This website has helped me to discover new performance artists and look at how people are working together collaboratively and to look at how artists are developing and networking.
I went to this exhibition twice over the last 3 months it was on: it was a collection of artworks that explored how society's approach to mental health services and issues have changed and remained the same over time. This was a great exhibition as an influence to my own practice and ideas - my final piece is surrounding our approach to eating disorders and how the everyday routine is affected by this. A few of the pieces here stood out for me.
Vacuum Cleaner and Hannah Hull - Madlove
'It ain’t no bad thing to need a safe place to go mad. The problem is that a lot of psychiatric hospitals are more punishment than love… they need some Madlove.’
This was a really interesting socially-engaged project where 'Madlove' workshops were conducted inviting people who have experienced mental distress in high-intensity psychiatric hospitals as activist groups. The purpose of the workshops were to explore the possibility of a utopian mental health asylum; what would it look like if we viewed mental health in a positive way? The final sculptural plan was based of the findings and thoughts from the 432 people that they worked with. I thought this was a really beautiful project because it was based on socially-engaged findings and provided a space other than a psychological/scientific environment for people to explore their experiences in institutions and treatment, providing a different insight completely!
Eva Kotátková - Asylum (2014)
Eva draws upon research visits to Bohnice Psychiatric hospital through an accumulation of sculptures to describe the relationship between the constraints within the institution experienced by the patient as well as the alternative communications developed among the patients to ease the social pressure. The fact that there were multiple different unrelated shapes occurring within the same space allowed the viewers to see it as a whole picture, which I think captured the complexity of each individual experience while simultaneously showing the abundance these cases. I thought the sculptures that were metal frames were the most effective - to me they presented a hollowness and a lack of materiality at the same time as portraying a rawness and a stripped-back quality. It made me ask cause and effect questions about how the shapes were moulded in relation to the subject - in this case being the patient.
Procession of St Dymphna (1925) (digitalized)
This was a short 5 minute film that consisted of the story of a man's experience within a psychiatric home in Belgium in the 1920s; it explores the diagnosis of 'madness' as a kind of spectacle or a performance, where people in the film go to visit to be entertained by the man who lives there. This makes us think about how social views surrounding mental health and diagnosis have changed but also makes us think about how much we know about the mental health system altogether.
The Infinite Mix at Southbank Centre was a large mashup of film based, performative art. Spectators moved from room to room in the dark and the films were projected onto large screens. There were a few that particularly inspired me.
Martin Creed - Work No. 1701 (2013)
I particularly bonded with this piece as it embraced how we move from one place to another, the idea of passers by. It videoed people crossing a zebra crossing from one side to another to upbeat rock music. It was a celebration of how movement manifests into everything we do whether we are conscious of this or not. Creed said that ‘doing things in life, living and working, is always using your body’, and that ‘life can look like a dance’.
Ugo Rondinone - THANX 4 NOTHING (2015)
This piece immersed the audience into the theatrical solo recital of his poem signifying the end of his life: Through using film and surrounding the audience with the performance from all angles. We sat on the floor and watched it - I loved how the distribution of the performance made it unescapable and inevitable, like the end or death itself. It was beautiful to see a theatrical performance appear in an installation format where people could walk in and walk out.
I went to Edinburgh fringe for the final week as Choreographer for our show Hunchback (based on Victor Hugo's Novel Notredame de Paris). Here I got the opportunity to see a lot of different performance art, dance and theatre pieces - some of my favourites included -
Flesh by Ugne and Poliana
This was a 45 minute dance piece, performed in two halves by two Spanish women. It was nude and was choreographed to challenge traditional views on the female body and its animalistic potential. Their dance was slow moving showing their naked bodies in new sculptural shapes, showing a transformation between animal and human. It was mesmerising - I forgot they were naked.
Imbalance by Joli Vyann - Turtle Key Arts
This was an interdisciplinary performance fusing circus with mime theatre to challenge audience's perception of how technology affects human relationships. The 2 performers used laptops, phones and a table with 2 chairs to explain to us the crisis that we are in with regards to how we are stuck to screens and not physically sharing moments with our full attention on each other anymore. They counteracted these scenes with beautiful circus duo balances and dance sequences where the dancers relied on each other for physical and mental support. It was a beautiful use of contrast where the act of choreography and acrobatics itself had so much meaning to the concept.
Familie Flöz by Teatro Delusio - Masks
This was another interdisciplinary performance where visual arts met physical theatre and music. This was a beautiful piece where the characters were either homemade puppets or wore masks made out of junk and rubbish. It was a touching story about life on the streets and the harsh realities that those who inhabit these spaces have to face, as well as moments of hope and happiness. It was very low key and humbly made which was refreshing to see in a theatrical space; this really enhanced the message of the performance.
Renee Copraij and James Beckett - Efficiency Complex Workshop
Renee is a dancer/performance artist and James is a fine artist. The workshop, organised by performance artist Tino Sehgal aimed to challenge the ways movement can become fixed physical forms and vice versa. We had a series of lectures on the theories of movement which highlighted tracking the pathways of light through early photography. Similar to the photo above, we formed wire pathways based on gesture from the starting point of a table the object was placed on to the ending point of the table the object was placed. The wire took the shape of the journey of the object in connection to the index finger which was marked with red tape. These were then used as movement pathways we could explore with other parts of our body instead of just our finger. For example, how would my left leg follow the same pattern?
We also delved into the significance of movement in the workplace during the first World War and how Rudolf Laban's movement theory which was largely based around a written code/language (labanotation) that mathemetised the construction of movement as well as allowing the analysis and reflection on the efficiency of pre-existing movements and gestures. His work had a large impact on the efficiency of workers in factories and he implemented ways the body could do more work, produce more objects, with less effort made and less fatigue as a result. Labanotation is still used today but is incredibly difficult to pick up however, Laban's movement theories took a similar pattern in their attempt to document movement as we did with the wire.
To end the weekend, we were split into groups and asked to create short performances based on everything that we had learnt that weekend. In a pair, we created a short piece where at front-stage left, I was exploring different parts of the kinosphere in slow motion moving through the different planes - lateral, saggital and diagonal. As I was doing this without moving from my point on stage, she aimed to sculpt the changes in position of my arms and torso and movement between into larger garden wire from a bundle at back-stage right. We wanted to see if she could keep up with the movement and to show how much there is to be documented in one simple movement. The result was me performing very slowly and calmly, contrasted with her frantically trying to bend the wire from an already messy bundly as fast as she could. It had a very comical effect and proved how complex movement is which can sometimes be overlooked.
I attended many improvisation classes at DOCK 11 Dance school in the six days I spent in Berlin and stumbled across this Improvisation festival:
In an evening performance I saw:
Christiane Hommelsheim – Voice
Josephine Evrard – Dance
followed by another piece by
Audrey Chen – Voice/ Cello
Valentin Tszin – Dance
This was a great way to see how improvised sound and movement could combine and how the process of improvisation works. In the evening talk I learnt a lot about how the artists became interested in improvisation - most of them had trained classically and then found that there was something missing in their practice and then used their classical skills in a more acquired style. It was useful to see how long improvisations typically go on and to see other audience members engage with it. It's energy reminds me of that of an installation where the audience become a maker of the piece also, which here is true because the performers make decisions based on the people in the space. I found that it had a different time frame to the more traditional theatrical time structure and progression; It's a lot more exciting when progression happens as you share the moment with them.
There was also an interesting relationship between the 2 improvisers - they bounced off each others energy and you could tell their stage awareness was being challenged. Also, the performers said that most of their preparation was done alone and then brought together in the last few stages of rehearsal - this reminded me of Merce Cunningham and John Cage's happenings and experimental performances in the 1950s and 60s. The space which they used was a beautiful hollow derelict hall with seating, which had very good acoustics and an energy of its own that they could really respond to and incorporate into their performance. This has influenced me to write scores for both music and dance separately and put them together close to performance.
This summer I traveled Europe by bus and went to a variety of different performances, workshops and galleries in order to stock up on inspiration for my final year of university. Foreign Affairs festival in July, Haus de Berliner Festspiele. This was perfect for me as it consisted of mainly performance and video art based around the theme of uncertainty which in our political state at the moment couldn't be anymore relevant. The artists explore uncertainty both in their art process and as a political mentality. The artists that stood out to me the most were as follows:
William Kentridge - More Sweetly Play the Dance & NO it is!
William Kentridge has been a large influence on my work this year - his art process and philosophical approach embracing uncertainty has informed and improved my artistic process. He is a South-African artist who explores people - race, politics and the relationship of life and death. His works are multimedia, incorporating theatre, animation, illustration and film with a fictious time frame. A lot of his works tend to have a quivering nature where they are not quite in real-time, a lot of the time a bit faster than.
He is an example of a performance artist from a theatre background where work is produced with the end of the process in mind from the starting point instead of making a discovery through the art process. His work suggests that he merges these two processes together to produce collections of works take form from the combination of a burning desire to be explored as well as having a end-point vision in mind and rehearsing towards it.
Dries Verhoeven - Guilty Landscapes
Dries Verhoeven is a multimedia artist who aims to make the spectator and subject share the same vulnerability through gesture and encounter. The piece I saw at Foreign Affairs was held in a secret room where spectators had to be one on one with the room. I entered the space and there was a crate in the centre facing a projection of a run down village. A black male avatar started walking towards the screen and waved at me. As I thought this was a video I didn't initially wave back but he kept waving as if waiting for a response, so I waved back, then he made other gestures and I copied him and then made a variation of his movement which he copied back. Before we knew it, we were dancing at one another after having just virtually met. Dries did this by having a camera in the centre of the screen. His piece basically highlighted that when encountering people in a different less economically developed environment, you don't have to change your expectations of how they are going to behave, there is a simple way of communicating without even sharing the same language.
Jan Lauwers Needcompany - The Blind Poet
Needcompany are a collaborative performance group practicing a combination of dance, music, theatre and visual arts exploring cultural diversity, languages, racism and heritage. The company are formed of 7 different nationalities and their shows usually question the importance of nationalist thought, sexism and cultural norms. They explore these issues within their own origins and with brutal honesty reveal and compare the best and worst of these issues from different places around the world. The structure of their shows is so refreshing and clever - The Blind Poet focuses on the heritage of each different member of the cast, exploring their ancestry and history of their birth country and comparing it with the others, providing cross-overs, negative experiences as well as humorous satirical comments about how they feel about these. Their performance involves audience participation at times, like stand up comedy, includes live music all the way through - most of the cast can play an instrument and their sets are much like installations themselves. Very inspiring!!
Thoughts and findings on a Visit to the National Gallery – 12th November – Residency 7 for Dancing Museums project.
I visited the National Gallery to catch the last of the project today. I saw 4 performances in rooms 30-34 in the space of two hours. What made them different from traditional dance performances is that they were improvised and performed in the gallery space. What interested me the most was how the crowd behaved in response to this and how experimental the concept was. Lucy Suggate stepped into a pose and focused her eyes on the painting on the back wall, slowly morphing and flickering into different shapes and forms.
After speaking to people involved in the group I found out that the dancing that took place was only pre-organised by space and costume – the movement that came out of the piece was improvisation and response to the environment. A big room full of paintings. I guess the differences are the actual dimensions, light and of course the painting themselves. The dance vocabulary aimed to document the shapes and mannerisms of the people in the paintings – what they were doing or not doing before and after the paintings had taken place and also, seeing how this related to the people already in the room. It was essentially documentation of the paintings through movement which was then further documented through a woman watching Lucy closely, making abstract charcoal and crayon drawings in response to the dynamics and linear qualities of the movement.
Also I’ve always been interested in the fact that a painting seems to exist as a frozen moment but in, for example, a battle scene, it is interesting to explore the before and after. The kinetic flow of the drawing really linked art making with improvised movement… the drawing artist was vigorous and got through around 10 pages of sketches and expressive lines and smudges. Her costume was very interesting – it wasn’t making reference to the paintings in the space in an obvious way, it was an oversized almost tracksuit-like royal blue 2 piece that drew out all of the blue parts of the paintings in the space which I wouldn’t have paid such close attention to if she hadn’t have performed there. I found the best view-points occurred when the dancer was directly in front of the large painting but the great thing about this idea is that the audience can view the dancer in the round. I found myself moving around to see how this influenced the combination of the two elements.
I also found that there was a playful element to the performance, people were allowed to join in if they wanted to… not that anyone would dare (by our schemas of what a performance should be) and the performer didn’t acknowledge the audience really, she was in her own zone of documentation and her focus was more about embodying the space than anything else. This changes the ratio of performer to audience participation>> the performance isn’t made directly for the audience, the audience just happen to be there witnessing and are therefore participants in the situation. The performer was so comfortable to the point where she would start a conversation for example she asked how long she had left to the person drawing, coming out of her role as a dancer performing which I think was the most charming thing about the whole experience. Suddenly we’re not seeing performers as icons and figures but as people sharing the space with us.
Connor the second dancer dressed in black and white then performed shortly after Lucy. It was great how informal the change-over was. The dancers came out of their zone and just asked, how long have I got left or I’m going in now. We didn’t feel that on-stage to audience separation. Their role here was to be seen as people the same as the spectators. Interestingly Connor’s solo didn’t capture such a crowd as Lucy did. I think it may have been because of his costume – it wasn’t as eye-catching as Lucy’s. Also I found out later that it was made for the Louvre residency originally and that they were testing it out in the National Gallery.
Also, Connor usually performs in mime make up which I would’ve found very interesting to see in that space. Both Connor and Lucy had different flows of movement which is why I think both performances worked together – the link was the paintings but their movement documented different elements, details and rhythms highlighting their individual interpretations. Also it should be noted that the dancers did not really acknowledge the audience – the dance wasn’t for them, they just happened to be there at the time. They were more concerned in responding to the room and atmosphere as a whole. Otherwise do it after the gallery has shut. In which case if the dancer wanted to go to a corner they would have to break through the audience somehow. There are issues of basic logistics here. I’m sure they thought about them but I’d be interested in finding out what the constraints really were. Also, another reason why the audience moved on is because they assumed the dancers would be occupying the space for long periods of time – durational dance pieces – people were almost treating it like they were passing by a painting… there was a confusion and a realisation process in the audience.
The two dancers in the background of the photo on the left, contributed to a more interactive element of the gallery space. They lent on each other and moved around the space using each other’s weight. What was great about them is the male dancer was directing the female and talking through the different movements which gave the viewers insight into the process. Again making them think about movement and choreography which is related to the still paintings that they are contemplating. The dancers were very casual, saying hi to all the spectators as they went around. Another interactive piece was that of a male dancer in room 30. He was challenging the way in which people spectate art by imitating spectators, taking up their positions and seeing how they reacted. He would then have a conversation with them and end up in a different position. For example, when I entered the room he was sat on the floor with a spectator with their backs up against the bench looking at the painting from floor level as opposed to standing.