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An everlasting experience: the issue of preservation and communication of the ephemerality of performing arts 


Silvia Giordano


The concept of preservation of the “ephemeral” might seem an unsolvable problem, already discussed by several scholars who focused on the theoretical debate, without achieving practical solutions yet. However, the charm of the topic lies precisely in the impossibility of preserving something which is non-durable and inherently unique. In this article, I will endeavor to illustrate the state of such debate in the performing arts, by stressing how the notion of ephemerality challenges the original concept of archival devices, both in terms of preservation and communication. I will analyze some cases of archives, exhibitions and museums in order to demonstrate how the academic debate is directly influencing communication choices for ephemeral art forms, with a focus on technologies for more articulated practices of archiving and displaying into a museum. In this regard, I will consider how image, photography, cinema and recent technologies have tried to reduce the gap between the transitory nature of the performance and its durability, creating a paradox between its fleeting essence and the aims for its preservation.