‘Perform, Experience, Re-Live’ investigates the nature of performance art and how it sits within emergent technologies. It is a beautifully designed publication from Tate, edited by Cecilia Wee, and includes a companion mobile app titled Re-Live. Contributors include Philip Auslander, Boris Charmatz, Liu Ding, Tim Etchells, Jen Harvie, Suzanne Lacy, Helen Paris and Claire Tancons among others.
The book was launched in February at Tate Modern as part of BMW Tate Live, an ongoing series of performances, events, and talks both in the museum and online, with a web portal that creates space for artists to experiment with the digital stage and its potentials.
A newly designed typeface from Brody Associates evoking building blocks is set on a soft grey, with an unpretentious but elegant layout and meticulously designed chapter sections. Questioning the shifting definition of performance art, the texts examine the ‘live-ness’ of live art through the lens of the digital with a variety of artists, researchers, and writers (to quote Jen Harvie, ‘Populated by people, performance is almost by definition, implicitly or explicitly, about people – who we are, who we might be, what our relationships are or might be and the dynamics of our intimacies and engagements’). The book is a performative one, continually shifting between anecdotes, documentation, theory and idea sketches, all framed around a series of editorial questions. Poetic, intimate accounts of artworks are interspersed with ideas and theories, alongside Helen Paris’ performances formatted for the page, in addition to further artworks made for the app. Titled ‘Close Performances’, the pieces invite readers to effectively perform the book as an artwork in itself.
Standout sections include curator Claire Tancons’ account of ‘Up Hill Down Hall’ (2014), which brought Carnival to the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in a series of works designed around institutional critique in the broader, more complex context of carnival’s history in London and its surrounding politics. Artist and writer Tim Etchells muses on the nature of performance by way of Forced Entertainment, a Sheffield-based collaborative theatre and live art group, resulting in a pleasingly informal flow of ideas between rehearsals, augmented with additional material by the Re-Live app.
Following this is a discussion on the continuing ‘Silver Action’ project, launched in February 2013 at the Tate’s Tanks space, wherein visual artist Suzanne Lacy reflects on aging and gender in the UK through conversations involving hundreds of women 60 years and older, springing from and giving further context to a similar project put on by the artist in 1987 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in ‘Crystal Quilt’. Boris Charmatz, ballet dancer and Director of the Musée de la danse in Rennes, discusses choreography in the museum and gallery setting in an interview with Catherine Wood, Senior Curator of International Art (Performance) at Tate Modern. Taking an entirely different angle, Philip Auslander considers the digital in a brilliant essay on temporality and live streaming, taking the BMW Tate Live web portal as a case study for understanding the viewing of performance online as opposed to being part of a live audience.
Although the reader might hope for a bit more written content regarding the future of the digital, the free mobile companion app Re-Live is designed as a durational performance piece and is available until 1 January 2018. Apps are still quite new in relation to printed matter, and this one contains valuable augmented reality material, including digital performances, audio and photographs.
As Chris Dercon notes, ‘the new web podium is the contemporary version of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre – open to all, radically global, reflective, interdisciplinary, independent, intercultural, interactive and highly productive’, and with the continuing rise in performance art, it is becoming ever more important to explore technology’s reach.