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Artists, scholars, writers and performers explore writing and performance at the RCA

There has long been an intimate link between performance and writing. The script and its enactment is perhaps the most obvious example of this relationship, however, there are many other connections, some of which might be considered to be even more fundamental. A two-day conference 30—31 January, organised by the Writing programme and Performance pathway of the Contemporary Art Practice (CAP) programme will bring together practitioners in live art, performance, dance and the visual arts, poets, essayists, and historians to consider both broad and specific aspects of writing and performance across disciplines. 

performance by Tai Shani
Dark Continent by Tai Shani

Who will you hear from?

RCA tutors Tai Shani, Sally O’Reilly, Ken Hollings and Dean of the School of Communication Dr Rathna Ramanathan will all contribute expertise from their respective fields and practices, alongside other artists, performers and academics, including:

  • Shirt, a multiform conceptual artist working in rap music, performance, multi-media sculpture, painting, photography, and installation. 
  • Marxist magician and ventriloquist Ian Saville, whose artfully crafted patter is a comic form of socialist propaganda.
  • Artist and writer Erica Scourti, whose work explores biographical writing and bodily inscription in the performance and representation of subjectivity.
  • Sophie Jung, who works across text, sculpture and performance to address representation and its pitfalls.
  • And Keith Jarrett, a poet and PhD scholar at Birkbeck, currently completing his first novel that explores the migration of religion from the Caribbean to London.

What to expect

Ian Saville performing with Karl Marx
Ian Saville and Karl Marx, Edinburgh Art Festival 2018
Photographer: Alan Dimmick
Throughout the two days, different rhythms, speeds and modes of address will reflect the diversity of ways that writing and performance intersect. As well as traditional papers delivered from the lectern there will be live performances, performative readings, film screenings, panel discussions and conversations that explore and embody the writing / performance relationship in practice and theory.

Writing / Performance is the most recent conference organised by the MA Writing programme and the Performance pathway within Contemporary Art Practice to examine in the public some of the issues, ideas and approaches emerging from the two practices. It has been organised by Writing’s Acting Head of Programme, Jeremy Millar, and Mel Brimfield, Performance pathway leader in Contemporary Art Practice, along with their colleagues Emily LaBarge and Sally O’Reilly.

Why now?

Sophie Jung performance
Pomp and Circumstance, performance for Matt’s Gallery Fundraiser, Sophie Jung
Photographer: Dafydd Jones
Discussing the motivations behind the conference, Jeremy commented:

‘Performance has become increasingly important — and visible — in contemporary art in recent years and we wanted to explore this expanded understanding of it. Just look at the most recent Turner Prize: none of the artists would be considered “performance artists”, yet all use performance within their practices, including Tai Shani, whom we’re delighted is joining us. 

‘In recent years the MA Writing programme has organised a range of conferences — on the essay, the relationship between art and poetry, and on autofiction — all of which have been marked by a desire to consider writing a practice amongst others, something due its own consideration, yes, but also the means by which we can consider others. 

Amongst all that is happening in the world, it is a time of great excitement within writing and performance practices, and how they are taught at the RCA, too.
Jeremy Millar
‘In all of these, it has been important to bring together practitioners and critics and this is the case here, too, with performances from NY rapper and artist, Shirt, and artist Sophie Jung, alongside presentations by Nisha Ramayya, and Rebecca May Johnson, amongst many others.

‘Amongst all that is happening in the world, it is a time of great excitement within writing and performance practices, and how they are taught at the RCA, too. We are delighted to be working together on this exciting new conference, and to consider what future we might create for both.’

The studio-based Performance pathway of the RCA’s CAP programme creates a context for ambitious, risk-taking practices that seek to challenge the definitions of performance. The Writing / Performance conference exemplifies the broad ways that performance is understood and taught at the RCA and makes apparent how synergies with other disciplines such as writing are a vital part of performance’s contemporary diversity as an expanded field.

Writing / Performance

30 — 31 January,  RCA Battersea, Gorvy Lecture Theatre

Full schedule and booking details can be found here.