After going through so much to prepare for our installation, we did a fantastic job on the day. I have to say, a part of me is glad that it is over with but another part of me will miss investigating Lincoln and looking into the history of what the city used to be like all those years ago.
I have learnt a lot from this module and about Lincoln and how I can look at things in a different way, be it a performance or just something that happens in everyday life. I have lived in Lincoln on off since I was young and I never knew that I could learn so much about a city that I am so familiar with.
Even though there have been a lot of ups and downs on this module, overall I have enjoyed working with my group and I have enjoyed wandering around Lincoln looking into places that I never knew existed, like the hidden part of the city under the High Street.
Upon completion of the site specific module I am now in a position to be able to look back over all the work I have completed, over the entire course of Site Specific Performance. I began this module with doubts about what it was I was being asked to do, I had very little understanding of what Site Specific entailed, and was cautious about learning more. Now, at the end of the module I can safely say I have a greater understanding of what Site Specific is, in both a practical and theory based context. This allowed me to really enjoy our installation style performance because I could see what all our research and hard work had been for and although on the day a few things didn’t go quite to plan, I feel like we did a great job in getting across our experiences of Lincoln.
On the morning of our performance I had no time to be nervous we were so busy trying to set everything up and get ready for our first tour at 2pm! Our original idea was to have a set up of three boxes the same dimensions as those found in the prison chapel, within the castle. However this was not the case, because we had planned to recreate the boxes using wood and were then told the night before that it would not be possible to do this. Therefore we chose to use flats instead but once we saw the flats in the space we felt it did not look right and so removed this idea all together. It was a hard decision to scrap our idea because we had worked so hard to research and put our ideas together, so when it did not work out we all felt a little deflated. On the other hand I feel it is good to have set backs within performance because we now know for the future if we choose to do Site Specific performances again elsewhere, that we need to really prepare ourselves and even have a contingency plan for when things don’t go quite right.
Although we had to make a sacrifice in terms of our boxes the rest of our performance seemed to work out quite well. We were still in charge of guiding our audience from studio 1 into studio 2 via a rope, representative of the rope used within the prison to separate prisoners, to continue the tour. So this was quite an important task and also allowed for the transition to link quite nicely with other performances in the group. We then had a tea room set up which offered a great contrast from the performances, giving our audience a time to reflect on what they had seen so far! From this we received some great comments on the entire groups’ efforts from the day which we had our audience write on paper bunting. Comments such as:
“Sifting through the detritus of Lincoln was very rewarding, as was witnessing its more sinister moments” (Anonymous)
“It is a trip to the past. Making the past our future. The horrors of the past combined with pleasants of the past.” (Anonymous)
So overall I was happy with our progress throughout the Site Specific module but would love the opportunity to do it all again so that we could smooth out our planning and ensure that we managed to achieve every part of the performance we set out to do. Finally I felt that Italo Calvino was a great source text for this project and I feel each and every one of us did this text justice and created our own invisible city based on our experiences of Lincoln.
At the beginning of this journey I believed that site specific was when you take a performance to a place and made the performance connect with that place. However after following this course I have learnt that this is not the whole story. You don’t have to go to a location and do a performance there. You can go and find a place and then take this place or an idea from this place to a studio and create a performance around the idea. In the first post, I posed the point that Pearson states ‘If site-specific performance involves an activity, an audience and a place, then creative opportunities reside in the multiple creative articulations of us, them and there.’ ((Pearson, Mike 2010 Site-Specific Performance, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan2010 pp.19)) From this I believe that the “us” within the piece that I created was not only the actors but also the audience as we were all experiencing the prison and tea room at the same time. I think the “them” is the old prisoners and owners of the tea room whose stories we used as an inspiration for the piece and whose voices lead the way for development. Finally I believe that the “there” is the Lincoln Castle Goal and Bunty’s tea room as these are the places where our piece was born. I now think that site specific performance is not a simple thing that can be categorised and because of this there are many paths that can be followed and many outcomes that could happen.
Within the created Tea Room space we placed bunting; some with facts about the prison and some with comments from people who had participated in the mini task outside Lincoln Castle.
Some of the words written on the bunting were as follows:
Facts on the prison used:
- – Until 1817, hangings took place outside the castle near the appropriately named ‘Strugglers Inn’ public house
- – Separate System – When prisoners were allowed to exercise they had to wear masks, which prevented them from seeing each other, they held a rope to avoid bumping into each other
Comments by participants of task at Lincoln Gaol
- – Nobody to trust, lonely, alone, individual, scary, no identity
- – A dark sense of claustrophobia, entrapment, fear & not being able to breathe
- – Lost, but connected to everyone with me. Restrained space …
- – I hated the feeling of not being able to see when I was blind folded. I was trapped
We wanted these to encourage the audience to write on some of the bunting; outlining the thoughts and feelings they experienced throughout the performance.
These are some of the comments left by audience:
- – The contrast of pieces throughout was very effective
- – It gives the journey purpose. You are made to pay attention + absorb what is going on. Still felt very out of control, was just following
- Very impressive, interactive performance using a juxtaposition narrative
The final comment made me feel that we had accomplished all that we had set out to do, as one of our main aims was to create juxtaposition between a prison and a tearoom. Our ideas were to contrast the cheerful atmosphere of a tea room with the claustrophobic atmosphere of the gaol. When we served people we were trying to give the impression of being slightly deranged as people in gaol often lost their minds. The bunting was used to remind the audience of the thoughts of the people who had experienced our other piece based more closely on the prisoners’ life; also these were not the joyful expressions one would expect to see in a tea room.
We had the names of the establishments and people who had donated the sugar and flour when asked by the participants of the mini tasks. From this we wanted the audience to see the sense of community that we had created by asking people to collect these simple ingredients. These included sugar from Starbucks, flour from Revival (a charity organisation in Lincoln) and flour from Sophie Grayson.
On the day we did not manage to carry out one of our objectives that of creating prison chapel boxes. At the last minute we discovered they could be a hazard to a disabled person as there was no way to make them wheelchair accessible. To make them concur to disabled dimensions they would block the doorways and hence would have to have been moved to allow the audiences to enter and exit the room, thus creating a health and safety hazard. This would also have hindered the flow of the piece and created problems if more than one group were in the studio because when would they be moved? This also meant that the soundscape we had planned to go with the boxes had to be abandoned as there was no way of making it effective without the boxes. We decided that instead of the boxes and soundscape we would just allow the audience to walk between the two studios holding a rope with knots on it like the prisoners would have done when exercising so they were allowed to experience that part of the prisoner’s lives. We felt that this was the best compromise given the situation we found ourselves in. Looking back I felt that this was actually a positive move and the link between the audience and the bunting was stronger as they had experienced being in a similar position to the flags when they were holding the rope. They themselves are the bunting so when they put the comments on the flags they were leaving behind a more personal experience than if they had not taken part in this exercise.
Finally the time had arrived for us to put all the pieces together for our installation of Isolation and a Touch of Insanity. We had made sure we were organised with everything that we needed so that everything would run smoothly. Unfortunately, like most performances we were faced with some problems along the way. We were originally placing our chapel boxes in the space between studio one and studio two, but unfortunately due to health and safety precautions and wheelchair access our boxes were scrapped. However, we still had plenty to work on that would still show our link between our research into the castle prison and the chapel.
Continue reading “The Big Day!”