Live Culutre: Live Art Screenings

Sites (Screen, Body, Specific, Action)

Live Art practices have long explored their relation to the sites in which they take place. For many artists this has involved working in unconventional settings, outside of the gallery or theatre. By operating within these locations, artists are able to ask questions about the placement of art and its relationship with its audience.

To illustrate the diversity of sites Live Art can occupy and investigate, artists Blast Theory, Rona Lee, Pope & Guthrie and Aaron Williamson have curated personal selections of documentation and works made for camera by British-based artists that have been influential on their own practice and on the field.

Sites: Screen curated by Blast Theory

Blast Theory 

Can You See Me Now? (2001)

Can You See Me Now? is a game that happens simultaneously on the streets and online.

For two days, players from anywhere in the world were able to play online against members of Blast Theory who were live on the streets of Sheffield. Blast Theory appeared online next to a representation of the online player on a map of Sheffield city centre. On the streets, handheld computers showing the positions of online players guided Blast Theory to track down the player’s virtual persona. With up to 20 people playing online at a time, players could exchange tactics and send messages to Blast Theory. An audio stream from Blast Theory’s walkie talkies allowed online participants to eavesdrop on the pursuers, getting lost, cold and out of breath on unfamiliar streets.

Can You See Me Now? is a Shooting Live Artists project: a strategic initiative by the Arts Council of England, the BBC, Yorkshire Media Production Agency’s Studio of the North and Culture Company. Can You See Me Now? is further funded by the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council.

Mark Gaynor 

In a Network of Lines (1993)

In a Network of Lines begins with performer Mark Gaynor facing the audience in the darkly lit space of the gallery, but then takes a different turn as Gaynor exits the auditorium to embark on a strange kind of ‘marathon run’ through the streets surrounding the venue, leaving his image to address the audience by means of a video link.

Absent from the space itself but present in a ghostly double, Gaynor speculates on a number of themes: on the way in which our fundamental notions of reality are rapidly being altered by the influence of technology and then, as the run takes its toll on his body, on the future of the physical self in the artificial, ‘virtual’ universe of today’s electronic communication networks. (Steven Bode)

Commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella as part of Between TV and Gallery.

Gob Squad 

Where Do You Want To Go To Die? (2000)

Where Do You Want To Go To Die? is a seven-part video installation that lasts one hour. It was originally developed for the Berlin week within EXPO 2000 , Hannover.

The video depicts a journey through Berlin allowing the spectator to enter the private atmosphere of a group of people as they make stop-offs at various locations such as 24 hour garages, tourist attractions or Kebab shops. Each place acts as a dynamic backdrop for each of the group to step out into the glare of the van’s headlights and perform a bizarre action, which celebrates ‘a kind of letting go’. The outcome is an intimate audio-visual experience that constantly weaves between everyday ambience and highly emotional performance moments.

Gob Squad work without a director in small groups. ‘Our approach to the project was instinctive, taking as starting points the journey itself and the question ‘where do you want to go to die?’ For many evenings we made night time journeys creating responses to our title. What seemed appropriate were images that somehow captured a kind of surrender, the feeling of a personal wake or parting gesture. The van itself became a means of eventually pulling back from these images, leaving the passenger abandoned in their action.’

Concept, realisation and performance: Gob Squad – Johanna Freiburg, Liane Sommers, Berit Stumpf, Sarah Thom, Alex Large, Sean Patten, Simon Will. Video, processing and editing: Alex Large. Assistance: Christina Runge.

Mike Stubbs 

The Sweatlodge (1991)

A misty, sultry atmosphere: Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre would not be out of place in the decor; you expect them to loom up out of the grey mist at any moment. A group of dancers: all men, all in two piece suits with white shirts, and they could all have stepped right out of an American detective story from the fifties. What follows can be best described as an overwhelming, engrossing choreography for dance, music and camera. Shadows move in synchrony, heads appear from the twilight: that is how the great stars in Hollywood used to be immortalised by the glamour photographers. Is it a shadow play? Is it a ballet? The music by Simon Thorne is inflammatory and reminiscent of the Neanderthaler rock by Joy Division. The wild dance degenerates into a full scale scrap in which both winners and losers ultimately fall to the ground. Nothing can end well since West Side Story. (World Wide Video Festival).

Sites: Body 

curated by Aaron Williamson

Aaron Williamson 

Lives of the Saints (2002)

In considering the iconography and legends of the lives of the Saints, I was reminded at many points of performance art. Each achieves a legacy predicated on (sometimes dubious) witness accounts, on anecdote and on those forces of desire that sustain narratives of individuality or of the ‘remarkable everyday’. Lives of the Saints, then, began by exploring connections or ‘overlays’ between legendary acts of (mostly medieval) Saints and classic works of performance art. Having assembled a store of such overlays, I set out to create short video pieces titled after a Saint but visually informed by a classic performance work. One can glean in the image / caption constructs by which the works of Beuys, Abramovic, Acconci et al are disseminated, a sense of the artists themselves stepping forward to replace the art object, just as the Saints initially insisted on replacing idol-worship with exceptional acts. I worked in isolation, direct to a remote-controlled camera, building up the performances in relation to the props I had assembled, recording and watching back footage as the piece evolved. These performance films became, not a direct addition to that collection of work that has been generically labeled performance art, but a reflection on, homage to and critique of it.

Leigh Bowery 

Leigh Bowery at the Anthony d’Offay Gallery a film by Cerith Wyn Evans (1988)

Leigh Bowery was a performance artist who died on 31 December 1994. The piece shown at the Anthony d’Offay Gallery was performed in front of a two-way mirror on a chaise longue. The audience could see Bowery but he could only see himself. He used his body as a canvas and distorted, tucked and padded his body and face. This half-hour film by Cerith Wyn Evans shows Leigh in six different costumes. (Nicola Bowery)

Brian Catling 

MIGRANT: a wildlife performance made for camera

A man crawls across a winter landscape. Norway. Trondheim to Bergen. A wildlife event; Bigfoot, seal, wolf, lunatic, pilgrim, foal. He approaches the city where his strangeness changes into another thing, or is perceived as one.

Stuart Brisley 

Incidents in Transit (1992)

This work took place over a period of three days, for five hours per day. There were two or three tables, lengths of wood about 2 by 4 cms wide and 3 and 4 metres long, nails, string, broom, hammer, saw bucket, access to water and bulls blood. I had made it my task to develop a working process in public which would try to take into account the meanings implied but lying dormant in the materials at hand, some much more evident than others. It addressed the self and the body, as the catalyst. It took place in a large room with pristine white walls and a rough stone floor. I was able slowly to focus on the process as a kind of learning and to drop those activities which didn’t work. It eventually led to a fragile evocation of delicacy and precision, by making a broken down table with three asymmetrically placed legs on which the table top was precariously balanced. Blood was carefully poured on the table surface altering the balance of the table top in relation to the legs propping it up. By making periodic adjustments I was able to maintain its balance over relatively long periods of time. Occasionally the blood would rush to one end and the whole structure would collapse. And I would begin again. My sense at the end was of a brutal but delicate evocation of the limited achievements and pitfalls of endeavour with little sense of beginning or ending.

Commissioned as part of inTangentcies , seven performances at Sala Montcada de la Fundacao ‘La Caixa’ Barcelona.

Jayne Parker 

Rx Recipe (1980)

A woman cares for an eel. She washes it, feeds it and wraps it. She administers the correct prescription for its comfort and then she cares for herself. (LUX)

Sites: Specific 

curated by Rona Lee 

Rona Lee 

Present (1997)

Responding to the philanthropic donation by a 19th Century local business man, of a building and a collection of twenty paintings to the people of Beverley, the work played with the etymological proximity of the words gift and poison; exploring ideas of the gift as articulated by Marcel Mauss and Helene Cixous.

The central action referenced Giotto’s ‘gift’ of being able to paint a perfect circle, deemed a sign of his genius. At the conclusion of the work, the twenty ‘best’ circles were selected by invited local arts officers, framed and given to the gallery by the artist.

These were then hung opposite the twenty paintings that formed the basis of the original collection, which had been especially gift wrapped for the event. Visitors to the work were given a ‘free gift’ of a book of matches, on the back of which the story of Giotto was told.

The piece also incorporated archival material relating to the original bequest and objects such as knives and handkerchiefs which, when given as gifts, carry with them certain taboos.

Present was located at the Beverley Public Library and Art Gallery, Yorkshire. The action lasted six hours over two days. Camerawork by Gary Winters. Commissioned by Hull Time Based Arts. Rona Lee is an AHRB Fellow at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Station House Opera 

The Salisbury Proverbs (1997)

The Salisbury Proverbs continued Station House Opera’s sequence of spectacular and large-scale performances with breeze blocks, this time building a temporary monument to celebrate Salisbury’s most famous and permanent one. Located and inspired by Salisbury Cathedral, the piece involved 25 performers, singers and musicians, the Salisbury Festival Chorus and over 10,000 breeze blocks. The performance itself consisted of a network of proverbial and allegorical narratives which were given an architectural and sculptural form – a version of Breughel’s Netherlandish Proverbs.

‘…a combination of music and architecture unlike anything Salisbury has yet experienced … as the cast moved the blocks, singing and rhythmically moving in complex patterns, almost imperceptibly creating new shapes, arches, towers, lofty structures that suddenly tumbled down, trapping bodies; new arches and elegant pillars growing out of the ruins, only to disintegrate into rubble themselves, reborn again and finally consumed in the flames … a community project rooted in the ancient heritage of the city and open to all the city’s people.’ (Blackmore Vale Press)

A Salisbury Festival Commission. An Artsadmin project. Funded by the Arts Council of England and Southern Arts.

Fiona Templeton 

You – The City (1988)

You -The City was ‘an intimate Manhattanwide play for an audience of one’. Clients attended by appointment only, embarking on a two hour journey. The videotape shows the client’s-eye point of view. What the camera doesn’t show is the fundamental live element, the client’s response, voiced or not, experienced only by the performer.

The work was first created in Manhattan in 1988, and has subsequently been recreated in six countries, with local cast and language.

(Live performance) is the art of relationship… The word ‘you’ assumes and creates relationship… The gaze is returned. A deflection of the attention of either ‘would risk my disappearance’… In the middle of the street, in the middle of the real, what client and performer held between them was the reality of artifice as a deal… The audience of You – The City is part of the deal, the client, ‘you’. The performer too must become ‘you’ not ‘him, her, it’. For both performer and client, the play is not about yourself, nor the other, but their meeting. (You – The City, Roof, New York).

Kirsten Lavers 

pyr(rh)ic solution # book two (1998)

The site-specific and durational performance involved the burning of individuals’ names from a book that had served as a means for staff communication within an emergency winter nightshelter for homeless people. The nightshelter (managed by Kirsten Lavers) had operated during the winter of 1997/98 in a redundant Victorian library. Before this unique social document could become available for public reading the confidentiality of the people named in the text had to be addressed. To burn a hole in one side of a double-sided notebook, necessarily creates bizarre erasures on the other side. As such the disruption of the surface logics of the text acquired both new urgencies and losses. As each name was burnt away the people whose confidentiality was being honoured were fictionalised – judge, company director, truck driver, lucky winner, youngest son – and inserted into a live and recorded reading of the book. The tapes of this reading and the rebound book itself were then presented to the Boots Library collection. Process and producer plugged into each other at every stage of the five day long performances unraveling towards the gestural closure of perfect binding.

pyr(rh)ic solution # book one was performed in Cambridge July 1998. pyr(rh)ic solution # book three was performed at the In The Event of The Text Symposium , Utrecht, 1999.

Anna Best 

PHIL (2002)

Anna Best’s work expands traditional roles and hierarchies between artist, audiences, host and performer. PHIL is an example of a practice where the artist becomes both performer and facilitator and the process of research is interlaced with moments of presentation.

For the piece, 15 musicians from the London Philharmonic Orchestra were employed to play their individual part of a Mozart Serenade on separate occasions in the homes of 15 people whose names included ‘phil’. These private domestic performances were filmed and then reunited for one evening as a spectacular orchestra of televisions in the Beaufoy Institute in London.

PHIL was a response to a commission seeking to provoke debate about the future use of the Beaufoy Institute, a building left to the local community by a Victorian philanthropist and now in the hands of Lambeth Council. PHIL investigated the relationship between urban regeneration, arts funding and the philanthropic attitude. By searching for Phillips, Philomenas and Philippas, PHIL questioned definitions of community.

Commissioned by Danielle Arnaud Contemporary Art, Gasworks Gallery, Lambeth Arts, Lambeth Riverside, and Vauxhall St Peter’s Heritage Centre.

Sites: Action 

curated by Pope & Guthrie 

Pope & Guthrie 

/broadcast/ (29 Pilgrims, 29 Tales) (1999)

Conceived by Nina Pope and Karen Guthrie /broadcast/ (29 Pilgrims, 29 Tales) took Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales as a starting point and framework for the 1999 Tate Annual Event. Chaucer’s fictitious pilgrims set out from The Tabard Inn near Borough Market and it was from here too that the /broadcast/ pilgrims departed, each making a contemporary pilgrimage of their own choosing within a twenty-four hour period. The twenty-nine pilgrims were sought through broad advertising and then selected by the artists at interview, these filmed interviews forming the basis for their video prologues. Each pilgrim provided their own interpretation of the idea of pilgrimage, and these ranged from a short journey to the local cathedral, to a scientific lecture in Bognor Regis, a homage delivered by Red Rum’s grave, and a journey to France by the most popular route to purchase luxury and modest items.

/broadcast/ replaced Chaucer’s fictional text with a live broadcast – each pilgrim relayed back a tale from their journey via mobile phone – these were broadcast live to the audience in the market (in an installation resembling an ‘exploded’ tv studio) and webcast simultaneously to an Internet audience. On the day Pope and Guthrie worked live on stage in the market to link-in each pilgrim at their allotted time and ultimately welcomed them back into the market at the end of the day for a feast.

Technology both facilitated and defined the production of the piece and enabled a dual audience for the work. Each pilgrim communicated a very private journey into the public domain, shifting the border between public and private space through the project. As with other work by Pope and Guthrie /broadcast/ looked at the boundaries between artist and audience, art production and spectacle.

Jeremy Deller and Mike Figgis 

The Battle of Orgreave (2001)

In 1984 the National Union of Mineworkers went on strike. The dispute lasted for over a year and was the most bitterly fought since the general strike of 1926, marking a turning point in the struggle between the government and the trade union movement. On the 18 June 1984 there occurred at the Orgreave coking plant one of the strike’s most violent confrontations occurred. It began in a field near to the plant and culminating in a ‘cavalry’ charge through the village of Orgreave.

Jeremy Deller’s The Battle of Orgreave was a spectacular re-enactment of what happened on that day, orchestrated by Howard Giles, historical re-enactment expert and former director of English Heritage’s event programme.

The Battle of Orgreave was filmed under the direction of Mike Figgis. Dramatic photographic stills from the clashes in 1984 are intercut with footage of the clashes re-enacted in 2001, teasing out the truth behind this bitter struggle. (Artangel)

The Battle of Orgreave is an Artangel Media and Channel 4 co-commission.

Cai Yuan and J J Xi 

Soya Sauce and Ketchup Fight (2000)

The performance took place in Trafalgar Square during the May Day Global Action Against Capitalism movement. The performance engaged with artistic, political and social activism, making a critical view of the present conditions of globalisation and commenting on the clash of Eastern and Western culture and consumerism.

Cai Yuan and J J Xi 

Two Artists Swim Across the Thames (2000)

This performance took place along the newly constructed Millennium Bridge on the River Thames, which crosses at Tate Modern and St Pauls.

In 1966 at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong famously swam across the Yangtse River, to ‘struggle with the great waves and wind’, as a symbolic preparation for political and class struggle against his enemies. Cai and JJ symbolically swam across the Thames at the Millennium Bridge. Their bodies covered in ‘isms’, they use the river as their exhibition space, to wash away fading communist and capitalist ideologies. The combination of physical strength and mental energy resident in the action represents the sum of human endeavour, which drives the force of history. This film is also an historical document as the bridge was subsequently closed for being ‘too wobbly’. The artists were arrested by the river police and failed to reach the other side.

Simon Grennan and Christopher Sperandio with the Progressive Players 

The Hand and the Word (2001)

In another time, when ruthless shipwreckers rule the shores of Ireland, two young lovers are forced to part. Charlie and Ellen pledge to reunite in five years. Black Ned has designs on Ellen and a hatred for Charlie and separates the lovers forever. Or does he?

The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, the Progressive Players and Artists Grennan and Sperandio present the world’s very first detective story brought to life on screen for the very first time.

Grennan and Sperandio (who lately have been working with the mighty MTV) have contributed The Hand and the Word , an archetypal tale of good and evil, which uses a mass-appeal popular genre: this time the animated film. The piece was developed in collaboration with the Progressive Players, a Gateshead amateur dramatics group from whose performances the sequences for the film were (literally) drawn. Like many of the duo’s works, this ‘outcome’ is only part-evidence of the long and socially engaged process that led up to the film. (Pope & Guthrie)

The Live Art Development Agency has a video resource which currently consists of over 550 titles that are viewed regularly by artists, curators, other arts professionals and students. The resource is open access for the purposes of reference and research. Many of the works shown in this programme, including full versions of abridged works, can be viewed (by appointment) as part of the resource. Both Jayne Parker’s Rx Recipe and Mike Stubb’s Sweatlodge are available through LUX. Full lists of dvds/videos and publications housed in our Study Room can be found on this website.

All texts by the artists unless otherwise stated.

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