Monday, 30 March 2009

Welcome to Spill: Overspill

Image (c) Open Dialogues

Spill Festival of Performance is London's premier festival of performance, live art and experimental theatre. 2 – 26 April 2009.

Spill: Overspill
is a tailor-made critical writing programme, designed by Mary Paterson and Rachel Lois Clapham, the Directors of Open Dialogues, and produced in association with Pacitti Company. The programme is located at the heart of the Spill festival and explores the event of criticism in relation to performance.

The aim of Spill: Overspill is to respond critically to the work shown, and to create a realtime discursive context for the Spill festival; one that spills out of the usual confines of a festival to a diverse UK and international audience.

The Spill: Overspill writing will be online at

The methodology

Open Dialogues works from a position of reciprocity with art and artists in which criticism or critical writing is an intellectual encounter between writing and art. It is writing on, for, about, and as art. Spill: Overspill is produced within this methodology and is overtly embedded, collaborative, critical and located in close proximity to performance. The Spill: Overspill programme will explore this relationship and its critical implications.

The community

The Spill: Overspill community consists of 7 London based writing and performance practitioners: David Berridge, Rachel Lois Clapham, Mary Kate Connolly, Alex Eisenberg, Eleanor Hadley Kershaw, Mary Paterson and Theron Schmidt.

Together, the group will gain access to behind the scenes and rehearsal sessions, develop collaborations with individual festival artists, devise textual interventions, take part in Spill Think Tank activities and publish writing in response to the festival. The Spill: Overspill writing will appear on online at, as well as in the forthcoming Spill Festival publication and in a range of UK and international journals.

About Pacitti Company

Pacitti Company has spent nearly two decades touring award-winning, radical, new performance works worldwide. Pacitti Company also produces the SPILL Festival of Performance, London's premiere biennale of experimental theatre and live art.

About Open Dialogues

Open Dialogues is a UK based collaboration that produces critical writing and debate on contemporary art. We explore critical writing as discourse and practice in order to meet the exciting challenges of art that is live, transformative and participatory.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Inside Performance

Image (c) Dance Theatre Journal and SPILL

Dance Theatre Journal is the UK's leading magazine for dance and live art. Published four times a year, Dance Theatre Journal contains reviews, features, interviews and in-depth discussions by leading dance writers and artists, as well as talented new writers. It also includes up-to-date listings of dance performances and workshops throughout the UK.

‘Inside Performance’ is a serialised writing project developed by Rachel Lois Clapham for Dance Theatre Journal. Taking the form of a regular newspaper or magazine ‘column’ Inside Performance is a personal journey into the practice of writing from or as performance from Rachel Lois’ position as a writer and Co-Director of Open Dialogues. The column will feature Rachel Lois' own writing, as well as conversations, commissions, page works and texts from other artists on the subject of writing and performance.

Here is a short excerpt from the first column published in Issue 23 no. 2, 2009 :

‘With the sky generally falling down around us; with ACE funding all but gone, the ongoing pressure to professionalise performance and faced with the long haul of global recession, the act of ambling or dilly dallying (in writing) has never felt more important.

It is real editorial luxury to have costly page space lounged upon by an authors self-reflexive meanderings. Especially when the subject of that writing is not finished, or is un-tethered to a review, to any one artist or PHD thesis, but is instead located off the page somewhere in the atmosphere of writing and performance.

In this sense, writing about writing on performance (moreover dilly dallying about it) as opposed to actually writing on performance, is exorbitant. ...It values that which is not usually held dear or considered protocol; the behind the scenes, personal and professional experiences of the writer of which the writing is representative......’

For extracts of other columns in the series see:

To read more pick up a copy of Dance Theatre Journal.

For details of subscription click here

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

‘Critical Encounters’

Image (c) Writing Encounters

‘Critical Encounters’ was a paper delivered jointly by Open Dialogues - Rachel Lois Clapham and Mary Paterson - at the Writing Encounters Symposium, York St John University 11-13 September 2008. It used our recent participatory writing project ‘Open Dialogues: New Life Berlin’
as case study with which to explore what happens when critical writing works with live, time based and participatory art. This is an excerpt of that paper.

Opening of New Life Berlin Festival


All the work in New Life Berlin shared a focus on the process of participation rather than an artistic product. The festival’s interrogation of ‘artistic responsibility and new modes of artistic being’ was located in the sustained and durational encounter between artists and participants throughout the festival, and not simply public performances or ‘end product’. Instead of audience members or viewers, New Life Berlin had co-producers, or co-conspirators, who could interact with the artwork and even change its course. The New Life Berlin artists also shared communal and semi-public living areas. In short, the process of artistic production was the artistic product in New Life Berlin.

The New Life Berlin festival took place over two and a half weeks in June 2008. The festival was curated from submissions received online via, the organisers’ website-come-social networking site for artists, and included 15 international participatory projects, all of which employed collaboration and performance that, in their words, aimed to ‘examine notions of artistic responsibility and enact new modes of existing within artistic communities.’

New Life Berlin Festival: Flash Job Campaign


Within this environment Open Dialogues: New Life Berlin set out to explore what critical writing could be. We instigated a practical project that would put pressure on the encounter between writing and participatory art. We had only one certainty in mind. If the meaning of the work in New Life Berlin was produced in process and encounter, then our examination of critical writing would have to focus on the act of critical writing itself, and its encounter with art. We could not prescribe what would happen, only invite other writers to experiment in writing alongside us. And so in June, Open Dialogues travelled to Berlin to work with twenty writers, curators and artists from across the world, none of whom we had met before.

The Open Dialogues: New Life Berlin writing community

Once in Berlin, we formed Open Dialogues: New Life Berlin: a writing community at the heart of the festival. As a community, we worked with the festival organisers, the artists and their work, and the participants; we openly acknowledged and inhabited the closeness of our relationships – be they personal, professional, economic- that feed into critical writing; relationships that always exist, but often remain hidden in writing.

Intervention by writer Anga’aefonu Bain-Vete


We began choreographing our encounters well before the festival began. We started talking to artists, and highlighting our embedded approach. We worked with the artists to explore meaning as a form of collaboration. We built a structure for debate and dialogue that operated both in our act of coming to the writing and our writing itself-structures that attempted to make our writing more porous, to the work at the festival, to the artists. We held a ‘Live Review’ in the middle of the festival, a public debate where we turned the critical attention onto ourselves as writers. We held workshops, debates and discussions on writing from live and participatory art, how to get closely involved with the work, how to co-ordinate our encounters and how to locate criticality within our relationships with the art and artists in New Life Berlin.


Open Dialogues: New Life Berlin 'Live Review'


Our experiment at New Life Berlin raised intriguing questions concerning collaboration as meaning, the porosity of writing, il/legitimacy of voice and the proximity of a writer to her subject and object. It also left more questions concerning the location and agency of critical writing.
Ultimately, we were happy not to arrive at a resolution to these questions. The methodology of Open Dialogues: New Life Berlin was to fully expose, and so put pressure on, the existing patterns and power relations in the act of critical writing in order to locate the possibility for something to shift. We felt sure that in our focus of what lies off the page in the act of critical writing, we had created something different, or at the very least that we had inhabited the conditions of the same and poked around inside.

Our thanks to the writers of Open Dialogues: New Life Berlin and the other New Life Berliners.
Together, our writing marks only the beginning of an investigation. What happens next is …

Rachel Lois Clapham and Mary Paterson

Copyright Open Dialogues 2008


The Writing Encounters symposium was curated by Claire Hind and Claire MacDonald; it was multidisciplinary and international in its focus, and for writing artists, researchers, curators, producers and teachers who have an interest in the encounter between art, writing and performance.

More on our critical model here.

All images c. Open Dialogues New Life Berlin and the artists.

Book Works New Projects in Semina Series

Cover of Bubble Entendre by Mark Waugh

Semina - where the novel has a nervous breakdown

Published by
Book Works
19 Holywell Row

We are looking for artists and writers interested in experimental prose fiction, who transgress all the boundaries separating art and literature. Think of the ways in which Paul Gilroy theorised the history of modernism through the rubric of the Black Atlantic, W.E.B. Du Bois and double-consciousness, and the inescapable links between race and class: Anthony Joseph, Kathy Acker, Amiri Baraka, Samuel R. Delany, Darius James, Ishmael Reed, Ann Quin, Clarence Cooper Jr, Claude Cahun etc. Above all we're looking for artists and writers willing to take risks with their prose and who demonstrate total disregard for the conventions that structure received ideas about fiction.

Semina takes its inspiration from a series of nine loose-leaf magazines issued by Californian beat artist Wallace Berman in the 1950s and 1960s. The series is commissioned and edited by artist and writer Stewart Home. The series will publish nine books, six of which will be selected from open submission, two commissioned by the editor, with Blood Rites of the Bourgeoisie by Stewart Home the final title in the series.

The selection from open submissions will be made by Stewart Home and Book Works. The series is designed by Fraser Muggeridge studio.

Deadline for applications is 29 May 2009.

Contact or visit our website for more information

Semina series:
No. 1 Index by Bridget Penney (2008)
No. 2 One Break, A Thousand Blows! by Maxi Kim (2008)
No. 3 Bubble Entendre by Mark Waugh (2009)
No. 4 Rape New York by Jana Leo (2009)
No. 5 To Whom Life by Ashkan Sepahvand (2009)
No. 9 Blood Rites of the Bourgeoisie by Stewart Home (2010)

Friday, 20 March 2009

Manchester International Festival 09

Image © Marco Anelli

The Manchester International Festival 09 programme launched yesterday and includes a host of visual art and performance work with artists such as Gustav Metzger, Marina Abramović, Punch Drunk and many many more. ‘The Marina Abramović Presents….’strand of the festival is free, but booking is advised. Take a look and get your seat soon, we hope to see you there. Selections from the programme are below. Full programme and ticket information here

It Felt Like a Kiss

Punchdrunk, Adam Curtis, Damon Albarn

Thu 2 July - Sun 19 July / Hardman Square

It Felt Like a Kiss tells the story of America’s rise to power in the golden age of pop, and the unforeseen consequences it had on the world and in our minds. Beginning in 1959, the show spotlights the dreams and desires that America inspired during the ’60s, when the world began to embrace the country and its culture as never before. But as this daring production unfolds across five floors, blending music with documentary and the disorientating whirl of a fairground ghost train, the audience is forced to face the dark forces that were veiled by the American dream – a dream that ultimately returns to haunt us all.

It Felt Like a Kiss is created by renowned BBC filmmaker Adam Curtis and director Felix Barrett of groundbreaking theatre company Punchdrunk, with original music composed by Damon Albarn and recorded perfomance by the Kronos Quartet.

Marina Abramović Presents…

Fri 3 - Sun 19 July / Whitworth Art Gallery

Following the iconoclastic Il Tempo del Postino in 2007, MIF returns to the crossroads of visual art and performance, inviting world-renowned artist Marina Abramović to curate an epic group show featuring some of the most innovative live artists working today.

For this groundbreaking event, the Whitworth has emptied every gallery space in order to create room for this unique work to develop and breathe. The show will begin with an hour-long performance initiation with Marina Abramović, leading up to a series of extraordinary encounters between artists and audience.

Quite unlike anything staged before in the UK, this will be a provocative and visceral experience. Featuring: Marina Abramović, Ivan Civic, Nikhil Chopra, Amanda Coogan, Marie Cool Fabio Balducci, Yingmei Duan, Eun Hye Hwang, Jamie Isenstein, Terence Koh, Alastair MacLennan, Kira O’Reilly, Melati Suryodarmo, Nico Vascellari, Jordan Wolfson. Tehching Hsieh will be in attendance for the opening weekend.

In Conversation
Sun 5 July 11am-12.30pm
Marina Abramović and Gustav Metzger interviewed by Hans Ulrich Obrist in the Whitworth Art Gallery.
Free: advance booking not required.

Sun 12 July
A one-day symposium led by Marina Abramović with Hans Ulrich Obrist and Maria Balshaw.
Booking required: please visit the Whitworth Art Gallery’s website.

Concept by Marina Abramović with Hans Ulrich Obrist and Maria Balshaw


Jeremy Deller
Sun 5 July / Deansgate, City Centre

Celebrate the launch weekend of MIF by lining the Deansgate mile to witness a free and uniquely Mancunian procession, created by Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller.

‘I love processions – as humans, it’s almost part of our DNA to be instinctively attracted to big public events that bring us together. A good procession is in itself a public artwork: part self-portrait and part alternative reality.’ Jeremy Deller.

Jeremy Deller’s past projects have included Acid Brass, a collaboration with Stockport’s Williams Fairey Brass Band that linked acid house with brass band culture; The Battle of Orgreave, a 1,000-person re-enactment of the notorious 1984 battle between police and pickets during the miners’ strike; and Folk Archive, an exhibition that investigates British vernacular art.

To accompany Procession, there will be a major exhibition at Cornerhouse.
A specially commissioned film will also play as part of the show, alongside a programme of other special events. Visit for full details.

Flailing Trees

Gustav Metzger
Fri 3 - Sun 19 July / Manchester Peace Garden

Walking or driving the same streets every day, many of us take our surroundings for granted. Artist Gustav Metzger will be challenging this sense of security with Flailing Trees, an arresting and poignant new piece of public art that will stand in the Manchester Peace Garden for the duration of the Festival.

Flailing Trees comprises 21 inverted willows, a subversion of the natural order that brings nature and the environment into sharp focus. With flourishing branches replaced by dying roots, the sculpture is both a plea for reflection and a plaintive cry for change, and is sure to provide a catalyst for debate.

Whitworth Art Gallery is acquiring this work for its permanent collection. After the Festival, Flailing Trees will be sited in the Gallery grounds for continued free public viewing.

Everybody Loves a Winner

Neil Bartlett, Simon Deacon & Struan Leslie
Fri 3 July - Sat 18 July / Royal Exchange Theatre

Transforming the iconic Royal Exchange into a working bingo hall for the occasion, Everybody Loves a Winner tracks a group of twenty players through their night out.
From the doors opening for the early session to the lights going out at the end of another cheerfully wasted evening, it’s all here: the cheap jokes, the unspoken thoughts, the empty handbags and the sheer disbelief…

There’ll be plenty of laughs, several broken dreams, a spot of dancing - and the chance to play for the top cash prize of the evening. So, ladies and gentlemen, ask yourself - are you feeling lucky? Are you?

Saturday, 7 March 2009

‘Ready, Set, Word’

image (c) the artist

Sight is the sense that dying people tend to lose first
Site Gallery
6 February 2009
Written and directed by Tim Etchells.
Performed by Jim Fletcher

A table has four legs. A prison cell has four corners. A window is an opening in the wall of a room built by people who want to see outside. A hostage is a prisoner used to bargain with. A bargain is a deal or an arrangement where one person has one thing and the other wants it and the first person has something that the other wants and they make an exchange so that each is more happy. A fart is gas that escapes from a body.

In ‘Sight is the sense dying people tend to lose first’ at Site Gallery, US actor Jim Fletcher stands at the front of the main gallery space and recites- from memory- an hours’ worth of free association monologue written by artist Tim Etchells. The monologue swings wildly from disturbing advice ‘You should not leave a body on the sofa, or in the yard. Because rats will come, and besides, it will smell bad’ to wry aphorisms ‘Factory is a place in China’. From hopeful affirmations ‘There is a god that looks after drinks and fools’ to banal observations ‘Shit floats in toilet water’. Etchells’ monologue is the product of an enquiring mind and an almost alien, all pervasive gaze in which the stuff of human life, be it shit, socks, sun or fire, is equally strange and equally significant. Fletcher delivers all Etchells’ statements - regardless of their controversy, comedy or poignancy- in the same deadpan manner that is equal parts seriousness, flippancy and tenderness.

After a while, sat in Site Gallery faced with the vast array of possibilities of Etchells’ monologue, my mind wanders. I get to thinking what ‘Sight is the sense...’ is about. It seems unlikely that the meaning of the performance lies in the individual sound-bites themselves, given that the equally in/sincere statements are treated so indiscriminately by Fletcher and Etchells alike: Etchells’ blasphemous bringing together of farts, torture, traffic directions, Christianity and death onto one page without clear rhyme, reason or im/moral purpose; Fletcher’s ultimately democratic or blanket delivery. Both artists deliberately flatten the monologue in their own way. My mind turns to this flatness, and then, half way in, having lost my way in the sheer volume of statements, I see the words through the trees. Meaning drifts away from the individual statements and onto the fact of their utterance. ..

‘Sight is the sense...’ is a linguistic performance, one in which the central actor is the script, where words are rolled around in and as meaning in and of themselves. It is an encounter between art, writing and performance that highlights how performance is embroiled in writing; how it utilises, authorises and glances off the written word. The work highlights the distinction between Etchells and Fletcher and their respective words; how Fletcher, in repeating or citing Etchells’ monologue, harnesses the efficacy or utility of words and makes Etchells’ script his own. It shows how Fletcher’s after Etchells’ words are catapulted out as hermetically sealed objects, dubious ready-mades that crash onto the floor of Site Gallery, settle on the rafters or are caught by the audience - as tautologies, truisms or performative utterances. On the other hand, the work gives us a glimpse at the inner life of these words-in-performance, including possible mis-firings or infelicities of text: how ‘Some men have sex appeal’ perhaps most accurately imagines sexually unappealing men. How ‘Summer is warmer than winter’ slips by unnoticed as a banal ‘fact’ with no attendant meaning. How a ridiculously broad sweeping statement can perform complex ideas: ‘theatre is mainly pretending’. ‘Sight is the sense...’ is a space in which the subjectivity and objectivity of utterances are interchangeable; a place in which fiction and fact might be considered equally empirical, experiential and quantifiable.

Concentrating on the words themselves in Etchells’s performance reveals the inherent space or gap in between the words themselves. These gaps – what Jacques Derrida calls the supplemental, Peggy Phelan the liminal – are the potent and active flip-side, or force, that endow the actual words with their agency. ‘Flat’ or ‘formal’ is not a pejorative here. Highlighting the gap between language and meaning is what makes the ‘Sight is the sense...’ more porous; through these gaps the audience can project and intervene into an otherwise tightly sealed script or sermon. It is in and by language then, that ‘Sight is the sense...’ is shown to be fallible, embodying a flawed desire for coherence and meaning. It is a work that wades through words to perform the inability of language to communicate directly, to depict even a small part of the world and our experience in it.

Rachel Lois Clapham

Text extracts taken from ‘Sight is the sense that dying people tend to lose first’, copyright Tim Etchells.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Open Dialogues: Spill Associate

Image (c) Open Dialogues

Open Dialogues will be developing a small community of 6 writers inside the Spill Festival of Performance 09. This community will produce critical responses to the work seen at Spill. The writers will also have sustained one to one collaborations with the festival artists during Spill. We are looking for an associate to develop the programme and help us in our work during the festival. Please forward this call out to anyone you know who is London based and may be interested in the opportunity.


Open Dialogues: Spill Associate

Dates: 28 March – 26 April 09 (Part time, may include weekends and/or evenings)
Expenses/Fee: Expenses paid.

Description: Open Dialogues is a UK based collaboration that encourages informed, accessible critical writing and debate on contemporary art. We explore critical writing as discourse and practice in order to meet the exciting challenges of art that is live, transformative and participatory.

Open Dialogues: Spill is a collaborative writing project created by the directors of Open Dialogues, Rachel Lois Clapham and Mary Paterson, for the Spill Festival 09. Open Dialogues: Spill will bring together a community of writers to explore the practice of critical writing in relation to the work seen at Spill. The community of writers will attend one 2 day workshop, three peer critiques, collaborate with Spill artists, publish online and create ‘flash publications’ as well as take an active part in Spill Salons.

Duties: The Associate will work alongside Pacitti company staff, and Rachel Lois Clapham and Mary Paterson of Open Dialogues, to integrate Open Dialogues: Spill into the heart of the Spill community. You will be an advocate for the project, help co-ordinate specific writers/artist collaborations. You will also assist with set up of writing workshops, flash publishing activities, blogging and peer critiques sessions of Open Dialogues: Spill.

Skills: The Associate will need to be proficient in written and spoken English, computer literate and have good communication skills. You will also need to be enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the work being shown at Spill and committed to the aims and outcomes of the Open Dialogues: Spill.

Benefits: The Associate will be an integral part of the Spill festival and the Open Dialogues: Spill programme. You will have the opportunity to participate in Open Dialogues: Spill writing workshops, peer critiques, flash publishing activities and gain access to festival artists. You will also be able to take advantage of the professional development and peer support Open Dialogues: Spill offers. You and your work will be credited in all festival programme and publicity material.

Associate Commitment: The Associate will need to commit to the following programme dates, as well as providing co-ordination duties over the course of the festival 1-26 April. Any related writing or research you may wish to undertake as part of Spill: Overspill would be additional to these duties.

• Sat and Sun 28 and 29 March (all day). ‘Overspill - One Drop Too Many’ A two day collaborative workshop
• Weds 8 April 6pm – 8.30pm- group meeting/peer critique/jamming session
• Weds 15 April 6.00pm -8.30pm- group meeting/peer critique/jamming session
• Sat 25 April 12- 6pm – Salon Session

Aims of Open Dialogues: Spill
• To generate accessible critical writing and debate on the work shown at Spill 09 that involves and brings together Spill artists, visitors, writers and readers – both locally and internationally.
• To increase individual writers’ skills and portfolios whilst generating accessible critical writing on - and developing greater awareness of- the work in Spill 09
• To create a print and online archive of critical responses to Spill 09
• To explore critical writing and debate as a practice and discourse in relation to Live Art and Spill 09