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.
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.
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.
Even before we began the performances, as a group we discussed our desire to take our replica props and return them to the Victorian Gaol at Lincoln Prison as a mark of respect to the Site. Pearson inspired us to do this in his In Comes I as he mentioned ‘The performers told their stories’ (Pearson, 2007, p79), and we wanted to do the same. We wanted to return to our Site and pay homage to it, by giving out experience back to a place that gave so many to us as performers.
Unfortunately after the performance I was called home for unavoidable, urgent family matters, so I could not complete this part of my Site journey, however I do plan to go up to the Prison on my return to Lincoln and reflect my thoughts and emotions up there alone, in an intimate, prayer-like way.
Luckily, Sophie and Charlotte went ahead with the plans and headed up to the Castle Gaol and laid the props in significant areas of prison grounds, and spoke about the feelings and experiences we have had on our Site Specific journey.
Pearson, Mike, ‘In Comes I’: Performance, Memory and Landscape (Exeter Performance Studies), University of Exeter Press (2007)
After weeks of meticulous planning, numerous changes, several meltdowns and a few panic attacks, performance day was upon usWe’d chosen the lighting carefully, a single floor parcan with a red gel giving a long wide beam of orange/red light down the longest part of our corridor. We did this because this was our main performance space and also hanging from the ceiling was our five nooses, and we found the eerie shadow they cast on the walls created the perfect, uncomfortable and deathly atmosphere we wanted. Continue reading “Lincoln Gaol brought to life: Performance Day Review”→
A few days after the completion of our performance, we decided to return to our original site- Lincoln Castle, and specifically the Victorian Prison therein. With us we brought several ’emblems’ of our piece, namely the nooses hung in the corridor, the wooden tablets which had been engraved with the names of real prisoners and the initials of the audience, and the keys used to scratch into them. In this way we felt we could reunite these emblematic objects with the origin site and document them as ‘relics’ of a sort. After bringing the objects to the site we attempted to arrange them in several relevant locations within the castle walls. The first of these was a section in the Magna Carta exhibition where metal pegs were lined up on the walls. Although this didn’t link directly with the subject of the piece the structure of the room suited documentation of our relics and is, indeed, inside the Prison building. We then went into the prison itself and discovered a fibreglass replica of an floorstone, engraved with the name and details of a prisoner. Again, we had not seen this initially, but it seemed relevant to the main activity of the spectators of our piece.
Stepping outside the prison building, we first headed to a patch of grass overlooked by Lucy Tower. Our wooden tablets were partially based on the ‘footstones’ of dead prisoners which in the past were kept in the tower, and therefore it was apt that the rediscovered identities of the past and of our participants were faced by this building. Tim Cresswell says that “The creation of place by necessity involves the definition of what lies outside. To put it another way, the ‘outside’ plays a crucial role in the definition of the ‘inside'” (2004, p. 102). This is relevant to both our piece and to this retrospective excercise, in both a literal and metaphorical sense- the parallels that we created here result in multiple creations of ‘place’.
Finally, we arranged the tablets around a tree facing this lawn. We originally intended to leave them there, as true ‘relics’ of our piece and a lasting document of performance that would evoke curiosity in future visitors. Unfortunately, however, this was not possible. Instead, we distributed the tablets throughout Lincoln, from Steep Hill to the Stonebow arch. This retraces a path back to our origin site, and seemed as though we were truly returning the intention of our performance to the city itself.
Cresswell, Tim (2004), Place: a short introduction, Massacheusetts: Blackwell.
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