Editorial: Standing, not kneeling
Anador Walsh

Arini Byng, Jess Gall and Rebecca Jensen, Sinkhole, 2018 - 2020, performance documentation. Courtesy of the artists.

There were back-to-back performances of Lisa Radford and Sam George’s The Master of the Scrovegni Chapel Choir presents Kylie White’s Manifesto of a Digital Relationship at CAVES. There was Ivey Wawn, workshopping In Perpetuity at Chunky Move in the height of Melbourne summer, on a 41-degree day. There was Amrita Hepi’s Summer of Dance and a new iteration of Shelley Lasica’s The Design Plot at the Immigration Museum. There was Arini Byng, Jess Gall and Rebecca Jensen’s latest incarnation of Sinkhole, collapsing in on itself at MPavilion in the light of the afternoon. There was action and dialogue, movement and sweat, laboured breath and foot falls, audiences and performers, dancers and spectators, dramaturgy and scores. There was live performance and then there wasn’t.

In the months that followed, the words “digital innovation”, “pivot” and “online platform” were bandied about with almost as much frequency as “unprecedented”, “uncertain” and “challenging times”. Through the intermediaries of my laptop and iPhone screens I saw people and organisations reeling, desperately trying to articulate their new circumstances, while rushing to fill the holes left in their programs and lives by the COVID-19 pandemic. I, myself have spent an exorbitant amount of time, reaching for an aphorism by which to describe 2020. But my own words pale in comparison to those of Sanja Grozdanic, who in June (2020) so eloquently wrote: “Today we are paralysed by the COVID-19 crisis – the world appears as a waiting room for the lucky, and a hospital room for the unlucky”.1

As one of the lucky, I spent most of last year biding time, relating to the world in much the same way I did between the ages of 15 and 17, when Tumblr ruled my life: through a screen. From this vantage point I worked, exercised, watched The Sopranos from start to finish and attempted to engage with art that had either been commissioned, reconfigured or condensed in order to be digitally transmitted. I saw Pina Bausch’s The Rite of Spring (2020) performed on a beach in Senegal via Sadler’s Wells’ streaming platform; watched of a house besieged (preposition tweaked) (2020), Brian Fuata’s contribution to the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ online exhibition Hyperlinked; joined TikTok to experience Cement Fondu’s In Touch series and scrolled endlessly through the virtual world of Angela Goh and Su Yu Hsin’s Paeonia Drive as part of Arts House, Melbourne and Campbelltown Arts Centre, Sydney’s Biennial Live Event in the Everyday Digital (BLEED).

Angela Goh and Su Yu Hsin, Paeonia Drive, 2020, performance documentation. Photo: Yuro Huang. Courtesy of the artists.

While some works resisted digital flattening and others did not, what was apparent was the sharp spike in performance being disseminated online by galleries and institutions, as part of their COVID responsive programming. This was particularly true, I found, of institutions whose exhibition programs, under normal circumstances, tend to privilege works of painting, sculpture and installation. Which led me to question whether this sudden interest in presenting performance would continue once the virus was under control and we were able to be together again in the gallery? Or whether this was in fact best understood as an act of “totalising social production”,2 designed to bolster digital engagement and assert the continued relevance of these institutions during this period of uncertainty?

Performance is often treated as an appendage; tacked onto an exhibition or relegated to the realm of the public program, an addition to the “real” exhibition happening in the white cube. Performance is often a feature of a larger curatorial narrative or commissioned in response to the exhibition of another artist. And whilst I acknowledge that there is rigour and value in these practices, particularly performative responses, I am curious about what would happen if we were to continue to give performance the space we have given it online during this pandemic, in real life (IRL) going forward? What if performance was centred and given the same degree of critical weight that other modes of artistic practice are?

It is from this position that Performance Review begins. A platform for critical and creative engagement with performance art, Performance Review is a conscious decision to do things differently. From today we will be publishing monthly articles about Australian performance art and dance, alongside articles on international performance. Ours is a dedicated space for the development of discursive and experimental writing about live art, which aims to expand the ways we relate to performance through writing. Performance Review is committed to supporting new voices and innovative approaches, without imposing the restrictions of the art historical canon.

Having travelled to a government sanctioned “green zone” on the mid north coast of New South Wales for the festive period, my first 11 days of 2021 were groundhog days spent in at home isolation. Whilst I passed much of my time glued to a screen, binge watching Bridgerton, The Flight Attendant and The Queen’s Gambit, I also managed to carve out some space for reading. A line from Ellena Savage’s Blueberries has stayed with me in the weeks since: “What did getting on your knees to disappear ever get anyone”?3 This sentiment has come to articulate my hopes for Performance Review. As things open up again and we are able to meet, touch, converse and share in performance and spectatorship once more, it is my hope that Performance Review will be a continued assertion of the critical importance of performance art and dance. Performance Review is an act of standing up, an act of demanding ongoing attention.

  1. Sanja Grozdanic, “From Bosnia to Australia: On the mobility of pre/post definitions,” The Griffith Review, 69 (2020): 81.

  2. Shannon Jackson, “The Way We Perform Now,” Dance Research Journal, 46, 3 (2014): 54,

  3. Ellena Savage, Blueberries, (Melbourne: Text Publishing, 2020), 158.

Anador Walsh is an emerging curator and writer living and working in Naarm (Melbourne). Anador is passionate about performance and conceptual art practices, and their ability to reflect our current socio-cultural condition. Central to her curatorial practice is a dialogical approach that preferences relationship building and the sharing of knowledge. In 2020 Anador took part in the Gertrude Contemporary Emerging Writers Program and was the 2019 recipient of the BLINDSIDE Emerging Curator Mentorship. Anador has held the professional positions of Marketing and Development Manager at Gertrude Contemporary and Gallery Assistant at both Neon Parc and STATION Gallery. Anador is the founding editor of Performance Review.

Performance Review acknowledges the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation as the traditional custodians of the land on which we operate. We pay our respects to their Elders; past, present and emerging and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.