Documenting Live – online

Initially published in 2008 as part of Restock Reflect Rethink on Race, Documenting Live was a unique publication and DVD resource reflecting the work of key UK based artists working in the 1990s and 2000s, and placing Live Art practices that are informed by questions of cultural identity within critical and historical frameworks.

We are delighted to offer an online version of Documenting Live as part of LADA Collections to mark Black History Month 2020, along with a small selection of recommended reading and watching materials from LADA’s resources and archives.

Documenting Live

Documenting Live was developed in collaboration with curator David A Bailey and artist Rajni Shah in response to the challenges of documenting Live Art, and particularly the influential work of artists from culturally diverse backgrounds in the UK. Documenting Live set out to address these challenges through the creation of an archival and critical document that maps a history; marks a territory; and looks to the future.

Barby Asante, Ansuman Biswas, Malika Booker, Sonia Boyce, George Chakravarthi, Robin Deacon, Yara El-Sherbini, Harminder Singh Judge, Keith Khan, David Medalla, Harold Offeh, Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa and Ali Zaidi collaborated on this mapping project through the creation of biographical postcards and video commentaries, the selection of illustrative documentation of their work, and participation in round table discussions prompted by David A Bailey’s essay Documenting Live: Performance-Based Art and the Racialised Body.

In their illuminating and provocative contributions the participating artists reflect on the people, movements and ideas of the 20th century moment that have influenced, and continue to influence, their own performative practices; consider the formal, conceptual and cultural issues informing their work in the 21st century; and offer invaluable insights into the different histories and experiences of black artists in the UK, and the evolving and shifting nature of Live Art itself.

The online version of Documenting Live contains David A Bailey’s mapping essay Performance-Based Art and the Racialised Body; the artist’s video commentaries and excerpts from key works, and documentation of the two round table discussions with two different generations of artists.

View works Read 'Performance-Based Art and the Racialised Body'
Documenting Live. Image The Artists
'Documenting Live' is a pioneering project. Live artists who come from non-European cultural avant-garde histories are constantly fighting the strategic amnesia and ethnocentrism of the dominant art world. If we are lucky, we become a one-liner in the history of art. But more likely we will be lumped together into a generalizing cultural movement that came as fast as it evaporated. It is clear we have to write our own history, draft our own map and document projects in our own terms. This epic documentation project generated by the Live Art Development Agency in collaboration with David A. Bailey and Rajni Shah functions as a very comprehensive map detailing the practice of UK-based experimental artists whose cultural roots span several continents and artistic languages. The beautifully designed package contains artist-made biographical postcards, a very sharp essay by curator Bailey and an incredible DVD with artists' commentaries and excerpts of their work. Ultimately, the compilation provides the reader/viewer an incredible insight into one of the most vibrant live art scenes in the world. I am envious. My Latino colleagues in the US are also envious. We truly wish live artists here had a similar project. Sadly, there is nothing of this nature in our part of the world.

Black History Month 2020

A small selection of recommended reading and watching materials from LADA’s resources and archives that speak to ideas of history, including online films and writings, free downloads, and books you might want to buy from LADA’s online shop Unbound.

Barby Asante, Declaration of Independence, 2020

LADA Screens: Barby Asante

Barby Asante’s A Declaration of Independence is our October/November LADA Screens.

A Declaration of Independence is an ongoing performance/forum bringing together womxn to reflect on how the political affects the personal and how the social, cultural implications of historic declarations, policies and legislations Impact on their everyday lives.

For LADA Screens we are showing the film of the first iteration of A Declaration of Independence in June 2018 at LADA, performed by Selina Rose, Paula Pinho Martins Nacif, Chloe Filani, Marwa Belghazi, Buki Bayode, Foluke Taylor, and Aisha Mohammed.

A Declaration of Independence was the first LADA Library of Performing Rights (LPR) annual commission and was additionally supported by South Bank University, The Study Room In Exile and the EU-funded Collaborative Arts Partnership Programme (CAPP).

Watch the film

Live Online

Short films by artists including documentation of projects and commentaries on their practice.

Harold Offeh - On Documentation

A short video of documentation of the artist’s work, commissioned for LADA’s Documentation Bank.

Sorryyoufeeluncomfortable: On DIY

Black Drift Walking – black study, being in space and black bodies navigating space. Supported by National Theatre of Scotland as part of DIY15. Video response by Ally Poole

Sonia Boyce: On Race

The artist talks about race and Live Art in their practice.

Selina Thompson: On Missy Elliot

As part of LADA’s 20th Anniversary, we invited some of our Live Art Icons to present on their own pop culture icons. Selina Thompson spoke about Missy Elliot.

Unfunky UFO: 2100AD retreat

A film by Uhuru Ali Moor and Maya Chowdhry, from the Unfunky UFO: 2100AD retreat convened by Seke Chimutengwende and Alexandrina Hemsley in December 2017. This retreat was part of LADA’s DIY Progression scheme, supported by Jerwood Charitable Foundation.

Ivy Monteiro

A lecture by the Swiss artist Ivy Monteiro on spirituality and Afrofuturism, presented as part of their residency at LADA in  2019.

Read the lecture

On Unbound

Vanishing Points

An anthology of cultural criticism, focusing on the making, watching and conditions of Live Art and performance in the UK today.

Digital copies of Vanishing Points are available as a free digital download, and physical copies are available on a pay-what-you-can basis.

Edited by Salome Wagaine, with deputy editors Ava Wong Davies and Ben Kulvichit, designed by Chani Wisdom and featuring contributions from Ava Wong Davies, Zarina Muhammad, Ben Kulvichit, Season Butler, Jack Tan, Salome Wagaine, Marjorie H Morgan, Rajni Shah, Selina Thompson and Dr Cecilia Wee.

Co-published by LADA and Diverse Actions, a Live Art UK initiative, championing cultural diversity in the sector and marks the final point of three years of activity.

Vanishing Points
Vanishing Points, 2020. Design by Chani Wisdom

We also recommend the following titles available through Unbound:


View the collection
Alexandrina Hemsley & Jamila Johnson-Small, 'O' a contemporary struggle Alexandrina Hemsley & Jamila Johnson-Small, 'O' a contemporary struggle. Image: Katarzyna Perlak and Phoebe Collings-James