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Collage for The Other Room Anthology.

I have been asked by The Other Room, the event I performed my eating words performance last December, to submit something for their third yearly anthology. I decided to do some collage work with the left over fragments of pages that were torn out in the eating process. This is something I had planned to do for ages… I really need deadlines! I tried a few ideas and approaches, some with illustrations, some simple, some more complex.

I decided that the more simple but well constructed ones worked best. The illustrations were good but possibly not as striking. These were hung as prints for a few days in my studio and I thank Helen Shanahan, part of my studio group and fellow Womb member, for helping me to decide what initially worked best.

My pledge – Manchester Artist’s Bonfire 28th January 2011

Click for the Manchester Artist’s Bonfire site.
Details of artwork:
I will burn a red wax skull that was part of my degree show installation at University of Salford in 2009. The installation was a personal take on the vanitas still life painting tradition which used the skull to remind us of our mortality and the futility of material things, a Memento mori. I used wax because of its transient nature but used rough layers of vibrant reds to create a rock-like but visceral effect.
The installation consisted of red wax objects on a dressing table opposite a TV on static which was the only light source and its subtle hum and hiss created an intense ‘silence’. My intention was to create a past state of being, a relic of the fear and isolation I felt I had largely overcome.
Pledge:
Vanitas literally means ‘emptiness’. The skull wakes us up; it makes us feel more alive. Burning the skull will be an act of defiance against capitalism and Coalition oppression, the promise of fulfilment through buying and financial gain, manipulating our desires and creative drives to do so. I could sell the skull but instead I choose to burn it; it will be a sacrificial act. I will destroy in order to create, to make art no matter how throttled we become through poverty: by any means necessary.
The skull also represents a crippling fear of mortality I once had, although I will not/cannot abandon this fear altogether as it is vital to my drive to create. The action will be a catharsis on many levels.

Cuts to public funds will make art and artists in this country suffer, but the positive out of the negative, the antithesis to the thesis, could reconnect us with our instinctive creative ‘will’. We may become more in touch with what really moves us irrelevant of monetary concerns. Poverty can inspire, but this is not to condone the impoverishing of artists and the lack of respect this culture has for us as the cuts demonstrate. I hope that we realise we can overcome these obstacles if we maintain our individual and collective passion to create and spur each other on, if we keep on keepin’ on. I hope you will join me in the Danse Macabre.

Project Potato

I discovered a stray potato in my vegetable cupboard. I found it quite disturbing. The fur-like texture on the growths and the vein-like qualities and spiny bits are all quite unsettling. The potato part looked like the shrivelled head of some sort of creepy octopus. It was inspirational. I didn’t know what I would end up with but I knew I wanted to use it for something. I thought I would try taking a mould of it and cast it in plaster.

I knew the tentacles would be a nightmare to mould but I managed to get some tiny fragments which look quite beautiful in delicate plaster.

Performance at The Other Room – Video and Reflections.

Some of the words I ate during this performance:

flesh

blood

woman

kill

Scott chose and passed to me:

ordinary poet

This was my first participatory performance. I had decided to place myself on a table for two around the corner of the pub from where the other performers were situated as the position and size seemed to fit my purpose quite well. I asked the compare, Tom Jenks, not to announce the performance but rather to direct people to the other side of the room. I wanted the performance to seem more like it was just something that was happening, not a ‘show’.

I set up two dinner places at the table, one opposite me with wine, plates and books. The books sat on a meat tray. The selection of books I eventually decided to use were Orbach’s Fat is a Feminist Issue, Plato’s Republic, an old Girls Annual from the 1950’s, and a large well bound edition of the Bible, which on reflection was probably too large for the table setting. There is always a humorous element to my selections, anything that makes those kind of connections and puns are always going to get a giggle and I won’t shy away from them. I don’t try to avoid the obvious choice for the sake of it. For one, if it’s obvious to me it isn’t necessarily for someone else. I think that’s the only reason to avoid a strong connection like that is usually just for the sake of it. Those connections click into place because of our cultural, social and political backgrounds which are things I intend to expose in this work and in most of the work I do. Not in any sort of bland and obvious way though, I hope! I am quite confident that there is enough innovation and experimentation in my practice and my approach that I can use things that are seemingly ‘obvious’ without fear of the work becoming bland or closed in its reading.

I decided that I would gesture to someone in the audience to participate in the performance. I poured myself some wine and looked up, Scott Thurston was the first person I saw so I gestured to him to come and sit at the table, without speaking. Scott as a participant was probably the ideal choice, although this was unintentional. Scott is a poet and a lecturer so is used to performing. Saying that, everyone would have responded differently, no matter what their performance background.

I poured Scott a glass of wine as he sat down, then I passed him the Orbach book. Scott seemed very at home he was certainly game, and played along in the manner of a very polite diner. This was different to the way I ‘play’ or don’t ‘play’ in this performance. The fact that Scott was there did encourage me to do a lot of smiling and being more animated than I usually would in this performance. I usually sit and concentrate quite intently at the books and don’t look up at all. I still didn’t look up very often at Scott, one of the reasons for this was for fear of laughing. When I did look up at the beginning of the performance once, I noticed large blobs of chewed up paper that Scott had spat out. This almost made me giggle. I always cut out each word meticulously, as much as possible, with a knife and fork. I found it satisfying to see that Scott had formed his own response to the performance. I chose some words that I found appropriate for Scott, because he’s male, to eat. I can’t remember what they were but it made sense at the time. This brought an element of interaction and communication to the performance that at first I thought of as too theatrical and cheesy. I have now decided that it almost made the whole thing more ‘realistic’ because of the falsity or ‘camp’ over politeness; the theatre of seeing people who don’t really know each other at a restaurant. Like an awkward first date, or ‘speed dating’ (or maybe not quite that strained!). It was satirical. And to eat abject and/or politically charged words in this context creates exciting juxtapositions.

This performance raised a number of issues. The composition was very different from when performing this alone. Previously, I have sat at a long table and have been posed in a way that resembles Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. I still wore the blue and maroon colours that Jesus wears in the painting but this was the only real allusion to the painting. Basically, the participatory performance was a different piece of work altogether.

There are ways I could make more of The Last Supper reference in a participatory vein. One would be to set up a long table, like in the painting with a number of place settings and as participants to wear colours that would allude to the painting. I could ‘direct’ people’s actions by writing instructions. I don’t think I would prescribe my own conceptual concerns to others, but maybe that could work. It’s not really a collaborative piece, it’s people participating in a piece of my work so it would make sense for participants to be aware of my practice and intentions.

The other issue that was raised again was the fact that the audience couldn’t see the words we were eating. I used a camcorder and projector at the events to project the words from the plate to a screen. This was technically quite difficult because of lighting and the size of the texts I used. I am also unsure I want to have such a large backdrop, although it was visually strong in itself. I hoped that the venue of the Old Abbey would be so intimate that the viewers would be able to look over my shoulder to see what I was eating, but I also need to factor in that people will not usually come so close to a performer during a performance. I’m still unsure how to resolve this.Kraak

Matt Dalby suggested that the lone diner was more uncomfortable to watch. In some ways the forced interaction and politeness may be more uncomfortable but for different reasons. There is not the same intensity with two diners. It was far more jovial, not so serious.

I’m now less clear about the work in some ways as it’s raised more questions than it’s answered. Having said that, it has made me realise what makes each piece work. I’m glad I took the risk. This may become another piece altogether. I still feel strongly that I’m never really ‘acting’ when performing. Of course I must act differently in front of an audience but I still don’t feel I’m playing a part, no more than I do every day in any given situation, existentially speaking. I feel pretty authentic. I certainly don’t feel like a phony. I feel that different parts of my personality come through with each type of performance. For example, my music performances are quite aggressive, sometimes actually violent, which is one of the main reasons I need to perform musically. The eating words performance is intense but quiet and contemplative. The collaborative work with Jennifer McDonald usually starts meditatively building up to aggressive and destructive peaks and troughs. I love performing in all these forms.

Manchester Artists’ Bonfire 28.1.11 – A call for pledges

The blog is up and running:

About Manchester Artists’ Bonfire

Manchester Artist’s Bonfire
Islington Mill
Friday 28th January 7-9pm
After Party 9pm until late
Submission of pledgesDeadline: Tuesday 18 January 2011.

Rule: You must burn some of your artwork.

This January a plethora of artists working in Manchester will join in a mass art burn. Artists submit their pledge to take part with a paragraph of writing related to their thoughts, feelings, responses about and reactions to this event.

This defiant symbol of dissatisfaction will act as a catalyst for change. The Artists’ Bonfire is unapologetic about the more obvious connotations such as; strike, destruction and renewal but it is also open to new interpretations, be they political or personal or both.

The pledges collected from Manchester artists will frame the event and provide the context in which we burn the art. We join in a festival of flux and celebrate it on our own terms.

A collection of extended pieces of writing will be published online and in print post event ranging from new theoretical writing to reflective accounts of the experience, providing a unique cross section of Manchester’s art scene in words. All printed material will then be expected to make its way back to the bonfire the following January where we all start again and where it will meet its end- or its beginning depending on how you look at it.

To pledge click here.

Manchester Artists’ Bonfire

Rosanne Robertson from the Castlefield Gallery, artist Graham Dunning and myself are curating an event that invites artists to pledge artworks to burn. There is no other criteria than to pledge and burn a piece of artwork. After some discussion, we decided we wanted to keep in mind the political and economic climate of cuts, to raise awareness and questions about it through the process of the event. The artists are not required to make a point about these issues.

The idea came from a conversation that Rosanne had with Jennifer McDonald at the Doers, Drifters and Dreamers event at Islington Mill recently. The artists were both giving an item of clothing away in exchange for t shirts from past protests. Jennifer said it was a bit like what she was planning to do that evening, burning some of her artwork as she was going to India for 5 months. Rosanne thought it would be a great idea for an event where people could burn their artwork and discuss why they were doing it. Rosanne then contacted all the artists who were present including Matt Dalby (who also burned his Long Lankin sculpture), Helen Shanahan and Gary Fisher and asked if we wanted to be involved.

Performance at The Other Room 1st December, The Old Abbey

I’m performing at experimental poetry night The Other Room on the 1st December at The Old Abbey Inn, 61 Pencroft Way, Manchester, M15 6AY (on Manchester Science Park).

It’s an interesting location; an ancient pub in the middle of an industrial desert. I’ll be eating words and inviting people to join me. I’m not sure how I’m going to involve people, I don’t really want to talk while I’m eating (that’s usual for me) so I may just gesture for people to sit. I’ll set up another dinner plate opposite me and hope that it works. Please feel free to come along, and now you know what I’m planning you won’t feel like a knob wondering whether or not you can join in. It’s interactive! Woo!

If you have a spare Bible, donations are always welcome. They’re for me to eat (just to clear that up).


Louise Woodcock

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