Rebecca May Marston, Mary Paterson and I are UK writers from 'Writing From Live Art'. We are writing for New York's performance Biennial 'Performa 07', Oct 27-Nov 21. We will be updating this journal regularly with personal insights, plans and dilema's before, during and after New York. We will reveiw the work seen on http://07.performa-arts.org, www.writingfromliveart.co.uk and AN's Reviews Unedited
We are finding that tying up the project for the final activity report form is a whole lot harder than it was actually doing the main part of the activity. does anyone else find this? perhaps it is because the thrill has gone somewhat, the writing in NY was a high point, and on coming back we wrote our socks of for various magazines, but we only got a few UK magazines to print content on Performa and we still havent managed to programme a workshop back in the Uk on critical writing and Live Art, as we said we would in our grant application.
Since November the publishing points we outlined in our ACE bid, have been few and far between. Despite tring to publish with various magazines- and I think its only right that i list them, since what is the point of this blog if we are not listing details and specifics about Writing Live? – Art Monthly, Dance Theatre Journal – we have only had several publications take us up on their original offer of Performa related critical writing. The reasons for this are many, but mostly relate to in house editorial decisions that reflect the logistics and remit of the individual publications, and not the fact that they dont think performance and new media work in new York isnt important.
Despite this lack of UK take up, Writing Live has resulted in three reviews in Realtime Magazine(Aus) ( (all 08 issues), one peice in Yishu Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art (May 08), and a two page centre spread in Total Theatre (March 08), we have also written many catalogue entries for the Performa 07 hardback catalogue. Whilst this is all a real acheivement, we had hoped UK magazine coverage would have been more plentiful. It just prooves that aside from the writing content, the challenges of the blog format and the live work itself, getting print published is just another hurdle. It has made us think that future critical writing workshops should have taylored sessions in how, and who, to approach regarding print publication. Even though i am convinced blogging is the way forward, sadly, the Arts Council and many other individuals are still convinced of the hierarchy of the printed word and whilst this bias remains good critical writing must keep a foothold on the print side of things. The tide is certainly changing but lets hope blogs wholly take up their rightful place of -economic and intellectuual, academic- value soon.
And lets hope our UK workshop materialises soon!
Will post next week update; i was interveiwed by journalist Lara Farrar recently about critical writing and new media versus arts criticism in print and mainstram newspapers. it was an interesting interview. It made me realise there are still a lot of pertinant issues on critical writing still to be discussed. I want to theoretically lead off from where Jane watt started in her AN article on blogs. Watch this space.
Our time in NY has ended, but The part of our project that begins in the UK now begins. Mary sand i both have quite a few UK magazine comissions that we are chasing up. part of our ats council england funding was contingent on benefi to the public, this not only meant that we trained new writers, or writers new to live art, over in NY whilst performa was on, but that we disseminated the work, and our activityt once back in the UK. We have so far lined up 2 x UK workshops in collaboration with goldsmiths University and Queen Mary. And have provisional commissions from Dance Theatre Journal, Art Monthly, Realtime magazine and Total Theatre. Its a lot of work, chasing and pushing, but hopefully will be worth it when the writing comes out and everyone reads more about this performance work. Maybe someone will be inspired to write about performance, go to see it, or even make it!. I uppose the hope is is that someone copmes along with a big bunch of money so that we can run something similar in the UK!
Universities work to a different deadline than the rest of the workld, often taking weeks just to answer one email. and magazines, well. they are totally off the planet -either they are really busy with a 5 minute deadline in which they have to sandwhich 1000 words in 5, and hence to busy to talk to you. or they arent in the office-swanning around and seeing art because, well, they have just inished their deadline. there really doesnt seem to be a good time to catch editorial staff, let alone solidify plans for a peice of writing..anyway. we plough on. will keep you updated as and when the commissions come and and we do our UK workshops.
It is the end of Performa, the end of Writing Live, the end of Writers Hub and the end of our time in New York.
The last Writer’s Hub meeting was yesterday, at the School of Visual Arts. We had a good discussion about each other’s texts, and RoseLee Goldberg, Performa’s Director, joined us for some of the session. Yesterday was also the day of Performa’s Grand Finale, an evening of music and drinking at the Hudson Theatre on Broadway. The glitzy surroundings (the Hudson theatre is off Times Square, that temple to hi-tech advertising) echoed the glitz and glamour of Performa’s opening night at the Guggenheim.
So how was it? Hard work, for a start. Even RoseLee Goldberg admitted that Performa’s schedule has been punishing, and getting to everything is even harder when you don’t know your way around New York. Far too much of my time has been spent walking in the wrong direction, and I have also spent too long at the back of the room, jumping to get a view.
But although it’s been tiring at times, it’s also been a fantastic opportunity to see work from all over the world that is being shown all over the city. Unlike shorter festivals which cram everything in over a weekend, or take place in just one venue, Perfroma slipped into the busy atmosphere of New York as a living city. It’s almost as if the presence of New York has also been curated into the programme; one of its recurring themes has been to reconstruct or revive the New York arts scene of the past (Yvonne Rainer, Carolee Schneeman, Alan Kaprow, Wow and Now spring immediately to mind). As Writing Live Fellows, involved with Performa, Writers Hub and SVA, we have also been ushered into the busy-ness of the Big Apple.
Writers Hub has been even more successful than I dared imagine. There has been lots of writing for the Performa blog, and all of a high standard. The writers’ meetings were all productive, and I hope that the other writers weren’t just being kind when they came to thank us (unprompted!) after each session. With any luck, they’ll be just as positive on their feedback forms. Leading these sessions and getting such great feedback has boosted all of our confidence, and now we have a model we can use for similar programmes in the future.
What could we have done better? It was a shame that not all the writers who contributed to the blog could attend the workshop sessions, because they were held during the day. If I could do this again, I would have arranged one compulsory early evening session near the beginning of Performa, so that we could all have had a chance to meet early on. Personally, I also regret not getting more interviews with the artists involved. And of course, there’s the part of me that regrets all the things I missed – the Alan Kaprow re-enactments at Deitch Studios, Sanford Biggers, Xavier Le Roi. But you can never make it to everything. I was heartened at one of the ‘Not for Sale’ panel discussions, in which Yvonne Rainer asked Adam Pendleton when his show would be on. ‘You missed it!’ came the reply. So missing things is a fact of life, and it even happens to world-famous, impossibly influential artists like Yvonne Rainer.
In any case, missing out on things just gives you a hunger to see more. And as Performa 07 draws to a close, I am hungry to see more performance art on my return home.
following on from the mtg on friday 9th nov at the restaraunt im enclosing here the agenda from this tuesdays 13th nov writing workshop session (the second in the series). Boring for some-perhaps, not for others, so i thought id post it here anyways. freemans was more informal and group discussion, so we decided to keep structure and content for tuesdays session really tight. it was a really useful session, bopth for the three writing fellows and the other writers-who fed back to us in the session their thoughts. looking at other media examples of performance coverage in bliogs, UK and US mainstream media really helped to pick oput the problems / challenges about writing about performance and led on to really useful discussion about our own texts in the peer review breakout session. some tough words were given out-and received!
Writers Hub Workshop Schedule
Tuesday 13th November
12.00 – 2.00 pm
Workshop materials Handouts
Adrian Searle article (Guardian)
Naked Attic article (Naked Attic blog)
Gary Cooper article (Time Out London)
Holland Cotter article (NY Times)
Introductory essay in Performa05 catalogue – Roselee Goldberg
Individual texts from Performa blog.
Thanks to everyone
Description of what we’re going to do today and why:
- Together we will look at some examples (some bad some good) of writing by other authors to discuss challenges of writing about performance
- We will then break into groups to discuss our individual texts
- We will then re-group, feedback about our discussion then talk about general problems associated with writing about performance
- We will then have a short talk about the work in Performa-looking at roselee’s essay.
- Finally, we will discuss what is going to happen at next week’s meeting
12.15 – 12.45 Other Writers
Media examples and writing from performance
a) Naked Attic – writing about difficult work, doing justice to the work – what’s your responsibility in terms of knowledge?
b) Adrian Searle – complex event that is beyond mainstream classification, written about in mainstream media print, is it contextualized? Is it transmitted to the audience?
c) Holland Carter – good survey, lots of information, plus some very succinct and knowledgeable critique about performance, including difficult events. Critique also good-ie not all positive.
d) Gary Carter – tone, voice, playing with the writing. Experimental but also completely accessible. Introduction for writers into performative or performance style of writing.
12.45 – 1.10
Break up into two groups and discuss our writing-each group reading a blog post and commenting on it as per the other media examples.
1.10 – 2
Come back to report on feedback about writing. Discuss Challenges of writing about performance:
- describing the work and including the details
- the problem of knowledge – defining the context, but also furthering knowledge, and making work accessible for new audioences.
- Writing about ephemeral performance events
– Discussion of the work in Performa
1.50 Next Week
Next week we are planning on a longer peer-critique session
Does anyone else have any ideas?
What else would we like to do?
Any feedback, etc.?
the friday peer review session went really well. nearly 100% (15 people) attendance and new faces who have been writing for the blog but whom we have not yet met. it was all a bit chaotic, since we decided to not set an agenda per se for the session, and instead hoped that eating 'Bring Me the Head of…' by artist Serkan Özkaya and mtg roselee goldberg etc would fill up the time and enable more free-flow discussion. what transpired was that people did want to talk, about the wriitng, whilst eating the head. Jennifer Lease, also joined the mtg and was keen to emphasise that our writing was going to play a really key part in the Performa 07 catalogue, which was good news.
Jennifer said that the first person accounts and immediate publishing of the blog would make for a really good book and she was enjoying reading all our texts. it was good to see jennifer and meet her, also good for the writers to know that there ius a good chance of being published through their activity for Writing Live: Writers Hub. hopefully it will spurr on people to post more blogs.
we did initiate a conversation about writing about diffficult work, with defne's instructions to the writers that the bog must not be a love fesat- in mind. we also discussed posts that we really liked from the blog. the majority were silent at this point, and i think the hindering factor is the fact that we dont know each other so well and dont feel confident critiquing others texts. i passed on the fact that i really liked korin's blog post about marie cool: short, precise and very strong, leading intellectually. the peice summed up a very complicated dance work and raised some pressing issues about writing about contemporary visual art/ dance works. the only criticism i levelled at the group was that too much description could hamper their ability to comment, critique or contextualise the work seen, and that this was an important part of the writing. i suggested lifting themselves out of the decriptive narrative early on in the review in order to give them time to critique and contextualise. basically, running description describe throughout a peice of writing – as i have done many times- instead of separating it in a paragraph – can lead to confused, unstructured and overly long texts as it is then hard to 'lift' youself out of this descriptive mode.
in order that everyone can better comment on some practical examples of performance writing at tuesdays session 1-3 at SVA critical we have decided to bring materials with us that other people have written, either in the new york times or on blogs. that way we can have a look at different styles, voice and critique it without worrying about other members of the group's feelings. we will also making the session quite structured, taking advantage of the SVA room to have a really intense session.
must go and do some more writing now. will feedback after tuesday. will also upload photos of friday workshop..