The Performative Archive: William Forsythe and Peter Weibel in Conversation
William Forsythe and dancers
Fri, February 03, 2023 6 pm CET, Artist Talk

The choreographer William Forsythe, who has influenced the perception of choreographic practice for 50 years through his visionary concepts and productions, is donating his extensive archive to the ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe. The ZKM would like to invite you to a talk with William Forsythe and Peter Weibel about interdisciplinary artistic practices that encompass all formats and the importance of archives.

William Forsythe (*1949, New York) has been active as a choreographer for over 50 years. His work is acknowledged for reorienting the practice of ballet from its identification with classical repertoire to a dynamic 21st century art form. Forsythe’s deep interest in the fundamental principles of organization of choreography has led him to produce a wide range of projects including installations, films, and web-based knowledge creation. As an artist and curator, Peter Weibel (*1944, Odessa) has been pursuing his idea of expanding the arts since the 1960s that not only dissolves the boundaries of artistic genres, but also redefines the relationship between artist and audience.

Forsythe and Weibel, who have known each other since their time in Frankfurt in the 1990s, share an interest in defining new rules that render existing rules perceptible and thus changeable — and the freedom to then break these rules, too. In this sense, Peter Weibel refers to Forsythe and himself as “code breakers.”

In conversation, Weibel and Forsythe will talk about an artistic practice that encompasses choreography and performance as well as music, visual art, and poetry, about the significance of the project Improvisation Technologies: A Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye both for Forsythe and the ZKM, as well as the questions of what challenges media archives pose for memory institutions, how art institutions should react to the “performative turn”, and what effect archives can have today not only on academia but also on artistic practice.

After the talk, film and video recordings from William Forsythe's work since the 1970s will be shown. To finish, the ZKM invites you to a drink and get-together. 


The archive

The archive covers William Forsythe’s entire creative period since the 1970s: from his time at the Stuttgart Ballet beginning in 1976, at the Ballet Frankfurt (1984–2004), and The Forsythe Company (2005–2015) to the present. It contains an extensive collection of archival video recordings of rehearsals, performances, and installations, as well as programs, posters, reviews, photographs, publications, correspondence, awards, and other documents. In the longer term, William Forsythe’s personal production notes will also be added to the archive.

The William Forsythe Archive enriches the research environment of the ZKM | Archive, which, with its select preliminary and posthumous collections from artists and theorists, enables both new insights and facilitates the deepening of knowledge about the intermedia arts of the 20th and 21st centuries. The long-term preservation of the valuable video holdings of the William Forsythe Archive is ensured by ZKM’s proven expertise in the field of audiovisual media as well as that of the ZKM | Laboratory for Antiquated Video Systems.

Further information on planned projects will follow soon. [Status: 02/13/2023]