Shared creation in safe places

Malcolm Whittaker, Arts House, Live Art Camp

Live Art Camp, Arts House

Live Art Camp, Arts House

Live Art Camp, Arts House

Over a couple of beers with participants after a day of the Live Art Camp at Melbourne’s Arts House discussion turns to the growing prevalence of laboratory workshops in the Australian arts ecology. “It’s because our universities are failing to produce artists,” voices one individual. It is a provocative point. Whether true or false the group considers the dichotomy between schooling culture at tertiary institutions and the problematic nature of a bureaucratic and risk-averse infrastructure. Nobody believes that simply obtaining an arts degree makes one an artist either, although, the Australia Council insisted that emerging artists possess one in order to apply for an ArtStart grant.

Another reason suggested for the trend towards arts laboratories is the difficulty in establishing and maintaining an arts community in the current economic and political climate.

It is not entirely clear towards what end our temporary micro-community at Live Art Camp has been formed. We are a diverse group of more than 30 artists, national and international, emerging and established, who have come together for a week of workshops at the Arts House Meat Market. The international artists are present as facilitators alongside local facilitators including the groups pvi collective and one step at a time like this. Have we come together towards an exploratory sharing of practices and critical discussion? Producing new work? Is it an audition to join camp conveners and curators Katerina Kokkinos-Kennedy and Melanie Jame Wolf (who work together as triage) in their vaguely referred to Hotel Obscura project in Berlin? Our time together is loosely all these things, the processes structured by notions of intimacy with one-on-one performance practice at their centre.

Artists break into smaller groups to attend a selection of concurrent workshops. Two days are spent with visual artist David Cross (New Zealand), who brought in a selection of his inflatables for mediating intimate encounters with viewers. Cross generously offered these medium/small-scaled participatory playgrounds for our reconfiguring and ‘pimping’ in an exploration of how artists from different backgrounds might approach his sculptures as performative props and tools.

Cross’ installation works, which had originally involved the engagement of his own body in a trusting encounter with another, left him bearing traces of our blood, toothpaste and glitter. What we had interpreted from this practice was then extrapolated into performative exercises sans the objects, concluding with a discussion on what it means to be intimate in art practice and what value it has.

Live Art Camp, Arts House

Live Art Camp, Arts House

Live Art Camp, Arts House

A one-day workshop run by Austrian collaborative duo notfoundyet (Laia Fabre, Thomas Kasebacher) focused on devising personal folk dances in pairs and then sharing these choreographies with the group. The intimacy of these communities of two is then driven towards the communal as we learn a selection of dances, sacrificing the personal for en masse impact.

Half-day workshops were facilitated by performance artist Georges Jacotey (Greece) and theatre-maker and performer Gemma Paintin (UK). Jacotey leads the group in making and sharing “Videos of Affinity,” which take the form of DIY video-blog manifestos. This process of self-reflexivity is a troubling encounter for some. With Paintin, of duo Action Hero, we create abstracted versions of Queen’s “I Want to Break Free” and karaoke renditions towards rough one-on-one performance ideas which are shared for reflection at the conclusion of the session.

The headline workshop, lead by triage, is titled Artificial Hells: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Just Make Art for 24 Hours. It was what the title suggested, with curators concerned that their schedule be held sacred. The all-nighter workshop was broken into sessions in which small groups were instructed to devise one-on-one work for hotel rooms, in faux hotel rooms set up in the Meat Market. As the night wore on, and more and more participants were lost to sleep, delirium triggered some surprisingly joyous practices from Jacotey and performance artist Rosana Cade (Scotland). These included blindly inserting fingers into unknown and heavily lubricated body parts, drawing lips on other body parts in lipstick and then lipsyncing with these lips to pop songs, the voices of Gough Whitlam and Frank Booth from Blue Velvet, and all the while making and wearing facial masks. By the time the sun was up a form of dancing hysteria had taken over the last artists standing, lead by dance-artist Eric Minh Cuong (France).

Live Art Camp as a whole could have been more responsive (like the methodologies it was dealing with) and more clear and concise in its agenda. Perhaps it could have borrowed more explicitly from the Open Space session on Live Art issues that curiously comprised the first day of the camp, emancipating participants from the workshop structure which at times felt like a combination of being back at school and an audition and without the agency ideal for pedagogical discovery or project making in these contexts. Nonetheless it felt like a good time was had by all involved. Certainly, creating safe places for temporary micro-communities to reflect, share practice and generate work by dipping into an array of practices is always a good thing.

Arts House, Live Art Camp, Arts House Meat Market, Melbourne, 2-7 Nov, 2014

RealTime issue #125 Feb-March 2015 pg. 9

© Malcolm Whittaker; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

23 February 2015