Re-enactments are historically correct recreations of socially relevant events, such as important battles or other historical moments. In a re-enactment, the audience loses its pacifying distance in relation to the documented event and becomes the immediate witness of this (repeated) moment, which unfolds in front of their eyes. They may even become active participants in an action.
In contemporary art there has been an increase in artistic re-enactments—the performative repetition or re-creation of historical situations and events. For example, in his work The Battle of Orgreave (2001), artist Jeremy Deller orchestrated the re-enactment of a violent clash between miners and police in 1984 Britain with the help of ex-miners, ex-police, and other re-enactors.
Unlike popular historical re-enactments, such as battles, artistic re-enactments are not performative re-stagings of the ancient past but rather of events (often traumatic ones), which are viewed as important for the present. Artistic re-enactments are not simply affirming what has happened in the past, but questioning the present via the repetition of events that have left their traces in the collective memory. Re-enactments are artistic interrogations of media images that try to scrutinise the reality of these images, while at the same time pointing towards the fact that collective memory is essentially mediated memory.