Read a review of Empty Stages, Crowded Flats - Performativity as Curatorial Strategy by Beatrix Joyce.
‘Empty Stages, Crowded Flats - Performativity as Curatorial Strategy’ addresses the newly established and growing field of performance curation. With the inclusion of twenty ‘case studies’ dating as far back as 1969, the articles chronicle the shift of performance out of the proscenium arch theatre and into alternative spaces of the public domain. By documenting a selection of ‘staged situations’, pilot projects and radical experiments, the compilation demonstrates the sheer wealth of possibilities within the curation of performance today.
In a refreshing mix of writing styles, creative descriptions and loose interpretations of the projects were placed alongside academic essays. Karin Harrasser playfully composed an ‘alternative alphabet’ as a means to reflect on performance and Tim Etchells’ entry read, much like his work at large, like poetic prose. In keeping with a progressive editorial approach, the terms ‘performance’ and ‘performativity’ were employed in multiple ways, hereby escaping an inflexible definition. Performance could refer both to its traditional connotation of ‘relating to the performing arts’ (dance, theatre, staged acts) and its adopted usage within the visual arts (Krakow’s happenings, Fluxus, un-staged acts). Its usage within social theory (‘performativity’ after Judith Butler) was also incorporated, hereby proving the term to be open and lucid, evidently crossing from the threshold of the arts into the realm of sociological and philosophical thought.
A recurring theme was the breaking down of the distinction between artist and curator. The adoption of performance works into the programmes of galleries and museums poses a challenge to the traditional functionality and alleged separation between the role of artist and curator. Increasingly, curators are working as freelancers and are employed per project while artists become self-organised and initiate their own, privately funded, crowd funded or non-funded projects. The relationship between artist and curator, as demonstrated by ‘Empty Stages, Crowded Flats’, is no longer clear-cut and therefore calls for fresh understandings of what a given job role might entail.
Although touched on briefly with the mention of Tino Seghal, famously the first performance artist to have sold his pieces as art objects, hardly any attention was given to the financial structure of performance art. A reflection on the economic position of performance in relation to the capitalist, product-driven structure of the visual art world would have added an extra spark of contemplation. A prominent question within the field is undeniably the economic (in)compatibility of performance - would the introduction of new bureaucratic structures support and emancipate performance artists or would the wide-scale recreation of works from contracts disrupt or even destroy the magic of performance?
‘Empty Stages, Crowded Flats’ gave a brilliant insight into the practice of curating performance and prompted many questions that will undoubtedly gain weight in the years to come.
Empty Stages, Crowded Flats: Performativity as Curatorial Strategy is the fourth book of the publication series Performing Urgency. The series focuses on the relationship between theatre and politics, and asks: How can theatre engage in contemporary social and political issues without compromising art or politics? What kind of knowledge or impact can art generate that activism and theory alone cannot? What are the processes and methodologies of political theatre today? It aims at a broader discussion of the conditions, aesthetics, concepts, and topics of contemporary performing arts.
House on Fire, Alexander Verlag and Live Art Development Agency, 2017. 15.5 x 22.5cm, 159 pages, paperback with black and white photographs throughout.
Guest Editor Sale from 1 July 2017 - 31 July 2017
Andy Field is an artist, writer and the co-director of Forest Fringe.
Let’s change the world
Yeah! Let’s change the world
Not a little (a little)
A lot (a lot!)
Let’s change the world
Yeah! Let’s change the world
(‘Let’s Change the World’, traditional)
About seven years ago I was on the campus of Warwick University, just outside Coventry, for an event hosted by Fierce Festival and Warwick Arts Centre. As part of this event an artist called Eitan Buchalter waited at a zebra crossing for four hours. I remember very vividly his calmness and his neatness, arms by his side, gazing out across the street, like a young mathematics teacher who had lost himself in the middle of a quadratic equation and slipped quietly into a fugue state. The sun shone thinly on the neat green lawns and the childlike bends in the tiny campus roads.
Inevitably as cars would arrive at the zebra cross they would pause for a few seconds, anticipating that Eitan was about to cross, and on realising that he was not going anywhere, they would move on. Some would occasionally beep as if attempting to wake him from his trance or chastise him for his transgression of the traditional etiquette of zebra crossings. It was so beautifully tiny, his action, so delicately fleeting; like a bird flying backwards. A hiccup in an otherwise ordinary afternoon.
For one man, however, it was not such a small indiscretion. One man was furious. He shouted at Eitan, questioning what he was doing and why he was doing it, and on receiving no response he took it upon himself to right the miniature wrong that had been inserted into the day, shouting at cars as they stopped that it was ‘an art thing’ and that they shouldn’t stop. ‘What a waste of time’ he said, repeatedly. ‘He could be out raising money for homeless people.’
Since that day I have often wondered what it was that so provoked the furious man. Was it, as he would have it, the uselessness of the action, its essential meaninglessness when placed against other possible things that Eitan could have chosen to do with his time, like raising money for homeless people? In this context, it is the choice of action that is so egregious. Eitan clearly has dedication and endurance, and yet he is employing them in pursuit of something the furious man perceives as without purpose or outcome. Why choose to do something as indulgent and inconclusive as art when there is so much suffering in the world?
Or is there another possible cause of the furious man’s ire? Could it be that it is not the ineffectuality of Eitan’s performance that is upsetting him but on the contrary, its very effectiveness? How easily Eitan is able to send these ripples of disruption out into the world, his mere motionlessness stopping traffic, his small transgression unstitching the unspoken rules that hold the world together. Is this what the furious man is afraid of, that far from being useless, art is a virus with the power to topple civilisations?
Here are some books that I think might help us to resolve these questions. For the month of July 2017, these have all been discounted by 25%
The Art of Living: An Oral History of Performance Art
£16.49 / Original Price £21.99
These extraordinary lives are holding open space in which to re-imagine gender, identity, the way we relate to one another and the way we live in the world.
Eds. Nato Thompson, Gregory Sholette
£18.71 / Original Price £24.95
A catalogue of strategies for resistance.
£14.25 / Original Price £19
A document of a project that spanned a remarkable year and in so doing became implicitly bound up in the strangeness, to the point where it seemed Tim Etchells might be writing the world into existence.
Out of Now: The Lifeworks of Tehching Hsieh
Adrian Heathfield and Tehching Hsieh
£24 / Original Price £32.95
In Out of Now art becomes a vehicle for radical transformation, a rewriting of a life that is nothing short of remarkable.
Not if but when: Culture Beyond Oil
Eds. Jo Clarke, Mel Evans, Hayley Newman, Kevin Smith, Glen Tarman
Free PDF Online
If Art can be a vehicle for social change, then it must also recognise its frequent culpability in perpetuating capitalism and ecological harm, as in the toxic ongoing relationship between art and oil.
Tania El Khoury
£9 / Original Price £12
Tania is an extraordinary artist and this piece is the best example I can point to of the potential for the tangibility of live performance to change the way we relate to geopolitics and mediatized suffering.
Cassils: Artist Books
David J. Getsy and Julia Steinmetz
£23.63 / Original Price £31.50
Cassils’ work is doing something in the world.
4 Boys [For Beuys]
The Institute for the Art and Practice of Dissent at Home
£3 / Original Price £4
The Institute is a remarkable example of an activist practice that is deeply embedded in ordinariness of everyday life, they are a map to another kind of resistance.
It's All Allowed: The Performances of Adrian Howells
Eds. Deirdre Heddon & Dominic Johnson
£15 / Original Price £20
Adrian brought so much beauty and compassion into the world and I miss him very much.
Eds. Carol Becker, Lisa Yun Lee, Achim Borchardt-Hume
£22.46 / Original Price £29.95
In the info for this book Theaster Gates is described as "The poster boy for socially engaged art" and it makes me want to be sick a bit in my mouth, but you should read this book anyway.
Not Just a Mirror: Looking for the Political Theatre of Today
Ed. Florian Malzacher
£8.24 / Original Price £10.99
There is so much in this book you will definitely find something to cling to, and something to hope for.
Forest Fringe: The First Ten Years
£10.50 / Original Price £14
This is our book. You should buy our book
The full editors’ Introduction to Lexicon for an Affective Archive is available as a PDF download
Introductions are often written at the end, when the book that is just beyond their threshold has in fact already been written. Therefore, they resemble more the words of an adieu. The book is being archived, packed up, and closed. On the other hand, this is perhaps the first time when we, as its curators, glimpse the existence of our book as such, now that it is taking the shape that will distinguish it from all the others. For the first time the book knows that the time has come. We settle our accounts with what has been gathered inside, ready to close the gates, so that they can be opened again. The movements of closure and opening—mimicked by your turning the pages again and again—are folded one into the other, like the recto and verso of a page. What holds them together is the temporary absence of reading that is filled up with a suspended breath, a tiny affect of a hand moving, of eyes remembering and anticipating. Nothing is ostensibly happening, yet this is one moment of decision, of eventful suspension. You are the agents of time, the harbingers of a new arkhè, or beginning. You are treating the archive as though it had not yet been closed. By doing so you become capable of turning it against itself. There will be no rest in this archive, now that you have come.
- Giulia Palladini and Marco Pustianaz
Published by Intellect, NInA and Live Art Development Agency with the support of University of Roehampton’s Department of Drama, Theatre and Performance.
Credits: Katy Baird, Alex Eisenberg and Drew Cole. A LADA Production (2016)
25% discount on all books and DVDs in the Unbound Seasonal Sale. Pick up the perfect Christmas present for your Live Art loved ones, or treat yourself this winter.
Last orders for UK delivery before Christmas must be placed by Midday on Monday 19 December. Delivery dispatches start again on Thursday 5 January. No deliveries will be dispatched between Midday Monday 19 December and Thursday 5 January.
Sale ends Saturday 14 January.
The Performing Urgency series entangles both the arts and wider societal issues, resulting in its publications becoming key books when discussing the position of artistic practice within an extremely volatile and ever changing cultural and political landscape.
Turn, Turtle! Reenacting The Institute is the newest addition to the series coming at a time where the British public are still nursing their Brexit hangover and working to comprehend the severe attitudes of uncertainty and doubt within existing power structures. These worries obviously seep into the artistic sphere where ‘public funding of social, educational, scientific, and cultural institutions is under pressure due to state cuts and privatisation’.
Turn, Turtle! is comprised of six essays, three interviews, and six case studies of performance makers, institution directors, and thinkers. The book itself is broken into five parts, which cover a plethora of current economic issues and cultural concerns whilst also offering insightful solutions in engagement and reassignment of cultural power structures.
With the current mood of frustration with governing structures in the arts, the role of the institution is a topic which will arise in conversation more frequently than we all would like to admit. It is for this reason that this book is an invaluable resource in giving even the newest of arts readers an informative rethinking of the ‘functioning, position, and decision-taking structure of the organisations’ within the performing arts community.
Written by Drew Cole
Resources and Online Development Placement.
To mark the extraordinary SACRED:Homelands festival of international performance taking place at Toynbee Studios from 23 to 27 November 2016, we have invited the festival’s curator Nikki Milican to create a collection for Unbound. SACRED:Homelands features UK premiere performances, durational/installation works and in depth conversations with artists travelling from Tonga, India, Canada, New Zealand, as well as Europe. In times of grave social and environmental injustices caused by war, pestilence and climate change that create so much upheaval of communities across the globe, the artists responded to SACRED:Homelands' invitation to make a “homeland” for a week in the East End of London, to gather, to share their lived experiences and what is sacred to all of us through storytelling and conversation.
Nikki Milican is the former Artistic Director of New Moves International, producers of New Territories and The National Review of Live Art (NRLA), the UK's most significant and influential festival of performance that ran from 1979-2010.
My choice of books reflect the concerns that arise in a curated programme such as SACRED:Homelands. I no longer read books on the history of live/performance art, as there have been quite enough of those. Generally speaking I will always choose a book written by an artist rather than an academic, as a strong artist's voice can, for me, be far more affecting as a form of protest and change (yes, some academics are artists, and some artists are academics - it’s interesting how the language becomes more obtuse).
The Art of Being Many - Towards a New Theory and Practice of Gathering
The performative art of gathering was something the NRLA did pretty well, especially in the audience’s queuing for shows. Had NRLA lived beyond its 30 years I would like to think the power of such a creatively and politically engaged assembly would continue to have a subversive impact on its constituency.
Small Acts of Repair: Performance, Ecology and Goat Island
I first brought Goat Island to the UK in 1988 when the group was Lin Hixson and Mathew Goulish and brothers Timothy and Greg McCain. The physicality of that first piece still remains a vivid memory. However, it is not for sentimental reasons I choose this book, I could also have opted for Schoolbook 2, because what remains so durable about their practice is their generosity of spirit in sharing it with so many. They are brilliant teachers and what better place to change the mindset of young people but to bring a radical edge to the classroom in their pursuit of the impossible.
Dangerous Moves: Performance and Politics in Cuba
Overt political voices have been subject to censorship in Cuba but as with countries like Chile, the more daring of the performance/street theatre artists have a habit of popping up in unexpected places and hold great appeal for those who feel they have little power to change things and are fearful of offering dissent.
Not Just a Mirror: Looking for the Political Theatre of Today
I was more fascinated by the publishers of this book. Called House On Fire, it is a network of ten festivals and theatres across Europe whose policy is to programme and co-produce work based on “the conviction that the arts have an essential role to play both in the communication between people and in the development of thought and debate about problems and challenges that our societies and the world are facing”. If I’d thought theatre had lost its political engagement a quick look through HoF’s list of Artist Creations and Thematic Events makes me wish I was still curating New Territories because we are not seeing enough of it here.
Exhausting Dance: Performance and the politics of movement
I ran a dance festival but was never a big fan of dance in the ways it was often depicted in the UK in the 90s. Thankfully I came across (then) radical artists like Truus Bronkhorst, Maria Voortman and later, La Ribot, Jérôme Bel, Raimund Hogue, Didier Theron, Xavier Le Roy etc., whose work helped create a festival that was a little more left field. It was work that encroached on areas of performance and visual art; this book explores these crossovers.
Museum of Water
I loved this interactive installation in Somerset House and this is a lovely documentation of two years of work gathering together a beautiful collection of public donated water samples, all of which had personal stories attached. As a resource we take for granted daily it was also a poignant reminder of how precious water is in many parts the world.
Turn, Turtle! Reenacting The Institute
At a time of European institutional crises can it be a symbolic moment for artists to reclaim the arts space. Always better to attack from within in my view.
Playing for Time: Making Art as if the World Mattered
A handbook for artists and activists, in fact for anyone wishing to harness their creativity to actuate change in the world. Perhaps a theme is developing here in this list - an urge for artists to reimagine our world at a time of upheaval and uncertainty. Lucy Neal gives a voice to over 60 artists and activists who break society’s rules and question our accepted value system.
Shoot An Iraqi, Art, Life and Resistance Under The Gun
Wafaa Bilal tells of a very personal and harrowing experience of the war in Iraq and his artistic response to it in his unsettling interactive performance piece Domestic Tension and the global public reaction to it, "one of the sharpest works of political art to be seen in a long time," Chicago Tribune. There is a growing grassroots movement addressing issues affecting communities due to climate change, economic hardship, wars and disease. SACRED:Homelands will introduce artists whose similar concerns are ubiquitous in their work.
Anne Bean, Holding Infinity in the Palm of my Hand. Photo: Marketa Luscacova
Anne Bean is a Patron of the Live Art Development Agency. In this Blog entry, she outlines her Patron’s Picks from Unbound.
To view all of our Patron's Picks follow the link here.
I was overwhelmed by possible picks of fantastic books and DVDs by friends and comrades. This made me decide to physically browse the Unbound store at LADA’s office in Hackney Wick, London, to find lurking presences that caught me and which I knew little or nothing about.
With the clamour of words on book spines, I pulled out one with a hardly-decipherable title in tiny pale letters, hiding in shiny cellophane. On top of an embedded acupuncture needle I read ‘Pain in Soul: Performance Art and Video Works by He Cheng Yao.’ I arbitrarily opened it and read "Quoting Beuys’ words 'art heals all wounds', He Chengyao reminds us how art can be experienced as a state of limbo … saving unconventional behaviour from the label of insanity that is often applied so readily." Her powerful images of ‘Homeless Mental Patients’ and ‘Families with Mental Illness’ are viewed with shifted awareness, through us recognising her identification with them and her own work manifestations.
Another ‘soul’ book, also dealing in social strangulation and pain, is ‘The Soul at Work: From Alienation to Autonomy,’ by Franco “Bifo” Berardi. The book speaks of a new alienation of people caught up in ‘voluntary’ overtime, ‘tethered to cell phones and Blackberries, debt has become a postmodern form of slavery, and antidepressants are commonly used to meet the unending pressure of production.’ Berardi calls for alternative lifestyles that cannot be commodified and if we collectively rethink the true meaning of the word “wealth,” in terms of human collaboration, then ‘the competitive illusion that is impoverishing everyone’s life, the very foundations of capitalism, would start to crumble.’ Soul is recognised as affinity.
Another ’hidden’ book with a black on black title is Giovanna Maria Casetta’s ‘Looking Good.’ It explores the fragility between identity and lived reality, right down to a visceral alienation from her own body: ‘Firstly, my smell had altered, I do not smell like me ... I don’t smell right, so I can’t engage with me.’
Fred Moten’s book ‘In the Break, The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition’ drew me in when I read, ‘F M argues that all black performance -- culture, politics, sexuality, identity and blackness itself -- is improvisation’ … the complex relationships between sound and resistance in the collective life of commodified human beings. I remember him speaking elsewhere about Sam Cooke’s ‘You Send Me,’ saying ‘to be sent, to be transported out of yourself, it’s an ecstatic experience … by the time you get to work that shit out as well as it should be worked out, we’re sent by one another to one another until one and another don’t signify anymore.’
Watching the DVD ‘No Such Thing as Rest: A Walk with Brian Massumi,’ the words and the walking and my thoughts merged: ‘rhythms of language… paces and pulses of ideas… bringing the thinking that is the doing into language… philosophy is the activity of running thought experiments… the mundane is full of events… modes of complicity … imagining and constructing qualitative alter-economies is a major task of our time and its task can only be done collectively… micro-political movements always succeed, they feed potential forward unto the iterative event-fabric of life… experiment with techniques enabling people to reconnect with relational fields that yield enhanced intensity.’
Finally, I was surprised and pleased to find ‘The Act of Killing’ by Joshua Oppenheimer - a pungent documentary that has stirred me more than any I can remember, with fact and fiction colliding and fusing, disturbing the fabric of one’s body and chilling the mind. It made me think of another disturbing work by Omer Fast, ‘Spielberg's List’, a documentary in which actors from Krakow conflated the Hollywood version of the Holocaust with historical reality.
I recommend browsing.
Unbound is excited to release an exclusive extract from The Forest and the Field by Chris Goode.
The Forest and the Field is a polemical thinking-through of the whole concept of theatre as a ‘space’, and a politically motivated exploration of how, and where, that theatrical space meets the real world that surrounds and suffuses it.
'Anyone who follows theatre will know that Chris Goode is a poet and theatre-maker who's up there with the very best.' Guardian
Check out this collection of publications, selected by LADA Patron Teching Hsieh: