Sunday, 28 April 2013

From the Archives: Richard DeDomenicion the NRLA

If I can be accused of favouring any particular artist, Richard DeDomenici is the one. It's not that he frequently gets himself into scrapes (like that time he asked some leading questions about the projectile range of Mons Meg, or that his attitude to Live Art (it's serious, but still a good laugh) mirrors my own. It is just that we were both born in Watford, and have a fondness for the town that is incomprehensible to anyone who thinks that it is the same place as The Gap.

This interview was originally done in 2010 - old news, what with the NRLA itself now consigned to history and DeDominici having met my mother in the interim. These days, our interviews usually begin with a long blather about her dance school and I have to text her to say "Richard says hello..."

What does the National Review mean to you as a performer?

I was lucky to be invited to the NRLA shortly after my first post-graduate performance. I've habitually returned every year since; four times as a performer and four as a punter.

In fact, I consider the NRLA to have had a similar effect on my career trajectory as the mysterious black obelisk in 2001: A Space Odyssey had on the evolution of the human race.

In recent years the National Review of Live Art has become the number one NRLA in the world, according to Google. This is a testament to the work of Nikki and Colin, and, although angering the leadership of the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association and the National Right to Life Academy, has ensured a rapidly growing albeit inadvertent audience for live art among rank-and-file lumberjacks and anti-abortionists.

Your work seems to sit in an interesting place between Live Art and other performance arts- I've heard people say that you do stand up. Do you still see yourself as a "Live Artist"- and what is influencing your particular mixture of genres and formats?

My work often straddles the worlds of high art and low-grade civil disobedience. So far this arrangement seems to be working out fine, and I has yet to be forcibly ejected from either camp. Although it’s probably only a matter of time.

I suppose I'm quite funny for an artist, but I recognise that that doesn't make me a comedian. I used to perform quite a bit on the spoken word circuit, supporting people like John Hegley. It was a bit like comedy, but without the jokes, which suited me fine, but I eventually recognised that it wasn't the most efficient use of my skills.

I use humour in my work as I believe that in our cynical world, humour is a far better way to break through barriers than hard-nosed political rhetoric. Being playful about important issues is serious work.

What do you have lined up for us this year, and how does it relate to past offerings?

On the opening night I'm launching my own National Review of Live Art documentation bank - called DeDomeNRLArchive, based on notebook entries, photographs and other ephemera amassed during my past nine years in attendance. It's hoped that this archive will compete with and compliment the official NRLA documentation bank in Bristol.

To mark the launch, a reception will be held during which I'll give an audio-visual presentation derived from my collected materials, and disseminate copies of an inexpensive small publication based on said archive.

The pocket-sized publication will contain 50% blank pages and 50% pages printed with extracts from my NRLA notebook entries, the idea being that people would use the blank portion as their own notebook, and the distinction between printed and user-generated content would become blurred. To aid with the blurring, sparkling white wine will be served.

I'm also planning a couple of 'black-ops' projects, which have been cautiously approved by the management, but are not listed in the programme. I can't say anything more for reasons of plausible deniabilty. And I might be performing at the Peachy Coochie event on Friday night.

So it's all new work, and of no use to the international programmers present at the NRLA as it's site-specific, and therefore untourable. In this economy, that's probably somewhat foolhardy.

Who are you looking forward to seeing this year at NRLA?

As an artist I'm regularly exposed to massive doses of visceral live performance. As such, I worry that I’m becoming increasingly desensitized to the power of art. Guillermo Gomez-Pena was the only work I saw in 2008 that elicited a genuine emotional response. So I definitely want to see him.

Actually, just looking through the programme (something I tend normally not to do until after the NRLA is finished), I also want to check out Jamie McMurray - he has a healthy disregard for health & safety which always makes him excellent value for money.

And you can't go wrong with a little bit of Stelarc.

Geraldine Pilgrim is brilliant too, as is Marcia Farquar.

Also try and get in the front row for Ron Athey if you can, but don't make the same mistake I did in 2006 and wear a new pair of white trainers.

Christ, what a line-up. I'll be lucky if I make it out alive.

How is the plan to get city status for Watford going?

Thanks for reminding me! I've just checked and, according to Hansard, Peter Mandleson announced on January 5th plans for a national competition for city status to celebrate The Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012. Annoyingly, applications need to be made through the local authority, and last time I spoke to the mayor about it she seemed supremely disinterested in my plans.

So as an idea it might still be ahead of it's time, and, as such, I may have to defer my bid until the Queen's Uranium Jubilee in 2032.

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