A Living Newspaper Study Group #3 with Liz Magic Laser

22 April 2021

an image of the stage, waiting for the young rockband.

A Living Newspaper
Organised with Bik Van der Pol

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Dates & Contributors:
Saturday 27 March, 3-4.30pm, Dr Rania Karoula
Saturday 10 April, 3-4.30pm, Simon Bedwell
Thursday 22 April, 5-6.30pm GMT, Liz Magic Laser

This three -part Study Group was part of our preparations for FIELDWORK International Summer School 2021.

Join us in the learning, experimentation and discussion inspired by the structure and context of The Living Newspaper which ran in the USA from 1935 – 1939. With its roots in earlier European theatre models, the programmes that emerged were ambitious scripted productions which re-told and performed major stories of the day around housing, labour, disease and social stigma. 

The Living Newspaper was part of the Federal Theatre Project – a US state funded arts initiative which ‘gave voice’ to contemporary issues emerging from the news that impacted everyday life for many Americans in the 1930s through mass employment of actors, writers, dramaturgs, technicians and directors.

These Study Groups continue Bik Van der Pol’s collaboratation with Hospitalfield since the 2020 FIELDWORK International Summer School Programme Now What? In September the Summer School sought to ask, think and talk through what ‘muteness’ was at that time. Now we look to experiment with The Living Newspaper as a model to enact moving forward, and to ask the question, how will we each want to live together after this disruption in the world? These three sessions take a performative format and invite participants to use the model to imagine and rehearse for the possible futures that lie ahead.

The Living Newspaper ran from 1935 – 1939 within The Federal Theatre Project as part of President Franklin D Roosevelt’s wide-reaching New Deal in the USA striving to rebuild the economy out of the Great Depression. The nation-wide programme worked with large casts and technical teams on large scale productions across the USA, arguably de-centring theatre from big cities and big names. The Living Newspapers were scripted productions which re-told and performed major stories of the day around housing, labour, disease and social stigma. The Federal Theatre Project was disbanded by the Government in 1939 after it was deemed too political by the Un-American Activities Committee.

In discussing the Living Newspapers we open up critical questions around whose stories are told, how and by whom? What is the significance of a contemporary Living Newspaper when we now receive news stories and learn about local issues through the internet, social media and only sometimes, a newspaper?

Each Study Group invites a contribution from an academic or artist to demonstrate ways that artists and writers may interpret ‘the news’ in theatrical, artistic or performed work. The contributors are Dr Rania Karoula, Simon Bedwell and Liz Magic Laser.

Image: Art is either plagiarism or revolution, or: something is definitely going to happen here. Bik Van der Pol 2007-2010. Courtesy of the artists.

Study Group #3 led by Liz Magic Laser

The third Study Group invites artist Liz Magic Laser to lead a session with a series of introspective and performative exercises exploring how we might go about creating a Living Newspaper individually and as a group. Liz Magic Laser is a multimedia video and performance based artist from New York City who has worked extensively with the theatrical model of the Living Newspaper with groups of performers and collaborators in street and theatre contexts.

Her work intervenes in semi-public spaces such as bank vestibules, movie theaters and newsrooms, involving collaborations with actors, surgeons, political strategists and motorcycle gang members. Her recent work explores the efficacy of new age techniques and psychological methods active in both corporate culture and political movements.

In advance of the Study Group, we will invite participants to take part in a short and easy preparatory exercise drawn from the current news which will form the basis of the activity during the Study Group. More info will be given to participants in the days leading up to the Study Group via an email from Eventbrite.


Towards A Performance

After the three Study Groups we will form a Working Group of paid participants who will come together in The Hospitalfield Living Newspaper Intensive Online Summer Workshop in July 2021 to create performances and texts inspired by the Living Newspapers. The performances will happen at Hospitalfield as part of the FIELDWORK International Summer School in August 2021 programmed with Bik Van der Pol.

Images: Living Newspaper: Extra Extra, Liz Magic Laser, 2013, performance in collaboration with actors Audrey Crabtree and Michael Wiener, production still, San Francisco, CA. A Southern Exposure Off-Site Graue Award project.

The Exercise

The workshop led by Liz Magic Laser invited participants to take part in a movement and introspective exercise collectively over zoom. Participants were invited to select an image from that day’s news featuring a body in the image as well as the text surrounding the image. Participants were invited to move and position themselves like the bodies in the image, holding poses for lengths of time. The group then reflected on their own positions in relation to the people in the images.

Liz Magic Laser redesigned the workshop for the PDF publication Dance Your Home.


Catch up on Study Groups 1 & 2

Living Newspaper Study Group #2

Saturday 10 April, 3-4.30pm

The second study group invited artist Simon Bedwell to lead a session exploring the relationship in his practice of art, satire and the news. Simon gave a short presentation on his work in the context of the Living Newspaper Study Group and then with Bik Van der Pol facilitated a conversation around the news story exercise with Study Group participants.

Simon Bedwell is an artist based in London who has made posters, sculpture, publications, exhibitions, paintings and videos, both alone and with other artists (the London art group BANK 1991-2003). His work is generally characterized by a sprawling, polemical, sensuous, vulgar and snarky attitude towards art, politics, art-politics and the politics of art.



Living Newspaper Study Group #1

Saturday 27 March, 3-4.30pm

The first group invited academic Dr Rania Karoula to give an introduction to the history and context of The Living Newspaper. Rania Karoula teaches contemporary Scottish and modernist drama in the Department of English Literature and Centre for Open Learning at the University of Edinburgh. In January 2021, Karoula published The Federal Theatre Project, 1935-1939: Engagement and Experimentation with Edinburgh University Press and is an expert on the Living Newspaper.

Now What? September 2020 - August 2021

Departing from an object, the Forfar Scold’s Bridle, and a document, the Declaration of Arbroath, participants and invited speakers are invited to engage in a collective dialogue, to understand place and bodies as carriers of experience, as archive and scene. We will ask, think and talk through what ‘muteness’ is at the present time. Considering loss of voice and silence as a political imperative, we propose to rethink this as instigator and potential for alternative learning for the future, and to increase the volume of the stories that must be told.

Click for more info and documentation from the Summer School in 2020.

Bik Van der Pol

Since 1995, Liesbeth Bik and Jos van der Pol work together as Bik Van der Pol.

They work and live in Rotterdam (NL). Through their practice they aim to articulate and understand how art can produce a public sphere and space for speculation and imagination through which ‘publicness’ is not only defined but also created. By setting up the conditions for encounter they develop a process of working that allows for continuous reconfigurations of places, histories and publics. Their practice is site-specific with dialogue as a mode of transfer; a “passing through”, understood in its etymological meaning of “a speech across or between two or more people, out of which may emerge new understandings”. In fact, they consider the element of “passing through” as vital. It is temporal, and implies action and the development of new forms of discourse. Their work is both instigator and result of this method.

Bik Van der Pol are one of the initiators of the School of Missing Studies that started in 2003 as an initiative of artists and architects who recognized “the missing” as a matter of urgency.

Investigating what culture(s) laid the foundations for the loss we are experiencing from modernization and how this loss can talk back to us as a potential site of learning, they believe we must be calling for a space to turn existing knowledge against itself to affect our capacity to see things otherwise, to trust that seeing, to re-set one’s own and set new terms.

Bik Van der Pol came to Hospitalfield in 2015 as part of the Talking About Influence Summer School programmed by artist Pavel Buchler.


Captions:Accumulate, Collect, Show. Bik Van der Pol. 31st Bienal Sao Paulo 2014

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