Magazine article Art Monthly

This Is Not a Performance or a Lecture!

Magazine article Art Monthly

This Is Not a Performance or a Lecture!

Article excerpt

This is Not a Performance or a Lecture! took place at Loughborough University on 18 June.

'This Is Not a Performance or a Lecture!' was a day-long programme of site-specific and studio-based performance, curated and devised by Radar: Loughborough University's innovative resident arts organisation. Instead of a day spent shuffling from neutral space to neutral space, attendants, a map and a timetable guided the collective audience across the university's prodigious grounds. Loughborough boasts the largest singlesite campus in the UK and use of its lecture halls, theatres and /36m state-of-the-art sports facilities were offered to the perfomers.

Radar's theme, to which participating artists' were invited to respond, was based on artists increasing use of the performance lecture medium: a mode of address in which the tools, techniques and restrictions of official presentation are used for creative purposes.

Frank Abbott's Moose Memory, 20ii, a kind of comedy routine as PowerPoint presentation, starts the day's programme at 12:30. Ushered into a small black-box theatre the audience is given stapled A4 handouts, seated and shown a series of Clipart PowerPoint slides. The professorial Abbott stands to the right of the stage, clicking through the presentation, faltering occasionally, and backtracking. A moose figures heavily in all the slides; there is a party in New York, a hunter, a car journey and, frustratingly, a narrative that won't emerge. The second part of Abbott's performance takes place outside. A woman delivers a monologue by a large tree. Drowned out by the patter of rain falling against a dozen umbrellas, nobody can hear her. Confused and slightly wet, attendees are lead to the site of Pil & Galia Kollectiv's studio-based performance. Epic Sea Battle at Night: A Revolutionary Play Permeated with the Economic Thinking of Milton Friedman, 20ii, is a re-enactment of the 1967 China's People's Liberation Army play Epic Sea Battle at Night. Dressed in proletariat garb, and standing in a revolutionary tableau, the group replaces the play's original dialogue with readings, delivered as a series of declaratory revolutionary statements, from Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom, an evangelical celebration of neo-liberal economics. The unsubtle ironies of the group's performance are initially engaging, but the 30-minute duration sends a wave of mid-afternoon ennui through the audience (even performance lectures can go on for to long).

One of the pitfalls of thematically led programmes is their conceptual inflexibility. Themes help to orient audience attention towards a specific set of considerations, but sometimes these considerations foreground lesser elements of what actually takes place within the work. Robin Deacon's powerful The Argument Against the Body, 20ii, a performance in five parts, wrenched the audience away from Radar's thematic line, setting them on a course towards Cartesian dualism and the consideration of the body as a present-at-hand object.

The performance takes place in Loughborough's extraordinary and unexpectedly beautiful i2x30m Badminton centre. On top of the deep azure green of the centre's clay floor, perfect white lines form a number of playing-court zones. Rows of diffused florescent tubes give the setting a kind of hyperreal glow, intensifying the solemnity of the largely empty space. The audience sits on foam gym mats placed along the width of the hall's grey concrete walls. A projector screen, microphone stand and video camera stand left to right, a metre of space separating each. …

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