The politics of black performance

In a new dynamic anthology on performance art in England and the United States, editor Catherine Ugwu does not seek to locate a definition of performance art, but rather what political ends it can achieve. Her focus is the emergence and evolution over the last decade of politized black British and American live art in relation to wider political concerns of colonialism and the processes of de-colonialization.

Structurally Let’s Get It On consists of two main components: eight essays which provide a political and cultural context, and ten artists’ pages which give a direct voice to some of the artists operating within current practice. This combination allows the well-known academic voices of theorists such as Paul Gilroy, bell hooks and Coco Fusco to be heard in tandem with the anti-academic and anti-institutionalist Ronald Fraser-Munro, or the “automatic rap” – DON’T GET ME STARTED. GIDA PA. – of Chila Kumari Burman. Rather than being fractious, the different voices provide a rich and accessible, and coupled with lots of reproductions, a fun and funky look at contemporary performance art.

On a more serious note, Let’s Get It On tackles some crucial and compelling issues such as the inbetween space of the diaspora, performance art as a site of resistance, and the political implications of a “black arts movement.” Moreover, it achieves its political ends without, which is so often not the case, removing the spirit and ingenuity of the art. As such, Let’s Get It On indeed demonstrates not what performance art is, but what it can do. C. S.