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Agency

A Partial History of Live Art

Winner of the 2021 Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA) Edited Collection Prize

Notoriously difficult to define as a genre, Live Art is commonly positioned as a challenge to received artistic, social, and political categories: not theatre, not dance, not visual art, and often wilfully anti-mainstream and anti-establishment. But as it has become increasingly prevalent in international festivals, major art galleries, and university courses, it is ripe for a reassessment.
Including almost 50 contributing artists and scholars, this collection of essays, conversations, provocations, and archival images takes the twentieth anniversary of the founding of one of the sector’s most committed champions, the Live Art Development Agency in London, as an opportunity to consider not only what Live Art has been against, but also what it has been for. Through the work of this particular ‘Agency’, the book explores the idea of agency more generally: how Live Art has enabled the possibility for new kinds of thoughts, actions, and alliances for diverse individuals and groups.

280 pages | 125 color plates | 6 3/4 x 8 3/4 | © 2019

Art: Art--General Studies

Culture Studies


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Reviews

"A series of provocations and conversations. . . . While I believe that many of the questions that characterise live art are still vital and urgent, sometimes the insistence on live art’s overtly politicised and provocative mode of ‘unruly’ practice floats its material base. I am sometimes suspicious of how live art is so unquestionably predisposed to the political, rather than an assessment of how such associations and definitions have developed, changed and crystalised, perhaps even taking on their own conservatisms. Schmidt, in his introduction, reframes this idea perfectly, asking what has live art ‘been against’ but also what has it been for?"

Bryony White | Art Monthly

"[Agency] places itself in the mid-stream of engaged public discourse about what matters for artists (and indeed for all of us) in cultural/political life. . . . There is so much here in these essays and dialogues that multiple readings are truly worthwhile. . . . Agency is published at a critical moment for an institution that has forged resilience among artists over time. It deserves to be widely read and used by artists, scholars, change-makers, and social activists. It matters."

PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art

"Agency offers one of the clearest explanations in plain English of exactly what constitutes Live Art, what sets it apart from theatre or other practices in the creative industries and why that matters. As a reference book it offers an intelligent and rigorous interrogation of Live Art its guts and gore, its shock tactics and disruptions, its raw energy, risk taking and ingenuity."

Julie McNamara | Disability Arts Online

"The strength of Agency is that the book is about much more than LADA itself. Using the term agency as 'the capacity for new kinds of thoughts, actions, and energies as enacted by individual artists and groups', Schmidt is interested in exploring the agency, or relational encounters, between different entities, locations, and bodies that have fallen under the umbrella created by LADA. . . . Agency could easily have been a book about live art's radicality. It is to Schmidt’s credit, however, that as much attention is given to institutions, spaces, and support systems as to the individual artists."

Jennie Klein | Contemporary Theatre Review

"The contributions to the volume are authored by some of the most significant artists and researchers in the field, and there is a range of fascinating and urgent voices, practices, and questions collected here. Agency is essential reading for anyone interested or invested in Live Art and who wants to know more about LADA’s history and practices. The book is both a (partial) history of Live Art, and a proposal for how the complex and multifarious concept of agency might help to shape future practice, communities, and actions."

Harriet Curtis | New Theatre Quarterly

"An elegant and beautifully presented mapping of important themes and topics in Live Art. The lens of agency provides an original perspective as well as providing a well-deserved tribute to the work of the Live Art Agency. The editorial strategy for the volume is very clearly articulated and the variety of voices and registers was extremely well curated and framed. The work is very precisely edited with very good introduction to each sub-section. All the elements, including the images, are excellently integrated in a coherent totality."

2021 TaPRA Edited Collection Prize panel

"It may well turn out to be the book that I will be pointing students towards first for some while, to orient themselves in this field."

Joe Kelleher, University of Roehampton London

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