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Young In Hong's '5100: Pentagon' in the Royal Academy of Arts' courtyard
Young In Hong's '5100: Pentagon' in the Royal Academy of Arts' courtyard | Photo: Arron Leppard
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What Not to Miss at Block Universe 2018

Picture of Freire Barnes
Art & Design Editor
Updated: 15 May 2018
Performance art takes centre stage this May Bank Holiday as the international performance-art festival Block Universe returns to the streets and institutions of London. Here’s our guide to the 10-day festival.

Block Universe is that rare kind of arts platform. Created to support a medium that currently doesn’t have a dedicated institution, it seeks to introduce this relatively young art form to a wider audience and support innovative UK-based and international artists working in performance.

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Zadie Xa’s ‘Crash, Boom, Hisssssss. Legend of the Liquid Sword’ at Somerset House, 2017 | Photo: Arron Leppard

As with previous editions, this year’s festival will take on a theme. Unsurprisingly, the turbulence and hostility surrounding Brexit seems to have influenced the focus.

‘This year, the festival will explore themes that act as a counterpoint to current divisiveness created by contemporary politics, focusing on and at the same time questioning utopian ideals of community and collectivity,’ the festival’s director, Louise O’Kelly, explains.

‘Addressing the ways that we relate to one another, this edition will respond both to the larger fabric of society that binds us and the politics of sex and love in our personal relationships.’

Block Universe showcases a range of artistic practices that each approach performance from a different perspective, incorporating aspects of visual art, dance and music. Many arts institutions and organisations throughout the city, including Royal Academy of Arts, The Store X, British Museum, Somerset House, Studio Voltaire, and Brunel Museum will play host to the festival.

Hanne Lippard (1)
The British Norwegian artist, Hanne Lippard will present a new work, ‘Untitled’ | Courtesy the artist

For the fourth edition, there are seven new, site-specific commissions by artists including Hanne Lippard, Alex Mirutziu, Last Yearz Interesting Negro/Jamila Johnson-Small, and They Are Here, as well as three UK premieres by Maria Hassabi and Giselle Stanborough. The diverse performances will be accompanied by an expanded Public Programme that will present screenings, participatory workshops and talks with industry professionals.

Here are our highlights of the 2018 edition.

Maria Hassabi

Celebrated and cutting-edge New York-based artist and choreographer Maria Hassabi has created a distinct practice that employs slowness as a choreographic trope in her live installations. Creating a new iteration of STAGING (2017), which was performed at Documenta 14, a single performer will move across an electric pink carpet in The Store X at a measured, almost imperceptible, rate. Hassabi will also be doing a talk with Tate curator Catherine Wood on May 24 and a workshop at Siobhan Davies Dance between 2pm and 4pm on Monday May 28.

Saturday May 26 and Sunday May 27 at The Store X, 180 The Strand between 11am-7pm. Free, no booking necessary.

1_MariaHassabi _ STAGING Solo #2 _ Photo Thomas Poravas
Installation view of Maria Hassabi performing her ‘STAGING: Solo #2’ at K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf, 2017 | Courtesy the artist, Koenig & Clinton, The Breeder. Photo: Thomas Poravas

Evan Ifekoya & Victoria Sin

In the historic Thames Tunnel, Evan Ifekoya & Victoria Sin will debut their performative reading of No Fantasy without Desire, No Destiny without a Daddy (2018). The work, a science-fiction script that proposes a new sociopolitical system, was written after extensive research at The Huntington and One LGBT Archives in Los Angeles.

Tuesday May 29 at 7pm at The Brunel Museum, Thames Tunnel. £7-10. Purchase tickets here.

Evan Ifekoya and Victoria Sin
Evan Ifekoya & Victoria Sin, Dream Babes, 2018. Commissioned by Block Universe | Courtesy the artist

Gery Georgieva

Georgieva transforms the Oval Space with a multimedia installation in which she will use her own body and voice to explore the relationship between folk culture and neoliberal individualism.

Monday May 28, Oval Space, 7pm (doors 6.30pm). £8-12. Purchase tickets here.

Gery Georgieva
Gery Georgieva’s ‘Mihail Novakov’ | Courtesy the artist

Laura Wilson

Wilson’s new, durational site-specific performance, You would almost expect to find it warm (2018) draws on the similarities between Auguste Rodin’s sculptures and the Parthenon. Co-commissioned by Block Universe and Franck Bordese, the work incorporates dance and the slightly unusual element of fresh dough to reflect on how history evolves through material and craftsmanship.

Friday June 1 at British Museum between 4-8pm. Free, no booking necessary.

Laura Wilson
Laura Wilson’s ‘Fold and Stretch’ commissioned by Site Gallery in 2016 | Courtesy the artist. Photo: Jules Lister

Nora Turato

Inside Europe’s oldest operating theatre, which dates from 1822, the Amsterdam-based artist Nora Turato will make her UK debut with a spoken word piece (leaning is the new sitting (2018)) that melds performance art and contemporary music together.

Saturday May 26 at Old Operating Theatre, 7pm (doors 6.30pm) £7-10. Purchase tickets here.

Nora Turato1
Nora Turato’s ‘Untitled’ | Courtesy the artist

Block Universe will take places in various venues across London between May 26 to June 3, 2018. Some events require booking, please check the Block Universe website for details.