live art

live art
   An elusive and uncircumscribed art form and practice, live art cross-fertilizes communicative and expressive elements from the visual arts, performance (theatre, dance, music), mass and mixed media, traditional, modern and technological cultures. Avant-gardist in approach and postmodern in nature, live art creates a culturally discursive space to disrupt, subvert and redefine existing relationships between art, the individual and the contemporary world in a perpetually transformatory process. Live art derives from 1960s happenings and shares close affinities with performance art, with which it often overlaps. Like happenings, which also reject the permanence of art forms, live art is characterized by its impermanence and actuality within a temporally autonomous present, its transience rendering its inclusion in any art history repository problematic. Live art negates the past with no expectations of the future, and exists only as the lived memory of a unique personal and collective event exclusively shared by artist and ‘audience’ alike.
   While performance art maintains boundaries between artist and audience, live art redefines its audience as participants, viewers or witnesses to the live event or spectacle. Their physical presence completes the transitory experience of the work, while its physical surroundings contextualize it within an acute social, political or cultural setting. Such transgressions lead, for example, from live art installations in organized artistic spaces to sitespecific work, from abandoned or public areas to urban locations of thriving and underground club and music scenes.
   Live art has featured in work by renowned artists like Gillian Wearing, Mark Wallinger, Heather Ackroyd and Daniel Harvey. Its free-flowing format has enabled black artists like David Medalla during the 1960s and 1970s and, later, Keith Khan, Lubaina Himid, Susan Lewis, SuAndi and Ronald Fraser Munro to produce culturally inflected manifestations of its personal, creative and political possibilities. For instance, Palestinian-born and cultural exile Mona Hatoum has engaged with universals of displacement, oppression, resistance and freedom through striking metamorphic processes involving the subjection and release of her physical self, in performance and video installation work. Live art has conclusively entered the mainstream gallery space. Detractors emphasize its fleeting superficiality and pretension, but nevertheless, its urban deployment of vital, nonhier-archized cultural tools and its transgressive drive appear to inadvertently anticipate the artistic practices of a decolonized and postmodern immediate future.
   See also: avant-garde theatre
   Further reading
    Childs, N. and Walwin, J. (eds) (1998) A Split Second of Paradise, London: Rivers Oram Press (fascinating articles about selected artists, capturing the essence of live, performance and installation art).
   SATINDER CHOHAN

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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