Saturday, 12 January 2019

The Spontaneous Combustion Tour

Spontaneous Combustion was conceived as a site-tour of Nanjing to prepare for a performance festival next year. In true Last Minute Live Art style, it turned into something else.

When we assembled at the famous Gulou roundabout we were asked to sign a declaration that stated LMLA was not responsible in the case of spontaneous human combustion and we were taking this tour entirely at our own personal risk. 

We then vacated the busy street for an elevated park tucked beside Gulou. The tour began with a rapid-fire manifesto reading of sorts: what Last Minute Live Art is and what it has done. That over, we each produced and showed one another objects as we'd all been requested to bring one with us.

We then set out towards our first destination, the supreme court of the Republic of China back in the 1930's, now a dilapidated ruin, a testament to being on the losing side of a civil war. At the back of it was a tennis court fallen into disrepair, thick with a carpet of leaves. Here we made improvised performances: walking, pushing, rearranging, looking, showing, balancing and so on. 

After a solid lunch of noodles we made our way to the second site, the River Yangtze or Chang Jiang as it is known here. With no particular agenda we just hung out by the river and started playing. Each of us did this in different ways, sometimes alone, sometimes together in groups. This slowly granted the group a sense of permission.

Somehow we ended up in a tug-of-war contest that began as Europe vis China, but when it was obvious that Europe was vastly outnumbered some Chinese came to our assistance, including this granny. There were jokes about Taiwan.

There was another more formal style of performance by Gao Shu Yi by the water's edge and this was followed by the burning of the papers we signed at the start, along with one or two things other things added to the fire, I remember a woolen hat ablaze.

There is some video of the tour along with some of the other Last Minute Live Art events from 2018 in this short round up. This Spontaneous Combustion Tour was a good start at making open-ended artist tour. It was very quickly put together and it strikes me that in order to make spontaneous combustion happen more effectively it can help to prepare the situation more in its favor. There will be more of these events in 2019 so lets see how far it can go in the direction of spontaneous participatory street performance!