by Maddy Costa
On the invitation of Alex Eisenberg, digital manager at the Live Art Development Agency, Something Other hosted a workshop in LADA’s study room in the company of Performance Magazine. The workshop opened with Mary Paterson, Diana Damian Martin and I reading a selection of texts from the magazine itself, and because I’m indecisive I decided not to read from one article but several at once. So this is what I read. It’s a found text with lines gratefully borrowed from the writings of Angela Carter, Marguerite McLaughlin, Lynn Macritchie, Andrea Hill, Bryony Lavery, Helen Craven, Mary Turner, Jacky Lansley, and probably one or two others whose names I forgot to note. The full archive can be read here: I recommend starting with the women.
The first 13, fuelled by rage, womanless ceremony or cunning stunts
Sit down and get up and have drinks and sit down and clap and get up again
Frankly, the audience were foxed.
Now I’ve stalked around and around that pronouncement and I know there’s both a profound truth and a profound insult in it somewhere.
Of course, when you describe it, it sounds so bizarre:
there are straight lines and there are numbers – put the two together and you have history.
Western civilisation is based on victimisation, especially of women
(we’re all still a bit confused about that one).
The writing is at best unclear and at worse messy and in parts offensive –
us writers get hung up on precision when faced with geometry.
The same concept can materialise in several different forms:
a disregard for common sense, mingling nonsense with dead-on insight,
a feel for the language of cliches and received judgements.
Anything is more acceptable on a stage than off it.
At this point we are still thinking that something fairly normal is going on,
more as a speculation, a little wild at times.
It is not easy to keep a clear head when discussing oppositional work (actually it’s a bloody bore).
Women, carefully conditioned into invisibility, are often expert at keeping their work out of sight,
a kind of foreboding of their own fate.
It’s a fiendish task trying to fit into ordinary paragraphs a description of a piece where several things were happening at once:
each time you’re fooled into thinking it’s something different, but fundamentally it’s the same claustrophobic impasse all over.
The wobbly truth: it is impossible to come up with a definitive definition of performance art.