Friday, May 13th, 2016

Megan Avery Site Specific: Final Blog Submission

“She went up the rope about three yards, and then came down. She did not fall, but came down the rope.”

IMG_2865

Pinchbeck, M. (2016) The Third Beam

Framing Statement

‘The Third Beam’ was a piece of site-specific performance created as part of the Lincoln Drill Hall Project. It was performed on the 4th May 2016 in the main auditorium of the Drill Hall and consisted of both an installation and nine one to one performances. We began creating the installation at 12pm and began the one to one performances at 2pm. We finished the entire performance at 4:45pm.

 

IMG_2453

Avery, M. (2016) Memorials to Rosamund

From 12pm, we sat in silence creating the installation with torn pages from 17 books (the age Rosamund was when she passed away) that audience members were free to come and watch as and when they pleased. Audience members were guided through the main auditorium for other performances by other members of the project, so they were welcome to come and watch this pre performance. After 2pm, audiences were asked to sign up in the café, where they were then collected for the one to one shows. Before they were taken into the auditorium, we performed a small piece to the audience members in the café as it gave a good juxtaposition of the loud and vibrant atmosphere, to the silence and eeriness of the auditorium that we had created. We asked the audience to look at all the memorial pieces in the Drill Hall, in particular the large plaque dedicated to the soldiers. We then led them through the doors into the auditorium and asked them to close their eyes whilst we led them into the spotlight and laid them down. As we read them the script, describing the day Rosamund died, the other two performers were continuing to make the installation. We then helped them up and asked them to open their eyes where they watched a video of the pre performance walk we had recorded on April 10th 2016 (the 117th anniversary of Rosamund’s funeral) from Lincoln Christ Hospital Girls School to the Drill Hall. They were then taken to a table with a framed picture of Rosamund and 3 lilies to represent the three performers. It was explained that we were going to leave the frame in the Drill Hall as a memorial as there currently weren’t any dedicated to her and the lilies were going to be left outside her school gates as part of our post performance. Audience members were then free to leave or continue to watch us set up the rest of the installation or watch the video that was on a constant loop.

 

“To the Glory of God and in loving memory of Rosamund, only daughter of HS Acworth, vicar of Chobham, Surrey. She died in Lincoln Gymnasium April 6th 1899 aged 17.”

 

During one of our lessons, we watched several extracts of site specific performances from The Many Headed Monster in which we learnt about the ideas of pre performance, performance and post-performance. We began to question what makes a performance and when it ends for an audience. We wanted to experiment with this idea and so decided to split our performance into 3 sections. As we chose to base our piece on the idea of memorials, in each section we made a new memorial to Rosamund.

For our pre performance, we were intrigued by the work of William Pope.L who “famously crawled along 22 miles of sidewalk” (Simonini, 2013). Whilst he did this to highlight and “address societal concerns” we were fascinated by the idea of going on a journey and so decided to make the last journey Rosamund ever made as a memorial to her memory. We filmed the walk on 10th April, 2016 which was the 117th anniversary of Rosamund’s funeral. In allowing our audience to see this it would immerse them in the events that led up to Rosamund’s death and allow them to grow a greater personal connection to her.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9P5i2rGZqI8

Avery,M. (2016) The Third Beam Pre Performance [online video] [Accessed 12th May 2016]

Our post performance worked on this same principle, however, the audience did not witness first-hand the walk we made back to her school, they were simply told about this pilgrimage during the one to one performances. However we documented this journey by videoing at the same points we had in the pre performance.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7p3yRC6vcQ

Avery,M. (2016) The Third Beam Post Performance [online video] [Accessed 12th May 2016]

Analysis of our Process

 

In our first session at the Drill Hall, we were introduced to the concept of ‘drifting’. Drifting is used to discover areas of a building or space which you may not have noticed had you been walking with a specific destination in mind. Practicing drifting around the Drill Hall allowed our group to see things we would have previously ignored, such as strange architecture, hidden signs or unused spaces. The use of drifting influenced our final performance in many ways. Working from Phil Smith’s ‘Handbook of Drifting’ in Mythogeography, we looked at the many ways in which people make drifting successful. One section we found interesting was step 14: “Avoid art, mostly. Enjoy rotting, splintered, stained, overgrown or torched public art” (Smith, 2010, 120). We found this step the most helpful to our final performance as it gave us the inspiration to look for the lost and forgotten history of the Drill Hall and the darker stories that tend to be disremembered. The drifting also led us to find an area that we immediately fell in love with. Our search for areas that were forgotten or unused led us to find an area underneath the seating. The dark and dreary atmosphere really fit in with the type of story we were hoping to portray. It was at this point we were told by the Drill Hall the story of Rosamund Acworth and her untimely death during a gym class. I felt a connection to this story and upon researching, we found many people were unaware of her existence and it was therefore the hidden story we were looking for and wanted to bring attention to.

 

12695670_1123986287634462_1590567810_o

Wood, E. (2016) Under the seating

12669764_1120051518047092_1998350700_o

Wood, E. (2016) Under the seating

In addition to drifting, we were encouraged in class to look at the work of Willi Dorner and his bodies in urban places. Dorner describes the reasoning behind this performance as inviting “residents to walk their own city thus establishing a stronger relationship to their neighbourhood” (Dorner). As we had already found a performance area we wanted to use that linked with our idea of a hidden history, we used drifting as it allowed us to become more connected to the space and further understand the energy.

Back to the drawing board

Now without a space to use, we carried out more research into Rosamund and came across a newspaper article that had been published two days after she died. From this we learnt the rope she had been climbing in her gymnastics lesson had been hanging from the third beam, which led us to deciding to perform in the main auditorium and creating a performance in the spot in which she died. We felt this connection strong historical connection to the Drill Hall could have just as much of an impact, if not more, on an audience member as they then don’t just become spectators, they would become immersed in the final moments of her life on a level that wouldn’t have been achieved had it been performed in another space.

Our Inspiration

Throughout the process, we were asked to look at and create presentations on different site specific theatre companies that may influence our piece. One company we particularly enjoyed looking at was Talking Birds Theatre Company. A specific performance we had a look at was A City Grown from Words which created an installation of letters written by members of the public in a sorting office that closed down in 2011. This gave us the idea to create an installation as we found the visual effect enhanced the performance when the audience could return and see the progression from start to finish.

Talking Birds also created a performance named Wanderlust in which they used projection to recreate what the area would have looked like before the new buildings were put in place. Their idea of using projection and technology to portray what had happened before led us to the decision of showing the walk throughout the entire 4 hours and 45 minutes of performance to show the audience what had happened both before our performance and before Rosamund’s death.

Towards the end of the project, we began to come across problems with our performance element. In order to find inspiration, we were encouraged to look at The Long and Winding Road by Michael Pinchbeck. The way the script was delivered to tell a story gave the sense of intimacy we were hoping to achieve in our performance. We therefore decided to simply tell the audience Rosamund’s story in the same style and calming tone of voice rather than becoming characters from the gym class as the audience member then couldn’t disassociate themselves from the story.

The Final Rehearsals

IMG_2189

Avery, M. (2016) Testing the Installation

As we got closer to the day of our performance, we had a few problems with getting into our space as there were other performances taking place. So we decided to try and find places where we could recreate what we were planning to do to the best of our ability. We tested how we were going to create our installation. When we practiced tearing up 17 books and writing on them, we realised that even in a smaller space, we weren’t going to be able to fill the entire auditorium which is what we had originally planned to do. We therefore decided to build up the pages from the outside of the spotlight as far as we could so it gave the same effect to the audience.

In our rehearsals we had used sound. However, on the day, our audio track of a heartbeat couldn’t be used due to technological difficulties. Nevertheless, upon reflection, we preferred the silence because it made the atmosphere of the piece scarily unnerving and we imagined there would have been silence the moment in which Rosamund came down the rope.

Performance Evaluation

Overall, I believe our performance went very well on the day. Despite the exhaustion that followed the end of the show and being covered in charcoal, I was very proud of the installation we had managed to create. All the pages in the 17 books had been ripped out and written on so we managed to achieve the goal we set out to achieve in the allotted time. The intimate nature of holding hands and speaking directly to one person in the performance didn’t give room for many audience members and we only had 9 one to one shows that lasted 10 minutes each. We listened to comments from one member of the audience afterwards and they mentioned that they thought the show was “thought provoking and meaningful”.

I believe the best part of our performance was the intimacy and physical contact between the performer and audience member. On the line “they laid her out, loosened her clothing, bathed her head…” (Avery et al, 2016), we put our hand on the audience members head and took their pulse when we announced the time of death for Rosamund. Performing Site-Specific Theatre says that intimacy in theatre is “designed to intensify the theatre experience” (Birch and Tompkins, 2012)and so by doing this, we allowed the audience to become connected to the story and the space in the same way we had done throughout the process on an emotional level.

IMG_2454

Avery, M. (2016) The Final Installation

After the performance, I feel that there are things I would have changed. Whilst we explained what happened to Rosamund during the one on one performances, people who were watching us set up the installation in the first two hours may not have understood the video, the significance of the spotlight or the books. Therefore, in hindsight, we probably should have put up a sign explaining the story of what happened to her so every audience member would have had a full appreciation of the performance, whether it was one to one or simply a spectator. This would have helped us to better achieve our performance goal of immersing the audience into the final moments of Rosamund’s life.

In addition to this, I think we would have changed the way in which we interacted with the audience during the process of getting the audience member to laying down in the spotlight with their eyes closed. We hadn’t taken into account that an audience member may have bags and possessions with them and so when talking to them we became hesitant and not as assured in what we were saying as when we were on script. This therefore compromised parts of the performance as we broke out of our ‘character’. Similarly, I feel we should have worked out a better way of ending the performance, as I didn’t account for an audience member staying within the auditorium when we were due to finish and we couldn’t pack away until they had left.

From the final performance itself, I’ve learnt about the strong emotional connection a site can hold. It wasn’t until we got into the final performance that I was able to truly appreciate the scale of this connection to the history we had learned about throughout the course and not just the story we were basing our own performance on. I think this connection allowed us to create a new and eerie atmosphere in the Drill Hall auditorium that resonated with our audiences and they walked away knowing about a moment in history that the Drill Hall seemed to have all but forgotten. Mike Pearson states in his book Site Specific Performance that “the conventions and techniques of the auditorium may be inappropriate or inadequate to the task of addressing ‘site’” (Pearson, 2010, 1). Looking back on the performance, I’ve realised the challenges that come with devising a site specific performance. However, the possibilities go way beyond that of traditional theatre and performing on a stage with an audience sat watching and the space can be transformed into whatever you envision. Also that an audience can become a lot more connected to a performance than they would do if they were simply sat down watching people on a stage.

Word Count: 2416

Works Cited

Avery, M., Brammah, F. and Wood, E. (2016) The Third Beam. [performance] Lincoln: Lincoln Drill Hall, 4th May.

 

Birch, A and Tompkins, J.E. (eds.) (2012) Performing site-specific theatre: Politics, place, practice. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

 

Dorner, W. Bodies in urban spaces. [online] Available from http://www.ciewdorner.at/index.php?page=work&wid=26  [Accessed 5th May 2016].

 

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

 

Simonini, R. (2013) William Pope.L. [online] Available from http://www.interviewmagazine.com/art/william-popel#_ [Accessed 5th May 2016].

 

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

 

Talking Birds. Site-specific and site-responsive works. [online] Available from http://talkingbirds.co.uk/pages/sitespecific.asp [Accessed 5th May 2016].

 

Friday, May 13th, 2016

Bread and Cheese hall. Alice Chattaway -Final blog post

Framing statement

Site Specific; “A theatrical performance, whatever its genre, its physical event occupying a certain space and certain duration” (McAuley, G, 2000, p126) Going to a place for the first time, “In which the reader is invited to undertake research at a particular location: to develop narrative from such enquiry and to engage in a practical and physical exploration at such place” (Pearson, M. 2010 p, 83) Having the Drill Hall, as our performance space, allowed us to explore the many different people at many different periods of time. This specific site has enabled us to examine numerous possibilities for a performance, researching into the history of the Drill Hall, comparing them with ones of today.

 

Initial thoughts-

After careful consideration on which room we would like to perform in, my group chose The Cosker room. Not only was this on of the bigger rooms, reaching “Approx. 7.2m x 15.9m” (Drill hall, 2016) It was also a room that could be adapted into many different things, “Sprung wooden dance floor – ideal for dance workshops/rehearsals, auditions, castings etc… Can also be used for mid-scale meetings, training and workshops.” (Drill hall 2016) Towards the beginning  of our search we found the idea of rehearsals interesting, having a room that housed people from different ages and walks of life, being brought together to do the same thing. After more research, and asking at the front desk of the Drill Hall for help, we realised they were in fact was still accommodating dance classes for the elderly. This information lead us on to our first idea, ‘Three piles’. Each pile would contain shoes from a specific era, with accompanying music to go along. After finding Janet Cardiff, a well-known site specific artist who focuses her work on around sound, we decided to take inspiration, using speakers, much like her performance ‘Audio walks’. This style of performance immerses the audience member, layering and adding texture to the performance, allowing the audience to experience it through both seeing and hearing communications. The audience would experience three different types of music playing at the same time, influenced by Cardiff’s 40 Part Motet, alongside a connecting piles of shoes. One pile containing 40’s style shoes, one, Military boot (representing the fact the Drill Hall used to be a military training base) and finally, modern shoes to show that it accommodates today’s generation as well.

Although this piece was thought out and did link to the history of the drill hall, we were unsure of what we would be doing in the space. We didn’t know whether to use interviews from people of the era and use that in a one to one style performance or not. After discussing with the group our next plan was to wait and see if we could get more information from the Lincoln archives. Much to our disappointment there was minimal information on the dances and our idea was becoming more distanced from site specific and just becoming a devised performance. Due to this we took the time we had left in the archives to search for a new lead, finding an interesting document containing the life of Joseph Ruston.

 

Analysis of process

Joseph Ruston -

In 1889 Ruston, Proctor & Co accountants certified that over the previous 7 years the company had made an average profit of £50,000 per year.  The same year Joseph Ruston converted Ruston, Proctor & Company into a public company, for this he received £465,000 and he rewarded his most senior employees with shares to the value of £10,000. In the same year Ruston paid for a new Drill Hall to be built. It was to be built on Broadgate and house military training. The workers of Ruston’s previous business were unimpressed with the next hall seen as they had previously asked for a pay rise which Ruston denied and said

“I hope you’ll let me get bread and cheese out of my business!” After this Joseph Ruston was nicknamed ‘Mr Bread and Cheese and inevitably the new building became known as ‘Bread and Cheese Hall’.  Although we knew little about Ruston and his workers, the quote was such a direct link to the drill hall it was hard to ignore.

Joseph Ruston information, found at the archives (Chattaway, 2016)

Joseph Ruston information, found at the archives (Chattaway, 2016)

Initially our idea was to build the drill hall out of bread and cheese to symbolise Ruston’s involvement, however after many attempts we found that building a sculpture that not only looked like the drill hall, but by only using these materials would be too difficult. We then decided that we could cut the bread and cheese and lay it down creating a floor plan. When cutting the bread into strips it was brought to our attention that each piece could signify the soldiers who trained there, collaborating would enable us to have a reason for the specific size of our piece, and would allow us to draw more facts to enhance the bond between both space and idea.

 

Drill Hall floor plan. (Google images, 2016)

Drill Hall floor plan. (Google images, 2016)

Drill hall floor plan, made out of bread. (Goddard, 2016)

Drill hall floor plan, made out of bread.
(Goddard, 2016)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although to us this idea seemed strong, from an outsider’s opinion, the floor plan could have been anything we created could have been anything. The soldiers weren’t recognised as soldiers like we had anticipated. It also came to our attention that the idea had little room for development, and could not be easily adapted.

Because of this our attention was drawn back to the quote. That fact Ruston used his business an excuse to benefit himself rather than his workers, opened our minds to the idea of business, and using bread and cheese as stimulus for a business of our own. As a result of one of our previous ideas (three piles of shoes) we decided to resort back to the idea of piles, knowing this would be aesthetically pleasing; three performers, and three piles. We chose to add flour to the piece, showing another raw material, which is also linked closely with bread, but also is notably different to the other two.

Turning these raw materials into our own business was a tough process, we were confused on how to incorporate the three, or whether to spate them in different sections of the room, allowing audience members to walk round willingly. As a group and with an outsider’s perspective, we decided to sit side by side, not interacting with each other, however still looking like a unit or trio. This would unite the materials and give a cleaner finish as a whole.

After researching into live artists and site specific performers who use natural/food products, we can across Antony Gormley. An artist who had previously used bread in his own work. Antony talks about how the bread was seen as a natural source, however there was nothing natural about it. The wheat was bleached and slices were pre-cut, showing the workmanship and unnecessary routine the product goes through, in turn taking it away from its original state. ‘It’s square, it’s been divided, its metonymy is now of absolute 8mm thick slices’.(Gormley, 2015)

http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/video/tateshots-antony-gormley-breaking-bread

Tateshots: Antony Gormley: Breaking Bread (2015)

During the interview with Gormley, references to industrialization are brought up, making comments to modern society, and how it is becoming rigid and unnatural. We wanted to incorporate this in our piece, with including a structured approach with the business like element.

Cutting the bread and cheese seemed like the best option to begin the process of deterioration, while still keeping the element of work and business going throughout.

 

Supermarket own brand (Chattaway, 2016)

Supermarket own brand (Chattaway, 2016)

Brand Product (Chattaway, 2016)

Branded Product (Chattaway, 2016)

Offcuts (Goddard, 2016)

Offcuts of bread (Goddard, 2016)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However flour was the odd one out, leaving us with the idea of collect the flour, moving it from a pile on the floor to smaller and more precise piles in bowls. These actions were successful and could be adapted each time. As shown in the pictures above, when regarding the floor plan for our earlier idea we explored the different types of bread, looking into the thickness and quality (in regards to brand and price) enabling us to choose our preferred loaf. We decided that the supermarket own bread was better for our performance as we could incorporate the offcuts (as seen in the third picture) to represent the fallen soldiers, who trained at the drill hall. Although this idea had been developed since then, it was still crucial for us to research the type of bread cheese and flour, enabling us to be cost effective where need be.

 

Bringing in the fourth element-

Now we had a clear idea of what we were doing in the performance the group decided to develop the piece more by adding in other elements. Firstly we started adding water to the flour, turning it into a dough, exploring a new material being made. We then looked at the texture of the cut cheese, deciding to grate half of it to see the contrast between the two, and finally we looked into rolling/ flattening the bread, focusing on its denseness, making it easy to sculpt and manipulate. All of these things changed the performance, questioning the structured business-like manner we had intended upon.

Adding water, and kitchen equipment help showcase the deterioration of the natural products, in turn, allowing us to learn and express the idea of industrialization. Creating a durational performance that showed the development from the shelf product to something almost unrecognisable was now our aim. As a result of using numerous kitchen products we looked at adding a table full, showcasing them in a similar way to how Marina Abramović does.

Abramović has been the latest artist to influence our piece, allowing us to develop ideas and create another dimension to the piece. We found her performance ‘Rhythm O’ (1974) intriguing, using the element of danger to draw us as audience members in.

“Of the 72 items laid out for Abramović’s performance, some were chosen with pleasure in mind, whereas others definitely suggested pain.” (Richards, M, 2009, p89) Audience members could choose which ever they wanted and use it on her body, almost as if she is the blank canvas. This began with items that could do no harm, which then changed, ended up with knives and guns. Not only was this concerning, it also created the idea of the unknown. She herself not know what was going to happen, the onlookers were in the dark as well. Abramović was prepared to get seriously injured or even die for her performance, showing the drastic measures that herself, as a performer was willing to accept. Although we didn’t want the audience members to participate unlike Marinas work, we wanted to show an orderly structure to our work still relating to the idea of business, this in turn allowed us to use numerous items as the piece went on, creating more room for the corrosion of our products. We kept the element of danger, using objects such as sharp knives and graters to show how influenced by Abramović work we were yet incorporating it in our own way to enhance our own piece of art.

Tables of objects (Pinchbeck, 2016)

Table of objects (Pinchbeck, 2016)

 

By reason of the drill hall kindly letting us use the space from the hours of 12pm-5pm, the group decided to perform our durational peice for 3 hours, (2pm-5pm). By choosing the time scale of three hours kept with the original aesthetic of the piece, relating to the three performers and three materials. This not only gave us time to structure our performance, it also opened a window for development. Having three hours meant that we could each take it in turns with the materials, swapping on every hour. The first hour being regimented, the second starting to show the elements of deconstruction, and the third allowing us to completely change the products, consenting to a sabotage like feel. Not only was the third hour the main form for deconstruction, it also allowed us as performers to interact with the materials, experimenting with the flour in the air, the dough between our toes and the cheese on our arms. We had pushed the products so far from the norm it was hard to tell which pile was which anymore, resulting in success for the group.

Clothing-

As a group we knew that we wanted to look like a collective, making sure we were in similar clothes that enhanced our performance. “Clothing is emblematic, and can be identified as a uniform.”(Howell, A. 1999, p15) After much deliberation over the idea of skirts and dresses, we decided that black trouser and black tops would be most appropriate seen as we were sat on the floor a lot. We decided to go for black to contrast the white flour, white bread and light coloured cheese making them stand out and be the main ‘ingredient’ of the performance.

Outfit and hair, aftermath. (Cain, 2016)

Outfit and hair, aftermath. (Cain, 2016)

We also choose to wear hair nets and plastic aprons to continue the theme of business. (Like in any bakery hair nets are key for cleanliness) the plastic aprons inspired our choice in flooring, giving us the idea of using plastic dust sheets to protect the wooden floor, not only to merge with the aprons, but also to save from the clean-up at the end of the piece. We choose plastic because it is a manmade material, both contrasting and conforming to our outlook of the performance. It contrasted because the bread, cheese and flour were technically natural materials, however we were turning them into something unrecognisable, a product of our own creation.

 

Performance evaluation

After performing, I think that the overall point was made. The link to the drill hall and our performance was apparent and the way in which it was performed was as planned. A few days before the performance we decided to add in the date when the drill hall was built, we knew we would be constructing this out of the materials, but was unsure of how it would look. After careful deliberation and planning we decided that we would do it, using myself as a guide to the sizing.

1890 construction (Pinchbeck, 2016)

1890 construction (Pinchbeck, 2016)

After looking back on the performance, I believe we could have changed the layout of the bread cheese and flour. Both bread and cheese began by being cut, yet flour scoped. If as a group we had stopped to acknowledge this we could have had the flour in the middle, making the performance more symmetrical.

If we were to rethink any part of our performance, it would be the involvement with the audience. It wasn’t made clear to them that the performance was durational, and we should have advised them to come back every hour to see the change and destruction caused. I would also make a note of the table of objects, being for the use of the performers and not audience members. During the first hour an audience member picked up the tongs, come to the pile of bread, taking one slice and laying it to the left (audience perspective) of the pile, she then went on to collect two slices of cheese and lay them on top of the bread, forming a sandwich. As performers we had discussed our communications with the audience members and decided to ignore then, in turn this meant that we were unable to correct the situation, and wondered if other audience participants would follow suit. Luckily for the group they didn’t, meaning our performance continued as normal. After contemplating the reasoning behind this act, it was brought to our attention that she could have had involvement with Marina Abramović’s pieces in the past, showing that our table replicated hers. Having an audience member create a new fragment for our performance without us being aware beforehand was disconcerting. As a group we had to decide whether to include it in our process of breakdown. To leave it could draw reference to an ‘offcut’ in a factory, (part of material that is of no worth), however the decision was to be left up to the performer on that ‘station’ at the time, who decide to include it, merging both our work and audience work together.

 

Word count 2640.

 

Bibliography-

Cain (2016).

Chattaway (2016).

Goddard (2016).

Howell, A. (1999) The analysis of performance art: A guide to its theory and practise. 2nd edn. Amsterdam: Harwood academic.

Lincoln Drill Hall (2013) Lincoln Drill Hall: Room Hire [online] Lincolnshire: Drill Hall.

Available from http://www.lincolndrillhall.com/room-hire/room-hiring-facilities/

[Accessed 1th May 2016].

McAuley, G. (2000) Space in performance: Making meaning in the theatre (theatre: Theory/text/performance). United States: The University of Michigan Press.

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

Pinchbeck (2016).

Richards, M.P. (2009) Marina Abramović. London: Routledge.

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 10th May 2016].

Friday, May 13th, 2016

Recollection – Final Blog Post by Adam Cockerill

A Framing Statement

Our Site Specific performance, named Recollection, is a series of one to one performances in a unique location in the Lincoln Drill Hall. The piece was based on the stories of lost and found objects. Through the use of storytelling and sensory-based experiences, we immersed the audience in the forgotten history of the Lincoln Drill Hall. This was performed on Wednesday 4th May 2016. The performance consisted of 10 to 15-minute slots between the times of 12 pm and 3:30 pm. Our performance was inspired by various Site Specific practitioners such as those from the One-To-One Performance – A Case Study Guide such as Michael Pinchbeck and a company called Curious.

(Adam Cockerill, 2016)

(Adam Cockerill, 2016)

Influences

One-To-One Performance – A Case Study Guide 

“One to One” or “One on One” or “Audience of One” are all terms used to describe a performance that invites one audience member to experience the piece on their own. Such performance interactions last for around five or ten minutes” (Zerihan, 2009, 3). The idea of having a one-to-one performance is that two people discuss a matter directly, without anybody else, usually one feeding information to the other.

The Long and Winding Road (2004)

The performance that influenced our piece was The Long and Winding Road (2004) created by Michael Pinchbeck. The performance “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.” (Zerihan, 2009, 63). The performance mainly inspired us not just to create stories, but it gave us an idea concerning interaction with the audience member. “Hi, welcome aboard… Would you like a travel sweet, you don’t have to” (Pinchbeck, 2004). Pinchbeck made sure the audience member or passenger felt relaxed before he began his journey inside the car. Drawing on this, we used a poster from the 7th August 1915, the text of which was: “Macintosh’s Toffee De Luxe to the Troops and the great sailors. It gives them great pleasure, it helps them to forget danger, it passes away many a tedious hour, it sustains their stamina” (The Lincolnshire Chronicle, 1915).

The Toffee Poster http://file:///C:/Users/Adam/Downloads/Corporal-James-Upton-VC%20(1).pdf

The Toffee Poster
http://file:///C:/Users/Adam/Downloads/Corporal-James-Upton-VC%20(1).pdf

The poster inspired us to build on our original idea where we based our Site Specific performance on the two soldiers, Leonard Keyworth, and James Upton. They inspired us to make the audience member feel tranquil and feel more in the comfort zone before we take him or her on a journey through the history of the objects.

The Long and Winding Road (2004) https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=A+Long+Winding+Road+Michael+Pinchbeck&biw=1242&bih=606&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjh2JvI29XMAhWHBsAKHRczCb8Q_AUIBygC#imgrc=9a1SXtXN40CQfM%3A

The Long and Winding Road (2004)
https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=A+Long+Winding+Road+Michael+Pinchbeck&biw=1242&bih=606&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjh2JvI29XMAhWHBsAKHRczCb8Q_AUIBygC#imgrc=9a1SXtXN40CQfM%3A

Between Pinchbeck and the audience member, they felt that “the mirror doubled the distance between us. I hope it enabled the experience to feel intimate but detached, close but not too uncomfortable.” (Zerihan, 2009, 63). Being in a one-to-one performance can sometimes be uncomfortable for the audience member, depending on how distant the performer is from them. With our performance, we had a series of objects on a table, and we doubled the distance between the audience member and myself.

To make the audience member feel more relaxed and not too uncomfortable, Pinchbeck had casual radio music on in his car. This idea inspired us to have audio in our performance. If the audience member wanted, they could have the music played while discussing the objects. The type of music we decided to play were songs sung by artists and bands such as The Rolling Stones and The Stranglers who performed at the Drill Hall in the 1960’s before they became famous. We only played these pieces of music if the audience member picked objects which related to the music, such as the guitar pics and the music stand. Constantly throughout the performance we played “Divenire”, “I Giorni” and “Primavera” by Ludovico Einaudi, which were able to relax the audience member even more to avoid any awkwardness.

Curious – Lost and Found

Regarding coming up with an idea that is relevant to the objects we chose, we were influenced by a theatre company called Curious. They created a piece called Lost and Found.  “What is lost and what is found in places undergoing rapid regeneration and change?” (Lost and Found, 2005). Their performances include personal journeys which lead them to have conversations with audience members by asking them rhetorical questions, about whether they can relate to that journey or not.

An Analysis Of Process

The Backstage Cupboard (Adam Cockerill, 2016)

The Backstage Cupboard
(Adam Cockerill, 2016)

On the first day of having our Site Specific lesson at the Lincoln Drill Hall, we were shown around by Chris Kirkwood, the Chief Executive. He gave us some history of the building. We came to the backstage stock cupboard and we found out that nobody had performed in this room in the past. This created an unusual space which we thought the audience would enjoy.

The original idea for our piece, which we had titled Heroism was an immersion based performance designed to remove the audience members from the balcony room and transport them to a trench in the First World War. This idea came about from the two memorial stones laid on the forecourt of the Drill Hall and we wanted to recreate a believable and intense scenario based around the exploits of these heroes.

The Memorial Stones Of Leonard Keyworth and James Upton. (Adam Cockerill, 2016)

The Memorial Stones Of Leonard Keyworth and James Upton.
(Adam Cockerill, 2016)

Further research at The Archives led us to find out about a toffee endorsement by one of the soldiers which we wanted to include in our performance as it is a unique and interesting link to the site itself. When the audience experienced our performance, we wanted them to feel how soldiers felt during World War I. We wanted to make the audience feel as if they were in a battle and to pay tribute to them and make them show more respect for the soldiers who fought for us. We did this by placing an audience member in a chair and putting a soldier’s helmet on their head and a blanket over their shoulders. We then turned the lights off to make the room dark. We made the two soldiers come to life by portraying them.

However, this idea spawned debate within the group. We all have a relationship with theatre and the stage, as actors. Our personalities alter into different characters; we take on a new procedure of expression and voice completely different to that of our everyday lives. As drama students, we are used to devising for theatrical performances; we thought that this idea was too theatrical with the use of characters because we were portraying the two soldiers which we thought took attention away from the Site Specific element and was more focused towards our performance abilities.

We decided to pursue an idea where the three of us lead one-to-one performances with audience members based on telling the stories of lost and found objects from what we found in the backstage cupboard, abandoned and forgotten. An idea that developed from this was the potential use of the toffee as one of the items related to the Drill Hall, and that our research into the soldiers would not be lost as a result of this drastic change in style of performance. Expanding on that idea, was a suggestion from Michael Pinchbeck that music could be a part of the performance and a lost instrument could be used to play one of the songs that were played at the Drill Hall during the venue’s time as a music-based venue. An idea that stemmed from this led to us researching more about the Drill Hall. We found out that famous bands such as The Rolling Stones performed at the venue on the 31st December 1963 (before they became famous). Our piece was moving more towards being a more intimate and personal performance, designed to use the natural surroundings of the room to give our piece a surreal atmosphere.

“Story-telling is indicative of a recent development in socially engaged site-specific art” (Till, 2008, 102). Using objects, we are engaging the audience by telling stories and or narratives, which stimulates one’s social memory. For example, the audience will engage emotionally by relating it to their lives and experiences. “Performers devise methods of working with the audience very close to them indeed” (Pearson, 2010, 174). We will do this by patiently asking questions to the audience member if the specific item or items mean anything to them or to somebody else they know.

In order to tell stories about objects, we had to search for ones that interested us and which reminded us of the history of the Drill Hall, whether it was fictional or non-fictional. Jaimie brought in some antique objects that belonged to his grandfather. Jake brought in objects such as a piece of rope which we told the story of Rosamund Ackwarth, which is one of the long-standing and the most significant non-fictional stories of the Drill Hall. We decided to have 24 objects altogether. The reason for this is so the audience member had a wide choice of objects to choose from.

The trolley full of the lost and found objects. (Adam Cockerill, 2016)

The trolley full of the lost and found objects.
(Adam Cockerill, 2016)

Once we had written our stories about the objects, we wanted to try it out with an audience member. I wanted to play the first curator who escorted the audience member up in the lift and Jake wanted to play the second curator who tells the stories. After the run, we felt that the audience member looked rather uncomfortable in the lift and in the room. How we solved this problem was that an idea came to us and we thought we would bring back the toffee endorsement as it calms peoples nerves and we told them a story in the lift about why we gave them a toffee and the audience member felt more relaxed.

Another difficulty we faced during the rehearsal process was our approach towards the audience member. Michael felt that we were being too informative. We took influence from how the way Michael approached us, as he was very calm and he made us feel more relaxed.

A Performance Evaluation

Since doing the Site Specific Performance module, it has made me realise that you can perform anywhere, from performing in a theatre to performing in a town centre, a library, a museum and a stock cupboard.

The sign-up sheet with the list of audience members. (Adam Cockerill, 2016)

The sign-up sheet with the list of audience members.
(Adam Cockerill, 2016)

The audience signed up for a 10-minute slot in the site-specific box office that had been set up for sign-up sheets. The performance took place starting from the backstage lift on the ground floor where an audience member was greeted by either Jaimie, Jake or myself, as curators, and one of us escorted that member to the backstage cupboard. In the lift, we offered a toffee to the audience member to calm their nerves before they enter the Recollection Museum. Then they were greeted by another curator who sat the audience member down. We asked them to pick up an object from the Recollection table, and we intrigued the audience by telling a story about that object, relating to the Drill Hall, whether it is fictional or non-fictional. After 10 minutes, the curator took a picture of the audience member, holding their favourite object. The picture was then placed into the memories section of the Recollection book. Then the audience member was escorted down the lift by the first curator. They were then asked what their favourite object was and how that object had any relation to them.

Audience members holding their favourite object. (Jake Skelton, 2016)

Audience members holding their favourite object.
(Jake Skelton, 2016)

During the 3 hours, we had a total of 14 audience members. I was initially worried we would not have enough people, but I felt that this was a great success.

I felt one of my strengths during this performance was that eventually my confidence grew and that furthered my communication skills towards the audience members. “One to One performances feel personal, and if we commit ourselves to them, they can affect us in a myriad of ways.” (Zerihan, 2009, 3-4). I felt we made it achievable to make it feel personal for each audience member, as each person will have felt differently about the objects they picked. One audience member remained reminiscent about the mouth organ as it reminded her of her father playing it when he fought in World War II and I told a similar story regarding that item. One audience member remained enlightened and another was intrigued to know more about the items. However, my weakness was that I was very nervous with the first audience member, as it was my first time performing in a one-to-one performance and that had a massive impact on my confidence. How I could have overcome this is during the rehearsal process, when I could have practiced more with my peers during class time and that way I could have been engaged more and be confident.

The difficulties that Jaimie, Jake and myself faced was something as simple as walking in a lift and pressing a button. We did have issues with the lift as it took quite some time for the lift to respond to us pressing the button to go up and at first. With saying this, it was hard to relax the audience member as one looked quite anxious until I offered her a toffee. Considering the lift took its time to go up, it was hard for me to carry on the conversation with the first audience member I took up.

One of our strengths as a group were what we were wearing for the performance. I felt that we dressed appropriately and we were represented as curators, which was our intention, as we immersed the audience in the forgotten stories of the Drill Hall. As a group, we went to places such as The Archives, The Art Gallery and The Collection and we took into account what they were wearing. I wore a white shirt, a black tie, black trousers and black shoes.

(Adam Cockerill, 2016)

(Adam Cockerill, 2016)

One of our weaknesses was timing because I felt that we were going over the limit at the beginning. As performers, we were too focused on our performance and we lost track of time, only by a few minutes, but this had a massive impact on the other audience members’ appointment time as they had to wait a little longer. Therefore, during the next few runs, we decided as a group that the first curator entered the Recollection room from the kitchen area, which was the second curator’s cue to finish his story, so we did not lose track of time.

As an individual, the one thing I would change if I performed again is be less nervous and to try and avoid hesitation. How I would overcome this is to be even more familiar with what story I want to tell regarding the objects. Furthermore, I would try and lengthen the stories a bit more for the reason that I felt the stories I was telling were a bit too short.

Overall, I thought the performance went very well and we received great feedback from the audience members. A couple of the Drill Hall staff members came to watch us and they told us how they found it very intriguing as they learnt some new information about the entertainment venue.

I am positive that we managed to achieve our aim to commemorate the lost and found items as we shared the stories of what happened before they were abandoned with new people, and helped people reminisce.

Word Count: 2,529

Bibliography

Curious, (2005). ::: curious ::: project ::: lost & found :::. [online] Placelessness.com. Available at: http://placelessness.com/project/1003/lost–found/ [Accessed 15 Apr. 2016].

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

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 15 Apr. 2016].

Till, E, K. (2008) Memory Studies: Artistic and Activist Memory-Work: Approaching Place-Based Practice. University of Northampton: Sage Publications.

Upton, J. (1915). Mackintosh’s Toffee De Luxe. [online] Available at: http://file:///C:/Users/Adam/Downloads/Corporal-James-Upton-VC%20(1).pdf [Accessed 15 Apr. 2016].

Zerihan, R. (2009). Live Art Development Agency Study Room Guide on One To One Performance.

Friday, May 13th, 2016

Final Blog Post – The Third Beam

Emily Wood

 

“Work can be made out of anything; there is no need for an audience or stage;” (Lavery, 2005, 232-233)

 

Framing Statement

 

The Third Beam was a memorial piece dedicated to a young girl who lost her life at the Lincoln Drill Hall. Overall, the piece was an installation with one-on-one performances that were created and performed on the 4th May 2016. The creation of the installation took place from 12pm until 5pm, with the one-on-one performances occurring at 20 minute intervals between 2pm and 4.35pm. During the creation of The Third Beam, the desired outcome was to educate the audience on the death of Rosamund Acworth, a student who lost her life during a PE lesson. This death was a tragic occurrence. “She climbed up the rope about 3 yards before descending to the ground. She did not fall but came down the rope. When she got to the ground she seemed to collapse. Dr. W A Carline was called to the Drill Hall… he found the girl quite dead and livid” (The Lincolnshire Echo, 1899). The reason that, as a group, we became quite passionate about Rosamund was because her death is poorly documented, and she is not commemorated within the numerous plaques and memorials that are scattered throughout the site. We chose our performance area of the auditorium as this space was used as a gymnasium, and it was also the very room in which Rosamund lost her life.

Whilst audience members could walk freely throughout the space to observe the creation of the installation, the one-on-one performances were collected from the box office, and told to close their eyes upon entering the auditorium so that they could not view the installation in its entirety until the end of the one-on-one performance. Audience involvement took place during the performances. The audience were asked to close their eyes and were lead by the performer, before being instructed to lie down in a specific spot. Without this cooperation, the piece would not have been as efficient.

During the installation, the public were also able to observe the film that was projected on the back of the stage. We had this film playing throughout the 5 hour performance. It depicted the three performers; Megan Avery, Faye Brammah and myself, walking from Lincoln Christ Hospital School to the Drill Hall. These locations were of importance as Rosamund was a pupil at this school when the event occurred.

3

Lincoln Christ Hospital School Located on Wragby Road, Lincoln

Through the process, we gained inspiration from the site specific performance artist William Pope L.

 

Analysis of Process

 

The first day at the Drill Hall was a guided tour of the building explaining each room, and it uses today. I found this to be very useful, as I had only ever been in the Drill Hall for performances in the auditorium.  As Wilkie explains, during the tour, I was encouraged to “engage with the site as symbol” (Wilkie, 2002, 158)  The history of the rooms, and the discussion about multiple site specific performances led me to look at the possibilities of the spaces from a site-specific point of view, rather than as a performer.  However, the tour did not enlighten me as to a subject I wished to pursue for a performance. Due to this, after the lesson, I went home in search of information into the history of the Drill Hall. Through this research, I found a page linked to the website of Lincoln Christ Hospital School entitled ‘A Memorial to Rosamund Acworth’.

“Rosamund died quite suddenly in the afternoon on Thursday 6th April whilst engaging in physical exercises at the gymnasium in the Lincoln Drill Hall. The Lincolnshire Echo reported that the Coroner described the case as a particularly sad one, as the deceased had suffered a seizure while climbing a rope… According to the Echo report, Rosamund was about three yards up when she seemed to collapse. She then became unconscious and a doctor was immediately called for. Despite efforts by Dr Carline to revive her, these were unsuccessful and Rosamund passed away.” (Harrod and Kupper, 2011)

This article gave an overview of the events of 6th April 1899, but also the memorials that existed for Rosamund within Lincoln. These include a stain glass window within the Cathedral entitled ‘Life Death and Resurrection’. In addition, there are 2 memorials for Rosamund within her school. These are a bookcase engraved with her name, and a prayer desk. This prayer desk is engraved with lilies, her favourite flower. All three of these memorials still exist today. However, the Drill Hall has no memorial to Rosamund.

rosamund bookcaseStained window

 

The constant referral to the article published in the Lincolnshire Echo led me to believe that this article would be very informative. However, the article was not present online. Over the next few weeks, my group and I researched Rosamund, and found some useful sources, but could not find the Lincolnshire Echo article anywhere. However, we had an idea of the space. As the Drill Hall was opened in 1890, and “On the north side of the hall is a gymnasium, 50ft by 30ft”, (The Times, 1890) we were led to believe that this was the place that Rosamund died. This gymnasium would have been within the current auditorium.

We were able to find the Lincolnshire Echo article in the archives of the Lincoln Central Library. This article became very significant for our final performance. The piece explains not only what occurred within the Drill Hall, but also what occurred at her hearing on the 7th April. This gave us more detail into Rosamund’s death. We found that Rosamund epilepsy was the decided cause of death as the Lincolnshire Echo explains “the deceased had had a somewhat similar attack before, which was somewhat in the nature of an epileptic fit… her pulse was beating within two minutes of his arrival. If that were so, death might be due to an epileptic fit” (The Lincolnshire Echo, 1899)

The articles that we had gathered had some common factors that we wished to include in our piece. The fact that Rosamund was the schools fifth form librarian, the inclusion of the rope and the height that she climbed before descending, and the fact that she did not fall, but descended to the ground before collapsing. As we had the auditorium as our space, we were able to use the lighting rig, and decided that we would have a spotlight in the centre of the room as the main focus point. We also wanted to use books within the performance, 17 to be exact as this was her age when she died.  In addition to these, the fact that she did not fall down the rope was also one of the main focuses of the journalists. We also wanted to use this within our performance, but were not sure how to incorporate it into our performance.

In the following weeks, during class, we discussed the idea of pilgrimages and the idea of pre-performance, performance and post-performance. We decided that, as a pre-performance that we would walk from the school that she used to attend, to the Drill Hall, recreating her final walk. We decided to film it and have playing on repeat during our performance. Our main inspiration for the pilgrimage was William Pope L. and his performance the Great White Way, 22 miles, 9 Years, One street. Within the piece, Pope L. crawls the length of Broadway on his hands and knees. Due to the significance of the rope, we decided to drag a piece of rope behind us. This would be the same piece of rope that was used in the final performance. We decided on this as it would have also made the final journey that Rosamund took, but also all the dirt from the journey would be collected by it. In addition, we incorporated the oldest clip of an all-female gym class that we could find. We completed the pre-performance walk on the 10th April 2016, the 117th anniversary of Rosamund’s funeral. The final video is as follows:

We decided that for our post-performance, we would perform a memorial to Rosamund by doing the final journey that she never did, and walk back up to the school, and leave a memorial to her outside the gate. Because of the prayer desk that was created by the school in memorial, we decided to take a bouquet of lilies with us to leave outside the gate. We decided to document the journey back up to the school, and this documentation can be found in the video below.

Through feedback from our tutors, during the Easter break, we changed our performance idea radically. We still wanted to perform a memorial piece for Rosamund, with the walk from her school to the Drill Hall being projected onto the wall, and liked the idea of having the spotlight as the only form of light in the auditorium, but changed every other element of the piece. Instead of having the rope on the floor, it would hang from the lighting rig and be lit by the spotlight. We decided on this as it represented the rope that Rosamund would have climbed before descending to the ground. In addition, we decided to knot the rope 3 yards above the floor to show a visual representation of how high she climbed.

I still wanted to use books within the piece due to their significance within the articles, and also the bookcase that in inscribed with her name. After much deliberation, we decided that we would use the books to express the significance of the fact that she did not fall. We decided to create an installation with the pages of the books, starting from edge of the spotlight, ‘she did not fall’ would be written on each page of the 17 books before being ripped out and placed on the floor. Once each book has had all of its pages taken out, the empty cover will be placed face up to show the remnants of the book.  These books were used to represent the 17 years that Rosamund lived.  We decided to create a memorial to Rosamund to leave within the Drill Hall, and wanted to use some of the pages from the final performance We decided on a small picture frame that would include these pages as well as a picture of Rosamund so that she could be remembered in the Drill Hall’s history. We also decided to use charcoal to write on the pages as we had originally used sharpie, but realized that it was too modern for the piece. Moreover, the charcoal blackened our hands, the way that ink would have blackened the student’s hands in 1899.

site3

creation of installation

Pages at 17:00.

Finished Installation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to the installation, we also wanted to include a one-on-one performance. I was interested in the intimacy of the performance between the performer and audience member. In the final weeks of the process, we decided to make a 10-15 minute one-on-one performance to explain our piece in more detail to the audience member. We wanted to give them an overview of what had happened to Rosamund, and what she was like: details that were not included in our performance. For this we decided to bring the audience into the room with their eyes closed, but soon changed this to closing their eyes as soon as they got into the auditorium due to the amount of doors between the box office and the auditorium, making it difficult to navigate when leading the audience member. We wanted to lay the audience member in the spotlight, and in the middle of the installation. This is due to the fact that when we get the audience member to open their eyes at the end of our piece, the first thing they will see is the rope hanging from the lighting rig, and to put them in the place of Rosamund when she collapsed after reaching the ground. For the script of the one-on-one piece, I wanted to make the audience feel as if they were Rosamund. The first thing that we as performers asked was for the audience member to imagine what the Drill Hall would have looked like in 1899. We also interacted with them whilst they were laid on the floor, ‘bathing’ their head and feeling for their pulse. The script also contained verbatim through the use of the Lincolnshire Echo newspaper article. Pieces of the text were recited that described both the time at the Drill Hall as well as the coroner’s report. These verbatim accounts were to remind the audience that our piece was non-fiction.

For our final rehearsal, we used the time to see what the auditorium would look like when it was filled with the pages from the books. When at home, we had ripped out the pages of 17 books, and bought them in to see how much of the space it would fill. In addition, we also practiced a script that I had written the previous night. After performing this and receiving some feedback, we decided that we needed more detail on the memorials, and our intentions for the post-performance, and so I edited the script before it was performed on 4th May.

085

Final Rehearsal

 

Evaluation of Performance

 

Overall, I am very pleased with how the piece was executed, and how it was received by the audience. Many of the audience members stayed to watch the process of the installation, and as the auditorium was used as a through-way to performances at the back of the Drill Hall, many people stayed to watch the installation after they had seen another piece.

As all of the spaces for our one-to-one performance were filled, we were able to get a range of people to experience the piece. No audience members were unwilling to be led to the space, nor were they adverse to human contact. The piece would not have worked and had the same effect had the audience member been uncooperative. As Zerihan suggests, “They acknowledge their own visibility and role in the work in one-to-one work in a way that can be ignored as part of a group… Their acknowledged involvement makes the moment potent and alive.” (Zerihan, 2009) During one of my performances however, I did have an elderly lady that could not lie down, and instead I delivered the piece standing, facing her and holding both her hands.

The continuation of the creation of the installation once the one-on-one performances began, I believe, worked particularly well. This is due to the fact that, even though the installation had been developed for 2 hours when these performances began, there were still numerous books left. Moreover, having 2 members of the group working on the piece at a time allowed the piece to expand, and a majority of the books were used through the 5 hour period. However, if we were to perform The Third Beam again, I would like to have some more time, possibly an extra hour, as there were a couple of books left to be added to the installation when we finished the piece.

Overall I feel that we, as a group, were able to complete our initial intention with the piece: raise awareness of Rosamund. Those audience members who were not aware of Rosamund have now been educated about her and her death within the Drill Hall, and we as a group were able to commemorate her within our performance.

 

Word Count: 2,563

 

 

Bibliography

Avery, M. (2016) The Third Beam Pre Performance. [online video] Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7p3yRC6vcQ [accessed 12 May 2016]

Avery, M. (2016) The Third Beam Post Performance. [online video] available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9P5i2rGZqI8 [accessed 12 May 2016]

Harrod, P & Kupper, T. (2011) A Memorial to Rosamund Acworth [online] Available from: http://www.christs-hospital.lincs.sch.uk/joomla35/index.php/our-school/lchs-history/school-archive/165-occasional-paper-no-1-a-memorial-to-rosamond-acworth [accessed 9th May 2016].

Lavery, C. (2005) teaching performance studies: 25 instructions for performing in cities. Studies in Theatre and Performance, 25 (3)229-238.

The Lincolnshire Echo (1899) Girl dies in Lincoln Gymnasium. 8th April.

The Times (1890) The Birth of the Drill Hall.  26 May. Available from https://www.lincolndrillhall.com/about-us/the-venue-its-history [accessed 9th May 2016]

Wilkie, F. (2002) Mapping the Terrain: A Survey of Site-Specific Performance in Britain. New Theatre Quarterly. 18 (2) 140 – 161.

Zerihan, R. (2009) Live Art Development Agency Study Room Guide on One to One Performance Available from :https://blackboard.lincoln.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/pid-1155911-dt-content-rid-2084614_2/courses/DRA2035M-1516/DRA2035M-1516_ImportedContent_20150807123831/DRA2035M-1415_ImportedContent_20141103010200/One-to-one%20Performance.pdf [Accessed 12th May]

Friday, May 13th, 2016

“Spoiled” – Final Blog Post

Framing statement

It is ten minutes past ten, on the eve of Thursday 7th May 2015. Darkness falls across Lincolnshire, and the first batch of ballot papers from the general election arrive at the Drill Hall, and the count begins…

“Spoiled” began as a simple installation idea, predominantly inspired by the theatre company Stan’s Cafe, which turned into something with greater substance with the addition of video and spoken word. I performed this piece in the Green Room of the Lincoln Drill Hall on Wednesday 4th May 2016. My aim was to make the invisible use of the room visible, showing and telling the audience about the ballot count and the process behind it, while still showcasing its regularly visible use alongside it. I performed this piece as a one-to-one performance, with each audience member remaining in the room with me for approximately ten minutes at a time, mostly listening or watching and occasionally participating.

The general format ran as follows: I would collect an audience member from the foyer of the Drill Hall and lead them to the performance space, where I would instruct them to wait outside and follow the instructions on the door sign, which requested that they remove their shoes and then knock to alert me that they were ready. When they did so, I would invite them in and ask them to take a seat. A video of my walk from EMMTEC, the university polling station, to the Drill Hall, would be playing, and I would lock the door behind us and watch the video with them while standing by the door. When the video looped, I began to speak to the audience member about various things relating to the voting process or to the layout of the room, including references to the ballot count, the suffragette movement, the typhoid epidemic, and more. I also asked the audience to participate; firstly in gluing a paper skirt to one doll, and secondly in drawing or writing on another doll and posting it into my ballot box. After I finished speaking to them, I would walk to the door and unlock it, before letting them out and leading them back to the foyer.

As mentioned, my biggest inspiration was the theatre company Stan’s Cafe, specifically their piece Of All the People in All the World, but I have also been inspired by Lone Twin and their Speeches project. Both of these works played a key factor not only in my development but also in my final piece.

Analysis of process

My process began on the very first visit to our site, The Drill Hall. When I heard about the fact that the Green Room was used to lock up the ballots from elections after the ballot count took place in the main hall, I was intrigued to find out more, and I knew I wanted to explore that and create a performance around it. My first step was to find out more about the process of the count, so I contacted the Lincolnshire County Council and spoke to the elections staff there. It was from them that I found out about how the count works, and I was able to make use of that information for the development of my piece. Also during my process, I began to conduct research into various companies who produce site specific performances. My search led me to a company by the name of Stan’s Cafe, who have been creating site specific shows since 1991. The piece of theirs that interested me the most was Of All the People in All the World, a piece which uses installation techniques to create a spectacle that makes people think about their place in the world. Stan’s Cafe wanted their piece to look at “creating an ever changing landscape of rice” (Stan’s Cafe, 2016). This inspired me to use some of their techniques in order to make my own piece which created some kind of continuously developing view of the Green Room, specifically about the voting system with emphasis on the ballot count.

Image of the piles of rice being prepared in Stuttgart for Of All The People In All The World. (Stan's Cafe, 2005).

Image of the piles of rice being prepared in Stuttgart for Of All The People In All The World. (Stan’s Cafe, 2005).

My initial idea was that I wanted to make paper dolls, and they would have a ballot cross on their chest. I hoped to make enough paper dolls for every person of voting age in Lincoln to put out on the floor of the Green Room, sorted by age and potentially other factors, but after my interview in person with a representative from the Lincolnshire City Council, I found out that I would be unable to obtain that information because of confidentiality. I then adapted my idea and instead planned simply to cover the floor of the Green Room with the paper dolls. I started preparing the dolls early so I could try them out on the floor and see how they were going to look, and eventually decided that I wanted my audience member to sit down, and that I was going to leave a small path between the dolls that led from the door to the chair. Upon receiving feedback from Conan about my first ideas for my performance content, which had primarily been political, he suggested that I strip it back to simply talk about the process of voting, and keeping my personal political leanings out of the piece. After that, I realised that it would be vastly more interesting to discuss the processes behind an election, because the media already puts so much focus on the politics of it. Therefore, I geared the performance towards a breakdown of various processes that go into an election, e.g. the ballot count, how a winner is calculated in an election, etc. Conan also mentioned that the dolls laying out on the floor with the cross on their chests looked almost like corpses, and I used that as a jumping-off point to reference the typhoid epidemic in my piece, which held a special significance as a group from last year had performed a piece about typhoid in the Green Room.

My first test of laying out the paper dolls on the floor of the Green Room, 6th April 2016.

My first test of laying out the paper dolls on the floor of the Green Room, 6th April 2016.

My aim was to shed light on the hidden parts of not only the election process, but the Drill Hall also, since not a lot of people know that it is the building used for the ballot count. As my process continued, I found myself considering whether I wanted to remove the furniture from the Green Room or not. I researched into Willi Dorner’s Bodies in Urban Spaces, examining how the project brought negative space to life and showcased things that people inherently know are there, but do not acknowledge. With this in mind, I decided that I wanted to use the room to make a point about how the storage of the ballots within the Green Room does not stop it from also being the dressing room for the theatre. I wanted to emphasise the idea of the Drill Hall’s dual existence. With this in mind I decided that my only modifications to the room’s layout would be to push all furniture to the sides, with the exception of my props and set for my performance. I knew I wanted the audience member to sit, and originally I had considered walking around them as I spoke. However after a preview of the spoken material, performed in this way, Michael suggested to me that it might be more intimate and capture the audience member’s attention more if I simply sat in front of them and had a conversation face-to-face. This reminded me of Lone Twin’s Speeches project, a series of performances in which the performer stands still on a soapbox and talks to their audience. However, since I had been advised to keep the piece apolitical, I then made the decision to provide a chair for myself and a table between myself and the audience member.

The notice I pinned to the door to notify the audience to remove their shoes, 4th May 2016.

The notice I pinned to the door to notify the audience to remove their shoes, 4th May 2016.

From the beginning I had wanted some kind of audience participation to be involved in my piece, and I had developed it multiple times over the course of my preparation; I considered some kind of exchange: a normal ballot paper swapped for a doll, or vice versa, or potentially having the audience member cut dolls out with me. I decided then that I would add the table in order to facilitate a couple of parts of the performance that required something to lean on; firstly, gluing paper skirts onto some of the dolls, and secondly when the audience member and I cast our votes and put them into the ballot box. I chose to add the section with the skirts because I had scripted myself a small segment mentioning women getting the vote, and after Michael’s feedback, during which he suggested I do something with the dolls that represented that moment in the piece, I thought of paper skirts. I asked the rhetorical question of whether it mattered what a person had between their legs when they were voting, and so the way I wanted to represent it was the traditional method of distinguishing a paper doll’s sex: adding a skirt. The second part of the audience participation was the vote. Lone Twin said of their Speeches project that  “in inviting attention we’re also inviting people to go the other way and express disinterest, bemusement and perhaps anger” (Whelan, cited in Lavery and Williams, 2011), which interested me and made me eager to keep the audience participation in the piece to see what sort of reactions I would get from the audience members. Therefore, the chance for an audience member to draw on the doll was born from the thought that an audience member could do almost anything they wanted to do when they were presented with one of the dolls and a pen. I gave them that choice, just as one is given a choice of what to vote for within a real election, and then each paper doll was added to the box regardless of what was written on them.  intend to use that in my post-performance, which I will discuss later. I also chose to ask the audience member to remove their shoes, so that in case they walked over the dolls, they would not rip. Another decision I made was that during each performance, the door to the room would be locked. This was to create the atmosphere of being in the room with the ballot papers on election night after they had been counted.

IMG_2173

The set as it looked after all the performances of the day, 4th May 2016

During my performance, I wanted to speak about the journey a ballot paper makes on election night. Therefore, as part of this process I wanted to take that journey myself and be able to showcase it to the audience in some way. My first idea was to take a walk from all the polling stations in Lincoln and play all the videos simultaneously, however, I was unable to get the full list of all the locations from the City Council. Therefore, because I am a student, I chose just to walk from the university polling station situated in the EMMTEC building on campus to the Drill Hall, recording a time lapse video of my journey. I then edited the video to be black and white for better contrast, and decided I would have it projected onto the wall throughout my performances (video can be seen below). Unfortunately I found an obstacle when I realised that the wall was orange and the video would not show very clearly. I then decided to make a background for it myself; I took a fitted bed sheet and cut it into a rectangle, before adding the ballot cross to it with paint. I also added the ballot cross motif to the box itself, before painting the rest of it black to look like an authentic ballot box. Continuing this reoccurring theme, I also dressed myself in a white shirt painted with a ballot cross on the chest. I wanted to look as much like the paper dolls as possible, in an attempt to bring light to the fact that all we really are during an election is a cross in a box.

As mentioned briefly earlier, I have decided to add a post-performance element to this piece. After I found out that the City Council keeps ballot papers for one year in case of a recount before they destroy them, I wanted to incorporate that somehow. My eventual decision was to also keep my paper dolls for a year and then return to the Drill Hall on the day of next year’s site specific performances and burn them outside in the courtyard. I also intend to read each one before I burn it, and document them with photographs as I do so.

IMG_2175

A view down at the paper dolls through the upper slot of the box, 4th May 2016

Performance evaluation

My piece began at 12pm on Wednesday 4th May 2016, and ran multiple times over the course of 5 hours. I had a total of 16 available time slots and 15 of them were filled. Most audience members seemed keen to engage with my participatory activities, and left the room with pensive looks about them as if contemplating the information I had presented to them. Many thanked me for their new knowledge about the Drill Hall. I feel the most effective part of this performance was the use of chairs so I could sit opposite the person and keep their attention, but then direct it elsewhere when I wanted to do so. However, there were times that being so intimately tucked away with one person opposite me felt overwhelming, and I occasionally struggled to keep eye contact and found it hard to refrain from tripping over my words.

If I were ever to take this work further and try to improve it I would like to work on holding eye contact with the audience member, and generally being more confident in the delivery of my piece. Another thing I would like to do if I were performing it again would be potentially to only run the video once at the beginning of each performance, as I felt that there were times when the audience member’s eyes would wander back to the video even though I did not reference it. Another interesting idea might be to take the performance to other places around the country where the ballot count happens and perform it there to new audiences, much like Stan’s Cafe does with Of All the People in All the World.

Mike Pearson quotes Patrice Pavis in saying that “(site specific) refers to a staging and performance conceived on the basis of a place in the real world” (Pavis, cited in Pearson, 2010). Like many before me, I’m sure, I first took this simply to mean staging some kind of a play outdoors. However, this module has broadened my understandings of what a performance can be. I realise now that performance cannot be simply defined as one thing or another. It is a great many things, and site-specific performance is just one of those.

Bibliography

Lavery, C. and Williams, D. (2011) Practising Participation: A Conversation with Lone Twin. Performance Research, 16 (4) 7-14.

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

Stan’s Cafe (2016) Of All the People In All the World [online]. Available from http://www.stanscafe.co.uk/project-of-all-the-people.html#introduction [Accessed 8th May 2016].

Dorner, W. et al (2014) Bodies in Urban Spaces – Photobook [online]. Available from http://www.ciewdorner.at/index.php?page=work&wid=74 [Accessed 8th May 2016].

« Previous PageNext Page »