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Live Gallery [1998-2003]

Live Gallery is Manuel Vason’s first project which it led him to transform a photographic session into a performance and portraitrature into collaboration. A site-specific project, which took place within different communities and locations and provoked members of the public to perform a specific characteristic of their individuality. –

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In the earlier years of his artistic career Manuel Vason collaborated with artist (and ex partner) Lisa Cazzato Vieyra and under the artistic name Officina Humana they created the project Live Gallery. The project fit in the interstice between a photography project and a performance event and its aim was to collaborate with the audience-viewer towards the creation of an image to be immediately exhibited. This was a site-specific project engaging different communities ranging from a boxing club, a hospital, a market street, an underground night-club, a swimming pool, to a homeless hostel… the specific context shaped each image into a social document. Each image was created using 8×10 inches Polaroid film.

‘The Live Gallery interrogates various forms of social and cultural community, by claiming a collective space as a makeshift photo lab and gallery. The artists enter a space and carry out a temporary transformation of the space and the public, usually by taking high-quality Polaroid portraits and taping them to the walls. The Live Gallery has been installed in a public swimming baths, children’s hospital, fetish club, public transport carriage, boxing centre and elsewhere, in the UK and around Europe. The project examines the transitory formation of communities, and tentative forms of solidarity, among groups of individuals tied by their use of a mutual space or cultural structure. These participants display their marks of sex, race, class and gender, and the interventions often play up the specifically performative characteristics adopted by the people in attendance. Comparing different Live Gallery settings, the works can be seen to enact playful commentaries on the relative uniformity of signs of belonging adopted by or imposed upon cultural groups: apparently singular communal bodies nevertheless made up of individuals of actual and irreducible difference. Despite the stark differences between, for example, the erotic ostentation of the fetish crowd and the boxers’ phallic display, these opposed bodily styles carry out the same cultural work. They both, it seems, physicalise conscious allegiance to an abstract ideology, now made tangible through the classification of cultural performances into perceptable identities. ‘ – Dominic Johnson, Senior Lecturer in Drama in the School of English and Drama, Queen Mary, University of London.

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