I was awarded an a-n Professional Development bursary to help me better document my art work, particularly my imminent performance at BEAST FEaST.  My work to date has been poorly documented (if at all) and I felt this was becoming a barrier to persuing future opportunities.  I needed guidance in what equipment to get, how to use it, how to identify what is possible to document on my own and how, when to ask for assistance, contacts for future work and general advice in the art of art documentation.

I have been working with photographer, videographer and educator Jonathan Lee to help me achieve this. After initial consultation with him about the aims of this bursary project we worked out a plan which went something like…

-Do some research into art live art documentation, try and find things I liked/didn’t/things that may be useful etc

-Buy equipment

-Find suitable students to help document the performance in April

-Undertake a half day workshop with the students learning how to use the cameras, experimenting with the equipment, talking about the aims of documentation and different ways to achieve this and doing practice runs for the performance

-Filming BEAST FEaST performance

-Handing over footage for me have a bash at a rough edit

-Post production workshop with Jonathan to polish up my attempts

Here’s my blog of this process!


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Given that most of my work has a time based element – either performance or sound installations, it’s important to be able to capture it in the moment – once it’s gone it’s gone.  Very little of my work is made to survive; even objects within it are temporary props and usually what is left is an audio recording – a very different manifestation of the original work and possibly a few poorly taken photos.   The focus of the work is the live experience.  This poses some questions when docuementing.

What is the function of the documentation -is it to re-present the performance in the future or to give just an overview of what happened?

Is it for an audience to enjoy or for a professional development purpose?

Will it be a new art work in itself or will it be a neutral account of a work?

Will it include the audience in it?

Will it be recorded at the live event or a separate filming?

Will there be cut shots or will it be continuous?

Will it have a particular aesthetic?

How will all the elements and the general feel best be captured out of context?

What are the ethical considerations regarding other people in it?

What are the creatively ethical considerations when working in improvisatory ways?

 

I started looking for examples of live art documentation, films and books that talk about these issues.  I found this video interesting.

Another thing for me to consider was who was documenting.  Given my budgets and way of working, I need to find a strategy for documenting my work myself, whilst also being part of it.  This has previously resulted in some quite shoddy results, so it is also important for me to decide when is the appropriate time to pay professionals to capture the work.

Whilst for some of my more chaotic DIY works a cruder set up would probably be suitable, for my performance at BEAST FEaST we decided it would be best to leave all the capturing to Jonathan and a couple of students.   Given that this piece was long, minimal, very slow and still, emersive and likely to get a good audience it made sense to leave the documentation to people outside the performance. Jonathan, James and Mathilde could capture the many different angles of the space, the audience, the shfting focii of the performance whilst I could focus on the performance alone.  This documemtation is designed to give me better material to present to curators/organisers to understand my current work so it needs to be quite simple to access, accurate and neutral.  More fun methods can wait for future works!

I’m trying to compile a list of interesting examples of art documentation – they will become another blog post.  If you have any suggestions please pop them in the comments!


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