All These Things at ZOO
- Gareth K Vile
- 5 September 2018
A reflection on the status of Live Art at the Fringe
The take-over of Zoo Southside by Live Art Bistro is a rare chance for performance artists to appear in Edinburgh during August. While Live Art may be scattered across the Fringe, it is only in events like this that its idiosyncratic aesthetics and irreverent attitude towards traditional theatre can be placed within an appropriate context, since it thrives on multiplicity, duration, discomfort and the solidarity of an audience that knows its traditions.
In theory, Live Art (or Performance Art: the definitions are blurred) and the Edinburgh Fringe are kindred spirits, not least as the Fringe annually boasts about how it offers a gateway to the weird and wonderful. Despite outbreaks like Forest Fringe, various productions at Dancebase, C venues and elsewhere that poke at the boundaries of the one hour slot, however, this kind of performance is relatively rare and the commercialism that has changed the Fringe from a counter-attack on the International Festival's well-heeled globalism into the largest arts market in the world excludes work that has more concern with breaking than slyly subverting genres and boundaries. All These Things is the adoption of a format that has already made its reputation across the UK by a venue that has always encouraged more experimental dance and theatre, and simultaneously makes a bold statement for the importance of Live Art and challenges the Fringe's current conservatism.
Spread out over an evening, All These Things offers the multiplicity of contemporary performance – artists crawl through corridors, the event becomes an outrageous party, karaoke is queered, and Islam observance is subverted and celebrated. Both Zoo venues become the kind of portal that the Fringe would like to be, as if the formal obsessions of theatre have melted, fragments of themes and structures emerging while the audience wanders and wonders between experiences. Individual acts are less important than atmosphere – an atmosphere that is alienating and uncomfortable for audiences not familiar with the juxtaposition of identities and modes Live Art encourages – and the value of the night is as much in the statement it makes about theatre as in the concerns of the artists.
Zoo's decision to support this work is ambitious and fruitful, offering a comment on the limitations of the Fringe and opens a space that challenges and comforts in equal measure.