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goat island archive - we have discovered the performance by making it

Find a container in nine parts.

Find the easements and grow them.

- but where are the caryatids?


Notes July 2018


The Goat Island Archive was exhibited at the Chicago Cultural Center between March 30 and June 23, 2019. It followed an initial curatorial rationale that the nine performances of the legendary experimental performance group Goat Island are missing. Like lived experiences of all kinds, the particular moments of each performance have ceased to exist beyond the event. The decisions made in framing the curatorial approaches grew additionally as a series of collaborations, very much in deference to the ways that Goat Island had produced their work. The exhibition took a number of forms, from an initial series of invited artists residencies hosted as part of IN>TIME 2019, the triennial performance festival, to an interwoven season of performances and events hosted by DCASE at the Chicago Cultural Center alongside the archive exhibition. The creative processes of Goat Island were taken as a model for producing and presenting the new commissioned work in response to the archive. 


As lead curator, my aim was to examine the residual working materials of Goat Island, one performance at a time, to explore the ongoing influences of Goat Island upon subsequent generations. By placing the whole archive in the exhibition as visible storage, every remaining element of the company was symbolically present, emphasizing the absence of the company themselves in performance. Set in motion like a series of ripples, the ideas of Goat Island were explored through nine successive iterative displays in accompaniment to newly commissioned response works. The missing performance artifacts by Goat Island then became palpable through these archival activations. Exhibition viewers, the commissioned artists, and the curatorial team were invited to (re)discover the exhibition language together, encountering the work afresh—as if creating it themselves.

Curator - Nicholas Lowe

Curator of Exhibitions, Chicago Cultural Center - Greg Lunceford;

In>Time 2019 Director/Curator - Mark Jeffery;

Registrar and Assistant Curator - Sarah Skaggs;

Archive rotation performance director/choreographer - Raechel Hofsteadter;

Archive assistants and interns - Francisca Rudolph, Emma Punch,

Ronald Corthell, Jillian Danto, Angeliki Chaido Tsoli,

Annie E Weiseth. 

Goat Island performances 1997 - 2007


Soldier, Child, Tortured Man (1997)

We Got A Date (1992)

Can’t Take Johnny to the Funeral (1991)

It’s Shifting, Hank (1993)

How Dear To Me the Hour When Daylight Dies (1996)

The Sea & Poison (1997)

It’s an Earthquake in my Heart (1999)

When will the September roses bloom?  Last night was only a comedy (2003)

The Lastmaker (2007)

"What happens there is nothing short of visionary."


Lori Waxman

" give 'form' to the 'nature of art and artists' in terms of a natural process..."


Harald Szeeman

When Attitudes Become Form.

p31, 1969

archive exhibition and its iterations

Museum as the possibility and form for testing connections, preserving the fragile, documenting drives."


Harald Szeeman

Museum of Obsession

p78, 1974

“When I get up in the morning and take a shower I’m listening to the radio, I’m putting those two things together. I might be listening to a story on Rawanda, and I’m taking a shower. I go and have my breakfast and there’s a child shouting in the ally.” […] “So a Goat Island piece, I think, relates more directly to that kind of life experience than something that is wrapped up in a package and everything is resolved. … my own personal experience is that things don’t resolve … and I am constantly living with ambiguity, where I’m putting things together.”


  Lin Hixson,

Excerpt from a television interview, Glasgow, UK, 1996.


The archival materials were organized into an open storage along a timeline. This held materials from each of the nine performances including, props and costumes, the paper files representing management related and creative processes, audio visual documentation and printed matter by and about the company. Based on the long arc of almost twenty-three years (1987 - 2009) of creative work and through each of the company’s nine performances, the exhibition displays developed iteratively in sequence as a series of generative phases. These phases were punctuated further by a repeating pattern reflective of both the creative and pragmatic functions of the company. From the initial growth of each performance through its research and development, into a process of building scripting and editing materials into performance, alongside audio visual documentation of rehearsals and performances, to examples of the outreach and communications material that supported public presentations and touring. Finally, there were reflections and responses in the form of press announcements and reviews but also in examples of reflective writing by company members.


The exhibition proposed that, much like an encounter with Goat Island’s work itself, viewers could bring themselves to the exhibition as a way of exploring its meaning - they already have what they need to understand the work. The work of Goat Island was imagined in the exhibition as a series of informational chains. Taking in the detail of the Goat Island archive through each of the iterative displays, while concurrently engaging with freshly commissioned response works by other artists. The creativity and approaches of Goat Island were arguably as accessible in the 2019 exhibition as they were in the initial performances. To have been in the audience for a performance of Goat Island was to witness a series of material, visual and auditory prompts unfolding in real time. Presented in exhibition as a sequence of poetic metaphors this contemporary audience was invited to read the work from their place in the present, rather than as an historical artifact. Like lived experiences of all kinds this might have felt equally both familiar and strange.  


"The noun becomes a field of sensation, making felt the ineffable more-than of perception, the  welling nonconscious activity of experience in the making."


Erin Manning

Carrying The Feeling

The Minor Gesture

p131, 2016

Modeled on the long-form working processes of Goat Island, nine artists or artists groups were invited to engage in a period of research and reflection on one of the Goat Island performances, leading to the production of a new live work.


The artists were given digital access to the archive offered a residency in one of nine collaborating Chicago Venues where they each presented a new work-in-progress performance in the In>time 2019 festival. The presentation of a finished work was then included in the three month performance season and exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center between March and June 2019.

In>Time 2019 residency hosted by 6018 North.

hancock & kelly responded to Goat Island's “Soldier, Child, Tortured Man” (1987)

"Even if we were to stand still and focus on a small and precisely defined area, we would nonetheless perceive infinite activity, revealing in a single impossible instance all the transformations that had ever taken place there."


Augusto Corrieri

Locating Quietude

In Place of a Show

2016 p.49.

In>Time 2019 residency hosted by High Concept Labs.

Augusto Corrieri responded to Goat Island's “We Got A Date", (1989)

In>Time 2019 residency hosted by Hyde Part Art Center.

Robert Walton responded to Goat Island's “Can't Take Johnny To The Funeral", (1991)

"The things that we touch, also touch us; the archive marks. It creates a frame of reference that accumulates, builds and shifts its points of focus and power. Its desires run deep, but its course remains divergent and open to coercion."


Richard Hancock and Traci Kelly

Playing with Shadows And Speaking in Echoes

Artists in the Archive - Creatinve and curatorial engagements with documents of art and performance.

2018 p. 289