Research, Revolution and Re-enactment in Spectacles without Objects (2016) by The International Institute for Important Items

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


This paper reframes the relationship between research, revolution and re-enactment in the practice of (art) history through Spectacles without Objects (2016) by The International Institute for Important Items (The I.I.I.I). In Spectacles, which comprises a film, vinyl record, written play, and site-specific performances, The I.I.I.I expand the notion of re-enactment to all activities undertaken by the (art) historian, whose relationship to the historical event is necessarily personal, theatrical and speculative. In Spectacles The I.I.I.I return to the material ephemera of The Saint Simonians — a proto-socialist commune fractured by its radical feminist branch — to revive proto-feminist solutions to the neoliberal debates resurfaced by #metoo, as well as to the dejectedness of the contemporary European Left. In doing so, just as Julia Kristeva defined revolt as ‘“research” […] in the sense of return, displacement or contestation’, The I.I.I.I approach art historical research, at its essence, as a process of re- enactment, return and critique. The re-searching body is staged as a site of permanent revolt in Spectacles, as an an-archive of potential histories and ideas arrived before their time. Indeed, driven by genealogical memory traces and personal desires, The I.I.I.I’s research is necessarily artistic as it seeks to reconstruct the political potential of feminist debates held within the felt, rather than written, historical archive. As such, The I.I.I.I mark a new, speculative turn in Art History: the art historian as artist.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 7 Apr 2022
EventAssociation for Art History, Annual Conference : History as Memory: the contemporary artist as archivist - Regent's University, London, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 6 Apr 20228 Apr 2022


ConferenceAssociation for Art History, Annual Conference
Abbreviated titleAAH Annual Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • reenactment
  • feminism
  • art history

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