Public Address Systems collects a series of projects created and coordinated by artist and researcher Lois Weaver. Each of these projects is at its core an engagement with the public, though Weaver’s extensive practice brings together multiple and interrelated strands. In a period when the nature of ‘the public’ is increasingly contested, Public Address Systems create spaces that are hospitable and open so that alternatives can be modelled and critical questions staged. What do we share and what do we owe each other? How are ‘we’ counted and who is included? From broad questions about material resources to intimate studies of bodies and identity, Public Address Systems asks how it is possible to think, and feel, publicly.
Public Address Systems draws on three modes of inquiry to think about political, cultural and technological questions of the ‘public’. These modes are performance, place and the everyday, with each focusing in detail on a range of topics and contexts.
This site shows how Weaver’s performance practice directly addresses political issues, explores persona and identity, and becomes a methodology for working with the public collaboratively and in dialogue.
Public Address Systems also draws on place, and in particular, the appropriation of institutional spaces for complex interventions around gender, sexuality, human rights and other crucial flash points for public activism. The library, the museum and the form of the manifesto are all radically reconfigured to create new public spaces for political action, and to question ingrained institutional boundaries.
Finally, Public Address Systems shows that everyday practices – often associated with the private, the domestic and the marginal – can be used to create new forms of public sociality. The space between the kitchen table and the porch swing becomes politically charged and of public consequence.
Lois Weaver is a lecturer, performance artist, writer, director and activist. She was co-founder of Spiderwoman Theatre, Split Britches Company and the WOW Theatre in New York and Artistic Director of Gay Sweatshop Theatre in London. She was a partner in Staging Human Rights, a People’s Palace Project that uses performance practice to explore human rights in women’s prisons in Brazil and the UK and Director for PSi#12:Performing Rights, an international conference and festival on performance and human rights held at QM in 2006.
The collection of her plays, SPLIT BRITCHES, Feminist Performance/LesbianPractice won the Lambda Literary award in 1997 and the company received the Otto Award for Excellence in Political Theatre in 2003. The 2005 production of Dress Suits To Hire was nominated for a GLAAD Media award in 2006. Lois was HuntScammon Distinguished Artist at William and Mary College, a Penny Stamps Distinguished Visitor as part of her Martin Luther King, Jr.-Cesar Chavez -Rosa Parks Visiting Professorship at the University of Michigan and visiting artist at universities including Harvard, Wellesley,
UCLA and University of Texas. She has performed and lectured extensively throughout the US and UK as well as China, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and Argentina. Venues at which her work has been performed include the Purcell Room, London; La Mama and PS 122, NYC; Walker Art Center, Minnesota; the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki; Tanzquartier Wein, Vienna; Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki and the Edinburgh, Glasgay and FADO Festivals. Collaborators include Peggy Shaw, Curious, the Clod Ensemble, Marisa Carnesky, Holly Hughes and the Live Art Development Agency.
The video archive or her performance work has been acquired by the Hemispheric Institute Digital Video Library, New York University and her papers are archived with the Fales Collection, New York University.