PULSE was a lot of fun, and it was nice presenting the first work-in-progress version of An Audio Guide to Varo’s ‘Harmony’ in a proper theatre. I was even able to borrow a brilliant treasure chest from the prop store, which is something you don’t get to access very often when performing in galleries! I have commissioned a film maker, Will Whittam (www.williamwhittam.co.uk), to film and edit the PULSE performance and it is nearly ready to go online. It has been great giving the responsibility of documentation to someone else: so often I become fixated on how best to document a performance, which must take a lot of time away from developing the work itself. Also, he managed to use about 5 different cameras, I think, and I certainly don’t have the patience to edit from that many angles.

In terms of audience feedback, I had a short discussion with about 8 people after the show, which brought up a nice comment about the ‘maths bit’: one woman said she hadn’t been allowed to do mathematics at school, only arithmetic, and my description of square roots was clear enough for her to understand the principal. She said she felt she’d really learnt something!

Other feedback included incorporating another visual guide for the audience when there was little else being projected (I used a live camera feed which sometimes had close ups of live drawing, or objects, but was sometimes just an empty sheet of graph paper). I will make a diagram for each object I am talking about, similar to a 1970s schools science program, and place that under the camera for each one. That leads on to another point which was someone wasn’t sure whether they were watching a science lecture, and arts lecture, or a bit of theatre, which to be honest I wanted to mix up anyway, but I think I can do a couple of things in my next version to clarify that it’s NOT THEATRE, and that it is to be considered in the context of a performance lecture. I think the traditional theatrical context didn’t help: a black box space is fine for the piece, but I think I need to be very careful about the marketing, just to make sure the audience know what to expect. Having said that, I am happy for the content to overlap various fields of knowledge: it would be interesting to present it at a sound art festival, or at a gallery-based live art festival, or even at a festival of ideas… I’ll see what interesting places I can persuade to host it later in the year!

One further comment was that at one point when I offer a blade of grass to the audience to play (stetched between thumbs and blown), they were mainly a bit shy and reticent. I think it’s the ‘volunteer’ status where they don’t want to be singled out, which is fair enough. The suggestion was that I hand a piece of grass out to everyone as they enter, which would mean everyone could make the sound at once without feeling pressured. Great idea! I’ll do it for my next version at Norwich Arts Centre (7.30pm Saturday 30th June: www.norwichartscentre.co.uk/new-performance).

Constructive criticism is valuable when presenting work-in-progress, and can serve to reinforce ideas you’d considered but were unsure whether to implement, OR throw up something completely different which you’d never have thought of. However, I think post-show chats and direct email contact are probably the most effective way of doing this (which is what I chose for my feedback). I recently found myself writing something really negative on a feedback form at the end of a show, which I probably wouldn’t have said to the artist face-to-face, and I don’t think that is the best method of gathering constructive feedback. It just allows people to make YouTube-style comments about work, without any dialogue or responsibilty. I’m going to be much more careful what I write in the future!


Well, it’s been a month since my last post, and I’ve been so busy preparing for PULSE and doing publicity for Edinburgh Fringe that I’ve limited my online output to Twitter-sized chunks. Now I’m all packed and ready to go to Ipswich for my show tonight I think I can afford a little time to update you.

What have I been up to? Well, this morning I had a 9am interview with Ipswich Community Radio; last night I was talking to myself (script reading, mainly); yesterday I was painting a very badly-made clay shell prop and doing a technical run through; a few days back I was making said clay shell, and received some stunning resin crystals through the post which I had commissioned my sister to make (she’s a prop-maker by trade, and knows more about that sort of thing than I do, obviously); at the weekend I was re-writing parts of my script having found it would take about 40 minutes, not 30; on Friday I made a recording of all the sounds in the performance, and finished building the wooden stave; on Thursday night I had a rehearsal in front of a few friends; and earlier in the month I made the start of the wooden musical stave with metal rods, and fashioned a turnip out of Sculpey.

The show-and-tell night last Thursday was incredibly useful, and I highly recommend it to anyone doing a performance: simply having to deliver lines rather than reading them to yourself does change the timings a bit, and also helps pin down bits which could be cut. I had too much scientific detail in there: I’d done all this research, but it doesn’t really need to be in the script. The funny thing about this performance is that I’m not an actor, and so having a script at all is a bit new to me, and the way I deliver things is going to sound informal and anecdotal anyway. I think it just helps having the material writen down so I can talk around it without going off on too much of a tangent.

Anyway, I’ve attached two photos, one of the resin crystals which represents “Note 8: Quartz”, and one of the objects I am using to make that particular sound.

If you’re near Ipswich tonight, please come to the show: I’m having a post-show talk and any feedback will be much appreciated. It’s at 8.20pm at New Wolsey Theatre, for a mere £5.


It’s been a little while since my last post and that’s mainly because I contravened my rule of not doing any unrelated performances. And so, last night I found myself interpreting four performance scores from 1970 in a cold warehouse gallery in Norwich, having spent the preceding week feverishly trying to publicise the event. On top of this, it’s been a busy week for the project.

On the 13th I travelled down to the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich to deliver my Harmony flyers and to take a look at the stage. The staff are lovely, and have reassured me that my original concern about performing in a venue with 400 seats was unfounded because for PULSE they curtain off some of the space to make a more intimate 100-seater studio theatre. Phew. I’d been gearing up to it just to be prepared, but the performance is designed to involve participants and focused listening, and is therefore much better in a smaller set-up. I have been drawing pictures of my stage plan so I don’t get into a muddle with the vast amount of AV equipment I’m planning on using (see photos).

Another bit of good news is that via DACS I now have permission by the Estate of Remedios Varo to use a projected image of the painting in the performance. This is a huge relief, and although it will cost a bit in licensing fees it is going to be essential for the audience to see a high-quality reproduction in the absence of the actual painting.

On the 20th I went to London to see some exhibitions, and was very excited to see Jeremy Deller pass me on the escalator at Liverpool Street Station. To celebrate, I went to Oxford Street to test out the functioning of my Pin Drop hypothesis. Not really: I was going there anyway to do that. I was just extra excited. I have decided that the only fair way to decide if you can hear a pin drop is to not look at it hit the floor. It’s significantly easier to imagine a sound (or mentally amplify it) if you can see the source. So, I dropped two pins whilst looking surreptitiously into shop windows and the results are as follows:

1. Corner of Berners Street/Oxford Street, looking into Waterstone’s window: You can’t hear a pin drop.

2. Corner of Oxford Market/Market Place, looking at information post: You can hear a pin drop. But only just.

I also tried it outside Queen Elizabeth Hall and couldn’t hear anything, but that has a funny gravelly concrete floor surface so I wonder if that affects it? I will do a study on different surfaces too, just to be fair.


I’ve been testing out the glut of equipment I bought before the end of the financial year, including a short-throw projector for my Harmony performances. I’m impressed with how large an image you can get from a short distance, which is absolutely ideal if you are doing any kind of live video feeds, or anything where you need to easily get at the controls. I also bought a projection screen so that the whole thing could become part of a set: any images projected are going to be human-scale, like a classroom demonstration, and in the case of the Varo painting, the size will be like standing next to the real thing.

I’m going to see the New Wolsey Theatre tomorrow to discuss tech, and so I’m glad the projector works as expected. Next thing to test is my exciting Britney mic. Look, no hands!


Thanks to Sophie Cullinan for your comment on 7th April: I have been mulling over the idea of getting a street performance pitch too, but need to do a few more tests of the pin dropping to see if it is actually likely to be a spectator sport! It is definitely a problem, making subtle street performance in a place like Edinburgh in August, but I am willing to give it a go. It’s interesting to see your approach to ‘not selling a show’ in your blog /p/1473932/

I certainly intend to try out the pin dropping in that area of the city anyway, as there might be unexpected quiet spots, so maybe doing some under the street performance banner would be good for a short burst of visibility before I skulk off into the alleyways again.

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Well, I have now submitted both of my pieces to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme, so there’s no going back. They are:

One Minute Birdwatching, at West Princes Street Gardens (meet by fountain), 9.30am and 1.30pm daily, Saturday 4th – Thursday 9th August: http://www.oneminutebirdwatching.com

Hear a Pin Drop Here, at Lauriston Hall (small hall), 28 Lauriston St., Edinburgh EH3 9DJ, 4.30pm (duration 30 minutes), Friday 10th August: http://www.hearapindrophere.com

It feels good to have got the publicity sorted out (and the same with my Harmony piece, for which I’ve just ordered 1000 flyers of my face), but it gives me the panicky sensation of not having done enough on the actual work. I think this is something every self-employed artist (of any discipline) on a budget has to grapple with: how to make the time to develop work whilst simultaneously doing your own marketing, design, accounting, and, dare I say it, risk assessments? I should say that it requires self-discipline and a strong work ethic, but I can hardly talk as I’ve purposefully ignored my computer for two days and decided to paint a wall in my garden instead. I mean that in the sense of decorating, not doing a painting of a wall.