THE BLOG

Access All Areas: Live Art and Disability

10/07/2012 10:57 BST | Updated 07/09/2012 10:12 BST

Is Access All Areas a symposium report? Yes and no, and not just because of the two dvd's at the back - one containing material from the event itself (performance and symposium presentations) and the other selections of seminal documentation and works for camera from the last 20 years. Is it a publication exploring the interface between live art and disability? Is it a resource rich in example and explanation. Is it disability-specific? Is it simply about Live Art? Yes, it certainly is all those things. But it's also the marking of a watershed. Access All Areas marks the point at which finally we are allowed to disagree.

It's been a long time coming.

Access All Areas reports on the Live Art Development Agency's two day symposium and public programme held in March 2011 which contained two commissioned durational performance-installations, presentations, performances, a symposium of live and recorded provocations and thought pieces, screenings of work and a bibliotheque.

Reading the book becomes an event in itself. I am presented with the same material, from multiple viewpoints. From those who create. From those who watch. From both those who agree and disagree with elements or nuances of each work. Its impossible to fix on your own viewpoint as every time you think you are getting a sense of what you think you think, the next piece twists you round and shows you the world from an opposing angle.

This seems to mirror the event, where people were reported as 'speaking honestly and potently (even to the point of confrontation)' (Brian Lobel, P.63-64). A contribution for the 'Sick' panel (all the panels were named after previous artworks) called Sicknotes from the Disabled Avant-Garde strikes personally at many of the artists featured - ''I am sick of disabled people... making art about their clinical experiences', I am sick of disabled men waving their cocks and calling it radical', 'I am sick of artists who are disabled but conceal it'. As a provocation it amplified the debate and allowed for multiple voices to enter the space in response. In the publication we also read a direct response from Brian Lobel in a piece called I'm not sick - 'I'm not sick of hearing difficult questions to which I have no answer', 'I'm not sick of sentences that start with 'My body' and probably never will be'.

This central premise of not agreeing, not seeking agreement or consensus feels very 'live art' -about creating a space into which things, thoughts and actions are placed. Near the beginning, Sinead O'Donnell describes being offered a frame for work that is then taken off the wall and stretched around the artist, around the work, around the audience, the city, the landscape, the materials... 'an unlimited framework in terms of how you want to make art' (Sinead O'Donnell, P.29). This is useful to me to hold in my head as I navigate the book.

I'll be honest. I am not yet used to Live Art. Increasingly it is becoming part of what I consume and yet is also what I most fear. I used to think it was 'too difficult' for me to understand; now I understand that I can use it to examine what I find most difficult. Another book I was reading at the same time (not simultaneously though, of course) helped me too by forcing me to question both what informs me and what affects me?' By looking more consciously at the areas that cause me feelings of nausea, panic and pain I can find out more about myself and how I construct the world. I read with interest about Rita Marcalo's desire to re-frame her own seizing body as dance (Rita Marcalo, P.114-127), and Noemi Lakmaier's investigation into power, care and gender (from P.96-109); I have no problem with Martin O'Brian being naked, spanked or inserting what ever he wishes up his anus publically (P.76 -95) yet I can hardly finish Sicknotes (P.129 - 135) due to my own contradictory responses to many of the statements presented.

Mary Paterson says: 'Not being the same is not the same as being different' (Mary Paterson, P.55). I'm not sure if I agree. I'm not sure of much anymore to be honest and as someone who has spent all their working life in the Disability Arts field that statement is hard to write.

Reading the publication cover to cover isn't comfortable; the repetition becomes extreme and the variety of the pieces difficult to take in one setting. Reading it and then watching all the video footage supplied in one sitting becomes a marathon endeavor yet I can't stop. Each piece leads me wanting more (especially the material from the last 20 years, most of which I haven't seen, only heard about). It's exceptionally curated - a fascinating collection of voices known and unknown, some from a background of live art, some emerging from Disability Arts and all finding a shared territory (and all very territorial - Sinead O'Donnell, P.29).

Access All Areas is an enquiry. It's artists focused, not academic and its many voices never quite in harmony. It's eclectic, didactic, challenging and provocative. It's history in the making. It's worth spending quite a bit of time with.