These images showcase some of the students on the new MA Live Art, a collaboration with Queen Mary University of London and the Live Art Development Agency. MA Live Art is the first programme of its kind, and supports research and practice in performance art, time-based art, site-specific performance, relational and intimate performance, durational performance, and other experimental practices. Students engage with and make performance in dialogue with genealogies of visual art and/or experimental theatre in the twentieth century. They are enabled to understand, challenge and make Live Art as a technology for intervening in the most pressing issues of our time: of gender, sexual, racial or class identity; of the potential for protest, direct action, and environmental and social justice; and of theoretical investigations concerning the body, time, space, subjectivity, documentation and communication.
In 2018 several MA Live Art students took the Performance Lab module led by artist Martin O’Brien.
Performance Lab is about developing, challenging, and pushing an artist's practice. We take the studio as a lab space to experiment with bodies, materials, duration and space. The lab is a place with no final performances, no shows. The lab is a place of process, of figuring things out, of experimentation. It is a place of being stuck and pushing through, or running with the thing that is exciting to you. I try to hold each artist's work, to allow them to develop the practice they want to make. I ask the artists to take aesthetic risks, to challenge their own work. There is no final outcome. Performance Lab is about figuring out what you want to make/not make and how you can make it happen.
Throughout the Performance Lab module the students were given weekly workshops from a range of artists such as Franko B, The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein, and Martin O’Brien himself. They were then asked to create responses to these workshops with the intention that over the duration of the module their own practice would develop from these varied influences. Each week the students would perform a short piece of work however the intention was never for it to be a finished piece. At the end of the module they held a slightly more formal performance event, at which the artist Holly Revell, a member of DARC collective, and a prominent photographer of Live Art was invited to collaborate with the students.
Here we present a selection of these images and comments by each of the collaborating students:
Day and Night
My recent research into short-duration performance explores speed as a queer feminist weapon. 50 tea light candles are set up in a row lighting the space, as soon as the final is lit I quickly extinguish them. My body is rapid and incoherent, unable to be consumed and remade later, although perhaps here a photo is counter-productive. I attempt to trouble the dichotomy of my body as event and facilitator of simultaneous making of memory. This was my goal for the fire extinguisher performance. If I leave them with nothing, in darkness, what of me is left? This 'forgetting' troubles capitalism's notion of accumulation through time.
The Inbetween Struggle
I have been exploring positions of struggle through the use of aesthetics of submission and action based performances. This image sees my collaboration with Holly Revell exploring together my position of submission within this performance. Over the process of the Live Art MA, I have been exploring the use of fetish and ritual to unpick my position in society and to challenge the audience in their position as voyeurs to struggle.
Over the course of the MA I have been experimenting to incorporate my body more in my practice. This piece originated from our workshop with Lauren Barri Holstein where the image, or more the urge, to twist things, objects and my body began to conjure up in my mind. The performance began with the twisting of a wet cloth to capture not only the visual but to capture the sound of a twist. The recording of this process was played back as I warped my body into position and held it for the length of the sound recording. This piece explores endurance over a long period of time, and the experience of pain that is silent and concealed. On reflection, the piece became a process of transformation from object to body through sound. When I replicated the performance to document it with Holly Revell, holding and constructing particular images and positions outside of the performance context, I came to find that the ‘trance-like’ state was absent and the whole process was out of place and fragmented. My practice has now evolved to explore endurance in a single-image, and how the experience is different from encountering it in its ‘liveness’ rather than in a photograph.
Molly June Honer
This piece explores the deconstruction of language and text. I have been developing news ways to activate language through repetitive action and duration throughout the course, and this piece is the result of some of these experiments. As I attempt to read aloud from a series of texts, a pile of ice obstructs and obfuscates the written word. I consume the ice as I speak, revealing increasingly muddled text. Through this action, language undergoes a gradual process of deconstruction, creating new meanings within in the ritual of the performative act. As the ice melts, the materials of performance decay and merge with the body, changing and questioning the hierarchical authorities of body, language and text in performance.
This MA in Live Art has given me quality studio time and workshop space with artists and practitioners to experiment with ideas and concepts surrounding ageing. The access to a theatre space and to technical equipment has provided valuable development time in order to explore, develop and reflect on the quality of movement in an older body. This image explores issues of ageing and sexuality of an older female. I had wanted Holly Revel’s photographs to reflect moving through space, albeit and in slower and more controlled way, and to contrast that with more accelerated movements. I have been working on endurance and repetition and the different effects that these physical actions have on my body. The formative idea developed around the theme of running utilising the many phrases which contain the word running, like running out of time, running dogs of capitalism, running around like a headless chicken, which were formulated into a sequence of verbal puns and repetitive gestures and the action of running to demonstrate the passing of time and ageing.
Banner image credit:Molly June Honer, Melting Piece. Credit: Holly Revell.
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