Magazine article Art Monthly

National Review of Live Art

Magazine article Art Monthly

National Review of Live Art

Article excerpt

National Review of Live Art Tramway Glasgow February 6 to 10

Evidence that the interdisciplinary approach taken by the NRLA is partially successful in commissioning new performance was apparent this year in the work of Belgian artist Kris Verdonck. Trained in theatre and architecture as well as the visual arts, Verdonck presented three works, the first of which, In, comprised an actress suspended for an hour in an illuminated tank of water. Positioned at the back of a dark room and accompanied by the amplified sound of her breath and a heartbeat, the woman, dressed as a rather scantily clad waitress, initially appeared to be a mannequin or mouth-to-mouth dummy.

Her pale skin and fine features seemed remote in the Houdini-like tank and the dramatic lighting accentuated her open staring eyes. The accompanying notes asserted that the sound of her breath would induce a trance-like state. The soporific submission of this presence, evocative of the waxworks, preserved medical specimens and freak-show test tubes of La Specola in Florence, produced an object of manipulated curiosity. With more than a nod to David Lynch, this Twin Peaks character standing uneasily in water-filled high heels was made more eerie by the sudden appearance of a man who asked us curtly to leave the space, insisting the piece would resume in ten minutes. Inherently, the interruption had marked the work with a performative candour belonging to 'real life'.

Just such a juxtaposition was cited in a critical contextualisation by Heike Roms as part of TRACE: Displaced, a collective comprising Andre Stitt, Phil Babot, Roddy Hunter, Lee Hassall and Beth Greenhalgh, who together occupied the central large T2 space at Tramway. Roms commented on the development and dissemination of the group's interactions. Themes such as cross-referencing, interaction, the incorporation of the everyday into the performative event incidentally or deliberately shaped Rom's observations, which were displayed on an information table in the space itself. The slightly prescriptive demarcation of the concurrent live acts of TRACE: Displaced, as intellectual property as well as ruminative substance for a lay public, may have been superseded by the useful points Roms made for those new to live art.

Part of the problem may have been that, this year, the interdisciplinary approach appeared to be restricted, and with it the potentially more relevant and immediate characteristics live art can offer. Mismanagement of space contributed a great deal to the limitations placed on programming: a conflict of interests arose between the more formal needs of black box theatre work and those of durational live conceptual work, and though the guide encouraged you 'to create your own desire paths through this unique festival', attempts to do so were severely hampered by consistent refusal of entry to spaces where work had already begun. This frustration was compounded by the knowledge that it was not because of the requirements of each artist for silence, stasis, etc, but that many of the smaller spaces were set up so that to enter would mean crossing in front of a stage. Inevitably two rather serious questions arose: whether the audience had been totally negated and reduced to a conformist mass to be shipped from one piece to another in accordance with the temporal logistics of the festival and secondly and, to what extent the cross-disciplinary approach worked in terms of curation. …

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