[Written by Ruth Underwood]
[Image Credits: Mai Brightling]
STEREO, 18 NOV.
Livia Rita stretches our idea of what a gig should be just like the way she stretches fabrics. When I interviewed Livia Rita recently, she told me that “different songs have their universe and with them a palette, almost”. People will take away different things from this performance, but that was the main thing I took with me when I left, hobbling down the street to the Co-op to pick up a cheap bottle of wine.
Red: The Colour of Anatomy and Sunscar
Livia Rita positions herself as the mother in the centre of a ritualistic circle of performers who use the clothes that they have made together with Livia to become something else, something other than performers. The fabrics are visceral, they are malleable and flesh-like, and the performers dress it around themselves in such a way that reminds me of internal organs. One outfit especially features red fabric that is stretched into long looping tubes, the performer wraps it around themselves and moves within it, contained by it as if it is an umbilical cord or an intestine. Two performers lay encased in red transparent plastic, the material was breathable and animated. Sunscar, Livia’s 2018 song is, lyrically, about “the sun” bleeding from scars.
Black: The Colour of Sadness and Dead Angel
Livia puts a black piece of thin, breathable fabric over her head. Her band of dancing performers attach balloons to all corners of it. Eventually it flies away from her, but there is a moment where it could have escaped her grasp had she not been holding onto it. Her 2018 single, Dead Angel, contains feelings of isolation and vulnerability, and the bitter romanticism that comes with it.
Latex: The Colour of Flesh and Heart Tattoo
“I love latex! It has such a skin like quality and holds a vulnerability to it. It feels like one can create bodies, something that has sensitivity when touched…“
Livia Rita told me, in my interview with her, that she loves the skin-like quality of latex. In fact, while she performed her 2018 single, Heart Tattoo, she wore a strange, visceral sheet of peachy-coloured latex. When the light bounced off its sags and creases, the ‘skin-like quality’ that Livia Rita had been talking about became evident.
Livia Rita, the inventor
Livia Rita’s performance was artistic, thought-provoking and innovate. So often, when one is writing about something like that, they argue about the purposefulness of it, the meaning behind it, and the way it communicates with the audience. They put themselves into the interpretation and they try and speak for everyone, but always leaving their own word as the last word.
However, I want Livia Rita to have the last word. Between tracks, she spoke to her audience, referring to us as family. She told us to get closer to her and we huddled around her. Though the stage created a physical boundary between us and them, the performers played with this boundary, putting limbs over the edge of the stage, staring at us. Everything felt collaborative, like Livia Rita’s entire background of creating is, collaborative. She always came off as friendly and inviting, there was never a separation between the audience and the performer. And, though she portrays herselfas mother, singer, songwriter, inventor, the performance wouldn’t be the same without the other performers. At Livia Rita’s gigs, there is no hierarchy on stage just like there is no hierarchy between her or the audience. Even greater than this, there is no hierarchy of materials. Some of the pieces she used in her outfits are in my Ebay basket, some of the materials I have found before on Gumtree. But she embraces this, when I talked about this with her after the show, she told me that everything is part of the performance – that it doesn’t matter what materials are or how much they cost, it’s what you make of them.It’s important to note here that originality is what makes items unique. Nobody could have come up with these visceral, movable, breathable costumes, except someone who feels inherently in touch with their body and with nature – women. Nobody could have interpreted relationships inside out and looked at them in such a way except someone who has a deeper understanding of how love has no hierarchy or bounds, only boundaries – queer people. Most importantly, nobody could have come up with the performance in its entirety except Livia Rita.