Flesh & Text: 30 years of Bodies in Flight

Simon Jones, Sara Giddens, Tony Judge (Illustrator), Edward Dimsdale (Illustrator)

Research output: Other contribution


BODIES IN FLIGHT, co-directed by Sara Giddens and Simon Jones, make performance where flesh utters and words move, that challenges and re-energizes the conventional relationship between audiences and performers, and audiences and place. Based in Bristol and Nottingham, our work comes from the careful and rigorous development of interdisciplinary and collaborative methods, often with new technologies in cutting edge venues. We insist on the buzz of ideas, on philosophy and poetry, using words and images, sounds and silence, voices and bodies, with which we aim to move audiences emotionally and spiritually.

Reflecting now on 30 years of performance-making, we can discern three broad phases of work and a set of developing and deepening concerns. Our first shows (1989-1995) thrilled to the energy and excitement of the late eighties and early nineties UK experimental performance scene where physical and dance theatre encountered performance and live art, where challenging work in body art mixed with experiments in multi-media. These shows were high-energy, action-based, erotic and political; they increasingly involved poetic text and choreographed movement. They pastiched both popular and esoteric forms; they were irreverent, slyly provocative and unremittingly satirical. They consistently explored theatre’s capacity to make meaning, to affect its audiences, to comment on the world.

In 1996, with our eighth show Do the Wild Thing!, we formalized these concerns with a specific research imperative: to explore how performance achieved these affects. We began to deconstruct and examine what we called the mixing of flesh and text, which we deemed to be theatre’s unique contribution as an art-form. We achieved this through a series of collaborations with sonic and visual media artists (1996-2003), developing a strategy of duetting between bodies and technologies, texts and spaces. We extended our interest in siting performances in specific places, including the virtual online environment. We took these collaborations across continents and cultures, so that bodies with radically different experiences were brought together in the work. And yet, in each new work, the concern remained to explore how we mix in the event of the performance itself, however and wherever that might be.

Our current phase of work (2004-present) pushes this slippage between the twinned terms performance—theatre even further to collaborate with different communities, some of place, others of skill-sets, for example – choirs and gymnasts, taking the work to global cities, seaside towns, galleries and gymnasia, mixing different kinds of expertise with different kinds of personal investment. In these ways we have increasingly opened out our practice to different understandings of everydayness: how commonplace experience might help us fashion a new idea of community, however realized in the performance event itself.
Original languageEnglish
Media of outputMixed media
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

Flesh & Text has been displayed at the Wickham Theatre, University of Bristol, 9th February - 1st March 2019, and in the Wallner Gallery, Lakeside Arts, Nottingham, 11th - 30th June 2019. Two further showings are planned: Ruskin Gallery, Cambridge, 17th - 28th September 2019 and PR1 Gallery, Preston, 24th March - 3rd April 2020.


  • Performance
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  • Documentation
  • Exhibition


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