The Art of Performance #MayFestPerform at University of Aberdeen May Festival

On May 30, 2015, Amy Bryzgel (Lecturer in History of Art, University of Aberdeen), Adrienne Janus (Lecturer in English, UoA), and Suk-Jun Kim (Lecturer in Music, UoA) organized “The Art of Performance” at the University of Aberdeen May Festival, in the Linklater Rooms, King’s College, University of Aberdeen. The aim of the annual Festival is to give the general public the opportunity to get to know the research that the academics at the university are working on, and for the researchers to have the chance to engage with and share their work with the wider community. In the “Art of Performance,” Amy, Adrienne and Jun wanted to create an event that would explore notions of performance, performativity, and participation, by creating events that encouraged the attendees to participate, and also by demonstrating performance and giving the audience a chance to ask questions and discuss what they experienced.

 marta Barche performs misplaced women? marta Barche performs misplaced women?

There were three performances presented at The Art of Performance. The first was Tanja Ostojic’s delegated performance Misplaced Women?, which was performed by Amy Bryzgel, Marta Barche and Lisa Collinson, all of whom had attended Ostojic’s workshop at the University of Aberdeen on April 1, 2015, and they were also joined by Adrienne Janus. During the course of the performance another attendee of the workshop, whom the organizers didn’t know would be attending, also joined in and unpacked her bag. Next, Suk-Jun Kim and three of his students, Bea Dawkins, Mark James Dunmore and Simon Hellewell did a live-coding performance (Untitled, 2015), where they used the following four phrases as material which they then manipulated in their piece: “Where did you come from? What did you do today? What will you do today? How did you get here?” Finally, after a group discussion on the role of performance art and participatory art in Aberdeen, the audience experienced a Situationist International-inspired dérive, led by Adrienne and Marta, on the Elphinstone Lawn of the University of Aberdeen campus.

Movement was the key concept that linked all three performance: movement, migration, how we move through space, how we occupy space, how we make space our own. To begin with, audience members were asked to move through the space of the Linklater Rooms and explore on their own, unguided and undirected. They were given questions on posterboards and asked to respond to them by writing on the posters, on post-its, and on a tablecloth on a table in the room. They could also Tweet under the hashtag #MayFestPerform. And they were invited to “consume” a work of art – from the piles of candy dotting the room, after Felix Gonzales-Torres’s candy installations. Suddenly, Adrienne, Amy, Lisa Collinson and Marta Barche started performing Tanja Ostojic’s delegated performance Misplaced Women?, which involves an individual unpacking her bag in a public place, in reference to the refugees, migrants and detainees who are often forced to live out of their bags in the public space, and are denied their own private space. The piece raises questions not only about movement and migration, but also about where one’s private space ends and public space begins. At The Art of Performance, this performance of the piece took place suddenly, unannounced, while the audience members were circulating the room, answering questions and eating candy. After the bags were unpacked, the live-coding performance began, and we followed these two performance with a discussion on the role of performance art in Aberdeen.

 The audience is invited to circulate the room, before the performance begin The audience is invited to circulate the room, before the performance begin

In many ways, the May Festival is about performance, about researchers performing their research to the general public. We wanted to create a participatory event, one in which all the attendees could come together and create something – be it an atmosphere, a performative work, or a discussion in which ideas are exchanged and new knowledge and connections produced. After the discussion, the audience followed Adrienne and Marta out onto Elphinstone Lawn for dérive, and I collected all of the posters, post-its, tablecloth and balloons that were written on, took them home, and make a word cloud – a collaborative work that we all made together.

  Suk-Jun Kim, Bea Dawkins, Mark James Dunmore and Simon Hellewell live-coding  Suk-Jun Kim, Bea Dawkins, Mark James Dunmore and Simon Hellewell live-coding

During the discussion, one attendee said that she had actually wanted to join in the Misplaced Women? performance, but wasn’t sure if she could or should, and didn’t know if she had “permission.” In many ways, Misplaced Women? itself is about permission, and the role that permission plays in one’s ability to cross borders – who has permission to go where, and why. But The Art of Performance also raised questions about permission – who gives permission to create, who feels they have permission to create, what does it mean to have permission to do something?

About 35 people attended the Art of Performance, and all were thoroughly engaged and enthusiastic about witnessing and discussing performance, and even trying a bit of it themselves. We hope that this will not be the last of the performative events that we organise, and we were excited and encouraged by the good turnout and positive response from this first endeavor!

To view the live-tweets of the event, see #MayFestPerform on Twitter

 adrienne janus leads the art of performance audience outside to derive adrienne janus leads the art of performance audience outside to derive  The art of performance word cloud - created by all of us. The art of performance word cloud – created by all of us.

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Contemporancient at Aberdeen Art Gallery After Hours

On Friday, March 27, 2015, together with friends and colleagues from the University of Aberdeen, we presented “Contemporancient”: a series of short performances that aimed to bring Ancient Scandinavian texts to life through the contemporary genre of performance art (a project created and initiated by Lisa Collinson, from the University of Aberdeen). Together, we performed four short performances based on Ancient Scandinavian texts at Aberdeen Art Gallery’s “After Hours: Extreme Makeover” event, which marked the closing of the art gallery for several years for renovations. The walls were empty, and we filled the art gallery with interactive and performative art. Together with Lisa and myself, we were also joined by Suk-Jun Kim, Irene García Losquiño, Blake Middleton, and Declan Taggart; Jasmina Zaloznik also assisted with choreography.

 There were lines out the door to get into Aberdeen art gallery's after hours: extreme makeover, where we were performing There were lines out the door to get into Aberdeen art gallery’s after hours: extreme makeover, where we were performing

None of us are performance artists. We are all researchers in various disciplines – music, Scandinavian studies, History of Art – who have an interest in presenting our research to non-academic audiences in a interesting and digestible ways, and also an interest in performance. We all attended a two-day workshop in Glasgow at the Centre for Contemporary Art, organised by Lisa Collinson, a researcher in Scandinavian studies, and performance artist Ruth Baker. After two days, we had created some interesting (performances), and later performed them at the CCA in Glasgow and 17 Belmont Street in Aberdeen. We were so excited to share these performances further that some of us re-worked them for the particular space we were assigned in the Aberdeen Art Gallery (the pink gift shop), and did the performances there.

Amy Bryzgel (left), Lisa Collinson (right), and Claire Organ (background) perform “Bureaucracy”

For example, my performance, “Bureaucracy” compared the text of Ancient Scandinavian Laws with UK migration law. By juxtaposing the two texts, one notices striking similarities in the way that laws are and have been written and constructed. In the performance, I read the laws written by the Home Office, and Lisa Collinson read the Ancient Scandinavian laws. Claire Organ stood behind us as the nameless, faceless bureaucrat behind the rules.

We had great feedback from the attendees. While viewers may have not understood exactly what we were intending to communicate with our performances, they still found them compelling, and, as I told the audience in my introduction, the most important thing was to hopefully grasp a bit of the sentiment or feeling behind the performance, rather than a literal understanding of what it might have meant.

As a researcher, it was strange to present my work through performance, but I have to admit it was quite fun and exciting – especially when working with such a great and supportive collaborative team – and I hope to do more performing quite soon!

  Suk-Jun Kim and   Irene García Losquiñ  o performing  Suk-Jun Kim and  Irene García Losquiñ o performing  blake middleton performing (accompanied by declan taggart) blake middleton performing (accompanied by declan taggart)

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My AHRC and Leverhulme Years

This year I was fortunate enough to be awarded an Arts and Humanities Research Council Early Career Fellowship for the continuation of my project, “Performance Art in Eastern Europe,” which I am currently transforming into a book. Although I poured blood, sweat and tears into the application, this was still a (nice) surprise, as it came on the heels of a year-long Leverhulme Research Fellowship, which I held in 2014. I think it is pretty rare to get back-to-back Fellowships, and I am truly grateful not only for the financial support that they offered, but more so for the time they allowed me to truly delve into my research project.

The Leverhulme Fellowship provided support for significant in-depth field research. I spent several months traveling through Eastern Europe, and recently calculated that I met nearly 250 individuals in the region – artists, art historians, art critics and arts practitioners – most of whom appear on this site. While the Leverhulme supported the research and writing of the manuscript, the AHRC supports the finalizing of the book for publication, and public engagement and dissemination projects. It also provides the opportunity for leadership training, so that I can develop the skills to become a leader in my field and manage even larger research projects. I think this aspect of the Fellowship is crucial – most lecturers are good researchers (they wouldn’t have their positions if they weren’t), but not all are leaders, nor do all researcher have the necessary skills to communicate their research with non-academic audiences. These are the skills that the AHRC Early Career Fellowship helps you to develop.

I had to create a rigorous programme that involved not only my research, but leadership training courses and public engagement activities. I attended the Leadership Foundation of Higher Education’s Aurora programme, a women-only leadership training programme for women in higher education. This was a phenomenal programme packed with successful women leaders sharing their stories, networking with other women in higher education from across the UK, and practical reading assignments and activities to help us develop as leaders. For the public engagement element of my AHRC program, one of the activities I am planning is a conference on performance art that will coincide with TIPA – This is Performance Art – which is taking place in Aberdeen in October, and being organised by Peacock Visual Arts. The conference will run from October 30-31, and involve papers and performances, discussions and interactive events.

Although sometimes it can be difficult to pack research, public engagement and leadership development into one fellowship application, I feel that all of these activities combined make for a great program. As I finalize my research and book manuscript, I am able to reflect on it further as I attempt to share it with those outside of the academy. As I organize public engagement events, I implement skills learned on my leadership training courses. The great thing about the AHRC Fellowship is that if you are successful with the grant, you have already done half of the work – the application process forces you to create a rigorous but manageable programme, and if you are awarded the fellowship then you just have to, well, do what you said you were going to do. It’s all laid out for you already, and you just have to stick with your original plan.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, what I am most grateful for, above anything, is the time to let all of my ideas gestate and percolate. Most lecturers know all too well how difficult it is to focus on one project, and have to develop skills to ‘fit research in’ among one’s other responsibilities, namely, teaching and service. To have 2.5 uninterrupted years to think only about my project has been a real gift, and I only hope that the finished products (both the book and the public engagement activities) will show evidence of the intense attention devoted to it.

You can read more about my project in the University of Aberdeen News.

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#AAH2015: Subversive Practices and Alternative Realities in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe since 1945

On April 11, 2015, at the Association of Art Historians annual conference, University of East Anglia, Norwich, England, the panel “Subversive Practices and Imagined Realities in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe since 1945” examined the manner in which artists created their own parallel worlds, utopias, dystopias, and fantastic domains. Organized by myself, Amy Bryzgel, and Andrea Euringer-Bátorová, it consisted of five fantastic papers by speakers from a range of backgrounds and disciplines.

 Andrea Euringer-Batorova introduces the panel. Andrea Euringer-Batorova introduces the panel.

My co-chair of the session, Andrea Euringer-Bátorová (Researcher, Academy of Fine Art and Design, Bratislava) introduced the panel by discussing three types of subversive practices: direct confrontation with uniformed persons (police officers or guards), direct confrontation with symbols and signs of the communist regime, and confrontation with monuments, suggesting the use of Pierre Bourdieu as a conceptual frame for discussing the manner in which these artists position themselves. I also provided an introduction by providing examples of “alternative” or “parallel” realities developed by artists in Romania (Bureau of Melodramatic Research), Bulgaria (Vera Mlechevska and Dimitar Shopov) and Moldova (Mark Verlan and Pavel Braila), and considered the manner in which these projects perform presence (absent or desired), according the writings of Hans Gumbrecht.

Ruth Addison (International Publications Advisor, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow) discussed the lesser-known nonconformist artist and teacher Vasily Sitnikov, an outsider among the outsider: “Very little has been written about Sitnikov, despite the fact that every artist-contemporary seems to have a story about him.”

Katalin Cseh-Varga’s (research assistant and PhD candidate at the Graduate School of East and Southeast European Studies at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University and lecturer at the Department of Theatre, Film and Media Studies at the University of Vienna) paper explored the manner in which Hungarian artists used the fake, the pseudo, and fiction to hold a mirror against the “ ‘falsifying propaganda museum’ and create their own possibilities for autonomous action.” The work of these artists operates in the interstices between the real and the fake, the original and the copy.

Kristóf Nagy (postgraduate student, Courtauld Institute of Art) discussed another artist/political activist who was on the margins of the margins, György Krassó, probing the question: were Krassó’s actions unable to “achieve their political goals because they used an artistic expression,” or, were they “transformed to art because they were not successful politically and were not recognized as political acts?”

Micha Braun’s (PhD in Theatre Studies, University of Leipzig) paper, Practices of Repetition and Imitation in Eastern European Performative Arts in the 1970s and ’80s, examined the work of Russian and Polish action artist groups, such as Gnezdo and Orange Alternative, viewing it through the lens of Tadeusz Kantor’s idea that one has to “repeat reality to get in contact with it.”

 bojan baca presents his paper on Port berane bojan baca presents his paper on Port berane

Finally, Bojan Baća (PhD candidate in Sociology, York University, Toronto) presented his research and analysis of the protests (both physical and visual) organized by the inhabitants of Berane, a small town in northern Montenegro, against the regional waste disposal landfill that was polluting their town. In their attempt to be heard, they made themselves seen, by blockading the dump and creating photoshopped images of Port Berane, a fictional and beautiful town that provided an alternative to the current reality.

We were all pleased that contemporary art from Eastern Europe had substantial representation at AAH this year, as the day before our panel, Klara Kemp-Welch and Beata Hock hosted a panel entitled “After the Great War/After the Cold War. Nations, Identities and Art Histories in Central Europe.” Both panels were well-attended by those with a keen interest in contemporary art from Eastern Europe. Some had traveled from as far away as Los Angeles to attend these sessions!

 the alternative practices and subversive realities panel, left to right: kristof Nagy, bojan baca, katalin cseh-varga, ruth addison, amy bryzgel, andrea euringer-batorova, micha braun. the alternative practices and subversive realities panel, left to right: kristof Nagy, bojan baca, katalin cseh-varga, ruth addison, amy bryzgel, andrea euringer-batorova, micha braun.

I am pleased to announce that I hope to carry the baton by chairing a session at the Association of Art Historians annual conference in 2016 in Edinburgh, entitled “Artistic Re-enactments as Vehicles of Cultural Transfer in Eastern European Performance Art, 1960-present.” Please submit an abstract and join me in Edinburgh in April 2016!

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Tanja Ostojic, Misplaced Women, and Director’s Cut

 Fabia Brustia at Tanja Ostojic's Misplaced Women? workshop. Photo by filip barche Fabia Brustia at Tanja Ostojic’s Misplaced Women? workshop. Photo by filip barche

As I mentioned in a previous post, feminist performance artist Tanja Ostojic joined us here in Aberdeen for a few days at the end of March and beginning of April. On April 1, 2015, she led a workshop for students and faculty at the University of Aberdeen and the Robert Gordon University on Misplaced Women? She then invited participants to do the delegated performance themselves.

You can read more about the workshop, and some of the fabulous contributions by participants, on the Misplaced Women? website:

Fabia Brustia’s thoughts on the performance

Marta Nitecka Barche’s thoughts on the performance

Later that evening, I interviewed Tanja for the Director’s Cut, a series developed and run by Professor Alan Marcus in Film and Visual Culture at the University of Aberdeen. You can even watch the interview online, by following the link (scroll down). It is also available here.

 Amy Bryzgel interviews Tanja Ostojic on the Director's Cut, University of Aberdeen, April 1, 2015, King's College Conference Centre. Photo by Brian Stewart. Amy Bryzgel interviews Tanja Ostojic on the Director’s Cut, University of Aberdeen, April 1, 2015, King’s College Conference Centre. Photo by Brian Stewart.  Interviewing tanja ostojic to a packed house at director's cut. photo by brian stewart. Interviewing tanja ostojic to a packed house at director’s cut. photo by brian stewart.

Both events were a fabulous success, the participants in the workshop were fully engaged, and the Director’s Cut was packed, and the audience asked a lot of interesting and challenging questions. I’ve posted a few pictures here but more can be found on the Misplaced Women? site, where you can also read my full description of the workshop.

Aberdeen is very much a migrant city, what with both the oil industry and two universities. Consequently, the Misplaced Women? delegated performance has a lot of resonance for people here, not to mention a special space on the landscape of Aberdeen. We hope to invite Tanja back to Aberdeen someday, but for now, her presence lives on as we revisit these performances!

 Tanja ostojic, Fabia brustia and Marta Barche at the workshop at the university of Aberdeen. Photo by filip Barche Tanja ostojic, Fabia brustia and Marta Barche at the workshop at the university of Aberdeen. Photo by filip Barche

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CFP: Artistic Re-enactments as Vehicles of Cultural Transfer in Eastern European Performance Art, 1960–present

I am pleased to announce that I will be chairing a session at next year’s Association of Art Historians annual conference, and I would welcome your proposals for a paper on artistic re-enactments in the context of performance art in Eastern Europe.

CFP: Artistic Re-enactments as Vehicles of Cultural Transfer in Eastern European Performance Art, 1960–present

Association of Art Historians (AAH) Annual Conference, University of Edinburgh, 7-9 April 2016

Deadline for abstracts: 9 November 2015

Convenor: Amy Bryzgel, University of Aberdeen, a.bryzgel@abdn.ac.uk

Description: The re-enactment of artistic performances and actions is a topic that has garnered much attention in recent years, most notably catalogued in Amelia Jones’ and Adrian Heathfield’s substantial publication Perform, Repeat, Record: Live Art in History (2012). Given the fact that, in many cases, artistic transfer from one generation to the next did not occur in the traditional manner – through the academies – in Eastern Europe, re-enactments of artistic performance can function, in the region, as a witness to the forgotten past, functioning as a vehicle of cultural memory. Additionally, it can facilitate the transfer of ideas, history and practice from one generation to the next.

This panel invites papers that discuss artistic re-enactments of performances from across the former communist and socialist countries of Central, Eastern and Southern Europe in recent artistic practice. The papers in the panel should interrogate some of the following questions: What are the various functions of artistic re-enactments of performances in Eastern Europe? How do these functions compare with current understandings of re-enactment in the West? How can re-enactments be used to access a lost or inaccessible history (such as performance art in Eastern Europe)? Also welcome are papers that consider revisiting culturally relevant or historically significant places by artists or within the context of artistic re-enactments.

Please download the proposal form at http://www.aah.org.uk/annual-conference/sessions2016/session7 and use the template to submit your abstract of no more than 250 words to Amy Bryzgel: a.bryzgel@abdn.ac.uk by November 9, 2015. Please follow the guidelines on the form.

The proposal form provides details of the conference fees. Please note that as this panel will take place as part of the annual conference of the Association of Art Historians, no funding is available for travel or accommodation. All speakers are self-funded, and are also responsible for the conference fees. Members of AAH receive a discount on the conference fees.

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Tanja Ostojic in Aberdeen!

Next week promises to be an exciting one for those of us in Aberdeen: Tanja Ostojic will be here with us on April 1st (no, this is not an April Fool’s joke!), to give a masterclass to students (and interested faculty!), and be interviewed on Director’s Cut in the evening. Rather than repeat myself, I can point readers to my previous post about Tanja’s work on this blog, as well as a recent blog post that I put together with my PhD student, Jasmina Zaloznik, where we discuss her work from various angles –

For those in Aberdeen, Tanja’s workshop will be an interactive one, where she will demonstrate her Misplaced Women? performance and then get the participants to try it out for themselves. Since this is a delegated performance, it can be done by those other than the artist, following instructions. The workshop will take place at the University of Aberdeen in Macrobert 27, from 10-11:30 AM.

For me personally, I am very excited about the Director’s Cut. As readers of this website know, I have spent the majority of the past several years interviewing artists. For Director’s Cut, I will get to do this publicly, in front of a live audience – with Tanja as my interviewee. So, this will not only give attendees insight into the artist’s work, but will also provide a glimpse into my research methods. For those in Aberdeen, the event is free, but you need to book a place. For those not in Aberdeen, fear not – the event will be recorded and placed on the Director’s Cut website, and I will post the link here when it is ready.

And don’t forget, I will make my performance art debut at the Aberdeen Art Gallery this Friday, March 27, at their After Hours event, together with several of my colleagues from Scandinavian Studies and Music. This event is also free, requires no booking, but is for over 18’s only.

What an exciting time the next seven days promises to be!

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