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Tuesday, 31 May 2011


One of the distinguishing elements of live art and performance is the creation of a tangible relationship between the artist and audience. Video, photography, text and sound are some of the mediums that artists may use in order to document and archive performance, often for future reference.

Performativity will question the position of documentation and whether it can be seen as a piece of work in its own right; are these items of documentation defined by being documents or are they are able to escape this classification? The exhibition will look at and compare how our experiences of live art differ when we witness it in different ways. This relationship will be explored and considered through a variety of artworks, which use performance and live art as their starting point, looking at the documentation of performance and the products of performance.

By experiencing live art through documentation our interaction with it is altered; in some cases ‘documentation’ may not even be the correct term to use, as often the article we are looking at is the evidence of a past event. These items then, are part of the event, a product for us to relate to, allowing us to be part of a past that we did not experience first hand. The exhibition includes artists whose practice will challenge the viewer to consider the different experiences of performance through the varied ways the artists have chosen to present their works and what they choose to deliver.

The camera holds an integral position in Performativity; artists will use the camera as a means for documentation, as a viewfinder and as part of the performances itself, as an extension of the artist and a tool for making work. The relationship between performance art and the camera has always been interchangeable and the camera holds a certain responsibility when discussing performance. Chris Burden’s eminent performance Shoot is more commonly recognized and referred to through the documented photograph. Burden would only invite small audiences to watch his performances, if anyone at all, making the first hand experience more sacred through its exclusivity:

‘These events became word-of-mouth sensation…Burden’s performances…the fact that almost nobody saw them, except by way of documentation.’

Peter Schjeldahl

Documentation is often seen as secondary to seeing a performance first hand; some artists choose not to document their performance at all, wanting it to only exist in the moment. For others it is vital for a record to be made otherwise it will be lost or it will only exist as an intangible memory. Performance can also be a means with which to create a piece of work, as a tool to produce a video or an installation. Laurie Lax’s Video Fixations are drawn documents of a video which in itself documents a journey and so call us to question where the boundary of performance falls with this work; is it the journey, the act of recording it or putting pencil to paper to recreate moments of it?

‘Both time-based media and performance are therefore mediums in which individual works are often replicated, migrated, or emulated in order to ensure their continued existence.’

Sydney Briggs

Performativity includes artists based in four cities - Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool and Birmingham and the works make reference to the artist’s location and local culture. Location and venue are essential to ideas surrounding live art; a one off performance will happen in one place, at one time and it is probable that the performance will be affected and altered by the immediate surroundings. The exhibition presents site and location specific works, within landscapes or cities, presenting personal experiences and representations for the audience to engage with.

Talking about her work, Fish Possible (wobble) ‘Filming projection without tripod whilst breathing’, Joanne Masding describes her relationship with documentation:

‘I’m very interested in the use of documentation as a means of validating the original event rather than merely recording it, and how events or actions are often viewed through some means other than eyes, such as a camera, which means that at the time it is thought of as a past thing that can be re-experienced, rather than being so aware of it in the present.’

Experiencing the artworks exhibited and the remnants of performance within the space will allow the audience to take on different positions – not only as a first or second hand experience but also taking on the role of the performer, the documenter, the audience or the distant observer.

Performativity will involve the audience in the relationships and experiences of live art rather than viewing the art as an immobile representation. The opening night will include performances from Alice Vandeleur-Boorer and Karina Banks so that the experiences of the live act and the work that they choose to leave behind can be compared, which will be exhibited alongside work from Black Dogs, Laurence Payot, Tim Stock, Joanne Masding and Laurie Lax whose work highlights the inconstant relationship between live art and the audience in different ways.

Amber Ablett and Eloise Jones

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