This blog has to be submitted on Tuesday 7th may 2013 so between then and now I am planning to proof read as many of my posts and edit them for grammatical errors. It has been an interesting module and one that I have taken a lot from. If I had to give any advice to future students studying this module it would be don’t be afraid to ask questions, if you become lost and are unsure what it is you are meant to be doing make sure you speak to your lecturers because before you know it the exam will be there and you will be panicking. Just keep on top of the blog and readings and ask if you need help and you should be fine.
Today was our final performance after ten weeks of research, development and creation the final event was upon us. Looking back of the process of creating our work I personally do believe we have made the most changes to our work. Our piece was a response to Lucy X Exaqua’s marriage to art and an understanding of the laws surrounding marriage to anything other than the opposite sex. Originally the piece was meant to see a young female marry a robot and an exploration of the way to work around the laws that England has in place to make this impossible. However after some further research into the British marriage laws it became very clear that marring anything that isn’t human is impossible as both parties require a birth certificate and proof of residence. So the project moved a corner and became more about looking into ways people can marry the things they love and preconceptions around marriage, but this image also had its faults and sank with the others. So here we are today with our final piece that explores the ideas of commitment and why when we think of commitment do we assume marriage. Lucy X Exaqua was committed to her art work and that is why she chose to marry it but we also wanted to explore who has the right to determine what we are or are not allowed to be committed to.
Our piece took on a wedding fair style setting with the marriage laws hung from different places around the room and various tables designed to look like stalls. We had four tables one with the original film footage playing of a wedding asking why, when we think of commitment do we think of a wedding. Another displayed a fake cake, rings and photographs prompting the question why do we need all of these objects to feel committed when none of it is a legal requirement. Another had a book on it that asked its audience members to explain what they think a wedding and marriage is and finally the fourth table had a box which asked the audience to write down if they could commit to anything what it would be and post it in the box.
For the performance itself we allowed the audience to enter the room look around the room and fill out the book and box and when we as the artists felt it right we began to read out the book, the commitment confessions and ripping down the laws. The performance was planned to end with the main objects from the performance concealed in a box just like Lucy X Exaqua however this wasn’t what actually happened on the day.
Before I evaluate the negatives of our performance I thought I would look at the positive first. One of the main points that were conveyed to us from the audience were that visually the room at the beginning of the performance was very effective especially the spacing of the tables as this meant that no one felt cramped or struggled to see an object. The number and location of the laws was also commented one as being just enough that everyone had an opportunity to see all of the twelve in the set. I also think that some of the laws surprised some of the members of the audience especially the fact that rings are not necessary by law and only by the couple’s wishes, as on several occasions I spotted different members of the audience reading the laws and then discussing it with other members or looking shocked. The participatory part of the performance was also successful although the audience did have to be shown the objects and their purpose before they made entries into the book, the box and taking pictures.
From one of our lecturers we gathered the feedback that she preferred the start to our piece where she could walk around the space in her own time and struggled to understand the reasoning to the removal of the laws from the space. She explained that she thought the concept was already clear enough from just the instillation that the performance elements were possibly unnecessarily and didn’t further the piece, on the positive side though she did believe the piece could speak for itself.
Although we did have many positive elements to our performances there were also some negative elements, the first point to be made was an observation made by ourselves that when we started the performance element of the instillation the audience stopped moving around. Upon reflection in most performances that we attend when a practical performance is taking place we do generally stop and observe in a space that feels right for us. We don’t normally walk around with the actors unless prompted by them to do so, so with this point in mind I believe that it was our personal fault that the audience stopped moving around. If we had taken to time to consider more carefully the objective then we may have been able to put some form of speech in place that ensured the audience remained moving. The second point to be made was although the audience members did fill out the book, they did take pictures and they did reveal who they would commit to, not many of the audience actually took part in these activities. This was due to a lack of time, as the performances had to be completed in a maximum of ten minutes the audience was not given the time necessary for for everyone to take part. If we could revisit this performance I personally think that we should have given more time to this element of the instillation and maybe even removed the element of practical performance.
The last fault in the performance was a human error that affected the ending of the piece. The performance as previously stated was meant to end with us ripping down the laws and packing the key elements in a box, instead the performance ended very abruptly when one of the classroom lights fell from the ceiling. The reason for this was down to miss-communication between group members and human error. The laws for our performance where suspended from thick washing line that looped around one of the ceiling lights, the rope was meant to be duct taped to the wall so that when pulled it would release and fall down. The problem however occurred when one of the group members actually knotted the rope to the pluming pipe so when pulled by myself it became tight and pulled the lighting fixture down instead. The main question we had to ask ourselves was did the laws even need to be pulled down in the first place or would just placing the objects in the box have been effective on its own.
Looking back over our whole piece, its process to create and perform there are many things I would have done differently. I believe that I should have spoken to one of the lecturers earlier regarding what they actually wanted from us because if we had spoken to them sooner the project may have found its feet much quicker. Having done this it would have given us the chance to show more work in progress and gather the much needed feedback. Although I don’t think I would have changed the archival material as I still find it fascinating and really feel passionate about the end piece I do believe that we should have spent more time discussing how we were going to make the instillation more performative instead of the discussing the location of the laws. With more planning the lighting accident would have never occurred and we may have discovered that performance was not needed in the instillation at all. I do not regret the material we choose to study for the instillation piece we subsequently produced, I just feel with more time and research the final project could have been far better than it was.
See below for a slide show of the preparation for the event.
Question – Choose one theoretical reading and discuss how it has transformed your ideas about performance and archives?
For this question I have decided to look at Philip Auslander’s “the performativity of performance documentation”. The reading looks into the concept of photography as a form of documentation and its reliability within the context of an archive. Auslander explores two different forms of photographs in his reading to try and answer the question of whether a photograph displayed on its own can be classified as an archival source. He also asks us to question these photographs reliability before we engage with them in a performative setting. I have chosen this reading to look at because many of the archival sources I have explore though this blog including Lucy x, have in some way used one or many photograph as their proof of performance, which has lead me to question how much should be believed.
In Auslander’s reading he reviews two performance’s use of photography to formulate an interesting argument. The performances he looks at are “Shoot” (1971) and “Leap into the void “(1960), Shoot (1971) was a performance piece were an artist paid his friend to shoot him in the arm, initially this performance was designed so that the friend would miss his arm however during the actual event he did shoot the artist. To document this event audience members and fellow artists capture photographs of the shot and the wound caused , these photographs along with an explanation of the event became the archival material. Whereas Leap into the void (1960) saw an artist leap out of a window as photographs were taken by on lookers and land safely in a net below. Yet when the photographs where displayed in their final state the safety net had been digitally removed which leads the audience to wonder whether the original jump was the performance or these new edited photographs are actually the performance. Auslander produced the idea that shoot captured a real event seen by audience members and relived though its photographs, he explains it as “replacing the reality it documents”(p.3) whereas leap into the void made two performance one lost at the moment the performance left the site of shooting and another through the photographs. Yet if it is possible to edit these photographs and no audience member knows any different should we really trust the photographs we find in archives.
With this in mind my group made a creative decision to display a collection of photographs in our piece; alongside other materials however after reading and applying these methodologies to our work even those photographs are of a questionable state. To explain this further our photographs were of a wedding, they are taken at the location where we carried out our filming, they display the correct clothing and props but I personally feel these are not completely true of our performance. This idea is generated because just like leap into the void our photographs are digitally altered, they have been adjusted to remove blemishes, increase the lighting so the day appears perfect and brightened so the wedding dress seems crystal white. Our photographs are also staged, we never at any point in our filming stood how we are displayed in the photographs and I am then left wondering if these photographs are not an addition to the video but a performance in themselves.
From this reading and many of the others studied through this module I believe I have a clearer understanding of what archival material is and the concerns artists face when choosing to work with this kind of material. I also believe that this module has allowed me to think more carefully when engaging with any form of theatrical material be it archival or not as unless you have carried out a wide amount of prior research you will never really understand what it is you are working with.
Today’s lecture was purely dedicated to final rehearsals, gathering final feedback from our lecturers and spending the time wisely to ensure our project was complete and ready for next week. After last week’s interesting feedback session we decided to spend the first twenty minutes discussing what we all took from the session what we felt needed to be changed or clarified and how we would achieve this. From the discussion we decided that the laws needed to be hung up in various areas around the room to ensure that message of the piece was clear. We also decided that we needed to make the video less of a centrepiece and more of an element with aids to the overall theme of commitment. We just needed to find a way of expressing this fact in a clear manner.
We then had a short conversation with both of our lecturers and together we decided that the best way forward was to create an environment that almost symbolizes a wedding fair. The fair would show the unneeded wedding dress, the photographs which didn’t need to be taken and the fake cake, it would be set out with columns of laws hanging from the ceiling. There would also be a suggestion box which asks if you could commit to anything what it would be, a book that asks you to explain what a wedding is to you and video of a wedding with the question why when we think of commitment do we think of a wedding. For the rest of the lecture we decided to, reprint the laws so that they were bolder to see and on individual pieces of paper, design and decided of the tags for the objects and finally chose the location of the laws. For an easy way to understand this I have created a floor plan. See below.
This session was dedicated to the development of our practical work which is due in two weeks. To start the session we had a very quick catch up on what are our deadlines and the requirements for these assessments. We had two assessments a practical performance of the 30th April and a blog submission of the 7th May.
Practical – This is our work created from archival material that we have collected and responded to, this work should not be initially new or inspired by the archival material but should clearly show the work we collected throughout.
Blog– This should include précis, weekly lesson updates, rehearsal process and further development both practically and theoretically.
We then moved on to looking at our project, the first thing we needed to do was to record the promises and vows. This was completed by using my laptop and the recording and editing software I have. We decided the vows should be played first and followed by the poem as this allows you as the audience to see and hear the stereotypical formalities of a wedding before the emotional impact are portrayed. To ensure that Lucy’s original project is present in our work we have mixed her wording from the pictures which we transferred to a poem with our own wording mentioned in previous weeks to create an all new poem. The poem reads-
“Oh picture, Oh concept, Oh Love, Oh Cage, Oh picture, Oh paint , Oh Love, Oh Prison, Oh desperate little picture, Art my little freedom heart, A desperate little love, a heart with no freedom,
Oh painting, Oh sincerity, My Love, My Truth, Oh painting, Oh concept, My Love, Their Laws, Oh creativity, Oh true invitation Together we fight, My true art, My spouse, apart we fall”
We then have made some decisions on entrance music, for these we choose “I would do anything for love” by Meatloaf but the instrumental version as for us we felt this made not only a statement but followed in the design of our piece. We then decided that we wanted all the many important facts of the piece to be in separate boxes and stacked in a tower. Within each box would be an object with a tag indicating its purpose, so to eat, try on and use to take pictures. With these elements agreed upon we then made a to do list for the coming weeks, please see below.
To be done–
- Birth certificates in box mine and Lucie’s
- Giving notices (Lucie is dealing with)
- Two more boxes – one with the cake in and one with the rings
- Three tags – try me on, eat me and oh picture, concept document this day
- Bring dress on day
- Speakers for next week
The final part of today’s session was showing of work in progress and as we haven’t gained any feedback from fellow students we made the decision to show our piece. However as we don’t have all the elements for our project we spoke shortly before on how we would present our work and we decided to show only the film and the contents to our box as it is.
Showing our work was an experience that I was not expecting, many of the members of our class became very passionate about the fact Lucie was dressed as a boy and struggled to remain calm to give us the opportunity to fully explain our motives. With this strong passion the feedback we gained from our class members was minimal and unhelpful. So with this in mind our group decided to stay after class to have a private discussion with our lecturers to try and source the reason for this upset. The feedback that we got from our lecturers started as a blur of personal opinions and emotions and then became a calm adult discussion.
The feedback we got from our lecturers in bullet point form was as follows-
- If Lucie is going to remain in a suit then our reason needs to be expressed far more clearly, our lecturers understand the idea that clothing should not be gender specific and that it’s the viewers own personal assumption she was dressed as a male but we must address from the start that she is a women and not a man.
- Explain clearly the laws of gay marriage, what is the difference between a civil partnership and a marriage
- How does Lucy X and her work relate to this work, where does her work show in the piece.
With all this feedback gathered we are now going to walk away from the project for the day and come back to it with a clear mind another day. Our aims are to clearly explain these facts so that there is no room for miss conception.
For today’s lecture we had a guest lecturer Tamara Meneghini, she is the Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Tamara spoke about her project “the great goddess bazaar” and the ideas of mask in theatre and performance. She started the lecture by asking what a mask is and together we concluded that the possibilities for what could be conceived as a mask are endless. Things which we concluded that could be a mask where clothing, language, wedding veils, make up, hair and body piercings. She then moved on to explaining how masks are relevant to her production, the great goddess bazaar is a one women performance exploring a range of women in the current American media including a politician, a solider and a house wife. So the question was how one woman can portray all these personas, easy answer by using a mask.
Tamara’s company tried using actual masks but they became too limiting and so she had to find new inspiration, what do all women have, and the answer she came to was shoes. All women love shoes so why not change shoes with each character. Also the concept of feet and shoes are something very close to Tamara’s heart, she finds feet very interesting as they are the part of our body that keeps us grounded to the earth, before we can do any movement we must move through our feet.
Tamara then went on to explain the power that emotions have and how we as actors can use emotions, the best practical inspiration for emotions is the Rassas boxes which address sadness, rage, love, fear, disgust, courage and laughter. To successfully portray these elements we first must get in touch with our own breath as breath is the core to every movement, sound and being of an actor. The final thing that Tamara mentioned was style and how we must engage with our own style, but how do we define style Tamara herself does not have a complete definition but she likes to share one given to her by a student. Style is “A thousand nameless little things that nobody knows but everybody feels”
With Tarmaras’ lecture completed we moved on to the practical part of this session. The first thing that my group did was decided that we need to complete the filming for our project soon and so we have set the date for filming at Saturday the 13th April 2013. With a goal to no reach we had some minor loose ends that needed tying up firstly we needed vows and secondly Lucy’s promises are no longer appropriate and so these needed to be altered.
For the vows we wanted something legally binding and religious so we have chosen
“I, take you, to be my friend, my lover, the mother of my children and my wife. I will be yours in times of plenty and in times of want, in times of sickness and in times of health, in times of joy and in times of sorrow, in times of failure and in times of triumph. I promise to cherish and respect you, to care and protect you, to comfort and encourage you, and stay with you, for all eternity.” (http://www.itakeyou.co.uk/wedding-ideas/traditional-religious-wedding-vows.htm)
We chose these vows as they symbolise the pain and difficulty the couple have to go through to make this wedding real and the strength of the love required to make it through the other side. For the promises we chose to keep to poetic rhythm of Lucy’s promises but changed the words to more relevant words for this we chose-
Oh Love, Oh Cage,
Oh Love, Oh Prison,
A desperate little love, a heart with no freedom
My Love, My Truth
My Love, Their Laws
Together we fight, apart we fall
With these loose ends tied up we had to agree on the location of the filming and what shots we wish to take. For the location we have chosen West Ham Park as this is scenic and has wedding gazebos. For the shot ideas I will look into these in my own time.
This week’s lecture was hosted by a guest lecturer from Columbia College Chicago, Brian Shaw, with this in mind I don’t think we followed the plan for the lecture that had already been arranged. The original Lecture question was “What other online/ physical archives can assist documentary performance?” But as this was a lecture lead by Brian and not Eve as previously stated I would presume this was not the new focus question. Like the last two weeks this lecture was also split down into two sections theory and practical.
Theory with Brian
We started the session by playing games of murder where you walk around the space and one pre selected person kills everyone one by one by giving them a special hand shake until they are discovered. We played this game to warm and wake us up and to prepare us for the theory to follow. The next exercise we were given was to get into pairs, then in these pairs we had to each tell one and other about a time in our lives when one of our secrets was exposed for the world to know and how we felt about this. We were then asked to discuss what the relationship was like with the secret teller and the person who found out about the secret. In my case I know longer talk to the teller due to other reasons but this was a contributing factor however I gained a better relationship with one of the persons concerned in the secret.
We were then asked did we tell the secret if not or so why? For me and my partner we both told our secrets to each other, I believe this was because we are close friends and therefore trust each other and also once the secret was told all those years ago it was no longer a secret. However for me I found this exercise interesting as I would have never before consider the concept of how easily we revel secrets in conversation to those we trust.
The session then moved on to looking at Mark Lombardi, Lombardi was considered an “American Neo-Conceptualist and an abstract artist. His major legacy was linked to his large-scale linear diagrams attempting to trace the structures of financial and political power, corruption and affairs among capitalists, politicians, corporations, and governments.” http://socks-studio.com/2012/08/22/mark-lombardi/ it has been said that due to the way Lombardi chooses to display his findings that when you look at a Lombardi pieces it appears to resembles an atomic structure. Below are some images for you to make your own choice.
The session finished by looking at Brian’s own company and some of their past work which he considers archival. One of the pieces we looked at was called Doorslam, the piece was created from the directors experience when working in a hotel. The director recalls a day when every time he opened a door he was convinced he would see his double on the other side and by the time he reached the end of his shift he was an emotional wreck. So this piece looks at what it would have been like to see that double so the clip we saw follow this link: http://plasticene.com/
The session then moved into the practical part, for this session we were given time to build upon the material we had already developed however due to personal commitments the last week we didn’t have all the research finished and so were allowed to go to a study area to finalize our research material. For the remainder of the session we watched some of the other groups and gave feedback which could be relayed to our work as well.
Portfolio task 6– using three interviews from the unfinished histories website construct a creative narrative map for performance
Plan for the Easter break
- Catch up on the readings and maybe read the next weeks to be ahead of myself
- Complete this week’s portfolio task
- Create our practical piece
How have you personally responded to archive materials?
I have personally taken the initial archive material on Lucy X and her wedding and tried to discover as much more as possible, I then created a power point of this research. Then next I have researched into other weddings and the background behind the artist’s decisions and the messages that these works displays. With these researches I have then considered the how we are going to stage the wedding and what elements of wedding come with their own story such as the white dress, the bride walks down slowly the aisle with her father and the rings. With all this research I now need to obtain the laws of marriage and then start to respond creatively by creating the video for the project with the other members of my group.
What questions do they raise?
From studying Lucy X’s work and her wedding there are many questions that if I could meet her I would have loved to have asked. The first would be why she did not make it official and actually marry this piece of art, was it because it not physically possible or is it because she is rebelling against the idea of marriage and therefore to marry the artwork would have been to give in to the pressure. I would have also liked to ask her why if she loved the art work so much then did she then sell it on after the wedding and why make plans to divorce the art work within five years. Through all the research I have done and been able to gather her motivations and reasoning always seems to be the grey area and I would like to know why. I simply question whether she just did not have a reason and was hoping to find it along the way.
What traces do you want to explore?
From the work we have now gained I and the group want to look further into the practicality of staging a wedding to art – is it possible to make it legal and what really were the things Lucy had to consider when she make the choice to marry her art work.
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.
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.
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)
Lecture question– Presence and absence: performing with layers of time and space
Today the lecture was split into two sections, we had a short session with Eve who gave a lecture of Archive and memory and then we had a second section dedicated to practical work.
For the theory session the lecture had us thinking about what can we question about archives? What are the areas that we should be weary of? The answers were very simple firstly we must always consider the accuracy and objectivity, how truthful are objects we are looking at are there any way they could have been tampered with. Secondly what is the usefulness of collecting and examining historical documents and objects? We need to understand whether they really hold the key to the questions we have or are they just lost in the time era they are from. Finally what is the archive’s mission statement? Do they aim for the same things we want, and will they really have the items we are looking for?
From this topic area we then moved on to looking at documentation and how it is essential that you document throughout your process. We discussed that as we perform we should record and as we create we should document.
The final thing that we looked at today was Barriet Bradley who spoke about the pleasures, seduction and illusions of archival work. He questions again what is real and correct and how do we know that the sources we find really are what they imply, he also encourages constant questioning of the resource material.
For the practical session this week we all had to present the findings we collected from the archives last week, so for this my group decided to show the PowerPoint that I made. The general vibe from our peers and lecturers was good, they outlined that they thought we had made a good start and the information we had obtained was of a good level. To progress further now we were told to explore the history of the time so the eighties more, look in to the laws regarding weddings, look at why someone would marry art there has to be a deeper meaning. Finally we need to formulate a final piece idea where are we going with this research what do we want to make a statement about.
Portfolio task 4– use three different modes of documentation to record the group’s development
This I will complete after our visit to the Women’s Art Collection on Monday 11th March