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The Evaluation

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(Photos: The making process and final piece. Taken – 8 and 9 December 2013)

 

Our final performance saw us as performers trapped inside a human sculpture made up of bleached dog leads, white strips of material and strips of toilet paper hanging in the corner of the studio. Our performance space was incredibly small, meaning we were tightly packed and cocooned within the space. The aim was not to be seen, although the audience would be aware of our presence. This idea of control and manipulation was present as they were able to watch us in this sculpture whilst listening to the live soundscape through individual headphones. Although we were trapped, we wanted to show that our audience were too, as they were involved in their own isolated experience by wearing the headphones. The dog collars symbolised the 3 kidnapped girls and how Ariel Castro de-humanised them and controlled them – treating them like animals. The aim was to allow our audience to really analyse our use of materials and the subversion of their use. We wanted to manipulate the senses, and therefore used baby powder to create an extra layer of texture, and to give an over powering, clinical and familiar smell, often associated with babies, as soon as the audience entered the space. The digital alarm clock sat at the front amongst the material and toilet paper which went off after 33 minutes, symbolising the days Ariel Castro lasted in prison before he committed suicide.

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(Photo: Final sculpture. Taken – 9 December 2013)

 

Every section of our soundscape was devised as a response to the kidnapping at the forefront of our research. For example the performance ended with the verbatim of the phone call that Amanda Berry, one of the captive women, made to the police. This material was presented in the style of a game show as a way of subverting the meaning of the words and almost placing a humorous feel into the serious subject, juxtaposing the situation.

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(Photos: The initial and final script. Taken – 11 November 2013)

 

As a group, we made the decision not to give away too much detail about where our ideas came from. Sections like the end with the game show/ phone call and the Liam Neeson speech from the film Taken gave strong implications that our piece was about kidnap. The primary criticism in our feedback talk was that the audience did not pick up on this, and we were advised to have included a plaque placed in front of the sculpture, giving a brief outline of the influences of the piece and the story of the kidnap. Although this was frustrating to hear, as our previous ideas were to include this, we acknowledged these comments as both means to improve in the future and validation of our initial instincts in this project.

In 2002 Marina Abramovic performed in the Sean Kelly Gallery in New York a piece called, The House with the Ocean View. This durational performance lasted 12 days which saw Abramovic displayed on three raised platforms containing the necessaries: a bed, a toilet, spare clothes and water. She fasted for the entire performance and simply established eye contact with people throughout. She acknowledged “the world of the passing, frequently pausing observers below her.” (Richards 2009, p.107). The piece was supposed to be a “public mourning for 9/11” (Biesenbach 2010, p.34), although it seems many of her audience members were not aware of this. This was a very successful piece in which, like our performance, the audience did not realise the entire meaning behind it. I’ve learnt a great deal from this project, and overall we were very happy with our audience response and engagement with the piece.

 

Works Cited

Biesenbach, Klaus Peter (2010) Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present, New York: Museum of Modern Art.

Richards, Mary (2009) Marina Abramovic, Routledge performance practitioners, Oxon: Routledge

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Aesthetics – The Final Evaluation

The aesthetics of the 33 Minutes piece were incredibly important from the time that the concept of a sculpture was founded. After looking into artists such as Sharon Kelly and Helen Chadwick, the group decided that the sculpture needed to embody a natural and organic texture. After experimenting with many varying materials and ways of hanging such a thing, the group managed to creatively work around the practical issues such as, how to hang it, which materials to use to make it and also how to create it. The issue of hanging it was solved by using coat hangers, the final aesthetic of this had connotations of a baby’s mobile, which was very effective and linked with the textual side of the piece incredibly well. The use of toilet paper was also another breakthrough, the group needed a texture that was less rigid, less opaque and also an everyday object. For a while we experimented with bed sheets and tearing them into strips however the material was still not quite achieving the organic look that we were aiming for. When toilet role was mentioned we were all skeptical, however after experimenting with strips of it and lighting, decided that it was exactly the right aesthetic for the art work.  

The process of experimentation with the sculpture was endlessly interesting. Making sure that the vision that we held was not lost of compromised on was a challenge within itself due to certain limitations such as the time we had in the space and how to transport the sculpture. The use of everyday objects was an important factor in creating the sculpture and the overall effect was very pleasing, taking inspiration from other artists that have done the same such as “Tara Donovan [who]  creates large sculptures using common consumer products such as Styrofoam cups, fishing line and paper plates” (Brownell, (2009) p.13) The manipulation and subversion of these objects was effective in creating a transfixing aesthetic that was not only pleasing for the audience to behold, but also created an encompassing object in which to perform. The audience reacted well to the baby powder which, when lit, had such a texture to it that it almost looked like something was growing on the sculpture. The lighting successfully cast shadows on the walls when shone through the sculpture which made the space feel ominous and looming. Like an empty attic with a horrible secret lurking in the corner, the space was transformed into a bizarre world of art and text, interweaving into one organic performance.

 

Works Cited

Brownell, B (2009) ‘Assembling Light: PET Wall Installation’, Dimensions, 22, p. 13-19

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Sound – A Post-Show Analysis

Phone Call Gameshow Transcript

Phone Call Gameshow Transcript

The use of live sound was highly important to our performance, and was played through headphones to each audience member. The work of Optik, a theatre company based in London, also focuses on sound in performance. Their work during the 1980s gradually incorporated technologies, such as computers, enabling “layering and juxtaposition” (Edwards and Jarlett, 2011, p. 128), which sets contemporary performance apart from other dramatic practices. Furthermore, Proto-Type Theater collaborated with the Manchester Metropolitan University Laptop Ensemble for their performance of The Good, the God and the Guillotine (2013). The performance purposely exposed the use of technology, with the laptops forming part of the set and the wires being fully visible to the audience.

It can be argued that the use of headphones in our performance of 33 Minutes helped to enhance the performance as an ‘event’/spectacle. For example, the sound becomes amplified and the notion of our performance as being an ‘exhibition’ is highlighted, since headphones are often worn by visitors at art exhibitions, used as an audio tour guide.Furthermore, the headphones provided the audience with a unique experience, as they could feel more involved, being submerged in the sound, but also created an individual experience. Each audience member became isolated, “withdrawn or separated from the public body” (Steyn, 1989, p. 51) even though they were in a communal space. The group believed that the sense of lonesomeness being created through the use of headphones was important to our performance, since we were experimenting with the notions of the public and the private. Our aim was for each audience member to react to the sounds and the aesthetics without any influence from other audience members. As a result, the audience could leave with individual opinions of what they saw and heard, and will have experienced something unique.

In relation to individual responses of an audience, the fact that our performance is set in a piece of installation art is highly significant. An “installation prompts conscious and unconscious associations in the beholder” (Bishop, 2005, p. 16), which suggests that each audience member gains meaning from their own previous thoughts and experiences. Also, throughout the performance we were slightly visible to the audience, which seems absurd, as surely headphones are not needed with sound being created live? However, we were masked by the dog leads and white paper installation, which represented a cocoon, and helped to create a sense of detachment between us and the sounds that we were creating.

'The Cocoon' Set of 33 Minutes

‘The Cocoon’ Set of 33 Minutes

The notion of concealment is influenced by the performance of Whisper (2013) by Proto-Type Theater, where a mesh screen was hung between the performers and the audience, with the audience wearing headphones. It provided a boundary for the audience, but still enabled them to watch the silhouettes being created on stage. Similarly, Proto-Type also used a gauze in The Good, the God and the Guillotine. The division was aesthetically beautiful, as it enabled animations and lighting effects to be projected, and allowing the performers to still be visible. We were experimenting with how we can create sounds that are raw and do not require any accompaniment. The process of making the soundscape was challenging at first, as we began to explore our voices. In The Good, the God and the Guillotine, the performers created the sound of a dog barking, purely from using their voices. Parts of our soundscape consisted of vocal sound effects, such as the ‘City Soundscape’ and the ‘Daily Routine Soundscape’. These sounds were largely spontaneous during the performance, meaning that the sounds had not been decided in any strict order. For example, the group had rehearsed a range of sounds that represent a busy city, such as vehicle noises, muffled voices of passers-by and pedestrian crossing sounds. The spontaneity that resonated within our performance is influenced by Proto-Type Theater’s About Silence (2003), which has been performed numerously by many different performers. During a workshop led by Dan Hunt, three class members performed About Silence, and were instructed to read the text, without having previously rehearsed it, and could not discuss who says what and at what time. The effect of the spontaneity evoked a plethora of responses from the rest of the class, who became the audience. We discussed how the pace changed naturally and how certain words or phrases became comical, as they were based on personal issues, “from love to death, from sex to intimacy” (Proto-Type Theater, 2013), or simply by the way that they were spoken.

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Photo: Google Images – The Good, the God and the Guillotine by Proto-Type Theater [accessed 10 December 2013]

The script that we created for 33 Minutes was largely made up of ‘fragmented text’, inspired by the work of Tim Etchells. We used a range of texts, including well-known transcript, Dada-style poetry or song lyrics, and subverted the emotions that would be associated with them. For example, the final segment of our soundscape is the transcript of the phone call that Amanda Berry, one of the kidnap victims, made to the police when she escaped from the home of Ariel Castro (see transcript above). We were aware that contemporary performance should steer away from naturalism and any vulgar representation of events. Therefore, we transformed the transcript into a ‘game show’. For example, inflections and emphasis on certain words enabled us to change the emotion that the transcript evokes. The questions that the police officer asks Amanda Berry were subverted into questions from a quizmaster to a contestant. The upbeat, recognisable style that we created enabled us to use the phone call, but in a detached, sensitive way.

Metaphorically, 33 Minutes presented us, as performers, being trapped in the cocoon, yet we had a sense of freedom through our voices.

By Sophie Bullivant

 

Works Cited:

Bishop, Claire (2005) Installation Art: A Critical History, London: Tate Publishing.

Edwards, Barry and Jarlett, Ben (2011) Body Waves Sound Waves: Optik Live Sound and Performance. In: Susan Broadhurst and Josephine Machoon (eds.) (2011) Performance and Technology: Practices of Virtual Embodiment and Interactivity, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 127-140.

Proto-Type Theater (2013) Proto-Type Theater: About Silence. [online] Proto-Type Theater. Available from  http://proto-type.org/archive/about-silence/ [Accessed 27 November 2013].

Steyn, Juliet (1989) Chapter Five: Public and Private. In: Malcolm Miles (ed.) Art for Public Places: Critical Essays, Winchester: Winchester School of Art Press, pp. 51-58.

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The Art of Helen Chadwick

“architecture, identity and the body” (Walker 2013, p.187).

Helen Chadwick’s work is mainly installation art, these installations often incorporate a number of techniques including sculpture, painting and photography. She is known for her manipulation of unconventional materials such as household waste and her own DNA in order to generate a response from her audience. Chadwick’s work is often symbolic and inspired by her own personal life experiences. Chadwick was not only an artist but also a ‘model’ in a lot of her work, as she displayed herself as part of her sculptures, exploring and exploiting her body to create original and personal designs. She was often criticised by feminists for using her own naked body within her work, to which she responded that her aim was to “not make images of the body, but the cell, that would somehow circumnavigate that so called male gaze.” (Chadwick, 2004).

Some of her most famous works were Oval Court (1984-86) and Piss Flowers (1991-92). Oval Court is a floor collage which includes large three dimensional golden balls that sit upon an array of pictures. These pictures are photocopies of Chadwick’s nude body, posing from different angles to create different distorted shapes. Around her body were photocopies of flowers and fruit, meat and dead animals. The effect of the photocopy was to emphasise the intricate details on each object, and manipulate the unique shading effect which photocopying creates in order to reassemble the images for dramatic effect. The objects were displayed in various ways around her, some with provocative associations in the way she placed the objects on or next to the more intimate areas of her body. This provoked many different reactions from her audiences, which was often the purpose of her work as she “deliberately sets up and ‘irritates’ a plethora of standard contrasts with a myriad of serious implications.” (Sarafianos 2005, p.7).

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(Photo: Google Images – Oval Court, by Helen Chadwick. Accessed 6 December 2013)

 

  Piss Flowers is another piece of work that generated controversial reactions. This fine art piece consisted of flower shaped sculptures assembling casts displaying the effect of depositing urine onto snow. These sculptures aimed to portray the “fluidity of gender roles” and the “meeting between body heat and meteorological frost” (Sarafianos 2005, p.3). The idea came from her own life experience that her and her husband shared on a winters evening in which they urinated in the snow. The sculptures capture the different texture within the materials used, with the white flowers standing out against the green floor, representing grass, in the gallery which they are displayed. The phallic shaped centre to the flower implies a strong provocation towards gender and sexuality. Her work is seen as surreal and absurd, and equally unique as it is bizarre.

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(Photo: Google Images – Piss Flowers, by Helen Chadwick. Accessed 6 December 2013)

 

Works Cited

Sarafianos, Aris (2005) Helen Chadwick, the ‘shorelines of culture’ and the transvaluation of the life sciences. Papers of Surrealism, (3) 1-13. Available from, http://www.surrealismcentre.ac.uk/papersofsurrealism/journal3/acrobat_files/Chadwick.pdf [Accessed 6 December 2013].

The Art of Helen Chadwick (2004) [DVD] London: Illuminations.

Walker, Stephen (2013) Helen Chadwick: Constructing Identities Between Art and Architecture, London: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd.

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Spectacle and the Senses

 

Performance often appeals to only two of the five physical senses, these are sight and sound. However an interesting aspect of performance is the use of the other three senses, touch, taste and scent. As an audience member, you do not often have the opportunity to experience performance through these mediums; however, when the occasion arises it can make an incredibly interesting impact. The use of scent is particularly interesting to our group, as Helen Paris states “smell permeates the everyday, triggering memories, transporting us through space and time” (Paris, 2010, p.45) this ‘transportation’ could create an interesting array of emotions within the audience when two contradictory smells amalgamate together in a juxtaposing fashion. After considering this, the group decided to bleach the dog leads that will make up the sculpture; this would obviously create a pungent odour of a sterile and almost hostile nature.

To contrast with this scent, we decided to add to the sculptures texture and layers by using baby powder, this has such a recognisable smell that almost everybody will be familiar with. we experimented with the texture of the powder and what effect it would have on the spectacle of the sculpture. The way it moved and worked with movement and breath was so aesthetically pleasing that we decided it would add a depth of natural beauty to the sculpture and aid in the creation of an object that appears rooted and grown. We also considered what it would appear as through lighting, whether it would be seen and which kind of lighting would do the sculpture the most justice. After testing the powder and its appearance on a dim, almost sepia lamp, we decided that having the sculpture uplit with this hue of lighting would be effective.

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These two intermingling smells could stir up many emotions within the audience; some of them could be quite disturbing as bleach has been linked with ‘do-it-yourself’ abortions. The mixture of bleach with the baby powder may well make people think of this horrific act, and could cause some distress. These emotions will, however, be questioned and challenged by the text of the piece and the way in which it is presented. “The Art of Scent 1889-2012” is and exhibition by the Museum of Art and Design, led by Chandler Burr, it explores perfumery throughout the ages. By presenting the gallery as a clinical space with “dimples” in the walls with apertures within them, they invite the audience to smell the varying scents. This experience is completely about scent and no other visual or textual things. The importance of scent within performances is becoming more prevalent with time; there are more performances and exhibitions, such as the aforementioned, that do focus on scent. However, with regards to our performance, there will be other performances taking place within the scent, framed by the scent. Immersive performances often make use of scent to completely involve the audience in the atmosphere and world which the artists are trying to create, however 33 minutes is not attempting to create such a bubble of atmosphere, it is not a physically immersive set for the audience, however, for the performers the set is completely immersive and surrounds them wholly. The aim of the use of scent within 33 minutes is to conjure images within an audience’s mind, to add to the experience and create another level of art, the art of scent, into the piece.

 

Works Cited

Gleason- Allured, J (2013) “The Other Sense: Fragrance as Art Form” Perfumer & Flavorist, 38 (2) p.3

Paris, H (2010) ‘ The Smell of It.’ In Freeman, J. Blood, Sweat & Theory: Research through Practice and Performance. London: Middlesex University, p.45

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