidad y justicia (2022). He has coordinated different events around creation and thought, for instance Situaciones (1999-2002), Jerusalem Show (2011) and No hay más poesía que la acción (2013), and co-directed, with Juan Ernesto Díaz and Ruth Estévez, the stage version of Palabras ajenas (The Words of Others, 2017–2018) by Argentinian artist León Ferrari. With Fernando Quesada, Isabel de Naverán and Victoria Pérez Royo he coordinates the Expanded Theatricalities Chair in the Museo Reina Sofía (2021 and 2022).

Leonor Serrano Rivas is an artist who lives between Málaga and Oxford. In recent years, she has exhibited her work at the Centro de Creación Contemporánea de Andalucía (C3A), in Córdoba (2019), and The Swiss Church (2017), Chisenhale Studios (2016) and Serpentine Galleries (2014), in London. She has received a number of awards, among them the 2019 Alhambra Award, the ARCO Community of Madrid Prize for Young Artists and the 2014 Generation Award from the Caja Madrid Special Foundation. She has an exhibition Natural Magic (21 September 2022 - 27 February 2023) in the Museo Reina Sofía, inside the framework of the Fissures programme.

Eva Wittocx works as a curator and art critic. Since 2009, she has directed the contemporary art department at the M – Museum Leuven, in Belgium. Between 1997 and 2006, she was a curator at the S.M.A.K. Museum of Contemporary Art in Ghent. From 2006 to 2009, she worked at the STUK Arts Centre in Leuven, creating, in 2007 alongside the STUK team, Playground, a new annual festival of live performance and arts, in collaboration between STUK and M – Museum (both as sites) since 2009.

Joanna Zielinska is an art historian and performance curator who focuses on theatre, performance literature and the visual arts. Currently, she works as a senior curator at M HKA in Antwerp. Between 2015 and 2020, she was director of the Performing Arts Department at the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw. She has also been head curator at Cricoteka, the Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor in Kraków, Poland, and artistic director of the Znaki Czasu Centre for Contemporary Art (CoCA) in Toruń, Poland.

Inside the framework of



Actividad pasada Wednesday, 21 September 2022
Session 1

6pm Opening Lecture
By Manuel Borja-Villel, director of Museo Reina Sofía

6:45pm Presentation of Communicating Vessels. Collection 1881–2021
By Rosario Peiró, head of the Museo Reina Sofía’s Collections Area

7:30pm Tour of Communicating Vessels. Collection 1881–2021

Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200 and the rooms of the Collection (to be announced in the coming days)

Auditorium: 200 people/Rooms of the Collection: 60 people


Opening and presentation: Free, until full capacity is reached, with prior ticket collection at the Museo’s Ticket Offices or on the Museo Reina Sofía website from 10am on 20 September. A maximum of 2 per person
Tour: registration closed


Actividad pasada Thursday, 22 September 2022
Session 2

11am The Metabolic Museum: Exercises in Counter-Conduct (in English, with simultaneous translation)
Lecture by Clémentine Deliss

12pm Making Temporal Kinships. Can Collection Reach Beyond the Project? (in English, with simultaneous translation)
Lecture by Bojana Kunst

1pm – 2pm What We Couldn't See. Notes for a Museography of Theater and Living Arts (in Spanish)
Lecture by José Antonio Sánchez

4pm Collecting, Archiving and Programming Performance. Institutional Experiences (in English, with simultaneous translation)
Round-table discussion with Jennifer Fitzgibbon, Marcella Lista and Eva Wittocx
— Moderated by Rosario Peiró

Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200

200 people


Free, until full capacity is reached, with prior ticket collection at the Museo’s Ticket Offices or on the Museo Reina Sofía website from 10am on 19 September. A maximum of 2 per person

Actividad pasada Thursday, 22 September 2022
Session 3

7pm - 9pm Returning Souls (Popol Wuj), performance by Benvenuto Chavajay
— In conjunction with Free Unions, a programme of events, tours and activations in the rooms of Communicating Vessels. Collection 1881–2021


Sabatini Building, Floor 1, Room 105

25 people


Free, until full capacity is reached, with prior registration by filling out the following form until 19 September


Actividad pasada Friday, 23 September 2022
Session 4

10am Lecture by Lydia Antoniou (Lumbung Gallery)

11am Performance Practices in Museums. Artists’ Perspectives
Round-table discussion with Roger Bernat, Benvenuto Chavajay, Dora García and Leonor Serrano Rivas
— Moderated by Isabel de Naverán

1pm Presentation of Performing Collections, a L’Internationale digital publication
With editor Joanna Zielinska and Lola Hinojosa

Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200

200 people


Free, until full capacity is reached, with prior ticket collection at the Museo’s Ticket Offices or on the Museo Reina Sofía website from 10am on 19 September. A maximum of 2 per person

Actividad pasada Friday, 23 September 2022
Session 5

12pm – 8pm The Castle of Crossed Destinies
Performance by Leonor Serrano Rivas

Nouvel Building, Protocol Room

270 people


Free until full capacity is reached, with prior registration by filling out the following form from 10am on 19 September