We can all remember paintings or stories or plays we made when we were kids, but what about Live Art?
In 2016 Sibylle Peters undertook a LADA Study Room research residency exploring Live Art practices and methodologies in working with children and young people as part of Restock, Rethink, Reflect Four, a project on the ways in which Live Art has developed new forms of access, knowledge, agency, and inclusion in relation to the disempowered constituencies of the young, the old, the displaced, and those excluded through social and economic barriers.
As part of her research Sibylle was interested in artist’s first ever artworks. My Very First Piece of Live Art invited artists to remember what their first Live Art work might have been. On the evening of 16 December 2016 the artists Anne Bean, Richard DeDomenici, Cara Davies, Joshua Sofaer, Peter Kennedy, Andy Field, and Ansuman, Oshin and Uma Biswas gathered at the Live Art Development Agency to share their memories, which can be viewed at the top of this page.
The Study Room Guide and toolkit of methodologies created by Sibylle from her research residency can be found on the LADA website.
Eight Feelings I Found in Live Art a Second Time
An introduction to My Very First Piece of Live Art
by Sibylle Peters
When I was three years old my parents showed me how to send a message in a bottle. As I couldn’t write a message at the time, I filled the bottle with interesting pieces of wood I had found. This picture actually captures one of my first memories. The moment before we threw the bottle in the creek and saw it disappear. The excitement of sending something out there. The infinite promise of throwing something into an ocean of coincidence. Something that might make a connection to the unknown.
At the time we lived in an old villa in the countryside for rent. The house was huge and falling apart. It was completely overgrown with wine, had two cellars, one attic and 11 rooms. To heat it in winter costed a fortune. Six of the 11 rooms were left empty and cold. So I made it a habit to move to another room once in a while. It always started with using one of the empty rooms for play, creating a new setup in there, a witch’s hut for example, just for the afternoon, just for the night. And eventually I brought all of my stuff over to the new room to immerse myself in that new setup and then I went slowly from the fiction of living in that room to the reality of living in that room. And when finally the feeling of makebelief wore of completely, I knew that, pretty soon, it was time to move again.
For one year after nappies my brother refused to use a toilet, if it wasn’t black and white. It had to be a white toilet with a black seat or he would shit his pants. My parents obliged. Before we entered a restaurant my mother would make sure, they had the right toilets. Otherwise we moved on. When travelling my brother refused to sleep if he couldn’t have this huge old book with the maps of the world as his pillow. It had a linnen cover, was about two feet high and weighed a ton. When we travelled we had to take that book with us. I remember that I admired the ability of my little brother to make my parents do these foolish things, I envied how he was creating a weird reality around radical decisions simply by sticking to them.
When I was six years old my parents split up, my mother moved to another town and my brother and I stayed with my father. I remember how we were standing there, my father, my brother and me, in front of our house in the countryside, watching how my mother drove away in her Volkswagen Beatle. And how suddenly everything lying ahead of me seemed to be scary. For a while nobody said a word. Then my father took an empty bottle and put it down on the pavement. He said: “I’m going to spin the bottle now and the direction it will point to in the end, will be the way, we go. We will keep going, always straight ahead, come what may. Put on your jackets and boots. And then we go. And if there is a fence, we will climb over it and if there is a trench, we will walk through it and if there is a field of bulls, we will also find a way.” And my brother and I fetched our jackets and boots, and still everything seemed scary and unknown and maybe even forbidden, but also – exciting.
After that my father decided to spend one hour each day with my brother and me, the hour after Sesame Street and before dinner. Before my mother left, he didn’t bother much with us children. So, when that hour came for the first time it felt kind of awkward. None of us knew how to deal with it. My father said, now we can do anything you want, for one hour. What do you want to do? Anything? Anything. So, my brother and I decided, that we wanted to be driven around in the trunk of the car. It was a classical closed trunk, no chance for communication between us in the trunk and my father driving. Perfect to transport victims of abduction. My father hesitated for a moment, but then he did it. For several evenings we travelled in the complete darkness of the trunk. When the hour came, we already waited in front of the garage. We loved our father for doing that and I understood that however awkward a situation, if you find that one thing to do, that is just weird enough, you can still find bliss and peace.
Once I invented a game together with a bunch of peers at my kindergarten. To play this game we undressed and put only our woollen tights back on. Then we made the tights expand beyond our feet and tied the endings in a knot. Sitting on the floor in a circle with all of our tights connected in one knot, but still holding them up to our wastes with our hands, we started pulling. The last one in the room with their tights still on was the winner.
One summer when I was about seven I dragged all kinds of rusty farming equipment out of the old barn and arranged it on the lawn in the form of a fun fair. There were several rollercoasters there, which did need a bit of imagination to take a ride on them. There was also a bar where I intended to sell apple juice and cookies. I wrote three invitations to the public on three pieces of paper to make known, that the fair would open that same day at 3 pm. I took my bike to put the invitations on the wall next to the three shops in the village. I came back home, got the apple juice and the cookies ready and waited. It was the strangest kind of eternity. This hope and this fear, that people might come. This hope and this fear, that people might not come. This completely different perspective on the setup that I suddenly had, while I was there waiting and wondering, what people might make of it, if they actually showed up, not knowing on which side of reality or fiction I’d eventually end up. I ate all the cookies and drank all the applejuice. Nobody came. Only recently, my father told me, that he went after me with his car, and took the invitations of the walls. He didn’t dare to tell me back then.
When I grew older I heard people talk a lot about their journeys to other places like Spain, Italy, France or Denmark. They all said the same: The friendliness and hospitality in all of these other countries was just amazing. Beware, people did actually talk to you in those countries. When you keep hearing those things it makes you think you know. There comes a point when you connect the dots and find that apparently you live in the coldest place on the planet socially. And it’s true, you know, in a sense. Where I come from people don’t speak much, not with each other, at least. Really not. But when it came to fires in the fields they knew what they were doing. Do you even know, that there has to be a fire in the fields on friday before easter? Yes, there has to be one. It is an old thing and it still exists. Today it is all about the food stalls. But when I was young it was just about the fire. It was a monster of a fire, huge like a house with several trees from the woods, all of our christmas trees, old furniture and all the things the neighbours really wanted to get rid of. And lots and lots of gasoline. All the neighbours were standing around the fire. There was no talking there, not even gossip. No, we kept our mouths shut, tried to take the heat and get as close to the flames as possible.