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!