Some Reflections from LADA Co-Directors

Towards Shaping A Culture of Care

Fall of 2021 marked the beginning of our journey as the new leadership for Live Art Development Agency (LADA). 

Six months later we wish to share with you some reflections on what we have been working on within LADA & in listening to those within this Live Art ecology, that speaks to the newness to come. 

First, we would like to share with you a new series of LADA, entitled: Intersect. 

Intersect

Intersect is a series of gatherings, making space for creative communities to share insights into embodied practices that reflect intersectional ways of being. Affirming the “liveness” of the process, each gathering is unique, allowing for the featured participant(s) to co-design how they might imagine what the exchange with those who attend may look like: an embodied dialogue between artists; a sharing of a new experimental work in progress witnessed virtually and/or in-person; or an open forum where key research questions of interest are explored and discussed.

This series of gatherings will feature UK and international artists. Our first artist in this series is Madinah Farhannah Thomspon. Madinah’s project Call When You Reach is made up of performance, collage and film and investigates the impact of trauma and how this leads to a disconnection from the physical body. As part of her evolving research and practice on these themes, Madinah will share new creative writing and collage work that speaks to the notion of surrender and what it means for Black people.

Madinah is a visual artist and writer exploring Black British experiences through work that is research and text led and incorporates poetry, memory and film. She is particularly enraged by the (mis)representations of the Black female body and the projections that are placed on individuals – namely the extreme polarities imposed on Black women, expecting them to simultaneously be hyper-visible Jezebels and invisible mammy figures. Madinah’s most recent work has been centring Black people living in rural spaces in the U.K. and examining the alienation and isolation experienced in such environments. Having grown up in Norfolk, she is concerned with how one can feel attached to a land that rejects them. She often places herself as an object within her performances to explore ideas of fetishisation. 

We look forward to you joining us later today to virtually gather with Madinah as we initiate this new series! It will occur between 18:00 – 19:15 and is hosted on Zoom.  Access for this Intersect gathering will include British Sign Language interpretation and real time captioning. 

In beginning to build new programming for LADA such as Intersect, we are shaping a vision that is in collaboration with our team, Board of Trustees, in conversation with the communities of artists, audiences, and arts workers within the ecology of Live Art. This vision is aligned with our intention to cultivate a gentle, radical reimagining of care that will permeate all that we do. We have come to refer to it as A Culture of Care, in affirmation of the legacy and mission of the organisation, a belief in ‘Live Art as a means to challenge the status quo and initiate meaningful social change.’ It is informed by our 30+ years of embodied experience in the contemporary arts field, with creative and administrative practices that continue to evolve as we address inequities within and beyond the Live Art sector. Inequities we collectively face as Black diasporic, neurodiverse, queer, disabled, woman identified and non-binary male presenting persons navigating the world.

Drawing upon these experiences and informed by the profound ways care has been expressed throughout the Live Art ecology, we are methodically evolving a thoughtful practice manifesting through our intersectional approach to attending to the nuances of organisational culture, integrating accessibility, and engaging in meaningful exchanges within the Live Art and broader cultural sector.

Our intersectional approach is informed by pioneering thinker Dr. Kimberlé W. Crenshaw’s framework, which speaks to the complex set of social and political identities we each inhabit, and which lead to multiply distinct yet overlapping modes of privilege, discrimination and disadvantage. By taking an intersectional approach, we become aware of where power resides, and of the apparent absences in the sector. Under our new leadership, LADA will put intersectionality at the centre of its activities and operations, respecting complexity, resisting simplification, and refusing to tokenize based on any single issue, practice, or identity marker. As representatives of our sector and facilitators of the Live Art UK network, we will also advocate for partners, funders, and colleagues to do the same.

Care as an Organisational Practice

As an organisational practice, we are intentionally listening, tuning in and being inspired by the ways care has been expressed within the live arts ecology: through artist’s Ria Jade Hartley’s  Ecologies of Care, the artistry of Jade Montserrat, Lois Weaver’s Care Cafe, and Raju Rage’s Politics of Intimacy Residency Care Package. Ways of exploring the dimensions of care have been invested through and in partnership with organisations, universities and festivals that have offered gatherings such as Collective Practices of Care in Experimental Performance. As part of our organisational practice, we will further invest in artists to think through and collaboratively shape this practice with us, but not just for us.  

In caring for how we engage disabled, neurodiverse and D/deaf communities we are shaping an organisational enlivened by our foregrounding of accessibility, that when actioned will care for intersecting communities that have been historically excluded, not had their needs met and have felt unwelcomed. This understanding of accessibility has been and continues to be shaped by the labor of D/deaf and disabled queer, Black and Brown folx; through their active work in bringing disability justice to the foreground of this society.  Access as a means to dismantling ableism.  To quote disabled activist of colour Mia Mingus: “Access is Love”.

We are creating organisational standards of online access that will include: integrating Sign Language interpretation and real-time captioning within our live events, sensory friendly virtual interactions, and audio and image descriptions for video and photos embedded in our websites. 

 

Building An Embodied Practice

Charting care as an organisational practice means that we reflect on the needs of our team, the communities we engage and ourselves as the new leadership. A new leadership that is Black diasporic, disability identified and neurodiverse, newly parenting, queer, woman and non-binary identified. Embracing interdependence and affirming caring responsibilities, we recalibrate the pace of the organisation to meet our intersectional collective ways of being. We ask for help when needed from each other, from our team, our Board and those who might mentor, facilitate and consult on how we can best care when leading and guiding an organisation through all that is going on and will continue to unfold in these times.

We are building an embodied practice of care in support of our team, as we desire sustainable ways to deepen the work of Live Art development for the ecology. This is embodied through the future projects we choose, the activities we deliver, the intentional ways we care for our staff. We are actively exploring ways of working and thinking collectively in acknowledgement of the labour in attending to the complexities of the organisation’s mission and intent. We affirm the agency  of each staff member in further shaping their roles, to have space to research and offer strategies informed by their unique perspectives. We recently introduced debriefings at the completion of all LADA projects to make time for feedback and reflections not only about the programme but about our working processes as well. To shape a practice that moves away from saying ‘yes’ to every opportunity, in order to make space for potentially longer term relationships to emerge and grow amongst the team, and with our creative communities locally, regionally and globally. In attending to the complexities of the organisation and the desire to support the expanse of Live Art practitioners, the team had been pushed to their limits at times, some experienced burnout, others felt they had no choice but to say “yes”, given the needs of the sector. We are offering care as an intervention to the demands that have been placed on the labour of the staff, to manifest authentically what is needed for the team to continue to work diligently to support each other, the well-being of the organisation, and the ecology.

With care, we are building out from LADA’s legacy, articulating how access will continue to be foregrounded, while drawing in partners, artists and creative communities to reimagine the space and the ways LADA can deepen its work within the Live Art ecology. 

With appreciation, we look forward to engaging with you in community, virtually, at LADA’s space….

Barak adé Soleil & Chinasa Vivian Ezugha

Co-Directors, Live Art Development Agency

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