Take a brief look at the meaning of ‘live’ and join the discussion

  • Ceal Floyer, 'Double Act' 2006
    Ceal Floyer
    Double Act 2006
    Light projection, theatre lamp, and photographic gobo holder
    overall display dimensions variable
    Purchased 2006© Ceal Floyer, courtesy Lisson Gallery, London

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.

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 2013 we produced the second series of BMW Tate Live 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 new work:

 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.


We are off to the renowned Dreamthinkspeak immersive theatre this weekend, I will be back with my freshly informed viewpoint!