Documenting Live

Artvehicle 36/Book review

Eds.: David A Bailey, Lois Keidan and Rajni Shah
Contributors: Barby Asante, David A Bailey, Ansuman Biswas, Malika Booker, Sonia Boyce, George Chakravarthi, Robin Deacon, Yara El-Sherbini, Harminder Singh Judge, Keith Khan, David Medalla, Harold Offeh, Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa, Ali Zaidi.
Published by Live Art Development Agency, 2008, £17.50
?ISBN: 9780954604059

'Documenting Live', commissioned by the Live Art Development Agency, is an attempt to 'mark a territory' for culturally diverse live artists. Bringing artists together necessitates the finding of commonalities; in fact these artists share very little, including common ethnic heritage.

However, in any anthology compromises must be made, or rather as one of the group, Keith Khan says; "it is interesting in that now I suppose we're going to come together as one big blob". Several of the artists admit they didn't consider themselves 'black artists' until they found that Arts Council funding favoured those applicants.

Each of these artists probably has strong opinions about being selected and reasons for being included. I wonder whether they have, to an extent, surrendered their unique identities or compromised their own biographies to become part of something bigger than themselves? One says that their race is the least interesting influence in their work and yet here they are labelled, categorised and potentially marginalised by it. Indeed, it is apparent throughout 'Documenting Live' that this is a complex arena. David A Bailey admits as much to the featured artists in that he is trying to "collapse your work within a diasporic cannon".

The lack of documentation is endemic and inherent within live art. 'Documenting Live' is a beautifully produced publication that has at least outlined the need for it and begun to rectify the situation, leading by example and jumping into the deep end.

Samantha Bond