A generous space: the strengths and challenges of experimental performance

Despite being under-resourced, the experimental and contemporary performance sector in Australia punches well above its weight.

Sarah Aiken and Rebecca Jensen’s Underworld. Photo credit: Tearlach Wales. Aiken and Jensen’s latest work, Airports, can be seen at Adhocracy 2018.

A loaded phrase, ‘experimental performance’ often conjures up difficult works situated at the most challenging end of the arts spectrum, while for proponents of the genre it’s a field that’s alive with creative possibilities. But what do we mean by ‘experimental’ or ‘contemporary’ performance, exactly?  

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Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on Three Triple R FM, and serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management. Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Living Legend in 2017. In 2020 he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize. Most recently, Richard was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Green Room Awards Association in June 2021. Follow him on Twitter: @richardthewatts