By Callum Devlin
28 August, 2002
In the video a man steps swiftly from the side of the frame directly into a close-up.
“What is live art?” he says. The camera zooms out slowly, revealing a crowded footpath of pedestrians floating by. The man speaks directly into the camera, with the articulate air of a broadcast journalist. “Well,” he continues, “at its most fundamental, Live Art is when an artist chooses to make work directly in front of the audience in space and time. So instead of making an object, or an environment and leaving it for the audience to encounter in their own time, Live Art comes into being at the actual moment of encounter between artist and spectator.”
He is speaking to the camera, to the audience, but he is performing for the crowd around him. People stop, stare at the camera and at the man. He is a spectacle, a curiosity, but not un unfamiliar one. The image of a journalist performing their to-camera monologue in the public is a well-worn trope. It instantly connects the content of the story directly to the city, to the people they are speaking about, and that their story seems to be affecting. But the curiosity of the crowd around him is electric, overly so. The content of his monologue directly matches the form that it is taking. Moreover, the content is echoed in the reaction of the crowd around him, creating a feedback loop that builds between the two.
The punchline is the hole in his pants, revealed as he turns on his heel at the end of his speech. A perfect circle exposing his ass to the world, visible for a moment before he disappears into the crowd. Instantly the speech is recontextualised, and a second viewing is called for, as you are now “in” on the joke.
The video is a curious statement. Initially it serves as a clear description of an art movement, it’s history and priorities. The text itself is cohesive, entertaining, and informative, while the performance slick and assertive. However, in it’s form as a video, it seems to initially contradict the art movement that it seems to be a part of. Live Art is defined as taking place in the moment of creation, between the viewer and the audience. The video acts as a permanent ghost of the initial performance.