Week 5: Influencing and inspiring a generation.

This week a lecture demonstrating a variety of practitioners and their previous site specific performances have left us with an air of excitement, inspiration and prosperous thoughts. The examples offered to us have motivated our group into using current practitioners as a base foundation, from which we can develop our performance further. One of the most striking pieces we saw was Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gomez-Pena in a piece called ‘Couple in a Cage’. They experimented by being in Amerindian dress and effectively living in a cage touring round the US as a live art piece. They were only allowed to leave the cage if escorted by one of the team members, fed by them and watered by them they were treated like animals. The shocking thing was that some of the public believed them to be “savages” with no voice or civilised mannerisms. While the artists’ intent was to create a satirical commentary on the notion of discovery (in relation to Columbus) it raised real issues of cultural misunderstandings that are even evident in society today.



This was especially useful for our group, with initial ideas of restraint, being caged and mixed moral judgements of what the audience was being presented with. In week 2 we explored the works of Foucault and how he questions who defines the audience and how active they are. The concept of witnessing is explored; “you can see from a moral viewpoint for example following the holocaust we will never see the world in the same way. Experience has changed the world in which we see it.” This is relative to the idea of site specific and how after we, as practitioners, saw the Lawn and found out its’ history, we were not able to look at the site in the same way again. We hope that after the audience witness us in action exploring the Lawn through performative experiment they will never view us, our venue (Studio 2) and the Lawn in the same way again; their image will be tainted.


We will apply this concept to our working production with relation to the Lawn and the history surrounding it. The Lawn represented ground breaking methods of humane ways of treating the mentally ill in early 20th century. With socially fixed images of restraint and harming patients to cure them of lunacy, we would like to use Breakwell, Geesin and Foucault’s interests of audience participation and test how a modern day audience would treat; by healing or harming. By sitting completely neutrally with a table of instruments relevant to methods of treatment; belts, ropes, scissors, ways to engage the brain (arithmetic or labour instruments) the audience would have to make a moral judgement on how they’d “treat us”.


Yoko Ono did a similar performance experiment in 1965 where she sat very still and audience members were given a pair of scissors to leave a mark, cut clothing and basically create and intervention.



This method is extremely dangerous what with the possibility of flesh being cut so this taught us that establishing clear guidelines to an audience is crucial so that both audience and “patient” know what they’re entering into. An additional example of audience decision making with regards to healing or harming, is practitioner Keira O’Reilly. She invited a select group to choose to either cut her naked body with a knife or put a plaster on cuts from previous audience members. The audience are responsible for making the performance and this ethical social experiment offers so much to our site of The Lawn. It was Dr Willis who made the ethical decision to break conventions and attempt to heal the mentally ill with humane ways.


Foucault, M (1984) Of Other Spaces: Utopia’s and Heterotopias.

Ono, Y (1965) Cut Piece.

O’Reilly, K (2007) The Touch and The Cut.

Week 3: Routes and Roots

Govan’s study into routes and roots acknowledges the rethinking of how people respond to landscape and place, how “community participants and the audience will engage with particular locations, sites and settings. It is concerned with the ways in which physical places and sites are framed and re-imagined and how forms of performance that reference the popular have the potential to disrupt the discipline of conventional theatre spaces.” (Govan, 2007, p. 139). I found this particular study very engaging, relating directly to site specific and being very appropriate to our prospective site, The Lawn. The Lawn, currently home to the county council, a popular venue for weddings and with extensive grounds for the public it is not the immediate culprit for having a history of being an asylum for the mentally ill. Carlson explores the idea that conventional theatre buildings and other public performance spaces are tainted and occupied with histories and other purposes; “the ghosts of those who have used them in the past.” (Govan, 2007, p. 140). Mike Pearson and Michael Shanks further this performative concept, describing it as “a balance between the host and the ghost”, the mediation between the contemporary and the past, in which “no single story is being told.” (Pearson and Shanks, 2001, p. 96). By combining these two notions of the ghosts of the past and the balance between those histories and it’s now negotiation with contemporary performance, one begins to understand further the weight of site specific and how our performance art will not just be a show put on in the LPAC to represent the happenings at the Lawn; but the history will drive the piece and frame it into a narrative or even just serving as a rough shape upon which to experiment within. Routes on roots, therefore, offers a stable academic and research base from which we will work off. Upon uncovering the past stories of the Lawn, we will create our own contemporary revisionings, relating everything back to the site. Our next step, therefore, is to go to the city archives, and reveal what exactly happened all those years ago, how and why it happened, and potentially to whom.


Govan , (2007). ‘Between Routes and Roots’. In: Routledge (ed), Making a performance. 1st ed. England: Non.

Marc Auge

Taken from flickr.com

For our final piece, an artist we are taking inspiration from is Marc Augѐ. In the article ‘An ethnologist in Disneyland’, Augѐ describes a trip he took to Disneyland. His focus is on the behaviour of those within the theme park and how documentation becomes so easily accepted. He also raises an interesting point on the placing of Disneyland, saying that it is ‘a fairground attraction in the middle of nowhere’ ((Augѐ, Marc (1999) Disneyland e altri nonluoghi, p. 191)). All of these ideas relate to the theme of our piece at the train station. We are exploring the idea that the train is constantly in the middle of nowhere, a non-place as such. In this non-place, people can adhere stereotypical repetitions  and do what is seen as performing.

There are certain behavioural patterns of people in a theme park, as with at a train station. Augѐ talks about how adults allow their children to take direction. This explores the idea that a theme park setting allows new rules of social convention, the child guiding the adult rather than the adult guiding the child and he says ‘The child [is] a king’ ((ibid, p. 186)). On a train, it becomes a social normality to exclude yourself from those around you. Individuals choose to block out the world by reading or listening to music. The lack of interaction would seem rude in another setting, but on the train the person becomes the individual and excludes themselves from the world around them, losing their identity.

Taken from flickr.com

Another interesting point raised was about documentation. Augѐ was at first concerned why no one noticed their huge camera in the theme park; but he declares ‘One does not enter Disneyland armed without at least one camera’ ((ibid, p.184)). By recording their every movement, the tourists hide behind their camera. Their focus is more the product of the experience rather than the experience itself. This is very similar to a train journey, as the focus is on the destination we are taking ourselves to, and whilst we are stuck in the stages of the in-between, we are hidden by distractions of books, magazines, snacks and music.

All of these concepts relate back to the idea that at some point ‘Everyone … is performing’ ((ibid, p. 186)). When we step into a theme park we know we are going to perform as tourist, similarly we know when we step aboard a train we are performing as passenger. Each of these roles include repetitions, an idea we will explore in our piece.

Reflections on Our In-Workshop Performance and Preparation for the Final Thing

Our in-workshop short performance, gave the group a lot of food for thought. Having taken a large amount of our inspiration from Blast Theory, we enjoyed looking at the technical aspect, on which their performances thrived, ‘Blast Theory is renowned internationally as one of the most adventurous artists’ groups using interactive media, creating groundbreaking new forms of performance and interactive art that mixes audiences across the internet, live performance and digital broadcasting’. However, we found how easy it was to get things wrong, lose files, and how one small change in the soundscape could determine if our piece gave the desired effect or not. So after the unfortunate events that befell our performance, we needed to become more assertive in making multiple copies of any technical material.

Nick Kaye wrote ‘One of the first observations one might make of these documentations is their sensitivity to their own limits… Yet, in this respect, these documents do not simply reflect upon the apparent contradiction of attempting to record site-specific works in another place, time and through another medium, but act out some of the complexities of the relationship between work and site.’ (Kaye, 2000) Continue reading “Reflections on Our In-Workshop Performance and Preparation for the Final Thing”

Catharsis, Kira O’ Reilly and Restraint. How do they link?

‘The term ‘catharsis’ literally means purging.’ (Maltby, 2007, P.36)

I have already written a blog on Kira O’ Reilly as I feel she was a big factor in what our performances aims were. The difference was where she used pain and suffering, we used restraint and suffering. The idea around purging is that it is able to rid someone of an un-wanted feeling, a memory that is troubling them or a condition.

Catharsis is an emotional release and this is what ourselves and Kira O’ Reilly wanted to achieve. During our performance Kate and Farisai were both attempting to act in a cathartic manner. When they tried to express how they felt, Ellie would come along and stop them therefore  they were prevented from acting in a cathartic way. We chose to look at preventing catharsis in our piece. This was because  in a mental asylum the patients were not allowed to express their feelings.

During Kira O’Reilly’s performance she gives herself and her audience a cathartic act. When the audience cut her, this is her letting them do her cathartic act for her. This act of cutting helps her release any pent up feelings.

On the other hand it can be argued that the audience member perhaps gets much more out of this. The act of cutting someone is quite hard to work around in your head.  When they perform this action upon Kira this will hypothetically help them to cleanse their own minds and purify their thoughts.


Maltby, J. Day, L. Macaskill, A. (2007). The basic of the Psychoanalytic approach to personality. In: Personality, Individual Differences and Intelligence. Essex: Pearson Education Limited. P36.