Written for Spoonfed. Originally published 8th April 2013.
Naima Khan talks to Jamie Lewis Hadley about the shooting, bleeding and performance in his SPILL Festival show, Analogue to a Blunt Trauma.
It’s a bit churlish to start this article with a quote I’ve presented to shock. Particularly because shock is far from what the artist I’ve quoted, Jamie Lewis Hadley, wants to do. Although for some audience members, he inevitably will.
Jamie, a performance artist, academic and former professional wrestler is performing one of SPILL Festival’s most distinct acts. His piece, Analogue to a Blunt Trauma, looks at the aesthetics of medical equipment and what our understanding of that equipment does to our perception of pain and blood. In this show he pays particular attention to those experiences in relation to the liveness of a firearm. In short, there will be blood and there will be a gun. And not a crappy stage one neither. For Jamie’s show, the reality is what makes it all worth it.
“Blood, wrestling and masculinity.”
His statement about shooting at a bag of blood is one of the images that he explains are often his starting points. Another starting point was the medical trials he did to make a bit of extra cash. “I met a doctor who was also an actress” he tells me. “The relationship couldn’t have been more perfect. I was doing my masters thesis at the same time and it was about blood, wrestling and masculinity, that kind of stuff, and I became fascinated with the difference between quantitative and qualitative research.”
“It triggered a huge shift in my thinking as an artist” he continues. “The stuff I was writing was completely qualitative and the stuff they were taking out of me was all quantitative. It dawned on me that the use of medical equipment is a good way to engage a wider public, especially in the field of blood work.” – Put simply, this type of performance art uses blood, usually from the performers to explore a theme. While it comes with its health and safety risks for the artists involved, it’s been done for decades. It is safe and supervised but not often perceived that way. Jamie puts it neatly when he says, – “when you use medical equipment and professionals, it’s easier for audiences to frame it , or read it, as safe.”
“Not every body bleeds in the same way but everybody bleeds”
If you’re curious about blood as a tool for art, let Jamie explain: “We all have a response to blood. Whether it’s a nose bleed, self harm, wrestlers cutting their heads, or menstruation, we all have an experience of it and different responses to it. Not everybody bleeds in the same way but every body bleeds and that’s really relevant in the work that I make.”
He takes a similar stance on the use of a gun in his work: “What interests me is not really the gun politics because that all exists all ready. Everybody has their own experience of it, culturally, politically or socially. So for me it’s about the liveness of it. Most people have a relationship with guns through TV, computer games, images, news but the liveness of a firearm is what really interests me. I think what follows is a lot of questions for individuals.”
The liveness of a firearm also creates a sense of vulnerability and with it, perhaps exhilaration. “When we think about the aesthetics of the work. The space, the lights, the sound, the aiming of the gun, the image that it creates, there’s definitely more vulnerability through that framework. I don’t want to perform vulnerability in any way. Essentially, I just want to do the actions not portray a feeling. But with what I do, it needs to be real for it to be worth it.”
SPILL Festival runs at various venues until April 14th 2013