What is Live Art?

The Live Art Development Agency offers the following definition:

Live Art is a cultural strategy to make space for experimental processes, experiential practices, and the bodies and identities that might otherwise be excluded from traditional contexts. Rather than a description of an artform or discipline, Live Art is a way of thinking about what art is, what it can do, and where and how it can be experienced.

Diverse in both form and context, Live Art is a field of practice informed by late 20th century Performance Art as well as a range of artists working within and more frequently between the disciplinary borders of dance, film and video, performance writing, and digital art. It’s a term which is descriptive rather proscriptive – marking an open field of opportunities, questions, deliberate uncertainties and wilful desires.

The Live Art in Scotland project is interested in tracing how these and other qualities of Live Art (relating to identity, activism, place and time) have found expression in Scotland given the country’s distinct ecology of funding structures, festivals, institutions and artists. Unlike England, Scotland has never had a lead agency with responsibility for developing Live Art, with funding in the past often drawn from budgets allocated to dance. While the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is promoted world-wide as a platform for surfacing new work, it’s also a space in which Live Art has struggled to find a home.

At the same time – and as this project will trace – Edinburgh, Dundee and perhaps most especially Glasgow enjoy strong links to the wider field of Live Art and experimental performance. Part of what Live Art in Scotland aims to achieve, then, is a history which recognises and explores these contradictions. What can the uncertain but profound place of Live Art in Scotland’s recent cultural history tell us about the conditions in which Live Art becomes possible, and might thrive in the future?