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Live Art and Performance

Module Code: TH238
Module Name: Live Art and Performance
Module Credits: 30

Module description

Drawing on a range of international artists, solo performers and companies as examples, this module considers the enormously varied practices of contemporary live art and performance from these main points of view:

  • differing explorations of time, taking into account such factors as durational time, repetition, chance, failure and real time events.
  • the uses and dynamics of space, including questions around site-specificity, situation and context, public and private space, and displacement.
  • the utilisation of bodies as sites of experimentation and/or expression.
  • the re-evaluation and implementation of text in contemporary practices.
  • the changing role of spectatorship in contemporary performance.
  • the role of participation in art and performance

All these components naturally interlink and overlap in various ways, so it is difficult to contemplate time, for instance, without simultaneously invoking space. Similarly, the body in performance can be said always to be occupying a space of some sort under a specific regimen of time, and so on. Nevertheless, since live art and performance generally involve forms of experimentation with the elements, aesthetics and categories of performance – including refunctioned uses of textual material and a new awareness of what it means to be an audience – it is useful to make such distinctions in the first instance. In the second instance, issues such as intimacy, activism, everyday life, risk, chance, failure, abjection, mediatisation and documentation will arise as further subjects of investigation.

This module proceeds under ‘laboratory’ circumstances. Alongside seminars, essay writing and workshops or extended projects run by professional practitioners, students are involved in sustained and intensive practical group work focusing on, and experimenting with, the dynamics of live performance. The module component takes its lead from the immediate practices of artists, performers and companies, and the following is a pool from which a selection will be singled out for particular attention during the course of the term: Marina Abramovic, Tehching Hsieh, Francis Alÿs, Sophie Calle, Lone Twin, Ontroerend Goed, Forced Entertainment, the Wooster Group, Pina Bausch, Wendy Houstoun, Franko B, Tomoko Takahashi, Mark Dion, Roman Ondák, Tino Sehgal, Martin Creed, Antony Gormley, Adrian Howells, Natasha Davis and Richard Dedominici.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this module component you will have:

  • Investigated an important critical and aesthetic shift in contemporary western live art and performance practice, and articulated this understanding through discussion, debate and critical written response.
  • Developed the practical skills necessary to explore the implications of such a shift in a creative workshop context, and to present the outcomes in substantial pieces of creative practice.
  • Developed an understanding of the context in which live art and performance evolved as artistic media in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
  • Worked individually and in a range of group configurations to develop individual initiative and to explore the dynamics of group collaboration in critical analysis, problem solving and performance production.
  • Engaged in intensive devising processes, learning to balance the creative and personal demands of performance-making with the practicalities of time and resource management.
  • Grasped key concepts and ideas relating to the varied practices of live art and performance.
  • Developed a critical understanding of the specific practices of a range of contemporary live art and performance practitioners.

Class Location and Time (Terms 1 & 2)

MONDAY 15.00-18.00 G53

Department Timetables


  • 2,500-word essay (25%, questions issued Week 8 Autumn Term; deadline: Thursday Week 4, Spring Term). [LINK FOR ESUBMISSION]
  • Practice-based exam in small groups (50%, Monday Week 9, Spring Term).
  • 2,500-word or equivalent critical review of exam performances (25%, due Tuesday 28th March 2017). [LINK FOR ESUBMISSION]

NB. It is highly advisable to maintain a form of log-book relating to the process and performance of the practice-based exam (Spring Term), but this is not assessed.