Director Performer 2013
“Performance is invariably put forward as an opening up to the real – an entrance into that which surrounds and enacts the work but which is not synonymous with that which is fixed and presented in the work.”
Exhibition success. Expanding Performance 2013
“Sitting down is an invitation to engage”
I am focusing on performance being something other than action. In the case of my assessment piece, in looking from one monitor to the next, the viewer is not watching the performances but is acknowledging something between - which is the subject of the work.
Having read Good versus Bad Objecthood, I was influenced by Bernd and Hiller’s Water Towers whereby the work resisted narrative closure and was about the brute fact of presence. The viewer was not looking at the water tower but at the presence of water towers. And within my work, the viewer is not looking at what the performers are doing, but the fact that they are all doing. Seeing these images also inspired the composition for the piece – “you can very well perceive things that differ little from each other as individual elements if you assemble them in groups” yet only when you put them alongside each other do you see their similarity.
I remember a visiting artist who placed the same photograph alongside each other in pairs, in order that the image was not fixed, but that there was a space between – a third space. I have looked into the work of the Theatre of Mistakes, and in particular the work Going 1977. It is a performance that uses inconsistency (the mistake), and so the disruption of the object, to establish the structure, which would be presented as fixed and self contained.
I am beginning to take an instruction/plan/idea as the performance, and so instead of one fixed instance, the work exists as a series of “instances”. As opposed to being about what the performance is, who the performers are or what the performance looks like, it is about performance itself, and a staging of the work’s coming into being - “A making visible of the viewer to her own engagement in the process of looking ‘for’ and ‘through’ the work.” In other words, I am trying not to offer an object, but the process of performing.
We discussed Yves Klein’s “Anthropometrie” series (1928-1962) - named after the study of human body measurements.
Yves Klein’s use of the female body as “living paintbrushes” relates again to the notion of the body as material, or even a tool in this case. What appears in the painting is the result of an instruction – each print the outcome of an individual ‘performer’, yet almost the same each time, if only slight differences. I like this notion of series. Directly relating to my current practice, repetition but not repetition. This idea that slight ‘errors’ can allude to an ideal, of which we can never reach, because it doesn’t actually exist. The closest theatre gets to its ideal production is its script, which is why I am pursuing the idea of instruction. Performance is altered in its exhibition. It’s whether you consider the performance to be in the performance.
The work I produced for the Expanding Performance exhibition I saw as a trying out of something in preparation for the assessment show a week later. Already the work was an extension of the previous work Director Performer 2013 but I was beginning to shoot the videos in a studio to strip the work of any potential narrative.
My plan for next week’s show is to make a number of videos whereby each performer is following the same set of instructions and at the same pace – the idea being that the performances follow the same pattern but individual performers introduce the differences (in their interpretation of language/direction). So the performance becomes an instruction, and so the actual actions are just a version of these directions as opposed to a fixed activity.
The work in the triangle was a run up to this piece, a test one might say. The work consisted of three screens and three performers.
With this work, I didn’t include the audio, as an experiment of how the work would be interpreted without it. In response to this, someone mentioned in the crit that they didn’t recognise that the performances were based on instruction, which is not a problem for me, but it is critically useful. In the next piece I will ensure that the instructions are audible so that the viewer to the work is invited themselves to perform. I may consider introducing the chair, and so whether the viewer chooses to participate or to view is their prerogative and is action beyond my control.
The workshop taught me that the exhibition of work produces changes in the work, and changes to the way you perceive the work yourself – the work alters throughout the making process. My intention was to play each video at the same time so that the performers were following the same instructions simultaneously, however during the set-up when the videos were out of sync, I noticed that it was somehow more interesting to follow the performances slightly after one another, still acknowledging the differences. People commented that they spent more time with the work, in trying to work out whether the performances were the same, and in this way the piece was successful.
Secondly I found that if the performers were in sync, the viewer chose to watch one screen, as opposed to switching between the three so frequently, as they were comfortable with the fact that each were doing the same actions. In actual fact I wanted the viewer to be in the position where their eyes had to move between screens, introducing physical space outside of the screens into the work. I positioned the screens fairly far apart for the same effect. In the crit I noted that someone felt the presence of the performers in the space due to the composition of the piece, and also due to the irregularity of the spaces. I hope to continue this notion through to next week’s work.
Something I hadn’t predicted was that, due to the difference in time between loops on each DVD player, every time the work was different. Even when starting the videos simultaneously, eventually the work became out of sync again, despite the videos being of the same length. I noticed that the videos continued to go in and out of sync throughout the private view which is interesting in its relevance to performance’s uncertain/inconsistent nature, and it was the essence of performance that I was trying to present.
Following on from this, a tutor asked whether there were references to other performance artworks, such as the work of Bruce Nauman, gestured in the work. I answered no because I did not choreograph the performances myself and therefore no deliberate references were included. However I am glad that people looked (or saw) these known references, as it shows that the viewer acknowledged that the work was about work itself - a comment on performance as opposed to a performance piece.
This was the second year in taking part in Ian Giles’ Expanding Performance workshop, and an opportunity to try out an idea in a relaxed and performance-based environment. I was determined to push an idea because the chance to showcase performance is rare, and I remembered how ambitious last year’s artists were. We were told to think about the present moment and the potential to set up a situation as opposed to making the work per se.
Considering the essence of performance, I wanted to stage a yoga class. I wanted the work to talk about performance, and not the ‘performers’ - which is why the work was open-invite (in order to question the position of performer). Considering performance as an exchange between people, this seemed an ideal situation to demonstrate this notion. I spoke to a yoga teacher about staging the work and she was excited at the prospect of yoga being displayed as an art. Despite this not being the intention of the work, I liked that her interpretation of the piece was beyond my control, and the piece existed in this conversation between minds.
I want to emphasise that the work wasn’t about yoga, but yoga being a symbol for something other than artwork, and about the work existing as an exchange. Overall a comment on the presence of performance and the differences between nonmatrix and symbolised nonmatrix performing. Every performer/participant would be interpreting the instructions and so a ‘type’ would be alluded to.
Interestingly I found this ‘event’ - a large scale version of the work. I say interestingly because it leads me to question the definitions/distinctions between performance/activity/happening and how context directly affects the way in which actions are perceived.
To celebrate the first day of Summer, around 4,000 people gathered at Times Square in New York to perform a yoga session.
Solstice in Times Square: Athleta Mind Over Madness Yoga June 2013
Unfortunately I didn’t have time or the space in this particular exhibition to stage the yoga, but it is a plan for a future work. I think perhaps it would be more successful outside of a group exhibition.
A work in progress.
Welcome in progress May 2013
Director Performer 2013
In this work I was investigating the role of performer, and the control they may take over the work. I invited a participant (unknowingly a performer too) to direct me in a performance for five minutes. She instructed me to “jump, clap, run in circles’ etc and after the performance had ended I told her
“Now I want you to follow your own instruction”
So director became performer and directed herself. Exploring Alexus Harding’s idea that “art exists somewhere between the controlled and uncontrolled” I appeared to the participant to be out of control In giving her full control of the work for a set period, however I remained in control of the work as a concept. Working alongside but separately from each other, my instruction together with her direction resulted in a work whereby it appears we are playing equal roles in the work. The participant directed the performance and I directed the work – the result of which was in the performers’ actions. Viewer becomes director and performer. The work also helped me to test the relationship between the artist and their own work by allowing the participant to take control of actions/choreography. The second viewer only sees the result of this process and will interpret as they will.