Lisa Watts


Skittish researches how to develop a curation model for successfully exhibiting Live Art and Visual Art (sculpture in this instance) together as one exhibition with both art forms having similar artistic concerns and artistic processes. This involves both creating a dialogue in the exhibition space and setting the art forms amongst each other, as well as with discussions between the artists, gallery curators and workers. It will also entail working with an audience, who are the regular day time Visual Art viewers to the gallery, to see a new art discipline.


2013 September

Skittish will be presented firstly at Spacex Gallery, Exeter, which is a National Portfolio Organisation of the Arts Council of England and a well respected gallery in the UK with the director Nicola Hood. Exhibition – 28th of September to 23rd of November.

2013 October

Skittish will be at Vane, Newcastle which is a National Portfolio Organisation of the Arts Council of England. Exhibition – 30th of October to 14th of December.

2014 February

Watts’s book, 32 Significant Moments: An Artist's Practice as Research will be published funded by the Arts Council of England. It’s a monograph authored by Watts with writing from her PhD and an introduction written by Dr Sarah Gorman.

2014 March

Skittish will be presented at The Tetley, Leeds, a new Arts Council of England Capital funded building.

2014 May

Skittish Symposium will occur at The Tetley, Leeds national curators attending as delegates.

New Formalism in Live Art

Skittish stresses the links Live Art has with the Visual Arts/Fine Arts rather than ‘experimental theatre’. This is by: being placed in the gallery; by suiting a gallery’s usual Visual Art programme; as well as by presenting a dialogue of artistic concerns between Live Art and Sculpture. This sense of Live Art having an essence in Visual Arts has existed since its inception. Thus, Lois Keidan of the Live Art Development Agency (LADA) established Live Art as the significant U.K. term for this art form in her pamphlet titled, National Arts and Media Strategy: Discussion document on Live Art, NAMDLA (1991). In this document she determines that the Live Art legacy as an art form 'has developed from a visual arts base' (Keidan 1991:0). This supports the type of Live Art in Skittish as it is of a Visual Art nature. Furthermore, the Live Art developed during Skittish will be of a New Formalism aesthetic.

New Formalism according to English art critic and writer JJ Charlesworth, categorises art that has a 'material specificity' and is 'a return to abstraction, to formal and material considerations' (2002:2). One of the Live Art works performed in Skittish is titled Snowgum and is a series of magical feats/actions produced with the material capabilities of chewing gum. This particular way of working in Live Art is akin to the practices of the French collaborative duo Marie Cool and Fabio Balducci. They perform magical, crafted actions with mundane materials and objects. When you watch their work you have a sense that the material/objects are animated and independent of the performer and this is one of my aims in the existing Snowgum and new work titled that will be developed in Skittish titled, Fervent.

Not only do I draw from New Formalism and these artists, but also other artistic concerns that circumnavigate New Formalism such as Minimalism, Arte Povera and craft. This lens with which I view Live Art in Skittish is of a contemporary relevance when we are at the tail end of Post Modernism and new waves of art are coming forth. This type of Live Art work competes for attention with the Live Art that has been highly visible in the U.K. over the last decade. That is work which forefronts in its aesthetics social issues, politics and ‘lived experience’. This renewed interest in the art world of materials can be witnessed in the art practices of certain artists who have been heralded as important such as Scottish artist Karla Black who represented Scotland at the Venice Biennale and Martin Boyce who won the Turner Prize.

Live Art does not want to be left behind in this new wave of artistic interest and Skittish will support not only the development of Live Art which has a material focus, but it will also develop a strong language of processes for this type of art work.

Skittish involves actions that entail the conversion of everyday objects and materials into magical events. These performances take place in galleries and they are curated in partnership with sculpture which is of similar artistic concerns and processes to the live actions.

Skittish produces a strong model for showing Live Art in galleries because it fits easily into their usual gallery programme. Many galleries are not use to presenting Live Art and at a conference in London as part of the Performance Matters research, Oct 2011, Tania Bruguera, a USA artist discussed this matter. She was presenting her art with which she creates social issue performance work that she labels 'behavioural art', and she said that currently, there are 'very few institutions that understand that – how to deal with temporality of performance'. However, a powerful example of Live Art as a work in progress and a work of art occurring in a gallery is Dr Hayley Newman’s exhibition The Daily Hayley at Matt’s Gallery, London (2001).

This work operated in a similar manner to how the development of Fervent will work in my research. Fervent like the Daily Hayley will be structured as a series of improvised experiments that are to viewers in the gallery. Newman’s project was performed with the same feverish experimental spontaneity that I aim to perform Fervent. Also like Newman I will allow the materials/ objects to be of a major significance to the experiments. Like Newman I consider the gallery as a site where I can develop work with a sense of ‘liveness’ given by the viewer. However Fervent will be developed over a period of eighteen months using the SASs and the website whereas Newman’s was much shorter and was developed over sixteen consecutive days.