Hodge and Rodigari map Australian live art

Keith Gallasch, Virginia Baxter

From time to time, we and a few friends have fantasised about making a map of Sydney’s contemporary performance and live art community and its inevitable ties, in several decades of intensive hybridising, with innovative dance, physical theatre, experimental music and media art. A further inevitability is the connection between live art and performance practitioners right across Australia, and then with overseas artists. It’d likely become a very big map.

Undeterred, live art practitioner Sarah Rodigari and artist, writer and curator Madeleine Hodge (collaborators as Panther) have boldly initiated the mapping of Australian live art using RealTime as their source in Timely Readings: A Study on Live Art in Australia. The guide was commissioned by London’s LADA (Live Art Development Agency) as a Study Room Guide in the form of a poster and a booklet which includes Sarah and Madeleine’s interview with us.

The large, limited edition poster (45x30cm), designed by Ella Sutherland, evokes on one side a vast range of Australian performance activity with columns of performance titles, each numbered, generating a strange poetry.

Bold blue and white scalloping across the background evokes a sense of actual but uncertain boundaries and movement, but also of bracketed inclusion. Within the scalloping, inverted and reversed, is text from the other side of the poster, as if the poster is partly transparent and the content cut-up.

That second side provides the front’s numbered references to RealTime responses, specifying 666 chronologically ordered reviews, their edition numbers and pages, or the web dates, on which they appeared.


Poster (detail), Timely Readings, Madeleine Hodge, Sarah Rodigari, Live Art Development Agency, courtesy Live Art Development Agency, UK

The poster is both poetic and precise, and clearly the product of considerable artistic and practical investment. Selecting and then detailing the works and sources must have been labour intensive, let alone the collaborative task of generating imagery to suit. The booklet accompanying the poster, explains Hodge and Rodigari’s motivation:

“Since its beginning in 1994, RealTime’s extensive coverage through descriptive arts writing has not only influenced Madeleine and Sarah’s personal trajectories as emerging artists, but has also tirelessly spoken to and recorded a generation of experimental Australian performance locally and overseas. As artists, Madeleine and Sarah began practicing not long after RealTime was established and they both have a close personal association with the magazine as readers, artists and writers. Through mining the archives of RealTime, in reflecting on what is there and who is missing, they critically engage with how they can approach, read and disseminate this history from a self-reflective perspective.”

When interviewed by Madeleine and Sarah for the guide, we felt prompted to add some contextual detail to the map by describing the considerable interplay between UK and Australian live art, particularly in the first decade of this century, but beginning for us in 1997 when RealTime was commissioned to run a review-writing team of English and Australian writer to cover LIFT (London International Festival of Theatre), and where we first encountered LADA and the live art movement.

The booklet with the interview can be downloaded at no cost from the LADA website. The poster is on sale here.

We greatly appreciate Sarah and Madeleine’s initiative, commitment and vision in bringing this project to fruition. We hope it’s just the first of many like ventures to further explore the barely mapped terrain of Australian live art and contemporary performance and experimental theatre, dating back to the 1960s, and which continues to evolve in fascinating ways.

Madeleine Hodge and Sarah Rodigari, LADA Study Room Guide: Timely Readings, A Study on Live Art in Australia, London, 2019. Commissioned by LADA (Live Art Development Agency) and with the support of the Australia Council for the Arts.

Top image: Poster (detail), Timely Readings, Madeleine Hodge, Sarah Rodigari, courtesy Live Art Development Agency, UK

27 August 2020