Site Specific Performance as a Medium

IMG_0617In the course of studying this module, as well as producing the performance piece Read Me, I have been continually challenged by the differences between Site Specific Theatre and ‘Traditional Theatre’ From the need to be aware of the audience at all times, while also not allowing their interactions with your piece to distract you from your performance, to the limitations being influenced by a site in contrast to an idea, an event or a play, every difference whether small or large has been a strain on the performance, while at the same time enhancing it and allowing it to grow as a piece.

As the differences between our work and the usual pieces of theatre we perform grew, I found it interesting to note the growing similarities between our work and an installation of art work, albeit with a greater focus on performance art as the medium. This presents new issues, however, as with any installation piece we must be aware that the audience, in entering the piece expecting a performance, ‘categories and expectations… often hamper our encounters with contemporary art’ (Aldarondo 2009).  The audience were entering the space expecting a piece of drama and would instead experience a piece of drama/art as a hybrid. This would throw all expectations they have out of focus, and while this does allow for the audience to approach the work with a more open mind, it also leads to a feeling of disconnect, of discomfort.

This feeling of disconnection, however, was not cultivated unknowingly, and was not put to waste. Our performance hinged on the audiencDSCF0245e viewing we as the performers as objects, similar to the walls of graffiti upon which our performance was based. This dehumanising process commented on in earlier posts, was key to our piece, and was emphasised by the disconnection that art affords an audience from their subject. In this the greater freedom of site specific performance served us well. That the performance was still a drama, and so encouraged the stronger connection between a dramatic performer and their audience, lead directly to both the intimacy needed for our message on the process by which graffiti comes to dominate a site to exist, while also bringing that disconnection.

Site specific theatre as a medium was also of interest due to the interconnection between the many smaller performances of the day that came to create the ‘Invisible Cities’ performance overall. With the addition of guides between the varies pieces and the clear linking of these shows, all of which were distinctive, the overall image of the city of Lincoln could be created with a variety of performances, ranging from durational pieces to simple repeated acts and performances. This variety, then, captures the many facets of the city as a whole, the original aim of the performance.

The process of site specific drama has been a challenge. It has required me to learn new skills and polish old ones, as well as sacrifices in time to invest the needed practise to create a performance that can capture even one face of the city of Lincoln. While our performance did not deal with the people of Lincoln directly, in commenting on the effect they can have on a city through the art they leave behind I feel that we have ourselves created an art piece in a  similar vein. While the Read Me performance may not be permanently etched into the studio space in which it was performed, it was as permanent as any art piece, that, through some narrow minded act by a well meaning council or simply another artist could be overwritten at any time. No piece of art, performance, paint or otherwise, lasts forever. And so it is the process we should remember, and simply for remembering that I feel that our Site Specific Performance was a success.

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Works Cited

Aldarondo, Cecilia (2009) Hidden In Plain Sight: Iris Häussler’s “He Named Her Amber” Art Papers V.33 July/August 2009, pp32-39

Read Me: Workshop.

Use your imagination.

The purpose of our pre-instillation workshop (Read Me: Site Specific Graffiti Project), is to give members of the public the opportunity to express themselves through the medium of art, however, in which way they choose to do that (positive or negative) is up to them. So from the workshop we can see who makes a conscious derision to create or deface us as a canvas.

When planning our workshop we aim to achieve specific factors; to use our bodies as a blank canvas, therefore giving the audience the opportunity to create what they want. The use of blindfolds and not communicating with anyone is to neutralist the body as a canvas, also making ourselves vulnerable through taking our sight away, we have placed the audience in the place of power. This will hopefully influencing them to show their positive and negative sides to the workshop. To explore our site in the studio, we wanted to place us in the position of the site and have our audience graffiti us, as our site has been.

Read Me: Site
Read Me: Site

Giving the public power over us as performers has stemmed from studying the work of Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece 1965, in which she invited her audience to cut a piece of her clothing off. When watching her work, one audience member in particular made me think about what Yoko Ono was trying to achieve. A gentleman came onto the stage when Yoko was still fully dressed and cut her top off, he then cut her underwear. Even though this is what the audience members were instructed to do, there was a essence of maliciousness about his actions, as he could have cut the bottom of her top, instead he intended to unclothe her. I found this somewhat uncomfortable to watch, as though the man had subconsciously shown his true destructive personality, which I then realized what Yoko’s intention for the piece.
We found that our site had experienced the same defacing or ‘cutting’ that Yoko had, as there was a body in the form of the warehouse, which was presented as a canvas and the audience could do what they wished to. Like Yoko’s work, our site now bares the marks of destruction and artistic vision, therefore we need to capture this within our work. The workshop took place at the LPAC, we set up our canvas in studio x and invited members of the public to come and explore the project. As we wanted a variety of people to contribute to the project, so we made the graffiti process durational, which spanned from 11am – 2pm which was physically challenging.

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Site Specific Read Me Beginning of the project.

When the first participants entered the studio space, it was interesting for me to process what they were doing, and their reactions to the project. Some people were silently graifiting the canvas, not attempting to talk to us or anyone else, I feel they accepted us as a canvas because they didn’t talk to others about our well being or rules about what they could do to us. Others were talking to one another, laughing and enjoying the experience, partly because it brought back memories of being young and being able to explore through art and  because they had the freedom to do as they wished to us, which for some unlisted a side of mischief.

_MG_3684Walking to the site.At the site.

As our performance instillation would be bringing our site into the studio, to fully connect the workshop to our site we would take it there. The journey from the studio to the sight mean that we were guided through the city by our participants and crew. Once we encountered the sight we still couldn’t see what we looked like, this was the layering of our site process as it didn’t matter what we looked like it was about showing the traces on us and connecting to the traces on the warehouse.

Ultimately the workshop will be presented as a edited projection within our instillation but will this be as a document or a piece of performance? It is defiantly a document of our process however, what type of document it is will determine if it is seen as a documentation or a theatrical document.

 

Bibliography

The lincolnite official website.

Graffiti mural improves Lincoln riverside

Trina Merry Official Blog Website.
http://www.trinamerry.com/about

Read Me: Studio Performance.

The Invisible Cities final performance was a collaboration of works which explored Lincoln through historical and contra textual means. For our group this part of our site specific process was more of an exhibition of our previous performance and findings rather than a rehearsed performance. In a low lit studio we had 3 main features; as you walked in, objects which were collected from our site were suspended from the sealing and hovering over more refuged objects and scrunched paper stating READ ME. This section was to show the audience what we have found, allowing them to make a connection between our project and the physicality of our site. The second section was a projection of our previous performance; The Read Me Workshop. The edited version of the workshop process enabled the audience to access what we had done within 10 minutes, this section was us showing our documentation of previous work with a collaboration of other aspects of our site. The final section which was the performance of the instillation was the four of us writing our own invisible cities stories on one another throughout the 3 hour duration, the aim of this section was to one again present our bodies as a canvas like our chosen site, and visibly show traces and palimpsests to the audience.

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Continue reading “Read Me: Studio Performance.”

Site Specific Performance: 4th May 2013

Post-performance

Saturday 4th May

After months of studying the warehouse and through studying the warehouse, learning more about traces, documentation and contemporary culture, my team and I were finally able to put it all into action with a final performance involving many installations. Our performance involved the audience walking through a door and simultaneously being greeted by hanging artefacts which we had collected from the site including a broken candlestick holder, a mud-guard for a bike wheel and my personal favourite, a bike tyre. Considering our performance is about bringing the warehouse back to the studio, I feel this was a good way to have included the items that people leave there; they’re were hanging so they were easily visible. If they were on the floor, then it would have been exactly how it is at the warehouse, hardly visible and disregarded, but we wanted the audience to see what’s in the space; these items that at one point in their life cycle had a good use.

Also greeting the audience when they walked in was items of the floor including bits of the graffitied sheet used in the research process, photos of that graffiti-filled day, and bits of paper including a blurb-like description of our research and performance which had been screwed up in different ways; some drenched in alcohol, burnt, ripped etc. We had strewn on the floor, remnants of the graffitied cloth we used in our graffiti day. All this had helped towards strengthening the idea of traces in our piece.

The audience were also allowed to leer upon the video of our graffiti project which was completed last month. An edited video was being projected onto the wall in our performance space which was just alerting the audience to the other research and preparation we had done for the performance. This was important as they may not know about the previous research project that we had undertaken and it was imperative that they understood what we did and then make the connection themselves.

The most central aspect in significance in our performance was my team and I being placed on a graffitied sheet of material, approximately 2m X 2m in size, all writing on each other in black marker pens whilst whispering some extracts from the centrality book in our studies, Invisible Cities by Calvino. The extracts we were writing however, were stories written by our peers describing other invisible cities.

Although this was not as physically demanding as our graffiti project recently it was still very gratifying. To become the artist as well as the canvas; there was a great sense of unity within the group. We were neither defacing nor celebrating the opportunity but merely documenting a book that had been so helpful and important to our studies.

Final blog entry 05/05/13

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After all the research and explorations of the city and our site, the final performance is over. On reflection, I was pleased with the reactions from the audience after having a post show discussion with a few of them. They were impressed with the presentation of our findings, with the hanging of our artifacts and the integration of our performance justification amongst them. Also, they had been intrigued by the way in which we, the performers, embodied the traces of the warehouse and the invisible cities extracts that have guided our investigations. I was happy that members of the audience had taken the small pieces of graffiti cloth that was hung up at the exit; they were fragments of the cloth we stood on during the graffiti film project so the traces of that performance will hopefully travel further and be a reminder of there encounter with our piece. Within our performance, I felt synchronized with all that we had collected and that we too, were artifacts to the warehouse, we were the graffiti, we were Marco Polo’s stories.

I have been looking at Peggy Phelan’s Unmarked: Politics and Performance, which caught my attention due to her ideas on performance art ‘live performance plays into visibility- in a maniacally charged present and disappears into memory, into the realm of invisibility and the unconscious ((Phelan, Peggy (1993) Unmarked: The Politics of Performance, London: Routledge p.148)). The audience after witnessing and participating in our piece will never be able to recreate it, but will then transform and mold it into their subconsciousness,  creating a whole new performance within their memory.  Another comment that I find resonates with a lot of our work was of the institutions in which we present our documentation ‘institutions whose only function is to preserve and honour objects- traditional museums, archives, banks and to some degree universities- are intimately involved in the reproduction of sterilizing binaries of self/ other’ ((Phelan, Peggy (1993) Unmarked: The Politics of Performance, London: Routledge p. 165)). Institutions seem to merely show the documentation of our history and culture where as our performances were able to explore the impact or impressions that the objects had left behind on a social and individual level. Also, I feel that the interactive nature of our work, letting the audience member become a part of the work, gives them a more emotional attachment to it. We have never dictated what we wanted the audience to feel so subconsciously they would all be drawn to different aspects and take different meanings from each layer of performance.

I have enjoyed the creative process behind our site specific performance and would very much like to create more performance artwork in the future. To anyone that came to see our show please leave some comments about your experience in our performance piece, any feedback would be very much appreciated.