Responding to the social conditions and lived experiences of the Covid-19 lockdown, LADA is compiling a series of reference lists of writings and films which draw attention to examples of historic and contemporary Live Art practice that produce states and encounters that are in someway akin to, or speak to, some of the experiences of lockdown or issues a lockdown raises. These lists are imagined as resources where artists, researchers and curious folk might start their own investigations into the relationships between art making and periods of isolation, distancing, stasis and contagion.
This Lockdown List considers notions of Live Art and distance. How does proximity or distance produce a sense of unity or alienation? How do journeys – be they spatial, temporal or psychological – figure in performance? How does the idea of distance complicate neat divisions of time, space and experience? How has performance intervened in urban and rural sites? How have artists collaborated over walls, borders and oceans?
William Pope L. is a fiercely political American visual artist whose practice is primarily comprised of interventionist actions in the public sphere. In the late 70s Pope L. began a series of street actions described as crawls. Wearing a suit and tie, Pope L. would durationally crawl through Urban environments like Manhattan. The works address the racism, inequality and segregation of America. Pope L. intended his audiences to gaze downward, to evoke awareness of the destitution of people living on the streets and the imbalance of class and privilege.
There is extensive material and writing that has been done on William Pope L.’s work online. A few of these are a feature by The New Yorker, an exclusive interview with Pope and BOMB Magazine and an article on the urgency of Pope’s work by Frieze Magazine,
Then, I decided to give a Tour of Tokyo to the octopus from Akashi (2000)
In 2000 the Japanese artist Shimabuku caught an Octopus in the sea at Akashi and took it on a tour of Tokyo, later producing a text in which he attempts to understand the journey from the Octopus’ perspective. The ethical relationship between artist and Octopus is a complicated one and in the process of seeking to come closer to the Octopus, Shimabuku plays with the distance between human and non-human.
As Far As My Fingertips Take Me is a one-on-one encounter operating through touch and hearing between the audience and a refugee. The audience member places their arm through a wall, where on the other side a refugee marks the skin. It is an experience that involves touch and sound where the participant listens to the stories and challenges refugees have faced with border discrimination. The audience is left with the traces of the performance and stories on their bodies.
Tania El Khoury is a Lebanese live artist who explores participatory encounters with the audience. Khoury creates performances and installations where the audience is an active collaborator unfolding the ethical and political capacity of such engagements.
Tania has lead two DIY workshops with LADA: DIY 2015: Tania El Khoury and Abigail Conway ‘FAF’ and DIY 7: Renata Gaspar, Iona Paun, Tania El Khoury- Pop Up Your Ears. For further information on Tania El Khoury, visit her website.
Domestic Tension – Shoot an Iraqi: Art, Life and Resistance Under the Gun
Wafaa Bilal is an Iraqi-born artist who is known for his interactive performance work that interrogates the environment of international politics and conflict. His work examines the relations of different cultural spaces, in particular the US and Iraq.
In 2007 Bilal underwent a 30-day long durational performance where we confined himself in a small room at the FlatFile Galleries in Chicago. The piece, Domestic Tension was a performative protest against the Iraq War. Although confined, the artist was streamed online twenty-four hours a day, where the virtual audience members could shoot him at any time with a remote-controlled paintball gun. The same year Bilal published Shoot an Iraqi: Art, Life and Resistance Under the Gun about his life and Domestic Tension.
Nicola Fornoni’s performances address the body and his relationship to the world and social issues. In his work he challenges his body to intense limits, these are cathartic experiences as a source of freedom. He uses video and live performance intent to change society and change people’s minds through the force of his body.
In 2018 LADA hosted a screening of his work Overshoot Day. The performance was made inside a marble quarry and was shot by drone on an autumn day. It features the artist sitting bare-chested and using his facial muscles to hold a glass containing a drop of water in the air for a duration of two hours.
In 1997 Francis Alÿs pushed a rectangular ice block around Mexico for a duration of over nine hours. As he moved the frozen block around the streets of Mexico City, it would slowly melt and reduce in size until it was no bigger than an ice cube he could kick around. In sometimes making something leads to nothing, Alÿs traverses the urban environment exploring the relationship between the temporal and the spatial.
The Rock Tours Around Great Britain
On the 23rd of September 2008 Chinese performance artist, He Yunchang collected a rock at the Beach of Boulmer at the Northumberland Coast of England and began his expedition of carrying the rock around the entire perimeter of Britain. It took Yunchang 112 days to walk the coast of Britain and completed his journey where he had begun, returning the rock to its original home. He covered about 35000 km on foot carrying a rock that weighed around 3.6 kg. The documentation of his tour was exhibited in the Chinese pavilion of the 55th Venice Bienalle in 2013.
The Awful Journey (2016) and The Awesome Journey (2017)
In The Awful Journey, Oozing Gloop inverted Will Kemps legendary “9 daies wonder”, in which a Shakespearean clown morris danced from London to Norwich for 9 days, by steaming through the milds and motorways for 9 days between Norwich and London in high heels and full makeup in the name of all who have ever been displaced or confused.
The Awesome Journey was a response to The Awful Journey. “ In The Awesome Journey I pilgramaged from the place of my birth to the place of my father, and as far agian beyond that to John O’Groats; to reverse a certain journey he made to my mother that condemned our life to Norfolk. In the reversal it was a time travel, and then to a place beyond the father, trapsing through the primordial landscape of the scottish highlands I freed myself from many shames that had been holding back my practice, and from that I traveled back, and turned the many difficulties documented here into a piece to to further myself, my life and my practice. Also, by doing this, I became a Movie Star, I hope you enjoyed the close ups.” Oozing Gloop
OOZING GLOOP is a transgressive drag savant who has completed 500 miles of queer pilgrimage through the co-ordinates of their unconscious. This was the furnace that melded six years of disappointing study and a sublime cabaret practice into a provocative performance practice of queer spectacle that explores Awe; the awful, the awesome and the autistic. Being the world’s premier green queen with Asperger’s her interdisciplinary practice seeks to put a very particular voice upon a powerful pedestal of the universal subject and seeks to make society assimilate her, in the same way as society expects him to assimilate it. Her most recent endeavours into the public political realm are The Gloop Show! which won an award at the Brighton Fringe 2018, and The Gloopshow Episode 2: GLOOPTOPIA!.
Throughout the seventies and late eighties artists Ulay (who died in March 2020 age 76) and Marina Abramovic (LADA patron) performed and collaborated together as a couple. Their relationship accumulated in an epic finale in 1988 where the artists trekked from opposite ends of the Chinese Wall and met in the middle, where they said their final goodbyes. Marina and Ulay began their walks on the 30th of March 1988, from either end of the Great Wall, also known as ‘The Sleeping Dragon’. They each walked a total of 90 days and averaged 20 km a day in distance. To their surprise their journey was less than solitary, they encountered many curious locals and found everything they did was observed as a performance. The two artists met at the centre of a stone bridge in Shenmu, where they embraced each other affectionately.
performances at the end of the world
Between 2010 and 2012, VestAndPage undertook a series of journeys – to Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, to Northern India and Kashmir, and to Antarctica – producing a trilogy of hybrid surreal performance films, entitled sin∞fin, that flicker between the microcosm of the couple and the nature of existence. Landscape can be understood as the encounter between self(s), place and time. Collaborating with these slow, epic landscapes, the ephemeral actions of the artists’ teeter between the real and visionary, complicating temporality and proposing a series of poetic relations between the land and those who inhabit it.
PAVES was a cross-border collaborative project by Poshya Kakl, Anne Bean, Vlasta Delimar, Efi Ben-David and Sinead O’Donnell. PAVES was initated by Bean in 2010. Attempts by the artists to gather collectively were made impossible by frontiers, borders, demarcations, boundaries, barriers, bureaucracy, officialdom, laws, regulations and visas. Navigating these restrictions, the initial collaborative process culminated with a lecture demonstration and real-time virtual performances that have been subsequently been re-made in response to specific events, sites and invitations.
Anne Bean has contributed to many projects of LADA, and is also published as part of our Intellect Live Series, Anne Bean: Self Etc. is available on Unbound.
Fall 1 & Fall 2
The Dutch conceptual artist Bas Jan Ader is widely known the series of photographic pieces featuring his falling body. These works explore notions of time, the vulnerability of the body, and the unpredictable nature of the day-to-day. Fall I, shot in Los Angeles in 1970, features the artist tumbling and rolling from a chair on the roof of a house. A short film, Fall II, was recorded in Amsterdam 1970, and features Ader riding on his bicycle along a canal, seemingly losing his balance and falling into the water.
Bas Jan Ader- Death is Elsewhere available on Unbound: https://www.thisisunbound.co.uk/products/death-is-elsewhere-bas-jan-ader?_pos=1&_sid=982880f8b&_ss=r
The Nummer series
Between 2003 and 2009, Dutch film maker and visual artist Guido van der Werve made a series of videos and films titled by number in chronological order from two to seventeen. The series conveys a humorous absurdity around the solitary traveller moving between surreal images of loneliness and melancholy. His films are often accompanied by Romantic piano music and include striking images of the artist walking slowly in front of an icebreaker in Finland (Nummer acht, everything is going to be alright), standing for 24 hours in the North Pole (Nummer negen, the day I didn’t turn with the world), and Van der Werve playing on a piano resting in the centre of a lake (Nummer vier, I don’t want to get involved in this. I don’t want to be part of this. Talk me out of it). Like his Dutch predecessor, Bas Jan Ader, van der Werve explores slapstick undertones around isolation, sadness and alienation.
Art/Life One Year Performance 1983-1984 (Rope Piece), the fourth of Tehching Hsieh’s year long performances, was realised in collaboration with the artist Linda Montano between July 4 1983 and July 4 1984. The artists spent the year attached to each other by an 8 foot rope. During this time they committed not to touch one another, and travelled everywhere together. In lockdown, where permanent proximity to others feels like a condition of existence for many, this work speaks to the ways in which performance might be utilised as a space to navigate the ethics of encounter, proximity and presence.
An autobiographical and historical record of Montano’s artistic practice over the last thirty years, Letters from Linda M. Montano is available on Unbound. In 2009, LADA co-published with MIT Press Out of Now: The Lifeworks of Tehching Hsieh (eds. Adrian Heathfield and Tehching Hsieh).
Banner image credit:
Tiny Live Art (Development Agency) by Robert Daniels, featuring William Pope.L, The Great White Way
LADA is compiling a series of reference lists of writings and films which draw attention to examples of historic and contemporary Live Art practice that or speak to some of the experiences of lockdown or issues a lockdown raises.