Week 6 – Developing a Performance Framework

This week’s session was also like last split into two sections, the first was a short lecture around the concepts of performance based on documentation and the second was a practical session.

Theory

This week’s session was taken by Rachel Cockburn our visiting lecturer who was also a PhD student at the University. The questions for this session were, How does a performance practice self-archive? and, How much process should be archived or not included? To explore these questions we looked at Sophie Calle.

“Sophie Calle was born in 1953 and is a French writer, photographer, installation artist, and conceptual artist. Calle’s work is distinguished by its use of arbitrary sets of constraints, and evokes the French literary movement of the 1960s known as Oulipo. Her work frequently depicts human vulnerability, and examines identity and intimacy. She is recognized for her detective-like ability to follow strangers and investigate their private lives. Her photographic work often includes panels of text of her own writing.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophie_Calle

More specifically we looked into two of her pieces “The shadow” and “L’hotel”.

The shadow took place in April 1981; the piece consisted of photographs taken by a private investigator. Sophie Calle asked her mother to hire an investigator to follow her around all day and document her actions, these photographs were then displayed with both her and the investigators observations from the day. Throughout all the pictures Sophie appears more as a shadow or distant figure then a being which is what made this piece so interesting. Whereas L’hotel again which took place in 1981 saw Sophie get a job as a chamber maid for three weeks in a hotel in Venice, she spent the time photographing the presence of people through the belongings which had been left in their rooms as they went out. She captured unmade beds, food rappers, dirty clothing and many other things. Both these projects where displayed in a photographic manner with written accompaniment of her thoughts and feelings. Sophie Calle encourages her viewers to embody voyeurism something also used very strongly by Alfred Hitchcock in his movies also around this time era.

The question is though how does this relate to our study questions for the lecture and this is my answer.

How does a performance practice self-archive?

Sophie’s work speaks for itself, part of the process to create her work is documenting the project, it’s the taking of pictures and the recording of observations which will be displayed in future performances. If we follow her work method of capturing the objects and feelings as we continue through the project we would be creative archiving our project as we go.

How much process should be archived or not included?

Sophie Calle documented everything that was needed to put her viewer in her shoes, she would take you to the food restaurants where she ate dinner and she would push boundaries but she always knew what was and was not necessary. I believe by looking at Sophie Calle we are able to see the depth that a project needs to go through to really transform an audience, she would show us everything and the kitchen sink if that felt important to her and that is what I feel is most important when it comes to archiving. When it comes to documenting and archiving I do not think there can ever be too much but there can be unnecessary objects. When deciding what to include I believe you should ask yourself what felt important to the project, what effected you, gave you inspiration and holds significance. If that happens to be the tissue, on which, you wiped your hands or the photograph of the performance piece then that’s what should be archived.

Practical

For this week’s practical we were split into two large groups and split into separate rooms to have more space for development. We started by discussing as a whole group what each group are looking at and their plans for their project. In this section we spoke about visiting the archive again and developing the idea that we want to stage a wedding that could be legally binding if all the paper work and participants where official. The idea was developed from Lucy X’s project that was completely just an art piece so we want to use her plan and completely follow in her footsteps but find the loopholes which mean a wedding to art could be possible. To display our project we want to video the wedding and have it playing while the audience walk into the room. The room its self would be covered in the facts about the archive material and the laws we found to work with.

The session then moved on to a more practical sense we were given the topics, space, text and movement and whre asked to explore how we could use these in our piece. So in our individual groups we started to discuss our projects, for my group we decided the following-

  • Specially- we want to use an instillation method, we want to host the project in a classroom where we could project the video on a projector screen and have the audience walk around the room reading about our artistic inspiration and the steps we took to develop the work.
  • Textually- we want to have the laws, speeches and vows written out and displayed around the room
  • Movement – we would encourage the audience to walk around the room explore the project in its finer detail.

As a way of displaying our ideas we got the audience to walk around the room while we acted out the possible footage for our wedding.

Portfolio task 5 – Short Essay – how have you personally responded to archive materials? What questions do they raise? What traces do you want to explore? (250 words)

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