On 26th October 2011 as part of the Performance Matters public program I gathered performers, live artists, producers and programmers from across the world for a special edition of Eat Your Heart Out. Here is my first paper I read to them.
The Observation of Live Art practice in 2011 as seen by the working class protagonist.
Live Art is the practice of artists who use performance, live or recorded to communicate their ideas. In this paper I will endeavor to introduce you to The Artist, The Practice and The Work.
An artist who creates work with the use of performance is referred to as either a live artist, performance artist, interdisciplinary artist, hybrid artist, multimedia artist, video artist or Phd student. The use of just ‘performer’ is actively shunned - this not only has connotations of populist work which is actively opposed (we will explore later) but does not contain the crucial word ‘artist’ - this is key in the individuals validation to their vocation. The word artist gives importance, meaning, social status and access to public funding – all key in developing work.
Labelling is incredibly important but equally a troubling part of the artists role and a difficulty to ‘refine’ or ‘condense’ their practice to one genre is beneficial. These covey the struggle of making ‘the work’ and the complexities it comes with, for this reason live or performance art lends well to academics or scholars; critical behavior, self reference but fictional deprecation, indecision, lack of product, incoherence, social engagement or politic but with an elevated idea of the presence of the aforementioned.
An artist from a working class background, low social status or just female can prove to be an asset in informing them in their practice throughout their career. In addition a performance artist who is more advance in years is deemed to have more politic or message than their 22 year old counter part, this rule however does not apply to the higher end of the scale. Artists who are still practicing post their 50th year or who are in ‘retirement from performance’ are elevated to take the title of a performance art family member i.e ‘The Grandmother of Performance Art’ they may also be known in the sector as a legacy artist.
Live Art or Performance Art as it was known in the 90’s was invented by a New York practitioner named Penny Arcade – I quote from her website: “I invented performance art and I am sorry” although works existed before her practice she is widely accepted as the voice and so should not be tackled on this matter.
When creating work the artist must start with a point of reference, again a difficulty in communicating why you have chosen this should be employed and a lengthy process of scratching (to present an unfinished, unformalized piece of work to a paying audience under the banner of ‘work in progress’ or ‘process based work’) is encouraged.
Work can be spoken and discussed at length with peers before the work is developed, this process can go on for many years without product and is known as ‘in development’.
Work which is more fully formed in content should be referred to as 'piece', a combination of pieces may be called ‘a body of work’ and a combinations of ‘bodies’ may be termed an arch, a number of arches put together could be called an archive, a number of archives that are digitalized could be called tedious. This chain gives the work gravitas and pulls focus from its lack of technical ability. Live Artists need not learn how to concisely apply skill or craft i.e. learn breathing technique or pitching to, lets say sing an opera - to sing it badly in a piece would be referred to as its ‘strategy’ or intentional.
Studio space is an essential tool to a live artists creativity, although they do not create physical pieces of work to have a studio reflects a successful, stable artist who is diverse as relevant. This should be based the East of London, it is advisable each artist has at least one assistant. If this is unvisible create a fictional email address to impress other live artists.
Work that communicates your relationship with the tampon or nothingness is encouraged. Any subject that could possibly alienate the majority of an audience is good practice, this in turn will reflect the artist in a strong position of knowledge when in reality a minimal amount of structured research (wikipedia) has taken place, kicking an audience out of the space, hurting them or preventing them viewing the work is highly advisable and adds texture. The lack of access creates myth.
Titling your work 'Untitled' or 'A Long Title That Is Nothing To Do With The Work' is also acceptable, this again gives the work an elevated position for content that is weaker.
Using verbs like participatory help show your work has layers and is as politically or intellectually complex as it is novel.
Reenactment work, in which an artist directly mimics the work of other live artists dead or alive, good or bad is acceptable. This process is not seen as 'copying' or ‘stealing’ but developmentation' or 'referential'.
Words like 'entertaining' 'showbiz' and 'panache' are not apart of the live arts vocabulary and work of the genre is frowned upon, this work will only attracts comments like “This is rubbish, its belongs on Glee’. To create work that engages an audience on a populist level isn't progressive enough for the live artist, light entertainment and popular entertainment formats are not considered - this work is for ‘the TV generation’ and basic in content without a politic.
Live Art does not exist in the theatre and theatrical elements are actively opposed, this includes good lighting and 'the 4th wall'. Good work exists in gallery spaces, uses bodily fluids and is viewed by other live artists. Work outside of this can be identified as ‘Trash’.
Trash performance is a word someone made up for a bunch of people annoyed by a live artists practice thus making it formalized like all of the above.
Audience size should be modest, even for the ‘performance art family’ previously mentioned. Work that attracts too much public support is seen as ‘selling out’ and void of any meaning that may have originally been praised.
When comment is given on lack of theatre, technical ability or aesthetic a live artist must respond with '..that is what I wanted the piece to communicate'.
To conclude: Performance obviously matters. Performers save lives, rescue cats from trees and look after the old, performance stops wars, can end poverty etc. Performance enriches peoples lives, performance is clearly the answer.