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By: Gerald Curtis
Unrecorded is a document of the development of my performance based practice over the later course of 2012 culminating in the creation of a piece of performance in 2013. It covers funding performance, realising developing performance work and establishing myself as a performer.
# 19 [17 May 2013]
Reading the previous post I feel quite embarrassed. Just at the disappointed optimism of my writing. Book of Essays has now changed in my eyes from being something which was pretty much finite or complete to a beginning of sorts. Thank goodness for a reflection period.
Since the last post we have met up with Sylvia Rimat, applied to a scratch event, had the film edited and said our thanks to the contributors. Now we have to send out the edit, develop and apply.
I am drawing this blog to a close. As for Book of Essays, it has been taken up for development with myself and my collaborators, Bree Morrison and Sabina Stefanova.
It is an exciting time! I am staring a new blog: http://www.a-n.co.uk/artists_talking/projects/prev... documenting a new collective group 'up' (unwritten possibilities) formed from ourselves which will take the project further.
# 18 [10 March 2013]
Feeling a bit better today about Book of Essays, it is a difficult thing to perform, a book. Never had the chance to develop something so considered in performance before. My aspirations are to create something with perhaps more ambition that my current limitations allow. Against that, my work is bound to fail to reach intentions.
I began to think of my practice differently when I took a workshop using my gains from my first performance at ]Performance Space[ with the artist Lynn Lu. It was good to be with a group of performance artists making work, as strange as it sounds, it doesn't happen that often. And perhaps I should do something more solitary - if I burn myself out then I do not have the regret of upsetting others in the process.
Prior to the workshop we had to read up articles relating to empathy. Empathy in performance terms seems to be a vehicle for a transference of emotion between the artist and the audience. She also asked us to bring food item and an object that was not attached via personal connection or utilitarian means.
It was a great way to think about using objects: they had a connection - an allusion of meaning or similarity but they were not obvious. You had to work on them. This is a really good way of making suggestive connections between objects.
In the workshop I tried a few things. I ran at people till I could not stop myself, bought people opposite the LADA's White Building and sat looking in eating Udon noodles with the group. With the object I grouped everyone together and asked them to hold onto a napkin, leaning back. I then placed crackers behind their feet to mark a breaking point when someone leant back too far.
I seem to want to use the audience as a material. Or some collaborators. I use words or instructions. I like to push things. I was really taken by Rocio Bolivio's work. She balanced on a chair until she fell over, pressed pomegranates into her eyes and ran blind trusting the group to catch her before she ran into a wall or an iron beam.
I am getting closer to being able to define myself I think.
# 17 [10 March 2013]
This is late. Not a good sign.
Today is the post performance entry. I performed the Book of Essays both last night and the previous Friday, to different audiences with a few changes in both. My lovely assistants, partners in performance Bree and Sabina were a bit tired of the constant game changing and under developed nature of it all. And frankly I was too.This blog will most likely discredit my efforts in this process of development. As an artist I am terrified of failure, both in terms of content and delivery. I hope Sabina and Bree will want to work with me again. In the meantime I think I need to develop my practice on my own for a bit.
There were a few things that affected my ability to handle the project, notably handing in my notice at my former job, cutting me off from a source of income and audience members. I had to work full time for a week and a half in the run up to the show, people were sick (including myself) and I injured my back just before the first performance - caught me by complete surprise. These are the potential pitfalls. I have not received enough money to complete my final session of mentoring in Bristol but hope to soon.
I look forward to getting in contact with Farnham Maltings, thanking them for the support and asking for feedback. I will ask for feedback from Sylvia and edit my footage with a friend, finally some good documentation.
Now, though is a good time. I can look at who I am as an artist, where I am as a performer and what I make as a maker.
I have left a section of a rehearsal. Tell me what you think. Will post again, this blog is still alive.
# 16 [12 February 2013]
Well that was an enlightening rehearsal - literally: I had discovered that the gas lighter for my piece had been used up on the gas cooker at ]Performance Space[!
I got to the space at 1:30 and had several challenges: setting up the sound, figuring out how to shift a piece of tech I had never seen before (a twin cd mixer) and cleaning the rehearsal space. In future I will set this up earlier.
I also got to play around with my projector (yay!) and dvd player - with the addition of a couple of cables my AV store suddenly became a lot more flexible. I now don't need to use my slow laptop for playback but use a slim slick reliable piece of independent equipment (and with a remote!) instead.
We sat around this set up while we discussed the performance, how we can change it, this blog and how it helped to refine, to redefine my performance, my practice, practicalities hah!
Then we did some more drama exercises. One thing when graduating with my BA in Fine Art and going into performance is a lacking knowledge of these games. We ended up walking then running around the space counting up to twenty then falling, touching the ground with every even number: listening, co-ordination, confidence.
Once the palava of getting the audio tracks working was set, we began the performance. I had to work around a fold up chair rather than an arm chair which was a big difference. Then we figured out the next part partly before launching into it, pretending to light the tealights.
One thing I noticed is I have a very carefully planned choreography in arranging china cups into words which relate to the text. However the group dynamic invites intervention, snatching and spontanaeity which works against this black fabric rectangle. The shape of the fabric is almost too dramatic.
The only way to get around this I think is to play them off against each other. To balance gravitas with play. But it has to be right, otherwise it would be darkly comic, or fail to touch the depth of the essays. During the rehearsal we were working through the third part and I unwound the thread around the chairs of the audience, then around my leg, around my waist. The thread was also in contact with Sabina and Bree, at one point near the end we almost made a circuit. This is a point I wanted to somehow replicate.
After Sabina had to rush off to Bermondsey I was talking with Bree about the character and the performer. It seemed I had to make a choice, whether with gesture, costume or other signifier to the audience who I was. Was I me, the staged me, or the author Charles Lamb?
I think I am me. So I am reading, not re-enacting. It has struck me that there is now a clear distinction between the different texts in the work. There are four. The first, Old China is a conversation between the author Charles Lamb and his cousin, Bridget about the freedom of poverty. The rest are solitary musings on dark streets, suburbs as memories, and death. However in Old China there is a split - two voices, two personalities. I voice both. We talked about Bree or Sabina being spot lit and present but speechless during this - I take their voice. But then Lamb takes his cousin's voice. Bridget is to us what Lamb makes of her.
During the performance I was talking to Bree and Sabina about shadowing each other and Sabina said 'so you want us to be the same person?'. Maybe, yes. After I also talked with Bree about them both dressed as the same person. As Bridget from Old China.
So there is this dynamic forming as a subtext to the work. The mutability of identity between the performers and the voices in the text. Playfulness and solemnity. Shadows and ghosts. Leading and being led. I still feel that the performance revolves around me - more book snatching then. And I still want to try dying, metaphorically, via 'vegetable vegetable, fruit'. Have to try that Monday then!
# 15 [11 February 2013]
It is the night before my rehearsal: Monday morning 00:10. I have sorted the PR leaflets, distributed a load via post and in person on Saturday, completed the risk assessment form. I have had so much help - I am grateful to Veronica, the events organiser of St George's Church for helping me with the marketing side of this project.
My best news of the day is Sabina Stefanova replying to a text with 'I am better!! :) We still on for tomoro?'. We are go.
I am going over how we will organise all the different parts to Book of Essays. Like the ball of polyester thread I am using, perhaps we will have to unravel everything to make a single line to be unwound. Certain elements stick in my head from my final rehearsal in Jan, like the moment when the room cast in darkness prevented me from reading. I want to shift my role too. I want to be part of a team, not simply a leader.
Perhaps this goes back to a time when I took part in a workshop run by a member of Forced Entertainment. We took turns in pairs to follow and to be followed. Then we could decide ourselves whether to choose and change these roles at will within a group. After the exercises, certain movements began to emerge and personalities started to present themselves. Certain tensions arose.
Maybe the way to manoeuvre beyond the role of storyteller lies in killing the storyteller.
I have ideas - the self, myself, unseeing through darkness or blindness, willing or unwilling to be led. Who is the leader leading?
# 14 [9 February 2013]
Its 11:30pm. I am writing at the end of a Friday. I have spent the day working on my PR. In this case it involved me visiting the Jobcentre to sign on because the money I allotted myself is not enough; I had assumed I would be able to hold onto a part time job while I was doing this (I feel that that maybe the case, if I had been more organised). Then returning home, eating some food and busing myself to Kingston to pick up a printer, then onward to Esher to drop some off flyers to the organiser then going home via Weybridge and falling asleep. Waking up and testing out the printer - printing off the blurb onto the leaflets. Success! I have been called lazy though. This kind of affected me - I feel I have to do more than some people who work a 'full time job', turn up near 10am and leave 4:30ish.
Tomorrow I have the day free - except for the morning when I have the risk assessment form for the show to complete. I cannot do it now, my word processor will not accept the format. I cannot even see it.
I haven't heard from my friends who are helping me in a while. Not since Wednesday. It is making me nervous. It is kind of lonely too. I feel like I am responsible, and I am, but less like part of a team, just a director of a work. But I do not really have a closely knit group from University. Everyone I know is scattered. My dear friend Millie is leaving for a big trip:
When talking about leaving part time work she exclaimed to me "I may be gone two or three years, when I get back I don't want to work in a job like this: I'm twenty-seven now".
My thoughts around Book of Essays:
what is the role of the self in respect to the work on which I extend mine? Where do the audience feature in this - how do we tether ourselves to this work? If the idea is the work, whatever manifests is an extension of the idea. Ideas originate in the Book. But the performance is more than the Book, it is things: thread, cups, light, speech, sound. The audience is part of this too. For the duration of the work they are part of the performance, an extension of the idea. Everything is a component, even the church interior. Just for the duration of the performance.
I think as I read Williams Carlos Williams' Paterson:
'Say it! No ideas but in things.'
# 13 [6 February 2013]
It is after 2am. I am staring to write again after avoiding, neglecting and panicking with all the different projects. I performed a lot over winter 2012. I did the following:
- Pulled together an hour long performance called Studio Chess, at The Other Art Fair. I remember feeling out of place among all the commerce and the east end blue denim shirt guys with RayBan glasses.
- Pulled together my harmonica piece Ebacc blues, in front of a scary camera broadcasting live - there is no experience like it. Gallery performances seem a bit of an anti-climax now.
- Took part in Q-Art Presents 4. Made some friends, had some laughs, lost my brother's tape measure (again).
Since then I have been working on Book of Essays.
Today I woke up regretfully tired. Already anxious, I received a call from the printers about my flyer. After a fit of dozing, I got up, had bath and edited it with my towel around me. I sent it off, got changed and rang the organiser of church events to discuss rehearsing in the space.
On the 25th we will have the whole church to ourselves for the day - I can't wait! It will be fantastic! Onto rehearsals! - my anxiety is passing to unhinged excitement!
# 12 [20 October 2012]
Thursday - I wake up about 9. During the night I hastily wrote down all I could remember in the session with Sylvia in the last pages of my book. In the morning Emma, my cousin makes me eggs on toast. We talk about art. She is a great drawer, some small apple drawings stopped me dead. Then there was one of her daughter's head Maddie, while asleep. I tell her she should draw a series of these moments. Later we walk along the cut, a river sized man made canal to the Arnolfini. We see the work in the first gallery, and I briefly show her Vitamin D before making for Bristol Temple Mews.
The train journey is simpler this time: one train to London Waterloo. It takes 3 hours and I fall asleep, almost as drained as my phone battery. Before the end of the journey it stops playing music. I have an hour and get a travelcard but take a but to Oxford Circus. I am going to audition for the LCF MA costume design show.
I find the campus no probs, but spend a while finding reasonably priced food along the way. I get there before 5 easy but spend an hour waiting knowing that I have to go home and go out to work at the cinema for 8pm. At 6 we finally go in, talk about a play in which the protagonist has a 'light' but wastes it and is returned to button material - I ask, 'does he have a choice?' then witness a couple of physical theatre actors improv while I embarrass myself trying to imitate the action of eating this lit UV tube in mesh.
Catching the train just after 7 I get back home towards 8pm. Luckily, my mother gave me some extra money and I use it to get a taxi back to my house where I change, then go out to work. I make it in time.
Friday - First of my days off. I think about music for Sunday's workshop. I also watch some harmonica vids, but I don't feel like I am improving. I ask anyone if they want to watch On The Road, but go down by myself. I watch the film, it was pretty good. There was a lot of sex. Sex and writing. The music was good, too. After however I end up working for an hour and get home at 10.
Saturday - starting to panic about tomorrow, I have to learn 'abokado wa ichiban chikakute doki ni arimasu ka?' Where is the nearest Avocado? in three languages, I have them but I cannot work the accents yet. I go cheesy music hunting and pick up a copy of Now That's What I Call Music 46. It makes me laugh. I trade in my old phone for a tenner, thought it won't pay for my phone bill. I leave a voicemail message on my studio manager's phone asking for part of the deposit I was promised at the end of last month and answer a few emails including an invoice for the amount requested for the No Strings Attached grant. I also ring Bean, who very kindly offers to pick up my stuff from Hatch at the end of the month.
# 11 [20 October 2012]
I received the funding! This project is now more real to me than ever before. I have had the busiest week so far for this project. I have decided to breakdown my past week on a day to day basis to give an idea of the work over the course of the week:
Monday - I spend the day working on the budget for the No Strings Attached scheme and the presentation on Tues. I also go looking in vain for a book on playing the harmonica. I time myself on my phone to keep the presentation under 10 minutes. I plan on doing this before work in the evening but I find they are overstaffed so I offer not to work which gives me more time. I end up having to strip a lot of my information back after presenting the project to my mother.
Tuesday - I wake up at 7, scrape getting the right train and head to Farnham with my presentation on my laptop for 10:10. I arrive early and share a table with an equally nervous speaker for a talk held at the venue. We wish each other luck. I present to the panel and it goes pretty smoothly. I am pleased to see Fiona who I talked over the project with months ago. I am told I will find the result by the end of the day.
Farnham is beautiful on a sunny day. I smile as I head to Sainsbury's to get a photograph for an interview on Thursday. Then I wait for a train up to London to meet about The Other Art Fair.
In London I have several hours to wait but do not spend money on travel and walk in a big loop. I visit Tate Modern first: zone out in the Tank containing Lis Rhodes' Light Music, then watch some of Sung Hwan Kim's movie. There are 3 school groups in the Tanks and Turbine hall. As I leave I almost collide with several of Tino Sehgal's dancers.
I then walk into the Jerwood Space, stare in wonder at Kerstin Kartscher's lamp. Leaving the show, I walk down The Cut, have tea at The Young Vic and decide to head down to the National Theatre. I arrive at the Hayward Cafe early and wait. The waitress there is overworked. Near 4 I see a curly haired girl at the till, I think this is Chantelle. She sits at a small table across from me and makes a phone call. Minutes later I get a missed call. I ring back and this girl picks up the phone. She is Chantelle.
We talk about Studio Chess last year and developing it for The Other Art Fair. I want to involve more people and the audience on the night. I show her cards I made for a workshop. She likes them and thinks that they will be good to sell at FAD's stall at TOAF too.
After the meeting I leave loiter in London till 7. After 5 I get a missed call from Farnham Maltings: the results of my application! I ring back and leave a voicemail. I then get the news while in the Poetry Library - Success! I make a hurried call to my mum, she doesn't pick up the phone.
Wednesday - The first project talk with Sylvia Rimat in Bristol! I make the journey from 11am changing at Woking, then Salisbury and take a 1 carriage train to Bristol. I arrive near 3 in a city I have never been to and head straight for The Milk Bar. I meet Sylvia and we talk alone in a darkened room with an electric heater. Book of Essays is about a book of essays but the Self keeps coming up. Sylvia mentions Brecht's idea in German: verfremdungseffekt, estrangement roughly. After 3 hours heavy talking I leave to stay with my cousin. Getting there near 7 I meet her at a quiet house outside the city past and Aldi. She has 2 daughters. They get slightly excited by me arriving, especially Maddie, who is 8.
# 10 [10 October 2012]
It is a Wednesday. Next Tuesday I will be pitching the project to a panel of judges to gain the award of a grant which will pay for the majority of Unrecorded Project's development. I have run out of money. What can I do?
I continue as best I can. I have been revising and revising the budget for the project while balancing the creative, idea made part of Unrecorded. Both are important and I need to concentrate on them equally to make sure the proposal is strong enough.
I worked through the budget yesterday, then asked my mathematically inclined brother to check through the figures with me. What I did not know before drafting the budget is that support-in-kind is so important to the production of a piece of performance. So I have been spending time working out a figure for the stuff I'll be getting for free out of support and good will. It is always important to remember the help of those that give to your career as an artist. I recall this now, as spoken by a tutor during a workshop at Artsadmin. You are successful because others have faith in your ability.
So onto the figures. The first budget was complex and detailed, with two tables: one to state the overall project cost and another to show how the budget is divided between the R C Sherriff Trust and the No Strings Attached scheme. The new budget, for the second pitch, states everything in one table. It is divided into two parts: INCOME and EXPENDITURE. For a budget to work the figure for INCOME and EXPENDITURE should match up. Or if you are looking to make money from ticket sales, say, your projected targets should be put into INCOME and must be greater than the EXPENDITURE figure. If the opposite is true, then that means there is a DEFICIT and your project will make a loss.
I have listed both grants as a source of INCOME and their different uses in EXPENDITURE. Pretty standard really. However, for support-in-kind recources, I have placed them in both parts of the table so that they cancel each other out and come to a value of zero. I have also put in contingency at 5% of the budget. However I added this to the total before support-in-kind is added, as 5% of the overall total would push me over the £1000 limit of NAS*.
Thankfully my budget matches up, but I still need it to check and re-check again to make sure. The largest part of the budget is taken up by the rehearsal stage; this accounts for using ]Performance Space[ and my fee for the time spent in the studio. All of this bar £200 is unpaid. The £200 that comes from the R C Sherriff Trust grant amounts to two days paid work.
The £1400 unpaid is based on me spending two days per week in the spae rehearsing and developing the work. And I have not included the travel cost.
The reason I have managed to get access to ]Performance Space[ is I have decided to move studios there. Aside from access to a large space free of a stage for rehearsal, I am also looking forward to meeting the other artists and be part of a studio dedicated to Performance. I went down last week to check out the space and meet Bean, who was enthusiastic about Unrecorded Project. The great thing about undertaking this research and development process is the people that I meet along the way.
*No Strings Attached scheme
Gerald is a performance artist living in the South East and working in Hatch Space, London. Since graduating in 2009 Gerald has performed at the RCA, Resonance FM and recently completed a Comma mini-residency for New Ferry Butterfly Park. In addition Gerald has co-curated three consecutive shows with The Found Art Collective at Hackney WickED and East Pop and most recently Hatch[ED] at Hatch Space, Deptford.