Performance Art Festival “Block Universe” in various locations, London

Maria Hassabi, STAGING: Solo #2 (2017). Installation view at K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen,Düsseldorf. 
Courtesy the artist; Koenig & Clinton, New York; The Breeder, Athens. Photo credit, Thomas Poravas.


Block Universe, London’s leading international performance art festival, will run for 10 days, starting on the Spring Bank Holiday Weekend (26 May to 3 June 2018).

In collaboration with cultural institutions and organisations across the city, including the Royal Academy of Arts, Siobhan Davies Dance, The Store X, British Museum, Somerset House, Studio Voltaire, Oval Space and Brunel Museum the festival will present work by some of the most innovative UK-based and international artists working in performance today, alongside talks, workshops and special projects.

Positioning London at the forefront of international performance art, Block Universe 2018 will feature three UK premieres (Maria Hassabi , Giselle Stanborough and Nora Turato) and seven new, site-specific commissions (Evan Ifekoya & Victoria Sin , Gery Georgieva , Hanne Lippard , Alex Mirutziu , Last Yearz Interesting Negro/Jamila Johnson-Small , They Are Here and Laura Wilson) by artists working at the cross-section of contemporary visual art, dance and music. This year’s edition explores themes that act as a counterpoint to the current divisiveness created by contemporary politics, focusing on, as well as questioning, utopian ideals of community and collectivity. By addressing the ways in which we relate to one another, the contributors will respond both to the larger fabric of society that binds us as well as to the politics of sex and love in our personal relationships.

Notable works include the UK debut of Maria Hassabi ’s STAGING: Solo #2 , a durational performance at The Store X; new commissions by Last Yearz Interesting Negro/Jamila Johnson-Small , in partnership with Gaia Art Foundation, Gery Georgieva , supported by Outset Contemporary Art Fund; and ROUTINE , a project created by art collective They Are Here , which addresses issues related to precarious labour and the gig economy—a theme already touched upon in their earlier works developed at Tate Modern in 2017.

Ahead of Maria Hassabi’s first performance ever in London, Tate Curator Catherine Wood will be in conversation with the artist at The Store X, 180 The Strand. Over the years, Hassabi has developed a distinct practice that utilises slowness and stillness as techniques in choreographies oscillating between dance and sculpture, subject and object, live body and still image. Most recently, she presented her works at K20, Düsseldorf, and Documenta 14, Kassel, where dancers moved their bodies at slow, sometimes imperceptible velocities, enacting choreographic cycles that looped throughout the museum’s opening hours, creating a recurrent form that occupied a specific space and seemingly unbroken time.

Amsterdam-based artist Nora Turato will be performing for the first time in the UK at the Old Operating Theatre. As part of her practice, she harnesses the versatility of language as an instrument in her absorbing spoken word displays that blur the line between contemporary music and performance art.

The London-based artist and dancer Jamila Johnson-Small (who performs under the name Last Yearz Interesting Negro) will produce a new commission supported by Gaia Art Foundation. She works in-between spaces; with things that exist in and through cracks in time, memory, attention, syncopation, trance states, internal narratives, electronic music and small dances, navigating bodies as object, animal, human, machine, environment, and energy to build atmospheric landscapes created by the live unfolding of the tensions between things that produce meaning.

Gery Georgeva‘s new piece of live work will transform the premises of the Oval Space with a multimedia installation. This work will explore the relationship between folk and provincial culture and the commercialised, neoliberal paradigm of individualistic empowerment. Featuring a pop soundtrack with both original music and a selections of covers, the artist will use her own voice and body as a site for these considerations and reconfigurations.

For their new commission, set to debut at the historic Thames Tunnel, Evan Ifekoya and Victoria Sin will present Scripting Speculative Bodies… Where The Tentacles Reign Supreme. This will be realised as a performative reading of a science fiction script that imagines potential futures of embodiment within a new sociopolitical system, drawing loosely on the form of a narrative script as a vehicle to hold together many elements and questions. Examples of this are in Ursula le Guin’s Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction where the form of a story is not to dictate a moral or to present a didactic path, but rather to consider a series of propositions, ideas and contexts. The script will be the physical document at the heart of the installed work which the artists will generate based on research carried out at The Huntington and One LGBT Archives in Los Angeles.

Co-commissioned by Block Universe and Somerset House Studios, with the support of Goethe Institut, the British Norwegian artist Hanne Lippard will present a new work. Based on performances, installations, videos and audio pieces, her work usually focuses on the production of language solely through the use of voice, where she arranges, composes and combines her own wordplay with words of others. Fragments from everyday speech, sourced from various online platforms, are constantly reworked through the use of repetition, pronunciation and rhythm.

The Australian intermedia artist Giselle Stanborough explores the ethics of dating and the quantification of love in the digital age in her work Lozein: Find The Lover You Deserve, a durational lecture-performance to be shown for the first time in the UK. It will be presented at the Senate House, University of London. Her works combine online and offline elements to address how user generated media encourage us to identify and perform notions of self, and the relationship between connectivity and isolation. Motivated by a curiosity in the increasing indeterminacy between the private and public spheres, Stanborough’s work often addresses contemporary interpersonal experiences in relation to technology, feminism and consumer capitalism.

Laura Wilson‘s new durational site-specific performance uses dance and fresh dough as an interplay of two living organisms operating in a constant flow of movement. With an uncanny resemblance to human flesh and marble, the material and choreography of the performers draws parallels between the sculptures of Auguste Rodin, and those of the Parthenon, in response to the exhibition Rodin and the art of ancient Greece which is sponsored by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Wilson is interested in how history is carried and has evolved through everyday materials, trades and craftsmanship. She develops sculptural and performative works that amplify the relationship between materiality, memory and embodied knowledge.

To coincide with his exhibition at Delfina Foundation, Romanian artist Alex Mirutziu will present a new performance work in the courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts. Referencing philosophical thought, national displays of power and collective agency, Doing Sub Thinking seeks to illustrate the performative forces at play in society. Exploring the de-personalisation of an individual within a crowd, Mirutziu will bring the audience on a journey to make manifest the intangible gaps between thought and action within group dynamics.

London-based collective practice They Are Here (f.2006) present ROUTINE, a new performance work initiated through an invitation to community activist groups, including Migrants Organise, X-Talk and the Latin American Women’s Rights Service, to attend a series of stand-up comedy workshops. Across the first weekend of June participants will each perform a 5-minute comedy set at Studio Voltaire. The gallery will be temporarily transformed into a comedy club, as part of They Are Here’s project Laughing Matter (24 May to 10 June), concluding a year long residency. ROUTINE offers a platform to Londoners living precariously to practice comedy as a vehicle to address the complex politics and intersection of self-representation, migration and the gig economy.

Initiated by artists Jamila Johnson-Small and Sara Sassanelli, HOTLINE is a casual, critical space for debate and interaction. It is an itinerant space for provocations and opinions, beyond our bedroom and Facebook feed. It is a space to get inside the heads of one another—be they artists, performers, friends, friends of friends or unknowns—to spread the love, the hate, the ambivalence, the complexity and the conversation. Each HOTLINE session takes place in a different space with no pre-established themes in order to investigate how the conversation can be affected by the environment and how they expand outside of the exhibition and institution.

For full program and tickets


Nora Turato, Untitled
Courtesy the artist


Last Yearz Interesting Negro / Jamila Johnson-Small
Commissioned by Block Universe. Courtesy the artist


Gery Georgieva, Installation view
Courtesy the artist


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


Hanne Lippard
Courtesy the artist


Giselle Stanborough, Giselle Dates, 2016; Participatory performance
Photo: Zan Wimberley. Courtesy the artist


Laura Wilson, Fold and Stretch, 2016
Commissioned by Site Gallery. Photo: Jules Lister. Courtesy the artist


Alex Mirutziu, Portrait, 2018
Commissioned by Block Universe. Courtesy the artist


They Are Here, The People Behind The Financial System: Sweden, 2017
Presentation at the Konsthall C, Stockholm
Photo: Fredrik Andersson. Courtesy the artists