“Alive” – Adrian Heathfield


Heathfield, A. (2004). Alive. In A. Heathfield (ed.) Live: art and performance, London: Tate Publishing. pp. 6-15

First chapter of the book Live: art and performance

It looks at the performance of the very late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. It’s writing was triggered by dialogues and experiences of the Live Culture event at Tate Modern in 2003.

About documentation and liveness: “The essays, interviews and documentary strategies that have arisen from it, like all residues of performance, have substantially transformed and extended the event, creating something altogether different.”

Book about the “genre” of live art and what is happening to it in the present. About the live element of contemporary art, its aesthetic, philosophical and cultural potential.

Author underlines a “profound impetus in contemporary art and culture towards the immediate, the immersive and the interactive: a shift to the live.”

“What are the lines of correspondence between performance and broader visual arts practice, between these fields and the culture-lust for the live?”

“What does the presence of this drive tell us about the conditions of embodiment, identity and the social fabric at the beginning of the twenty-first century?”

It discusses four main parameters of performance: time, space, body and matter – one in each section, through the analysis of specific performances

The Pursuit of Oblivion (2004) – Damien Hirst: hard-to-categorize space, “it exemplifies some key underlying shifts in contemporary visual art: from the lasting to the temporary, from the optic to the haptic, from the distant to the close, from static relation to the fluid exchange.”

// Time Out of Time

shocks to perception ——> attention of the spectator is heightened ————> sensory relation charged ——–> thoughts are agitated

from its beginnings in modernist movements performance has consistenly replaced or qualified the material object with a temporal act.

disruptive potential em relation to fictive or narrative time

slide into a liminal temporality; capacity to connect distant times with the present

contemporary live art employs many different forms of experimentation with time: improvisation and chance; actions in “real time and space”; no fictional time or narration; scheduling works at “improper” times; works whose time is autonomous and exceeds the spectator’s ability to witness it; presenting the experience of duration through the body; radically extending or shrinking duration.

Panoramix (2003) – La Ribot

presence becomes the subject of the work

I miss you! (2004) – Franko B

race between experience and thought

struggle to resolve the need to make meanings from what we see

“The aesthetic powers and cultural consequences of such moves are often reduced by their popular miscomprehension within a generic notion of “shock tactics”, which suposes a fixation on and a superficial taste for the very moment of a spectator’s “trauma”.

Excessive performances: artists can create fissures or holes in perception and interpretation, de-structuring thought. Means to critique cultural norms, fixed perceptions and sedimented values as they relate to the body, identity and society.

12 am Awake & Looking Down (2003) – Forced Entertainment

some performances use time itself as a subject, making us aware that time is a product of structures of thought, that our perceptions and understandings of time are a cultural construct, and as such open to revision and change.

progress – accumulation – capitalism – time as a commodity – speed is prime value – time wasted is money lost

performance gives access to other temporalities: to time as it is felt in the body, time not just as progression and accumulation

time: non-linear, multi-dimensional, multi-faceted

// Displacements

“Though the phenomena of space and time are inseparable, discourse around space in terms of its form, operation and politics has tended to dominate the critical writing on performance, if not its enactment and aesthetics.”

new technologies —–> new places in virtual fields —–> expansive virtual space and an unstable real —–> performance became more migratory

performance places itself wherever the necessities of expression, relation and finance dictate

performance has become a means though which to test the foundations and borders of identity, to bring the self into new relations with its “outsides” and others

performance and site-specific art: close investigation of the matter, conception and perception of space

“Far from being neutral, place itself is seen by many Live artists as a restrictive force to be opened and resisted. Place is here the product of particular rationales or ideologies that order its architecture, the habitual practices, physical movements and social encounters that happen within it.”

performance as a means to test and transform space

Kitchen Show (1991) / Box Story (2001) – Bobby Baker

examine or re-frame situated ritual acts and in so doing enact temporary transformations to those places and their associated practices

Electronic Disturbance Theatre – hacker and performance tactics to subvert informational flow and therefore the power of the state

“Performance is used as an intervention within social space and a means of re-articulating its constitution. In this play of bodies within space, performance is often an insertion of the improper or the incongruous within a specific place, and through this intervention a certain realignment and activation takes place, opening possibilities that were previously invisible or prohibited within social reality.”

The Disciples (2000) – Brian Catling

performance enacts a transgression of boundaries, a process of breaching

“perf. operates by means of a performing subject testing out his or her relation to a site…..it enables artists and spectators – made inseparable from each other – to experience and to think the extent to which a given identity, or indeed subjectivity itself, is bound to a physical place or its discursive determinants. This is to question the extent to which a subject may take leave of the bounds of place.”

// Fleshworlds

performance and live arts – use, explore and examine the human body

artists stepped away from representation and stepped into the frame: using their own bodies as sites of experimentation and expression

Body Art: from the late 1960s to the present

correlation between performance art and “the moving body” of dance: rooted in the minimalist aesthetics of experimental choreographers from the 1960s and 70s (Judson Church ?), it continues in the present (Jérôme Bel, La Ribot, etc) (non-dance conceptual wave from the 1990s ?)

contemporary performance: the artist’s body, its adornments, its actions and its residues are not just the subject, but also the material object of the art

“The physical gesture of the artist’s body into the artwork is a transgressive gesture that confuses the distinctions between subject and object

“Performance explores the paradoxical status of the body as art: treating it as an object within a field of material relations with other objects, and simultaneously questioning its objetification by deploying it as a disruption of and resistance to stasis and fixity.”

artist’s body in performance: questions the relation between the self and others

performance puts into question the performer-sepectator “divide”

The House with the Ocean View (2003) – Marina Abramovic

penetration, piercing and scarification (Abramovic, Ron Athey)

physical risk and its resonances through consciousness and out towards the cultural-political sphere.”

“Such investigations invoke the relations of power between self and other, and as a consequence, the dynamics of pleasure and pain, desire and repulsion, love and hatred that traverse this relation.

“The artist’s body is de-naturalised and used as a mutable object

William Pope L.

the performing body as a site of contestation

Matthew Goulish reiterates the notion that subjection is a place of agency through which transformation may occur

Jean Fischer invokes the artist-performer as Trickster

“As the cultural milieu of Western late capitalist societies is ever more densely mediated and unreal, the body might seem to offer the remaining ground through which the real may be encountered and felt. But however elemental, this “real body” is often the very subject in question in performance

Stelarc – live artist who uses prosthetic and virtual extensions of his corporeal being

somatic test-site, performance presents and questions transformations of the base-matter and foundational meanings of fleshy existence

// Elemental Life

investigation of life matter is not limited to human bodies and human beings

employment of bodies of animals (living or dead) questions the boundaries of culture and nature, of the human and the animal

Zoophrenia series – Oleg Kulik: he declares we must renounce anthopocentrism

Kulik’s plays as a dog, taking the mimetic to a limit where it enters a state of excess

The polarities of dog-human seem to oscillate, collide and collapse

I like America and America likes me (1974) – Joseph Beuys: Kulik references to it. difference: Beuys’s work is a play between the separate poles of the human and the animal

Armadillo for Your Show (2003) – Oleg Kulik

Kulik: part-bird, part-human, part-statue………….an action-image that is not an object, but a gesture held in the play of the material and the immaterial

“…through the elemental, of the animal and the human, the natural and the cultural, what Kulik stages is a sensate opening to another way of being: abject, liminal, without identity

Romeo Castellucci: play with the elemental

performers’ bodies marked by abjection and alterity (wounded, anorexic or contorted / interest in the human presence of extremes of age and in the on-stage life of animals

such aesthetics open up questions of the bio-political, interrogating the designation and meaning of sacrifice. It question the logics by which certain bodies are placed in conditions of exception to and exclusion from the human by cultural authorities

Live Art’s interest in the limits of the corporeal existence ——–> new technologies ——–> examination of the facts and meanings of biological life

Tissue Culture & Art Project – Oron Catts

cultivation of “semi-living art works” – sculptures of living tissue grown outside the body – represent a complex and yest under-theorised disturbance of some fundamental principles of humanism: the understanding of the self as integral, indivisible, and its ontological separation fro other forms of life

Hayley Newman – fictional performance photographs: the document of performance is a creative re-making whose referent is absent