Programming notes: BUZZCUT 2023

This spring saw the return of BUZZCUT, Glasgow’s long-running festival of live art and experimental performance. Suspended during the pandemic and staged as an live-streamed ‘festival within a festival’ during Take Me Somewhere 2021, this year’s event was split between the Centre for Contemporary Arts and Tramway – two city venues with long histories of supporting radical work, not least in playing host to the National Review of Live Art. Keeping true to its origins as a free, pay-what-you-can event, BUZZCUT’s transition to these spaces from the bars, galleries and shops of its early years marks another stage in the event’s development: still welcoming, enthusiastic and adventurous but perhaps no longer quite so DIY (marked – if nothing else – by funding for significantly better fees for contributing artists).

Over the years, BUZZCUT has taken a range of approaches to programming – most often through an open call process, with the festival’s core team taking advice from a broader community of people in the Scottish live art scene to inform their decisions. A few different factors might be understood as informing this approach – the origins of the festival as an artist-led event established on the basis of grassroots values, and the evolution of the festival into an organization offering year-round support and development opportunities supporting radical performance practice. It’s significant that BUZZCUT’s festival does not have an artistic director in the conventional sense of a single individual making overarching, top-down decisions about programming: it’s instead led by Karl Taylor as organizational director and Claricia Parinussa as creative producer, who work together with a larger team of creative freelancers.

In 2023, the programme was developed through a few different processes, beginning with now-traditional open call from which a short-list was developed. This short-list was then passed to the festival’s guest curators, FK Alexander and SERAFINE1369, to make a final selection as artists who had performed in the festival during previous years and had a good sense of what could be offered. As BUZZCUT was primarily set up to support the development of experimental performance in Scotland – and is funded by Creative Scotland to that end – one condition of the process was that 50% of the artists should be currently based in Scotland. At the same time, BUZZCUT’s team worked with Rhubarb Festival (Toronto), FLAM (Amsterdam) and Heart & Soul (London) as organisations who shared BUZZCUT’s ethos, and who each curated artists to participate.

This approach may distinguishe BUZZCUT from many other festivals in the culture sector which retain conventionally hierarchical structures, even as they support and programme work with more radical or experimental values (though we might trace similar emphasis on the role of producing collectives in other live art-centred festivals and development organisations such as In Between Time and Fierce). One of the reasons that I’m interested in curation – in these and other events – is that its politics seem especially significant when the broader field of live art has been positioned as making space for ‘experimental processes, experiential practices, and the bodies and identities that might otherwise be excluded from traditional contexts’. How does that happen, in practice? What structures are created to serve and sustain that possibility?