Twelve Artworks of Our Time Twelve Live Performance Artists

Reflection on #12Artworks at London Performance Studios

This residency at London Performance Studios happened when it felt like the doom day for freelance (migrant) artists: Reduction in fundings for art and culture; increasing competition in the industry with the illusion of scarcity of resources; reducing mobility across borders and class in a society with rising far-right politics. What we, as independent artists, can do in this very unpredictable and chaotic (post)-pandemic world became the question that started this research. 

This is a two-week project of creating an anarchist space for independent artists to exchange knowledge, experiment on new ideas and present new findings. This happened in July 2021, is an experimentation on radical acts of resource re-distribution. 

Ghost and John received the "Seeding Space" residency from London Performance Studios. Instead of making another Ghost and John duet, we decided to take a bold turn and invited eleven other artists to respond to the following four themes: 

- socio-politically sensitive subjects 

- materials and societies 

- post-humanism 

- displacement and memories of home 

The structure is simple: workshops in the mornings and R&D on the twelve scores in the afternoons. We touched on a lot of topics: sensory theatre, voice, Le Jeu, apocalyptic shopping, virgin territory, cyclical bodies, seasons …

On one hand, we are testing our capacity in holding a safe, brave and non-judgemental space for fellow independent artists to do bold experiments on contemporary ideas. The resources we have are the space, our bodies, our very limited administrative skills and support from London Performance Studios. We push our limits at making sure that everyone online/offline participants feel well-attended to and included. Then, we see how these artists make use of the resources and find ways to get what they currently lack. 

On the other hand, we keep asking the basic question: where should we go? At one point during these two weeks, the phrase “shared vulnerability” popped up and got stuck in our minds. We are like a group of thirsty elephants, looking for water. How can we, under such conditions, create a healthier ecology in the freelance art scene? (BTW, we did apply for ACE and a few other grants, which are all unfortunately unsuccessful) (Perhaps we are just really shit at writing grants.) 

 

Two weekends of performances have been presented. You can see their scores for this project here.

#12ArtWorks, The Mush Up, photo by Jeffrey Choy

The Mush Up

photo by Jeffrey Choy

#12ArtWorks, The Mush Up, photo by Jeffrey Choy

Twelve Live Performance Artists Twelve Artworks of Our Time

The Mush Up

photo by Jeffrey Choy

Looking back, the feedback on the residency has a heavy emphasis on how we are presenting the artists’ creative process and approach and the need for a non-hierarchical collective structure. This brings us back to a question that we asked ourselves: What if this residency is paid?

 

The thirteen artists involved have not been all in the space for the whole two weeks. Some of us had to skip some sessions due to freelance or part-time work. A few of us would sit in the lounge area for an hour or two to finish some remote work. Some sat in the corridor teaching online classes. The fact we have to face is: the reason why we can be part of this is that we, at a certain level, have a successful freelance/ part-time career. 

 

The more intriguing question is then, when there is no financial motivation in this project, what truly pushes us to make art, even when the circumstances are so difficult? The four themes mentioned above vaguely umbrella-ed the topics we have touched on during the two weeks. As the group of artists came from a diverse training background, from dance to clowning, everyone took very different approaches and offered different tools to dissect difficult topics. One moment we were embodying a nasty character, jokingly mocking each other. Another moment we are fighting for pieces of paper on the ground. 

Other than the talent and creativity, we are genuinely touched by the honesty and care this group has to offer. We embrace awkwardness at the moments of realising an idea doesn't work. We celebrate as we reach discoveries. We cry when our trauma from the past hurts the present.

We continue to contemplate the present yet imagine and demonstrate how things can be done alternatively in this new era.

Some words from Bettina Fung, one of the #12ArtWorks artists

What happens when you put 13 artists in a studio space (virtually and physically) for two weeks with scores for each other and open minds to exchange ideas? #12ArtWorks is an unique project, instigated by Ghost & John, and created on the bases of what if artists share with each other their resources (that could be space, time and/or skills) despite not having funding. During these two weeks we danced, moved, drew and talked. We experimented (in the true sense of it). Each artist offered a score which we responded to, and by using what was available to us at the time then (our resources - materials, the space, our time and energy) we discovered what we could create together. It is not often you get a chance to experiment like this and I admire everyone's openness and generosity.  Due to family circumstances, I was unable to travel and participated remotely via Google Meet for the two whole weeks. Thanks to Ghost & John’s brilliant technical know-how, I was impressed by how they made the online participants felt included. Over the two weeks it felt like I had multiple bodies. I was able to be in different places at the same time. There doesn't seem to be a word yet to describe this sensation which is often experienced in the digital world. By using their two laptops, a tablet and their phones, the multiple camera angles allowed me to have a better sense of the studio space. Not all cameras were static, my fellow participants in the space took turns to "carry me" closer so I could see better. I was touched by this action of taking turns to "carry me", helping me feel more together with them. I didn't anticipate to learn about what is needed in order to adapt and merge online and physical participation for working together as well as for performance. Perhaps this is what the future might be – a hybrid of virtual and physical space? This experience has made me think a lot about access as well.

#12ArtWorks, Drawings by Bettina Fung,  created in response to and during the development of Jay Yule's score.
#12ArtWorks, Drawings by Bettina Fung,  created in response to and during the development of Jay Yule's score.

Drawings by Bettina Fung,

created in response to and during the development of Jay Yule's score.

#12ArtWorks, Drawings by Bettina Fung,  created in response to and during the development of Elina Akhmetova's score.
#12ArtWorks, Drawings by Bettina Fung,  created in response to and during the development of Elina Akhmetova's score.
#12ArtWorks, Drawings by Bettina Fung,  created in response to and during the development of Elina Akhmetova's score.
#12ArtWorks, Drawings by Bettina Fung,  created in response to and during the development of Elina Akhmetova's score.

Drawings by Bettina Fung,

created in response to and during the development of Elina Akhmetova's score.

Concept, curation and production: Ghost and John
 

Participating artists:
Adam Moore (he/theirs) - Transdisciplinary Aahtist & Qurator  
adammoorecreate.com 
Alina Sakko (she/her) - Dance artist 
spark.adobe.com/page/B7j03y2ReliQl 
Bettina Fung (she/her) - Visual artist  
bettinafung.com 
Bonnie Chan (she/her) - Theatremaker 
bonniechan.art 
Elina Akhmetova - Dance artist, Activist & Bashkir  
bit.ly/3inyP1P 
Iris Chan (she/her) - Dance artist  
www.irischan.com 
Isabella Leung (she/her) - Actor 
www.isabellaleung.com 
Jay Yule (she/her) - Dance artist 
www.jayyule.com 
Mark Bleakley (he/him) - Dance artist 
markbleakley.co.uk 
Peggy Yau (she/her) - Installation artist 
peggyyyau.com 

Yik-Sau Chung (she/her) - Actor & Theatremaker
www.spotlight.com/2691-1203-6803 
Ghost (he/him) and John (he/him) - Multidisciplinary art duo  
www.ghostandjohn.art

 

Space granted by London Performance Studios through 'Seeding Space' residency