B.A.B.S V Barratt, F da Rimini, A Ireland, Making History, Redfern, 20th Biennale of Sydney, 2016

‘We know that Barbara Cleveland was an Australian artist working primarily in Sydney in the 1970s. We also know that she disappeared in 1981.’ — Brown Council / Rosenthal Interview Transcript, 2015.

For the 20th Biennale of Sydney, BC Institute created an evolving archive of performance art told from a multiplicity of perspectives. Through participatory performance, re-enactment and lectures, ‘Making History’ examined how feminist methodologies and alternative historiographical approaches can be used to reimagine past acts and events in the here-and-now. Participants included Amy Ireland, Anne Marsh, Eugene Choi, Francesca da Rimini, Mike Parr, Richard Bell, Salote Tawale with Get to Work, Sunday School, and Virginia Barratt.


The B.A.B.S program turned up sometime around the dawn of Usenet and caused havoc until about 1989, but there’s not much more we can tell you about it. We’ve been tracking its various manifestations and forks right up until the BABShunter group lost the thread around 2001. It has all the chemtrails of a conspiracy, you know? I mean … well let’s just say that there are more than a few theories out there connecting it to something far bigger.’ — Susp1ra, alt.babshunter, 2016.

Thanks to the revival of interest in enigmatic performance artist Barbara Cleveland, a growing catalogue of her works throughout the 1970s is surfacing. It is now well known that Cleveland’s practice was driven by questions of time, myth, and memory fused with an interrogation of the limits of gender and class and their inscription on the body. The incantatory nature of her surviving texts can be read as a proto-ritual for a complex act of self-dissolution. Virginia Barratt, Francesca da Rimini and Amy Ireland pick up the threads of Cleveland’s work beyond the date of her alleged disappearance, weaving a trans-temporal mesh of performative feminist texts. Their intervention involves a re-performance of a long lost script, designed to be executed, as Cleveland would have urged, upon and among the bodies of many.


Links to Media Files

Barbara Cleveland ‘Making History’ webpage





B.A.B.S. script by V Barratt, F da Rimini, A Ireland

B.A.B.S video document