Co-Founder and Director of ]performance s p a c e [ Benjamin Sebastian talks about latest event, PSX – a 10hr durational performance
Having created a platform for performance artists – offering ‘space, time, community, critical feedback, free financial access to events and other resources’, ]performance s p a c e [ have been integral to the journeys of many who’s work may have been ‘locked out, in-between and seen as being too experimental’. Born out of the Occupy movement of 2011, a decade on, the venue celebrate their continued and vital support within the arts industry, showcasing the work of Alastair MacLennan, Anne Bean, Chinasa Vivian Ezugha, Elvira Santamaría-Torres, Joseph Morgan Schofield, Martin O’Brien, Rubiane Maia, Poppy Jackson and selina bonelli with a 10 hour durational performance on Saturday 21st August. Ahead of the show, taking place at the Ugly Duck, co-founder and director of ]performance s p a c e [ Benjamin Sebastian tells us more about the artists taking part in the event, what it means to continue providing this much needed space for artists and their hopes for the event.
Hi Benjamin, ]performance s p a c e [ will present PSX: 10 hours as part of your 10th anniversary celebrations; PSX: A Decade of Performance Art in the UK on 21st August. How are you feeling ahead of the performances?
Hi Lucy, I am feeling great and very excited. This is a significant moment for ]performance s p a c e [ and our affiliated artists. As an independent, artist run initiative, making it to the 10 year mark is no small feat. Couple that with having weathered the creative and economic trials of the pandemic, I/]ps[ are just so happy to be able to get back to doing what we do and love; supporting exceptional artists to make remarkable performance art. In addition to that, this is a very particular kind of event that we don’t get to see that regularly in the UK. Nine artists will share space for 10 hours, making work continuously throughout that time/space. I can’t wait to experience the subtle ways in which each singular work influences and affects each of the other works/artists within that shared space.
PSX: 10 hours is a durational performance event featuring new commissions by 9 influential performance artists – Alastair MacLennan, Anne Bean, Chinasa Vivian Ezugha, Elvira Santamaría-Torres, Joseph Morgan Schofield, Martin O’Brien, Rubiane Maia, Poppy Jackson and selina bonelli. How did you approach curating the line up?
I wanted to create a truly diverse programme that not only honestly reflected the last decade of activity at ]ps[, but that also set an integral trajectory for the next 10 years. It was imperative that this programme showcased the form and style of work we are renowned for at ]ps[, while also being intergenerational with a broad spread of genders, ethnic identities, sexualities and abilities represented. It is important that when people look at ]ps[, experience our work, that they can see aspects of their lived experiences present within our frame. Holding all of that in heart and mind I also asked myself; who do I want to see F*ck. It. Up. across a 10 hour durational performance art event, you know? Celebration played a huge part in this programme coming together, it’s our birthday party and we want to have a good time, with all of you.
What inspired the 10 hour durational performance structure?
Black Market International (BMI). BMI was founded in 1985 (in Poland, under the name Market Project), as more of a working practice, rather than an organised group. The aim of such a practice was to achieve an Art of Encounter. Artists would share time, space and materials; interacting with each other, allowing those encounters to become the work – or artwork – itself. BMI has had a huge influence on my solo arts practice as well as on my curating career. Both Alastair MacLennan and Elvira Santamaría-Torres have both been ‘members’ of this ‘collective’. ]ps[ has facilitated events with this working practice as a from in the past and I wanted again to explore its potential with a new set of artists. It is also another way to honour our art form’s lineages/histories.
]performance s p a c e [ was born out of the Occupy movement, within that time having supported artists develop their craft. What does it mean to be able to create this type of platform for artists?
Everything. ]performance s p a c e [ has always offered space, time, community, critical feedback, free financial access to events and other resources to artists (and the public) who have found themselves (and their practices) locked out, in-between, too explicit, too experimental or the like. ] ps[ has been, is, and will continue to be, a literal lifeline to some artists. ]ps[ work closely with artists to manifest that which they may not be able to approach elsewhere. We try to remove barriers to making and experiencing (performance) art. I would say that our ]open s p a c e [ platform is still a very loud echo of the Occupy era, being that we give our event space and attached residency space over to artists, free of charge, when we have gaps in our programming calendar. We can’t do this all the time as we need to make money and house our in-house programmes, but it is important to us to share the resources we have, when we can.
What are your hopes for the event?
I just want the artists to have everything they need in a hope that each will be able to really settle into their processes and unfurl creatively to their full potentials. In compliment to that, I hope that audiences are also able to settle in, and allow themselves to slow down in order to be able to access the durational works in a more comprehensive way. You can’t get the full flavour or impact of a 10 hour durational event if you spin around it for 15 minutes and then leave. I hope audiences will give themselves at least a five/six hour window to come, drop in, drop out and drop back in on these works, to really experience them as they unfold in dialogue with each other.
What can audiences expect from the event?
So much! There will be an artist engaged in sculptural mould/casting processes, exploring the diaspora(s) of black and brown peoples, whiles another will be working with their voice and incense. Some artists will be roaming the space, while others will work in more contained, specific ares of the shared space. We have one artist who will be working with coffins and analogue tape decks; musing upon their position as a sick, queer person with a global pandemic and we have another, who will be exploring the mythopoetic potentials of performance art as queer, ritual practice. I am fairly certain there will be some blood, at some point.
What would you like for audiences to take away from the event?
A new way of looking at the world and the things in it? A reinvigorated joy in going slow? An appreciation for the more nuanced things in life that might often get overlooked? I simply hope all who attend are moved. In what direction the movement occurs, I don’t mind, but I do hope people leave the event having been moved to thought or feeling. Indifference in our audiences would be the only possible disappointment for me.
Questions by Lucy Basaba.
PSX: 10 hours will take place from Saturday 21st August 2021 at the Ugly Duck. To find out more, visit here…