Questioning Performing Arts Iconographic Research Methodology
Performing arts iconography, a relatively new field of academic enquiry, is the study and interpretation of visual images as source material for historians of dance, music and theatre. Although performing arts iconography has matured into an independent academic discipline, it still relies heavily on traditional, art-historical research methodology. Indeed, there are obvious similarities between the two disciplines; both the study of performing arts history and art history are concerned with the systematic analysis and interpretation of historic works of art. However, some scholars have characterized performing arts iconography as being dissimilar from its counterpart in art history. Heck, for instance, distinguishes between the disinterested, pure form of art history iconography, and the pragmatic or applied forms of iconography in the performing arts. The notion of pragmatism in performing arts iconography refers to the empirical research value of the visual arts as potential sources of historical and cultural documentary evidence. In contrast, the art historian researches images primarily for the sake of their own inherent aesthetic, and less for their value as historical, documentary source material. This presentation will explore the outcome of applying traditional, art-historical iconographic methodology, with its rigidly structured hierarchy of iconographic research tasks, to the interpretation of performing arts visual documents. Additionally, it will investigate the research methodologies used by dance, music and theatre iconographers, and will propose a non-hierarchical approach to iconographic investigation culled from prevailing performing arts iconographic praxis.
Keywords: Performing Arts, Iconography, Research Methodology
Associate Professor, Program of Dance