Action Hero

performance makers
A camper van parked on the sand of a beach with a couple stood next to it

associate artists

Gemma Paintin and James Stenhouse share an interdisciplinary performance practice together under the name Action Hero. Since 2005, they have created performances spanning theatre, live art, installation, multimedia and site-specific practice, which have toured to 25 countries across 5 continents.

Their ongoing interests lie in the iconography of popular culture and its use; both as a weapon and as shared cultural memory. Action Hero’s work is always experimenting with form, and as a result, their work expands across multiple creative practices. Although they work primarily with live performance, they regularly work with processes and mediums with which we are unfamiliar, adopting a radical DIY approach which often sees them navigating solo through new technical and creative territories.

Their long-form collaborative partnership has taken them to some of the world’s most prestigious and legendary performance contexts, including PS122 in New York, Theatre De La Ville in Paris, Shanghai Grand Theatre and the 21st Century Museum in Japan. They have taught at undergraduate and postgraduate level as visiting lecturers at several UK universities, and have led master classes worldwide.

In 2013 they won an Austin (Texas) Critic’s Table Award for “Watch Me Fall”, and in 2016 Action Hero was shortlisted for the Anti Festival International Prize for Live Art for their contribution to the field. They have two books published by Oberon: “Action Plans”, a blueprint for alternative processes of documenting contemporary performance featuring 6 of their works, with an introduction by Professor Carl Lavery and “Wrecking Ball”, a conceptual artwork disguised as a traditional play script.

Recent works include “Extraordinary Rendition”, a piece for one person at a time inside a purpose-built cabin using audio, video and live performance; “From Ashes”, a durational installation using over 1000 handmade, to-scale miniature paper houses covered in ash; and “Wrecking Ball” a sort-of play about the destructive power of images.

Image Credit: Paul Blakemore