10 performances that did it for me in 2017
Now standing at the end of the year, these are the performances from 2017 that in some way stick out to me. I’m realising that several are performances that have been around awhile, but for whatever reason I have only just seen this year. I can see there are several by experienced artists who are older than me—as an artist in my mid thirties it isn’t surprising that seeing good work by artists who are ‘ahead’ of me is in some way extra exciting. It’s like proof that it’s possible to sustain and grow.
I can also see that a lot of what I liked this year is composed of a singular idea that contains many potentialities. I can see the complexity, strangeness and mystery that was also present for me last year, but I also see that I’m more turned on by work that feels muscular of form; where the artist is really working something through or working something out through a performance language.
Listed in the order I saw them.
The Invisible Dog Art Center, New York City as part of PS122’s Coil Festival
I broke a cassette tape using a hammer. The most satisfying part was unspooling the tape into a pile. Then I sat quietly and put together a smashed ceramic statuette with Scotch tape while having a conversation with a woman and her daughter. Then I placed my new sculpture in the final room with the rest of them. That’s basically it, and I still enjoy remembering it.
Meg Stuart/Damaged Goods
REDCAT, Los Angeles
What I remember the most of this performance is the fragmenting of autobiography; the shards of personal text that sometimes fitted together and sometimes jutted out, the hanging, spinning, swinging speaker with dislocated sound coming from it, projected images of nostalgia. It felt like a life, I guess—looping, moving, fractured. And it didn’t totally makes sense. And I’m like yeah, that checks out.
French and Mottershead
Arnos Court Park, Bristol as part of In Between Time
This piece came at a time when I needed the space it gave me. I saw it outdoors in February, so I laid on the cold ground and listened to a voice describe step by step how my body would decompose in this woodland if I were to die at that very moment.
I was at a Christmas party last weekend with people I mostly didn’t know. I stayed late. At the end of the night everyone was drunk and someone was asking everyone if they could be anywhere right at that moment where would they be. I said I would be alone on top of a mountain. Somewhere in a huge landscape. In my mind I was trying to say something very profound (I’m usually very profound after drinking lots of prosecco), but I said something like I want to be somewhere I feel small and insignificant, like nothing I do matters at all. That way I could do anything. There’s something of that in Woodland—it felt freeing to consider how my body would decompose and become part of the forest in a way that isn’t the least bit special.
Florentina Holzinger & Vincent Riebeek
Kein Applaus für Scheisse
MAC Birmingham, presented by Fierce
I had heard about this performance from other people before I saw it—it has been around awhile. I had heard about the blue vomit and the pissing in the mouth and the ribbon coming out of the vagina. And those were all pretty striking actions. The vomit especially was difficult to watch, and the retching even more difficult to listen to. But then the piece has gentler moments and everything gets thrown into sharp relief. Maybe it was where I was in my life when I saw it, but for me it was about the tenderness, frivolity, exchanges (fluid and emotional), naiveté and violence of being in relationship with someone else over time.
Nora (Eleanor Sikorski and Flora Wellesley Wesley)
Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadlers Wells, London
This was one of my easiest picks for this list. I had a fantastic time, especially watching the third in the triple bill, Liz Aggiss’ piece, Bloody Nora. I don’t know what else to say other than the performers were excellent, the ideas were big and it was fucking fun.
The Yard, London
I’m really interested in the queer space Ponyboy tries to create—and maybe a process of trying is all anyone can ever do to make that space? There were more held, set and choreographed moments in this piece than in their previous work that I’ve seen, and the Rite of Spring seemed to give some sort of nice receptacle or skeleton. I was super into it.
Barbican Gallery, London
I took an unenthusiastic second date to this dance exhibition. I won’t make that mistake again—if I’m excited about seeing a piece of art I will go with someone equally as excited or I will take myself—but even that couldn’t dampen most of the performances. While the high energy pieces where men strutted and sashayed around the gallery were obviously super fun, there is a big part of me that preferred the smaller pieces like Wall Dance. Something that spoke to subtle negotiation, femininity, repetition and fluidity with a gently pulsing soundtrack.
Piece For Person And Ghetto Blaster
I mean, this is just super high quality work. I loved the narrative that looped, turned in on itself and turned itself inside out, I loved the beep-boop-beeping of the music, I LOVED the block coloured projection. And what a performer 👍
The Patrick Centre, Birmingham as part of Fierce Festival
I love a good slow burn, and this one paid off.
Crazy But True
MAC Birmingham as part of Fierce Festival
This came at the perfect time in the festival for me. It was on the Sunday afternoon after the Saturday club night. The theatre seating was replaced with sofas and beanbags, and we laid on our backs and listened to young people tell us facts for a few hours. Facts about the environment, animals, money, buildings. Things that have some sort of resonance for the future we will leave them. It was tiny and huge at the same time.
Twin Peaks: The Return
Season 3 of Twin Peaks wasn’t a performance but it was my favourite thing that happened in 2017 and this is my list so 🙃