The art of documentation with Live Art Denmark

Henrik Vestergaard and Ellen Friis from Live Art Denmark are’s first PiR – Publishers in residence. PiR is a new residency program offered by in 2020, and part of a long-term curatorial project aiming to explore and expand the notion of publishing within choreography and performance.


Live art Denmark specializes in interdisciplinary audience engagement and has over the years developed several new formats and modes of interaction in collaborations with art institutions, theatres, museums, festivals and performance artists. We took the opportunity to ask about their work, why they first started and how documentation can be seen as a form of publishing.

> What is Live art Denmark, how and why did you start this organization?

We visited London and LADA in 2004 ( and experienced an amazing crowd of artists, who were investigating all kinds of interesting topics in charming and innovative ways. There was nothing fictional about the works, and they did not require years of training or expensive venues. We wanted to bring live art to Denmark too.

The word “live art” was introduced by Roselee Goldberg, but today it means more than just visual art exploring time and live presence. Live art today is more like an umbrella term for many kinds of interdisciplinary investigation, which often include the audience and do not distinguish between life and art, why the artist is always “live” and at work.

We – Henrik and Ellen – have both studied in Berlin (respectively theatre dramaturgy and interdisciplinary art in the public space). In our practice we are not just influenced by English live art and humor, but also by Germany in our interest in inclusion and participation of the audience, and the desire to influence and perhaps change our society.

Since 2004, we have held 15 festivals presenting international performance art, criticism and documentation in Denmark and many more events and formats in Denmark and abroad. We collaborate with larger art institutions and museums in Denmark and constantly invent new formats. Since 2014, our projects have desired to include all ages. In our own productions and in our curating, we are recently investigating fields like games, rules/recipes and roleplaying.

> From the start you have been interested in documenting live art through various methods and formats. Why do you think documenting live art is important? And what strategies, methods and formats have you found interesting or generative?

Performance art has become a lot more common since 2004, when we started. But still very few people are really knowledgeable in the field, including the artists themselves; in part due to the lack of good documentation and established venues. Performance art is perhaps the most ephemeral of all art forms. So, we wanted to inform people by presenting, teaching and documenting it. We work hard to make performance art works accessible outside the space and the short time span, where they were first presented. And our goal is also that experiencing the documentation should be interesting in its own right. A new performative situation should take place when experiencing the documentation. And this is why the word “publishing” is actually a better word for what takes place.

We have explored photography, common video, oral tradition, performance-for-video, drawings, text as performance, but also as scores for works or plain descriptions, exhibitions (of physical leftovers of works), and since 2016, we have worked with a 360degree camera. All these methods have advantages and disadvantages, but in all cases, the question is how to engage a new viewer, physically and intellectually. Interestingly, a partial documentation like a photo can actually be better than traditional video, because the new viewer will fill out the missing information him or herself, and so they become engaged.

> How are you making the VR Archive for Performance Art accessible to an audience? And are you also archiving other types of documentation?

A part of our VR archive is in our Youtube channel. We also have various open events, where people can see a selection of works on the internal hard drive of our VR goggles. The VR goggles are like a pocket-sized festival of international performance art, making it very easy and inexpensive to bring 10 artists to, say, Toronto or Cameroon.

Our Youtube channel is our main channel of publication. Apart from VR and common video, we have published a seminar (Collaborating with Kids) about children as cocreators. It consists in a series of interviews with children and artists, such as Tim Etchells, Eva Meyer-Keller and others.

> In our previous conversations I have noted that you referred to your work with the VR Archive as interactive documentation, (or, was it perhaps live documentation), could you elaborate on that?

Neither interactive documentation or live documentation seem quite fitting words. We really appreciate your use of the word “publication” rather than “documentation”, because it means: Not recording for an archive, but for a new audience. It represents the idea that a person´s experience of a piece of documentation is, or generates, a new life and performative situation.

The VR is interesting because the same recording can be experienced any number of times, and each time in a new and different way, depending on where the viewer decides to direct his or her attention. It is possible to watch the other guests rather than the performance, for example. As the VR is often presented by us personally, this creates a second layer of interaction and context around the experience.

Of the many different formats of documentation we have explored, Virtual Reality simulates the original experience most closely, especially perhaps by including the (exchange with the) audience itself as an important part of a live experience.

Now, you are Publishers in Residence at for the next two weeks, what will you work on during your stay?

During this stay, we will translate and rewrite our two-hour lecture about various documentative formats, but now inspired by your concept of “publishing”. We will hold that lecture at the end of our stay, and we will present our VR archive during two days, where people can drop in and meet us. Finally, we will also meet and record new local artists for the VR archive.

We look forward to that. Thank you!

On Thursday 27th we organize a brunch together with Live Art DK to dig further into the concepts of publishing within performance art of today.

The following Tuesday March 3rd Live Art DK present the lecture: On the art of Documentation 6pm-8pm. Their Open VR archive will also be available to experience during that day from 12-noon – 7pm and after 8pm for those who wish to stay after the lecture. All of these events have free entrance!

Live Art Denmark’s residency is supported by the Nordic-Baltic mobility programme – Culture.