Friday, May 13th, 2016

Final Blog Post

Site Specific – Final Blog Post

 

Framing Statement

Our piece for Site Specific Performance at the drill hall was a piece called Recollection, taking place in a unique location within the Drill Hall, just off the Cosker Suite. The location for the piece was chosen because it was a very unique place with many defining characteristics, the room possessed striking features such as an old door-frame from before the refurbishment of the building and a hatchway in the ceiling that leads to the watch tower above the Drill Hall. These unique characteristics were contained within a room only two and a half meters by seven, with one half of the room lowered by a few steps, creating a smaller enclosure within the already small space. The piece began with a guided tour, our single audience member would be escorted to the collection by one of the performers, who would engage the audience in conversation about the Drill Hall, and offering a toffee as an icebreaker to relax the audience for the one-to-one performance. Our piece was centred on memories, hence the name Recollection, the performance we gave was one of museum curators, the small room was our collection showcase, and the size of the room contributed to the performance to create an intimate atmosphere. The Collection contained items, some very old and some very new, these items were the centrepieces of stories, and the objects of myths and legends surrounding the past of the Drill Hall, the stories were based on historical facts of the Drill Hall, some were directly true and others were fictional scenarios based on historical aspects of the space. This performance was heavily inspired by Michael Pinchbecks Long and Winding Road, a piece which itself was a one-to-one performance based around sharing memories in an intimate setting. Intimacy was a large aspect of the performance, the room was set to have a lowered light level, relaxing music playing, and movements from the performers were delicate and calm to add to the visual experience. Delicacy was a large part of the performance, the intimate situation with the performer and the audience member is also shared between the objects the audience would choose. An Audience member was directed to choose pieces that stood out to them. The pieces changed with every audience member as they chose objects they felt a personal connection to. They were asked about why they had chosen the object and invited to handle the chosen object whilst wearing nylon gloves. The objects were handled with reverence and care by the curators and the audience were told the stories whilst holding the items themselves. We feel this increased the connection they were feeling to the stories we were telling as they could feel the real touch of the object, this physical connection to the stories and objects was a key part of the intimacy of our piece. The piece concluded with a return tour, in which the audience member was asked to share their personal memories of the drill hall whilst being returned to the reception desk, this closing conversation was used to maintain control of the schedule for the performance and round off the experience by bringing it back to a personal level with the audience member, to make them realise that they were as much a part of the Drill Hall’s history as the stories we had told them.

 

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Process.

Our piece has undergone huge changes since its original conception, the initial idea had been to utilise the rooms’ unique layout to create an installation piece. The layout of the floor has a walkway of approximately three by two metres overlooking a lowered end section that completes the room, the two sections are separated by a barrier at chest height that divides the room in two and creates the image of a showcase within the room. This space was seen by the group as being the ideal spectator zone for an installation piece, the piece we were interesting in creating was based around the histories of two Lincoln born soldiers who were honoured with the Victoria Cross for their services during the war, and the commemorative plaques are laid outside the Drill Hall.

 

The original concept for our performance was to be the installation of two dressed mannequins to represent the two soldiers, stood in the lowered section of the room. The mannequins positioning and the setting of the room, which was to be dimly lit and silent, would contribute to the mannequins’ presence and ideally would have created an impressive physical presence. This idea morphed into an idea based around using the rooms’ layout to help us create a realistic trench within the space. This change had come about after a group outing to the Lincoln Archives. At the Archives we found a vast amount of information about the two soldiers we were interested in. This information came in the form of archived newspaper articles, a letter sent to one of the soldiers, and a poster endorsing Mackintosh’s toffee.

 

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The newspaper articles were very informative, depicting the acts of heroism carried out by Leonard Keyworth and James Upton. The main element of the performance was that the audience member would be introduced to the dark room, and be invited down into the lowered section of the room that formed the trench. The stories of the soldiers were to form the basis of the scenario that would play out from the moment the audience enters the trench. The enclosed space was fantastic for having the performance full of sound, the pinnacle of the piece was a soundscape in which the audience would be taken to the ground and sheltered from falling mortar shells, the sound was created during test runs using very large wooden and metal beams and banging them on the floor, screams and shouting of the performers and terrified audience members alike, and a speaker providing believably loud mortar shell sound effects. This iteration of our performance was based around using a combination of the darkness and storytelling to create intimacy, and the soundscape to create the intense atmosphere of a huge event within a small space.

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The final re-imagining of our piece saw the most drastic transformation, the idea of creating a realistic warfare scenario in the space was deemed a monumentally difficult task and this revelation led us to observe the space in a different manner to the previous performance model entirely.  Our new imagining of the piece was centred on the quiet and removed feeling the room made its occupants feel and we decided to utilise this aspect of the room to create a space that seemed surreal and detached, yet still very connected to the Drill Hall. We had decided to change the performance to one-to-one at this point. Intimacy was a huge part of our performance and we found that in such a small room it was ‘necessary to only have one audience member to allow them the emotional freedom to have their experience’ (Zerihan, 2009) We had found in previous iterations of the performance that audience members would be hesitant in expressing reactions and feelings on a personal level with more than one performer and audience member.

 

Our new idea was to host a collection of lost and found items. These objects would be the core of our piece. ‘Objects stimulate action, facilitating interaction and exchange’ (Pearson, 2010), this quote formed the basis of our new idea of this performance, the objects would be the main component of our performance, the natural inquisitiveness of the audience would draw them to the objects.

 

This change was inspired by Michael Pinchbeck’s Long and Winding Road which was also a one-to-one performance in a small intimate setting, in this case a car. This performance was similar to our new concept in that both were about a connection between people and objects. We took inspiration from the method of delivery used in this piece, The tone of spoken word was one we wanted to utilise in our piece as it came across as calm and soothing but still informative and engaging.

 

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These objects were a random assortment of found items, props and personal possessions, these objects took on a new life during our performance. ‘Objects are unstable, serving representational, decorative, functional, fictive or cognitive purposes, moment by moment.’ (Pearson, 2010)The stories we had available for each object was interchangeable, based on the audiences reaction to the objects the stories would be edited and told differently to enable the objects to serve different purposes in the metanarrative of the Drill Hall. We decided to physically ‘separate’ the room from the Cosker Suite and have the audience enter only through the elevator, as if it were a conduit to a different place entirely.  From here we decided to make the space as relaxing and intimate as possible, the lighting in the room was dimmed to half-light to remove the glare from the garish overhead light and diminish the distracting ugliness of the modern plasterboard wall in comparison to the original brickwork wall. The lighting softened everything in the room and made a dark cupboard space seem more inviting and accommodating. Sound was a large part of what we wanted to incorporate in the new idea for the performance. The space was aesthetically pleasing in itself when it was set up, but the silence of being sealed off from all other areas of the Drill Hall was detracting from the performances intimacy. Soft piano music was chosen (namely Ludovico Einaudi’s – I Giorni, Primavera, and Divenire) that was repetitive to a certain degree to allow for comfortable listening, but not to be distracting to an audience member, this was an important aspect in our music choices as music appeals to an audience but we did not want the audiences focus to shift to the music at all.

 

The room was dressed more erratically for the final re-imagining of our performance, we happened across a stack of carpet samples of all sizes and colours and decided to carpet the lowered end of the room with the thicker and brighter of the carpets, aside from being a pleasant aesthetic the design choice also proved favourable to test audience members who said the room felt much more comfortable and relaxing with the thick carpet under their feet.  The room layout was meticulously laboured over, we worked to create a comfortable environment that would not leave the audience member intimidated by the presence or the placement of the curator in the room. We found that test audiences preferred to sit facing the old brickwork wall whilst in the back left corner of the room. However when the Curator was sat in his chair diagonally opposite them the test audience often complained of feeling intimidated by being blocked from the exit by the curator. After considering the layout of the room we decided to change our layout and remove the table from the centre of the room, placing all of the objects on to an old, brass, three-level serving tray and allowing the Curator to take a much less intimidating position with his back to the opposite wall to the Audience member, allowing personal space between the curator and the audience, but maintaining close enough proximity to be able to speak softly and still be heard with proper enunciation and diction. This new arrangement was approved by our test audience members who agreed the space felt more open and comfortable in the new arrangement.

 

The Audience were to be allowed to touch the objects and become more intimate with the performance on a physical level. This was to allow the audience member to experience our performance through a different sense to just having to look and listen. We would ask the audience members why they had chosen particular objects and draw their focus to particular details before telling them the story of the object. Our piece was about the historical connection between people, objects and the Drill Hall, and after the tour section of our piece had finished the final walk back to reception would be left to round off the experience. The tour guide would ask questions about how the audience member had felt in the space, what their favourite object had been, and why it had stood out. This was inspired by the following quote, ‘Our encounter with objects in space forces us to reflect on ourselves’ (Morris, 1993). We felt that the audience member would feel in a state of recollection after our performance, and so we pursued that line of inquiry with the audience to find out how our performance was being reflected on.

 

 

Piece Evaluation

 

The process behind our piece was a running order of fifteen minutes per performance. This fifteen minutes was broken down further into ten minutes for performance, with two and a half minutes either side for retrieving audience members from the front desk, and walking them back at the end of the piece. This strategy was very useful to us as it enabled us to have complete control of the space we were performing in and enabled us to manage it effectively. This system had its drawbacks with scheduling that left some performances with slightly rushed finishes due to improper time-keeping, however as we remained on-track and didn’t miss any audience members booked slots I would say I found it an effective method of controlling our piece and managing our time.

 

As the tour guide who walked up the audience to the performance I found introducing myself and the piece rather simple, and enjoyed the introductory conversation about Leonard Keyworth and James Upton, which was well-received by all audience members I bought up personally. Some audience members declined the offer of toffee on the way up to the piece, but as this was an inevitability at some point I did not find this wholly distracting, instead simply mentioning that we offer the toffee as a standard on the tour due to the aforementioned connection between toffee and the Drill Hall. The conversational aspect of the introductory role was very pleasant to carry out and I am satisfied with the manner in which I accomplished the task, however I found that I would have difficulty addressing the audience whilst walking through other groups pieces because of the activities in those spaces, however I do not feel that this detracted from this particular part of my performance.

 

As the Curator of Recollection I found the role to be very satisfying to portray. Audience members responded well to the professional yet calm tone I spoke with through the performance as well as relaxed and calm body language. This section varied massively from show to show, some audience members would eagerly pick vast swathes of objects to hear the stories of, whilst other audience members took their time, observing the collection and selecting objects after careful calculation. Either route the performance took turned out different results, I found that when audience members were less inclined to select multiple objects I was incorporating other objects into the stories by improvising connections between aspects of the Drill Hall , which the audience members seemed to take well to, enjoying the seemingly random progression of the story through our collection. The first of the two classifications of audience member were considerably harder for me to handle. I had become accustomed to the audience members carefully picking objects and having a brief period of time to prepare as I saw them make their choice, certain audience members were not so hesitant and I was, on only a couple of occasions, mentally unprepared to tell particular stories, rendering me hesitant to declare anything until I had checked our guide.

 

If I could change one particular aspect of our performance it would have been the process of bringing through audience members. Even though this worked well and enabled us to keep control of our space and manage the performance times it became delayed at one point and we had to make up time by starting the next performance immediately after the preceding one had ended, putting us under time pressure and forcing us to rush some stories, detracting slightly from the overall atmosphere of the performance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

Dobkin, J (2009) Study room guide: One to one performance. [Online] Available from http://www.thisisliveart.co.uk/resources/catalogue/rachel-zerihans-study-room-guide

[Accessed 6th May, 2016]

 

 

Morris, R (1993) Continuous Project Altered Daily: The Writings of Robert Morris, London: MIT Press

 

Pearson, M. (2010) Site-Specific Performance. London: Palgrave Macmillan

Zerihan, R (2009) Study room guide: One to one performance. [Online] Available from http://www.thisisliveart.co.uk/resources/catalogue/rachel-zerihans-study-room-guide

[Accessed 6th May, 2016]

 

Pinchbeck, M. (2004). The Long and Winding Road – One-to-one performance. [online] YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yz6hpT-4CxE [Accessed 10 Apr. 2016].

Friday, May 13th, 2016

‘To the glorious dead…’ – Final Blog Post – Jacob Kay

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Figure 1 (Kay, 2016)

Framing Communion

“I can take an empty space and call it a bare stage…[spontaneity] destroys in one blow many deadly forms, like the dreariness of theatre buildings, and the charmless trappings of curtain” (Brooke, 1996).

Perhaps it is easiest to describe Communion as a site-specific performance and installation that took place at the Lincoln Drill Hall, in ‘the room upstairs’, over a course of five hours (in fifteen minute intervals) on the 4th May 2016. However, one cannot help but feel, for all intents and purposes, that this frank description is a horrid over-simplification, as Communion, from its inception all the way to its final form, has become so much more. Our piece aimed to connect the audience to the historical context of ‘the room upstairs’ through themes and actions such as drinking, remembrance, war and psychological trauma. Indeed, our site was once a ‘gentleman’s club’ for officers during the First World War, a place for them to supress the horrors of war and conflict, to drink, to forget. We wanted to take our audience on a journey, not necessarily a physical one, but one of emotion, contextualised through the history of the space. In the end, the piece consisted of a single audience member being blindfolded and, with their hand on one performer’s (the guide’s) shoulder, led up to ‘the room upstairs’ by means of the lift. Once there, the performer lead the audience member to our main installation, a long table with wine bottles laid out on the floor to tunnel their vison and focus, and the blindfold was removed. From there, they were offered a seat by the second performer sat across the table from them, and invited to ponder over wine and what importance drinking had not only to the historical context of the space, but within the audience member’s own life. After a toast, the audience member was led by the guide to the second half of the space and, therefore, the secondary half of the performance. The audience member would then sit and watch as the third performer (myself) began to submerge their hand in earth taken from the common; slowly both wine and crushed grapes would be added to the earth, and consequently the third performer’s hand would became covered in mud, ending with them moving towards and entering the toilet. The guide then suggested the audience member goes and assists the third performer in the washing of the hand and, with the door being closed behind them, the audience member entered the toilet. Once inside, the third performer would ask the audience member to assist in washing their hands by turning on the tap and physically assisting by scrubbing the hands of the third performer. When these actions were completed, the third performer handed over a single chocolate coin and the audience member was lead out of the space.

The performance lasted ten to fifteen minutes on average each time, which allowed a certain development and consistency within the piece, as more wine was drank and the earth and wine concoction became more stagnant and putrid. Theatrical convention within Communion was turned on its head, subverted in such a way that a single audience member would have a personal experience and emotional journey with the piece. Whilst we aimed to make the audience forget that the space was indeed designed for use in theatrical performance, we never overtly hid that fact either, with us employing the already existing lighting rig to highlight certain parts of the space and our use of the flats to tunnel the audience member’s perspective, connecting and ultimately juxtaposing the modern uses of the space with its past ones. In regards to inspiration for Communion, the piece drew heavily from The Last Supper (2004) by Reckless Sleepers, mostly in an aesthetic sense, and the teachings of Peter Brooke in his book The Empty Space.

A journey through Communion – the creative process

In his book Site-Specific Performance, Mike Pearson frequently references ‘site’ and ‘place’ as having an interesting ‘fluidity’ (Pearson, 2010). In essence, and in terms of Communion as a performance piece, Pearson’s description of site-specific performance strikes astounding resonance. Whist we began with certain ideas and themes that the piece should explore and represent, something strange and interesting began to happen throughout the creative process. As we performed and tested the piece in its various forms, we found the piece began to suggest certain themes and ideas to us that we had not been aware of. This, indeed, is where the idea of the piece exploring post-traumatic stress came into existence, as I found that my part in the performance (the mixing of earth with wine and grapes along with the desperate and constant washing of hands) ultimately embodied that theme. My part in the performance became an extension of the second performers, an ethereal representation of the thoughts and emotions the officers of the ‘gentleman’s club’ were trying desperately to keep at bay through drinking to forget. The intriguing part of this development, of course, was that this idea was dictated to us by the piece itself, not from our own perceptions of the piece and space. Considering one of our aims was to challenge an audience member’s perceptions of regular theatrical space and conventions, the piece having the same effect on its performers adds an interesting, almost meta-theatrical, angle to the piece, transcending the guidelines and restrictions of conventional ‘theatre’.

 

Drifting and Non-spaces

Employing Phil Smith’s guide to Mythogeography (Smith, 2010), and his ‘drifting’ activity, we began by simply taking in the space in, wandering round it without any preconceived goal. This allowed us to see past the Drill Hall’s ‘psycho-geography’ as a theatre, and forced us to not view ‘the room upstairs’ as a studio space, but something more, linked with the officers of the First World War. Whilst it was indeed difficult to see the space for anything but its modern studio use at first, eventually the space began to reveal its secrets to us. Through ‘drifting’, we noticed a preserved section of a nicotine-stained wall at the top of the room. It hung there, a solemn reminder of what once was. This ‘non-space’ was evident of a time before, a part of the ‘gentlemen’s club’ that we wanted to make apparent in our piece. We decided a substantial part of the piece should take place underneath this stained wall, it only seemed fitting. In the final performance, this unknown part of the piece was the mixing of earth from the common with wine and grapes, a task desperately done in the presence of this nicotine-stained part of the ‘gentlemen’s club’.

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Figure 2 (Kay, 2016)

stainedwall

Figure 3 (Kay, 2016)

The toilet was another place we noticed and it interested us. Another ‘non-space’, its intimate nature is indeed what struck us. After doing research into one-to-one performances, we came across Adrian Howells’ Foot Washing for the Sole (2010); a piece that included physical contact between audience and performer through the act of washing. Using this, we began to suggest that perhaps an audience member could help me wash my hand in the sink, adding to this innate intimacy that the space had. We believed this could serve as representation for soldiers after war needing support. When one takes into account the idea of post-traumatic stress disorder, this becomes massively relevant, linking this action back to the historical context. Additionally, as soon as the toilet became a space we were to employ in the piece, I suggest that, after the audience member had assisted in the washing of the hands, I would give them a single coin, as a payment almost. The reasons I had for this were simply that we assumed that, due to the space being described as a ‘gentleman’s club’, perhaps more than just drinking went on there, with the officers seeking the pleasures of ‘ladies of the night’, if you will. Whilst we cannot be certain these activities certainly happened, I believed it would indefinitely add to the already quite intimate situation of an audience member and a performer in a cramped toilet, and add a certain uncomfortable tinge to that part of the piece. The simple act of payment for services in such a space and context naturally has uncomfortable connotations, whether from the obvious links to prostitution or the act of dealing with a person with post-traumatic stress disorder.

 

Inspiration from Reckless Sleepers

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Reckless Sleepers The Last Supper, (Lohr, 2014)

 

As previously mentioned, Communion took aesthetic inspiration from The Last Supper by Reckless Sleepers, employing a long table at the centre of the main installation, giving the space the focus we wanted. Also, less importantly, both The Last Supper and Communion, have certain religious connotations, the former in name and the latter in both name and the extensive use of wine.

Lincolnshire Archive Research

Documents we found from the archives proved the existence of this ‘gentlemen’s club’ in ‘the room upstairs’, in the form of a book that kept track of budgetary meetings.

We found also that, on the days we went to the Drill Hall, ‘the room upstairs’ was booked out before us for ‘Hartbeeps’, an interactive class for toddlers and children. We found this contrast between the children-orientated classes and the smoke-filled room of the ‘gentleman’s club’ interesting. Our first idea was to show this juxtaposition through the installation, using whiskey tumblers filled with milk and milk bottles filled with whiskey and wine and children’s toys hung up around the space. We, as performers, would be waiters, serving audience members at tables, and fake money would be piled on the tables to link back to the budget meeting documents we had found. Alas, soon after this idea had come, we realised that we were trying to represents too much and, after advice from the module co-ordinator, we put the idea of the children’s class aside to focus more on the wine itself.

On the use and collection of wine bottles

Just as a personal note, I think it is safe to say that I do not wish to see, smell or touch another wine bottle for a very long time. My sudden distaste for wine and its containers may interest and confuse some, so an explanation is in order. Our original plan was to fill all of the first half of ‘the room upstairs’ with wine bottles, both linking to the space’s use as a ‘gentleman’s club’ and creating a sensory spectacle for an audience member. However, we over-estimated the amount of bottles this would take. After testing and laying out two hundred to three hundred bottles, we realised it would be impossible in the time frame to gather the necessary amount of bottles to adequately fill the space (we would have need over a thousand at least). After meeting with the module co-ordinator and our tutor to discuss this problem, it was suggested to us that we simplify our installation, focusing mostly on the amount of wine that had been drunk in the space.

Below is a short recording meeting we had to discuss other ways of creating an installation using the wine bottles:

(Anthony and Kay, 2016)

By chance, when setting out the wine bottles, we began to see the shape of a wine bottle being formed around the table on the floor. This, we believe, added to the focus of the piece, forcing an audience member to tunnel their vison to specific parts of the space. From doing this, we had constructed “another architecture within the existing architecture…which confounds everyday hierarchies of place and pattern of movements” (Pearson, 2010, 36). This pathway of wine bottles served to aid the audience member through the piece, and by lining bottles on the table, we added to the tunnelling and focusing of their vision.

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Figure 5 (Kay, 2016)

The role of the audience

When we decided to start focusing on the role of the audience in Communion, we began with the idea of having numerous audience members at a time. However, due to the guiding and focused nature of the piece, we quickly decided on having only one audience member at a time, as it made sense to add to the intimate and personal feel we were trying to achieve. Many aspects of Communion, including the audience member drinking wine at the table and them assisting the performer in the toilet in washing their hands, relied on the audience member participating. We discussed the effects this could have on the piece, as “participation in the performance event often triggers spontaneity, improvisation…and a willingness to partake” (Zerihan, 2009, 3). This spontaneity would add to the personal experience of each audience member, effectively creating a slightly different performance for every individual audience member.

Performance Evaluation

Our piece ran from 12:15pm to 5pm on the day of performance. Due to setting up time being longer than expected, we started fifteen minutes later than planned. Despite this early setback, our piece was unexpectedly popular, with all but three slots, including the one we missed at the beginning, being filled, with us performing the piece seventeen times. The flow of the piece over the five hours was more or less consistent, with the only break being around 3pm. I feel this only strengthened the consistency of the piece, although we were unable to practise with an audience member prior, so the constant flow of audience members was more challenging than we had anticipated. We kept the length of each at fifteen minutes, further added to the consistency we strived for.

Audience feedback was particularly positive, with many highlighting the visual spectacle of the wine bottle installation. Also many spoke with me after in regard to the section of the piece within the toilet, their emotions ranging from pity and sadness to uncomfortable and quite awkward. One woman even said that she felt a strange sense of shame after I handed her a coin as payment for the assistance in the washing of hands. The vast range of emotions felt by different audience members leads me to believe the toilet section was successful, giving each audience member a personal, unique experience. Reflecting on that, it would have been beneficial to test the piece on audience members prior to the final performances, which would have perhaps given me more confidence with audience members from the very first performance, instead of gaining it after the first few.

Whilst the dialogue in the piece did vary from performance to performance, the spontaneous nature of allowing an audience member to react in any way they want required a sense of looseness and improvisation in the dialogue, to allow the piece to flow smoothly. For example, the second performer’s instructions for the audience member to “open their eyes” and “pick up your glass” (Anthony et al, 2016) was only spoken if the audience member had not done these actions, and only included to push vital parts of the piece forward.

Upon reflection, my foray in site-specific performance and art has been a journey of discovery and realisation. As a group of performers, we felt genuinely engaged with the space, its history and its secrets, and have come out of the experience more enriched because of it. Perhaps it is possible to think that, through this process, Communion has now become part of ‘the room upstairs’ and its history, one and the same with the wine-filled air and nicotine-stained walls of the ‘gentleman’s club’.

Word Count: 2,661

Bibliography

Anthony, R. and Kay, J. (2016) Wine bottle discussion [podcast]. 22 April. Available from, http://sitespecific2016mpi.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/ [accessed 12 May 2016].

Anthony, R., Kay, J., Sheil, J. (2016) Communion. [performance art] Lincoln, UK: Lincoln Drill Hall, 4 May.

Brook, P. (1996) The Empty Space. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Kay, J. (2016) Figures 1-5. Photos from own personal collection.

Lohr, H. (2014) Last Supper-81, N/A: Performance Space. Available from, https://www.flickr.com/photos/reckless-sleepers/sets/72157633018028724/ [accessed, 7 May 2016].

Pearson, M. (2010) Site-Specific Performance. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Smith, P. (2010) Mythogeography: a guide to walking sideways. Axeminster: Triarchy Press.

Zerihan, R. (2009) Live Art Development Agency Study Room Guide on One to One Performance. Available from https://blackboard.lincoln.ac.uk/webapps/blackboard/execute/content/file?cmd=view&content_id=_1155911_1&course_id=_87838_1 [Accessed 7 May 2016].

 

Friday, May 13th, 2016

Final Blog Post – Robert Anthony

Framing Statement

Our site specific piece, Communion, located at the Drill Hall, will be a one-to-one fifteen minute performance (repeated over five hours), taking place from 12:15pm – 5pm, on May 4th 2016.

The piece will display the Drill Hall’s history as an army training base in World War I (WWI), linking the sites previous use with its current function as a theatre. This will be achieved by creating an installation based performance in ‘The Room Upstairs’ (TRU), which was used as a Men’s Club during the War.

image of bottle shape

Wine bottle outline, from Anthony (2016).

The installation will consist of empty wine bottles, creating the outline of a wine bottle. This will represent the volume of wine consumed in the Drill Hall since its creation, thereby constructing ‘interpenetrations of the historical and the contemporary’ (Pearson, 2010, 25) uses of the site.

Drifting

Initially we utilised the practice of ‘drifting’ from Phil Smith’s Mythogeography (2010, 118) allowing us to view the space without focusing on the Drill Halls’ psycho-geography as a theatre, aiming to eliminate our preconceptions of TRU as small studio space.

Through our initial session ‘drifting’ we noticed a preserved section of wall in TRU, stained with nicotine. This ‘non-space’ is evidence of the Men’s Club, which we aim to highlight during our performance.

stainedwall

Nicotine-stained wall, from Anthony (2016).

Collecting the Audience

The piece will begin with myself meeting the participant at the front desk. They will be invited to wear a blindfold, before being guided into the ground floor lift. They will be taken up to TRU, located on the second floor. Inside the lift I will reference the memorial plaque in the café, adjacent to the front desk, through the dialogue “to the glorious dead”. We will incorporate the text from the plaque in order to make the participant aware of the specific history we are representing through our piece.

The participant will be guided through the installation and seated at a table opposite the second performer. The performer will interact through dialogue referring the Men’s Club, derived from text acquired when researching into the site’s history at the Lincolnshire Archives. During this section the second performer will also reference the nicotine-stained wall and raise a toast “to the glorious dead”, reaffirming the association with the sites past.

Reckless Sleepers’ The Last Supper (2004)

The aesthetics of our installation was considerably inspired by Reckless Sleepers’ The Last Supper (2004), encouraging our decision to include a table in the centre of our installation, which we believe will also focus the audience’s attention during the piece.

reck

Reckless Sleepers’ The Last supper, from Löhr (2014).

Highlighting ‘Non-Spaces’

The participant would finally be guided to the third performer, who will mix materials associated with the site’s history (grapes, wine and earth procured from ‘the Common’: another previous army training base), at a table positioned underneath the nicotine-stained wall.

The audience will be invited to wash the third performer’s hands in the toilet, drawing attention to another ‘non-space’. This intimate interaction will end with the third performer giving the participant a chocolate coin (representing the investment in the Men’s Club, referenced in the second performers dialogue), with the exclamation “to the glorious dead” reinforcing the association of the space’s history.

Finally the participant will be directed down the stairs, competing their journey by leading them back to where they were collected from.

 

 

Analysis of Process

For our performance we chose use TRU, with the spaces aesthetics initially interesting me, before I fully understood the how the room’s history could enhance our piece.

Through my initial researching into the Drill Hall, I discovered the description of TRU, given on the theatres’ website:

‘Approx. 7.25m x 14.5m […] Located on 2nd floor but with both lift and staircase access […] In built lighting rig, digital projector and screen, sound system’ (Lincoln Drill Hall, 2016).

The technical facilities located in the space intrigued our group, however, we realised that viewing the room solely as a studio space, generated too many ideas which were inherently theatrical. Therefore, we aimed to ignore the spaces technological capabilities so that we could focus on generating ideas from the history of the space.

Drifting (cont.)

Initially we followed exercises in Phil Smith’s ‘Handbook of Drifting’ from Mythogeography: a guide to walking sideways (2010, 118), to help us explore the space in different ways. As a result, our group identified some ‘non spaces’ (which first went unnoticed to myself), including the small kitchen and toilet a-joined to TRU.

At first I found the exercises difficult to maintain, because walking without purpose was a foreign concept to me. However, after persevering, I found the task beneficial in helping us identify the ‘non spaces’ we could use to detract attention away from TRU’s ‘obvious performance space’, below the lighting grid.

Hartbeeps: Baby and Toddler Classes

From our initial visits to the Drill Hall, we also learnt that TRU is occupied Wednesday mornings from 9.30am- 12pm for Hartbeeps: baby and toddler classes.

After learning of the room’s current use, our group wanted to juxtapose this with a contrasting function from the spaces’ past. We believed this would allow us to create an interesting installation, merging two contrasting histories.

A member of staff from the Drill Hall suggested the existence of a Men’s Club (during its time as an army training base in WWI) in the TRU. The evidence for this claim was the preserved section of nicotine-stained wall in TRU.

Research at the Lincolnshire Archives 

Documents at the Lincolnshire Archives confirmed the existence of the Men’s Club in TRU, with several references to the room’s use in old budget meetings.

Documents from Lincolnshire Archive, from Anthony (2016).

Our initial ideas for an installation included whisky tumblers filled with milk, and milk bottles filled with whisky or wine, in addition to piles of fake money (possibly being distributed to the audience) linking to the documents found at the archive describing the investment into the Men’s Club. However, we put aside the idea of representing the money spent, soon after the idea was generated as we had little idea of how this transaction would benefit our interaction with the audience.

Role of the Audience

It was at this point in our creative process we decided to focus on the role of the audience. This was done in addition to discussing the possibility of including an element of live performance, to aid their progression through the piece.

We discussed facilitating our installation by acting as waiters, guiding the audience whilst serving them. Although we soon realised this idea was formulated without particularly considering how the interaction would enhance the piece, and feedback from our lecturer suggested that the characters did not fit with our ideas for the installation.

After this feedback we decided to research into theatre companies that produced site specific work, to get a clearer idea of how to guide the audience, without adopting characters.

Tim Etchells on Actor Audience Relationships

I looked into Forced Entertainments’ work and their practice of addressing the audience. During my research I discovered an interview with Tim Etchells by journalist Dagmar Walser (Etchells, 2012) extracts of which have been documented in a previous post of mine:

http://sitespecific2016mpi.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2016/02/28/research-into-forced-entertainment/

Etchells believes the contract between audiences and actors is reciprocal, supporting the idea that ‘[the] public is an active agent and theatre doesn’t exist until […] they […] are engaged’ (Pearson, 2010, 37).

This allowed me to consider how a direct address to the audience, without creating a character could be a viable means of guiding an audience member through our piece. We believed this guidance with limited interaction could also allow the audience to focus on the aesthetics of the installation rather than the performance element.

Site Specific Theory

Furthering my research into actor-audience relationships, I looked into Mike Pearson’s Site Specific Performance (2010). Pearson’s notion that ‘the audience may be incidental… and obdurate’ (Pearson, 2010, 17) during site specific pieces prompted me to reconsider how the contract between actors and audiences alters from that of a theatre production.

Following this research, which reminded me of the change in perspective required for site specific pieces, we looked into using a direct address in the form of live interaction. This would allow us to guide the audience and raise awareness of the history we were wishing to portray through speech devised from the documents found at the archives, without creating too much of a theatrical experience.

Through further discussion of these emerging ideas we realised that the live interaction could risk distracting from the installation. However, after research into Reckless sleepers, and their performance of The Last Supper (Reckless Sleepers, 2004), we took inspiration from the visual aesthetics of their piece, and decided to have a table in the middle of our installation. We believed this idea would allow the audience member to focus on the installation before sitting down, and shift their focus to a performer that could be sat opposite them once they choose to be seated.

We also discussed the dangers this could have for the performance, as ‘[p]articipation in the performance event often triggers spontaneity, improvisation […] and risk and requires trust […] and a willingness to partake’ (Zerihan, R, 2009, 3). Therefore, we decided to only bring one audience member into the piece at once, creating a more intimate performance, with less audience members to guide and control.

Feedback and Changing Ideas

After meeting with our module co-ordinator, we decided to refine the concept of our installation, to represent only the volume of wine consumed in the Drill Hall during its past and present uses. We began collecting empty wine bottles from local bars and restaurants, with the aim to fill TRU.

Practicalities of Collecting Wine Bottles

After collecting 254 bottles we displayed them in our space to see how much of the room we could fill with this amount alone, to give us an indication of how many more we would need. After this we discovered there would not be enough to fill the entire space.

We had a short meeting about alternative ways creating a wine bottle based installation. I edited the recording to only include the main points risen:

(Anthony and Kay, 2016).

With the idea of using wine bottles to create a pathway on the floor as well as on the table, we tested the idea in the space.

Practising placing wine bottles, from Anthony, Kay and Shiel (2016).

I realised that by creating the outline of a wine bottle, we had effectively ‘[constructed] another architecture within the existing architecture, imposing another arrangement, [or] floor-plan… which confounds [the] everyday hierarchies of place and pattern of movements’ (Pearson, 2010, 36) in TRU, which would restrict the audiences movement, aiding their progression through the piece.

Through experimenting with the positioning of the wine bottles, we also discovered that lining them on the edge of the table tunnels the audiences’ vision, directly to the actor sat opposite them, increasing their focus.

Revisiting ‘Non Spaces’

During the feedback with our module co-ordinator we were also advised to draw more attention to the ‘non spaces’, specifically the toilet, to create an intimate encounter with an audience member.

Through further research into one-to-one performances, I discovered Adrian Howells’ Foot Washing for the Sole (2010). This piece included physical contact between the audience member and performer. In addition to the act of washing the participants body, which we believed we could replicate with audience members aiding a performer during our piece by washing their hands, representing soldiers requiring assistance after the war, due to post traumatic stress, linking this interaction in the ‘non space’ to the pieces history.

For this section of the piece we aimed to have the performer outside the bathroom rubbing together grapes and dirt, before inviting the audience member to help them wash their hands in the toilet. The grapes and earth were used to represent the early stages of making wine, whilst also relating to the spaces history (with earth’s connotations of soldiers, and war).

Guiding the Audience

As a group, we returned to our discussion of how we would guide the audience, in an attempt to finalise our ideas for dialogue in the piece. We found research on Sam Rose’s one-to-one performance Between One and Another describing how ‘[t]ouch brings about an undetatched perception where performer and audience are no longer separated.’ (Zerihan, R, 2009, 68).

The idea of having physical contact with the audience, gave us inspiration to have myself constantly accompanying the audience through the piece. We decided to stylise the method of guiding the audience by representing how soldiers were guided after surviving gas attacks (eyes closed with their hands on each other’s shoulders).

This led us to re-introduce a previously considered idea, of blindfolding the audience. We aimed for the participant to have an additional sensory experience, noticing the aroma of wine from the bottles before they removed their blindfold.

Final Preparations

For our final rehearsal we practiced bringing the empty wine bottles into the space, (now at a count of over 400) setting up the installation in an attempt to speed up our ‘get in’ for the performance day.

 

 

Performance Evaluation

Our final performance lasting from 12:15pm – 5pm, was ultimately quite popular, with almost all of the time slots booked on the day, except two. The first fifteen minute performance slot was pushed back by our group requiring extra time for our set up, which could have been avoided with additional practice of setting up the wine bottles.

However, despite one break in our performance (around 3pm) we had a continuous flow of participants, making the piece successful in terms of gaining audience interest. Although this made the piece more challenging with us having less breaks than we assumed, during the five hours.

In terms of the content of our piece, each repetition ran at roughly 15 minutes, displaying a consistency in our performance. I believe the focus on the history was made clear through various references to the army training base and Men’s Club in the dialogue used by the performers.

Feedback from audience members after the piece had ended suggested a clear relation to the history of the space. Additionally one audience member gave feedback suggesting an admiration for the piece, displaying a specific liking for the visual aesthetics of the installation, as well as my guidance of the audience and clarity of instructions given. I found this feedback particularly helpful in my own reflection of my performance. I believe I could have benefited from rehearsing with audience members prior to the day, allowing myself to be more confident during the piece.

If I were to repeat the performance I would have chosen to give the audience noise cancelling headphones in addition to the blindfold, during their journey into the lift. I believe the ambient noise from the theatre, enhanced by the other performances occurring, somewhat distracted the audiences focus and their submersion into the piece.

The dialogue regarding the Men’s Club evidence in my opinion could have been less dramatically delivered as I believe this dialogue allowed the performer to adopt a character, which arguably took away from the presentation of information regarding the sites history.

I also believe that the dialogue performed could have been refined, as through multiple repetitions of the performance I noticed (minor) alterations from all performers, which if rehearsed further could have arguably been avoided.

However, due to the audience’s interactions and their improvised interjections into the piece, some deviations from the scripted dialogue can be seen as reactions to these moments, in order to maintain the progression of the piece.

For example the instructions given by the second performer asking the audience to “pick up their glass” or “open their eyes” (Anthony et al., 2016), were prompts in the script which were only included if the participant had not already completed an action which was vital to the piece’s progression.

Through creating a site specific piece, opposed to a theatrical production, which required exploring the history of the site, I believe our inspirations and content was enriched. By giving the piece a genuine connection to its location, (rather than performing a text, or devising a piece merely for entertainment purposes). I believe the devising process and exploration of the space was personally more interesting than various work I’ve previously done, due to the idea of our performance giving life to the site’s ‘memories’.

 

Word Count: 2733

 

Bibliography:

Anthony, R. (2016) Research into Forced Entertainment [blog]. 28 February. Available from: http://sitespecific2016mpi.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2016/02/28/research-into-forced-entertainment/ [accessed 8 May 2016].

Anthony, R. and Kay, J. (2016) Wine bottle discussion [podcast]. 22 April. Available from, http://sitespecific2016mpi.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/ [accessed 12 May 2016].

Anthony, R., Kay, J., Shiel, J. (2016) Communion [live performance]. Performed by Robert Anthony, Jacob Kay and Jordan Shiel. Lincoln: Lincoln Drill Hall, 4 May.

Corporation Pop (2016) Forced Entertainment. Available from http://www.forcedentertainment.com/notebook-entry/what-is-the-audiences-role-in-a-performance/http://www.forcedentertainment.com/ [accessed 25 February 2016].

Etchells, T. (2012) Audience’s Role in a Performance. Interviewed by D, Walser, 4 January.

Howell, A. (2010) Foot Washing for the Sole [live performance]. Performed by Adrian Howell. Belfast: Mountpottinger Presbyterian Church, Unknown.

Lincoln Drill Hall (2016) Room Hire. Available from http://www.lincolndrillhall.com/room-hire/room-hiring-facilities/ [accessed 8 May 2016].

Löhr, H. (2014) Last Supper-81, N/A: Performance Space. Available from, https://www.flickr.com/photos/reckless-sleepers/sets/72157633018028724/ [accessed, 28 February 2016].

Pearson, M. (2010) Site-specific performance. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Reckless Sleepers (2004) The Last Supper [live performance]. Performed by Reckless Sleepers. Manchester: The Greenroom, Unknown.

Rose, S. (2006) Between One and Another [live performance]. Performed by Sam Rose. Unknown.

Smith, P. (2010) Mythogeography : a guide to walking sideways. Axminster: Triarchy Press.

Zerihan, R (2009) Study room guide on one to one performance. Available from https://blackboard.lincoln.ac.uk/webapps/blackboard/execute/content/file?cmd=view&content_id=_1155911_1&course_id=_87838_1 [accessed 9 May 2016].

 

Friday, May 13th, 2016

Recollection – Final Blog

 

Framing Statement

Recollection was a set of one-to-one performances that took place within, what we’ve taken to calling the ‘cupboard’ room, at the Drill Hall in Lincoln. These one-to-ones took place on the 4th May 2016, starting from 12 until 3 and lasting roughly 15 minutes per show. Recollection was developed by three young men whose initial idea for the piece adapted considerably over the process of development however with that came a new understanding of what site specific is and how it is performed, along with why it is used. Because of the performance being one-to-one and there being three performers, one was an audience guide, one was the main performer and another was inactive. We swapped jobs between each performance so that we each had an equal amount of time to do each role fairly.

Recollection, taking influences from many one-to-one practitioners such as Michael Pinchbeck, Jess Dobkin and Eirini Kartsaki, was intended as an intimate, inspirational and educational experience. The performance was set up much like a museum that intended to bring some of Drill Hall’s history to the public through particular objects/artefacts that we collected which we thought we could attach more personal stories and memories to, in order to immerse the audience more to ensure that they gain something from the experience. The audience were asked to wait in the café at their allotted time and would then be greeted by a performer who would guide them to an elevator that takes them up to the ‘cupboard room’ where the museum was set up. Along the way the audience member was offered a toffee and then told a brief story of a soldier who trained at the Drill Hall during World War 1, who used to chew toffee before going into battle in order to calm his nerves.

The audience were then passed along to the main performer who would then lead them through a series of personal memories told through a collection of objects connected to the Drill Hall. We set the objects up in full view for the audience to choose from with chairs set up opposite each other allowing for that intimate conversation.

(Jake Skelton, 2016)

(Jake Skelton, 2016)

We wanted our audience members to consist of mainly members of the public and random people who may not know much about the Drill Hall itself and its history because our aim was that the audience leave feeling like they’ve not only just learned something historical but they’ve also gained a personal connection to that history. “What I find most exciting about one to one performance is the opportunity it affords the spectator to immerse themselves in the performance framework set out by the practitioner. This can be a seductive / scary / liberating / boring / intimate prospect and an even more intensive experience” (Zerihan, 2009, 4). We thought that when going to a museum, your experience takes place throughout a number of rooms, all different in size. So we decided to experiment with what might happen if we flip that experience on its head and bring all these objects/artefacts directly to the audience and place them in a more intimate room with no one else around, in order to aid them in gaining the most memorable experience possible.

 

Process

 

Upon one of the first visits to the Drill Hall, we were tasked in taking part in a free walking exercise that encouraged us to walk without meaning or thought. This helped us in exploring the aesthetics of the area, the architecture of the building and finding anything that stands out as intriguing that you may not have noticed beforehand in your day to day routines. At first we found a location within the Drill Hall resembling that of a storage cupboard that, once we’d cleared out, found it had some interesting features. The room was quite confined and dark, it was separated by a wooden banister and dipped down; which we though could generate an intense and immersive atmosphere.   We also came to notice two plaques on the floor in the outside seating area dedicated to Cpl. James Upton (1915) and L.Cpl. Leonard Keyworth (1915).

(Jake Skelton, 2016)

(Jake Skelton, 2016)

This then lead to the development of our original idea entitled Heroism. “The real power of site-specific work is that it somehow activates, or engages with, the narratives of the site in some kind of way. That might be with its formal architecture, or it might be with the character of the building. It might be to do with the history of that building” (Pearson, 2010, 35). We were inspired by the design and layout of the room, combined with the strong historical connection of the Drill Hall to the First World War, that at first we wanted to make an instillation piece set up in a museum kind of way; displaying a life- size recreation of these two soldiers whilst receiving an audio info tour of their lives through headphones. However we realised that the design and style of the room had an immersive and intense feel, to which we thought we could physically capture these soldier’s lives and their experiences.

We then tried to recreate an experience in the trenches that the audience could be emotionally stimulated by. With the absence of natural light, the confined atmosphere and the lowered floor towards the back of the room, we realised that, if we could dressed it up a little, it provided us with an elegant location to frame our idea.

 

Mock trail of trench recreation:

(Jake Skelton, 2016)

(Jake Skelton, 2016)

 

After building on our idea we visited the Lincolnshire archives to gather more information on the history of these soldiers and on the Drill Hall itself. It was a useful experience, giving us access to decades of info on what the Drill Hall was before what we know it to be as now. We learned that the soldiers trained at the Drill Hall during the war and that Upton and Keyworth both won the Victoria Cross for acts of bravery, which we then developed our piece in the trench on. The archive trip also taught us that not only was it an army training base as well as a theatre, but it was also venue to major musical talents such as The Rolling Stones, The Attractions, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. It was also a saw mill in the 1800’s as well as playing host to a formal gentlemen’s club, a polling station and even an unfortunate death involving a school girl during gym class. The visit to the archive was very beneficial to us because all this information aided our final piece.

 

After performing our piece to others several times and receiving feedback, two things became apparent to us. We may be trying to take on too much with too little of a budget and also that it was becoming slightly too theatrical. We were found we were slipping too much into the characters of the soldiers and creating a piece that revolves too much around spectacle. By putting people into the lives of the soldiers and into the trenches we were drawing their attention away from the site of the Drill Hall itself. “My work has always been about a desire to converse and connect intimately with an audience. Part of what initially drew me to performance was the immediacy of the form and the possibilities for interaction” (Dobkin, 2009, 23). We wanted to keep the intimate atmosphere and the stories of the soldiers but keep the attention and focus on the Drill Hall. We thought that we could, instead of re-creating these stories in a theatrical way; we could simply guide them through the stories and set up a comfortable, calm yet intense environment. The aim to just converse with the audience, so they have the ability to ingest the information they’ve been given and we can take time to draw their attention qualities of the space around them. Therefore after considering this we researched into how one-to-one performances can aid us in interacting with the audience.

“The Long and Winding Road, is a journey that perhaps in one way or another we have all taken or seen a close friend take. It is about the experience of loss, memory, mourning and recovery” (BBC online, 2009, 62). This was a site-specific performance devised by Michael Pinchbeck in 2004 which helped inspire the design of Recollection. Pinchbeck’s performance involved a number of personal and private objects, belonging to a lost family member; each holding their own specific memory. We liked the idea of each object having its own personal story as we believed it helped build a connection between the performer, the audience member and the site itself. At some point throughout the process I was advised by Michael to draw map of the Drill hall and label my emotions and experiences I had for each room. We believed that if we somehow involved stories from across the Drill hall instead of just the soldiers, then we could almost draw an imaginary map for the audience of the Drill Halls experiences.

 

At this point we agreed that the performance would take place almost like a museum exhibit, involving certain objects that have been given personalized memories relating to the Drill Halls past. Using the information we gathered from the archives, along with information gathered by other groups, we were able to collate an archive of our own on the Drill Hall. After finding carpet samples left in our performance space one day, we used this to our advantage and set the room up to feel almost like a living room setting in order to make the area seem more inviting. We made a mission for each of us to collect enough mementos that we thought could relate to the facts we found about our site. After this we were left with adding small details in order to make the performance that little bit more professional. For example creating a catalogue book for the item information to be recorded in and taking care of the objects we have, in order to give the impression that these artefacts preserved, as if they were in a real museum.

 

Evaluation of performance

(Jake Skelton, 2016)

(Jake Skelton, 2016)

“[…] Artists predominantly respond to a place from the perspective of an outsider and considers the problems and possibilities that this affords to the creative encounter” (Govan, 2007, 120). Throughout the process and on the day of performance we faced many problems, but also encountered an equal amount of possibilities. We realised that through the problem we had of it being too theatrical, gave birth to the use of personal objects which gave us the possibility of using these objects to point out characteristics of the site.

The intro and exit from the performance I believe gave us a great opportunity to give the audience member some time to explore the features of the Drill Hall and gain a comfort of their surroundings before entering the space. It helped us to give the audience member a brief understanding in to what they were about to experience and also gives them a sense of being guided, like they were safe and being taken care of. The intro also enabled us to add a nice piece of relevant information we collected regarding Cpl. Upton. “I offered audience members a travel sweet when they arrived, an invitation to relax, to feel like they were going on a journey” (Pinchbeck, 2009, 63). Upton was sent toffee by his sister that he would chew to calm his nerves before going into battle. Taking inspiration from Pinchbeck’s The Long and winding road and from Upton’s story of toffee, we offered some to the audience and told his story as conversation starter which linked nicely to the performance itself.

(Jake Skelton, 2016)

(Jake Skelton, 2016)

However we did face a problem regarding the intro and exit half way through the day. We realised that the time we’d given to perform didn’t include the time it took to walk the distance from the performance area to the waiting area and how long the lift might take; therefore sometimes we weren’t left with enough time to converse as intimately as we’d hoped with the audience on the guide. If we were to do this again I would definitely reconsider how the audience were guided in and out in order to make it smoother.

A concern that we had about the main performance was how it was to be presented. Something we all struggled with at some point was in what manner to deliver these stories and just how to guide the audience through them as comfortable as possible. After more and more rehearsals and by familiarising ourselves with the items we had, combined with the facts we knew; we eventually gained the confidence to be able to commit to the stories we were telling. Once we’d made ourselves comfortable with what we were doing and saying it then became easier for the audience to find comfort. In turn this then led to them engaging more with the stories being told. I believe that we did well in giving the audience an educational and emotional experience and I firmly believe that a lot of audience members left having learned something. I think we exceeded in making them feel greeted and comfortable when in the space and I think that the objects we collected worked well with the stories we linked to them. The timing could have been improved by allowing extra time for the journey and in case the lift was being temperamental. It might have seemed more inviting also if we had the time and budget to decorate the room a little more to add to the living room effect.

If I were to do this again I might scatter the objects throughout the Drill Hall and organise a treasure hunt kind of tour that spreads the objects throughout the site for the audience to find using the information as clues to their location. This would get them moving around the site more taking in the spaces and architectural qualities around them as they explore; so they can almost see the history for their own eyes.

 

Word count: 2357

 

Works cited

 

Zerihan, R (2009) Study room guide: One to one performance. [Online] Available from http://www.thisisliveart.co.uk/resources/catalogue/rachel-zerihans-study-room-guide

[Accessed 9th May, 2016]

Dobkin, J (2009) Study room guide: One to one performance. [Online] Available from http://www.thisisliveart.co.uk/resources/catalogue/rachel-zerihans-study-room-guide

[Accessed 9th May, 2016]

 

BBC Online (2009) Study room guide: One to one performance. [Online] Available from http://www.thisisliveart.co.uk/resources/catalogue/rachel-zerihans-study-room-guide

[Accessed 9th May, 2016]

 

Pinchbeck, M (2009) Study room guide: One to one performance. [Online] Available from http://www.thisisliveart.co.uk/resources/catalogue/rachel-zerihans-study-room-guide

[Accessed 9th May, 2016]

 

Pearson, M (2010) Site-specific performance, London: Palgrave Macmillan.

 

Govan, E (2007) Making a Performance: devising histories and contemporary practice, New York: Routledge.

 

 

 

Friday, May 13th, 2016

Bread and Cheese Hall- Final Blog Post- Chloe Goddard

 

An example of our materials (Goddard, 2016)

An example of our materials (Goddard, 2016)

 

Bread and Cheese Hall

Framing Statement

Bread and Cheese Hall was a site specific performance that took place on the 4th of May 2016 in the Cosker Room situated within the Lincoln Drill Hall. This durational piece lasted three hours and therefore permitted the audience to witness as much or as little as they desired. The performance was inspired by the history of the Drill Hall itself and how it became to be the establishment that it is today.

Over time, there have been many historical and memorable events to have occurred within The Drill Hall, however, our piece was based on events that happened before the construction took place, starting with the man who paid for the building in 1890, Joseph Ruston. Ruston was already a partner in the agricultural engineering firm ‘Ruston, Proctor and Co.’, in which the workers from this business demanded a pay rise, which he rejected with the reply “I hope you’ll let me get bread and cheese out of my business!” consequently nicknaming him ‘Mr Bread and Cheese’. When Ruston further went on to pay for the Drill Hall after claiming he was unable to higher his workers’ wages, the workers named the building, ‘Bread and Cheese Hall’. We decided this would be an interesting aspect to investigate further and how we could somehow physically create bread and cheese hall within the Drill Hall to demonstrate this history in a building that is vastly different in today’s modern day. The Drill Hall itself claims it is a place to ‘have experiences that you just can’t find elsewhere’, therefore we wanted to fulfil this by creating a site specific experience that is vastly different from anything ever performed there before.

 

Analysis of Process

Initially our idea was to create a sculpture of the Drill Hall out of the raw materials of bread and cheese itself. However, after planning this we didn’t think this idea had enough depth or the ability to show the history we wanted to portray, whilst this idea would also have been simultaneously too difficult to physically construct.

Whilst deciding how else we could approach our idea surrounding bread and cheese, we looked into the use of audio and how it could be used to accompany our performance. This is where we found the work of the well-known site specific artist Janet Cardiff.  Cardiff’s work primarily focuses on sound and sound installation. A form of work that she is known for is what she calls ‘audio walks’, which consist of recorded voices heard through the use of speakers and headphones, which simultaneously play varying narrations. For our own site specific piece, we were interested in the use of sound and video, in particular the use of voice recording and creating video montages. This is an idea that Janet Cardiff presents within her piece named ‘40 Part Motet’. The ‘40 Part Motet’ consists of using multiple speakers at the same time laid out in a symmetrical circle within a room and layering individual sounds or narrations from each speaker to create one complete sound that is heard throughout the room. This technique is effective and gives the audience the opportunity to either focus on one speaker or enjoy the conflicting sounds coming together as one. Cardiff herself suggested this was so that ‘Every performer hears a unique mix of the piece of music. Enabling the audience to move throughout the space allows them to be intimately connected with the voices’ (Cardiff, J. 2001).

In relation to our performance we decided we wanted to explore this using multiple speakers to create differing sounds within our piece. One idea we discussed was to use numerous industrial sounds such as machinery to demonstrate the factory of Joseph Ruston and to signify the importance that his business meant to him. Therefore we explored having opposing machinery sounds in multiple speakers around the room to create the illusion of a type of factory. At the same time as this, we discussed having a projector to display a more natural side of the process of making bread to juxtapose the heavy machinery. Cardiff’s idea of intimacy intrigued us as we wanted to create a similar presence to our performance.

An example of one of the videos we were orgienally going to use within our performance (Goddard, 2016).

From this, our next step was to find another way we could still use bread and cheese within our piece, we thought this was an interesting approach into the Drill Halls history and would create a performance that would intrigue the audience. Consequently we decided that we would use the dimensions of the Drill Hall instead and researched into finding a floor plan of the entire building. Once we had sourced this, we scaled the measurements down to make smaller version of the building, yet still somehow mirroring the Drill Hall itself. For example, we suggested that for every metre we would scale down into centimetres and therefore we could present a smaller, but still accurate representation of the Drill Hall using slices of bread. We experimented how we would do this first with small cut outs of paper, to gain a clearer idea of what the final piece would look like, before trying to demonstrate it with the food resources we actually wanted to use in the final performance. When experimenting with the paper cut outs we came up with the idea of cutting the bread into thin rectangle shapes and placing them in the lines of the floor plan to clearly demonstrate the shape that we wanted to. When we started to cut bread in this manor, we discovered we were cutting what looked like ‘soldiers’ that are often associated with bread or toast. This triggered an idea that we could relate this form of ‘bread soldiers’ to military soldiers as the Drill Hall is highly well known for its military background hence forth bringing multiple parts of the Drill Hall’s history together into one performance.

 

The original floor plan of the Drill Hall (Wyewaltz, 2010) The floor plan that we created out of pieces of paper (Goddard, 2016) The floor plan we created out of  bread 'soliders' (Goddard, 2016)

The original floor plan of the Drill Hall (Wyewaltz, 2010)
The floor plan that we created out of pieces of paper (Goddard, 2016)
The floor plan we created out of bread ‘soliders’ (Goddard, 2016)

 

Through the development of our work, we have been influenced by not only other site specific artists, but also the work of other artists and sculptors too. In particular we found the  work of the sculptor Antony Gormley interesting, mainly because in many of his pieces he has often worked with the material bread. This helped guide many of our initial ideas as we intended on using bread to somehow mould into diverse shapes such as these ‘soldiers’ we had decided to create.

A piece that we found predominantly significant was created by Antony Gormley in 1980-1981 and was called ‘Bed’. This was a sculpture of a bed made out of 600 loaves of bread with Gormley’s silhouette cut, or rather eaten out of it. He states that the reasoning for the use of bread is that it ‘seems to express something about our relationship with the material world’ (Gormley, A 2015). He shows a particular interest into the bread being as far away from natural than it could get, ‘it’s square, it’s been divided, its metonymy is now of absolute 8mm thick slices’(Gormley, A 2015). Within an interview with Anthony Gormley he suggests that this industrialisation of bread represents how life has become more regimental for people and how this is reflected through his sculpture ‘Bed’. The reasoning for the sculpture being in the shape of a bed is because it is ‘the usual location for conception, birth and death, [therefore] becomes the ground for the transformative processes of life itself.’ (Gormley, A 2015). This shows the connection between using a raw material such as bread, that has been constantly adapted over time and intertwining it with the concept of everyday life and an everyday object such as a bed. The depth within this piece intrigued me to give our performance more focus on the progression of bread and the reasoning for this.

Experimenting with different approaches of cutting and displaying the bread (Goddard, 2016).

Experimenting with different approaches of cutting and displaying the bread (Goddard, 2016).

 

I found this particularly interesting as within our piece we have looked into the structure of the bread itself and how it can be cut into figures that could portray different ideas and concepts. Because Gormley’s structure of a bed could be seen as symbolic for everyday life, we felt that in connection to the Drill Hall, the idea of cutting the bread into individual strips would help to emphasise the history of the building. Whilst researching Antony Gormley and his work we discovered that many of his ideas also related to the history that we were looking at in our own performance. For example the industrialisation that Gormley states to do with why he used bread as a material for his sculpture interested us. The origin of the nickname ‘Bread and Cheese Hall’ was due to Joseph Ruston’s dedication to his business emphasising the importance of ‘business’ and development within this line of work. This related to the industrialisation of bread that Antony Gormley touches on as he stresses that bread has become distanced from the natural, due to the rise in manufacturing businesses and the decrease in organic substances.

How the performance altered and developed

After researching into this industrialisation of bread and how it has become processed, we decided this would be a further interesting angle to approach our performance. For example we decided to look into not only bread, but also the development of both cheese and flour as well. This is due to bread and cheese being our centre idea and whilst working around this, we found that we were drawn to the use of flour and how it could be easily manipulated and decided to bring this third element into the performance. These three substances then became the main focus of our piece and we particularly liked how these three materials could be handled and changed just like they had been in industrialisation over the years.

Therefore, after recent findings we decided to change our performance vastly. We liked the aesthetics of the three materials placed in three separate piles throughout the room. This is where we decided we would perform in The Cosker Room situated upstairs in the Drill Hall as this room was shaped long and rectangular, with large windows and had patriotic coloured bunting placed throughout the room. This room was particularly interesting as its long layout would be able to display the three materials clearly and the windows provided the room with a large amount of natural day light that we thought would emphasise our piece. The bunting was one element that particularly drew us to this room, as it provided us with a sense of nostalgia, I felt it had some form of connotations to nationalism and baking which we felt were somehow related to the development and alteration of natural products over time. It has been suggested that the ‘location can work as a potent mnemonic trigger, helping to evoke specific past times related to a place’ (Pearson, M. 2010 p9) therefore we thought this aesthetic would help provide the performance with a sense of relation to 1890. Here, we also decided to create the figure of ‘1890’ out of the materials we were using during the second hour of our performance. This was in order to show how the materials have evolved and to incorporate some of our earlier ideas of exploring sculptures as a way of symbolising events in history, for example the year that Joseph Ruston famously paid for the Drill Hall to be built.

 

The '1890' sculpture that we created during the second hour of our performance (Pinchbeck, 2016).

The ‘1890’ sculpture that we created during the second hour of our performance (Pinchbeck, 2016).

 

For our performance we wanted to emphasise the importance of the idea of a ‘business’ and how natural products had become manipulated through large corporations in recent years. Therefore for our final performance we decided to portray a form of business to do with bread, cheese and flour. We decided to simply slice bread, chop cheese and move the flour from the floor into bowls. This idea was to suggest a largely regimented sense of business as if we were working in a factory repeating the same work continuously. However to show this deterioration of the natural, we decided that every hour the materials would become further and further manipulated using different appliances. This is where we decided to split the time into three hours, the reason we choice this time scale was because the three performers would rotate between the three stations of the three elements every hour and this fitted with our idea of having a very fixed, disciplined business. Subsequently, the last hour would result in a form of chaos to portray the deterioration of the natural and to emphasise how much the materials have been altered.

 

Examples of the destruction that we created during the chaotic and final hour of our performance (Pinchbeck, 2016) (Chattaway, 2016)

Examples of the destruction that we created during the chaotic and final hour of our performance (Pinchbeck, 2016) (Chattaway, 2016)

 

One of our final ideas was inspired by the performance artist Marina Abramović. A piece Abramović created that we found particularly interesting was a 6 hour performance called ‘Rhythm O’ in 1974.   Within this performance she presented 72 objects laid out on a table to the audience in which they could use in whatever way they wanted to, with the artist herself as the object. This performance was all with the intention of seeing, to what extent the audience members would go to using these materials. The materials vastly changed throughout the performance ranging from minor items such as a feather to the more extreme objects such as a knife and a loaded gun. These were random objects provided by Marina Abramovic herself, and she had no hesitation as to what the audience could do with them to her, claiming she was prepared to die. Her performance particularly intrigued us through this idea of displaying objects on a table. As we wanted to have multiple kitchen appliances and ingredients within our performance so that we could gradually select different objects and use them to change our three main materials. We decided to incorporate this so that we could modify the materials to something almost unrecognisable. Therefore we thought this clear display of labelled appliances added to the industry feel of the performance, along with the sheets of plastic we laid down on the floor. The material plastic provided the piece with a manufactured presence and we also added plastic aprons to our all black costumes to enhance this.

 

A rehearsal of our Marina Abramović inspired table (Cain, 2016).  The table of utensils that we used in our final performance (Pinchbeck, 2016).

A rehearsal of our Marina Abramović inspired table (Cain, 2016).
The table of utensils that we used in our final performance (Pinchbeck, 2016).

 

 A time- lapse from one of our rehearsals demonstrating the performers rotating the three stations (Goddard, 2016).

Performance Evaluation

Whilst developing my understanding of site specific performance, it has highlighted to me that performances are not restricted to be confided to the walls of a theatre or limited by scripted words. Brook suggested that someone could ‘take any empty space and call it a bare stage’ (Govan, E et al. 2007 120), the more that our performance developed, the more I agreed with this statement and began to see how a performance, in particular a site specific performance can be situated anywhere, and in itself creates its own ‘stage’ using its very location. Which therefore lead me to believe that ‘different types of special arrangements affect our understanding of and relationships with performance’ (Birch, A. and Tompkins, J. 2012).

From our performance, we discovered that some parts of the piece did not go as we had anticipated them to. For example, the table that we had displaying the many kitchen utensils we intended to use throughout the three main stages of our performance was to show the resources we would use within our piece. However, we discovered during our performance, one audience member thought these utensils were for the audience to become involved with the piece and use them to contribute to our performance. As we realised this was not clear to the audience, we suggested we should have had some form of indication that the objects were only to be used by the performers. This at the time, fortunately turned out to not be a problem as other audience members did not join in and purely watched the performance as originally intended.

When reflecting on the aesthetics of our performance, we also realised the order of the stations could have been presented in a more symmetrical manor. As the motions of cutting bread and cheese are very similar we should have had these situated on the two outside stations and the more conflicting moving of the flour in the middle. Therefore this would have made the overall appearance of the performance a more balanced presentation.

Overall, I was pleased with how the final performance went. Factors that I had not initially considered, such as the overpowering smell of the bread and cheese helped to add to the overall feel of the room, as this didn’t rely on only the visual and audio senses but advanced the audiences experience further. When receiving feedback from audience members they stated the atmosphere within the room helped to display the setting and history that we wanted to portray within our performance.

 

Word Count- 2750

 

Works Cited

Birch, A. and Tompkins, J. (2012) Performing site-specific theatre: Politics, place, practis. Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=udIH412ouXIC&source=gbs_navlinks_s [Accessed on 10th May 2016]

 

Cain, Z. (2016)

 

Cardiff, J. and Bures Miller, G. (1999) Janet Cardiff George Bures Miller. The Forty Part Motet. [Online] Available from http://www.cardiffmiller.com/artworks/inst/motet.html [Accessed on 8th May 2016]

 

Chattaway, A. (2016)

 

Goddard, C. (2016)

 

Govan, E. Nicholson, H.and Normington, K. (2007) Making a Performance: Devising Histories and Contemporary Practices Paperback. Oxford: Routledge.

 

Lincoln Drill Hall (2013) About Us: Our mission. [Online] Lincolnshire: Drill Hall. Available from http://www.lincolndrillhall.com/about-us/artistic-policy/ [Accsessed on 8th May 2016]

 

Pearson, M. (2010) Site-Specific performance. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

 

Pinchbeck, M. (2016)

 

Tate (2015) Tateshots: Antony Gormley: Breaking Bread. [online] London: Tate. Available from http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/video/tateshots-antony-gormley-breaking-bread [Accessed on 9th May 2016]

 

Wyewaltz (2010) Drill Hall Bookings. [online] Available from http://wyewaltz.org/wiki/Drill_Hall_(booking) [Accsessed on 11th May 2016)

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