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contemporary performance online

Once defined in opposition to one another, performance and the online world are increasingly imbricated: artists make work about, through and on the web; audiences preview this work via online video clips; writers are able to publish their thoughts immediately via blogs or on-site reviews (as with RealTime at Dance Massive for instance); and academics show their students YouTube clips while delivering lectures using Prezi.

Unsurprisingly, this trend seems set to accelerate. Think for instance of the Metropolitan Opera and National Theatre’s “live” broadcasts. They record and upload a digital file which your local cinema then downloads and shows on one of their screens. Taking this one step further, On the Boards TV and Digital Theatre let you download a digital file at home and watch a performance on your computer. While these broadcasts work to increase a performance’s spatial reach, online archives extend a performance’s temporal reach as well. In other words, performance is not just going, but also staying online in new and interesting ways.

The problem, as always with the internet, is the relationship between the volume of stuff out there (too much) and the amount of time and attention we have (too little), which is where this portal comes in. We’ve done some searching and sorting for you, resulting in the curated selection below of the best and newest performance archives online. For the sake of clarity and brevity, we’ve focused on contemporary performance only (as opposed to theatre) and have tended to favour English-language sites that feature video documentation. It’s intended as a guide, not a verdict, and we hope it’s helpful for performance artists, writers, students, scholars and enthusiasts alike. Keep an eye out for future portals on international performance festivals and social networks.
Caroline Wake


Daily Motion
The trick is to know who you’re looking for. For instance, if you search Marina Abramovic, you can see her performing in a gallery; if you search Karen Finley, you might find her in interview.

Fora TV
The entire channel has much to offer but the Arts Channel is probably the most relevant. It includes everything from Jay-Z in Conversation with Cornel West to Lois Greenfield on her dance photography.

Like Fora TV, TED covers a broad range of topics from the arts, humanities and social sciences. The best place to find performance-related material is in their Art Unusual category.

Like Daily Motion, you need to know who you’re looking for. Search DV8, Societas Rafaello Sanzio, Nature Theatre of Oklahoma, Elevator Repair Service, Dumb Type or Rimini Protokoll and you’ll find everything from performance clips and rehearsal footage to artist talks.

This streams live events but, as with Daily Motion and YouTube, you need to know what you are looking for, eg Teching Hsieh.

Again, as with Daily Motion and YouTube, you need to know what you’re looking for. For instance, search Back to Back and find their channel.

iTunes, especially iTunes U
There is surprisingly little on theatre and performance on iTunes University. That said, Stanford has some interesting talks available such as “What Happens When Hip Hop Is Archived?” and “Hal Foster: Modern Art and Mimetic Excess.”

the americas

Ubu Web
The original and the best. Established in 1996, Ubu Web features extensive video, audio and photographic documentation of avant-garde art from the 20th century. The Bs alone feature the films of Samuel Beckett, the lectures of Jean Baudrillard, the writing of Jorge Luis Borges and the documentaries of John Berger.

Contemporary Performance
Relatively new to the scene, this site functions as an archive, networking and blogging site. Their video channel is particularly good.

On the Boards
Based in Seattle, On the Boards is both a centre for contemporary performance and an online video channel. You can rent a performance for $5.00, own it for $15 or buy it for your academic institution at $30. There are also a range of subscription options. For more information, read the New York Times and American Theatre articles.

Movement Research
Like On the Boards, Movement Research is both an institution and a channel as well as a blog and an artistic network. Watch some of the artists who have been working at Judson Church recently.

Jacob’s Pillow Dance Interactive
Not strictly speaking performance—the dancers might like to claim it for themselves—but invaluable nonetheless. You can view performance excerpts from the 1930s onwards, searching according to artist, genre and era. There’s also a fun Dive In and Guess function. I enjoyed watching Trisha Brown’s Set and Reset (1983), which features the music of Laurie Anderson and videos of Robert Rauschenberg.

Tendu TV
Like Jacob’s Pillow, Tendu TV specialises in dance. Unfortunately, it is only available in North America currently, but you can preview some content on their YouTube channel. Their website claims that other jurisdictions are on the way.

Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art: Canadian Art Database Project
This site features extensive documentation, mainly still images, with videos being added as copyright clearance is obtained.

Performancalogia: Organization and Virtual Archive of Performance Art
The official site is still coming, but in the meantime look at their blogspot for an interesting insight into Venezuelan performance.

uk & europe

Digital Theatre
Like Tendu TV and On the Boards TV, you can pay to rent (ie stream) or own these performances from £8.99. Current partners include the Almeida, Young Vic, RSC, Royal Court or English Touring Theatre, so the choices are fairly “straight” but new partners are being added so there is potential to expand.

Live Art Development Agency
LADA curates its own YouTube channel, with interviews, snippets of performances etc.

UK Web Archive, Live Art Collection
Curated by the UK Library in collaboration with the LADA, this archive features more than 4,000 historically, socially and culturally significant websites that have been collected and “captured” since 2008.

National Review of Live Art Video Archive
See Forced Entertainment, Bobby Baker and Black Market International online.

What’s Welsh for Performance
Currently consists of database and some still images, with videos to come.

Theatre Contemporain
For the Francophones, there are some interesting snippets of performances, artist interviews etc.

While you’re surfing the non-Anglophone sites, you should also try this Russian one. Keep a tab open with Google translate and you can have a few adventures.

With thanks to the ATHE and SCUDD listservs, which are themselves another type of “online performance.” Special mentions go to Rebecca Cunningham, David Mason, Luke Robert Mason, Alison Matthews, Ben Spatz, and Josh Wilson, even though I wasn’t able to include all of your suggestions this time around.