As dawn breaks at 2:57am this Sunday 4 May an open public performance will be beginning on Twitter. #dawnchorus365 is an accumulative online artwork created by the Seven Art Writers collective that reinterprets dawn every day for a year.
Following a score developed through research into the behaviour of songbirds, observations of daybreak at seven separate locations are tweeted as a virtual ‘chorus’ and members of the public are invited to contribute to the performance. This Sunday the work will form part of International Dawn Chorus Day celebrations taking place across the world.
“We have developed quite a unique way of writing together,” explains artist and Seven Art Writers member Tamarin Norwood. “Our score includes instructions such as to ‘flock’ – to be alike in some way, perhaps by borrowing words or images from one another’s tweets and incorporating them into our own – or to ‘call and respond’ by asking and replying to questions about our individual locations.”
The framework of the performance score combined with the specific context of the Twitter platform creates a particular poetic form in which liveness is key, the group working in response to each other’s tweets and with an awareness of the real-time flow of each tweet.
Glitches and delays that are an inevitable part of the Twitter service add to the unpredictabilty of the project. “We often tweet from remote locations and mobile reception can be a problem,” Norwood says. “It has happened that one of us has been silent for much of the performance because they couldn’t get a signal.”
And contributions from other Twitter users, who don’t work from the score, lend another kind of spontaneity and sense of collaboration to the work, creating what Norwood describes as “a very exciting layering of separate but related conversations.”
Tweeting, as with all social media, is at once a shared and a solitary act, and the early start and gradual phasing of the #dawnchorus365 performances perhaps draw attention to this dichotomy. Norwood describes her personal experience of writing with Twitter in the quiet, near-darkness of dawn, the bright screen of her phone introducing a chatter of technology that feels very urban, however rural her local environment.
“There’s a tension between the delight of reading and writing and the delight of being alone,” she says. “So I find myself looking at the screen in gasps, like going up for air, then switching it off again to be back in the dark.”
#dawnchorus365, 4 May 2014, 2:57-9:00 GMT. Participate by tweeting your observations of dawn using the #dawnchorus365 hashtag. Dawnchorus365.com
Seven Art Writers are Natasha Vicars, Mary Paterson, Joanna Brown, Tiffany Charrington, Eddy Dreadnought, Sally Ann Labern and Tamarin Norwood. The #dawnchorus project was first devised by Natasha Vicars with the support of the Live Art Development Agency DIY08 initiative in 2011. #dawnchorus363 is online for 365 days and was commissioned by Fermynwoods Contemporary Art as the winner of their 2013 Open Online 4 competition. Read Tamarin Norwood’s full responses to our interview questions on her blog.