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Anya Liftig Review

Review of An Evening of performance presented by both OVADA and

Roves and Roams with Anya Liftig and Dr. Tracey Warr1

Written by Tiffany Horan

For those of us who braved the cold weather, found the venue and embraced the experience, this was a night we won’t forget. It felt like the beginning of something extraordinary, standing there in such a wonderful space, a derelict warehouse brought to life by a love of art, everyone in their coats, grasping plastic cups of tea and glasses of wine with frozen fingers, queuing for the toilet, shivering by the heaters trying to get closer to one another. A room full of familiar faces, an audience waiting to be asked to take their seats.

Tracey Warr’s ‘Performance Art: So Yesterday?’ was an informative, fascinating and truly educational talk. She made us as an audience question the art of performance using visual imagery, quotes and descriptive recollections. When referring to Marina Abramovic’s ‘Dragon Heads’ performance which took place at Modern Art Oxford in 1990, she said it was as though the audience could smell Abramovic’s fear, as though they could taste it in the air. This kind of empathic connection shared between audience and artist, is something I find completely vital when it comes to discussing a piece of performance, as without it something is missing, this could be a potential lack of authenticity or reasoning behind the work itself.

I found the question ‘has performance art gone out of fashion?’ to be a poignant one. As a student, I know that a number of my colleagues are frightened of becoming typecast as a live artist or being criticised for creating work similar to that of more established artists. Several interesting ideas were raised such as the relationship between the body and the audience, social critique in place of social body, exploration of metamorphosis, endurance, asserts of freedom, duration, an embodied consciousness and the idea that even if there appears to be nothing going on physically, or visually so to speak, there is often plenty going on. Some of the artists, collaborators and writers discussed included Thomas McEvilley, Gaston Bachelard, Rob La Frenais, Elaine Scarry, Marina Abramovic, William James, Jerzy Beres and a few of Tracey Warr’s past students.

Tracey Warr believes that patience is a virtue and that our lives are almost certainly dominated by impatience, ‘an impatience that spills into our lives’ she says. I believe it takes a different kind of perspective to view performance art; you have to allow your body to become engrossed by it, you have to allow your mind to reach a meditative state in order to really see and understand what you’re looking at, a relationship between consciousness and the body. Warr quoted Kuiza by saying ‘I smuggled art into their lives…’ and as she did so, a connective understanding fell upon the room, people looked at one another, they nodded in agreement. Her talk left us feeling prepared for a little bit more art to be smuggled into our lives.

Anya Liftig gave a truly stunning performance, her work the very embodiment of femininity, of naivety, of intimacy. Her every movement an improvisation, every prolonged action a subconscious connection shared by both artist and audience. ‘I think of the stupidest thing that I could do, a foolish thing, a dangerous thing.’ Anya’s work is heavily influenced by her interest in communication, botany, zoology, her fascination with the mouth and her ability to transform in and out of her role as artist. She reminded me of a butterfly, drifting in and out of the crowd almost unnoticed, like a caterpillar amongst leaves, until she decided it was time to transform, slowly capturing us in her exoskeleton, enticing us until we became fully immersed. No sooner had we become accustomed to being a part of her chrysalis, she broke free.

Anya described her work as being quite confrontational, potentially accusatory, threatening and challenging. I found her performance to be quite the opposite, sensual, delicate and genuinely comedic. Perhaps we as an audience were as attentive because we’ve become numb to the kind of imagery she was trying to portray. We enjoyed it more than we should have, we smiled at the eroticism, we questioned how far she would take things, and we enjoyed the unusual, voyeuristic journey she took us on. ‘I need you to be there, to be the carbon dioxide to the oxygen.’ We seemed to ignore any form of negative or obvious connotations that could have been associated with such an act, an artist’s ability to control aesthetic intention.

1. (Accessed 20th February 2012)

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Postgraduate student specialising in art, aesthetics and cultural institutions.

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