‘Before Performance’ at ]performance s p a c e [

By Gerald Curtis

Before Perfomance
Before Performance: reading the artists’ books. Photo:© ]performance s p a c e [

Beyond Performance
Curated by Bryony White
]Performance S p a c e[
November 28-30 2013

Beyond Performance was a compact exhibition, bringing together the work of 26 international performance artists.

We are invited to explore their notebooks and sketchbooks and investigate how they might intersect with live, performance practice.

The work is contained in its rawest form, perhaps not so raw as at the moment of making– but near to. One wall: six shelves, containing 26 artists’ books– all were made by performance artists.

So what? Well, it reveals that performance artists work in parallel languages, a combination of text, script, photography and drawing that preceding that durational moment that defines their eclectic practices.

The show was situated in ]performance s p a c e [, a warehouse in Hackney that breathes activity.

Upon entry, each visitor was presented with a pile of white cotton gloves, to gingerly finger through the content inside. But before I had the chance to get near the artists’ books, I found myself in a note-taking performance with Christopher Matthews. One that he instigated privately in a back room.When my time was called I had to volunteer to participate– a scenario that felt vaguely daring.

When in the space, Christopher proceeded to dance a rushed choreography in front of me, naked, for which I had to make notes. Thrown into the situation just as Christopher threw out shapes and forms, I was confused. I ended up writing only five words but felt that somehow the whole situation was to do with giving. I am still unsure who the recipient was.

Back in the space I donned my white cotton of gloves.

The shelves were daunting, some of the books were monolithic and spanned extensive projects. Rhonia, a small memo jotter simply contains hand written notes. It is completely personal – rapid and abrupt.

Pedro Matias‘ journal is an A5 brown paper cover affair with tiny photo print outs that document the artist following a line of blue masking tape around a white space drawn out by his friend, the artist’s tongue licking the blue line. This book is reflective–  an artist analysing his performance. 

Before Performance
The artists’ books mounted on the wall. Photo:© ]performance s p a c e [

There is something invasive about reading an artist’s notes, like picking a lock to their living room. What’s worse, is that you have to piece together their lives from a series of scrawls, signs and disparate images.

Contrastingly some artists have taken a very open approach, like Lowri Evans‘ The Secret Life of You and Me which the artist uses to document his work and life up to his 30th Birthday. The results are endearing and funny, if a bit kitch.

Tackling the tomes were worthwhile; I found a big appropriated file with a black cover and gold typeface titled CORPORATE DOCUMENTS, a body of material by site specific performance artist Kate Yoland. Fledgling performers take note: Yoland stringently edits her work. Comfortingly, she documents frequently, the immense archive showing the viewer her multiple shots, takes and newspaper clippings of Marfa, Texas where she completed her most recent residency.

Before Performance
Reading the artists’ books. Photo:© ]performance s p a c e [
The show is a glimpse into that often overlooked aspect of the mis-perceived genre that is performance. The show was energetic and tactile and shows us how articulate and multi-lingual performance can be.

Part of me would have liked to have seen how these artists take these objects and make situations. But, then again, that would mean that there would then be no mystery to the process.

The movement from page to performance is such an important journey, and this show is a quiet study of this mysterious transition.

]performance s p a c e [ is an artist led non-profit organisation that provides studio and project space for challenging and difficult work that embraces performance art as an ever-evolving medium.

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