New Territories festival centres on work by Black Market International
- Neil Cooper
- 11 February 2011
Performance art festival in Glasgow and Aberdeen
One thing the annual New Territories festival has never done is stand still. This year, the longstanding National Review of Live Art may have vanished, but the newly branded This Is Performance Art strand has risen from its ashes with an ambitious programme of performances, workshops, residencies and a winter school, all designed to break the frame of what constitutes art with a set of ever-changing radical strategies.
Central to all this activity is Black Market International, the long-standing troupe of individual artists who combine resources to present a series of durational performances that can last for anything between two-ten hours. A lynchpin of BMI, and indeed New Territories, is Perthshire-born Alastair MacLennan, who for the best part of half a century has pushed both himself and his work to the limits of endurance. This year, the BMI epic will take place at the SWG3 artspace, where anything and nothing may or may not happen.
‘It has to do with a German word, Begegnung,’ MacLennan explains, ‘which means the art of meeting. What this means has something to do with the phrase, “being in the moment”. That’s about going into the performance without any prefixed object or plan in mind, but being prepared to be adaptable moment by moment and to be ready to embrace anything and everything as it happens. So in actual fact we don’t know what will happen.’
This willingness to fly without a safety net has become a hallmark of the genre that has remained on the margins, but which in the current climate has captured a new generation of visual artists exploring performative forms. These up and coming artists could learn much from MacLennan, who originally trained as a painter at Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone College.
‘All the artists in Black Market International have their own individual practices,’ MacLennan points out, ‘and we only meet maybe six or seven times a year, so we have to think on our feet and be adaptable enough to negotiate the unexpected. You could rehearse it, but you might find that something happens which doesn’t allow you to do what you’ve rehearsed, so you have to remain open to possibilities. I enjoy it, being in the moment.’
Various venues, Glasgow, until Sat 26 Mar