AGENCY: A Partial History of Live Art


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Notoriously difficult to define, Live Art is commonly positioned as a challenge to received artistic, social, and political categories: not theatre, not dance, not visual art, and often wilfully anti-mainstream and anti-establishment. But as it has become increasingly prevalent in international festivals, major art galleries, and university courses, it is ripe for a reassessment.

AGENCY: A Partial History of Live Art is a new book edited by Theron Schmidt and co-published with Intellect Books. AGENCY looks back at the last 20 years of Live Art through the lens of LADA.

Including almost 50 contributing artists and scholars, this collection of conversations, provocations and images takes the twentieth anniversary of the LADA’s founding as an opportunity to consider not only what Live Art has been against, but also what it has been for. Through the work of this particular ‘Agency’, the book explores the idea of agency more generally: how Live Art has enabled the possibility for new kinds of thoughts, actions and alliances for diverse individuals and groups.

Contributors: Barby Asante, Ron Athey, David A. Bailey, Anne Bean, Bryan Biggs, Cassils, Simon Casson, George Chakravarthi, Curious, Richard DeDomenici, The Disabled Avant-Garde, Tim Etchells, Andy Field, French & Mottershead, RoseLee Goldberg, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Jen Harvie, The Institute For The Art And Practice Of Dissent At Home, Dominic Johnson, Amelia Jones, John Jordan, Lois Keidan, Alastair MacLennan, John E. McGrath, Jordan McKenzie, Hayley Newman, Martin O’Brien, Kira O’Reilly, Mary Paterson, Project 0, Alan Read, Heike Roms, Rajni Shah, Joshua Sofaer, Selina Thompson, Jane Trowell, Johanna Tuukkanen, the vacuum cleaner, Manuel Vason, Lois Weaver, Catherine Wood.

  AGENCY: A Partial History of Live Art was the winner of the Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA) Edited Collection Prize 2021.    


Agency offers one of the clearest explanations in plain English of exactly what constitutes Live Art, what sets it apart from theatre or other practices in the creative industries and why that matters. As a reference book it offers an intelligent and rigorous interrogation of Live Art its guts and gore, its shock tactics and disruptions, its raw energy, risk taking and ingenuity.

Julie McNamara, writing for Disability Arts Online


“Avoiding the potential pitfalls of attempting chronology and definition, this ‘partial history’ instead provides a series of maps, in-roads and meanderings through the various practices, strategies, political and cultural concerns that Live Art as a counter-cultural sector produces. Staking its ground and pedigree by gathering together some of the most significant artists in the field, the collection pairs them together in order to initiate conversations that reveal various histories and concerns that might otherwise not come to light.”
Sara Jane Bailes, Reader in Theatre and Performance Studies, University of Sussex


This is a book about ‘relations and commitments’, to borrow a phrase from the introduction: histories, practices, discourses, places, people, ideas, politics. It maps and narrates a ‘field’ of art practices and where those practices, those ways of working, complicate and disturb other activities: activism, living, teaching and research. It may well turn out to be the book that I will be pointing students towards first for some while, to orient themselves in this field.”

Joe Kelleher, Professor of Theatre and Performance, University of Roehampton London


Launch event was on 6 March 2019


ISBN: 978-1-78320-990-3

223x170mm, paper back. 320 pages

Published by Live Art Development Agency and Intellect Books.

Trade Order: Intellect Books. Please see the distribution page for more info.


Additional information

Weight 1500.0 kg