Robin Deacon presents 'The Performance Pack' to a group of undergraduate students
Notes by Robin Deacon:
This video was made with some second year students from the Drama and Performance Studies degree course that I have been running for the past five years. Played out here is that scenario of blank faces and wincing incredulity that often goes hand in hand with introducing undergraduates to more 'challenging' forms of performance practice as set out in The Performance Pack, which nonetheless always serves as a brilliant introduction to 'the field'. Especially because I'm in it.
However, despite years of trying to beat it out of them, many of my students still want to be 'proper' actors. For all the repetition of my dictum that to do something truly interesting with a medium, part of you has to hold it in utter contempt and disdain, the 'well made play' remains the totemic point of reference for the average English drama student. That said, a certain degree of cynicism from the students in this area can be useful, in that it makes me try harder. Not so much in terms of the justification of all things experimental, but rather as a means of reminding me that yes, perhaps the Emperor (or live artist) sometimes isn't wearing any clothes.
Perhaps one has to develop a stoic acceptance of the fact many students just don't 'get' this, which in turn serves as a mechanism to prevent slipping into vain and arrogant proselytising. But I certainly have a heightened awareness of the contradictions in the idea that traditional conceptions of theatre are things to be opposed or overcome when teaching about live art. For example, its strange how I can't account for my willingness to accept suspension of disbelief in the context of watching a movie in a way that I can't when watching manipulative 'fourth wall' approaches to theatre. And I think I've always said that I'd rather see a brilliantly staged piece of script based, character driven drama than a rubbish piece of performance art.
I do remember a student asking me what my performances were like. I replied by saying that essentially, it involves me sort of rambling on with some video projections going on in the background. She replied, 'so, a bit like your lectures, then?' The question is whether lecturing and conducting workshops becomes either a supplement or substitute for ones practice - whether one is an artist that teaches, or a teacher who does art (as and when he can), or a teacher who used to be an artist? In the film, I am chosen again by my students as the pant wearing artist in The Performance Pack, but in the real world, I am left wondering to what degree these vexed questions regarding my identity register with this captive audience.
Robin Deacon is an artist, writer and filmmaker based in the UK. Working since the early 1990s, much of his work encompasses live performance with a body of works that have explored journalistic and documentary approaches to arts practice.
Is it Live? by motiroti (2009)
This is an attempt at expressing my own practice in relationship to the Live Art Development Agency and Live Art.
Nearly over 1000 portraits in this video have been taken as part of various motiroti projects since 1999. Each portrait conceals a negotiation between the people in front on my lens, conversations that lead to the moment where people choose the photograph that represents them best and the relationships that grow as a result of it.
People, telling, re-telling, and sharing stories is what gives the LIVE element to my work, defining, re-defining even though the work can be experienced or distributed in many different formats.
It is the agency of the people and public that makes my world go tick tock!
Thank you Lois, Daniel and Andrew for inviting me to create a one-minute contribution for your 10th anniversary.
"They Never Stop Working, Even When You Kiss Them" by Oreet Ashery (2009)
This video is an homage to the continuous sense of commitment I experienced over the years from the Live Art Development Agency. This commitment is expressed not only through passion and expertise, but also through lengthy extra hours and days spent working well beyond the call of duty. Even when I kissed Lois, Andrew and Maria, (I am sure that Daniel and CJ are relieved to have missed this experience), or sucked their fingers, they were still typing away, organising, replying to emails, developing, planning, confirming. Nothing seem to distract them from their mission. This commitment has evidently born fruits: for the last ten years the Live Art Development Agency has been instrumental in bringing Live Art and performative practices to the forefront of artistic and cultural productions, both here in the UK and abroad.
In this kissing intervention I wanted to materialise, test and embody live art/performance legacy and ability to deal with transgression, border crossing (in a professional context in this occasion), taboos, risk taking, body politics and notions of intimacy. I knew that the Live Art Development Agency will put their mouths where their ethos lays.
Over the years and with support from many people, including Lois, Daniel and Andrew, I have learnt that what seems to be silly, foolish, small, out of place, out of the ordinary, forbidden, uncomfortable, embarrassing, humiliating even, carries an agency. Working with fictional characters, and now doing so with others, has always been a useful transforming tool.
The kissing and sucking was work, I felt the affects of unconsciousness and socio/cultural registers impossible to articulate immediately after. This inability to fully internalise, and externalise, those registers are perhaps some of the reasons I have initially found the footage cringing and nearly impossible to watch. I certainly needed some distance to be able to edit the raw footage.
This piece is a continuation of my interest in working with border crossings and de-territorialisation as a political tool, as well as acts of intimacy, real and constructed. I have worked site-specifically in curators' bedrooms, I have included my family in a number of projects, I have collaborated in the past with people I had intimate relationships with and I have crossed what I perceived as geographical, political, cultural and gender borders in various projects. Those crossings were described by Roberta Mock as Corporeal Turns In her essay Oreet Ashery's Site-Specific Corporeal Turns, published in the book Dancing with Men.
Oreet Ashery is a Jerusalem born, London based interdisciplinary artist. Ashery¹s work looks at intimate narratives, real and fictional, and their relationship to contested social and political realities. The work set to expand the discourse around subjectivity and art practice, mainly through the use of various male alter egos and fictional characters. The work is complex and relational, yet humorous and accessible, Ashery performed and exhibited extensively in international context including art centers, museums, cinemas, galleries, film and performance festivals and biennales. Those have included the Liverpool Biennial, ZKM, Tate Modern, Brooklyn Museum, Pompidou Centre, Freud Museum, Umjetnicki Paviljon, NRLA and Foxy Production. Site-specific locations have including curators' bedrooms in various cities, religious celebration, Qualandia checkpoint, and derelict fishermen's hut. In 2009 Ashery will complete an Artangel public art commission.
Ashery's work has been published and discussed in numerous books and art publications in many languages. Books in English have included Art in the Age of Terrorism, Art Tomorrow, Blasphemy art that offends, and Biographies and Space. The book Dancing with Men, charting ten years of interactive performances and interventions, published by the Live Art Development Agency, will be available in spring 2009. The graphic novel the Novel of Nonel and Vovel, in collaboration with Larissa Sansour, published by Charta, will be available from June 2009.
Ashery is a recipient of an AHRC creative fellowship award, she is based in the Drama department at Queen Mary University, London.
"I have never loved you more" by Curious (2009)
Helen Paris and Leslie Hill have been working together as Curious since 1996. In that time, they have made over forty projects in a range of disciplines including performance, installation, publication and film. The work is global and domestic: sometimes large, sometimes small in scale. Intimacy and a shared sense of encounter with an audience is always an important element.
Projects often start with a question; What is the relationship between smell and memory? What do you long for and where do you belong? What is lost and what is found in places undergoing rapid regeneration and change? What are gut feelings? The subsequent investigations involve intimate, personal journeys alongside public research and enquiry. This leads the artists into collaborations and conversations with an array of people including truck-stop waitresses, biological scientists, political refugees, ocularists, nuclear weapons experts, sex workers, film-makers, old folk and lost property workers.
Curious engage personally and as honestly as they can with these questions in their work as writers and performers. The resulting work is sometimes intimate, frequently edgy, often humorous and always authentic.
Curious are produced by Artsadmin.
Curious have had a close relationship with the Live Art Development Agency over the past ten years. Leslie Hill and Helen Paris have both received One to One Bursaries, have received DIY funding, and have contributed to EEC, and Live Culture.
"How and why I make art in 60 seconds" by Stacy Makishi (2009)
Hawaii-born Stacy Makishi works in a variety of media including live art, site-specific installations, film and physical theatre. Her works are known for their amusing investigations of identity, sexuality and politics.
Her work is often about absence, displacement and memory from the point of view of the foreigner. The foreigner confronts us with our own strangeness and our own foreignness. Within her work there appears to be a tension that exists in the place in between: between here and elsewhere; between the abject and sublime; between desire and repulsion.
Whether she takes on a horror film, fashion show or psychic intervention, her work is often infused with a surreal humor.
Stacy has performed internationally at such venues as the Royal Albert Hall, Tate Modern, Walker Center, Minneapolis and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
"SELF-HANG" by Aaron Williamson (2009)
This short film shows the artist substituting dead wall-art with his own living person by flinging himself, daredevil-style, to hang on the gallery wall.
"Masking" by George Chakravarthi (2009)
There are many, many examples of literary and visual artists who have adopted alternative personae to apprehend particular experiences, enabling them to physically and intellectually engage with specific discourses or critically interface with a public. The first few examples that come to mind are Clarence Sanders aka Vaginal Davis, Marcel Duchamp as Rrose Selavy. Adrian Piper as The Mythic Being, writer Fernando Pessoa and his seventy-two heteronyms, writer and artist Brian O'Doherty as Patrick Ireland (and several others); all characters functioning for time-limited or long term strategic purposes.
George Chakravarthi has similarly utilized this mode of inquiry and presentation to de and re construct definitions of gender, racial identity and sexuality within his live, photographic and video performances, sometimes hybridising culturally specific iconographic figures in works such as the durational video pieces Shakti, 2003 where an axial character is formed from the Hindu deity Kali and Leonardo Di Vincis Mona Lisa. In Olympia, 2003 Chakravarthi again reprises the position of the central female figure this time Edouard Manet's 1863 Olympia and enacts a queering of this modernist painting in video.
The video installation Barflies, 2004 is a performative exploration of trans-genderism; surveying the perceptions, interactions, excitement and doubts played out in the public environments that three protagonists are singularly situated in.
Chakravarthis very recent works follow a literary trajectory formed from relationships with specific groups and later with the wider public. To The Man in My Dreams, 2006 based itself around the elusive character of daddy to explore real and projected imaginings collapsed around the relational and sexual overtones of the term, daddy. Johnny Shekontai, Chakravarthi's latest persona, gestated from this previous work with male and transgendered sex workers, to explore the parameters of gay pornography, in particular the penchant for the straight guy genre, which Chakravarthi endeavors to inhabit across all visual and communicative realms including the web, which will invite and mobilize a multidisciplinary and interactive relationship with the public.
"The Live Art Generation Game" by Susannah Hewlett (2009)
One of ten films about Live Art commissioned by the Live Art Development Agency for its tenth anniversary. www.thisisLiveArt.co.uk
Live Art is the name of the game and I wanna play the game with you
Like much of Hewlett's work the The Live Art Generation Game subverts an emblematic moment from popular culture. It hijacks the climactic challenge from the bygone Saturday night television game-show - The Generation Game - where the contestant must memorise as many prizes as possible seen passing before them on a conveyer belt.
Everything you remember you will take home with you tonight.
Hewlett's practice traverses gallery, theatre and other performance contexts working in Live Art to create multi-faceted live, video, installation and audio works. She has been commissioned by S1 Artspace, Beaconsfield Gallery, and Duckie. In 2008 she was selected to make new work for the Live Art UK Touring Commission and is an Artsadmin bursary recipient.
Filmed by Kim Noble
Voice over: Peter Beck
Music: Robin Forrest
Sound mix: Simon Keep
With thanks to Gino Saccone, Carmen Saccone and Tom Johnson