Friday, March 23, 2018

Living Art Performance Pedagogy


A Practical Pedagogy for Performance Art

Created by inter-disciplinary performing artist
Claire Elizabeth Barratt / Cilla Vee


This workshop is for anybody who has a body – to investigate
the body as a medium for art.
Dancers, actors, artists, Yoga and bodywork practitioners –
and anybody who just wants to move!
As a performing artist, I have been developing a teaching
method that allows the individual to explore Self as a raw
material with which to create.
More organic than a dance technique, Living Art investigates
fundamental motions of the body and combines them with
imagery in a creative response.
It’s an immersive way to move and engage
your imagination!

An example of a Living Art syllabus can be found here:
Click on to the PDF files on the page.
This syllabus was designed for twelve sessions with twelve Action Pods and six Research Pods.

Participants of Transart Institute Living Art workshop in NYC


Living Art is based on the axiom that the Self is the primary medium of performance art.

In order to use the Self to create art, one must address the Self as medium.
Therefore, in order to prepare this medium for optimum use in creation, the body and mind need to be “tuned” – alert, responsive and open to possibility.
The objective of these physical and creative exercises is to provide a universal, unbiased substructure for the body and the imagination from which to explore, discover and create.

Participants of RAW Material Living Art workshop, Weaverville NC

The Living Art pedagogy is divided into two main categories of practice:

In much the same way as early scientists sought the basic building blocks of all matter (eventually discovering molecules, atoms and beyond), I have sought to find basic movement concepts inherent in the body on a “molecular” level – the substance of motion in its purest form. In this method, each exercise is a thorough investigation of one specific movement concept and its possibilities.

I have classified and catalogued these concepts in a series of exercises I call Body Tuning. Using the analogy of tuning a musical instrument or an engine in order for it to function smoothly and efficiently, I have developed a series of physical preparation exercises. Each of these exercises isolates one specific fundamental concept of Self in relationship to body, time, space, gravity, surface, form, body sound and motion.

Proceeding into another series I call Creative Response.
These are exercises to use interactive play for the engagement of Self with Other.
They explore responses to such entities as: environment, sound, image, text, object, colour, texture, smell, taste, concept, narrative, technology, character, identity and human interaction. Many of the exercises are akin to actor training techniques, such as those of Konstantin Stanislavski and Michael Chekhov, or traditions of Movement Theater – like mime, Butoh dance, Viewpoints training (Mary Overlie / Anne Bogart) and Exercises for Rebel Artists (La Pocha Nostra) or even Improv Theater style party games.

Warren Wilson College NC students - environmental response exercise

This quote of Butoh master Tatsumi Hijikata describes my philosophy for Creative Response very well:
“... my body trains itself as a matter of course ... when you come in touch with such things something is naturally forced out of your body.”

With Living Art, if there is a relationship (to Other) there is a response – the creative process takes care of itself, one does not have to generate or fabricate something out of nothing.

As psychologist Milhaly Csikszentimihaly discusses in his philosophy of Flow:
“… the ability of self to become absorbed by and in relationship to other always acts as a catalyst for action… When a person invests all her psychic energy into an interaction … she becomes part of a system of action greater than what the individual self had been before … and the self … expands it’s boundaries and becomes more complex than what it had been.”

Cilla Vee and Elisa Faires in RAW Material using Living Art method in performance

“Which came first – the method or the art?”
This is a chicken-or-egg kind of question I have been asked; and I really don’t have a clear-cut either-or answer for it.
The art is in the method and the method is in the art. It’s only once I begin to deconstruct my process that I am able to define what has been a unified system in life, work, creating and teaching for as long as I can remember. And even then I don’t claim to have invented any of it.

“ ... it is impossible to say where these ideas actually originated, because they are timeless and belong to the natural principles of movement, time and space. Over the years, we have simply articulated a set of names for things that already exist, things that we do naturally and have always done, with greater or lesser degrees of consciousness and emphasis.”
- Anne Bogart

Circle Modern Dance company in RAW Material Living Art workshop in Knoxville TN
The emphasis to me is on the learning, not the teaching. Therefore my pedagogical structure is designed to facilitate exploration and discovery. This doesn’t make it a “free-for-all”. When the experiment is defined rigorously with clear parameters, then the investigation remains disciplined and specific – pushing the individual to dig deeper, to interrogate, to excavate for more information – more possibility. Then the transformation evolves from a true self-discovery that cannot be generic. What evolves is specific to that individual and is their art.

Living Art - Motion Sculpture participant performance for SU Galleries, Salisbury MD

Quotes from participants of previous workshops:

David Gladden
Assistant Professor of New Media Art
I enjoyed the workshop immensely. I found it engaging, intriguing, meditative and immersive. I thought the workshop and instruction was of great help for the participant to be successful in the performance and public intervention.
The event was a lot of fun and my students also enjoyed it.

Pat Petersen
Retired, former County Finance Director and federal auditor
I found the workshop very informative and very stress-less. As a 64-year-old non-limber person, I wasn't sure if I would be able to do everything I was asked to do, but the way you conducted it put me at ease - basically, just do what I was comfortable with within the parameters of the exercise.

Living Art - From The Soul: MELT - participant performance at Remic Rapids, Ottawa ON

Clarisse Young
Claire's workshop changed my whole perspective on movement and bodily control. I received such a sensation of renewal and freedom. The more control I gained over my muscles, particularly through my breathing, the freer I felt. The workshop opened my eyes even wider to the power of even, deep, and intentional breathing. If you completely relax, you end up with more energy, as if the more energy you release the more you receive. As if you're breathing in
divine source energy. I believe with a clear and focused mind you are. She taught me how to more efficiently practice moving mediation.
All of the forms of art are connected to one another and life itself is art through the eyes of the artist. A human can be a moving sculpture because of the natural sacred geometry we are already made out of. It allows you to experience on a more literal level that you are part of a bigger picture. All parts equally important and dependent on one another. Claire shows you how to observe that you naturally are already a work of art. You must listen to your body and you can demonstrate this to yourself and comeback to the present moment and feel absolutely rejuvenated.
Claire's workshop was truly a life changing and perspective broadening experience. I'm extremely grateful to have been a part.

Living Art - From The Soul workshop at Studio 637, Ottawa ON

Corinne Beardsley
Sculpture and Ceramic Professor
The workshop was wonderful and got me to open up in new ways.
I hadn't slowed down my movements before, and felt each dimension of their movements with my breath. It was experimental moving yoga.
I felt so much of myself moving and opening up. New forms developed, I felt myself connecting the vision of what I saw my body doing connecting with the movement. Controlling the breath with my gestures, thinking about the expressiveness of the movement, and the beauty of shapes between transitions.
The warm up of shaking it all out, focusing on separate body parts felt so good too. It was a powerful and transformative workshop for my dancing practice.

Living Art - From The Soul: Wedding Dance - participant performance, Remic Rapids, Ottawa ON

Chandra Shukla
Music Producer - Xambuca / Erototox Decodings
An amazing exercise and exhibition in performance as something more than the self as living art… (it) demonstrated performance through movement as sharing similarities to that of science or other disciplines where outcomes could be hypothesized but not predicted adding an element of the unknown to the equation. It was fascinating to learn that objects and stimuli used in a given performance could be considered as extensions of the performer, not as mere 'props' or tools, and that these objects steered an outcome only the performer was in control of. The approach to objects and the interaction of movement with them, also revealed a deep impulse in the human condition to approach life, art and movement as a whole unified gesture where neither one or the other are emphasized over the other in terms of importance.
Proof that performance's subjectivity is free from failure and more inclined to a chance operation where no 'mistakes' are made.

Living Art - Nothing:Air workshop participant performance at Nothing Fest - School of Art and Design at BNU, Lahore Pakistan

Grayson Morris
Performing Artist
Thank you for this performance and workshop, I really enjoyed them. I am a multidisciplinary performer (puppetry, comedy, performance art, clowning, storytelling). I love experimental art, process, cross-disciplinary exploration, and improvisation. I enjoyed having your words to guide us while we moved around. I like it when art gives the audience a visceral experience and in that way, a workshop is kind of like a performance itself.

Kimathi Moore:
Musician, electronic experimental artist, composer. Interested in field recordings and surrealist/magical realist paintings
I found the workshop to be very empowering thus enabling of a great amount of freedom within each participant. It felt as if each participant was able to dig deep into the their natural, instinctual and creative habitat and explore it with great innocence.

Living Art - From The Soul: LifeForce - participant performance at Remic Rapids, Ottawa ON
Lauren Wilson Phillis
K-12 Dance Educator / Circle Modern Dance company
Degree: B.S. Dance Education- University of North Carolina at Greensboro
This work seemed similar to other somatic practices that I have experienced-particularly Body-Mind Centering and contact improvisation.  A difference is that I don't recall anyone organizing their process into semi-distinct segments the way you have with the raw materials. I like the approach because it defines and codifies practices that can be very nebulous, but still leaves room for the raw materials to be explored many different ways through many different lenses. 
This method seems like a great resource both for getting started and getting un-stuck in a creative practice. It will also be a nice reflective tool. Perhaps if I feel my work needs to be more dynamic/authentic/fully realized I could explore one or more of the materials that I may have been neglecting. 
This was a wonderful workshop. I found the process to be restorative and inspiring and I am excited to continue exploring this work on my own and with my friends in Circle! Thank you!!! 

Participants of Transart Institute Living Art workshop in NYC

Participants of RAW Material Living Art workshop, Weaverville NC

For more information and examples of the Living Art pedagogy in action, please visit the following sites:

  The Performance Anxiety Workshop Experiment is a detailed account of the development process behind the Living Art pedagogy: 

The RAW – (Material) Journal is a year-long project utilizing the Living Art pedagogy as a method from which to create:

About Claire Elizabeth Barratt / Cilla Vee:

Examples of Claire Elizabeth Barratt and Cilla Vee performance work and can found here:

Claire Elizabeth Barratt - Biography
Claire Elizabeth Barratt (aka Cilla Vee) is an inter-disciplinary artist with a performing arts background. She is the director of Cilla Vee Life Arts – an arts organization with a focus on cross-media collaboration. Her work utilizes artistic disciplines of dance, music, text, media, visual and installation art.
Claire has presented her work in venues as diverse as Jacob’s Pillow, the New York Botanical Gardens, Black Mountain College Museum + Art Center and Art Basel Miami. She has performed and taught throughout the USA, Canada, Europe, Japan and the Middle East.
Claire received her professional training in London at The Laban Centre For Movement and Dance and at the London Studio Centre For Performing Arts. Her pre-professional training includes the Royal Academy of Dance and the Royal Schools of Music examinations. She also served an apprenticeship with the Isadora Duncan Dance Foundation in New York and holds an MFA in Creative Practice from the Transart Institute of Creative Research with Plymouth University, UK.
On moving to the USA in 1992, Claire held the positions of Dancer for Unto These Hills drama on the Cherokee Indian Reservation and for Asheville Contemporary Dance Theater in North Carolina, as well as serving as a Co-Founder and Director for Circle Modern Dance and as Choreographer for the Knoxville Opera Company in Tennessee.
Once based in New York in 2002, Claire founded Cilla Vee Life Arts and, with the support of arts advocates such as Chashama, Bronx Council on the Arts and Arts for Art, began to develop and present her signature modes of work – including Motion Sculpture Movement Installations and The Sound Of Movement projects.
She is the creator of the Living Art pedagogy for performance art.

Claire now uses Asheville NC as her home-base where she runs the CCC Center for Connection + Collaboration.
“My work as an artist blurs boundaries and crosses categories. Re-defining the traditional concepts of a “piece” and challenging the conventions of performance, time, space and audience relationships.”



 With eternal gratitude to Dr. Laura Gonzalez and to the pioneering performance artist Linda Montano for their support and guidance throughout the Living Art development process.

Gwen Charles - environmental response from New York
Balaam Long - environmental response from Japan
Mariana Rocha - environmental response from Brazil

Warren Wilson College NC students - environmental response exercise

Living Art Performance Pedagogy

LIVING ART A Practical Pedagogy for Performance Art Created by inter-disciplinary performing artist Claire Elizabeth ...