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It’s the Live Art Gala! Lois Keidan and Nando Messias tease it out

[Nando Messias]

2019 marks a 20 year anniversary for London's Live Art Development Agency.

On Saturday 26 October 2019 LADA will host its star-studded Live Art Gala 2019, a fundraising knees-up to celebrate the 20th anniversary and support its artistic programmes.

This is an almighty, giddy treat of a night. You can expect performances, live auction, and Silent Auction of artworks, objects and experiences from Katherine Araniello, Oreet Ashery, Ron Athey, Franko B, Katy Baird, Anne Bean, Rocio Boliver, Tim Bromage, Season Butler, Brian Catling, Shaun Caton, Augusto Corrieri, Robert Daniels, Karen Finley, Hugo Glendinning, Oozing Gloop, Tehching Hsieh, Oleg Kulik, Zoe Laughlin, Nando Messias, Jade Montserrat, Daniel Oliver, Tammy Reynolds, Victoria Sin, Selina Thompson, and Aaron Williamson - and more (grab your tickets pronto).

Here's what acclaimed writer Lyn Gardner has to say about the Live Art Development Agency and its co-founder Lois Keidan:

'Live Art has permeated the everyday and crept into some of our major institutions, and a great deal of that is due to the efforts of Lois Keidan who co-founded the Live Art Development Agency (LADA) which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

Keidan is one of the arts world’s greatest enablers. Keidan and LADA deserve a medal.'

True to form, here Lois chats to artist Nando Messias about Live Art, LADA and Nando’s forthcoming performance The Pink Supper.

Lois Keidan: Nando, LADA is working with you on two forthcoming events this Autumn – you are doing a performance of your iconic work Walking Failure at LADA’s 20th anniversary gala at St Paul’s Hackney on Saturday 26 October, and then you are presenting your new work The Pink Supper at Raven Row on Thursday 7 November. Walking Failure was our first ever collaboration with you (presented as part of our Performance Matters/Trashing Performance programme in 2011) and we have commissioned The Pink Supper for the Library of Performing Rights Commission 2019. Can you say a bit about both of these works?

[Augusto Corrieri - Gala auction experience]

Nando Messias: Yes, Walking Failure is a precursor to my larger performance, The Sissy’s Progress. It is my artistic response to an incident of homophobia I suffered on the very street I live on. In the aftermath of being beaten up by a gang of eight young men, I began to reflect more critically on what it was in me that attracted such violent contempt in them. I then found a recording of Judith Butler telling a similar story—with a much more tragic ending—with such clarity that I wished her words were mine. So I put her words into my body and created a lip-synch/movement sequence to her voice, using her sharp description of indignation about the targeting and harming of vulnerable bodies.

Whereas Walking Failure responds to a very personal incident, The Pink Supper is a reaction to the current encroachments in the human rights of LGBTQI+ people around the world. The idea for this piece came to me during a visit to my native country, Brazil, at the time of the presidential elections at the end of 2018. My feeling while there was that it seemed more dangerous to be visibly different, that there was more violence and so many more people seemed to be unafraid to voice their bigotry in public. Despite its international image of carnival, samba and summer, Brazil is the number one country in the world in trans murders. The Pink Supper is my artistic response to this reality we are facing at the moment.

Lois: Can you say more about the conceptual connections between these two pieces – what Walking Failure was created in response to and what The Pink Supper is dealing with and is there a line between the two works?

Nando: Even though their directions seemed oppositional—Walking Failure begins with the personal and moves to the universal while The Pink Supper starts with the macro and brings it back to me—at their core is this belief that as an artist I have a responsibility to respond to social violence. Not only do I have the opportunity thanks to my skills and training and the personal involvement given what happened to me, but I also see how it touches others and I feel that leaves me with a moral duty.

[Jade Montserrat - Gala live act]

Lois: What do you think that Live Art offers as a space for you and for other artists who are addressing highly politicised issues in relation to marginalised bodies and identities?

Nando: One of the defining features of Live Art, to me, is precisely that: it makes space for artists that otherwise would have no space. Live Art welcomes those who are under-represented, it embraces those that trouble the boundaries of form, it creates opportunity for those who make work that might be too radical and uncompromising. I have grown immensely as an artist, thanks to the support I have received from LADA over the years. I have been able to test ideas in the company of fellow artists by either leading or participating in DIY workshops, I have been given commissions to create work that feels urgent and that has been rejected by mainstream institutions and funding bodies and I have never felt the need to compromise my vision. In fact, the exact opposite has been true. I have been given encouragement to become even bolder and more uncompromising. I have found a home in Live Art.

Lois: LADA’s gala on the 26 October marks our 20th anniversary. What is your sense of where Live Art is at right now and how far Live Art – and indeed LADA - has come over the last 20 years?

Nando: Live Art has come a long way. It’s become so much broader and varied in form, transforming itself into something ever more mercurial. It has thrived on realities that are rarely represented, becoming more diverse, queer and democratic. My personal sense — and I think I’m right in this — is that it’s also stopped taking itself as seriously as it used to. What might be considered frivolous can also find a place under the title of Live Art.

LADA has been instrumental in this broadening, particularly with its programmes for disabled, BAME, female and trans artists, and its reach outside London. One thing of truly exceptional value is its bursaries for research and artistic development that doesn’t require an end product. That’s unique.

Also, LADA has contributed to a maturing of Live Art with the expansion of resources and now the developing of its archive, one of the largest in the world.
I think Live Art is gaining ever more importance, thanks to its directness of expression and contact with audiences. It’s become more overtly political, which is increasingly urgent given what has been happening in the world.

I’d like to ask you about Live Art, LADA and your 20th anniversary gala.

[Shaun Caton - Gala auction artwork]

Lois: For me Live Art does all the things you’ve talked about – it gives visibility and opens up spaces for marginalized, under-represented and emerging artists, ideas, practices and politics, and that’s why it’s such an important and influential area of creative practice. It’s been amazing to see how Live Art has developed and spread its tentacles in all kinds of directions and into all kinds of cultural and social contexts over the last 20 years, and I feel honoured and privileged that LADA has been able to play a part in that. It’s also been fascinating to see how Live Art has been embraced by institutions such as Tate, engaged with different kinds of audiences, and become a subject of scholarly research and teaching all without compromising its integrity or losing its edge. Our gala not only marks our 20th birthday – something that none of us could ever have imagined back in 1999 – but also celebrates the dangerous, messy, provocative and exciting practices and ideas inherent in Live Art through the work of some of the extraordinary artists we have had the pleasure of working with for the last 20 years.

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A Live Art Gala 2019
A fundraising gala to celebrate the Live Art Development Agency’s 20th Anniversary and support its artistic programmes
Saturday 26 October 2019
7.30pm to late
St Paul’s Church Hall, Stoke Newington Road, N16 7UY
Tickets and info:

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