Week 3 – Archive based Performance and Documentary

Lecture question – How do we respond to primary source material for documentary performance practice?

For today’s session the lecture was hosted by Rachel Cockburn, she is a PhD student who is assisting Eve through this module by providing further insight to subjects where needed. The focus for the session was on documentation and the process of documentary. Documentary in my opinion is the process of recording an event or fact from the past, be that two minutes ago or two million years ago, to provide information and inspiration for future artists. However what is the term document, what does this include? I believe that a document is anything that could provide the information from a past event and invoke a creative response, as a class we decided that this meant anything that is –
• Written – such as books, news articles, letters
• Physical object- props, costumes, set, pictures
• Practical – video footage, audio recordings

After clarifying what we classify as documentary we then continued further to look at Alison Forsyth’s three main claims on documentary. She believes that documentary is based on knowledge but it must also create an experience, that documentary is not in the object itself but within the relationship between its artist and audience and finally that the experience of documentary is connected to reality but not transparent and it is in fact with the reconstruction of the reality it seeks. Alison clearly believes that documentary is about what is made and expressed from the archival source and not the source itself; she encourages freedom to discover something new in something that was lost. Another practitioner linked with documentary is Philip Rosen who asked the question “To what extent does a practitioner’s own subjectivity affect the past as object?” he in short asks us to explore deeper how do our opinions and ideology affect the way we recreate work.

We then moved on to watching a short section of a film called “The Arbor”, this film is a reflection of the lives of Andrea Dunbar’s daughters from their own personal interviews. The actors within the film are lips synced to the voices of the original daughters. During the short clip we were asked to consider how the director used archival sources and why those sources where chosen?

I tried to find the film we watched but have so far been unsuccessful so instead here is the trailer for the film as it gives a sense of the kind of film we watched.

– Trailer of The Arbor

From watching the film the group discovered that the following sources of archival material was used during the film-
• Real life footage of Andrea when she was eighteen from the BBC interview created from when her film first was released
• The original script in book form
• DVD’s of the film and interview
• Audio recordings of the daughters interviews regarding their lives growing up

However we also had to explain why we think these where used, I personally feel that these sources where used to show multiple sides to Andrea Dunbar. The film allowed its audience to see the young girl that everyone else knew but to also further develop this to understand her private life and the way she treated her children. From this film I was left thinking that Andrea was neglected as a child herself and has therefore grown up to treat her children the only way she knew how.

After watching only a short section I was really interested to research a little more about Andrea and her film Rita, Sue and Bob too. From this I have found a short YouTube clip entitled Remembering Andrea Dunbar that looks at the life and achievements of this young girl.

 – Remembering Andrea Dunbar

and I also managed to find the whole film “Rita, Sue and Bob too”

After a short break we then moved on to a practical task, firstly we had to make a final decision on the archive that we would like to explore, for this I chose the Women’s Arts Collection. I made this choice because it was the collection that I felt most interested by, it appealed to my likes in theatre and when at the visit to the archive a week ago the artifacts that were brought out I found to be creatively stimulating especially the marriage to a piece of art. For my group I am hoping to work alongside Lucie, Hayley and a new student Leah who is an exchange student from Colorado in America.

The task for today’s practical session was to look at artefacts that group members find and firstly identify what we found interesting, why they are selected and then to embody the pieces. For the first part I set out three simple questions, what was it of?, what is it about? and why did you choose it?. We only got time for one set of artefacts and they were Leah’s, below is the answers to these questions.

What was it of?- the artefacts are from the lift archive and are centred around the performance of “factory of dreams”, we had two photographs which look liked props, a casting call for child and an outline of the possible route the piece could take.

What is it about? – The factory of dreams took place in 1995 just before the Lifts first festival, the production allowed children to shape and design a large structure that became the centre of the performance. During the performance people where encouraged to create pentagon shapes with lamps and then attach them to the structure. The piece was designed to symbolise the creation of life, hope and sanctuary but instead of through God’s hands through the hands of humans.

Why did you choose it?- Leah chose this piece because it directly linked to one of her other modules but also because she has an interest in the range of a Child’s imagination.

To embody this piece we took the concepts of raising light and hope and the concept of togetherness and pentagons to create two still images. The first was of us lifting Hayley to shoulder height while she opened her arms up above her head to show the technology used to lift the lights. The second we stole someone else from the audience and made the shape of a pentagon, we did this to show the way in which audience members were encouraged to work together and make these shapes.

Next week we are on a field trip to our archive of choice where we must find a minimum of five artefacts related to the subject area in which we are interested in and then create a presentation of these to show the area we wish to explore what our next research project will be.

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