Antipodean live art

Posted on May 26, 2010 by


When lala (live art list australia) started it felt like an important thing to do – something necessary in the ecology of those artists who as Jason Maling put so beautifully in his essay sit ‘in-between‘.

In recent times I have begun to wonder if this ‘live art’ thing is another fad, like the ‘locative media’/’tactical media’ fad of 4 years ago.

If you title something ‘live art’ will it get picked up by the Inter-Arts office? will it be seen as cool by visual artists who are sick of static installations and performance artists sick of the rigidity of the theatrical formula?

This is a pretty sobering thought, and considering the title of this weblog I am actually questioning my own existence.

After discussing this with some colleagues there were some pretty interesting comments ranging from “I am sick of the term, it is overused and no longer representative” to “I am glad there is a banner under which we can all stand”.

Both of these are actually true, some people need something to grip onto, they struggle with the idea that there can be an experience that you have to negotiate as you view it.

At the same time for both the Next Wave Festival and for Melbourne Fringe Festival these delineations are made by a combination of both staff members and artists, without a clear understanding of what live art is.

For artists such as Madeleine Hodge, Sarah Rodigari, pvi collective, Unreasonable Adults and Jason Maling who have all been a part of the live art scene in the UK and Europe it must feel very strange to be hear the term being bandied around so much here.

Personally in putting together lala (live art list australia), the question always with everything i do is ‘is this live art?’. Sometimes I don’t know, sometimes it is just a feeling, sometimes I look back at a work or an artist and think – that ain’t live art…

Perhaps like a lot of our food and coffee influences in Australia we have to accept that a replication of UK style live art is not realistic here and that the type of interdisciplinary, conceptually driven work that is happening here is not live art but antipodean live art. Just as we have taken in influences by the diasporas from Europe, Asia and Africa, so we also have done in contemporary art.

Influenced by the Japanese body methods that Sydney Front and Gravity Feed were using in the 1980’s, pushed by the injection of video and interactive media as well as Indonesian installation art in the 1990’s and fed by the explosion that has come out of PACT and Performance Space in Sydney and the Next Wave Festivals of Marcus Westbury and Jeff Khan, this antipodean live art scene is unlike any other in the world and perhaps I personally need to let go of the ‘looking to the UK’ for guidance in what we are doing and embrace this bulging scene as something that has its own journey.

Martyn Coutts
Martyn Coutts sometimes calls himself a Live Arts practitioner.

Posted in: Resource