Performance Space presents Liveworks 2020: A Reimagined Festival of Experimental Art

Liveworks-Leading-Is-Following-Is-Leading-Yana-Taylor-Performer-Moreblessing-Maturure-photo-by-Liz-HamPresenting new and intriguing developments in art by some of the most inventive artists of our time from Sydney and across Australia, Performance Space has announced it will be returning with Liveworks Festival of Experimental Art, online and at Carriageworks, this October.

Exploring some of the most challenging issues of our complex times, Liveworks 2020 will be a reimagined festival in response to the uncertainty of the world around us. Blending live performance and digital events, and staged in a socially-distanced setting, artists have been forced to think outside the box. It has resulted in arguably the most inventive, thought-provoking and boundary-pushing Liveworks to-date.

The 2020 program has been re-configured to allow participants to celebrate the return of live performance and experience art in-person at Carriageworks. However, about half of the program will also be devoted to online and digital gatherings to engage art-lovers from across Australia and around the world.

Artistic Director Jeff Khan, believes there has never been a more important time to host a festival of experimental art. “Artists have always found inventive ways for us to gather together and reflect on the present, dream about alternative realities and consider the future,” he said.

“In this strange and suspended moment in history – when it seems impossible for any of us to know what the future holds – how else can we connect with each other and imagine new possibilities?”

“It seemed urgent and important that we move ahead with a reshaped version of Liveworks this year to create a safe, welcoming and revitalizing space for audiences and communities to do these things together, and enable a deep-dive exploration into the biggest issues facing us all in the world today.”

“Equally, we are also acutely aware that there are many artists whose worlds have collapsed due to the pandemic. They have had to reimagine the way they work and sometimes completely reinvent their arts practice.”

“So, moving ahead with this festival was especially important for us to give those artists a platform to share their latest work and provide an audience for their innovation. That has always been integral to our workings at Performance Space and it is more important than ever to provide that support to artists,” said Mr Khan

Since the first annual Liveworks Festival of Experimental Art in 2015, Performance Space has become an internationally recognised hub for Australian and Asia Pacific arts practice. This year’s team were faced with the challenges of social distance restrictions and forced to re-consider the framework of a festival.

But Khan says the Liveworks team and their 2020 artists embraced the challenge to think outside the box. “We have had to completely reshape the festival format so people can gather safely in the current environment,” he says.

“But experimental artists are always about venturing into the unknown and finding new ways of doing things, so we have looked to our artists, drawn inspiration from their visions and worked through those challenges.”

“Together we have seen these restrictions as opportunities for creativity and experimentation and a complete re-think of the status quo when it comes to performance art and live art festivals,” said Mr Khan.

The 2020 festival program is divided into three streams: the first LIVE NOW comprises the full-scale experimental performance events and exhibitions which will be either presented live at Carriageworks or streamed live online.

The second two program streams will be presented both in-person at Carriageworks and streamed live online: LIVE FUTURES will feature exclusive panel discussions with a range of creatives diving into the important questions of the current time.

LIVE DREAMS will present artists’ works-in-progress and sketches of new ideas to allow audiences to hear directly from artists as they explore new directions for their work, offering the public a chance to play a part in the creative process.

“Supporting artists to deliver innovative performance work is central to Carriageworks’ mission,” said Carriageworks CEO Blair French. “We are excited to again be partnering with resident company Performance Space to support experimentation in live performance, especially during a time when we have been starved of live experiences.”

“We look forward to welcoming audiences to Liveworks in 2020 and are proud to be co-presenting Justin Shoulder’s AEON† and the return of annual festival favourite, Day for Night,” he said.

Liveworks 2020 takes place 21 – 25 October. Performance Space and Carriageworks will continue to implement the physical distancing, capacity limits and increased hygiene measures outlined by the NSW Government. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Leading Is Following Is Leading, Yana Taylor, Performer: Moreblessing Maturure – photo by Liz Ham


The LIVE NOW artworks will be a mix of ticketed and free events presented at Carriageworks and online via Performance Space’s new digital channel. They include:

Medicament For Your Predicament
21 – 25 October
This artwork offers practical know-how for our complicated times. Expect an experimental pharmacy offering new approaches to collective and mutual care. Join lead artist Cat Jones to create homespun solutions to your personal and political ailments, however big or small. This artwork draws on Jones’ unique botanic, sensory and social practice and her feminist research into the fields of science and medicine, sharing home remedies and recipes that have been passed down through diverse communities across many generations.

You can get hands-on in the OPEN LAB workshops from the comfort of your own home. In an intimate 3-hour workshop, Jones will guide you through a series of activities to diagnose the issues that have you most ill at ease. Collectively, you will then create a medicament—using ingredients from your own kitchen and a special package of materials sent to you by the artist.

Every day at Carriageworks, you can also visit the OPEN PHARMACY installation – which showcases the medicaments that have been created through the project and offers you quick and dirty prescriptions, amidst the effervescent powder of conversation.

Leading is Following is Leading
21 – 25 October
Beyond policies and promises, what makes you trust certain leaders? What excites or infuriates you about their public appearances, and what conclusions do you reach? This performance work draws on archival footage of political leaders through the decades – from Robert Menzies to Julia Gillard – to which the extraordinary performers sync their own choreographies of gesture, stance and intonation, putting questions of political power – who has it, how they acquire it and how they wield it – under the microscope. What stands out about judgements, microaggressions and ingrained misogyny in our acceptance or rejection of political personas?

Created by Sydney director Yana Taylor (ex-version 1.0) with a small ensemble including Valerie Berry and Moreblessing Maturure, this work is a playful and intimate performance installation event. The jarring gap between live performances and the figures on screen creates room for speculation about the past and space to feel future possibilities of less traditional leaders as our heads of state.

21 – 25 October
This work intends to build a new faith for our fractious era. Deborah Kelly’s extraordinary CREATION project sees the construction of a new belief system to confront the rise of the irrational and its threat to civil society. In a hysterical, but beautiful rebuke to climate denialism, complacency and cowardly leadership, this evolving work calls on collective wisdom to create a passionate life of the spirit for an unfolding epoch. For this work, choreographer Angela Goh has heard the call. Every religion needs a manifesto of movement.

Over five days, join the artists in building a liturgical dance from the ground up, culminating in a public display of devotion. Exclusive to Liveworks, this work is a vital component of this ambitious project. CREATION is being developed around Australia with writers, storytellers, visual artists, musicians and ritual-makers, through the co-creation of songs, manifesto, costumes, moving image works, parables, iconography, dance, mysteries, rituals and believers. Presented by Performance Space and Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, this is your chance to contribute to the creation of CREATION!

tiny revolutions
22 – 25 October
Presented by Perth-based art collective PVI, this work is an epic think and do tank of tiny proportions. tiny revolutions is a provocation to develop a climate of resistance that responds to the current social and political crisis brewing. By generating a space for play, this work aims to explore some temporary social change to help us confront the new realities of the present. From climate crisis to rapid tech advancement, minority rights to the patriarchy, tiny revolutions aims to take the overwhelming scale and anxieties of these issues and transform them into bite-sized actions that pack a societal punch.

For this work, members of the public are asked to submit an epic problem, via the tiny revolution’s website. They then connect their problem to one of 15 global challenges and select an intervention tactic for PVI to deploy. Receiving the submissions: the tiny revolutions taskforce, made up of invited artists, industry experts, activists and the public. Each submission is set a 30-minute time limit for the taskforce to dig deep, debate and devise a tiny revolution to be carried out in public.

tiny revolutions has been developed in response to the Millennium Project’s 15 global challenges: a global think-tank on behalf of humanity established by the United Nations in 1996. Comprised of futurists, researchers and policy makers, the Millennium Project holds the largest collection of futures research methodology in the world and formulated their findings into 15 global challenges. tiny revolutions explores the potential for the small to make a big impact and shift our collective anxieties about the future.

Nganggurnmanha: sound dust
21 – 25 October
A collaboration between Yamaji Wajarri, Dutch and English artist Nicole Monks and Sydney-based collective Make or Break (Connie Anthes and Rebecca Gallo). our individual and collective notions of time are always evolving. The word ‘nganggurnmanha’ means ‘listening, hearing, thinking, remembering’ in Wajarri language. This work is an immersive audio installation that challenges us to listen deeply to the natural world and find ways to inhabit time differently.

Responding to First Nations and Western concepts of time, the work is an exploration of how time intertwines with nature, the body, seasonal shifts, and how our time is valued. Drawing from a library of ‘sound dust’ fragments sourced from participants around Australia and the world, it is a responsive installation where the viewer’s movement and presence influences how the work unfolds. This is an alternate archive of now; an invitation to separate your experience of time from notions of productivity, and instead realign it with internal and environmental forces.

21 – 25 October
Broadcast online at sunset each day, this performance ritual centres on a daily exchange of love letters between the Koori artist and writer SJ Norman and Cherokee writer and scholar Joseph M Pierce. Writing from their respective quarantines in Sydney and New York, each artist will read the other’s letter direct-to-camera as the sun sets over their city, every day of Liveworks. The work proposes a queered, decolonial inhabitation of the written form as a space to trace the remote entanglement of two Indigenous people in creative, intimate, and embodied kinship. The artists consider what it means to express Indigenous love in the colonisers’ language.

(XXX) continues a body of work by SJ Norman that maps a vast and growing network of queer, First Nations inter-connectedness spanning continents, cultures, and ancestral temporalities. Speaking to the current disruption of transnational relationships and cultural ties that are a consequence of the current global pandemic, and exploring new forms for the exchange of First Nations knowledge and the strengthening of bonds. This work is presented by Performance Space, Fusebox and Sydney Contemporary.

Live Action Relay
23 October
Comprising a drone, 4 dancers, a director, and a musician, the work sees the acclaimed choreographer and filmmaker Sue Healey break new ground, creating a digitally-broadcast dance performance streamed from a drone. Drawing from our current moment of social isolation, the work reimagines the role of technology in bringing us together across distance: a portrait of individuals in isolated spaces, connected by the orbiting eye of the drone camera and instantly shared in real time.

Live Action Relay rethinks the way we experience performance, creating a dance that would be impossible in a theatre situation. It is immediate and raw, revealing split-second, real-time decision-making between drone pilot, director, musician and dancers, in an immediate and heart-racing spectacle.

21 – 25 October
Fusing Filipinx myth, puppetry and queer pageantry as ceremony, the world premiere of a new body of work by Sydney artist Justin Shoulder, births an ecology of beings to emerge from the muck of a decomposing parallel world. Aeon – meaning a vital force, or an indefinite period of time – bears tension with †(dagger): the symbol placed beside the name of a species indicating it is extinct.

The performance becomes a petri dish incubating distinct and recombinant organisms. With an extraordinary team of collaborators, AEON† invites us to cross time, from the origins of life to glimpses beyond its end. Free-falling they recall the past in order to imagine a future of infinite-love-possibility. Co-presented by Performance Space and Carriageworks; co-commissioned by Performance Space and Fusebox Festival.


Presented at Carriageworks and live streamed online, the LIVE FUTURES stream comprises a series of public conversations questioning the role of art in the new world. This platform celebrates the insight of artists, as thought-leaders and critical players in the new social, cultural and economic paradigms being built in the wake of the pandemic, the protests, social upheaval and transformation we faced this year.

What kind of world are we moving into? What kind of world do we want to create? And what is the role of art in getting us there? LIVE FUTURES conversations will complement the voices of artists with those of experts from diverse disciplines to dive deeply into the possibilities of our future world.

Topics to be explored include: Why Risk Gathering? curated by Sydney Festival Director Wesley Enoch; The Future of Work curated by Vitalstatistix Director Emma Webb with artist Rebecca Conroy; Caring for Always curated by First Nations curator Hannah Donnelly; Future Care // Future Intimacy curated by writer and curator Bec Dean; and Imagined Theatres: Publication Launch curated and co-presented by Fusebox Festival in Austin, Texas.

On the final day of the festival, a specially-commissioned Keynote Lecture by celebrated Sydney artist Brian Fuata will look back on the key discussions and discoveries of the week, whilst speculating on the future we are moving towards.


The final program stream provides rare insights into artworks in development with LIVE DREAMS. In 2020, the creative development of experimental work has ceased taking place in rehearsal rooms, studios and theatres. Travel has necessarily ceased.

During this time, Performance Space has worked hard to support artists to continue creatively developing work and honing their practice, often in inventive and resourceful new ways. Works are being created and artistic experiments conducted in artists’ homes, lounge rooms, online and other spaces. Social distancing, remote collaboration and distributed production are appearing. How will this change the future of arts practice?

LIVE DREAMS will offer a series of events for artists to present their works and ideas in-progress to public audiences and the arts sector for feedback and discussion. This is a moment to create new momentum for the sector and explore new possibilities for the field, as we move into the next phase of recovery. Each day of Liveworks, LIVE DREAMS will present a series of works-in-progress under a broad theme.

Topics to be explored include: UTOPIA: Works that imagine the best and worst versions of our future world; IMPOSSIBLE: works that have been deemed not possible; CATASTROPHE: works that seek to grapple with the multiple layers of crisis we are experiencing; ALWAYS: the end of your art world isn’t the end of ours: First Nations artists share from a future they care for; and WONDER: works that seek to imagine the world anew, seek beauty in the everyday, or find hope in unlikely places.