New collection reveals hidden histories of Live Art and experimental theatre in Scotland
Artists have been creating exciting performance and unconventional, adventurous productions in Scotland for decades.
But the work of these performers in Live Art and experimental theatre is rarely captured or written down and sometimes is only remembered through oral storytelling or anecdotes.
Now Live Art in Scotland is trying to uncover the hidden histories of performance and performers over the last 30 years.
Developed by the University of Glasgow’s Dr Steve Greer of the Live Art in Scotland project, the collection features over 40 interviews with artists, producers, researchers and other culture workers whose practice spans more than three decades of innovation across the fields of theatre, dance, music, sculpture, public art and film.
Supported by an Arts and Humanities Research Council Leadership Fellowship, the project aims to call fresh attention to a field of arts practice that is often overlooked.
Dr Greer, a Senior Lecturer in Theatre Practices, University of Glasgow, said: “This new collection is intended to highlight the incredible history of Live Art in Scotland – while we justifiably celebrate a literary dramatic tradition on Scottish stages, more experimental or interdisciplinary work is often pushed into the margins. As a cross section of a diverse field of work, this collection is the starting place for countless new histories.”
Since the late 1980s, Scotland has been home to some of the most significant festivals relating to Live Art that include the National Review of Live Art, BEHAVIOUR, Forest Fringe and – most recently – Take Me Somewhere, an international biennial festival and sector support organisation working to position Scotland as the place to create and see radical performance.
Recorded via Zoom during 2021, these new interviews also offer unique reflections on the live performance sector’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the resilience of the wider culture sector.
Dr Greer said: “As a field of interdisciplinary performance characterised by experiment and innovation, the field of Live Art is ideal for thinking about the conditions in which artists are able to take risks, whether working with organisations or in creating their own contexts for new work”.
Professor Dee Heddon, James Arnott Chair in Drama and Head of Theatre Studies, University of Glasgow, said: "I first encountered Live Art practice in 1988, in my second year of Theatre Studies at the University of Glasgow. It blew me away and I've been in love with it ever since.
“By drawing on a vast range of artists, across generations, Stephen brings to the centre important new stories, experiences, and expertise. Live Art in Scotland has had significant influence on developments across our wider cultural sector and this new resource is long overdue.”
In 2015, Jackie Wylie founded Take Me Somewhere festival to provide a crucial support structure and platform for Scotland’s most vital artists. Now led by LJ Findlay-Walsh, the event showcases some of the world’s most cutting-edge contemporary performance makers.
Speaking about the Live Art Scotland project, Jackie Wylie, who is the Chief Executive and Artistic Director, National Theatre of Scotland, said: “The Live Art in Scotland collection is an invaluable contribution to the history of Scottish theatre and performance.
“Taken cumulatively the interviews form an incredibly insightful and inspiring overview and reflection on the changing landscape of contemporary performance practice and its national and international influence.”
The interview collection will be followed by a new podcast series – LIVE AND NOW – featuring excerpts from the interviews that will offer an easy way to jump into the histories of experimental performance in Scotland.
This podcast is the latest in a range of free resources created by the project that include Live Art Scotland: Research Resources, a guide to archives, collections and other materials that might support further research into live art, performance art and interdisciplinary performance in Scotland.
These materials support and extend other major collections held with the Scottish Theatre Archive, including the archive of the Arches venue and the papers of live artist and theatre maker Adrian Howells.
Live Art in Scotland
About Live Art in Scotland
Live Art in Scotland is an ongoing research project exploring the history of Live Art and experimental performance in Scotland, led by Dr Steve Greer at the University of Glasgow.
Through a combination of oral history interviews and archival research, the project aims to contribute a missing chapter of Scotland’s cultural history while exploring the forms of curation, support and development that might foster experimental arts practices in the future.
Dr Steve Greer is Senior Lecturer in Theatre Practices at the University of Glasgow where his research and teaching focuses on contemporary and experimental performance.
He’s the author of two books and a range of essays on British and European theatre, as well as the cultural politics of TV and video games.
About the Arts and Humanities Research Council
The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, funds internationally outstanding independent researchers across the whole range of the arts and humanities: history, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, languages and literature, design, heritage, area studies, the creative and performing arts, and much more. The quality and range of research supported by AHRC works for the good of UK society and culture and contributes both to UK economic success and to the culture and welfare of societies across the globe.
First published: 14 October 2022