Heroes and Heroines of Live Art (First 110) – Accompanying Text

For the Live Art Development Agency’s tenth anniversary ‘presents’, Tim Etchells conceived and designed a collection of 110 unique T-shirts. Each T-shirt bears the name of an artist from the canon of Live Art, rendered in a (more or less) suitable typeface. Here is a piece of text produced by Tim in response to this work:


With HEROES & HEROINES OF LIVE ART I wanted to celebrate some of the influential figures in (and eventually around) Live Art – artists, thinkers, etc. – whose work, ideas and actions have thrilled, inspired, provoked and rearranged the possibilities of life and art. I started from the canon – the names Bruce Nauman and Marina Abramović weren’t difficult to come up with. Two pages into my list though, I was pretty much mired in reflection – what were the edges of the category? how many theatre people was I allowed, and how many from dance, or visual art, what about thinkers, or people from music, or people who didn’t really do performance at all but whose work has sent ripples through the field? What about Tommy Cooper? What about younger artists? Should all this be strictly historical? What do we mean by Live Art in any case? I was confused. I sent emails. There were dark and long nights.Somewhere around the end of page three I realised that this list was always destined to fail and at that point I added the subtitle (First 110). It’s a gesture that admits already the gaps in my vision, and suggests (most importantly) there are many many more to come. That last fact, in itself, is really something to celebrate, and when the Live Art Development Agency reaches twenty I’ll be happy if either I, or someone else with different memory or vision can fill in the gaps.

Tim Etchells. February 2009.


Half way through the Agency’s year-long anniversary celebrations, Tim went on to produce a ‘bonus’ Heroes & Heroines of Live Art (First 110) Poster which features all 110 artists’ names. Tim wrote a piece of text about the extension to this work, and in his absence at an Agency launch event at the Rochelle School on Saturday 1 August 2009, Rajni Shah read the following:


He wrote me about a friend, a long way back.
Who as a kid had had a set of seven pairs of underpants each with a day of week printed on them, written for some reason in German
one pair for each day of the week
she liked them she said
except for the peculiar feeling produced from time to time by wearing
the wrong pants on the wrong day
a feeling of perverse pleasure,
as though living the whole day under the wrong sign
or the living the whole day under a lie,
living life under mischief, a mis-naming,
the wrong name
even now he tells me,
keen to point out the obvious
im Rajni
reading Tim
a question of one voice
in another mouth
For his own part, he said, for a long time he more or less refused to wear clothes with any kind of writing on them at all
not liking to live under any kind of sign, right or wrong
or fearing what would happen in that space ‘under writing’,
like another friend of a friend
he reported
who’d refused to read novels for fear of the way he got taken over by the characters in them.
sometime or other all that snapped
and he started to like wearing words on clothes
especially simple words that said the something so simple simply that they could easily make an endless confusion
KETCHUP it said one shirt, a red one
a favourite
since the one word text seemed to vacilate endlessly between appearing to declare a love or support for Ketchup,
or instead to indicate that the wearer was in some way ketchup
or instead, since the shirt was red, it was possible to maintain that this word ketchup simply reffered to its colour.
None of these readings, not one of them, being certain in any case
He wrote me:
When it came to LADA and the Birthday I wanted to make tshirts
and the thought I had was about the pleasure in wearing another person
or wearing another person’s name
he wrote
I was thinking about a white work tunic I’d bought second hand somewhere years back
a strange looking Muji style thing
largely cotton but with some faint taste of nylon in the mix
on the shoulder of which was a name tag, complete with a company logo, beneath which it said in bold and clear bright red letters
itallic, embroidered script the single word, anothers’ name
I found it odd to wear this shirt.
Perhaps to do with not liking to be Tony
but it made me (he wrote) know something about the power of the worn name
the strange double of one voice in another mouth
For the Live Art Development Agency (he wrote) I made one shirt for each person
each person a hero or heroine of live art
whatever that might mean
and I liked the idea (he wrote)
not of mass production
(how many t-shirts say Madonna, Bruce Lee or Bruce Springsteen?)
but instead a kind of modest one to one
one shirt per person of these Live Art Heroes & Heroines,
bestowing a kind of intimate fandom,
modest, human scale
or else (he wrote)
as with the ketchup,
perhaps these shirts convene a kind of masking or impersonation
as if
the guy wearing the Alastiar McLennan shirt (when it’s finally sold) might be *being him* for a moment,
I guess I don’t trust much or care about the top 100 anything
that whole MOMA Series of the top 100 performances they plan can rot in Hell
just like i don’t find it too hard to turn off the best 100 adverts or the top 100 screen kisses or whatever
I mean for me the Heroes & Heroines of Live Art (first 110) was more a less an absurdity, a mockery
but with and despite all that
i do like names (he wrote)
and how they circulate
and the names that mean most to me
are those that contain what Greil Marcus once called a secret history
a secret knowledge
and i liked the chance, on these t-shirts, to whisper some of those names that have been important to me
out into the world again
passed from mouth to mouth, life to life,
live art to life art
a chance
to nod to some of the people that changed things for me
probably changed things for all of us here
people whose work I saw and which touched me
or those perhaps a way to nod to those whose stories or documents wound a strange route to me
in sheffield say
when glancing at a book or some internet picture
i got that spine-tingling feeling
as many people here did no doubt
get that spine-shaking feeling
of connection to an action that happened long time back, or short time back
in another room
far away in space
and with it always a story and a name
from this often secret history
today we launch the poster
Live Art Heroes & Heroines (First 110) – bearing all 110 names in my list, each name in its dedicated typeface
and T-shirts bearing fabulous legendary names are still on sale
just one of each
roll up roll up
happy birthday again LADA
keep up the good work
get em while they’re fresh
coming at you not exactly live and certainly indirect

Tim Etchells. August 2009.

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