Institute of Para-Enactment Research
Softcore Historicism and Embodied Heritage 


I-P-E-R is a fictitious institution created to investigate practices of embodied historization and historical reenactment.


departs from a new definition of historical restagings (renactments) that takes into account  how such practices overflow the authentication of historical sources as they factually propose new alternatives for the present, working towards contingency and trans temporality.

For this purpose, reenactments are researched as knowledge forms resonating besides, beyond, and towards a mere repetition of an historical fact, and therefore becoming para-enactments.  To achieve such goal, IPER investigates collective practices of embodied heritage in public space through the contextualisation and analysis of practical case studies, the compilation of theorertical frameworks, and the assembling of chronological genealogies.  

The social restrictions derived by the present pandemic situation had rendered even more visible the agency of such practices in the construction of social meaning through public crowding and physical presence. Collectivity, embodiment, sensuality and affect are powerful tools to produce heritage.  Reinterpreting hegemonic narrations of the past serves not only to vindicate the historical processes that have shaped our present, but also to present us contingent alternatives capable to negate it. I-P-E-R sekks to generate new modes of knowledge production and research in the field of visual culture, art, and the curatorial.  The project acknowledges that museums auniversities are not the only sites where knowledge is produced.

How do reenactments work as spaces of radical negativity towards present conflicts? What is the role of immersive historical reconstructions in the validation of debiased narratives and fictive historicisms?
What is the soft power of embodied historicism? How to reinterpret para-enactments as progressive tools for social change?

Nouns into verbs. 
Images into action.

I-P-E-R definition departs from an understanding of (cultural) heritage and heritage conservation as processes of constant rethinking and redefinition cultural values by different agents––social groups, media, institutions, which are also constantly changing (1) . As process, heritage becomes predicate and brings the attention into the way it affects our worldview, and not directly into the changes it produces. Turning the research focus into relationships, artistic epistemologies emerge.

Bateson's logic does not rely on subjects but on predicates. It is a logic of relations. relations. They are what is important in life: not subjects but actions (...). Expressing relationships is difficult because we have to do it within a language of subjects, where the subjects come before the action, before the predicate, before the relationship. Thank goodness that art exists -Deleuze repeats-, otherwise we would be condemned to the vulgarity of the common sense to which our language forces us. Art expresses relations and for this it creates language beyond the already existing one as an instrument of communication between us.

︎︎︎Larrauri, Maite .El deseo según Deleuze Editorial Tándem, 2001. (rree translation)


(to) Institute

The word "institute" comes from the Latin word institutum meaning "facility" or "habit"; from instituere meaning "build", "create", "raise" or "educate".

An Institute is an organization having a particular purpose, especially one that is involved with science, education, or a specific profession. Turned into verb, to institute defines the process of establishing and stabilizing something, achieving permanent acceptance or recognition for it throught its ennactment or its acceptance.

In the words of CAROLINA RITO and BILL BALASKAS, initiators of the research strand "institution as praxis" at Nottingham Contemporary (UJK) , converting the noun "institution”into a verb, serves   to identify and advocate for a multiplicity of practices taking place across the cultural sector that do not only engage with the quest to deliver cultural activities (e.g. exhibitions, events), but generate new modes of knowledge production and research in the field of visual culture, art, and the curatorial.

Fictitios Institutes and Institutions are common research tools in the field of arts and the curatorial  to define frameworks of action. They assemble organizational and discoursive positions from which to act and enact.

The prefix para- has been used in the context of artistic self-institutionalization by Sven Lütticken to define a kind of self-organization that, rather than establish a legal status,
The organisations in question don’t necessarily all have the same legal status. Some are foundations and may look like ‘regular’ art institutions on paper, yet are run differently, with more collective decision-making and input from various networks and communities.

Some para-institutional organisations are:
- Jonas Staal’s New World Summit
- Renzo Martens’s Institute for Human Activities,
- Ahmet Öğüt’s The Silent University,
- Tania Bruguera’s Immigrant Movement International, - Fernando García-Dory’s Inland,
- Lorenzo Sandoval Institute for Endotic Research


(to prefix) Para-

The prefix para- derives from ancient greek παρά (pará, “beside; next to, near, from; against, contrary to”) and can redefine the word that preceeds either from a temporal, spatial, or causal perpective. Moreconcretely, para means:

-    above, beyond (paranormal activity, paramiliar, paradox; paragogue)

-    beside, near, alongside; throughout (” (parabola; paragraph; parallel; paralysis)

-    abnormal, incorrect (out of, against the rules of)

By extension from these senses, this prefix came to designate objects or activities auxiliary to or derivative of that denoted by the base word (parody; paronomasia), and hence abnormal or defective (paranoia).

The prefix para- has been used by academic Nora Sternfeld in the context of museology and curatorial studies to define “a para-institutional praxis that desires more than occupying a subversive position, because it does not shy away from the radical democratic demand to engage in the struggle for hegemony”. For Sternfeld “(t)he Greek word παρά can be translated in many respects, for instance, locally as from…to, nearby, next…to; temporally as during, along; and figuratively as in comparison, in contrast, contra-, and against".  In the context of museum studies, the reformulation of the museum as a para-museum or as a parainstitution (Lütticken 2015) serves to define "the new relationship that artists and cultural producers produce by being neither against nor fully governed by the institution museum". In her book “Das radikaldemokratische Museum,” Sternfed calls for a new museological praxis that takes account of the museum not only as a public institution connected with the street as a space of protest and the parliament as a meeting room, but also as an infrastructure that can go beyond this definition. For this purpose, she coins the term para-museum: “a subversive gesture that steals (the power of definition and the infrastructure) from the museum”.


(to) Enact

(text under construction)


(to) Research

Artistic Research (AR) is practice-based, practice-led research

“Excellent AR is research through means of high level artistic practice and reflection; it is an epistemic inquiry, directed towards increasing knowledge, insight, understanding and skills. Within this frame, AR is aligned in all aspects with the five main criteria that constitute Research & Development in the Frascati Manual. Through topics and problems stemming from and relevant to artistic practice, AR also addresses key issues of a broader cultural, social and economic significance.”

One of the characteristics of artistic research is that it must accept subjectivity as opposed to the classical scientific methods. As such, it is similar to the social sciences in using qualitative research and intersubjectivity as tools to apply measurement and critical analysis

(to) Soften Historicism

Reenactments had become a common social event to commemorate historical achievements by re-performing a new version of them. They  present an experiential vehicle to engage with the a supposedly fixed past “promoting cultural understanding in the present,” and challenging issues of “authenticity and identity in the production and consumption of cultural heritage”.


-P-E-R  proposes to apply the features already identified in reenactment practices to a broader field of mimetic spatial practices (Benjamin, 1933; Deleuze, 1968; Derridá, 1994; Taussig, 2006) and historical embodiment (Pellegrini, 2001) that make use of technologies of immersion. As defined by Rainer Mühlhoff and Theresa Schütz, immersion is “a specific quality that emerges through dynamics of affecting and being affected”. Immersion engages with a specific designed context through physical experience, interactivity and  participation (Rose, 2011, Hannigan 2010). Technologies of immersion have lately received special attention, emerging from the development of digital mechanisms of augmented and virtual reality,  but also in analog versions spreading throughout contemporary artistic and performative practices. Technologies of immersion serve to convert representation into real experience, enacting consensual fictive tales as truthful facts and rendering them history. By performing history, immersion unfolds an enveloping time warp that displaces meanings and social behaviours in history and space. It has the capacity to perpetuate or neglect power inequalities via representation. As an experience-machine (Nozick, 1974), it operates as shaping a neoliberal subjectivity (Berg, 2012) or as a form of political acting (Marchart, 2020). This empirical, tangible way of knowledge transmission is affective, collective, and performative, in contrast to other traditional models of knowledge production. When dealing with the past through its reconstruction in the present, technologies of immersion are defined as reenactments (Pickering, 2010; Lütticken, Sven Ed. 2005) .They bring to mind Foucault's definition of apparatus, and operate within Azoulau's imperial modes of thought.

Mapping case studies investigates their political and cultural implications as situated practices (Haraway, 1988), as political dispositifs  (Foucault, 1976)  and as imperial or non-imperial  modes of literacy (Azoulay, 2019). Those practices  replace the museum and the library as spaces of the production of knowledge and significance for the community. They function as technologies of immersion, focusing on affect and perception. They bring elements of anachrony and simulacrum (Baudrillard, 1994) to the public sphere (Marchart, 2020), performing queer temporality (Freeman, 2010; Jenna, 2005; Esteban Muñoz, 2009 ).

For Oliver Marchart, the public sphere is the space of action that opens “wherever the routines, institutions and identities of our social world are touched by antagonism”.  Antagonism operates when societies are affected by conflict (Laclau, Mouffe, 2001) . For Elisabeth Freeman, temporality is “a mode of implantation through which institutional forces come to seem like somatic facts”. In relation to temporality, antagonism appears when we refuse to proceed with the order of things. By designating such antagonism against temporality as “queer” dissidence or queer failure (Halberstam, 2010),  I recall a resistance against normative logics and organizations, “against the temporal frames of bourgeois reproduction and family, longevity, community, sexual identity, embodiment, and activity”. Referring to a queer interpretation of temporality, antagonism makes active use of heterochrony (Foucault, 1976) and temporal drag (Freeman, 2011). Immersive historical reconstructions are the embodiment of queer temporality as they open the way “for other modes of consciousness to be considered seriously”. By researching the power of such practices as strategies of architectural dissidence (Weizman, 2013) we recall the socio-political importance of memory and temporality. The categorization of spatial practices will start from this position to determine the ways in which those practices had been commodified and touristified (Bryman, 2004). As stated by Dorothea von Hantelmann, “the vast majority of human activity is devoted to pursuits that fall under the categories of ritual and ceremony”. The term ‘experience economy’ (Pine, 1998), meanwhile, defines the ways in which the semio-capitalist system (Berardi, 2009) in which we live has embedded such structures inside its system, transforming them into a commodity, general and interchangeable.

The term  consensual reenactments is used to define all the cultural infrastructures (public reenactments, living history plays, architectural replicas, period rooms, theme parks, historical fairs) framed inside an experience economy that legitimate dominant and institutionalized understandings of history by performing immersive temporality. Those practices are rooted in notions of authenticity and accuracy towards the official storytelling (Gapps, 2009), and are categorized in reenactment jargon as “hardcore”.  Hardcore historicism reveals the fact that historical records are not based on ‘truth’ or authenticity, but are biased creative interpretations that consistently hide a very specific position of power (male, white, heterosexual, human) defined as objective and universal. Those practices regularly appear as the commodified heritage practices (Cohen, 88; Bagnall, 2003). of a more complex and politized agenda of reconstructing unsettled and oppressed cultural practices (Mignolo, 2011; Quijano, 2019; Gilroy, 2005).

In opposition to a “hardcore” historicism, I-P-E-R  interrogates the ways in which a “softcore” historicism could be performed, and in which para-infrastructures (Landau, 2020; Sternfeld, 2018) dissident reenactment could happen. The indexing and critical analysis of case studies would identify the architectural, technological, social, epistemological and ethical infrastructures that promote interpretative sovereignty, re-appropriation and agency.  To establish a comparative analysis, the outcomes of the research will be tested within the context of immersive historical practices carried out within the Red de Museos Comunitarios de América Latina (RMCAL)  and  the EU_LAC Museums. EU_LAC Museums is a consortium of museum researchers, practitioners, and policy makers supported by the ICOM and diverse universities investigating the format of the community museum in the context of Europe and of Latin America and the Caribbean. Immersive historical reconstruction methodologies like living history displays are common precedent of many of the community museums of EU-LAC Consortium.

In the colonized territories of the Global South, such practices operate to reconstruct lost heritage and decades of oppression upon communities, via the dispossession of their material heritage. In general, historicist practices interfere in the safeguarding of intangible heritage and materialize social desires related to the past.. The comparison between case studies outside and within the EU-LAC Project aim to  interrogate the ways in which such strategies are already practiced within a framework of marginalized knowledge and decolonial struggle. This framework refers to the active work realized by community museums in the Global South, where the reconstruction of lost heritage and the resilience of oppressed cultures confront reenactment and relational art in Europe as neoliberal place-making and touristing methodologies.

(to) Historicise

What emerges by comparing the restaging of a medieval tournament in a French theme park with the reconstruction of a prehispanic ritual space by a community museum in Perú? What technologies of immersion emerge  and which stories do they tell?

The aim of tI-P-E-R is to provide a more complex description of the experience of immersive historical reconstruction as a situated spatial practice. As situated practice, I seek to investigate the motivations, methodologies and mechanisms that contextualize  immersive historical reconstruction, exposing its political agenda. Understood as a spatial practice, I would frame a wider understanding of reenactment as a strategy of place-making related to the performativity and resignification of the territory, and the investment of symbolism into the landscape.  The dissertation answers the question of how traditions and rituals are built into contemporaneity (Segalen, 2005), and what para-infrastructures (Landau, 2020) serve societies to engage with collective memory (Halbwachs, 1925; Harth, 2008) and identity discourses (Jeong and Santos, 2004; Viol, 2018). Researching current manifestations of popular culture, this work seeks to engage affective and the performative methods with academic and non-academic forms of knowledge production coming from popular culture (historical fairs, reenactments, theme parks) and bottom-up initiatives (community museums).  The objective of the research is to define the cases in which processes of commodification of collective memory have transformed dissident agency into impotent acts, and determine the conditions where a dissident, politically-engaged reenactment could emerge.

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︎︎︎ Berlin, 2022

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