Tara Fatehi Irani, Mishandled Archive, day 359, ‘Madonna of the Rocks’, 2017
In Autumn 2020, LADA published Mishandled Archive, an "endlessly reflexive record of a year long performance ... [speaking to] diasporic experience, displacement and new modes of what might be called belonging" (Tim Etchells). Marking the publication of Mishandled Archive, Unbound has invited Tara to be our guest editor for January 2021.
[with closed eyes]
We say, ‘What the hell is going to happen?’, ‘What the hell are we to do?’.
They say, …
Tara has offered this text, guiding the reader on a fal through Unbound, turning to some of our titles to ask for guidance, direction and a remedy for uncertainty. These titles will be on sale until mid-February.
It’s now early 2021. I’m sitting in a bubble floating in the sky and at any moment my bubble might hit a building or a bird or a needle ... and explode … and I’ll fall buttdown on a pavement or in a forest but most probably a pavement. So much ‘Don’t know what’ll happen’, so much ‘What are we to do?’ in the air these days.
Iranians have a remedy for times of uncertainty, for when they don’t know what they should do, when they have a dilemma or when they’re about to start a new thing – like a new year – and they need transcendental guidance. They take fal-e Hafez. If I were to translate fal-e Hafez, it would be something like ‘Hafez Fortune Telling’ but this is not at all a good translation. So let me unpack this briefly: Hafez is the most popular Iranian poet amongst Iranians – he lived in the 14th century and wrote many ghazals which are poems on love, separation, reunion and the pain of it all. His major book is a collection of ghazals known as Divan-e Hafez. This book is in every Iranian’s home – when I recently told my family that I don’t have a Hafez at home, they were shocked, disappointed and almost offended. Anyway, to take a fal-e Hafez you would:
hold the Divan [the book, not the bed], its spine held by both your hands and the pages facing you. Set an intention in your mind – this is normally a question you want answered – and ask Hafez to guide you on what to do – for this stage you might even close your eyes. Then gently rub your fingers on the pages of the top edge trying to get a feel for which page has the answer to your problem. Slowly slide your fingers amongst the pages and open the book. First poem on the right-hand page is your fal. Read it and interpret it. The meaning is not always immediately evident. The interpretation, however subjective, becomes an art in itself.
When there was no pandemic and I could go to LADA, go to the Study Room or look at Unbound books in person, I would usually take a fal: randomly run my fingers through the shelves, get out a book and randomly open that to a page and spend some time with it. O’ touching random books with unsanitised hands.
But a good guest editor should not suggest a random list of books, should she? The books I’m listing here are carefully chosen – not by fal – along the intentionally ambiguous line of ‘Publications we need to see more of’. I’ve then taken a fal from each of them. Don’t you worry, I’ve set a joint intention on behalf of us all. I’ve asked the authors and editors of these wondrous books to tell me ‘What the hell is going to happen?’ and ‘What the hell are we to do?’. I’ve then ran my fingers along their pages to find our fal – alternatively where I didn’t have the book, I’ve asked friends to take the fal on my behalf. Here, I’ve extracted what I feel is the heart of the authors’ response – I will leave the interpretation to you.
[with closed eyes]
We say, ‘What the hell is going to happen?’, ‘What the hell are we to do?’.
They say, …
#dance: My fingers move gently in the air with the sound of the water. Perhaps similar to playing a soft harp. I raise my arms as I move the fingers: left goes further away from my body and to the left. Right is further out to the right. A bit like putting a spell on the waterfall statue… #IPutASpellOnYou #siteresponsive’ (p. 82)
* I’ve been invited to be Unbound guest editor on the occasion of the publication of this book. Call it cheeky or not, it’s kicking off the list. Mishandled Archive is made with the hope that it will move its readers – emotionally, conceptually and physically – in their bedroom, their house, or down the street. With 365 dance scores, there’s bound to be one that moves you. Ehem … there goes my plug.
‘Irigaray: “The community will be composed of relations-between,
and not of one + one + one.”
Wait-with an act of political love,
Wait-with an action,
Wait-with a meditation,
Wait-with open space between actions,
Wait-with a space of resistance,
in this room,
in this moment …’ (p. 74)
[From Faith Wilding, Wait-With, Unpublished manuscript found in Bettina Knaup’s Telling Stories Differently]
* Read this book in conjunction with the incredibly rich re.act feminism website.
‘Faces made for mouthwash commercials,
each around for long enough to sing,
“It’s black! It’s white!”
before morphing into other faces
made for shampoo commercials.
Nobody saw Michael Jackson morph
into any of these faces
but it seems possible.’ (p. 34)
[from David Rule, Be Michael Jackson]
‘Time clock to be punched 8,760 times for a period of one year…
April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December, January …’ (p.107)
‘It is a lot for one body to bear this kind of burden, but in performance the burden is shared out amongst the many ...
(a brown woman) reaches to attain (and fails spectacularly to realize) the impossible, self-negating ideal of whiteness ...
She slowly rolls her body off the platform and into the audience.’ (p. xix)
[On Nao Bustamante’s performance, America the Beautiful]
‘Changing name is negotiating history, family, inheritance, but I’ve mostly thought of the spaces it opens up. I’m forty one years old and instead of consolidating my narrative I’ve dropped the thread. I’ve taken pleasure in not knowing how to introduce myself, stuttering between names. Pleasure in the moment of recognition when someone says this new name and I get to reply.’ (p. 101)
[From Every Ocean Hughes, Ocean]
‘Asian/Russian (male or female) bride in search of tender Anglo husband. “Write your phone number on my body and persuade me you are the one”
“Authentic African queen” sitting on a throne while white men from the audience kneel and shine her boots or “tenderly wash her feet”
Arm wrestling with audience members (across race, gender, and class)’ (p. 162)
‘Enlightened by the epistemologies of both blindness and seeing, it is possible to envisage the emergence of a prudent knowledge for a decent life, a knowledge that, by going from colonialism to solidarity, opens the space for a new kind of order, a noncolonialist or decolonial order bounding current experiences and expectations about the future, actions, and consequences. The ultimate aspiration is all too human, an aspiration that I call advanced normality: the aspiration to live in normal times whose normality does not derive from the naturalization of abnormality.’ (p. 163)
Did you think we’ll finish without consulting Hafez himself? No. But – sorry mum – I don’t have a Hafez so I asked my friend Leila to take a fal for us. She asked Hafez ‘What the hell is going to happen?’, ‘What the hell are we to do?’. And here is a verse from the response:
‘I said, Did you see how times of joy came to end?
She said, Be quiet, Hafez. This grief will also end.’
Tara Fatehi Irani (b. 1987, Tehran) makes art, writes and performs. Her practice explores the ephemeral interactions between memories, words, bodies and sites and has grown through transnational collaborations with a range of artists, writers, choreographers and musicians recently including Karen Christopher, Pouya Ehsaei, Station House Opera and DARC. She has performed at the Royal Academy of Arts, SPILL Festival, Battersea Arts Centre, Nuffield Theatre (Lancaster), Toynbee Studios, RichMix, HighFest and Molavi Theatre amongst others. Her practice-as-research PhD (University of Roehampton, LADA, 2019) explores mishandling archives through multivocality, pyromania, mythology and web‑archaeography. In 2021, she will be resident artist at EoFA and the United Nations Archives at Geneva.
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.
Guest Editor Sale from 1 March 2017 - 31 March 2017
We are introducing a series of guest editors for our Unbound Newsletters. Each editor will write about how titles we stock on Unbound have informed, inspired and shaped their creative practice and select titles on artists that have specifically influenced them. These titles will be offered at a discount for that month.
Andrea Pagnes, artist, performer and writer at VestAndPage (with Verena Stenke), and founder of the Live Art exhibition project Venice International Performance Art Week (VIPAW) has chosen 14 titles which offer an insight into some of the artists that have participated live and/or exhibited in the three editions of VIPAW. These exclusive and related publications are an address to all those who wish to know more about the art and life of these incredible artists.
"When I perform, I usually search for my inner silence. I balance the images passing through my mind and try that rhythm in action when I write about performance. However, after reading books on performance art by other authors, essays, and monographs on artists which are so dear to me and inspirational for my work, I feel that those words, photos and sketches accompany me in the experience of living in slow motion, while the world outside speeds without stopping. I see a page of a book as the access key to know more, in depth, and understand different things and perspectives – a place at the edge of the quotidian, right there to host me, when I am at a crucial point in my life, looking for that “which" to start again. I think it's always wise to feel part of a place, a subject, a part of a present, which is already past but renewed when it is acknowledged. This is also such stuff as books are made on." Andrea Pagnes, February 2017
Read Andrea's thoughts on each title below.
Stelarc A Monograph
Ed. Marquard Smith
£14.96 / Original Price £19.95
Suspensions, robotic research, obsolescence of the human body. Still the most comprehensive tool to acquaint the exceptional artistic path of one of the most experimental performance art masters ever.
Bas Jan Ader: Death is Elsewhere
£14.62 / Original Price £19.50
"Have you heard of happiness, springing from a deep well of sorrow? Of love, springing from pain and despondency, agony and death? Such is mine." (BJA)
Alexander Dumbadze, with his engaging, compelling style of art writing delivers a complete insight navigating across the romantic aura and the refined conceptualism of one of the most sensitive artists of our time.
Pleading in the Blood: The Art and Performances of Ron Athey
Ed. Dominic Johnson
£10 / Original Price £22.50
Hallelujah! Ron Athey: A Story of Deliverance
Ron Athey (DVD)
£12 / Original Price £16
'Volo ut sis', said St. Augustine about love and therefore existence: 'I want you to be who you are'. Without trying to change you and not trying to change me to please you.
These two outstanding titles are “a must have” to understand in depth Ron Athey, both the man and the artist, crystalline in his courage, ideas, and beliefs which he has always professed in his art without compromise.
I Still Love
£26.25 / Original Price £35
Curated by Francesca Alfano Miglietti at PAC (Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea of Milan), this is the catalogue raisonné of the first exhibition dedicated to Franko in an Italian public exhibition space. Looking at his works, I cannot help but think about a sentence of Jean Luc Nancy from his essay L’Intrus (2002): “To isolate death from life – not leaving each one intimately woven into the other, with each one intruding upon the other’s core (coeur) – this is what one must never do.” As Heraclitus put, here it is not just a matter of making the unbearable bearable, but that to love is also to live the other’s death, and dying the other’s life. And this is also the great lesson of Franko.
Out of Now: The Lifeworks of Tehching Hsieh
Adrian Heathfield and Tehching Hsieh,
£18.75 / Original Price £25
For all the ones that want to know why “You have to make art stronger than life so people can feel it” (TH) the exhaustive volume on the legendary Taiwanese master compiled by Adrian Heathfield gives you the reason.
ORLAN: A Hybrid Body of Artworks
Simon Donger with Simon Shepherd and ORLAN,
£17.99 / Original Price £23.99
A book of a different kind that contains a series of texts collected in an apparent unruly way, but for this, however is rigorous and mostly passionate. The fascinating analysis of ORLAN’s seminal practice is rendered through exciting ideas that overlap and help us to explore and dissect her complex universe.
Guillermo Gómez-Peña: Conversations Across Borders
Ed. Laura Levin
£21 / Original Price £28
Homo Fronterizus: Recent performance video works, 2008-2011
Guillermo Gómez-Peña (DVD)
£16.88 / Original Price £22.50
Guillermo is one of the brightest thinker, vate, activist and performer of our contemporaneity. His words are profound, humorous, poetic, uncompromised, rhythmic, and mercilessly truthful. His performances are hymns to life and a call to keep position against hypocrisy and injustice.
Exercises for Rebel Artists
Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Roberto Sifuentes,
£14.99 / Original Price £19.99
Anytime we give a performance art workshop, we offer this book to read to our participants.
Access All Areas: Live Art and Disability
Eds. Lois Keidan and CJ Mitchell
£13.13 / Original Price £17.50
Then one day we find out not to be perfect, to fight against a disease, to grow up and grow old differently. The performer is not an actor. S/he doesn’t interpret nor represent but purely s/he puts her/himself face to face with the other. Author of his every action and very own thought, s/he’s authentic and sincere for s/he always acts only him/herself. Poetry, courage and beauty often occur more readily in difficult places, in segregated bodies made silent from pain, becoming expression of a deeper self. Transforming the terrible into the sublime or more simply indicating if as a quality of the real, the performer questions and makes us think upon existence, to reconcile us with life through art.
Hold It Against Me
£12.74 / Original Price £16.99
Finally an authorial fierce book unpacking the importance of feelings and emotions in contemporary art and performance, which the too arid conceptual (male) driven art discourses have purposely avoided for decades.
The Art of Living: An Oral History of Performance Art
£16.49 / Original Price £21.99
How to question and tell of performance art?
Dominic Johnson’s skill and sensibility in asking penetrating questions to 12 performers on their own practice, how to introduce them precisely to the reader with a poignant overview on their works, makes of this book also an instrument for anyone who wish to learn or refined how to approach write and narrate of performance matters.
£7.50 / Original Price £10
A volume that contains some of the most beautiful performances images ever taken, born from the dedicated collaboration between Manuel Vason, artist and photo-performer, and several performance artists. Still hard to choose which is my favourite picture.
Andrea Pagnes (VestAndPage)
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.
"Pleading in the Blood is essential reading for scholars of religion working at the intersection of ritual, performance, and contemporary art practices, as well as those with interest in abjection, gender and sexuality, the AIDS crisis, charismatic Christianity, and the construction of religious identity."Read the full review.
Unbound is celebrating its 10th Anniversary in 2016 and it's fascinating to look back on shifts and developments in Live Art publishing and distribution that have taken place since 2006.
Although LADA were partners on two exceptional publications in 2002 (Manuel Vason’s Exposures) and 2004 (Adrian Heathfield’s Live: Art and Performance), we only became publishers ourselves in 2006 when we embarked on Programme Notes Volume One. Since then we have published over 100 books, DVDs, Box Sets and Editions, including our own publications, artists’ publications, and co-publications with major publishing houses including the Intellect Live series in collaboration with Intellect Books. And we are not alone. In recent years, in response to heightened public interest, expanding areas of scholarly research, new archival initiatives, and developments in technology and online platforms there has been a relative explosion in Live Art publishing.
Unbound reflects these developments. When we launched Unbound in 2006 we sold around 50 titles and we now stock over 300. We originally set up Unbound on the advice of Adrian Heathfield partly as a one stop shop for all thing Live Art, and partly as a form of advocacy for this constantly evolving and expanding area of practice that was increasingly generating new forms of thinking and writing about art and new ways of looking at performance.
We’ve always approached Unbound as a curated site in terms of the titles we sell, the way users can navigate through different themes, and the contextualising materials we offer. Although we do sell many books by major publishing houses, at the heart of Unbound are independent, artist led books, hard-to-find publications, DVDs and editions.
In 2010 as part of her LADA Thinker in Residency Mary Paterson wrote A Navigation Through Unbound, a piece I highly recommend to everyone who is interested in Live Art writing and publishing.
In 2010 we wrote an article for Contemporary Theatre Review on New Adventures in Live Art Publishing that is probably worth revisiting on the occasion of Unbound’s 10th anniversary.
Read Contemporary Theatre Review: New Adventures in Live Art Publishing and Distribution
In this exclusive extract from The Only Way Home Is Through the Show: Performance Work of Lois Weaver editor Jen Harvie interviews Lois about the history of her work.
Not Just a Mirror edited by Florian Malzacher maps a movement of artists from all over the world searching for the political theatre of today. A theatre that wants to engage with society both in its contents as in its form, creating a contemporary community in which social and political actions can be deployed and in which societies in their – actual or possible – varieties are played out, performed, expanded, tested, or even invented.
Published by House on Fire, Alexander Verlag and Live Art Development Agency.
In this exclusive extract from the new paperback edition of Out of Now, The Lifeworks of Tehching Hsieh, editor Adrian Heathfield interviews Tehching about his process and his exceptional series of One Year Performance artworks.
TH: The reason I chose to use one year for the first piece was to do with my life experience. At that time, I had been an illegal immigrant in the States for four years. I earned money to survive and tried to do my art but without a smooth advance. One day, after work, I was walking back and forth doing my thinking in the studio. Suddenly, I thought, “Why don’t I make the process of thinking about art in my studio an artwork, and present it using a long duration?” I had spent a lot of time in this situation of isolation, as if I was doing time. Giving the thinking process an art form, my idea would be embodied. Also I knew that to present life, I needed to use a long duration. One year is a basic unit for human beings to calculate life, and it is also the time the earth takes to circle the sun completely.
This multi-layered, multi-voiced Guide is a key component of LADA’s Restock Rethink Reflect project on Live Art and Feminism.
The Guide features a conversation between Lois Weaver and LADA’s Lois Keidan about this project and their own personal histories of feminism and performance; a critical overview by Eleanor Roberts of this research, dialogue and mapping project; a series of maps created by artists reflecting their own experiences and influences in feminist performance; a How We Did It section by Lois Weaver on her approach to this project and this Guide; and extensive lists of resources with catalogue references on materials on feminist performance housed in the LADA Study Room.
Pick up a free printed copy in the LADA Study Room (while stocks last) or visit the dedicated Are We There Yet? website.