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:
I do most of my writing in pencil, longhand, in a notebook. Periodically I sit down and transcribe my notes into word doc. I’ve been transcribing some notes on Antarctic research today, that I originally wrote in mid-2011.
Most of it is quotes from texts, notes on diaries and questions for my research. But every now and again there’s some stream-of-consciousness story writing, or notes on a tv show or a talk I went to. Some of it is surreal - I have no idea what to make of the following passage - though I think it may have been written while watching a David Attenborough documentary on caves:
Like crab, food is scarce in his cave he’s been reduced to old rice, lentils and peanut butter, the world outside is a memory for crab – he used to venture out with the respirator to brave the gas and forage in market and street but increasingly stays inside – he has no more cartridges for the fume mask and since sol went away he has no buddy to keep watch when hunting. Friendship with a cat.
Did I write that? Did I copy it from somewhere? What was I thinking…?
One of my works is included in the current Light Journeys online exhibition Winter:
This exhibition is on right now, if you are in Canberra please pop in and check it out. Erica and I have been colleagues, friends and fellow students for a number of years. I love talking to her about art, books, science and everything else - it’s great to have the opportunity to show together and continue the dialogues in our work.
Image from Morning series 2012
My text for the exhibition catalogue:
All the empty places
I’ve been reading about empty places, environments that evoke for witnesses or observers a sense of alienation; isolation; foreignness. The fictional, factual, reflective, historical and poetic texts I have encountered meditate on emptinesses in many different ways.
What makes somewhere empty?
What constitutes an empty place or space?
Is it possible for a place – a somewhere – to be empty?
To see an empty space, to write about it and to photograph it requires a presence – someone needs to be there to take the photograph or there must be some way of perceiving that environment remotely.
Behind the camera, the photographer is present while remaining hidden – the space outside the frame – they choose to construct a void, a landscape; an emptiness. This moment of presence required to engage with and represent absence is rich with possibilities.
Rather than think about emptiness as the opposite of fullness I imagine emptiness as having it’s own kind of fullness. The empty spaces of Antarctica are full of wind and whiteness, of the sounds of ice, cracking, falling, grinding and sliding. These empty spaces are full of the dead presence of extinguished explorers and traces of buildings disappearing beneath the ever-advancing ice.
They are full of the imaginings of people like me who may never travel there yet dream ourselves into their vastness. From remote vantage points we are always only able to access fragments to stitch together into our own constructed landscapes.
The emptiness of outer space and of the surface of the moon is even more remote – and possibly also more full. The moon, a stark, rocky sphere is our constant companion. I’ve read a few different articles recently that argue that by physically going to the moon, we lost the moon. Since astronauts first collected samples to bring home and documented its surface through photography, the moon has somehow lost for us the mythical and magical power it once held; it has been reduced to a lump of rock.
I disagree – I was born after the first astronaut kangaroo-hopped on the lunar surface testing out the qualities of reduced gravity. The moon for me is still a magical place. It may be a lump of rock, but it is the same moon of fable and myth, the moon of Jules Verne’s imaginings and the moon that watches over the Owl and the Pussycat going to sea in a beautiful pea green boat.
Those remote, empty spaces are filled with the histories of the cultures that have observed them, documented them, attempted to own them, study them and visit them. When we engage with the act of observation we are projecting ourselves into those spaces, and we are also bringing the spaces back to us – absorbing them into our own identities, making them part of us as we become part of them.
The spaces in Crossing the Rubicon are real and imaginary – a result of looking at my immediate surroundings through the lenses of my imaginary explorer self. These spaces are my world, but they are also their own worlds, able to be filled with other imaginings or gazed on as articulations of absences.
GUMP #1 (myself) and GUMP #2 (Cab Huf), conducted a geo-spatial mapping project at Canberra Contemporary Art Space recently. In a scientific double-blind experiment we discovered that science and art are indeed one-and-the-same - and that an entirely legitimate scientific process can win a performance art ‘competition’.
You can see the CCAS wrap-up of Bone Idol on their social pages. We felt we contributed significantly to the ongoing CCAS struggle to ‘turn performance art into light entertainment’.
Many thanks to Janet Long for the photos below: