It has taken me a while to write about the performance I did at the collaborative Ramus|Evans event… there are a few reasons for this. Firstly, as usual, just as I think i can’t possibly get any busier… I do! It is all good though- work is exciting at the moment with many opportunities presenting themselves. This means that I have so many things I would love to write about in my blog but I just don’t seem to have the time. Maybe I need to try to organise myself better… set myself a target that I will empty my thoughts into the blog more regularly so that it isn’t a huge pile of updates to work through…. Hmm… balancing / juggling seems the key to keeping an art practice in motion!
Aside from the lack of time, the other reason for my delay in posting about the event is that I wanted to allow myself time to process what happened. I think it all felt so personal that I needed time to be able to distance myself from the work in order to think about it in a productive and objective way.
The space, I feel, worked really well. Both mine and Lisa’s work seemed to occupy the space and a dialogue between the works was generated in a way that amplified the concepts we were exploring. The space also seemed to connect with these concepts… the blood red walls that were crumbling away felt reminiscent of the abject body; I felt like the space could have been a work in itself, exploring the same concepts that I explore within my work. It was a very satisfying moment before people arrived when myself and Lisa stood there and raised a glass to celebrate us managing to create a show that we felt proud of. We felt that it was an exciting show that would hopefully be memorable. We had managed to plan, organise and publicise the event by ourselves without any additional support at the same time as going though our second module assessments. Needless to say it was a tough, but satisfying journey!
With regards to my performance I do feel that I really did take a big risk! I had talked previously about how I had wanted to experience a connection with the audience. I had read how Franko B had compared one to one performance to intercourse, and I loved the notion of exchange that this implied. I had been told about the work, ‘Gilding the Lily’ by Richard Hancock and Traci Kelly (which involved the viewer having their genitals gilded in gold leaf by Hancock and then photographed with a polaroid camera. The viewer would then leave with their genitals all golden and a photographic moment of the moment.) This work made me wonder about the boundaries within one to one performance- who is the performer? Where does the performance end? Where are it’s edges / boundaries? I don’t know why I had never considered one to one performance before, but this work got me excited! I wish I had been able to experience it myself.
The space that myself and Lisa used had a small room within it, and I decided that this would be a perfect space to explore one to one performance. I decided that I wanted to allow a freedom within the performance for me to be able to use it as research, and to evolve the performance as I learnt. There was a set framework within the performance, e.g.: how it would start, how it would end etc. but generally it was quite free. I wanted to be able to respond to the viewer. I was aware that the performance would depend on their participation and also their reaction.
I decided that I wanted to use the tension between my domestic life and artist life as a point of exploration- I thought about how it would also allow for the awkwardness / tension between performer and viewer to also be explored. I placed a series of domestic objects out in the exhibition space and invited each participant to chose one to bring into the space. I would then place the object between me and that person- the body parts I would choose to hold the object would vary depending on the person. I liked the idea of being extremely close to the person without touching. I hoped that this would create an awkwardness which would root the viewer and myself into the present moment. I asked each person to breathe with me. I would alternate the speed and as the viewer tried to keep their breath in sync with mine, this let me know that we had connected and were being active in our engagement. The breath occasionally sounded sexual- I liked that this related to Franko B’s reference to intercourse. When I decided to end the connection I would suddenly step back, meaning that the object would drop to the floor and the participant would be startled out of the strange space we had created with our connection. They then left. This was the framework. Other things happened also, such as the retelling of mundane everyday stories… it really was about responding to the moment and the person.
I found it to be incredibly draining to be so exposed and constantly responsive to the moment for the length of time that the performance went on for. The queue of people waiting to enter the room was large and it was incredibly difficult to maintain that level of intensity. I kept direct eye contact with each person that entered and as they left I felt like they took my energy with them. By the end I felt so vulnerable and so exposed… hearing conversations about me taking place outside was difficult. None of them were negative but it just felt odd to be so ultimately present within the work. There was no action to distract me from the viewer… the connection was so direct. I tried to imagine their experience. Walking into the unknown- (I had made sure that no one knew what I was planning) must have felt unnerving. Each person had expectation in their eyes.. I could see the anticipation on their faces. There was a strangeness: they seemed intrigued but hesitant also. I was interested in the fact that awkwardness makes us want to laugh, but in this situation people held their laughs in. Why do we stop ourselves from reacting honestly? Why did they hold in their laugh? I even asked some people, ‘You want to laugh, so why don’t you?’ I liked the idea that there was a silent expected way of behaving, like a form of performance etiquette. The idea that performance is serious and so we mustn’t laugh! But surely performance is an experience, and so we should experience it honestly. What would a laugh have signified? I suppose theres an honesty in a laugh.. I think maybe the challenging of socially acceptable behaviour is something I have touched upon previously.Maybe I need to push this further? That humour is not comedy- it is more about the absurdity of situations. I hadn’t thought about it, but the absurd has been an underlying factor in my practice for a while. It might be helpful to trace it back? I hadn’t really thought about it before.. but it is there.
The one to one aspect of the work seemed to fit with the duality of the show. The duality of mine and Lisa’s collaboration and also of the conversation piece that we showed- we had recorded the conversations that took place in the studio and had them playing through headphones. We placed a desk with two chairs to replicate the studio scenario that has lead to this collaboration. This work was a success in my eyes. It conveyed the relationship that has developed between myself and Lisa. It was like a version of an honest artist talk… an artist talk that is not directly presenting in a formal way, but in a ‘disclosing of our thoughts’ sort of way. A genuine ‘in conversation’ scenario. People were able to hear the conversations that fed into the development of our work- which is what the collaboration is about. I think there is something wonderful about the openness and honesty that came through in this work.
So, there is a lot to take from this experience. I feel that I have learnt a lot through this performance. I feel that myself and Lisa learnt a lot also, and I know that this is the first collaborative events of many. We hope to continue to develop the collaborative aspect of our working relationship. I think it will be interesting to see how our work develops now we are in the final phase of our MFA.
I wanted to say thank you to A-N for supporting myself and Lisa by tweeting our blogs and also by choosing us as the feature bloggers this week. We very much appreciate it!