An essential aspect of our performance is the notion of the senses, how they can be manipulated, and what they are subjected to. During our most recent group meeting, we became highly interested in creating an exhibition-style setting. Since we are performing in a studio, the setting offers a blank canvas and bleakness, which we hope will give our performance more impact. For example, at this moment in time we have designed the studio space to have various objects and boxes located in the room. The audience will be free to roam the space during the performance, and choose what they wish to focus on and when. In order to give the sense of the setting being blank and clinical, like the contemporary museums that society are used to, we will display artefacts on pillars and boxes. We also wish to display objects from the ceiling, which will give the setting another perspective for the audience.
An artefact that we are particularly interested in is a dog lead. In an ordinary world, a dog lead is a fairly uninteresting object and is purely used to keep an owner attached to their dog on a walk. However, we wish to subvert aspects of everyday life and will present the dog lead as a form of torture and tool for keeping a human imprisoned. We hope that the audience will gradually understand how we are destabilising everyday life during the performance. Our idea restates the work of Tim Etchells and as he does with language, our performance will be “demolishing sense, attacking […] charges to the earth and to sanity” (Etchells 1999, p. 98). Thus, the codes of life and semiotics of performance will be warped, in order to present the cruel world of entrapment.
Another aspect of the performance is that we will be hidden inside boxes. The three boxes will be closed and positioned in the exhibition setting, without any deliberate attention given to their presence. The boxes represent the theme of being trapped. Also, the fact that they are posed as inanimate objects to the audience will also suggest the way in which the young women that were held hostage for over a decade in their own neighbourhood were undetected by the local community, who were unaware that the women were so close by.
The boxes will enable us to experiment with sound. For example, they provide a division between us (the performers) and the audience. The idea is similar to Etchell’s account of voices through walls, where he states that “language [is] reduced to its raw shapes, where listening, you do not know the words but you can guess what is being spoken of” (1999, p. 103). As a result, the wooden walls of the box will achieve a muffled effect on our voices, which effectively deconstructs language, and instead an audience must work to rebuild what they hear.
The use of film in our performance will exaggerate our theme of entrapment and present the world from a fragmented perspective. We aim to blur the sense of reality by combining pre-recorded footage of typical aspects of life, with live clips of the three of us inside the boxes. Again, Etchells presents the blurring in Certain Fragments. Etchells states that writing in performance can involve “mixing, matching, cutting, pasting. Conscious, strategic and sometimes unconscious, out of control” (1999, p. 101). Of course, here he is discussing writing in performance, yet the system applies to our confused presentation of the live and the pre-recorded film.
Overall, the ideas that we have discussed so far are centred on how society sees life, and how the performance can subvert an audience’s understanding. Our performance consists of hypermedia, since the recorded sounds scapes and live/non-live films are essential to conveying our theme. With a combination of sound and the layering of film, “a new energy is released, which directly, that is to say, physically affects a shock experience” (Kattenbelt 2008, p. 26) Furthermore, the audience will be subjected and the manipulation metaphorically suggests a sense of torture, since we are in control of their senses.
By Sophie Bullivant
Etchells, T. (1999) Certain Fragments, London: Routledge.
Kattenbelt, C. (2008) ‘Intermediality in Theatre and Performance: Definitions, Perceptions and Medial Relationships’, Culture, Language and Representation, 6 (2008) pp. 19-29.