“When we started DIY, we wanted to hand the reins over to the people who really understand what artists’ professional development needs are – the artists themselves.” Megan Vaughan, programmes manager at the Live Art Development Agency (LADA), is looking forward to this year’s DIY programme, designed to support live artists at all stages of their career.
“DIYs are always hugely varied in form and subject, indicative of the breadth of live art practices,” says Vaughan. “This year we have everything from trespass and property and the performance of disability, to David Bowie and stargazing.”
Initiated in 2002, every spring LADA releases an open call for unconventional professional development opportunities. Successful artists receive a modest grant of £1,500 to realise their project. This is followed by a second call for artists to apply to be part of specific DIYs.
LADA encourages DIYs to be free or low cost, and many are open to artists working across a range of disciplines. The programme’s format accommodates the fluid and unconventional spaces that live artists operate in. Deliberately challenging the boundaries of numerous disciplines, they often sit uneasily within established artistic frameworks.
By acknowledging the inherently experimental nature of live art, DIY allows live artists to set their own agenda and encourages them to extend their practice through risk-taking. Many lead artists use DIY as an incubator for embryonic ideas, and its peer-led nature means that they benefit just as much as participants.
“DIYs are about both the investigation of ideas and the testing of methodologies,” explains Vaughan. “They are a two-way process for those involved; the participants develop their own creative concepts, while the lead artists can reframe and refocus their thinking in a collaborative environment.”
DIYs are often intensive and immersive, taking place over a few days with a retreat-like feel. Many entail devising work for the public realm. Hunt & Darton’s You’re Not Local, for example, investigates notions of audience by performing work to the people of St Helen’s “who don’t necessarily want to see it”.
Some explore the gritty reality and discomfort involved with artistic practice. James Stenhouse is leading a three-day trek in the Yorkshire Dales for participants to reflect on the survival skills required to be an artist. Katherine Araniello and Laura Dee Milnes propose that their workshop, Playing the Victim, “is an opportunity for artists to discover their inner victim, and embrace the poor thing.”
DIY also creates fertile ground for new collaborations and unexpected developments. “Although they are never designed with outcomes in mind, sometimes new projects emerge from DIYs,” continues Vaughan. “Greg Wohead’s recent show, Comeback Special, for example, started life in a residential DIY in 2013. Led by Nigel & Louise, participants worked with an Elvis impersonator at an Elvis convention in North Wales.”
Characterised by open-endedness, experimentation and empathy, and underpinned by artists’ own understanding of their needs, DIY continues to be an exciting and valuable model for artists’ professional development.
The deadline for artists to apply to take part in DIY 13 is Tuesday 14 June 2016, 5pm. www.thisisliveart.co.uk
1. Tania El Khoury and Abigail Conway’s DIY 12, ‘FAF: Female Armed Forces’
2. Katie Etheridge and Simon Persighetti for DIY 13, ‘342843 DavidBowie’
3. Eilidh MacAskill and Rosana Cade’s DIY 12, ‘Sex and Children’
Lydia Ashman was one of five a-n members participating in the inaugural a-n Writer Development Programme which ran from June 2015 to March 2016. She is an Education Projects Manager at Bow Arts and a freelance writer and producer. Alongside artist Ania Bas and curator Simone Mair, she runs The Walking Reading Group.