The view that one can only practice and not practice for performance art and live art has persisted since the emergence of time-, body-, and action-based performance artworks in the 1960s. After all, to speak of ‘training’ evokes ideas of technique, mastery or tradition, ideas that the artists engaged in performance art and live art have frequently sought to challenge or altogether abandon. However, many of the artists who have shaped the history of performance art and live art have also been committed teachers; pedagogical approaches to performance practices emerged at the same time as the practices themselves; educational institutions have frequently offered material support for the making of performance works and provided a living for artists; and artist-led, non-institutional training spaces have adopted events and publications as alternative forms of curricula. Acknowledging the importance of training not just in the formation of a performance artist but as part of their continuing practice also means to value experience, expertise and professional standing as part of the work of performance art and live art.
This special issue brings together contributions that address the theme of training for performance art and live art in reference to different histories (covering the 1960s and 1970s as well as the recent present); diverse geographies (examining developments in the UK and in Portugal); institutions and anti-institutions (covering art schools, summer schools, festivals and workshop programmes); and varied approaches to teaching and training as a performative inter-generational transaction.
Gavin Butt’s ‘Without Walls: Performance Art and Pedagogy at the “Bauhaus of the North”’ traces the impact of libertarian teaching in the 1970s at arguably the most influential teaching institutions for the history of performance art in the UK, Leeds Polytechnic. In ‘Lessons from Outside the Classroom: Performance Pedagogies in Portugal, 1970-1980’, Cláudia Madeira and Fernando Matos Oliveira recount approaches to performance training as they developed in Portugal in the wake of the 1974 revolution outside of formal institutions.
Deirdre Heddon’s ‘Professional Development for Live Artists: Doing it Yourself’ explores the history of the DIY professional development scheme as an example for how training practices are being reimagined as live art practices in themselves. In ‘Training for Live Art: Process Pedagogies and New Moves International’s Winter Schools’, Stephen Greer examines the New Moves International (NMI)’s winter school as another key example for an artist-led scheme that made productive live art’s resistant relationship to established forms of performer training.
In ‘“I’ve been as intimate with him as I have been with anybody”: Queer Approaches, Encounters and Exchanges as Live Art Performer Training’, Kieran Sellars identifies in the cross-generational performance collaboration between Sheree Rose and Martin O’Brien a form of queer embodied discipline that draws on BDSM as well as Live Art lineages. And in ‘Curious Methods–Pedagogy Through Performance’, Leslie Hill and Helen Paris document the close ways in which their training methods have reflected on and contributed to their creation of live performance work.
The Training Grounds section (edited by Bryan Brown) supplements this with a collection of shorter essais, postcards, and a book review (edited by Chris Hays). Will Dickie’s expanded essai (accompanied by videos available here on the TDPT blog) investigates the application of psychophysical actor training to live art. In the issue’s second essai, a trio of practitioners (Áine Phillips, Dominic Thorpe and Tara Carroll) offer insight into three generations of Irish live art practice by detailing transformative encounters with their teachers. The two postcards for this special issue (by Sara Zaltash and N. Eda Erçin) wrestle with the entanglements of live art practice, life and communities. And Campbell Edinborough’s review of Marina Abramović’s memoir Walk Through Walls furthers the discussion of how a live artist’s work is their life while querying the ability to turn that life into a method.
Áine Phillips, Dominic Thorpe and Tara Carroll
N. Eda Erçin
Cláudia Madeira and Fernando Matos Oliveira
Leslie Hill and Helen Paris
* For colleagues without institutional access, the article by Leslie Hill and Helen Paris is freely available.
We would love to hear your thoughts on this first foray of TDPT into the importance of training for performance art and live art; please post your responses here in our Comeback pages.
Notes on Contributors
Guest editor, Special Issue Heike Roms is Professor in Theatre and Performance at the University of Exeter. Her research into the history and historiography of early performance art was supported by a large grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (2009–2011) and won the UK’s David Bradby TaPRA Award for Outstanding Research in 2011. She is currently working on a book emerging from the research with the working title When Yoko Ono Did Not Come to Wales: Locating the Early History of Performance Art. www.performance-wales.org
Editor, Jonathan Pitches is Professor of Theatre and Performance at the University of Leeds in the School of Performance and Cultural Industries. He specialises in the study of performer training and has wider interests in intercultural performance, environmental performance and blended learning. He is founding co-editor of the TDPT and has published several books in this area: Vsevolod Meyerhold (2003), Science and the Stanislavsky Tradition of Acting (2006/9), Russians in Britain (2012) and, Stanislavsky in the World (with Dr Stefan Aquilina 2017). His most recent publications are: Great Stage Directors Vol 3: Komisarjevsky, Copeau, Guthrie (Sole editor, 2018) and the monograph, Performing Mountains (2020).
Editor, Libby Worth is Reader in Contemporary Performance Practices, Royal Holloway, University of London. She is a movement practitioner with research interests in the Feldenkrais Method, physical theatres, site-based performance and in folk/traditional and amateur dance. Performances include co-devised duets; Step Feather Stitch (2012) and dance film Passing Between Folds (2017). She is co-editor of TDPT and published texts include Anna Halprin (2004, co-authored), Ninette de Valois: Adventurous Traditionalist (2012, co-edited), Jasmin Vardimon’s Dance Theatre: Movement, Memory and Metaphor (2016). Chapter contributions include on clog and sword dancing for Time and Performer Training (2019, she co-edited) and ‘Improvisation in Dance and the Movement of Everyday Life’ for the Oxford Handbook of Dance Improvisation (2019).
Training grounds editor, Bryan Brown is a Lecturer of Drama at the University of Exeter and theatre maker with ARTEL (American Russian Theatre Ensemble Laboratory). He is co-curator of the journal’s blog and was co-editor of the special issue on Dartington College of Arts. His research interests include ensemble and collective creation practices, performer training and the laboratory theatre tradition, theatre and the ecological thought, and the clown as an instigator of wonder. He is the author of A History of the Theatre Laboratory (2018), co-author of “Educating the Director: Meyerhold’s pedagogy for a theatre of conventions” for The Great European Stage Directors, Volume 2 (2018), and has contributed chapters to Encountering Ensemble (2013) and Collective Creation in Contemporary Performance (2013).
Training grounds editor, Chris Hay is Lecturer in Drama in the School of Communication & Arts at the University of Queensland, Australia. Prior to this position, he held appointments at the University of New England, the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), and the University of Sydney, where he completed his PhD in Theatre & Performance Studies in 2014. He has published on Australian theatre history and creative arts pedagogy, including his book Creativity, Knowledge & Failure: a new pedagogical framework for creative arts (2016). His current research projects examine the origins of Australian government arts funding, and Australia’s participation in the Eurovision Song Contest.
Gavin Butt is Professor of Fine Art at Northumbria University, Newcastle. He is author of Between You and Me: Queer Disclosures in the New York Art World 1948–1963 and Seriousness (with Irit Rogoff). He is also editor of After Criticism: New Responses to Art and Performance, and co-editor of Post-Punk Then and Now. Between 2009 and 2014 he was a director of Performance Matters, a creative research project exploring the cultural value of performance, during which he made his first feature-length documentary film with Ben Walters, This Is Not a Dream. He is currently completing a book on post-punk bands and UK art school education.
Stephen Greer is Senior Lecturer in Theatre Practices at the University of Glasgow. He is the author of Contemporary British Queer Performance (2012) and Queer exceptions: solo performance in neoliberal times (2018). His current research focuses on the histories and practices of Live Art in Scotland.
Professor Dee Heddon holds the James Arnott Chair in Drama at the University of Glasgow. Her publications include Devising Performance: A Critical History (2005) and Autobiography and Performance (2008). She has co-edited a number of anthologies including Political Performances: Theory and Practice (Themes in Theatre series) (Rodopi, 2009), The National Review of Live Art 1979–2010: A Personal History – Essays, Anecdotes, Drawings and Images (2010), Histories and Practices of Live Art (2012) and It’s All Allowed: The Performances of Adrian Howells (2016). She has recently written extensively about walking as an artistic practice and has an ongoing creative practice project, The Walking Library, curated with Dr. Misha Myers.
Leslie Hill is Professor of Theatre and Performance Making at the University of Roehampton, London.
Cláudia Madeira is an assistant professor and researcher at ICNOVA and a IHA collaborator at the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, being responsible in the two centers for the Performance Art & Performativity in the Arts cluster. She also collaborates at the CET/FLUL as a researcher in the Theatre and Image Research group. She has completed a postdoctoral programme, Social Art, Performative Art? (2009–12) and holds a PHD in Sociology on Performing Arts Hybridity in Portugal (2007). In addition to several articles on new forms of hybridism and performativity in the arts, she is the author of Hybrid: From Myth to Invasive Paradigm? (Mundos Sociais, 2010) and New Dignataries: The Cultural Programmers (Celta 2002). She teaches Performance Arts at the Department on Communication Sciences at NOVA FCSH.
Fernando Matos Oliveira teaches at the School of Arts and Humanities at the University of Coimbra. His main areas of interest are Theatre Theory, Theatre and Performance Studies, Modern and Contemporary Portuguese and European Drama. He has been publishing essays and books on theatre, performance and literature. He is currently directing the PHD Course on Art Studies and the Theatre of the University of Coimbra (www.tagv.pt).
Helen Paris is Artist in Residence at Canterbury Christ Church. Paris and Hill are directors of Curious performance company, produced by Artsadmin, London. www.curiousperformance.com. Curious has an international reputation, appearing at high profile venues and festivals such as the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Cultural Olympiad, the Sydney Festival and the Sydney Opera House, the Edinburgh Festival and IFTR. Publications include Hill’s Sex, Suffrage and the Stage (Palgrave 2018) and Hill and Paris’ The Artist’s Borderpanic Compendium (Jerwood and LADA 2017), Proximity in Performance: Curious Intimacies (Palgrave 2014) and Performance and Place, (Palgrave 2006). Their new book Devising Theatre and Performance: Curious Methods is forthcoming 2021 (Intellect and LADA).
Kieran Sellars recently completed his doctorate in Performance Studies at De Montfort University, Leicester, where he is an associate tutor in Drama. Kieran’s doctoral thesis explores queer challenges to normative gender ideologies in live art and how these performances reconfigure the dominant heteronormative gendered landscape. His research interests include gender and sexuality, feminist performance art, and the male body in performance. Email: email@example.com
Will Dickie is a performance maker based in Liverpool. His work travels the UK and internationally. Appearances include Southbank Centre’s Being a Man Festival, Inbetween Time Bristol and Buzzcut, Glasgow. He collaborates as an actor, dancer and director. He uses his training to facilitate creative processes for artists, students and community groups. www.willdickie.co.uk
Áine Phillips makes performance art and video in the West of Ireland. She teaches at Burren College of Art and NUI Galway.Dominic Thorpe is an Irish artist who works primarily in performance through a range of processes and contexts. He has shown work widely internationally and in Ireland.Tara Carroll is an artist, curator and facilitator based in Ireland. Her performance practice transforms into other mediums such as textiles, installation, video and photography.
Sara Zaltash (BA, MA, TSI) is a British-Iranian artist, diviner and activist, Fellow of the Schumacher Institute for Systems Thinking and Associate Fellow of St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace.
N. Eda Erçin is an interdisciplinary artist/scholar who teaches at Louisiana State University and manages the HopKins Black Box Performance Laboratory.