Tuesday, October 16, 2007
What are the roots of performance art and live art in Vancouver? The best way to answer this question is to get it straight from the people who were there and involved from the beginning--people like Glenn Lewis. He remembers being inspired by workshops given by Yvonne Rainer and Deborah Hay, who came out of dance backgrounds. Lewis says the work was movement-based, but also contained the spark of conceptual art and the visual art sensibility which was brought in by participants such as Robert Rauschenberg. "It was like a living collage," he says. The revolutionary spirit of the 1960's fostered the development of performance experiments that broke down the expectations embedded within the artistic disciplines the performers drew from: dance, music, visual art and theatre. Margaret Dragu noted that what the political context of the Vietnam war fed that spirit of resistance. The Fluxus notion of incorporating the everyday activities into art practice fit into this scene through artists like Robert Filliou. I would also like to know if communications art acted as the glue that helped form some of these "tribes" and helped cross-pollination to occur internationally.
Paul Wong says that live art came out of an anti-art anti-theatre tradition. For him, the scene has always been about fluid and chaotic collaboration. There were always surprises---no rehearsals, no script and it was about bringing people together. He also was one of the founders of the video art genre that became an essential part of live art.
By the time Judy Radul arrived on the scene the tribes were forming around identity politics. Queer, feminist, and first nations were creating politicized performances, drawing from the same artistic traditions as before only this time it was informed by things like punk, the Kootenay school of writing. Radul was inspired by visiting performance artists such as Rose English who performed "Plato's Cave" at the Western Front.
I asked Margaret Dragu if performance art is sustainable. She says that although in the early days of performance art the academy wanted nothing to do with it, now the very survival of the genre may relay on being studied and disseminated by academia. She also made the point that practical knowledge and wisdom are an important part of her job as a physiotherapist [correction -- personal trainer...correction by MD..] and I gather she means to imply that these skills are just as important in sustaining her career as a performance artist. (Is that what you inferred, Margaret?) [answer: see comments section for MD reply]
Right now there is such a diversity of people working in the medium that I think it will weather the cycles of commodification and appropriation by popular culture. Part of the spirit and mandate of performance art and live art is to resist definition and expectations--to surprise the audience with its nakedness and raw humanity. I do think however, that the spirit of collaboration has gone out the window for the most part, and I wonder why.
We're here. We're live humans in real time. I'll show you yours if you'll
show me mine.
LIVE5 Photos: History Panel Photo Set