Closer: a series looking at close physical proximity and body contact in roller derby
Going through some files today, I found these pics of the Fuelers playing at Corinbank last year.
A few thoughts and observations - this is not a formal review - but some brief responses to an interesting experience:
I attended The Salon Project event a couple of weeks ago at the Barbican in London. The premise was that we were attending a Salon, inspired by the 19th Century Paris model.
The audience were asked for their measurements in advance and provided with costumes. This was a big draw for me - I love a chance to dress up - and was intrigued by the idea of creating the atmosphere by immersing the audience in this way.
I was extremely jet lagged, having arrived from Australia following a 23 hour flight on the same day - so my experience of the performance was affected by my struggle to stay awake and a certain inability to engage in conversation.
This was significant because the audience in the Salon were expected to mingle and chat. The friend that I was with, and I found ourselves drifting towards the chairs and tending to observe more than participate. Some of the performers stopped by, to check we were ok and did leave us feeling a little guilty for our lack of conversational engagement. This is where someone skilled at drawing us in may have shifted the experience. We got up to mingle because we felt we should, I wonder what our responses would have been if we had been more subtly manipulated into engaging, been drawn into a conversation - or more formally introduced to some of the other audience members?
I love the ideas that were played with in this performance. There was a DJ set performed using beautiful gramaphones, providing us with a weird and wonderful array of music and sounds.
We were exposed to a tableau of naked performers - spookily absorbed in various hand-held technologies - smart phones, tablets and laptops. Some of them appeared to be watching sci-fi movies. This in itself was interesting - the format of a 19th C salon combined with contemporary - maybe speculative/futuristic content.
With periods in between to mingle and chat we then received a disquisition on ‘what’s wrong with contemporary architecture’ - that’s contemporary as in now - not contemporary for 19thC; and a charming neuroscientist discussed some of the current myths and buzz words circulating in the popular media relating to brain science and neuroplasticity.
We were also treated to a piano performance, sat for a group portrait and encountered a surreal video work presenting some kind of dystopic version of the room we were in, complete with the wounded bodies of the tableau participants - as if we were viewing some kind of alternate reality or scary future where the evening ended badly.
The evening’s hosts started a couple of loud conversations in different parts of the room to draw people in. This was how I discovered that the dress I was wearing was a costume from La Traviata, and my friend’s dress was an Anna Karennina costume.
I thought there could have been a few more plants in the audience to introduce people and get them talking; or perhaps a very gregarious host. There were moments when the energy left the room, and it felt like time was dragging - this would have been a tricky part of the event to manage, as much of the atmosphere depended on the audience members themselves, but I think there could have been a way to activate the audience more.
We were in the room for about 3 hours all up and in that time we were served champagne, and there were some jugs of water on tables in the corners - I was starving by the end. I imagine food would be a nightmare to have available given that we were all wearing elaborate costumes borrowed from theatre companies.
I’m so glad I had the opportunity to attend this event, it gave me lots of food for thought in relation to the audience members’ roles and responsibilities in contemporary performance, as well as how it could have been tweeked to make the whole event have more punch.
Reviews of the project:
|—||D.H. Lawrence, Introduction to The Dragon of the Apocalypse by Frederick Carter (via frenchtwist)|
These images are documentation of the workshopping of a performance Lessons for astronauts. This project was developed with Steven Holland, Cab Huf and Amy Fiveash during February and March this year. A work-in-progress showing was held in March and audience feedback will be used to develop the work further either later this year or early in 2014.
This is the first time I’ve presented a performance as work-in-progress in order to actively seek feedback from an audience. While it was nerve-wracking to present something that was in its early stages of development which had obvious weaknesses and unresolved elements - it was also very useful.
Some of the feedback received related to practical issues - duration - problems with sound - interruptions by people arriving late. Some of the feedback questioned the conceptual strengths/weaknesses and structure of the performance. There were plenty of contradictory responses both positive and negative giving me a sense of the different ways the audience encountered and responded to the work.
One of the most interesting results for me was to hear what kind of internal narratives the audience members were constructing to try to make sense of a performance that was quite abstracted in places.
It was certainly a valuable exercise and one that I’ll repeat with future performances - using targeted audiences to test out ideas. It’s not the right model for every kind of performance - some forms of performance are ‘un-rehearsable’ to quote Marina Abramovic - and need to occur in the moment. I can’t remember where I read that comment about unrehearsability - but I’m sure it was Marina Abramovic in an interview I read years ago - I’ll have to track it down and find the reference.
This notion of performance being potentially unrehearsable is really interesting to me because I’m curious about practice - and how practiced actions become part of our embodied identities.
My current subjects: astronauts and Antarctic explorers, survive in extreme environments by cultivating a high degree of physical and mental discipline. Their actions represented in photographs, on film and in diaries and memoirs are internalised and embodied by audiences who can imaginatively project themselves into those spaces and construct their own approximated remote lunar landing or Antarctic trek.