Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Safe House.

 

  • A place where people may go to avoid prosecution of their activities by authorities.
  • A place where undercover operatives may conduct clandestine observations or meet other operatives surreptitiously.
  • A location where a trusted adult or family or charity organization provides a safe haven for victims of domestic abuse.
  • A home of a trusted person, family or organization where victims of war and/or persecution may take refuge, receive protection and/or live in secret.
  • Right of asylum.1
  1. N/A (2013) Safe house, Online: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safe_house (accessed 23 March 2013). []

Monday, May 13th, 2013

The End.

After three performances, my time at East Lodge is over. I have really enjoyed the process from the very beginning when I first explored the house. At the time, I was asked to pick my favourite room; I am glad I chose the living room. It provided many different opportunities for performances due to its positioning in the house and the large amount of space available.

I think the most striking part of our performance was the fact we were completely still, unmoving and frozen in time. The notion of injecting a space that visually looks like it has been left for months with human bodies created an interesting piece of performance. I spoke with some audience members after the performance to gather feedback; I received similar responses in that they felt very uncomfortable in the room. I think this is because the audience were left to their own devices, they weren’t told specifically to do something. However, this brings me to a point in our performance where we had to adjust slightly. Originally, Hayley would bring the audience member in and ask them to sit in a particular place on the settee. However, we realised if we didn’t give them this instruction, then it gave them a choice. It opened up the possibility of allowing them to explore the space, or just simply sit in complete silence for ten whole minutes.  Some waited for us to move, which also added to the tense feeling that some experienced. Others tried to interact and when they failed, they resigned to sifting through the material. Initially, we were frustrated that some audience members simply sat down for the whole ten minutes whilst some really got into the material and explored the whole of the room. However, retrospectively, for those audience members who didn’t move and stay sat down, that could be interpreted as them joining in with the performance. Perhaps they thought that they should keep still too.

Visually the room was littered with a massive amount of detritus that was collected over a long period. I personally wanted to create a lasting first impression for the audience members. This was the second performance space they would get to see and I wanted them to open that door and be completely surprised with what lay behind it. The material not only made it difficult for the audience to navigate our room, but it also gave a glimpse as to the type of people who may have lived in this space. In my previous posts, I have talked about Rodinsky’s Room; there are many other examples of rooms that have been uncovered after years of been untouched. (Most recently is this example of a Parisian apartment that has been left locked for seventy years.1) For me, the importance of creating that feel of a lost room was something that I think we achieved.

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A panorama photo of the living room on performance day. Photo taken by Sam Davis. 

Tapping into what normally happens in a living room was also important. I decided to buy different sized photo frames for the living room; I then inserted the detritus from around the living room. One photo frame for example had a Quavers crisp packet inserted into it. I think this was very effective; it is something that people do in their homes. They display photos and memories with pride, I wanted to create a similar sense but use the environment and the material around us to seed into that.

IMG_0085

A collection of the frames that were displayed in the living room. Photo taken by Sam Davis.

There were many ideas that developed and evolved over time. Originally, we were going to order pizza in the performance. We thought the smell and act of watching someone eat may provide an interesting performance. However, we soon realised this was too literal, we needed to think more about the space and what that could do rather than the actions of us the performers.  Also we decided on four different screenshots from films that were changed each night. We used Hitchcock’s Rear Window and a recent film called Disturbia – both touch upon the act of watching someone else (voyeurism) and both have really striking images that frame what our room is about. The final image that I chose for the last performance was a pre-recorded sequence that had been filmed using the CCTV cameras, I decided to use the very beginning of this clip where the living room is empty. It provided a contrast as it showed what the room looked like before the material had taken over. It tells the audience that something has happened in this space.

A selection of the screenshots shown across the four performances.

LivingROOM3 1) Rear Window film dir. Alfred Hitchock LivingROOM4 2) Disturbia film dir. D.J. Caruso
LivingROOM13) Pre-recorded CCTV footage LivingROOM2 4) Rear Window film dir. Alfred Hitchock

We have took the neglected state of the house and created our own extreme version by using all the collected waste scattered through the room. Our aim for this, was to subvert the audiences thinking of how a room should normally be looked after. Thinking about this after the performance has also made me think about the other extreme. What would of happened if the living room was empty, there was no furniture and yet it still tried to retain the sense of being lived in by using a still human body to insert some sort of humanity.

Personally, I think site specific performances have to let the audiences share the space with them. These performances rely on some form of participation. I think our room worked well because it allowed the audience to share it with us, this is something New York artist Vito Acconci advocates:

“setting up a field in which the audience was, so that they became a part of what I was doing… they became part of the physical space in which I moved”2

Whilst the performance on West Parade didn’t go to some of the extremes that Acconci does in his performances, I do agree with this statement. If audiences do become part of the physical spaces in which they enter, then they can fully share the range of emotions, feelings and understandings that is associated with site specific performance.

  1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2323297/Inside-Paris-apartment-untouched-70-years-Treasure-trove-finally-revealed-owner-locked-fled-outbreak-WWII.html []
  2. Goldberg, R. (2001) Performance Art. New York: Thames & Hudson. p.156 []

Monday, May 13th, 2013

The reality of the ‘kitchen cycle’…an evaluative response.

Site specific performance has given me the opportunity to explore material which would be futile if transformed to a black box studio or stage. To explore and create something without the theatrical limitations or instant audience preconceptions provides you with a plain, empty foundation for discovery.

“The presence of an audience is central to the definition of theatre, and the twentieth century saw an explosion of interest in the audience’s role among experimental theatre practitioners”1

The kitchen provided me with a range of ideas which to begin with were instantly based around visualising images food and consumption. Audience preconceptions about kitchens and mine as performer were hard to stem away from. This challenging lane of thought however provoked me in to thinking about a kitchen were control was restricted or lost. I intended to remove this element of socialising which had been part of a kitchen’s heritage for centuries. I had to make audience respond to the kitchen differently. Going against the norm was a tricky performance idea when the site was set up so appropriately for social engagement and ease. This focus on the lack of control forced me to think about a kitchens purpose and function.

The sounds of a kitchen are what users find familiar. These audio ideas were created through simple experimentation with basic kitchen objects and creating the sounds of different aspects simultaneously. These basic ideas stemmed towards the final result and post production of these sounds. Listening to familiar noises on an audio device initiated a performance element instantly, focused around your senses. My sound manipulation coincided with the element of disorder to create an audio performance that consisted of familiar kitchen site noises collaborated, distorted and edited together to create an sense of digestion and lack of order. To make the listening more performative, features were added to the set to increase the feel of manipulated digestion and consumption.

Audiences’ responses to the soundscape varied. Due to the added sensory features and my chaotic consumption, audiences were forced to visualise the site with the added soundtrack to the performance. The headphones in most cases disabled the audience to converse, leaving the performance to be an individual encounter. Only you know what your body does, and it’s something that is rarely spoken about and so to graphically hear elements of contrasting audio sound clips reinforced the lack of control theme which was evident in my initial planning. Audience members tend to stare at me, as if I was an animal in a zoo, enhanced by the torches this made me feel like an object on display, a cog in a machine that wasn’t working properly, something unreal or dysfunctional. It was very interesting to see that some people had confidence when exploring the jars full of various rotted food as others were tense, anxious, and claustrophobic.
WP_001486 WP_001487 WP_001488

(All pictures taken by myself on 2/5/13 Documentation)

The ability to communicate your message without the norm of speech enabled this performance to become a definite sensory performance. To use senses to transfer messages creates specific independent responses. The reaction to sound, smell and sight vary heavily to those of speech. This excited me as a performer because you were able to engage with them visually, as if they were performing. For the audience/performer shift to be present throughout the performance made the piece heavily link back to a kitchens normal purpose, yet simultaneously taking it out of its original context.

 

  1. Freshwater, Helen Theatre and Audience 2009, London: Palgrave Macmillan). []

Monday, May 13th, 2013

The Exhibition is over, pack up, go Home.

That was, in a word, exhausting.

I know I shouldn’t complain and I know that everyone was in a similar state to me (or worse if their piece was durational), but performing each night was extraordinarily draining. That’s not to say it wasn’t deeply satisfying. Looking over my previous posts, I don’t think I ever precisely outlined the terms of my performance, so I’ll elaborate, now that there’s nothing to spoil for the public.

I was the Blind Curator, a tragi-comedic character – this is a man who lives in abject squalor, in a crumbling room, barely large enough for another person to be in there with him. His ‘collection’ is a banal one – everyday objects, often in a state of disrepair are carefully displayed on the shelves of his room. Here are some of them now:

051 050 052

A thoroughly uninspiring collection, aren’t they?

But just as the audience think that this room is full of worthless items, of no value, the Curator opens mind to them. To his blind eyes, they are treasures, artifacts. They all speak of places unfathomably far away, even if that place is the one he is in now. Suddenly, to the audience members who choose to engage and see these objects through his mind’s eye, they are amazing, they are beautiful, they are ancient and powerful and magical. Those who visit the Blind Curator’s gallery are swept away to worlds of fantasy and imagination, if they let themselves be.

The piece was designed with a basis in the idea of ‘make strange’ that Gob Squad displayed in their office performance (n.d.). I had gathered from around the house (and some objects from the wider world) objects that were, if we’re being brutally honest here, junk. I collected this rubbish and put it on display. But then I freed it. By being blind, I was able to experience these objects with something other than my eyes. And they spoke to me – they told me to lie. The concept of how long one has to have inhabited a space to lie about it was one of the concepts I’ve toyed with and in this case, not only the space became fictional, so did these objects. I weaved narratives around them, dressed them in mythology, gave them new pasts, new futures and ultimately was a liar. But the audience was given a choice – not obviously, but subconsciously. Would they see my narratives as absurd, watching this blindfolded man witter on about what was patently not true? Or would they allow themselves to believe the lie, just for a little while? Unfortunately, due to my blindfolded state, I couldn’t see this decision play out on the faces of the audience, but I could get a sense of how engaged people were in my tales and, for the most part, the audience wanted to believe.

One of the most interesting things I find, looking back at performance, was the unpredictability of the audience. I was particularly bemused by some of the choices that the audience members made when it came to choosing objects to listen about – here’s a tally:

Lock: 7

Mirror: 8

Stone: 3

Cloth: 3

Keyhole: 10

Jack: 8

Curtain: 2

Cardboard: 2

Soap: 8

Bolt: 4

Box: 5

Key: 6

Alarm: 5

Queen: 2

Splinter: 12

Book: 8

King: 0

055

The Unloved King

056

The Bizarrely Popular Splinter

Still now, I cannot fathom the popularity of that sliver of wood, it puzzles me and makes me second guess the understanding I thought I had of people. I even experimented with changing its positioning yet still it was chosen repeatedly.

Aside from my bafflement regarding that, the whole performance went off without any trouble (with the exception of one woman who wasn’t tall enough to reach up and trace the cracks of the ceiling with me) and was a deeply satisfying experience. While I’ll not miss my time in the gallery, as in was often cold and always cramped and uncomfortable, I shall look back on it fondly and always try to remember the narratives I wove for it.

References:

Govan, n.d. Revisioning Space, The Place of the Artist, [e-journal] P. 123, Available through: Lincoln University Blackboard: http://blackboard.lincoln.ac.uk.

Monday, May 13th, 2013

Bye Bye living room!

Well that’s our performances finished, can’t believe it’s over. Things have changed and developed so much from our first tour of the house on west parade. All of our ideas have expanded so much. When we first chose the living room we  were concentrating on our feelings for that room, but as we progressed we realised that the living room is so much more then just a place to ‘relax’ and feel at ‘home’ because there is so many different homes. Our first initial thought were so different to our final performance but in some sense very similar we originally wanted to create an experience for an audience that would be something that is familiar to them, doing things that they would do on a daily basis in their living room, and also bringing back memories of their experiences. Exploring things like watching television ordering pizza and having a glass of wine. We then realised that was quite typical and showing someone life in a living room isn’t necessarily about doing obvious things, maybe it was more then that. Stripping back all the technology and conversation and sitting there in silence gave the audience a chance to reflect on their experiences, It became more about us as performers and the notion that our body images a sort of still picture, were more important then doing something very typical of a living room “I strongly believe that the most powerful tool today is performance  is the artist herself”.1

Sitting in silence and being completely still is harder then I first thought, but the more audience members we had it became easier, by sitting still in silence you begin to really feel the value of silence and find yourself in a relaxed state. “What kind of mental exercise should the performer have to do to prepare?”2 is one the questions Colette Conroy asks in the book “theatre and the body” I feel that this question relates perfectly to our performance because we did not have to prepare physically like in other performance we needed to prepare ourselves mentally. Our minds had to be cleared and we needed to concentrate.We almost became a work of art, a still image that the audience could interpret how ever they wanted to. In my opinion because we had the paused image on the screen it was like someone had pressed pause on our lives.

One thing that I feel went well was, was something we didn’t anticipate because our performance was at night was when it became dark the only light was the light from the television and it reflected on the rubbish and created shadows and an outline of the clutter. This added to the affect that, like the rubbish was art in a some sort of form.

“Audience’s reactions to our room were very different to others in the house, it was very interesting to see how every different audience member did something different. Some people seemed as if they were very comfortable and explored the room as if it was exciting and others found it very daunting and uncomfortable to be in. One audience member could not stand the anticapation and tried to get out because you could see that she phyiscally could not stand that she didn’t know what was going to happen next. The clutter and rubbish shocked the audience even more, and you could tell they were trying to work out why it was there. I feel we filled the room well and had enough stuff to give the feel of a hoarders front room, but we still could have had more!

rubbish

Photo Taken by Tiffany Thompson

  “A man walks across this empty space whilst someone is watching him and this is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged”3 . I feel that this quotes sums our performance ideas perfectly. Forgetting for a moment that our room was filled with clutter. The fact that we were sat amongst it as still images is our ‘perfomance’ we did not need to move because the images were enough to create tension and questions for the audience members. 

  1. Conroy Colette (2010) Theatre & The body London:palgrave macmillan []
  2. Conroy Colette (2010) Theatre & The body London:palgrave macmillan []
  3. Brook, Peter (1968) The Empty Space, London:pelican books []

Monday, May 13th, 2013

I don’t want anybody to see my face

“The task of making text for performance”1 The process of writing performance is something our living room group have always been interested in. We have found ‘Tim Ethcells’ certain fragments fascinating and we have tried to incorporate this into our performance, without it being to obvious. We also struggled to find text or come up with one that related to our room. When reading through a past blog I came across the idea I had when watching ‘Life is sweet’ about how some people may feel like prisoners in there own home. I then expanded on this idea, and so did the rest of our group by coming up individually with a reason why we would be a prisoner in this house. We then decided to use the props we were using, for example pizza boxes news papers and receipts and tell our story without making it obvious to the audience, if they happened to pick up a box with a sentence on it that related to our story and then picked up a receipt with a another sentence or word it wouldn’t matter they didn’t understand it will get the audience asking questions and participating the performance asking questions like Why are we there? Why were we still? What had happened before they entered? , our intention was for the writing to be a code for the audience. The stories we came up with could be anything fiction or non fiction, we tried to make them fictional as possible even if they didn’t make sense. Reading end land stories gave me loads of ideas.2

agoraphobia-2

The story I came up with goes…

My father abuses me mentally, but the more he abuses me mentally the affects show physically. When he died my face stayed like this forever and now I don’t want to leave to leave my house this causes me to have the disease agoraphobia.

Some of the sentences scattered around the room from my individual story was..

 

  • HE makes my face look worse
  • People stare why should I suffer when they are ignorant?
  • Replace fear with selfishness and indifference
  • I don’t want people to see this ugly stressful face
  1. Tim Etchells (1999). Certain Fragments. New york: Routledge []
  2. Etchells Tim (1999) Endland stories London:Pulp Faction []

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