#CIHA202401631Conserving Dance Through Archives, Oral Histories, and Exhibitions

J. Dématérialisation/Rematérialisation
Performance: Conservation, Materiality, Knowledge
R. Peabody 1.
1Getty Research Institute - Los Angeles (États-Unis)

Adresse email : rpeabody@getty.edu (R.Peabody)


Sujet en anglais / Topic in english

Sujet de la session en français / Topic in french

Texte de la proposition de communication en français ou en anglais

African American choreographer and video artist Blondell Cummings (American, 1944–2015) was a key figure in the world of contemporary dance, known for bridging Black and postmodern dance vocabularies. Cummings drew on sources as diverse as photographs, oral histories, community workshops and her own personal memories to develop a movement vocabulary that enabled her to tell stories about Black home life, and the intimacies of the human experience: love, loss, gender, sexuality, parenthood, ageing. She deployed her vocabulary through a style of dance she called “moving pictures;” a succinct reference to the photograph-like realism of her movements, which were animated through a kinetic and often high-energy delivery.

Cummings’ ground-breaking contributions left a powerful legacy; however, her work – until recently – had not been the subject of sustained scholarly investigation or curatorial activation. In 2021 a curatorial team from the Getty Research Institute (which included this writer), in partnership with the exhibition space Art + Practice, completed a multi-year research project investigating Cummings’ work and legacy and centering the importance of the conservation of dance – both in scholarship, and in exhibition practice.

The curatorial team behind Blondell Cummings: Dance as Moving Pictures was motivated by a series of questions that resonate with the theme of this panel. Specifically, as we researched the first book-length work of scholarship and first exhibition focusing on this important artist, we asked ourselves how we could best work with the existing documentation of Cummings’ practice which was, at that time, a collection of un-digitized and un-reformatted recordings largely on VHS cassette tape. We also asked ourselves how we could create an exhibition experience that captured a range of Cummings’ expressive modalities, including dance, oral history, sound, video art, and cinematic production. Finally, we asked ourselves how the publication accompanying the exhibition could expand the work of conservation by building in oral histories and first-person accounts of the experiential nature of her work.

This presentation will use the Blondell Cummings: Dance as Moving Pictures research project as a case study for how research and conservation in the field of performance are mutually dependent – and mutually generative.

Key Words (4-6):


African American






Short Bibliography

Exhibition Website: https://www.artandpractice.org/exhibitions/exhibition/dance-as-moving-pictures/

Kristin Juarez, Rebecca Peabody, Glenn Phillips, eds., Blondell Cummings: Dance as Moving Pictures, Los Angeles: X Artists' Books, 2021. https://www.xartistsbooks.com/books/blondellcummings

Wendy Perron, “Remembering Blondell Cummings (1944-2015).” Dance Magazine, 2015.

Thomas F. DeFrantz, “Blondell Cummings Biography” Free to Dance: The African American Presence in Modern Dance, 2001.

Blondell Cummings Biography, Jacob’s Pillow Archives.

CV de 500 signes incluant les informations suivantes: Prénom, nom, titre, fonction, institution

Rebecca Peabody, PhD, is Head of Research Projects & Academic Outreach at the Getty Research Institute, where her research focuses on representations of race, gender, and nationality in twentieth and twenty-first century American art and culture. Her scholarly publications include Consuming Stories: Kara Walker and the Imagining of American Race (2016), as well as five edited or co-edited volumes on art and visual culture in a global context, and the trade book The Unruly PhD: Doubts, Detours, Departures and Other Success Stories (2014).

Résumé / Abstract

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