Marilyn Arsem

Politics and Performance - Workshop

Disintegration | Streetlevel, Performance Art in Public Space | Helsinki, Finland |August 2015 | photo by Antti Ahonen

3.- 5. April 2017
Studio 11 | College Court | Belfast | BT1 6BS


Monday 3rd 12 noon – 5pm

Tuesday 4th 11:00 – 16:30 h

Wednesday  5th 11:00 –  14.00 h   

Workshop costs £60 – Includes lunch

Booking | Brian Patterson | Tel | 07968643871



Marilyn Arsem has been creating live events since 1975, ranging from solo performances, to large scale, site-specific works incorporating installation and performance.  Arsem has presented work at festivals, conferences, alternative spaces, galleries, museums and universities in 28 countries in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

Many of her works are durational in nature, minimal in actions and materials, and located in peripheral spaces in the context of larger events.  Viewers discover the work on their way to seeing other performances.  Arsem has focused on creating works in response to specific sites, engaging with the immediate landscape and materiality of the location, its history, use or politics.

Arsem is a member of Mobius, Inc., a multi-disciplinary collaborative of artists, which she founded in 1975. She taught at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for 27 years, establishing one of the most extensive programs internationally in visually-based performance art.



Today there is a growing unwillingness to participate in civic discourse, to listen to and debate ideas with those whose opinions differ from one’s own. People are increasingly cautious about engaging with strangers, to exposing themselves on any level with people whom they do not know.  How can we circumvent that fear and avoidance in order to encourage dialogue?

We can make art in a public context that will help expand the discourse addressing current politicized issues.  An artist may wish to create an intervention that comments on a situation, reveals contradictions, is intended to generate debate, or is a call to action.  What are the different strategies that we can use to design such work, so that an audience will engage with it?

An audience who encounters your performance unexpectedly on their way to other activities in their life is different from an audience who chooses to come to see your work.  The context, your location within a site, the time of day, what you wear, your proximity to the viewer, how you behave, the materials you use, how you initiate an interaction, all impact the public’s willingness to pause, to pay attention, and to consider what is being offered.

This workshop explores different approaches to creating public performances that have political content.  Strategies that we will consider include the use of humor, enigma, and metaphor.   While you will be expected to do extensive writing and discussion within the workshop to design a performance, the task is not simply theoretical: you will test it on the street.  Participants should come to the workshop with an issue that they have already researched, to which they are committed to making public work.  Collaborations are encouraged.