NATIONAL REVIEW OF LIVE ART
It’s certainly weird, but will it also be wonderful? Yes, says curator Nikki Milican as Glasgow's NATIONAL REVIEW OF LIVE ART presents everything from a film of an Indian goddess
to a woman crawling through Central Station
on all fours. Words: Steve Cramer
IT IS THAT MOST CUTTING-EDGE 0F cutting—edge events. It is the avant-garde of the zn'ant-garde. It is a celebration of stuff that defies categorisation. But what is it'.’ Is it dance'.’ Is it theatre'.’ Is it - to coin a phrase — art‘.’
It is the National Review Of Live Art (NRI.A) -— we know this much to be true — and it involves 90 events by l2() artists in five days. And this year they‘re calling it Rooted In The Rad. But. to put the question in my native Australian parlance. will some of it be real and will some of it be rooted'.’
l‘m by no means a traditionalist. but this kind of event is always a gamble. One piece can intrigue. fascinate and enlighten. while the
'u ithe bodyrand the
next provokes not hostility or anger (legitimate artistic reactions) but boredom and indifference. The variety is both a strength and a weakness. But curator Nikki Milican doesn‘t doubt the value of her eclectic collection. ‘The reason I‘ve been attracted to this work is that it does affect my life personally.‘ says the
woman who‘s been backing the new wave of
the new wave for two decades. doing for performance art what John Peel does for music. 'I sense the public are moved. too. emotionally. spiritually and physically. It means something more than just the aesthetic. A lot of it is not superficially beautiful; it‘s not ballet we‘re dealing with here.‘
No. it‘s not. but all the same. how do we judge it‘.’ I don‘t know about you. but I think Great Iz‘x'ln't'lutions is a better read than the telephone directory. I can‘t justify this point and. in the world of post-modern art. it‘s a contentious one. According to many followers of this form. your own subjective imaginings are all you need to appreciate the work. In
24 THE LIST 1—15 Feb 2001
other words. if you think the telephone directory is better. I can‘t accuse you of taking the piss: I can only accept the point as an equally valid critical judgement.
There are good reasons why this should be so. After all. my judgements are informed by my own ideological. gender and social prejudices. so why should I be a better judge than the next person'.’ For all that. though. if no one takes anyone‘s word for what is good and what is bad art. then paradoxically. we can only take the artist‘s word for it. Iiach time we approach a new work that seems to be of little redeeming value. the artist says "trust me‘. and we must. for we‘ve been stripped of any
criteria for judgement.
But Milican does not care for art for art‘s sake. She is instinctively attracted to artists whose critical faculties are in f‘ull working order. This year. they come from as far as Mexico. Australia and Asia. much of their work returning to the theme of the body. a characteristic obsession in the live art genre.
Among returnees are La Ribot from Spain. whose earliest NRI-A appearance featured a 30-minute striptease dressed as a deep-sea diver in an oilskin costume. Now I haven‘t seen her act in the flesh. but I‘m sure I caught it in Penthouse as a teenager and never imagined its redeeming value. Yes. a cheap gag. isn‘t it‘.’ And Milican rightly defends the woman. ‘There‘s a lot of humour in her work.‘ she says. ‘but like all good artists there are also serious themes underneath.‘
I stand corrected. but La Ribot‘s parody of
consumerism in art in which she invites wealthy benefactors to finance pieces. which she then names after them. allowing them to
RAVE REVIEW -
attend any performance f‘ree. goes back further than Warhol‘s Soup (‘an in associating consumption with fetishistic contemporary iconography. liven here. though. Milican‘s answer is valid. ‘These issues don‘t go away.‘ she says. “And younger audiences still need to explore them through their own artists.‘
The body-based work includes (ieorge (‘hakravarthi‘s SIM/(If. which. through film. explores ambivalences of the body and the mind through the androgynous Hindu goddess Kali. There‘s also the young platform artist limin Heath. who crawls about (ilasgow‘s streets on her hands and knees with a video camera on board. I‘ve done the same with ten
pints on board. but I generally prefer the advantages of being a biped. Perhaps. again. I‘m being too sceptical. We do need to be aware of the body. particularly in Britain. where people are frequently in denial about their corporeality. preferring to privilege their mind without recognising the link between the two. Heath‘s idea sounds comical on paper. but perhaps her painful process really can make the connection.
A vast array of work is on show at Rootch In The Real. and its possible you‘ll show up innocent and discover a new scepticism. But go. because it‘s also very possible that the opposite will happen. I‘m certainly keeping an open mind. since I‘m no philistine. I love Picasso. He didn‘t half know some f‘unny looking women. though.
National Review Of Live Art: Rooted In The Real, Arches, Glasgow, Thu 14-Sat 18 Feb. See theatre and art listings for details.