6 Jan 2023
in the time of
After the performance/live art
movement of the 1980s
For Steve Rogers (1954–1988)
We were hatched in a time of roll-ups and all-night TV
we were fans, we owned the flame.
We prepared to fight in the unruly city
wore the uniform: big coat, big shoes, not new.
We wandered the pockmarked streets
hunting for the future to grow in our kaleidoscope
of the terrible and wonderful.
But before the city was tamed you drowned
in the sweat drenched nights and cannot join us
sweetly pillowed in the bosom of the archive.
We are still acolytes, devotees and believers
though few now and scattered
squinting at the far frontier
cosy among the stacks.
Behind the poem...
In the 1980s, working in the maelstrom of the live art movement, I put together international festivals. The work we showed was urgent, remarkable, seemed so important, but is now long forgotten. Later, I found myself working in an arts university along with many of the artists whose work had felt so vital way back when. This poem was inspired by me coming across an archive copy of the 50th issue of Performance magazine – the journal of record at that time. Like this poem, it’s dedicated to its editor, Steve Rogers: a colleague of mine, who died of AIDS in 1988.