Sunday, 13 February 2011

ACCESS ALL AREAS: Live Art and Disability, 4 & 5 March 2011

by Mary Paterson

This weekend the Live Art Development Agency is producing a programme of art, debate and action linked to disability, identity and artistic practice. I will be going along as an interested audience member, as a writer, and as a producer.

The programme features a performance by Noemi Lakmaier and a contribution from Maria Oshodi. I am working with Noemi Lakmaier over the next few months while she carries out two new pieces of work: 'Undress/ Redress' for Access All Areas, and a commission for ArtsAdmin. We have been discussing her work (amongst other things) in a series of lengthy intrerviews/ conversations, which will result in an in-depth text later this year (see this post). I also have a vested interest in Extant, where Maria Oshodi is the Artistic Director. I've been working as a manager and producer with Extant for the last two and a half years, helping to produce shows like The Question (an experiment in immersive, tactile and audio theatre using haptic technology).

But mostly I will be going along as a member of the audience, hoping to think through some ideas that have been spinning through my mind about, inclusion and exclusion, societies and individuals ...

>> How does live art work as a strategy in relation to identity? And for whom?
>> What (dis)advantages does the context of 'disability arts' confer on artists' work?
>> What common threads can be drawn between/ through/ across mental illness and physical disability?
>> What role do access workers or 'creative enablers' (to use Pete Edwards' term) play in the making process?

See also my review of Sean Burn as part of 'Louder than Bombs' at the Stanley Picker Gallery last year.

Details below:

Image: Noemi Lakmaier 'Undress/ Redress' (c) Noemi Lakmaier

Live Art is truly the avant-garde forum for Disability Art and at the forefront of Disability Art practice, thinking and theory.
Dr Paul Darke (DASh)

The Live Art Development Agency presents a two-day public programme reflecting the ways in which the practices of artists who work with Live Art have engaged with, represented, and problematicised issues of disability in innovative and radical ways.

Friday 4 March from 19.00 & Saturday 5 March from 12.00/ Club Row Gallery, Rochelle School, London, E2 7ES

Image: Martin O'Brien 'Mucus Factory' (c) Martin O'Brien

- Mucus Factory, a durational performance-installation by Martin O’Brien. A Live Art Development Agency commission.
(4 March from 19.00 and 5 March from 12.00)

- Undress/Redress, a durational performance-installation by Noemi Lakmaier. A Live Art Development Agency commission.
(4 March from 19.00 and 5 March from 12.00)

- Robots Destroy the Tower of Babble!, a new performance by The Disabled Avant-Garde. With screenings of earlier DAG works (4 March from 19.00)

- A landmark symposium with Tonny A, Jon Adams, Bobby Baker, Caroline Bowditch, Sean Burn, The Disabled Avant-Garde (Aaron Williamson & Katherine Araniello), Pete Edwards, Mat Fraser (on film), Tony Heaton, Raimund Hoghe (on film), Brian Lobel, Catherine Long, Rita Marcalo, Tomislav Medak, Kim Noble, Maria Oshodi, Luke Pell, Jenny Sealy, and Rajni Shah. (5 March, 13.00 to 19.00).

- Screenings of influential performance documentation and works for camera by Katherine Araniello, Back To Back Theatre, Bobby Baker, Mary Duffy, Pete Edwards, Extant, Mat Fraser, Raimund Hoghe, David Hoyle, Alan McLean & Tony Mustoe, Aine Phillips, Juliet Robson, and Aaron Williamson. (4 March from 19.00 and 5 March from 12.00).

- A bibliotheque of key books and DVDs (4 March from 19.00 and 5 March from 12.00).

- Plus - Jon Adams’ Dysarticulate 2 (Saturday 5 March, from 12.00, Club Row Gallery surrounds) and Rita Marcalo’s She’s Lost Control (Thursday 3 March at 19.00 and 21.00pm at Rich Mix).
Full Access All Areas programme, venue, booking and access details can be found here.

Tickets available online through the Events Shelf on Unbound & on the phone +44 (0)207 033 0275

Access All Areas is part of Restock, Rethink, Reflect, a series of Live Art Development Agency initiatives for, and about, artists who are exploring issues of identity politics and cultural diversity in innovative and radical ways.

Access All Areas is financially assisted by Arts Council England, with additional support from Tower Hamlets Council and British Council, Croatia.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Liveartwork Editions: Performance Saga

Performance Saga and Liveartwork have released DVD documentation of the Performance Saga Festivals (Switzerland, 2008 and 2009).

The DVDs also include some of the writing from the Open Dialogues: Performance Saga projects (see here and here).

Image: Esther Ferrer performing at Performance Saga Festival in Lausanne, 2009. Image (c) Performance Saga

About Performance Saga:

Performance Saga transmits and updates the history of performance art and promotes a dialogue between generations. The project includes the conception and commissioning of performance pieces, the publication of video interviews with women pioneers of performance art and the organisation of events.

Performance Saga is a project by the artist Andrea Saemann and the art historian Katrin Grögel, both based in Basel, Switzerland. Three Performance Saga Festivals were held in 2008/2009. The DVDs feature work from both performance pioneers and emerging artists who were featured in the festivals.

About the DVDs

This 4 disk DVD set contains video documentation from 28 separate performances that were presented during the Performance Saga series of festivals that took place in Bern (Dec. 2008), Lausanne (Feb. 2009) and Basel (April 2009), Switzerland.

The DVDs contain over six hours of video documentation including new performance works from some of the leading figures in international performance art. The artists featured are: Alison Knowles (US) & Die Maulwerker (DE), Carolee Schneemann (US), Kate McIntosh (BE/NZ), Irene Loughlin (CA) & Jorge de Leon (GT), Gaspard Buma (CH), Peter Vittali (CH), Wagner-Feigl-Forschung (AT/DE), Martha Rosler (US), Muda Mathis (CH), Annie M. Sprinkle & Elizabeth M. Stephens (US), Sands Murray-Wassink & Robin Wassink-Murray (NL), Tania Bruguera (US/CU), Robin Deacon (UK), Katia Bassanini (CH/US), Stuart Brisley (UK), Monika Günther & Ruedi Schill (CH/DE), Markus Gössi (CH), Simone Rüssli (ES/CH), MIRZLEKID (CH), Andrea Saemann (CH), Esther Ferrer (FR), Hina Strüver (CH), Lena Eriksson (CH) & Varsha Nair (IN/TH). Most of the individual videos are between 10 and 15 minutes in duration.

Each disk also includes additional background information, contact details for each artist and texts from the writing workshops conducted by Open Dialogues in conjunction with the festivals. Curated by Katrin Grögel and Andrea Saemann, Basel DVD production by Christopher Hewitt / liveartwork Total duration of DVD set: approx. 360 minutes Audio: English/French/German with English/German subtitles For full details and to order the DVDs see:

Review: Inbetween Time Festival of Live Art and Intrigue

Photo: Oliver Rudkin - Ivana Muller, '60 Minutes of Opportunism', performance, 2010.

Inbetween Time Festival, Various Locations, Bristol, 2 - 5 December 2010

'What Next for the Body?' Arnolfini, 1 December 2010 - 6 February 2011
Ivana Muller: '60 Minutes of Opportunism', Wickham Theatre, 3 December 2010
Silvia Rimat: 'Imagine Me To Be There', Wickham Theatre, 4 December 2010
Jordan McKenzie: 'Holding My Breath', Arnolfini, 5 December 2010

This article was originally published in AN Magazine Written by Mary Paterson

In 37 Cuerpos by Teresa Margolles (part of the exhibition 'What Next for the Body?'), a single, bare thread divides the largest room in the gallery. Up close, you realise that it's not one thread, but many short ones knotted together. Each strand is fragile, frayed and dirty, like scraps of leather.

These are actually thirty-seven pieces of surgical thread, used to sew up the bodies of thirty-seven victims of violent death. As a gruesome relic the work fails to represent the lives of the victims, just as it failed to bring them back to life. But its weakness is what makes its physical presence so compelling. The thread divides the room in two as if on the brink of life and death, and represents the mysterious truth of our bodies - that they house life, but do not contain it.

'What Next for the Body?' is an exhibition about the body dissolving, breaking or breaking down. It sat at the centre of the Inbetween Time Festival, a four-day programme of 'live art and intrigue' taking place in art venues and public spaces across Bristol. It was also the name of one of the festival's curatorial strands; the other, 'D:Stable,' promised works that "thoroughly reject the conventions of theatre". These two rich and familiar problems created a dense programme that also suggested another recurring theme - the place of live, embodied presence in the modern world.

In 60 Minutes of Opportunism the choreographer Ivana Muller explores the relationship between her body, her identity and her persona. She is live onstage throughout, but her voice is heard in a sound recording played into the auditorium. This divides Muller in two: the person from the image, her past self (who made the recording) from the woman who is standing here now. Muller 'the image' slides between a collection of visual stereotypes - traveller, dancer, suicide bomber - the potency of each cliche as disturbing as the fluency of the movement. Meanwhile, her voice is beset with glitches and background noise that remind the audience that it's stuck in the past.

This dislocation is eerily familiar. It draws me into a type of looking that is baited by visual presence, and contextualised by words untethered in space or time. In other words, it's exactly like browsing the Internet, or flicking through channels on the TV.

Sylvia Rimat's Imagine Me To Be There brings the theatre show even closer to the computer. Rimat is alone on stage - cross-legged on the floor, eyes glued to her laptop. She begins to type and words appear on the screen behind her.


The skill of Rimat's performance lies in the way she marries the magic of the theatre with the fantasies of the virtual. When she writes about the lights fading in the auditorium, they really do. Of course, we know she doesn't control them - but the device is clever enough to suspend the audience's disbelief. Which means that when Rimat writes about wearing a bear suit, we're inclined to indulge that fantasy as well. And when she writes directions for the audience, we happily play along.

At a Curator's panel on 4th December, an audience member suggested that video streaming and online technologies should replace live events. Given the obvious debt these two performances have with digital modes of representation, it's hard to disagree. Both are in fact about performing - Muller begins by telling us she was asked to make a performance in which she appears on stage, and Rimat's show is effectively a deconstruction of theatre. But their relationships to more proverbial and accessible forms of representation beg the question: why does theatre (with or without its conventions) matter?

I found an answer by returning to the disappearance of things. In Holding My Breath, the third in a trilogy of performances by Jordan McKenzie, the artist stands in a small room with cupped hands, holding the attention of eight or ten strangers who watch water drip through his fingers. We match each other's breathing, listen to the rustle of each other's clothes and feel the concentration thread through McKenzie's body.

This is the meaning of shared presence - its fragility. Value (to paraphrase the writer Eva Hoffman) is scarcity measured in time. Just as the threads in 37 Cuerpos resonate with what they cannot represent, so the time we strangers have together describes the distance between us, and the times we won't share.

This precarious and temporal balance between the known and the unknown is also the space Muller uses to dissect contemporary modes of looking, instead of just recycling them. When she says she is going to do something 'dangerous' - and starts smoking - it really is dangerous because it affects the precious and finite bodies of everyone that is looking. Similarly, when Rimat gives the audience a knife, she is not streaming a relationship with strangers, nor representing it. She's testing it out.

Perhaps it's telling, however, that McKenzie is dressed in 1930s costume - suit, waistcoat, waxed moustache. This cherished affirmation is emphatically old fashioned - as if being 'live' is no longer part of daily life, but a relic of the past.