]performance s p a c e [ is one of the most committed and bubbly London-based spaces dedicated to the live art and it is asking for our help. It’s time to know more about this artist-led non-profit organisation!
]performance s p a c e [ is ‘the UK’s only performance art specific studio & event space’. When did this adventure start?
Bean: In some ways this is difficult to answer. Technically ]ps[ opened in February 2011. However the project grew directly from ArtEvict (a platform Kiki Taira, with Benjamin Sebastian, had been running for sometime). ArtEvict had become the meeting point in the performance art community – with events taking place in disused, abandoned and squatted buildings across London. ArtEvict felt so important, there was so much energy between us – a real fighting to make space, to make work. I wanted to continue this beyond the events and create a space where dialogue and collaboration could take place through studio practice also. I wanted a permanent space and platform for work that just wasn’t being supported elsewhere in the UK.
Benjamin Sebastian: ArtEvict was very special, a point of synthesis. People found each other through a collective need and desire for space and peers. Kiki and I met through a mutual friend (Michelle Forrest) in 2009 who I had studied with previously. It was the end of that year that ArtEvict kicked off at a squat in Elephant and Castle. Through the course of ArtEvict, Kiki had told me about an artist she had met whose work she thought I would really appreciate. I had just started sharing a studio in Bow with two other women, one being Bean, the artist Kiki had told me about, it was quite serendipitous. This was the first set of connections that then exploded in all directions, ]ps[ becoming one of those trajectories.
Why do you focus on performance only? What is the role of performance in the contemporary art landscape today?
B: Performance art is still the bastard child of fine art and poor cousin of theatre. It lacks the space, support and value of other, more mainstream or established art forms – this is why its so important there is somewhere that platforms and develops it in all its awkward forms. I think elements and methods of performance art are prevalent across the arts – we live in an era where experience is the ultimate commodity and I think this is visible in the current co-opting of performance or ‘liveness’ across the art world.
BS: To create space, support marginal experience and feel our current moment in time. You only have to glance at the historical lineage of this medium to see that it has always been an attempt of bodies at the margins, to create space for their philosophies, emotions, sex, genders and voices. As Bean has mentioned, there is a contemporary trend, attempting to commodify performance art, through positioning such work(people) as centerpieces at events, PV’s and art fairs. I do NOT see this as the role of performance in the contemporary art landscape.
This is only the second month of 2013 and a lot has already happened in ]ps[. What are the highlights for the coming months?
B: Highlights for me are always open platforms – I want to see new work by artists I don’t know and more from the artists I admire. Ritually Reading & Researching I think will probably be one of both mine & Benjamin’s ‘picks’ – it’s such a difficult project to articulate but so great to participate in. It really encompasses the ethos and internal architecture of ]ps[ – the collaboration, critical research, unknown. We’ve also got a few big announcements coming up – some really amazing workshops and the involvement of members of Black Market International later in the year. Actually this year is pretty exciting!
BS: For me the best experiences are always the communal ones. Ritually Reading & Researching (durational performance practice meets critical research methodologies!) along with the ]performanc e x c h a n g e [‘s are going to be brilliant. Numerous individuals, of all experience levels and from various origins coming together to practice, explore and exchange. I am very much looking forward to working with City of Women, currently being steered by Mara Vujic. I have witnessed some incredible artists moving through this platform.
Who are the people behind ]performance s p a c e [‘s activities? In this tough climate for arts, how do you sustain yourself?
B: Primarily myself & Benjamin. Though we have a supportive group of peers, studio artists and volunteers who help keep us & events running. It’s a cliché but I think our sustenance is our passion for what we do – it’s really important to us. Supporting, nurturing & witnessing truly talented artists makes me genuinely very happy. On a practical level I think we’ve learnt to carve ourselves a way of existing in this city as alternative as the work we make – I’ve lived in a van the last few years & Benjamin a lovers bedroom, by living almost for free we’ve been able to work for free. It’s a strange existence in a capital city, but has given us the time to develop our organisation – now however we need to change as rapidly as our surroundings or we simply won’t be able to continue.
BS: Beg, borrow, appropriate, collaborate, share, be flexible, barter etc. As Bean said, there is massive support network of friends, peers and lovers surrounding us (don’t get me started on invisible/domestic labour), but It’s tough, it’s London and there are Torys everywhere making it more difficult by the minute. Bean and I both run on a love of what we do. However, this is not really acceptable, even as we try and break the habitual practices of free labour surrounding performance art, Bean and I still go unpaid. We have pledged to rectify this. We are physically reshaping our space and researching sustainable practice/organisational structuring through our programming (]performanc e x c h a n g e [), we are also extending invitations to patrons in order to ensure our public programmes.
The new crowd funding campaign on your website caught my eye. What can a person who likes your space do to sustain it?
B: Donate! This space has always been about community and was set up on the idea that if everyone gives a little together we have a lot. We’ve still received no funding for ]ps[ and recently saw our main source of revenue stopped with immediate effect. This left us with a 6 week gap to turn the space around and develop a new way of sustaining ourselves – we will do this and we will deliver an amazing programme but we need a little help in the meantime to make sure this can happen. Another cliché, but seriously every little helps.
BS: Spread the word and push the button. Go to www.saveps.tumblr.com and donate. I totally understand that most people are financially strained at this point, but no amount is too little and it would be so gratefully appreciated. In conjunction with donating, writing about ]ps[ also helps. Write essays, articles, blog posts, interviews (thanks Flaneur) and reviews. This raises our profile and builds the critical discourse surrounding our organisation.
Read ]ps[ e-newsletter: I love ]ps[ workshop series to kickstart ]performance 1 0 1 [