Hi, my name is Gordon Douglas and I’m a performance artist based in Glasgow, Scotland. I work closely with organisations towards developing understandings of collaboration within institutional performativity.

My a-n Artist Bursary is dedicated to developing a new portfolio website, and investing time into thinking about how my work is documented and made public beyond the live moment.

To give a little context, over the course of 2018-19, I am working with CCA Glasgow on a ‘performative audit’ of their open source policy, a governing document that allows for the use of all unprogrammed spaces in the building by the wider community. The resulting outcome will be a series of events under the heading An Opposites Programme. I will be blogging about this over the course of the year here. I will also be working with Travelling Gallery towards developing a solo show which will tour Scotland.

A lot of my work exists in a somewhat private dynamic, thinking about the individual performances enacted within collaboration: the kinds of performance required to maintain togetherness; the social contracts we submit to when joining a group; and the nuanced and problematic relationships we mask by saying we’re collaborating. Because of this, a lot of the work is sensitive to the people I’m working with, and is a major ethical concern of mine when choosing how to document a period of work. The research has stemmed from a performance art history not only because of this specific attentiveness to its reproduction through documentation, but through the belief in this performance existing in the (sometimes illogical) networks of production we navigate on a daily basis. Because of this, documenting the work is incredibly difficult, and devising a website to host this has always brought up problems.

Previous attempts hoped to rectify this by seriously limiting the accessibility to work, but due to upcoming international opportunities for producing and presenting new work, I believe it is now urgent to revise and seriously consider how I portray my practice online so that I may share research with people who are unfamiliar with my work.

I recently applied for support from the a-n Artist Bursary scheme to help develop a new web presence for myself that is more accessible than my current website, but still appropriate to the manner in which my practice deals strictly with its documentation.

 

Over the bursary period I will be working with web designer, Ben Callaghan, towards an outcome for this. We previously worked together on the development of the website introduction-to-performance.xyz, as an online archive for the course elective I devised for students of HND Contemporary Art Practice at Edinburgh College. I found through working with a web developer that both the habits in which I organised information and considered documenting a performance work expanded in a really exciting way. Through discussion, we spoke about how the work, and the accumulation of content/opinion/research, could be perceived as a score, or an invitation to re-play the curriculum. The discussion between education, performance, document and knowledge became incredibly fruitful, and helped me work through some of the problems I have with representing work online. I have chosen to work with Ben on developing this new alternative ‘portfolio’ drawing from these ideas and how we might think of my performance work, its ethics, and its relationship to the idea of a future. The bursary will pay Ben a Designer’s Fee for the website, and for a masterclass in maintaining the backend of the website– increasing my literacy in coding and hosting domains.

 


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One really significant thing to come out of this process is a much clearer picture of the writing I continuously produce to describe my work. Each artwork has a weighty pile of material that helps to realise its character in the present, and morphs over time to align with projects from multiple future presents. In The Rookery, as laid out in the previous blog, the writing takes place across a period of two and a half years. It is typical of most examples of the work I have been archiving, in that it’s visibility within a practice follows a given arc:

  • We see the initial conception of the work appearing in written associations with other practitioners
  • following through to a submissive and generous proposal for the event to take place
  • Then a press release that withdraws information to allow for a less inhibited development phase
  • Then a promise on the project in the (upcoming) section of CVs and web presences
  • An invitational social media presence, and personable email to friends and colleagues
  • Always accompanied by a more serious press release that aims to acknowledge supporters and pre-conceive a true account
  • Gushing thank-you emails to accomplices
  • A seizing of a form of authorship/role within a collaborative project,
  • A packaging of the project to inspire confidence in one’s ability to perform in the art world’s economy of reproductions
  • The subsequent augmentations of this package to give the impression of a more consistent practice,
  • A relatively simple phrase that repeats…
  • …until the content disappears as it loses its relevance with current work.

In some cases, there is a resurgence of a work which is re-appraised. This was the case with I don’t think it has a name now (2012), which I re-titled after six years to return to a way of thinking about my work which dealt more explicitly with the encounter.

Ben (Callaghan) and I have been talking about the amorphous picture that supposedly represents the true account of the encounter between performer and system. He uses the word apocryphal to describe it, a term that came up frequently in discussions when developing introduction-to-performance.xyz to describe the many divergent stories we uncovered about the original live moments of performance. In a way, the over-generosity of material on my part might become appropriate to how the live event of performance dissolves into many uttered voices, and adapts to new presents.

The website can be built to host these voices that not only document the public elements of these projects; but also the ways in which I have mutated my voice– altering pitch (in both tonal and business senses) to perform for different receivers and to assume positions within different partnerships. As well as accommodating these fluctuations in written account, Ben has designed the website to re-visit the history of graphic design I’ve used within various portfolios, and cover letters, borrowing: font-sizes; typefaces; margins; and borders, through a series of windows.

Through our conversations, the website has become a really complicated build. And as such, we are working slightly behind schedule for our launch and are hoping to have it public in January. Here is an image of the working draft to give an impression about how it is coming together.

Two weeks ago, Ben and I met to discuss the back-end of this website as well as Introduction-to-Performance. As part of the bursary I received money to pay Ben a fee for a 1-2-1 masterclass aimed at website building, hosting and maintenance. We started the masterclass with setting up a Gandi account, and server through which to host these domains and for managing the DNS. We also had a brief introduction to search engine optimisation, and how Ben had used this for the website. Crucial however was the maintenance training for the custom-built CMS that Ben was finalising. The use of Grav software, combined with the RocketTheme that had been customised looked incredibly difficult to achieve but was really simple to navigate. Because the website has been designed in this way, I will be able to update the portfolio with future projects in a similar fashion to copying documents into a folder.

I am really grateful for the support from a-n for the bursary to enable this period of professional development to take place. I am looking forward to updating this blog post in the near future with the final website when we are in a position to publish it. Many thanks again a-n, and a huge thank you to Ben Callaghan!


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In the last post, I tried to lay down my problem when documenting my performances. I settled on the fact that the minutiae of details within a proposal document might shed light on how submission into an artistic economy is reflected on, and how collaborators within this system might be implicated.

For this blog post, I want to reflect on how I have written about one of my projects, ‘The Rookery’, which since 2015, has been part of my application process. This blog post will construct a timeline for how this has been written about:

 

August 2015 (from artist statement used in unsuccessful application for Residency CCA Londonderry)
…He is currently invested in developing alternative models of co-inhabitance, friendship and organisation in order to further understand shared responsibility within civic orchestration, queer histories and curatorial strategy. It is his intention to investigate these aethers of together-ness as both invisible spheres which hold no agency to produce independent cultural ephemera; and counter to that, as intangible fields that subversive and autonomous practices can use as advantageous for their own means…

…Though engaging in multiple projects with various organisations and individuals in different locations and situations, he is hoping to establish  firmer understanding of the relationship between collaboration, reciprocity and inheritance.

Currently, this research is being conducted in conversation with: […] Jamie Kane, artist; […] Rosie Sillitoe, artist and director of community studios, The Albatross…

August 2015 (from successful application for inclusion in the ‘Across the City’ programme of Glasgow International 2016)
For Glasgow International 2016 we propose a series of events and exhibitions under the title of ‘The Rookery’ to be held at The Albatross- a developing studio space and artist’s community in Govanhill, Glasgow.

The Albatross is housed in a post-industrial site that has recently been acquired by artists in the back court of a tenement block. The building itself is around 100 years old, and has had many tenants and uses over its life. Originally a slater’s workshop, it has more recently been used as a car mechanics and a store for used white goods.

When the current planned renovation works are completed the building will be able to host around 15 artists in studios of mixed size. These artists will have access to a shared workshop space (370sq ft) facilitating basic wood/metal/casting, numerous social spaces, and a 500sq ft flexible project space. There’s also approximately 550sq ft of space outside the property in an enclosed courtyard, which has a great many potential uses.

All major structural parts of the building and internal layout should be completed by early 2016, and will thus be ready in plenty of time for the festival.

It is our hope that ‘The Rookery’ will be an introduction to the place, the people and the ethos of The Albatross, as a new space in the city’s art-scape. The ethos of the studio is of course not yet fully formed, and will constantly be evolving. We hope to use the platform that Glasgow International provides to collectively create and present in public some of the moments and events which will form the fabric of the studio’s identity.

We want to understand how to use exhibition-making to construct feelings of ownership for post-industrial sites amongst groups of artists. As a circumstance that the Albatross is currently undergoing, it is our intention to use the conditions of the development project as basis and context for the exhibition. Through the act of building a studio together, we hope to understand and investigate the emotional labour exerted through the development of Albatross as a productive and community-orientated site.

The studio name ‘Albatross’, is an ambiguous metaphor for either good or bad luck. The space will be what we make of it.

A rookery is the collective noun for a flock of albatross. Using this as our title refers to the collective nature of our endeavour, but also is a deliberate reference to the word ‘rooky’, and the ambitious amateurism that we seek to generate. In a world where the language representing art has been infiltrated by words associated with neoliberal values, we seek to connect with the basic instincts that draw people together to create- friendship, belonging and love- and also to think critically about what it might mean to withdraw from a sphere of pervasive influence.

“Professionalism merges the individual into patterns of total environment. Amateurism seeks the development of the total awareness of the individual and the critical awareness of the ground rules of society. The amateur can afford to lose.” – Marshall McLuhan

In January 2015, a community of friends/artists/interested parties/locals gathered around the Albatross to perform a unique adaptation of the pantomime ‘Aladdin’. The writer, producer, stage manager, stage designer, visual effects and cast were (nearly) all visual artists, most of whom graduated from Glasgow School of Art between 2013-14. Being in the fortunate position of having an available space to them, the event was sparked and driven by no force other as much as fun. Yet it acted as an opportunity to form a community, over the process of the rehearsals and then in public for one night. This performed community, shared with friends of the actors and interested locals, used the story as an opportunity to explore their working dynamic outside of their separate visual arts practices. The pantomime, as an analogy, is incredibly generative in its nature and will be used as basis and framework for the exhibition to evolve around.

November 2015 (from initial press to Glasgow International)
The Rookery acts as an introduction to the people, site, ethos and identity of The Albatross, a new studio space based in a 100-year-old workshop in Govanhill.

Studio-holders perform as both cast and crew in the production of an off-season pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk, as well as contributing to an adjoining exhibition exploring notions of amateurism, performance and community.

There are three performances of the pantomime in the thrown-together theatre over the course of the festival, and the venue is open for viewing throughout the festival. The project also features publications, installations, videos, research workshops and events. A full programme of events is available on rookeryinfo.info.

The Albatross

267 Langside Road

Glasgow, G42 8XX

Fri 8 April – Mon 25 April

Mon – Sun, 12pm – 6pm

Performances at 7pm on Friday 22nd, Saturday 23rd, and Sunday 24th.

November 2015 (from CV)
…Selected Exhibitions

2016

The Rookery (upcoming April), Albatross Artists’ Studios, Govanhill, Glasgow

November 2015 (from gordondouglas.org website)
Upcoming

<b>The Rookery</b>. April 2016, part of Glasgow International Festival. A research project on labours exerted in the act friendship as the <a href=”http://rookeryinfo.info”>studio</a> holders produce and rehearse their annual pantomime. <p>&nbsp<p>

March 2016 (from CV)
…Selected Performances and Exhibitions

The Rookery (upcoming April), Albatross Artists’ Studios, Govanhill, Glasgow.

March 2016 (from email sent to friends on 29/3/16)
Dear Everyone,

I hope you’re all very well,

I’m writing to extend an invitation to the Wild West for Glasgow International 2016, a festival taking place from 8th – 25th April. This year, I’m involved directly in two projects which have focused on the complexity of collaboration in an expanded and performative sense, The Rookery and Rough House.

The Rookery

A 9-month instigated project with The Albatross, a developing studio space and community theatre in Govanhill, Glasgow. The Rookery is a project that has focused on thetension between the physical labours of building the studios together, and the emotional performativity of maintaining friendship groups outside of institutional support. The project developed through a series of rehearsals with committed individuals for the space’s annual pantomime, Jack and theBeanstalk, and the installation of a pseudo-indexical exhibition of alternate attempts at organising ourselves. The long and fruitful conversations around amateurism, rehearsal/practice, community identity, and the sociologies of the project, will form the basis for a longer piece of reflective writing I will be doing in retrospect on the socially-engaged research process. If you want to know more, I will be presenting a Pecha Kucha at an event that Glasgow International have organised with Taktal at Glasgow Sculpture Studios on Tuesday 12th April from 6:30 – 8:30pm.

The Rookery will be open 8th – 25th April from 12-6pm each day, the opening event is on Friday the 8th from 4-7pm. Thepantomime performances will be at 7pm each day on Friday 22nd, Saturday 23rd, and Sunday 24th April. The Albatross is located at 267 Langside Road, G42 8XX.

April 2016 (from the official PRESS RELEASE – see header image)
Albatross,

267 Langside Road G42 8XX

rookeryinfo.info

April 8th – 25th, 12-6pm. Opening Event April 8th, 4-7pm

The Rookery

Justyna Ataman, Sarah Bowers, Conor Cooke, Gordon Douglas, Carrie Gooch, Michael Gormley, Ruby Hürsch, Jamie Kane, Nina Kilmurry-Webley, Krysia Kordecki, Anna Lomas, James MacEachran, Jen Martin, Alex McCartney, Rosie O’Grady, Erik Osberg, Amy Pickles, Hugh Pottinger, Patrick Queen, Hannah Roberts, Michael Roy, Rosie Sillitoe, Chris Silver, Louis Skehal, Rae-yen Song, Jason Sweeney, Tess Vaughan.

As part of Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art 2016, ‘The Rookery’ acts as an introduction to the people, site, ethos and identity of The Albatross, a developing studio space and community theatre based in a 100-year-old workshop in Govanhill. Studio-holders perform as both cast and crew in the production of an off-season pantomime ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, as well as contributing to an adjoining exhibition exploring notions of amateurism, performance and community. ‘The Rookery’ focuses on the tension between the physical exhaustion whilst building the studios together, and the emotional labours in maintaining friendship groups outside of institutional support.

There are three performances of the pantomime in the final weekend of the festival and the venue is open for viewing throughout.

Jack and the Beanstalk

‘Jack was a lazy boy who would not work to help his widowed mother. Alas, they both became very poor, and the old woman had to sell her only cow. She sent Jack to the market with the cow, saying, “Be sure and sell it for a good price!” …’

Doors 7pm, Curtain 7:30pm:

Friday 22nd April, Saturday 23rd April, Sunday 24th April

May – October 2016 (from CV)
The Rookery, Albatross Artists’ Studios, Glasgow, Aug 2015 – May 2016

A 10-month long instigated project with Albatross Artists’ Studios, a developing studio space and community theatre in Govanhill, Glasgow. The Rookery is a project that has focused on the tension between the physical labours of building the studios together, and the emotional performativity of maintaining friendship groups outside of institutional support. The project developed through a series of improvised ‘rehearsals’ with committed individuals for the spaces’s annual pantomime ‘Jack and the Beanstalk, and the installation of a pseudo-indexical exhibition of alternate attempts at organising ourselves. The long and fruitful conversation around amateurism, rehearsal/practice, community identity, and the sociologies of the project, will form the basis for a publication.

 

July 2016 – present (from existing website, gordondouglas.org)

The Rookery. April 2016, part of Glasgow International Festival. A research project on the tension between physical exertion in building studios together, and the emotional labour in maintaining the act of friendship as the studio holders produce and rehearse their annual pantomime.

 

August 2016 (from unsuccessful application to Creative Scotland’s Open Project Fund) (bold on purpose…)
…Habits of the Coexistent is a six-month curatorial research project aiming to interrogate and dissect the complicated set of performances which constitute collaborative practice. Following three major collaborative visual arts projects: The Garden is Our Wall, 2014-15, Nieces, Nephews, 2015-16, and The Rookery, 2015-16; HotC is a period of serious reflection and development of my practice that continuously elicits the labours and emotions of others towards the co-production of challenging conversations and public events…

 

August 2016 (from Supporting Visual Material to above application)
1. The Rookery

A ten-month project running alongside the physical development of Albatross Artists’ Studios, a studio and community theatre in Govanhill, Glasgow. The project formed through 12 improvised ‘rehearsals’ for the amateur production of the off-season pantomime ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’. As community members performed as cast, props-makers, costume designers and lighting technicians; conversations unraveled around the relationship between the manual exertion in building the studios together, and the emotional labours of maintaining the friendship group outside of institutional support. The studio-holders talked about the identity of the space, what it meant to aspire towards autonomy, and the paradox in assembling a new institution as a locus for our community. Over three consecutive nights, cast members performed their roles very well but would inevitably stumble into improvisation, in-joke and hysterical laughter.

  1. Rehearsals

Image from the improvised rehearsal of The Giant, a three-headed collaborative monster played by Rosie Sillitoe, Jen Martin and Jason Sweeney. photo credit: Jamie Kane.

  1. Hand Game Exercise

Hand-Game (Love, Damp, Corporation), March 2016.

Still from a video of an exercise made with Jamie Kane and Rosie Sillitoe, studio holders at Albatross Artists’ Studios, as part of the rehearsal process. The three people aim to develop a zero-sum hand-game (similar to rock-paper-scissors), around themes that have been prevalent to the post-industrial renovation of the studios. Components are tested and replaced as the game gets closer to functioning. Elements include: Love, Damp, Corporation, Idealism, Inaction, Drain, Wall, Space, and Door. video URL:

  1. Giants House

The Giant, and The Giant’s Wife in action; The Giant’s Wife makes excuses for the Golden Egg Laying Goose not being able to lay gold anymore. photo credit: David Cherry.

  1. Crushing Blow

The penultimate sequence of the pantomime. A giant New Balance trainer crushes Jack’s parents; Jack is reunited with the Cow; The actors playing the cow are exposed as precarious actor types who need to be exploited at all costs (subsequently pied in the face). photo credit: David Cherry.

  1. Finale

The Golden Egg Laying Goose is greeted by their mother who tells them they just needed to believe in themselves in order to lay gold. A massively ambitious song and dance number including the ripping of the back-projected screen leading to an exposure of backstage. photo credit: David Cherry.

November 2016 (from CV, unsuccessful application for Learning Assistant position at Edinburgh College)
…Relevant Previous Experience

Albatross Artists’ Studios and Community Theatre

Over the period 2015-16, I have been working with a developing artists studios space in Govanhill, Glasgow. Originally a tiles workshop, the space is now being converted into a fully functional studio and theatre space. As part of the project I instigated The Rookery,we worked together in building the studios and theatre. This involved a great deal of woodwork, and the construction of unique pieces to fit a complicated and uneven space. I continue to work there on a part-time basis…

January 2017 (from CV, unsuccessful application to Hospitalfield Summer Residency)
The Rookery, Albatross Artists’ Studios, Glasgow, Aug 2015 – May 2016

A 10-month long instigated project with Albatross Artists’ Studios, a developing studio space and community theatre in Govanhill, Glasgow. The Rookery is a project that has focused on the tension between the physical labours of building the studios together, and the emotional performativity of maintaining friendship groups outside of institutional support. The project developed through a series of improvised ‘rehearsals’ with committed individuals for the spaces’s annual pantomime ‘Jack and the Beanstalk, and the installation of a pseudo-indexical exhibition of alternate attempts at organising ourselves. An introductory video to the project can be found here: https://vimeo.com/187656126, password: beanstalk

March 2017 (from CV, successful application to Hospitalfield co-programme of Fieldwork Summer School with Cicely Farrer)
The Rookery, Albatross Artists’ Studios, Glasgow, Aug 2015 – May 2016

A 10-month long instigated project with Albatross Artists’ Studios, a developing studio space and community theatre in Govanhill, Glasgow. The Rookery is a project that has focused on the tension between the physical labours of building the studios together, and the emotional performativity of maintaining friendship groups outside of institutional support. The project developed through a series of improvised ‘rehearsals’ with committed individuals for the spaces’s annual pantomime ‘Jack and the Beanstalk, and the installation of a pseudo-indexical exhibition of alternate attempts at organising ourselves.

August 2017 (from Folio used in successful application to British Council and Creative Scotland’s curators’ visit to Tokyo and Yokohama, Japan)
The Rookery –

A​ ​ten-month​ ​project​ ​running​ ​alongside​ ​the​ ​physical​ ​development​ ​of​ ​Albatross​ ​Artists’​ ​Studios,​ ​a​ ​studio and​ ​community​ ​theatre​ ​in​ ​Govanhill,​ ​Glasgow.​ ​The​ ​project​ ​formed​ ​through​ ​12​ ​improvised​ ​‘rehearsals’​ ​for the​ ​amateur​ ​production​ ​of​ ​an​ ​off-season​ ​pantomime​ ​‘Jack​ ​and​ ​the​ ​Beanstalk’.​ ​As​ ​community​ ​members performed​ ​as​ ​cast,​ ​props-makers,​ ​costume​ ​designers​ ​and​ ​lighting​ ​technicians;​ ​mutually​ ​educational conversations​ ​unraveled​ ​around​ ​the​ ​relationship​ ​between​ ​the​ ​manual​ ​exertion​ ​in​ ​building​ ​the​ ​studios together,​ ​and​ ​the​ ​emotional​ ​labours​ ​of​ ​maintaining​ ​the​ ​friendship​ ​group​ ​outside​ ​of​ ​institutional​ ​support. The​ ​studio-holders​ ​talked​ ​about​ ​the​ ​identity​ ​of​ ​the​ ​space,​ ​what​ ​it​ ​meant​ ​to​ ​aspire​ ​towards​ ​autonomy,​ ​and the​ ​paradox​ ​in​ ​assembling​ ​a​ ​new​ ​institution​ ​as​ ​a​ ​locus​ ​for​ ​our​ ​community.​ ​Over​ ​three​ ​consecutive​ ​nights, cast​ ​members​ ​performed​ ​their​ ​roles​ ​very​ ​well​ ​but​ ​would​ ​inevitably​ ​stumble​ ​into​ ​improvisation,​ ​in-joke​ ​and hysterical​ ​laughter.

 

December 2017 (from Folio, unsuccessful application to Creative Scotland’s Open Project fund) and February (from Folio, successful re- application to Creative Scotland’s Open Project fund)
The Rookery ten-month project running alongside the physical development of Albatross Artists’ Studios, a studio and community theatre in Govanhill, Glasgow. The project formed through 12 improvised ‘rehearsals’ for the amateur production of an off-season pantomime ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’. As community members performed as cast, props-makers, costume designers and lighting technicians; mutually educational conversations unraveled around the relationship between the manual exertion in building the studios together, and the emotional labours of maintaining the friendship group outside of institutional support. The studio-holders talked about the identity of the space, what it meant to aspire towards autonomy, and the paradox in assembling a new institution as a locus for our community. Over three consecutive nights, cast members performed their roles very well but would inevitably stumble into improvisation, in-joke and hysterical laughter.

The finale sequence of the pantomime. A giant New Balance trainer crushes Jack’s parents; Jack is reunited with the Cow; The actors playing the cow are exposed as precarious actor types who need to be exploited at all costs (subsequently pied in the face). photo credit: David Cherry.

Hand-Game (Love, Damp, Corporation), March 2016.

An exercise made with Jamie Kane and Rosie Sillitoe, studio holders at Albatross Artists’ Studios, as part of the rehearsal process. The three people aim to develop a zero-sum hand-game (similar to rock-paper-scissors), around themes that have been prevalent to the post-industrial renovation of the studios. Components are tested and replaced as the game gets closer to functioning. Elements include: Love, Damp, Corporation, Idealism, Inaction, Drain, Wall, Space, and Door.

Image of the improvised rehearsal for the Giant, a three-headed collaborative monster, played by Rosie Sillitoe, Jen Martin and Jason Sweeney. photo Credit: Jamie Kane

February 2018 – present (from CV)
The Rookery​, Albatross Artists’ Studios and Community Theatre, Oct 2015-Apr 2016

Project focusing on parallels between the physical exertion of building the studios together, and the emotional labours of maintaining friendship groups outside institutional support. Developed through a series of improvised rehearsals for the space’s annual pantomime ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’.


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A big part of assembling the archive was debating what or was not performance, and what or was not a performance document.

I am conscious of how much I think about performance art beyond the confines of the live event; or in another way, how the live event can extend to include all organisational, social, and logistical work towards enabling an action to take place.

I believe that a definition of performance should not only constitute the performed ‘other’ subjectivity in duality with a live audience who encounter it; but should include the (il)logic(al) personality that plays out as it negotiates access, garners trust, and does irrationality. Performance is an altered state of being that re-organises reality to engender new decision-making capacities. This is both powerful in its ability to produce and calcify an ideological norm, and dangerous for the same reasons. In performance art we see this when a chain of thought leads to the action where an unnamed friend of Chris Burden fires a rifle at him (Shoot, 1971). And outside of performance art… well, there has been too many instances of when a similar train of thought has lead to unspeakable acts of violence.

Within this definition, all kinds of adopted, and invented, systems of thought– economies, institutions, moralities, communities– are organised ways of conventionalising unreal patterns of thought that perpetually reproduce themselves through the performance of this thought. When we submit ourselves to collaborating with an organisation, we perform in two separate ways: 1) the inheritance of given values, and reproduction of these; and 2) the individuation of the self within a given set of freedoms. Both of these attitudes play within our new uncanny realms, and performance is exerted to sustain meaning within the construct at all costs. This performance defines this limit or surface to the object of the system.

Because of this, performance can never be evaluated or contained to a singular ‘deliverable outcome’, instead it is how we continuously and complicitly operate within a closed system.

The task of defining what is and what isn’t performance within this fluctuating terrain of expectations is difficult. Everything is content and evidence for a performativity; reviewed by it’s consistency to a socially-constructed norm. As a performance artist, I believe it’s important to understand these fabricated ethics, and the frictions they cause within existing modes of production.

But how is that documented?

Portfolios seem redundant in imaging this kind of performance. Artist Statements purely gesticulate without evidence. Bios are rhetorical and fantastica (reflective writing including this a-n blog is similar). CVs are too simple and mask irrationality (but at least they implicate partnerships). Cover Letters and Proposals are probably the closest to an appropriate form– brutally honest in the submissive potential of artistic labour.

Maybe what’s not important is the standardising and mapping of a muliplicitous array of decisions, and their contextual drives, but the register in which these are communicated, the style through which we build personality. In each of the formats from above we can direct our attention to the evolving format of the document rather than the accumulating narrative picture. What we might see is: the variations in font-size; the typeface shifting from serif to sans serif; an encroaching margin-size; thickness of the borders to images. These micro-variations in how the proposal adapts its register to suit a request for support might actually be much more telling than imaginary portfolio. Can these remaining submissive-impressions provide a truer document or portfolio for social-performative practice?


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Over the last three months, things have been tricky. CCA Glasgow, where I have been based since May, has been closed due to the fire at the Glasgow School of Art. Being a fly-on-the-wall observer hassn’t been quite as effective when there’s no walls to pitch up on. My view has been limited to being cc’d into emails. A lot of my time has been spent working towards the show at Travelling Gallery, Black Box Take Stock, which is now touring Scotland! I’ve also managed to spend significantly more time than I’d imagined wading through digital material from old hard-drives, cloud-drives, dropboxes, youtube accounts, blogs, USB Sticks, and old phones, towards developing an accessible archive of my work to date. It’s been really satisfying to find things buried in sub-folders, and equally frustrating when I’ve recalled a higher-quality format of something, and can’t find it anywhere.

Through trying to find things, it’s been really interesting to recognise a logic to how material has been organised. Decisions have been fuelled by how I’ve used documentation in the past, the fluctuating value for individual works, and the speed at which I want the various technologies, which have doubled as storage devices, to operate. The easiest way to spot how a logic has developed, is through the recurring styles to folders that have appeared:

  1. ‘Proposal Toolkit’ – This is a practical folder that is usually the first attempt at organising, before it becomes unsustainable with the amount of material. In the past, this folder hoped to gather all the necessary components for writing applications in haste. It sub-divides into Folio (unstandardised jpegs and pdfs or previous work), Captions (writing about the folio), Artist Statement (this has been really cringe to look back over), CV (self-explanatory), and Unrealised Projects (previous ideas and proposals that weren’t accepted). Proposal Toolkits, although tempting in their promise of quicker application writing, are difficult to maintain over time. The updating of these bins can be difficult to prioritise in the middle of projects.
  2. ‘Gordon Douglas – VACMA Application’ – These are byproducts of the application process which have miniature folios, cover letters, CVs, etc grouped by the specific opportunity they were applying to. These can be useful as the images of the folio are all compressed to fit within emails, and are typically arrangements of works that are consistent with one another. The CV and Cover Letter are also usually tailored to suit a particular kind of opportunity (curatorial, performance etc), and can be mined for appropriate phrasing.
  3. ‘TO SORT – 20 June 18’ – This folder is an organisation of time, and usually has been the result of a desktop becoming overcrowded with large files and slowing the computer down. A quick fix to this has been to put everything into a folder, TO SORT (followed by the date of filing). The hope, and logic to this, is that this mess will be sorted in the future, kind of like drawers that we pile things into as a temporary measure if we have guests coming round. The reality is that there is an existing ‘Russian doll’ effect– a succession of TO SORT folders sitting within one another going back to 2016. These are, despite their appearance, very navigable as they capture a specific moment and key concerns at that time. For example, a still image from South Park shares a ‘present’ with a pdf of Lee Edelman’s No Future. The result is a series of research mood-boards of varying digital content, that are semi-accessible through memory association.

This clear entropy from practical to intuitive, is apparent through all the devices. Although a lot of accessing is privileged to my subjective experience of seeing first-hand this entropy, a great deal of the day-to-day navigation requires a knowledge of key words and the ability to search for them in ‘All Files’. The most ‘found’ documents are long, scrolling .rtf(Rich Text Format)s, typically named yesssss.rtf, or hiyaaa.rtf. These include multiple drafts applications, excluded and unfinished content, and extended caption material for specific projects. It’s not obvious if the writing in these documents is arranged in a particular order, as content is copied, pasted and edited in a perpetual update. Following the logic of the many variations of CV – Gordon Douglas copy copy copy… (where the amount of ‘copy’s signifies the more recent a document is), we can deduce that yess.rtf is older than yesssss.rtf.

These documents are frequently discovered by the search tool, but images are less easy to find. Most images bear a trace of being used in an application within their name, i.e. the prefix ‘2.’ to signify it’s position as second in a folio of submitted visual material. The searching for numbers isn’t very effective though, and most images can be found by looking in the various Application folders. Before I submitted individual jpegs, I would put together pdf folders which married images with their accompanying captions and these have been much more simple to find.

In advance of meeting Ben about website design, I thought it was important to archive my varying attempts and styles of folio. Given that previous conversations about the brief for the website have involved deconstructing the conventions of the portfolio website.


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An Old Web Presence

In order to go forward, it was important to first highlight all previous attempts at producing my website, and to talk through what elements were successful and what features didn’t work.

 

1) Gordondouglas.wordpress.com, 2008-12, was my first blog. It contains public documentation of thought-processes and activity that I produced whilst studying at Edinburgh’s Telford College, and in my first year at Glasgow School of Art. This blog has gained a new purpose with the blog post ‘Co-existing with the Formative’ that aims to distil the information gathered here and make sense of some of these formative thoughts.

2) The second was a cargo collective grdndgls, which was a more professionalised portfolio that documents work from 2012-13 in my final years at GSA.

3) The third was a Vimeo account ‘user13095003‘, that presents my moving image work from 2013-present.

4) gordondouglas.org, 2013-present, is the website I most frequently use when applying to opportunities, or directing people to my work. I bought the domain before graduating art school to have something to put on business cards that I handed out during my degree show. It’s changed a lot since 2013, but still has the basic principle of being my portfolio. It’s slightly confused right now, and is trying to do too much at the same time as being esoteric. I think it fails doing this.

5) After graduating, universal-studios-info, 2014, was set up to promote events and exhibitions that happened at Universal Studios, a tiny, communal studio space that ten graduates shared in an office building. There also seems to be an image of an artwork by Gerry Bibby at the top which I think I accidentally uploaded.

6) with-the-rookery, 2015, aimed to host research from the collaborative project The Rookery, that resulted in an off-season pantomime of Jack and the Beanstalk in a much larger self-initiated studio. This blog never took off.

7) Another wordpress gordandouglass, 2016, borrowed its name from the frequent mis-spelling of my name on tickets when working with the theatre shortlisting agency, Total Theatre Awards, during Edinburgh Fringe. This aimed to be a place for performance criticism, but I never found time to write.

8) The issuu profile gordon-douglas, provided a directory for publications, A Social Report, 2016; and Habits of the Co-existent Project-Books (1)-(3), 2017.

9) Introduction-to-performance, 2016, aimed to be a private blog for co-ordinating a course elective on performance art history that I devised with students of the HND Contemporary Art Practice at Edinburgh College. We gave up on it very early on, instead using facebook to organise.

10) introduction-to-performance.xyz, 2017, (designed by Ben Callaghan) as an interactive archive and performance score for the above course elective.

11) and finally, An Opposites Programme, the blog I am writing during my embedded research at CCA Glasgow, 2018-19.

 

A New Web Presence

We then wanted to gather other examples of performance artists and curatorial projects using websites in innovative ways that were appropriate to the research/intention.

 

1) Johannes Paul Raether’s Identitektur – the genealogical model of Johannes Paul Raether’s spawning research sisters Transformellae, Protektoramae, and Scharmwesen. http://johannespaulraether.net

2) Don’t Follow the Wind – just sound so don’t adjust your settings (unless you’re on mute) http://dontfollowthewind.info/sp

3) Ryan McNamara used to have one that was just a video of him describing all of his works whilst he made collages out of images of them. The website is no longer like this, but a similar attempt is Chris Burden’s documentation of previous works. http://www.ubu.com/film/burden_selected.html

4) The–family – had to find this on wayback machine, so it won’t function like a website, but was essentially just the simplest html website with posters etc. the later editions (2014 onwards) had a list of performers on a separate page. https://web.archive.org/web/20131204011635/http://the–family.com

5) If I Can’t Dance – a solid example of good design hosting an archive of research and activity. http://www.ificantdance.org/Editions/EditionV

6) Alexandra Bachzetsis – ‘Upcoming Events’ page as front page works well. https://www.alexandrabachzetsis.com/index.php/home.html

7) John Latham Archive – inventive use of organising data from three independent subjectivities. http://www.ligatus.org.uk/aae/#

8) Grant Watson’s Vimeo account – just so engrossed in the research it doesn’t have time to design a website. https://vimeo.com/user39361491


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