I first heard about the LUPA events in December 2012, that there are people gathering somewhere in Bethnal Green to watch creative and sometimes weird performances of artists from all kind of backgrounds. In July 2012 I moved from Switzerland to the Whitechapel area. First I lived close to Aldgate East and now I live at Bethnal Green. I am glad about all the (free) events around the area and the creative vibe. After discovering places like the Vyner Street galleries I was happy to hear about something new and exciting.

LUPA stands for Lock Up Performance Art and is curated by Aaron Williamson, Jordan McKenzie, Kate Mahony and Rachel Dowle. The LUPA events are unauthorised, hence the pop-up’ format, they are also entirely unfunded and not connected to any arts organisation.

Their Facebook description says more about their idea behind the LUPA events; ‘A grim little lock-up garage, the size of a single car, on a Housing Estate in deepest Bethnal Green is the venue for a series of ‘pop-up’ performances to be staged once-a-month on a Friday night.’

The LUPA experience

When I first saw the Facebook event page and the location ‘Behind the James Campbell House’ I was curious how the location would look. There was not much more information to get so I left the house and walked towards that ominous place.

I met up with my friends and then walked down Cambridge Heath Road from Bethnal Green Underground Station. We knew the street where the event took place but we didn’t really know where this ‘little lock-up garage’ should be. On our short walk we’ve seen multiple other people heading the same direction, so we followed them and found the spot on an estate along Old Ford Road. Already around 30 other curious spectators gathered in front of the infamous lock-up garage. People were discussing, socialising, while drinking a well-deserved evening beer for the weekend ahead. I felt the good vibe straightaway and also the crowd got bigger and bigger until the event started at 8pm. Jordan McKenzie, one of the organisers, raised his voice to welcome all old and new faces to the event. He shortly explained the concept and mentioned that there will be 5 performances, each between five and ten minutes long. And so it began and the 60 interested spectators gathered in a circle, laughing and whispering, observing the playful scenery in front of their eyes.

I could tell you more, now, about what is really going on but, as it is always different and the performances are so random, it is not worth it to write about it – you have to experience it for yourself! I hope my pictures will make you curious!

Since I am interested in art, crazy ideas and dauntless implementations, I fully support the LUPA events and had a chat with Kate Mahony, one of the organisers of the LUPA events. She could give me some insight behind the lock up door of the garage…

MIS: Hi Kate! You told me that you were invited to perform at the second edition of LUPA and joined the team after that. Tell us more about the beginnings of LUPA.

Kate: Performance artists Jordan McKenzie, who teaches at Camberwell University and Aaron Williamson, originally started LUPA. Aaron left after LUPA 10 so Rachel Dowle, a video artist and filmmaker who I also collaborate with, joined us from LUPA 10 until our last LUPA, edition 20 on the 15th of June (Information below). Both Rachel and I have recently graduated from Goldsmiths College with a BA in Art Practice.

MIS: Who are the artists behind LUPA?

Kate: The artists at the LUPA events are a mad mix of friends, associates, people who come to LUPA and spark up a conversation as well as people I coax to do one off performances, who may not have considered that aspect to their practice before (they may usually be a sculptor or a painter or whatever). They are usually my favourites. And obviously Jordan and Aaron (Williamson, who was initially part of the curatorial team) have a very different set of friends/associates who are sometimes very established artists so LUPA becomes this very mixed non-hierarchal space; to try things out in front of a crowd.

MIS: I heard from the LIPA (Lock In Performance Art), I sadly missed the last one, which took place in Romford, Essex. Plans to grow? ?

Kate: Indeed! The LIPA events are also a lovely excuse to take the LUPA ethos into weird and wonderful places to respond to like the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), SUBLET, London Art Fair and more. As now LUPA has nearly been going on for two years, we have created a lovely family of performance artists to dip into!

MIS: Tell me more about your last official LUPA event on the 15th of June

Kate: It going to be a lot of fun! The whole fete is from 2pm – 8pm and there are going to be around 60 artists throughout the day. Aaron, Jordan and I are closing the garage with our own performances from 8pm – 9pm. As the local Council is involved too the community places such as the park and other green spaces are going to be opened; it going to be BIG! ?

MIS: Will this kind of art stay alive with the LIPA events or/and what are your personal plans after LUPA?

Kate: The LUPA events sadly going to stop but because we had so many good experiences and met so many artists and made friends, we want to keep this concept alive. Currently we are planning further LIPA events in interesting locations around London. Also further LUPA events are planned but give us a little break ;)

We are also about to start a fundraising campaign to raise money for a publication archiving the two years of LUPA/LIPA events including the LUPAFETE on the 15th of June.

MIS: Thank you for answering all my questions and I definitely see you on the 15th of June! ?

Kate: See you there!

I am looking forward to the last LUPA event and hope to see you there!

More information:

Last event LUPAFETE: https://www.facebook.com/events/513762572001395/
LUPA on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LUPA.E2?fref=ts
LUPA on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LUPA_E2

Jan Bernet

emotional performances