News Column

At the edge of performance

August 14, 2014

THIS year's Live Art Festival programme "is not work designed to bring a warm |and fuzzy feeling in people's stomach", says Jay Pather.

Director of the Gordon Institute of |Performing Arts, Pather is curating this |second Live Art Festival for Cape Town which takes place across the city from August 27 to September 6.

Originally the festival was going to be an annual event. The first was held in 2012. But many of the proposals received last year were not of an appropriate standard, so the |organisers invited several artists to expand or redraft their ideas.

"It's got to be good stuff or you find the artists are presenting work that is half-baked and that's a problem," says Pather, pictured below.

What they have now curated are 38 works of innovation by artists who demonstrate an edge in performance art practice, many of them either international or South African |premieres.

"It is going to challenge different people in different ways. There are people like Boysie Cekwana (In Case of Fire, Run for the Elevator) on the programme who is known for really pushing boundaries. But, certainly every single work pushes the envelope, they push boundaries, they try to take apart the form.

"There is for example some works by choreographers who are doing pure choreography, but the way they work with the choreographic impulse is something you wouldn't normally see at a regular dance festival.

"You're going from that to something even more radical, or that uses the body in a more evocative or dangerous way, that interrogates the body, which is why we have as one of the themes Body and Mortality."

Work has been arranged around six themes and the audience will move along a route - like Femininities or Framed, which is about works about representation - viewing up to five performances in an evening. Some evenings the route will follow one theme, other nights two or more as people move around UCT's Hiddingh Campus, Cape Town City Hall and several clubs in Green Point.

Pather is at pains to point out that the criteria for any performance on the platform is not about how extreme or shocking it is. "The criteria is around whether they are bending the discipline and the form in interesting ideas.

"I think that the idea of shock for the sake of shock is something that went out in the 60s and we're all grown up and adult enough to see that when it happens," he says.

This time Live Art features a high percentage of performance art as Pather is finding that pure text, pure dance or pure music "does not capture enough of the paradox of living in South African or even global society".

"The level of large-scale catastrophe that is happening in the world and how it affects different sectors of society, how our democracy is responding to those catastrophes on the one hand and developing minor catastrophes of our own on the other hand... these are big shifts and changes and paradoxes.

"How does the mind wrap itself around that? You can't go and see a play about it necessarily... Though, sometimes there is the odd work that might put its finger on the money. If anything, Live Art is about a very serious application to forms that best complement a very complex take on a subject.

"For me, these people are deconstructing their very forms, because they are saying to you 'this is how you are used to looking at this, we are going to upset that, shift that around'.

"In that, there is sometimes a sense of shock, there is sometimes a sense of OMG they're actually putting hooks through their skin (Annemi Conradie is collaborating with John Wayne Stevens and Svend Jensen using suspension to explore the body's limits). The shock of that is the tip of the iceberg, if anything it is about undoing the regular ways we have of seeing and in undoing that, we see things with new eyes."

Pather uses the example of the reams of information available to the public around what happened at Marikana, such as Rehad Desai's documentary Miners Shot Down being a much more straightforward presentation of information.

"But Tebogo Munyai's work (Doors of Gold), in which he is completely naked, does make one aware of the vulnerability of being a human being underground. Skin against the rock surface and the kinds of risks... it's a way of resensitising us to exactly what it means to be human and to be in that situation," he says.

"Jelili Atiku from Nigeria is doing a work (Eleegba (Oginrinringinrin III)) which addresses the proliferation of nuclear weapons, but the work is aesthetically |beautiful and powerful. He deploys all kinds of material and turns himself into a canvas, one that is living and breathing and reminds us on many different levels of the humaness behind these drastic political ideas."

l Check for the schedule of the Live Art Festival, August 27 |to September 6.

Cape Argus

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Source: Cape Argus (South Africa)

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