One constant concern for performance artists is venue; where, when, for whom and how? Now just completing its third year, Low Lives is “an international exhibition of live performance-based works transmitted via the internet and projected in real time at multiple venues.” Viewers only need to be near a computer to see the performances through itinerant cameras in Berlin, New York, Texas, Japan, and many other places. I first learned about Low Lives from a couple of artists participating in this years’ expanded version in Houston. From her studio, Nancy Douthey performed A Marching Cowgirl, as that once heroic figure, now sexualized and lacking in any real connection to history. As she pounded on the floor, hands in boots, her reflection between two mirrors multiplied creating an infinite marching army. Jenny Schleif set up a therapist’s office, and played the patient in front of a live audience as well as on the Low Lives UStream channel. Her performance was staged at the artist-run nonprofit Box 13‘s dedicated video gallery, Red White Yellow, and was sponsored and co-curated by DiverseWorks, a celebrated local performance and visual art space. In this profile, Founder/Producer/Curator Jorge Rojas has much to say about the past, present and future of Low Lives.
Office Address: 1407 E. 3010 S., Salt Lake City, UT 84106
Contact Person: Jorge Rojas – Founder/Producer/Curator
Phone: (917) 757-7626
Open Hours: Low Lives takes place annually late April/early May
How is the project operated? For-profit, nonprofit, artist-run, etc.
Low Lives is a not-for-profit project.
How long has it been in existence?
Since August 2009.
What was your motivation?
I became interested in networked performance in 2007 when I became increasingly involved with performance and live video streaming networks in my own practice. I recognized that live streaming video networks showed great potential for performance artists as a live broadcasting tool, as a virtual interactive stage, as well as for capturing, archiving and disseminating work. I figured that curating a networked performance exhibition might be a good way to connect with other artists using (or willing to use) this medium. I was right.
Number of organizers/responsible persons of the project?
I’ve organized and produced the project since it’s beginning. This year, for Low Lives 3, Chez Bushwick, came on board as co-producer. Chez Bushwick is based in Brooklyn, New York. They are dedicated to the advancement of interdisciplinary art and performance, placing a special emphasis on new choreography.
How are programs funded? (membership fees, public funding, sponsors, etc.)
Low Lives has been funded primarily through presenting partner fees. This year we received a Presentation Fund from The Experimental Television Funds program; which is supported by the New York State Council on the Arts.
Who is responsible for the programming? (Curators, Directors, etc.)
Curators and Directors of each presenting partner institution are invited to co-curate the program by selecting one live performance to take place at their venue. Those performances are broadcast across the network. This year, Curators and Directors of presenting partner institutions were also invited to vote on the artist submissions received from an international call for proposals. I’m responsible for the overall programming and flow of the event.
Number and average duration of exhibitions/events per year.
Low Lives is an annual event. For the first two years, it was a 1-day event with a duration of 3 hours. This year it grew to a 2-day event, with a duration of 7 hours.
What kind of events are usually organized?
Presenting Partners host live performances and screenings of the program at their venues. Low Lives is also an online event. I also curate video screenings of Low Lives performances throughout the year.
How is your programming determined?
I’m responsible for the overall programming, but since the presenting partners each select a live performance to take place at their venue, Low Lives is truly a collaboration. Some of the presenting partners select artists they have close associations with, others present artists that they’ve wanted to work with for some time. At Elon University, students from the New Media department competed by submitting proposals and producing their projects as a class assignment; the faculty selected the project that Elon presented in Low Lives.
Do you accept proposals/submissions?
Yes, submissions are accepted through an international call for proposals.
What is your artistic/curatorial approach?
Low Lives examines works that critically investigate, challenge, and extend the potential of performance practice presented live through online broadcasting networks. Established and emerging artists working in any media are invited to submit proposals. The artists work in a variety of media and styles including performance, video, sound, web art, conceptual art, and choreography. The themes they address are widely varied, yet they each explore aspects of our human and social makeup, as well as our relationship with technology. Low Lives embraces works with a lo-fi aesthetic such as low pixel image and sound quality, contributing to a raw, DIY and sometimes voyeuristic quality in the transmission and reception of the work.I don’t start out with a theme in mind for the project, but usually some trends emerge as the program comes together. For example, this year some of the themes were mediated choreography, performances in Second Life and in the gaming world, and performances using mobile and wireless applications.
Low Lives has succeeded in creating a platform that critically investigates the potential of live performance practice presented through online broadcasting networks. This year the program grew into an international festival featuring 61 artists and artist collectives from 31 cities in 11 countries. We extended our reach internationally by expanding our network to include thirty-two presenting partners in the United States, Mexico, Spain, Japan, Germany, India, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, and Austria.
What’s not working?
Low Lives has grown beyond our expectations. Financing the project through presenter’s fees has worked until now, but at the rate we’re growing, is not sustainable. We’re currently exploring ways to obtain the kind of financial support that it will take to fund and advance the program’s administrative and technological needs. This would most likely be through additional grants, sponsorships, and strategic partnerships.
What kind of role do you hope to play in your local art scene or community?
Our focus has been to use technology as a way to connect local art scenes and communities by bringing together work and ideas from around the world. This allows audiences to experience work that they may not normally get to see. Screenings by presenting partners also bring together artists and viewers in a local art scene.
What idea are you most excited about for the future?
I’m working on developing an online Live Performance Network. Sort of a live streaming site dedicated to live performance-based art.
Images courtesy of the artists.