Performance Now was a three-day event in February at The Roper Gallery in Bath. Arts Editor and curator of the event reflects on the experience.
Performance Now was an opportunity for artists to explore live art, experiment and try out ideas in front of an audience. Open to anyone, the events aim was to encourage more artists and audiences, to explore live art. It also provided a platform for performance artists to try out ideas and receive feedback.
Performance Art in its very nature is difficult to define, other than that it is simply live art by artists usually performed in front of an audience. Due to this nature, it can be difficult to experiment with ideas and receive feedback. It can also be hard to find a space suitable to explore these ideas, especially whilst in art school surrounded by painters and sculptors.
As an art student who explores performance art, I know of these struggles too well which is why I wanted to create a space where not only others can explore, but myself too.
Spending the past three years in art school, it has been difficult to explore live art and have it be seen. Traditionally, performance art was meant to only be seen live and documentation was prohibited as it was seen as going against the values of live art. This however, meant that it was difficult to prove the event happened, and lead to miscommunication. Thankfully nowadays, most performance artists use some form of documentation such as photography or video to provide a record and help educate others.
To ensure a record was made of Performance Now, I asked several photography students to help and they captured some brilliant moments. It was also a chance for me to see if photography can represent a live event, as with photography comes selection and can one photograph of one part of the event, represent it accurately as a whole?
Moving on to start of the event, we started with some performance exercises to get our bodies moving. We stood in a circle, and I told everyone to enter the centre and 'do nothing’ for one minute. The entries varied from standing in the circle staring into space, to sat scrolling through their phone. The next exercise was the opposite “do something”.
Following this, artist Daisy Hill placed two chairs opposite each other, sat in one and invited audience members to sit in the chair, to which Daisy sat staring at the audience member in silence. Taking inspiration from artist Marina Abramovich Daisy wanted to explore audience interaction.
We then held a workshop/performance activity where the performer (myself) coated her body in latex and when dry invited audience members, to peel it off her skin and keep the remains as a gift of sorts. The audience was then invited to join in, in applying latex to themselves and asking other audience members to peel it off. This explored the idea of connection, and giving a part of yourself to someone such as when in a relationship. It was also an opportunity for people to learn how to make latex casts of themselves.
I then performed a piece called “Insomnia Routine” where I repeatedly searched around an invisible bedroom, looking under imaginary beds, inside imaginary wardrobes for 20 minutes. I didn’t give any narrative to the audience, and allowed their imaginations to run free for 20 minutes. The piece was a recreation of a routine that I did two years prior in my bedroom every night, during a long period of insomnia and psychosis. I wanted to shine a light on these issues and have the audience explore their imaginations, seeing how powerful they can be.
Finally, I performed “slapping me” where I stood an invited audience members to simply slap me. Unsurprisingly not many people volunteered, but my friend Zachary agreed. The idea was to make the audience feel uncomfortable at the artists expense.
Overall, the event was successful. Myself and several other artists explored ideas that had been at the back of our minds for a long time, which was such a relief. We also made new connections with the brilliant photographers and each other, which we wouldn’t have done without this event as unfortunately courses don’t tend to mix together a lot. It was an amazing shared experience to do something you’re passionate about and I hope for more encounters in the future.
Please check out some photographs from our wonderful photographers below. All images are copyright to the photographers.
Alice Pool, IG@alicepoole.photo_
Fran McColl, IG@fran.m_photography, www.francesamccoll.co.uk