Live Art and Time

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.


Covid-19 has made us all rethink and experience time in different ways. Weeks have sometimes felt like minutes, and hours have sometimes felt like years. And we’re all still suspended in time – waiting for a second wave, waiting to know when we will be able to gather again, waiting to see what the future will hold.

For many artists time is as critical a material as the body, and embodied experiences in space and time are central tenets of much Live Art.

The following are just a few examples of some of the ways that artists have worked with time (and of course many of the works could be easily repositioned into any of these loose time-related themes).

Artist’s experience of time passing or unfolding – time as something to be endured or ‘got through’

Tehching Hsieh – One Year Performances

In the vibrant downtown Manhattan art scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s, Tehching Hsieh made an exceptional series of artworks: five separate one-year-long performances that were unprecedented in their use of physical difficulty over extreme durations and in their absolute conception of art and life as simultaneous processes. In these performance works Hsieh moved from a year of solitary confinement without any communication, to a year in which he punched a worker’s time clock in his studio on the hour every hour, to a year spent living without any shelter on the streets, to a year in which he was tied closely to the artist Linda Montano without ever touching and, lastly, to a year of total abstention from art activities and influences.

ReadOut of Now: The Lifeworks of Tehching Hsieh 

WatchOne Year Performance: 1980-1981 


Wafaa Bilal – Domestic Tension/Shoot an Iraqi

In 2007 Bilal underwent a 30-day long durational performance where he 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.

Read and Watch more about Domestic Tension


Marina Abramovic – The Artist is Present

In 2010 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Abramović engaged in an extended performance inspired by her belief that stretching the length of a performance beyond expectations serves to alter our perception of time and foster a deeper engagement in the experience. Seated silently at a wooden table across from an empty chair, she waited as people took turns sitting in the chair and locking eyes with her. Over the course of nearly three months, for eight hours a day, she met the gaze of 1,000 strangers, many of whom were moved to tears. (add link)

Watch: The Artist is Present 

Artist’s using time as a framework – a frame for a set of rules

Tara Fatehi Irani – Mishandled Archive

Every day for a year, artist and writer Tara Fatehi Irani dispersed fragments of family photographs and documents in public places in the UK, Iran, Switzerland, Kurdistan, Germany, Italy, Ukraine, the Persian Gulf, and in between borders and amongst the clouds. She made a photograph, an annotation, a dance and an Instagram post on the site of each dispersal.

Read about Mishandled Archive


Marcia Farquhar – The Omnibus

For the 30th anniversary of the National Review of live Art (NRLA) in 2010, Marca Farquhar performed a 30 hour long performance. “An hour for a year is a long time in performance. In homage to the long-durational performances of an earlier generation, and with a nod to those great indefatigable heroes of past actions, Marcia Farquhar will be hosting a marathon, live-in, 30-hour rumination on the subject of the last 30 years. All happenings, histories and goings-on since the late 1970s will be considered fair game.

Watch documentation of The Omnibus.


Jade Montserrat – Shadowing Josephine | Revue

Originally a four hour choreographed piece performed nude to Cab Calloway’s Cotton Club track Pickin’ up the Cabbage, Jade Montserrat developed Shadowing Josephine into Revue, in reference Baker’s La Revue Nègre (1925), with the intention of performing it over 24 hours to locate the work within terms of reference including: slavery and the spectacle of bondage (slave auctions); consumption of culture and black presence within art institutions; visual consumption of the human body; 24-hour news cycles; dance marathons of the 1930s; monitoring and surveillance; operating in the world despite pain; narratology; time – circular time, racial time, revolutionary time.

Watch excerpts from Shadowing Josephine


Barbara Campbell – 10001 Nights Cast

1001 nights cast was a durational performance by Australian artist, Barbara Campbell. Each night at sunset, Barbara performed a short text-based work as a live webcast. The performance texts were written for her each day in response to a prompt she drew from the morning’s newspaper reports on the Middle East. The performance was relayed as a live webcast to anyone, anywhere, who was logged on to the project’s website at the appointed time: sunset at the artist’s location. The project ran for 1001 nights, ending on March 17 2008.

Read more about 10001 Nights cast 


Jem Finer – Long Player

Longplayer is a self-extending composition which is designed to continue for one thousand years. It started to play at midnight on 1 January 2000, and if all goes as planned, it will continue without repetition until 31 December 2999.

Read about Long Player

Pushing 60, Marcia Farquhar.
Josephine and the Leopard, Jade Montserrat. Still from film made with Webb-Ellis.
Perform, Repeat, Record: Live Art in History, Eds. Amelia Jones & Adrian Heathfield

Nature Theatre of Oklahoma – Life and Times

Life and Times (2009) is an epic nine episode project that started when director Pavol Liška asked company member Kristin Worrall “Can you tell me your life story?” Worrall proceeded to respond in great detail through 16 hours of recorded phone conversations which were then transcribed.

Life and Times is divided into nine episodes, each episode corresponding to a separate phone call. “Episode 1” starts with birth and goes to age eight. “Episode 2” depicts roughly ages 8 to 14. “Episode 3” and “Episode 4” tell the story of Worall’s life from ages 14 to 18 and “Episodes 4.5 and 5” of early adulthood etc.  Each episode is about two hours long but, in many cases, the company has performed one episode after another for hours at a time, including a 12 hour performance at Norfolk & Norwich Festival in 2013.

Each episode has a different formal structure. For “Episode 1,” they work within the form of music/opera, for “Episode 2” they work with dance, for “Episodes 3 & 4” they take on theatre and the genre of locked-room murder mystery, for “Episodes 4.5 and 5” they explore drawing, painting, animated film, and book arts, “Episode 7” takes on Hollywood in an ode to Citizen Kane, “Episode 8” takes cues from Cinemascope movies and Hudson River School painters and “Episode 9” takes the form of hard core gangster rap. (we can’t find any information about “Episode 6” so if you know, let us know)

Read more on The Nature of Oklahoma Theatre’s website

Martin O’Brien – Until the Last Breath is Breathed 

This work was the culmination of my practice up until this point. I performed 30 actions to camera during the 30 hours leading up to my 30th birthday, my life expectancy. This was all performed in an abandoned morgue. The video was then used to create two works, under the same title. The first in a video installation, using three screens and an edited version of the 30 actions to camera. The second is a performance lecture. This uses select actions from the video alongside a series of live actions and texts. The texts are prophecy, foretelling a world where the sick rise to prominence. This lecture also introduces my concept of Zombie Time, which you can read more about in my upcoming writing.”

Read about Until the Last Breath is Breathed and Zombie Time 

Read about Martin’s other time-based works in Survival of the Sickest: The Art of Martin O’Brien

Tilda Swinton – The Maybe

In 1995 at The Serpentine Gallery in London Tilda Swinton performed The Maybe for seven days, eight hours a day – an enigmatic and evocative work exploring a series of unanswerable questions from within the confines of a glass case. Glass display cases around the gallery contained objects relating to the passing of time – relics of famous fascination, traces of lives lived, objects of historical resonance and of prurient curiosity. Swinton, enclosed in her own glass cabinet – a living, breathing, silent being – invited questions of mortality and of time.​

Conceived and performed by Swinton in an installation created with Cornelia Parker it was also presented in the Museo Baracco in Rome in a collaboration with Pierre et Gilles in 1996 and, in 2013, at MoMA in New York.

Read about The Maybe in Perform Record Repeat

Artist Martin O’Brien a young white British person. Martin holds a breathing mask to his face. He looks tired, his hair is messy and his body is dirty. In the background there is an out of focus audience member. Image credit. Wellcome Collection Martin O'Brien. Photo by Wellcome Collection.

Rona Lee – Avid Metamorphosis 1

“Avid Metamorphosis I” was a durational piece first performed in 1994 in which every stitch of a man’s suit was unpicked using a rip-unpick and pair of small scissors shaped like a bird’s head. The length of the work varied between five and eight hours depending on the construction of the suit. The suit was unpicked and the pieces were progressively laid out in the space in which the action was performed.

Read more

Watch documentation


Christian Marclay – The Clock

One of the greatest artworks of all time, The Clock is a piece that is about the passing of time, and is the experience of the passing of time at one and the same time. It is a looped 24-hour video montage of scenes from film and television that feature clocks or timepieces. The artwork itself functions as a clock: its presentation is synchronized with the local time, resulting in the time shown in a scene being the actual time.

Read about The Clock 


Jamie McMurry – 365 Performances

A year long performance project by one of America’s most interesting performance artists who set out to do a performance action every day for a year, attempting to confuse art and life.

Watch documentation

Marina Abramovic and Ulay

The Lovers

 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.

Some titles on the artists available to buy on Unbound are Whispers: Ulay on Ulay, Walk Through Walls: A Memoir, and The Artist is Present.


Banner image credit:

Rhythm 0, Marina Abramovic.

Part of Lockdown Lists

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.

Lockdown Lists

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.

Read more

Boxed In – Live Art and Confinement

Boxed In reflects some of the ways in which Live Art operates in relationship to issues and conditions of confinement.

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Live Art and Distance

This Lockdown List considers notions of Live Art and distance.

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The Live Art Almanac Volume 6

This Lockdown List is a reimagined Volume 6 of the The Live Art Almanac, LADA’s ongoing publishing project focused on collecting and disseminating ‘found’ writing about Live Art.

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