Posts Tagged 'performance'

Funeral Procession for the Death of Public Services

There will be a funeral precession for the death of our public services on the day of the Royal Wedding, Friday 29th April at 12.30pm. Rosanne Robertson and I will be giving a talk about the cuts to the arts from our own perspectives. Please RSVP to the Facebook event. You must wear funeral attire as a symbolic gesture.

Collage part 2

I decided to try using red ink as a background possibly or to draw on the text pieces. This turned out to be too cheesy. A bad idea. The simplicity of the pieces and the text was enough and my text written in ink was too literal. These were some of the words I had eaten in the performance. The quietness and subtlety of eating harsh words in the performance works far better than them spelled out in red ink. Too literal and vulgar. Not that I mind vulgar in general but not for this. There is subtlety, haphazardness and complexity that I’m very pleased with. I am always afraid of text in art as I never know whether it actually works. My fear of text is I suppose apt for me to work with as my work deals with fear, my own fears in general. This is quite a scary project for me. I’m happy with the work being made in a haphazard way as I get very nervous about choosing words. I’m terrified of poetry, not reading it but writing it. I think I would drive myself insane if I went at it too much. I prefer the breathing space I’m allowed with visual work as every day it’s something new. It’s not so concrete as the symbol of the word. I’m very free in what I say verbally, but I’m too anxious about writing things down, although I am writing this. I’m not so scared of prose, I have been writing some biographical stuff recently that I have very much enjoyed and been more frank than I ever have before. There are definitely uses for writing for me. I’ve realised I can talk about the wider things, the surface things but the deeper, finer and less graspable/tangible emotional things I need visual work to express. Some people can attain this through words, like poets. My visual work is my poetry I suppose. I would like it to be. I realised reading Heart of Darkness recently how deeply moving and visceral words can be. I forget sometimes, although that probably sounds ridiculous to a lot of people. It’s just like a long poem. Some of it has deeply anti racist sentiment for the time, but due to the time, the descriptive stuff is racist.

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

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.


Louise Woodcock

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