A 7-month research and development project, supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, East.

This project will include visits to national and regional events to help contextualise my practice. I intend to write a review of each event in relation to the themes of audience engagement, site, and sound, and will receive mentoring from Bob Levene.


Event 10

Blast Theory weekender

Artsadmin, Toynbee Studios, London


This was a brilliant way to finish my R&D project because it gave me a chance to put into practice some of the themes I have been working on over the last few months, specifically instruction and text-based work. We did a series of writing exercises, and some pair work in the local streets, devising performance games and methods of negotiating/constructing space (including imaginary space). I will be using some of the techniques in the future whenever I need to get a project started: they were simple tools which could be applied to any project. One piece was to devise a series of points along a journey from point a to point b, where a and b could be ‘a familiar place’ and ‘an unfamiliar place’ or ‘a stranger’ and ‘a lover’, or anything else which opposes. It was a great way to come up with a set of instruction pieces, although half-way through writing mine I realised it was starting to read like a self-help book.

One of the best things about the weekend was the networking and discussion. We’ve all exchanged emails, so we now all have a pool of resources at our fingertips.

Back in Norwich, I have now written and posted my GFTA activity report form (a little later than promised, but I blame that on the later dates of NRLA this year). It’s been a useful project, paying for travelling, tickets and mentoring, and forcing me to write about the things I’ve been to. I’ve not really kept this blog up to date, as you can probably tell, but it is over 5000 words long (which is longer than my BA dissertation was) and has been lovingly re-constructed from scribbled notebook entries.

So finally: on Friday 4th June I will be performing 12 versions of ‘One-Minute Birdwatching’ in Ipswich, as part of PULSE. Visit twitter.com/pulsefringe for locations nearer the time if you’d like to join in. Hope to see you there.


Event 9

National Review of Live Art



In the spirit of the self-reflective 30th anniversary theme of this year’s review, I have decided to present my impressions as a list of 30 things about the NRLA:

10 things I liked:

1. Liz Aggiss (humour; a good combination of informative showreels and showing her bum; subverting expectations)

2. Richard Layzell (engagement with the audience and clever deconstruction of documentation conventions and technical set-up)

3. Rosie Ward (good use of site and careful choice of work which allowed the environmental sounds of the trains above to permeate the work rather than clash with it)

4. Kate McIntosh and Eva Meyer-Keller (the work was simultaneously logical and ludicrous)

5. Los Torreznos (best performance of spoken word in the festival: I have never seen anyone count to 2100 in front of me before)

6. Lisa Wesley and Andrew Blackwood/Forced Entertainment (both works created interesting dystopian landscapes and narratives, which was all the more pertinent when visiting a strange city and not getting enough sleep)

7. Iona Kewney (honest use of materials: the box was just a box, not a theatrical prop. Also, she’d obviously considered the role of the performance of the sound track to her piece)

8. Michael Mayhew (disturbing use of eye-contact whilst misbehaving)

9. Kate Stannard (closest I’ve got to shared sport appreciation, and I like imagining what she would have passed on the distance she cycled)

10. Kirsten Lavers (honest interaction with audience, resulting in genuine answers)

10 good quotations from panellists and performers:

1. “John Cage’s ample back”

2. “thousands of years of mothers and daughters”

3. “if we don’t document this then it’s not going to have a life and we won’t be able to talk to people like you”

4. “both are equally unreliable” (documentation and anecdote)

5. “part of the taxonomy of performance tropes”

6. “embodied approach to historiography”

7. “here and now”

8. “re-enactment with meaning”

9. “Can we have the sound please, Johnny?”

10. “no more queueing”

10 things to think about including in my practice (with varying degrees of seriousness):

1. Dance and movement.

2. The verbal element, greeting the audience.

3. Site-specific projections.

4. Head mic/lapel mic.

5. Humour. More of it.

6. Documentation is not necessarily a fitting subject for the work.

7. Playing with technicians.

8. Staged photographs to symbolise a performance.

9. Investigate the use of the words ‘score’ and ‘instruction’.

10. Should I bite the bullet and finally join Facebook? Does it quantify friendship or provide important networking? Will I actually get round to checking it?

At the end of Sunday night we were each given a little plastic man, who had in previous years guaranteed your entry to a performance. Mine looks like he’s dancing. I had an impromptu photo opportunity on the train back, when I realised that Wayne Rooney was in fact the same as my plastic NRLA man. Here’s a photo.

I now have one more event to go to before my Escalator project is done: Blast Theory’s weekender at Artsadmin tomorrow and Sunday. Watch this space!


Mentoring with Bob Levene



I had posted the DVDs of the ‘Cans’ re-shoot and of ‘One-Minute Birdwatching’ as the focus for this session. I wasn’t convinced with them as objects in themselves, so I was eager to get some feedback at this stage. The first one we discussed was OMB (as I shall now refer to it!):

The first point raised was that I should make it very clear that the DVD was documentation, not a performance to camera. I had framed the image when recording it, but due to the limitations of the space I couldn’t get all the performers into the frame, and the sound wasn’t presented as a spatial stereo representation of the space, so it can only ever indicate the potential sound of the live event rather than represent it accurately. I was more interested in the experience and the live-ness at the time, and so documentation was there only for personal reference. I did make a separate stereo recording at the same time as one of the films, but I’ve not glued them together yet, and probably won’t get round to it for this version. It has made me consider the role of the documentation of the performances I will be doing at PULSE this summer: it may work better to have someone else doing it so that the spatial qualities of the performance can be recorded without me compromising the performance by arranging it for camera.

The second point we discussed was the spaces it could be performed in, and how it would change. Pulls Ferry was small, but the arrangement of windows was good: it would be interesting to do a version in a long office space, perhaps with restricted vision (smaller windows?), to get the sense of a performed sound travelling in relation to a passing bird. This led to discussions about visual framing and helmets!

Other points: the piece would sound very different if performed by people with a greater or lesser knowledge of birds: there would be multiple syllables from twitchers, which would change the rhythm of the piece. It would be interesting to try that at some point. Also, if I were to log the precise time and location it becomes much more about the ecology of the location.

The feedback on the ‘Cans’ video was that whilst the scale and structure is fine, it has lost its investigative qualities, and has become more careful. I felt that when I was making it, as I was very aware of the multiple video and audio takes I was stacking up, and it made me very precise. I think that is a general problem in repeating a work: it becomes too rehearsed. I need to play around with it some more (and just happen to film it at the same time!). I may go back to the imperceptible sounds, and also the playing with the acoustic properties of glasses and funnels which I did on one of my residencies and then forgot about. We also discussed the possibility of a version with other people moving the objects over my ears. One to come back to, I think.

FrenchMottershead at Site Gallery



I had a quick look round just before my mentoring session, and my favourite bit was a catalogue ‘Handpicked’. It was made from Romanian shoppers’ recollections of food produce, and was then printed and re-distributed amongst that community. It was gaudy, and not at all like a classic art catalogue. I’m glad the concept for the piece went as far as the design of the ‘artefact’.


Event 8

Miroslaw Balka: How it is

Fluxus room (part of permanent collection)

Tate Modern


In between performances I also went to Tate Modern. Miroslaw Balka’s installation in the turbine hall could be heard before it was seen, with the sound of small children jumping up and down in the vast metal tank. I enjoyed the sensation of descending blindly into the void, but felt that it was too short to give a total sense of immersion. The effect was also ruined by the narcissists who felt it was important to photograph themselves in the dark using their phones. A couple of A4 posters at the entrance isn’t going to stop people using their phones, Tate Modern.

The Fluxus room was really interesting: I don’t see much detailed Fluxus work in books very often, so it was brilliant being able to read hundreds of instruction pieces and event posters at close range. I’m constantly aware that a lot of my work is influenced by Fluxus, from event scores to sound experimentation. Simply the awareness that these things occurred allows contemporary work to function in a context, but I will have to be careful that I’m not repeating 1970s work by accident. More historical reading needed, I think.

‘Cans’ re-shoot


I decided to prepare a performance-to-camera version of ‘Cans’, with binaural audio and a head-and shoulders shot, again facing away from the audience. It is intended to be watched on a tv monitor, by one person at a time, so that the scale is almost life-size. I have also simplified the sounds: they are much more physical, and use the handling sound of the cans, rather than the musical elements I used in my original performance. I don’t think this is the finished version of this piece; I just wanted to try it out. I’m showing it to the rest of other/other/other at the weekend in a group crit.

other/other/other at Pulls Ferry



This isn’t strictly part of the Escalator project, but I did some new work this weekend that I will talk to Bob about, so I thought I’d mention it. We hired a space in Norwich so that we could produce some site-responsive group work and also develop our own practices through group crits. We decided beforehand to prepare some instructions/guides for group performance/activity, and so I presented a new idea I’d had: ‘One-Minute Birdwatching’, an instruction piece, to be performed by a group. The rules are:

1. Start when instructed.

2. Whenever you see a bird, say either its name (if you know it), or ‘bird’ (if you don’t).

3. Name each individual bird only once.

4. Stop when instructed.

I repeated this both days, and filmed the results. It produced a babble of sound like a flock of birds, and was a really interesting group dynamic, with people getting louder collectively. It was performed inside, looking out of the windows. I would like to develop the piece for other sorts of spaces.

I have since learnt that I will be Associate Artist for PULSE Fringe Festival with this piece in June.


Event 7




The festival highlights for me were:

1. Shezad Dawood ‘Feature’, which was an interesting Western-themed film of performed scenes, set in the landscape at Wysing Arts Centre, and using a cast sourced from very specific local groups (such as the Cambridge Chinese Community Football Team). A performance to camera, in the most public sense, this film conveyed the complexities of the process in its final manifestation.

2. The panel discussion about distributing video work on YouTube, the pros being access to out-of-print films, the cons being lack of control over screening context. One speaker proudly stated that he hooked up his plasma screen to YouTube. I wondered about the beautiful abstraction the pixelation would do at that size.

3. Ben Rivers ‘I Know Where I’m Going’, which was as much about the filmmaker’s process (a deliberate attempt to get lost on a British road trip to the Isle of Mull) as it was about the people he found. It made me think about Richard Long again, and other journey-based live art: it’s often close to fiction, as it requires the audience to imagine the distance, route and duration. Only a tiny part of the experience can ever be communicated to an audience, and I liked Ben Rivers’ choice of presenting encounters with people and stories.

4. The communal spirit: eating meals with international filmmakers is the best sort of networking.

Live Art Development Agency Study Room



I went to London to perform ‘Longwinded in Five Parts’ with other/other/other at the Royal Opera House, and after the technical rehearsal I had enough time to go to the Live Art Development Agency Study Room. I’d never been there before, and I would strongly urge anyone who is interested in live art to make a visit. There was so much material, but everything was catalogued and easy to find, and there are brilliant artist-produced study guides to help you navigate by theme if you are just browsing. I knew I wanted to look at the FrenchMottershead guide: ‘Making it your own? Social engagement and participation’, and so spent a while looking at work on DVD and VHS that I would never have looked for otherwise. I also read Luke Jerram’s ‘Art in Mind’ book, which is great for anyone interested in perception, and creating artwork in spaces at the edge of consciousness. Brilliant. I have since bought it, for future musings. My favourite quotation was: “I expect much of the research in your project area was done in the 60s and 70s. Research was more flamboyant then.” Dr Alison Diaper (p37).

I also listened to all of Janet Cardiff’s ‘The Missing Voice (case study b)’, although technically I should have walked down to Whitechapel and done the walk for real, but I think it was cold outside and I was feeling lazy. It became an interesting exercise in listening to site-specific work out of intended context, although she has released the piece alongside publications, so perhaps the interaction with the physical space isn’t so important. Anyway, I was interested in her use of voice and stories, and the disconcerting feeling of having those stories whispered into your ear. The obvious mixing points between two binaural recordings also helped to turn the otherwise straightforward field recording into a fictional space.