As a part of the IPA (International Performance Association) Bristol platform event of live performance art currently taking place at Arnolfini, we present a dialogue between IPA Bristol Curator (Fay Stevens) and Creative Producer (Eva Martino). Conducted on car journeys between Bristol and Glastonbury (where IPA Bristol artists have been workshopping for a week) and via text messages, this dialogue is designed by Fay Stevens as a performance writing work in the Oulipo style of constrained writing.
FS: Where Performance Happens is my curatorial concept for the IPA Bristol Platform. It has been a year since we first sat down Eva and started to explore the concept and scope of IPA Bristol. Where Performance Happens immediately felt right, as concept, practice and locale.
EM: Having secured Bristol as the first city to host IPA in the UK is very exciting for IPA Bristol. As a Creative Producer, I have chosen to bring the event here after a successful IPA taster during Bristol Biennial ‘Crossing the Line’ in 2014.
As a performance model, IPA Bristol 2015 promises to be a great experience for both artists and audiences. I am looking forward to it.
FS: Emerging international performance artists are working and performing along with established performance artists during the performance platform at Arnolfini. From a curatorial perspective, I feel this interplay has a lot to offer for performance art, in addition to the artistic and creative development of all artists involved.
EM: Relational performance work is central to IPA and in the case of IPA Bristol we have designed an experience of focused retreat for 18 performance artists and 3 workshop leaders who have been working together in Glastonbury for 7 days. There is something almost ritual about workshopping in a remote location over this time.
FS: Even more so, that the artists are then placed within a metropolitan urban city to perform. This dichotomy of place will both shape and inform their performance, both physically and intellectually. In turn, the place will be shaped by their performances.
EM: Performance, through the work of IPA is an event that has been tested over European cities for a number of years. This is a refreshing model to bring to Bristol and the UK.
FS: Engagement with performance art through this European lens of practice is, I find, exciting. We have spoken of this many times now Eva over the course of the year as we planned and mapped out IPA Bristol. As an Italian performance artist, how do you think this model interfaces within a UK performance arts perspective?
EM: Recently, I have started to think about the application of a European model of performance art to a UK model that has tended to focus on performance art through the arena of festivals. I am interested in the idea of performance art as showing, meeting and coming together.
FS: For instance, I have recently performed new work in Berlin and Hungary and I would say that even within a European model perspective, there is great diversity of attitude to and concepts of performance art and its role within and impact on society and culture.
EM: Of course! However, I also think that it is fundamental to adopt a European mindset. For example, ‘Creature Live’ in Lithuania where I recently performed presents a natural interaction of audience and artist.
FS: Really, this touches upon our conversations this week Eva in which we discussed perceptions of and attitudes toward performance art, especially with regard to audience. I said how performance art can be about engagement with audience rather than purely observed by audience. For me, this touches upon my academic research and thoughts on the context and materiality of performance art for all concerned: artist, audience, place, community etc.
EM: My personal approach to performance art and artist as expressed through performance is really about growing, sharing practice and finding precious time to nurture the practice which I find difficult sometimes when everything discussed around performance art is about lack of funding, lack of space, lack of opportunity. It is paramount to look at ways to adopt a model that gives artists and organisations the opportunity to really nurture their practice.
FS: A very good point Eva and one that we have passionately discussed recently: what is performance art and how it is perceived within funding bodies and arts organisations?
For me, as an academic, curator and artist, performance art encompasses many facets of art, life and society. It transcends institution, constraint and imposition even though it more often than not is placed within these confines. For many, this contradiction becomes embedded into the performance.
EM: Nevertheless, it is about attitudes towards art and as a Creative Producer I have always felt that IPA Bristol could happen with or without the support of funding. During my experience as an artist in IPA in Istanbul in 2014, I saw that events can happen without depending on institutional funding, but rather as a result of the efforts of a group of parties. Of course, in an ideal world we should not be discussing the state of funding or if events are worth public funding or not. But the reality is that art is constantly put on the back burner when it comes to public funding and it is therefore necessary to find alternative means of sustaining our work, rather than to stop working.
FS: Certainly, we agree completely on this and our collaboration as bought to light our many shared beliefs and perceptions of performance art for ourselves as practitioners but also for performance art in context.
What I find intriguing in our discussions is that even though we share these beliefs, we bring with it different standpoints: that of Creative Producer and Curator. This interface has not really been explored in any great detail and it is one that I feel should be considered at a deeper level.
EM: Essentially, this is the first time that IPA has had a Creative Producer and Curator working together. When I met you at ‘Crossing the Line’, I felt there was a very interesting opportunity to bring us together and also a kind of alchemy because we have both experienced IPA as performance artists ourselves.
FS: Having the experience of performing with IPA ‘Crossing the Line’ in 2014 impacted on my performance practice in a transformative and deeply philosophical way. Working with IPA founder Jürgen Fritz for 3 days was a life changing experience. I know the same is for you working with Jürgen in Istanbul.
EM: Allowing the body to take over the mind. This is what Jürgen does to you. When you take part in one of his workshops, you have the opportunity to deconstruct your beliefs, practices and the context around you. You rebuild everything under this new perceptive. This something that, as you said Fay, can change your artistic life forever.
FS: Personally, I wanted to consider my relationship with audience as a performer at ‘Crossing the Line’. I had a number of influential conversations with Jürgen about this. That said, my experience turned out to be so much more than that. I started to really connect with and understand what it is that I am trying to do as a performance artist and of the depth and quality of this work. This for me was where I started to form the idea ‘where performance happens’ because I was considering this for myself and my practice.
EM: Performance art is a type of art that I have chosen to practice in recent years. It has opened up a world that I find profoundly generous and intense. As an artist as well as a producer, this has opened infinite possibilities to explore and be part of.
FS: Embodying the spirit and ethics of performance art has become central to all that I do; it is my creative practice.
EM: Nothing in my career journey has been as powerful and now producing IPA Bristol within the theme ‘where performance happens’, bringing talented performance artists together on a journey of discovery, is a process of artistic revelation !
This is a fantastic opportunity to see pop-up interventions, 2 evenings of performance art and a symposium - an outcome of our wonderful collaborative process Fay.
FS: Something that I feel has a life after October 24th Eva. I am looking forward to realising the curation of this project at Arnolfini and I intrigued as to where ‘where performance happens’ will grow as an idea and concept.