My site experience

Invisible cities/ Utopia

 

In the first week of site specific I was sceptical on the subject, reading the Calvino text ‘invisible cities’ was a really big challenge. The book didn’t have order or make much sense to me; this was a whole new method of learning for me. I found the stories interesting but was unsure of the meaning until I read what the book was linked too, the book was a tale about cities in Italy and I found Kublai Khans character very violent, the other character Marco Polo  who tells the stories.

What I learnt from the first couple of weeks was that site specific can mean so many things, it does not need to make sense or have a clear direction at that moment in time, and something that has a specific meaning for me will not necessarily mean it has to have the same meaning for another person. It doesn’t need to be that place on in that place. Tim Cresswell states that ‘what begins as undifferentiated space becomes place as we get to know it better and endow it with value…..the ideas ‘space’ and ‘place’ require each other for definition’ (Cresswell, 2004, p.8), I did not require to understand site specific straight away but as time moved on and I got to know it better then maybe would I be able to get the definition.

Utopia is a potential, idealised place aside from here, a special ideology; instead of looking for a utopia, how could we communicate better now and idealise this world? As the weeks followed we could start to think about what meaning we are trying to portray, what are we trying to prove, research or investigate and how does site specific affect the actor, performer or audience member both mentally and physically?

We tried to interpret what our invisible cities would require, were we able and mine in reflection wanted somewhere tranquil, fun and safe. I wanted it to tell a story and be as imaginative as Marco Polo’s, the way he named his cities after female names I thought was a nice touch and I named mine Zee. This was my Utopia; safe, fun and tranquil:

WP_000083 My Utopia/Invisible city

 

 

Issues and challenges with our site piece

 

I struggled for weeks with what site specific was and settled for my understanding in its simplest and most logical form. Site specific is a performance that links to a place or space. In the weeks leading up to our instillation, we formed a group of 6 and I believed the creative thinking process would be easier as there were more heads to come up with ideas. However, having such a big group proved difficult. I imagined our site specific piece being strong because we had such a big group but the process of choosing an idea was harder than originally thought. It took us longer to come up with a site to base our performance around, that we all liked and could use and this made the challenge ahead seem daunting and harder to tackle. On choosing our location, we were focusing on the idea of being caged but took the word too literal and railed of course. Although in the end our ideas were influenced partially from our chosen site, ‘The Lawns in Lincoln’ we also used ideas from different practitioners like Coco Fusco’s The Couple in the Cage because of its strong elements.

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Figure 3:

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Kira O’Reilly. A SPILL Festival of Performance2007 commission. Video still. Manuel Vason and Bobby Whittaker videocamera. Lisa Cazzato-Vieyra.

 

We liked the idea of being watched, caged and using the Lawns history of being a mental asylum and how we could incorporate that into our instillation, without stereotyping mental patience and just acting insane. We found ourselves focusing too much on the asylum and what could be interesting about the patience, that we lost track of the site itself. We experienced setbacks like the cage we envisioned in our piece being off bounds and for health and safety reasons.

 

We looked into pieces by Kira O’reilley and the idea of torture and audience involvement. The lawns used restraints but their methods were good, they used art and exercise as a way of treatment so we wanted to research the types of restraints we could use and how could we use her art work as inspiration to link with our idea of a mental institution?  ‘Her practice whilst both wilfully interdisciplinary and entirely undisciplined, stems from a fine art background; it employs performance, biotechnical practices and writing with which to consider her body, The Body and other bodies as material and site; bodies that matter and the matter of bodies’, (O’reilley, 2007-2013 Online), she had a similar the idea of how far you can push your body, what are its limits and what your audience is willing to be a part of. Audience participation was something we discussed about putting in our instillation.

 

 

 

The Lawns research/ Last Supper

On a group research tour of the Lincoln Lawns, built by Doctor Willis and opened in 1820 as a national health facility or mental asylum, we circuited this grand building and came across the Port Lincoln room. The thing that stood out to me about the Port Lincoln room was the elongated table with a red velvet cloth sitting in the centre of the room. It resembled a performance by Reckless Sleepers based on Govan et al, ‘Inhabitant Space’ (2007), ‘The Last Supper’.

Thinking back to when the Lawns where a health facility, I found myself curious as to how they would stage it around this location. The idea of including your audience into the performance is ingenious. ‘We invite our audience to dinner, to eat and drink with us while we tell, and then eat the last words of the famous, the not so famous, criminals, victims, heroes, heroines and stars’, (Reckless Sleepers, 1988). However, how then, would they or could they change the concept slightly so that instead of the audiences being given numbers on the pieces of paper, it was the patients supposed illness or last words on the menu.

The patients at the Lincoln lawns were handled in more humane ways than other hospitals at the time. There was something dignified in imagining the patients sitting around the table; it reminded me of the performance by reckless sleepers. For our performance we thought of sitting on a table and reading names, dates, illnesses of past patients and this related back to the performances where they were eating the last words. In our performance the first and last words our audience would hear are names, dates and illnesses.

jygfjh Port Lincoln Room

hyyg Reckless Sleepers ‘The Last Supper’

It intrigued me how fascinating and curious I was about a simple table. It provoked my mind into endless questions, ideas and thoughts around this one table. Mole Wetherell quoted in the Reckless Sleepers page saying, ‘I still don’t know what it is that Reckless Sleepers make, I still can’t quite place my finger on it so it stays still’, (1988) this to me embodies how I felt as we researched into the Lawns, we didn’t know what we were doing there or what ideas could be surfaced but the possibilities were endless.
As a group we’ve researched further into the lawns, the treatments that took place, the illnesses for those treatments and have come to realise that minor things such as childbirth and being drunk were reason enough for a person to be seen as mentally ill, using that as incentive to put into our instillation, we came up with ideas on how to show methods of restraints and things that cage us.

Womb room/Authenticity
Can you recreate a site specific performance and if so what challenges do you face?
In Miwon Kwon’s: ‘One place after another site specific art and locational identity’, she writes about Faith Wilding’s struggle with the recreation of her site specific installation, ‘Womb Room (crocheted environment)’, ‘to create the work as an independent art for a white cubic space in Bronx museum also meant avoiding the work as it was first established in relation to site of its original context’ (Kwon, 2004 p. 43). She discusses how difficulties from the piece which are now none existent, could prove problematic and also how a recreation could taint its authenticity.

womb room WOMANHOUSE : f.w. seated in her crocheted ‘womb room’ : (1972)

Trying to move our instillation piece from site to the studio was proving problematic because we did not want to lose site of the space we inhabited. We wanted to bring the lawns, the story of the hospital and its history without making a performance. Like Kwon we did not want to lose the piece and taint its authenticity by making it appear false. The research into the womb room helped us work around choosing features that we could incorporate into a new space whilst bringing the lawns into it.
We were tasked with creating our own journey using questions, memories using string. As the string was passed from person to person, a journey and bond was created by this specific memory linking us to that place or person. My question, ‘Why did I come to Lincoln?’ was filled with happy memories of Lincoln’s beauty but also the struggle of getting into university. Others had safe havens of home, their favourite place and holiday happiness. By the end of the questions we, like Wilding had created our own masterpiece and something that probably cannot be recreated.
This was our string piece:
A question arose from this piece, how can we turn the string and our memories into an analytical site specific performance and in terms of our audience how far are we willing to take them with authenticity?
The string didn’t just represent string, it represented a journey that we all were a part of and took together. Turning this into a performance would not do it justice. So for this to be as original as it was the first time we went on this journey, we would need to take the audience and ourselves through a new journey using this task as inspiration. Kwon spoke of Wildings struggle recreating her womb room so therefore we would struggle too, all we needed to do was incorporate different aspects of the new findings from week to week and apply them to finished product. An instillation piece that can only be seen in that space, created by those people using the original influences, spaces and ideas

Calvino inspired text

We were given a task to create our own invisible city text inspired by Calvino. My text was motivated by Mike Pearson’s ‘Some exercises towards relating place’ of directing someone from a place we’ve memorised. I chose to give my group a tour of my home in Zimbabwe through the Lincoln city. When choosing a direction, I had to memorise sounds, smells and buildings to then direct them as if I was in Zimbabwe, this was a really good exercise that got us thinking imaginatively and was a great source to write about. We were going to use these texts in the overall instillation and this was my text:
When you first step out into the warm air of Zee, it feels memorable. Every left turn and right angle seems familiar; like an outlived present. In every direction there’s a story to be told, the house on your right peering into your privacy and invading your space, the brown trees that curve and point unexpectedly, that new construction overtaking the scenery that once made Zee what it was. As you walk the narrow alley into the open space, you see mini shops that remind you of a pleasant past, and suddenly this is all a distant memory, a de ja vu. Every face mirrors another but never quite the same as the one before. What is it about the city of Zee that makes you so comfortable whilst making you feel lost all at the same time? It has the power to give you perfect and familiar but at the flip of a coin, take it away in a flash and leave you blindsided and confused

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Touring Lincoln through Zimbabwe
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The couple in the cage, the influence
‘The couple was the object on display during the live performance; the audience became the object on display during the documentary. While Fusco and Gómez-Peña adopted the roles of the caged natives, they were simultaneously scrutinizing the audience’s responses. And what they found was surprising: Despite their intent to create an over-the-top satirical commentary on Western concepts of the exotic, primitive other, it turned out that a substantial portion of the audience believed in the authenticity of the Guatinauis’ (Elisabeth Ginsberg (1992), Couple in the cage).

Couple in the cage

http://youtu.be/gLX2Lk2tdcw

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In A Savage Performance: Guillermo Gomez-Pena and Coco Fusco’s “Couple in the Cage”, Taylor speaks of how ‘’No matter who tells the story-the playwright, the discoverer, or the government official-it stars the same white male protagonist-subject and the same brown “found” object’’ (Taylor, p.162). This made me reflect back to how the American audience viewed the brown body as just an object. The idea of feeding a person a banana and not question it made me think and questions people’s morals. How does our piece relate to Pena and Fusco? I thought the idea of the brown body being caged could be represented by me, the brown body trying to embody a mental patient from the Lawns asylum. At the same time, would I then be allowing people to objectify me?
In Coco Fusco’s ‘The Couple In The Cage: Guatinaui Odyssey’, people were made to watch and explore a new species of human, that for hundreds of years has gone undiscovered in the Gulf of Mexico. Frequent museum visitors were astonished that they had no idea these people existed, again asserting the idea of ignorance and a racist America, towards the brown body and difference. Fusco reminded me about what site specific is about and how to identify with it. The Lawns played a big part in our site performance as a base to take from and fit accordingly, although we were not able to use the cage, it still gave us ideas to adapt and bring back into the space.

WP_000388 The cage at the Lincoln Lawns

Fusco used her audience’s participation and their view on what was happening to create the end piece. ‘Aside from the authority provided by the various museum venues, everything on display was blatantly theatrical and clichéd: the Guatinauis had their skulls measured, were fed bananas, and were described as “specimens,” among other things’, (Elisabeth Ginsberg (1992), Couple in the cage). As an audience we don’t want to know the truth behind the performance or what we watch because it ruins the illusion. “In such encounters with the unexpected, people’s defence mechanisms are less likely to operate with their normal efficiency; caught off-guard, their beliefs are more likely to rise to the surface’, (Coco Fusco, “The Other History of Intercultural Performance’’, p.148). I was surprised that people still act like this now and treat people so inhumanely but made me think of why people used to get sent to mental asylums when the Lawns was still a hospital; simple things like being in love, childbirth, religion or being drunk. No matter the era if people are given a choice, they will be curious but will never like the unknown because ignorance is bliss.

Final reflection

the lawns The Lawns

A reflection on our specific practise, we were aiming to show the lawns without the stereotypes of an asylum, we were trying to show how you can be inspired by a space and incorporate it into showing it outside of that space. The relationship between our site and the performance was the history, the methods of treatment and fusing practitioners who practise methods of restraint. We thought to create something that involved the audience but ended up going with something that spoke to the audience instead, hearing names of people who have been and past for reasons like intoxication was going to be more effect and memorable than acting as crazy patience in a drunken state. Bringing the lawns into the studio was taking the space and putting it into a different place, like Nick Kaye quotes in his book Art into theatre, ‘ the host and the ghost, of different origins, are co-existent but, crucially, are not congruent’ (Kaye, 1996, p.220). Our instillation piece merged together pieces from our site and turned it into its existence. We documented our piece through photography, audio recordings and videos, although we didn’t use all of them we still had the documentation for ourselves to see our improvements and journey through the space.

The filming process at the Lawns in Lincoln
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Our process into getting our end product was a long journey but we persevered. We had to document the footage which would be used in our instillation, meaning hours spent getting to our location with the equipment, setting up and having to solve problems like not having the correct equipment. We spent hours filming two of our group members restrain Ellie as pictured, with no means of escape. The initial idea was to have something that we could then fast forward, in black and white to play in the background while the audience watched live restraints being done on two of our group members. The piece in itself was quite surreal but at the same time everything within the piece was real, the pain, fear, all the emotion involved was involved.
Our final performance space was dark but simplistic; we wanted the space to speak for itself. As audiences were ushered in they were hit with a strong smell of bleach that leads them to the light of sticks and ultimately into the treatment room, the entire experience was meant to unnerve slightly but also raise questions and intrigue. After weeks of not having an idea where to go with site we figured out where our piece fitted, with practitioners like O’reilley, Fusco and Pearson we knew that given the time the lawns would give us something to work with.

The fear of not knowing scares people, it scared me and for most of the time whilst trying to figure out what site specific was we ended up with a strong performance piece that showed restraint in a tasteful way.

The Final performance:

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Word count: 3,080

References

Cresswell, Tim (2004) Place a short introduction, Blackwell Publishing
Diana Taylor, (1998) A Savage Performance: Guillermo Gomez-Pena and Coco Fusco’s “Couple in the Cage” p.162: The MIT Press Online: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1146705 (accessed: 27/04/2013)
Fusco, Coco (1994) The Other History of Intercultural Performance,” TDR: Journal of Performance Studies 38, no. 1,148
Ginsberg, Elisabeth (1992) Case Study: The Couple in the Cage, Online: http://beautifultrouble.org/case/the-couple-in-the-cage/ (accessed 21 March 2013)

Govan, Emma et al (2007) Making a Performance: Devising Histories and Contemporary Practises, London: Routledge
Kaye, Nick (1996) Art into theatre: Performance, Interviews and Documents, New York: Routledge
Kwon, Miwon (2004) One place after another site specific art and locational,
O’Reilly Kira (2007) Untitled:A SPILL Festival of Performance2007 commission. Video still. Manuel Vason and Bobby Whittaker videocamera. Lisa Cazzato-Vieyra Online: http://www.academia.edu/210296/The_touch_and_the_cut_an_annotated_dialogue_with_Kira_OReilly (accessed 02/05/2013)

O’Reilley,Kira (2007-2013) A Space for live art, Online: http://www.aspaceforliveart.org/?page=people&id=427#/event/362/Kira_O_Reilly (accessed 07/04/2013)
Pearson. Mike (2010) Site Specific Performance, Palgrave: Macmillan
Wetherellm Mole (2009) Reckless Sleepers: The Last Supper, Online: http://www.reckless-sleepers.co.uk/project.php?id=7 (accessed 04/04/2013)
Wilding, Faith (1972) Womb room, Online: http://drawclose.com/snowblood/2011/02/womanhouse/ (accessed 10/04/2013)

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

Lawns and Invisible City

Last week on Thursday on the 24th January, we explored the Invisible City by Italo Calvina, to see what each person drew from it and to give inspiration for the following workshop. We began by creating our own city, a sort of “Utopia” and instead of the creator of that city telling the group the image behind it to begin with, everyone in the group would observe and comment on it to point their own understanding of the city and what they interpreted from the model.
Looking at each Model City was an interesting experience, seeing how creative and imaginative my group was made me feel proud to be part of it, especially hearing the input behind the city. Some cities looked amazing, like a Utopia you would want to go to, others were subtle and felt like a home more than a place to create a false image of security. Others looked like hidden Utopias, hiding from the rest of the world and creating their own sanctuary.
When the time came for people to observe my City I was very intrigued to see what everyone would gather from it and what their opinion would be. One group member said that it looked like a world filled with corporal advertisements by the tall McDonalds cup (Note: If the photo is attached to this document and you see no McDonald’s cup, the picture was taken before the cup was installed during the final stages of the city) and by the O2 Sign looking towards it. One member said that if you took all the buildings away it looked like a simple nice place to be with interesting monuments.
When the time came to explain my city, I simply stated that it was like a city of today’s standards, Having Wi-Fi by O2, and water stored for people to drink from and the alternative use for the O2 Rugby ball was more of a transport system to other cities if the people inside it wanted to explore.
When creating my city I admit I felt intimidated by other people’s models, they looked amazing and showed real effort had been put into them. Looking at mine I felt underwhelmed. Once I got over the awe of the other’s I tried to work even harder on my city to try and do just that, make it simple yet look like a nice world to live in.
When creating the city I simply asked myself, what would the people living there want? Thinking about what people would like and if they did not like it, have a way to go to other places if they wanted to. In the end my city did not look like the way it was originally supposed to look but it made me happy and got good feedback from my peers, so really it served its purpose and then some.
It was a very good workshop to begin the lesson, making us think and feel about what to expect from the other lessons and what to strive for in other lessons. I look forward to my lessons and to work closer with my group to see what other things can be created by the end of the assignment.

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For our second lesson, Ally brought in a piece of string and passed it to a member of the group and asked them a question and told them to tell a short story of our experiences, adventures or stories that related to that question. Then pass it on to the next member of the group and ask them a different but similar question, for example: what food in Lincoln reminds you of home and why? We passed the string around the room. Keeping hold of the thread, we held as it went round the room and told the class one of our own experiences or adventures. When the string arrived at me I was asked, “What was your most exciting experience in Lincoln”? So I decided to share the story of my beginning weeks in Lincoln and how my flat mates and I went out one night on a search for Drury Lane and how after we found it, we decided to go on to the Cathedral and see what it looked like at night. I hold this story close because it was one of the most fun nights out in Lincoln I have ever experienced and it did not require alcohol. It was like being child again, exploring a new place and discovering a world beyond your own, leaving a strong impact and reminding the joys of a simpler time.
As the string was thrown around the room, more and more, we learned of more stories and more string was going around the room and connecting us together. Some of the stories that were told were not just interesting but relatable. For example, Chris Mudd talked about how his favorite place in Lincoln was the Comic Culture shop and how it reminded him of home and how it was filled with people he had more in common with. I liked Chris’s story because it was one I could relate to, I like to spend time at the SCI-FI Society and talk to people who have similar interests with myself. It also had the sense of a home away from home feel that we all hold in Lincoln, whether it is a shop, a club, a room or even stand in a market, it shows that we all have a little safe haven in Lincoln and it helps us in time of need.

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This lesson was a very much needed eye opener as it reminded me that something as simple as throwing a ball of string around a room and telling small stories to a group of people holds more meaning than we know and shows that some of the most powerful stories can come from a simple act.
When I finally merged into a group with Elli, Kate, Lauren Patrice and Tracy, we went on to discover possible sites to create ideas that we could use to perform our piece. Before we could do any of this we wanted to try and understand site specific a little more so we could fully understand what it is that we could get away with and what the relevance would be. We discovered an article about how site specific was creating a performance outside of the theater… “Performance specifically generated from or for one site”… (2008, Line 15) talking about how finding a place with history and creating a performance around it.
Though these days site specific can relate to nearly everything, from Shakespeare plays being performed in vaults, to performers being chased around a spiral stair case to even dance shows based on a Japanese horror stories, it shows that there are both amazing and interesting things that can be done outside a theater.

Though site specific has its own range of performance there are those that try to pull it back to the theatre by trying to use it to perform plays that have already been performed and looked over. For example, Sarah Kane’s Blasted was performed in a hotel in Leeds and a production of Dido Queen of Carthage at Kensington Palace. Though these plays are great in their own theatre type they are not preferred for a site specific show as they have already been shown and explored. Site Specific means that new ideas can be explored and new horizons can be shown. It is an opportunity to challenge the world the audience understands and dares them to open their mind to a whole new different level of where some perceive the borders as what is acceptable and what is understandable.
This was a major help to our group as it gave us an understanding of what exactly we can achieve and what we can set our minds to and create a performance strong and powerful enough to grip an audience the second they arrive and have them interested from start to finish.
We looked over many possible places to perform, from Lincoln Cathedral to the Library and even areas around Lincoln. We tried for a long time to find a performance site we could run a performance from. We finally came across one that not only we liked as a group, but left us with many possible ideas, examples and ways we could impress our audience to draw them into what would be happening around them. We agreed that before deciding anything we should at least explore and scout out the potential place in order to see if it felt like a place good enough to run a performance from and was deserving of the image we had in mind for it. After an hour of looking, wandering and exploring we were all in agreement that this would be our performance piece, that The Lawns would be our site specific performance.
The Lawns was built in 1820 for the sole purpose of helping those with mental illnesses to try and get them back on their feet. In 1980 it was shut down and bought by Lincolnshire Council. What made The Lawns such a fascinating place to base our performance around was not just the fact it was a mental asylum but that it was also rumoured to be haunted. There were several sightings over the years of ghostly figures walking the grounds of The Lawns facility. A ghost hunting team was even sent in to investigate and reported that a table had moved all on its own and they even contacted a spirit named Francesca who was sent their only for giving birth to a child born out of wedlock.
What made this even more interesting for me is that I decided to research into supernatural elements of site specific and discovered a very similar site specific group called “Supernatural Chicago”. Like The Lawns the performance is based in a night club named the Excalibur, a building that has repeatedly brought in TV shows and A&Es in reporting “Sightings” and is one of the most haunted locations in Chicago. The event is also led by Neil Tobin, a necromancer who said that … “He’ll teach you about Chicago’s paranormal history and get you involved in psychic experiments that put Jedi mind tricks to shame.”… (Reviews, line 5) bringing to life the essence and feel of the Chicago’s night club Excalibur, by breaking the fourth wall with stories, mind-reading, magic and other phenomena that will impact on the audience in many ways and creating an unforgettable experience for the entire audience.
Though we liked the supernatural elements we did decide to go with the original history of The Lawns as we agreed it would be more challenging and more respectful to those committed to the asylum. When looking into possible ideas we could do, we found that there was a cage on the site of The Lawns that had not really been used. Going into research, there was another site specific group that did deal with using a cage as part of their performance called, The Couple in the Cage. The Couple in the Cage is a traveling performing group of Guillermo Gómez -Peña and Coco Fusco; they perform in a cage and lead the audience to believe that they are Amerindians from an imaginary island. As the performers intended their piece to be about indulging commentary about discovery, many audience members genuinely believed that they were captives kept in a cage. One gentleman upon watching the piece who was interviewed about the performance stated… “I study a lot of the Indians, I do a lot of traveling out west and I study a lot about the Indians out west but this is one tribe I have never heard of”… (1992, 0:25) proving that their performance is truly unique to the point that it can persuade even a man who studies different types of tribes by convincing the audience that came to view them that they were real “savages”.
Though our plan to use the cage as part of our performance fell through due to health and safety reasons, it was essential to keep the feeling of being restrained to add more angles to the characters the audience would see. Though The Lawns did not use restraints on its patients we did agree that the method of restraint would be interesting as we discussed that “life is a restraint” meaning that the everyday chores and cost of living restrain our mind and would be used to show patients restraining their minds.
We also used items we had collected from The Lawns and used them to record a video of our own representation of restraint on the garden of The Lawns.

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The representation of the branches used at The Lawns was our group’s way of symbolizing that madness grows and if unseen can consume a person whole, which is the point we wanted to get across in our video. We wanted to show that over a small period of time how fast and quickly the madness grows and though it is not always the person themselves that fall into madness, it is more that the person is consumed by the good intentions of others. We wanted to give a very dynamic feel to the video and make it simple, yet affective, by having only two people help restrain one cast member over a long period of time but shortening it so as not to bore our audience. We filmed it outside The Lawns so the audience could see the location we picked without having to travel a great deal but also at the same give them the feel of the location, allowing them a sense of what some of the patients were going through and what some of them may have been feeling. For example, having it outside The Lawns rather than inside allowed us to show that patients may have felt free at some point but may have also felt like they were trapped in one spot allowing their madness to grow, by people who did not understand or were too busy, not realising they were adding to the madness rather helping the patient rid themselves of it, hopefully allowing us to show so much in so little.
For our performance we again wanted an amazing effect on our audience but without saying much but by showing them. We researched many types of different restraints, different types of methods used and finally different ways to get our point across of how madness can grow if left untreated.
We had a display of the twigs growing on their own to show that madness cannot always grow in someone but rather be left alone unsuspected until finally it is too late. We had one of our group members read the names, symptoms and status of members of The Lawns mental home to show that there were many patients with many different types of symptoms some of which are not even considered anymore; to show how easy it was to mistake what people viewed as sanity and insanity. We also had two group members being restrained to give the members of the audience a type of understanding of not how the patient was treated but more how some must have felt. For example, we had one group member have quite few stones placed on her to represent how they must have felt weighed down by the environment around them.
My role in the performance was to tie knots in red string blindfolded to show that even the smallest restraint can affect the simplest task. Ally did talk to me about the role in the performance and discussed what more I could do with it as she wanted me to receive a better grade. When going over what else I could do on top of my original performance we discussed treating the string like pieces of a brain and that it is difficult to do easy tasks especially when life’s restraints hold you back and how you have to take time and concentration to do even simple insignificant things. We also talked about giving the string to an audience member and whispering to them “Don’t lose it” as if to say do not lose a piece of your mind. Also finally putting my hands out to almost dare the audience to tie my hands and as they walked to meet the girls I would simply say “tread carefully”.
We worked together as a team and made what we feel was a very brief but very effective performance. We had attracted audiences for both showings though the second audience was larger than the first. Yet though both groups were different in size we gave them everything we had to offer from focus, emotion and patience to create a show that they would enjoy and that was easily proven by the dedication of each group performing. In one group’s feedback sheet they responded that the whole performance was “I Feel Tense” which felt like a good achievement on our part. I also had received word from a group member that one audience member stood over me for a small period of time and took interest into what I was doing, showing that I must have been doing something right to get their attention.
If there is one thing I could do to differently it would have been to look more on the supernatural side for the performance and history of The Lawns and used some of the research to create not an identical copy of the performance of Supernatural Chicago but something alongside it to show the horror element to have really engaged and scared the audience. Though I did not get a chance to see the other groups’ performances I heard more than good feedback about the café performance and heard feedback that simply stated “I like tea” showing that we had something that our performance all together catered to all members of the audience and gave them something both interesting and awe inspiring.

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Bibliography

Thirdworldnewsreel 1992 The Couple in the Cage – Trailer – TWN Online: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLX2Lk2tdcw (Accessed 12 May 2013)

Coco Fusco and Paula Heredia (1993) The couple in the cage A Guatinaul Odyssey 1993 Online: http://www.thing.net/~cocofusco/subpages/videos/subpages/couple/couple.html (Accessed 12 May 2013)

Field, Andy (2008). Site-specific theatre? Please be more specific The Guardian: February 6th Online: http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/theatreblog/2008/feb/06/sitespecifictheatrepleasebe (Accessed 12 May 2013)

Brian (2012) Haunted History of Lincolnshire Online: http://hauntedhistoryoflincolnshire.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/lincoln/the-lawn/ (Accessed 12 May 2013)

Tobin, Neil (2010) Staging the supernatural Online: http://www.supernaturalchicago.com/reviews.html (Accessed 12 May 2013)

 

 

Ideas for the performance

To emphasise this idea of ‘no identity’ and a ‘none place’, we’ve decided to set one of our studio based performances in a restricted cage. We will have different areas, that could possibly represent the different platforms. Each cage section will show something different, through the use of earphones, pictures and more. The imagery of a cage also represents the idea that once you’re on a train, your stuck on it till it reaches a stop, there’s is a sense of restriction and claustrophobia.

We have decided that in our ‘performance’ we will offer the audience a tray of food and drinks that you can buy on a train. However to represent the past and present, we would just offer them the wrappers. Furthermore this represents peoples disrespect for the train when leaving their rubbish behind.

We will use the different areas to represent different ethical perspectives. For example one ‘platform’ will identify the distortion between public and private, where we could use the woman’s voice. Whereas one ‘platform’ might represent the isolation of having no identity, we could do this with silence or just the sound of train tracks. The idea of using earphones came about when we brainstormed what people do on a train or whist they are sat waiting. A incredible amount of people listen to music, which is isolating yourself. This idea of isolation i first discovered when i thought about the train barriers, the imagery of these could be seen as separating the sides of the city.

Below is a picture of the earphones in a archive from the final performance.

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You can see how this  progressed by looking at the blog based on the final performance by clicking on this link.