From the moon landing to freefall skydiving, rugby matches and opera at the cinema, there are certain pleasures to watching an event unfold live, ‘before your eyes’ and without editing or abbreviation. You are one of usually a collective of individuals viewing something happening for the very first time, never seen or experienced before anywhere or by anyone else. Blink for a second and you’ll miss it.
The ability to view or witness a live event take place has shaped how world news events are communicated and entertainment is consumed. ‘Live’ in a broadcast sense is recognised to mean ‘not pre-recorded’, and in relation to performance ‘live’ is accepted to mean that performers are physically present. With the label of ‘live’ comes the responsibilities of authenticity, realism and accuracy, and if this is ever in doubt the whole premise of ‘live’ can be called into question.
So, is there such a thing as a pure, live experience? What is the value of being in a shared space and time, whether real or virtual, with a person or group of people, experiencing something together?
In the first in a new series this year of live artist performances conceived exclusively for the online space and created purely for live web broadcast, pioneer of video and performance art Joan Jonas said of her forthcoming BMW Tate Live: Performance Room being streamed live at 20:00 GMT tonight:
I’m interested in how an image transformed or affected through different mediums, so I began with mirrors, and then closed video circuit systems…then landscape space working outdoors and then finally text and narrative. I think in this Performance Room I’m going to deal with the space of the room and a relationship to the camera because I think that’s very important in relation to the audience.
On the ‘phenomenon of liveness’ writer and curator Adrian Heathfield wrote:
The drive to the live has long been a critical concern of performance and Live Art…to shock, to destroy pretence, to break apart traditions of representation, to foreground the experiential, to open different kinds of engagement with meaning, to activate audiences.
Everyday virtual environments such as live online gaming or group video conversations could be considered elements that make-up what Heathfield calls the ‘culture-wide lust for live’. Recent technology has enabled optical illusions that bring late celebrated singers ‘back to life’ in concert.
What do you enjoy about watching something live? Do immediacy, interaction and connectedness make seeing a live event appealing? What do you think is ‘live’? Is it being in the same room, or being connected by technology? Share your thoughts with us.