(Executing the Executed): Reviving Lost Identities; found

Identity has been pinnacle in the development for our piece and has been of particular influence for me since the beginning right through to our performance. Even after the durational performance; identity lived on. We returned the retraced identities to the Gaol as a ritual of returning their identity to the space, in which they died in, as way of setting their identity free as a free traced vessel. Along with the identities of the prison we also took the carved tablets to complete the cycle of retracing identity from site to performance and performance to site. Returning identity and linking the past with the present seemed appropriate to complete the identity of our site specific reflection.

 

 

In the grounds of the prison we framed the tablets around a tree, which also had carvings of identification on it, situated opposite the restricted area in which the footstones were placed. It appeared the appropriate place to the traced identities to be placed and left to fulfil the recognition of them within today’s society.We left the site with our identity of the piece also carved into the tree.

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My main interest throughout the site specific process predominantly concerned identification and the lack/loss of it, and essentially the uniqueness that space, place and site creates. I feel that through this process of site specific and reflective drama we have completed this fulfilling all essence and traces of identity and indeed site.

Tracing lost voices (Performance day)

During our performance today we aimed to trace lost identities of the Victorian gaol. We completed this through a durational performance, mainly for our benefit, to become empty vessels ourselves, embodying the chosen space and exploring all elements that may have been experienced in the Gaol by the convicted, whose identities have been forgotten. We restricted ourselves to be isolated within the space and from each other in a way to connect with the performance space, similarly to how prisoners would have connected to the prison, yet to experience lapsed senses of belonging, possession and freedom. Through the confinements and restrictions that we created consciously and unconsciously between us, essentially reflecting our site, I began to feel removed from society and the space itself, sensing moments of insanity, confusion and paranoid of other peoples presence; both imagined and real. I generally felt like I was missing elements of my identity, which is essentially the effect we hoped the piece would have upon us and the audience; removing elements of our identity, sanity and sense of safety to trace the identities of the Victorian prisoners through their lack of freedom and restriction.

 

We wanted the audience leave with a feeling of leaving something behind; their identity or even to reflect upon the claustrophobic atmosphere that the space presented. However, the audience didn’t leave completely lost; they left with Calvino quotes tied to their fingers as a representation of identity, almost like sealing their wounds of the piece and as personal identification to the performance. The quotes also acted as a gift for helping us to trace the lost identities of the Gaol as the text has been of huge influence to our piece, but also so the audience could fulfil their lack of identity somewhat and reflect on the site after the performance was over.

Our performance was more closely related to site responsive/reflective than site specific as we created the essence of site and reflected this in a new and challenging space. We achieved this through the elements of confinement, claustrophobic atmosphere, unawareness and senses of the individual; both heightened and restricted; for example through the limited lighting and continuous sound scape of the repeating surgeon’s journal articles. We essentially created elements of the site and the feelings it bestowed on us as individuals and inflected this upon our space and essentially the audience. As part of the link to identification we demanded the audience to create a footstone which is linked to carved stone and wood where the prisoners identified themselves in the gaol, grounding their roots before they died. The idea developed from this and the footstones which were laid at the foot of each prisoner after their death instead of a headstone to degrade their identity. Each participant of our piece was issued with their own tablet to represent this idea and a key in which to inscribe their initials.

 

Mapping Identity

‘A sensuous realm that is imagined, lived, performed and contested.’

Over the last few weeks I have been concerned with specific spaces and places and their emotional effects on the individual. I have begun to recognise the significance of connection between spectator and space or even performer and space and the experiences that individuals may encounter within them. Since this discovery, the reading Between Routes and Roots  has made me consider these elements much further and that it is also ‘possible to have emotional attachments and a sense of belonging’ to a particular place. This made me think back to the task where we all shared places in the city of Lincoln and around the world that created a sense of belonging or even fear, touching both positive and negative emotions. Space and particular places have a huge impact on our lives and it’s only now that I realise the significance that individual sites have on individuals. The chosen site for our site specific piece cannot just be anywhere, we will have to consider the aesthetics and atmosphere of the space and the effects it may have on people, and emotions it could form, both on the spectators and us as artists.

This week however, we have been looking into mapping our way around the city, again taking into account the experiences from the previous weeks through new tasks.

After being presented with a map in today’s session we were asked to find a start/finish point and to draw up a route. We took this route into the city and through abstract movements presented it to passers-by. The public then became an audience or spectators to the task and us the artist. We began this in familiar areas of Lincoln; however we felt like we needed to explore spaces that were unfamiliar to us in order for us to map our way around the city and come to terms with the new spaces we found, creating a form of emotional connection with them. Through doing this we lost ourselves in the spaces and places and allowed our minds to explore the city and situations differently to how we would normally view it in everyday life, questioning what it meant for us as individuals to experience a particular space in this way. I came to wonder if it was for our own emotional state, satisfaction and connection with the space or it if was just to create spectacle and experiences for any viewers that may happen to see us.

 

 

Whilst documenting this task a passer-by who overheard us say that it looked good on camera said that it looked even better from a distance and that he was intrigued to see what we were doing and interested to watch more. Did this mean that the documentation had become the performance, and that now the performance where we could possibly present the documentation, would now be the documentation of performance? This made us question the layer of performance along with the participation and spectator roles; who was who? It seemed a very fine line. We liked this uncertainty of who made the decisions within performance and will be taking this event as influence for our final piece. It could be interesting to see how a performance will map out with no particular structure or final decisions made by the performer.

 

The Importance of Identity; Identified

I have been hugely influenced this week in terms of reaching our goals and final outcome through considering the form of Site Specific Performance, what this means and the unique ideas that can be expressed through this style of performance. I have begun to formulate ideas by viewing the world in a different light, by allowing myself to be free with inspiration that develops from specific sites and the experiences formulated in particular places/spaces at that particular moment in time.

Since the beginning of this module I have viewed space and place in a completely different light through opening my mind and actually taking the time to explore the sites I have found. It is surprising how much we do not notice in our day-to-day lives; so much can be missed and unnoticed unless we take the time to really absorb elements of space, place and time. Certainly my trip to London over the weekend made me realise this, and the importance in which certain spaces can provide.

Through visiting the capital city of London I was drawn to recognise the individuality of the city and to also appreciate that it has its own vibrance; its own language. The way in which the city stands, the impression it creates and the day-to-day livelihood, through people and architecture, are some fragments that contribute and continue to form the city’s identity. Simply walking around different areas of London made me realise a variety of aspects that makes London the way it is today; including the city’s unique history and with that its own story; the architecture and also the cultures that exist within it. These elements of the city together intertwined with many more features piece together to form the identity known as London. London’s main attractions and in particular, sites, dominate the city and indeed the less significant places and spaces, many of which go unnoticed in amongst the hustle and bustle of city life.

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Whilst wandering the city I came across both familiar and unfamiliar places by coincidence, each appearing out of nowhere as if they had previously been hidden or invisible to the eye before being seriously noticed and acknowledged. Each offered their own identity and place of recognition/status amongst the architecture and other sites of the magnificent city. It was then when I really believed that I knew very little of the city and spent the remaining hours of the day ‘drifting’ and observing it in a very different light, similar to the exercise seven of Carl Lavery’s  25 Instructions for performance in cities.

I took the time to explore the city after this taking note of each place and space I came across. Most significantly I noticed that the smaller individual places and spaces have huge significance to the city’s language and were not to be ignored as I passed them. By recognising their existence within the city and indeed their concealed existence I was almost retrieving an essence of its identity and placing it back to create a whole. Identity is extremely important and through losing our identity, albeit a fragment or completely, we are losing ourselves. This can also be related to architecture, culture, a city in whole and indeed an individual site; for each element adds to its entirety and without completion the semiotics that give meaning to that place can be fractured or damaged. Grappling with this idea through site specific performance could be very interesting and effective and I intend to keep this in mind throughout the process.

Through the influences of other practitioners and through my own personal experiences and findings I have been able to expand my insight of site specific performance. The introduction to Krzysztof Wodiczko’s site specific performance of Guest and Blast Theory’s Kidnap has allowed me to understand the level and standard of work that has been produced previously, allowing me to open my mind and come to terms with the variation between performances to express intentions and meaning.

Krzysztof Wodiczko uses frosted projections in Guest to mask the identities of the people who can be seen as outlines through the foggy window. He tackles the idea of immigrants and may be suggesting that they can be seen to have little or no identities. This could be at a time in which they are waiting for legal documents to clear and while people recognise their existence within the country. He may be proposing that immigrants are alienated by society or alienated within society as they may be lost within their own identity or struggling to find it.

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Interestingly, Krzysztof Wodiczko also shifts this idea with another piece of work; Projections. Wodiczko used images of people within view of the public domain to present the ideas of domestic violence and other situations that society generally shy away from. By placing these images clearly in public spaces by projecting them onto well-known monuments, society are forced to come to terms with the events and situations that happen behind closed doors, making make us realise that these are serious issues and that something needs to happen to prevent them.

 

On the other hand, Kidnap by Blast Theory manipulates the participators emotions and physiological state through allowing them to be part of this experience where they have complete lack of control. Significantly, the audience here are involved within the performance creating a whole new level of experience and meaning, whilst spectators can view the action online, controlling the situation and experiences of the kidnapped through operating the online cameras and having direct contact with the practitioners. The role reversal of practitioner/artist, spectator and audience is particularly interesting as although there is framework to the piece the outcomes are unknown. There is no set structure to the performance giving the online viewers complete diversity as they make the decisions; they become the active viewer.

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The experience most likely made the kidnaped participators question a number of aspects throughout their emotional progression, including elements of their identity and existence within the space. No doubt this piece of site specific work made the volunteers uncomfortable and insecure within the space due to the lack of knowledge of what was occurring, including the fear of being unaware of when they would be released from confinement. The participants are also performers; they add a performative element to the piece but they also experience the action and emotions centring them as an active audience too.

Last Supper, however, by Reckless Sleepers has been recognised as giving ‘voice to the voiceless’. The piece concentrated on the people who were executed on death row and about giving back elements of their identity, this was achieved through the involvement of a meal between artist and audience, remembering the prisoners last supper and their identity. It is the identity of performance, place, space and site that has been a major influence on my work this week.

Emma Govan, H.Nicholson & K. Normington (2007) Making A Performance: Routledge

Calvino’s City

With reference to site specific drama, we are researching Italo Calvino’s Invisible cities reflecting and contextualising memories of cities and site; in particular the city of Lincoln, in order to build and create our own piece of site specific performance with influences, objects and possibly essences from other spaces/places and sites. Below is my own vignette in the style of Calvino:

 

City of the unidentified

Continuing north three hours from the south east you find yourself struck by the most inner beauties of the city of Lincoln; followed shortly by the most inner secretes formed by its lingering past. Each corner turned brings to light yet another wonder of the city along with its many clues of its previous identity. Just through walking the city, buildings and architecture whisper the truth of what used to be – ruins of the ancient Roman community still stand strong, although hidden by the coming and going of the years and the passing of both travellers and people of the city. The highest point situates the overwhelming sight of the cathedral followed by the deep-rooted image of the castle where the forgotten souls of the Victorian gaol have acuminated. It is from this point where the eye can stretch over the many miles that fall below its power shortly after the long forgotten gallows. This dominance has been for hundreds of years, the identity of Lincoln; this is only the surface. There is much more to Lincoln than what first meets the eye. Once elements and essence of place emerge from the woodworks souls and lost identities of the prior centuries can be remembered but never identified; they are non-existent today, they lived only for the past. The longer you spend in this magnificent place the more you fall upon, but the identities suspend in the atmosphere are never revealed. The city is a huge muddle of passers-by and the coming and going of past and present communities who find Lincoln to be mysterious, and when moving on, each having left a segment of their identity behind with the unidentifiable. The city stays on your mind even after you have left and embeds a part of its identity in replace of yours.

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Through creating this text it has enabled me to consider places within the city that have elements of uniqueness and enable essence of identity to be created. This dominance of the city’s identity is one that I find intriguing and creating this extent of power through site specific performance could be satisfying.