Author Archives: Elizabeth Soper

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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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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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33 days, 33 hours or 33 minutes

The role of the performer is an interesting concept when looking at contemporary work. Marina Abramovic’s risky and dangerous work often places the audience in a significant role within it. They are not only the spectator; they are given sense of control, power and presence within a performance. The Artist Is Present (2010) is a famous one to one durational performance, which lasted three months, from March to May 2010. Abramovic spent each day sat at a table in The Museum of Modern Art in New York. The audience were invited to sit for as long as they wanted at a chair opposite her. Her audience queued for hours to become a spectator and be involved in the performance. The audience played an equal part in her performance; it relied on their presence as much as hers. The performance was about the “silent exchange between the artist, the sequence of people who occupy the chair opposite her, and the audience.” (Biesenbach 2010, p.40). The piece evoked different emotions and reactions from both the audience and the performer, as this exchange was dependent on the person who entered the space and how they connected to Abramovic. The spectator dictated how long this exchange lasted, empowering them with a sense of control over their own experience.

Andre Stitt is another contemporary artist experimenting with durational work, and is known for his “cutting edge, provocative and politically challenging work.” (Stitt 2013). He creates live art for group and solo exhibitions, and often presents his work in a gallery style in which the audience can view for as long or as short a period as they want to. One performance entitled The Institution (2005) was spread across various rooms in a warehouse which played host to different objects. He used an axe in one room to chop square windows into one of the walls and went on to paint black frames around them.

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(Photo: Google Images – The Institution by Andre Stitt. Accessed 12 November 2013)

 

‘Entrapment’ is the stimulus for our performance. One news report which stood out in our research, was the recent escape of three women who were kidnapped over ten years ago. Ariel Castro, the kidnapper of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, was imprisoned for a total of 33 days before he committed suicide. The women themselves were in captivity for 10-11 years, yet Castro only endured 33 days of incarceration. This inspired the strict sense of timescale in our performance and subsequently, the title of our piece: 33 minutes.

Creating a durational performance interested us as it explores the “effects of endurance, such as exhaustion and euphoria; the ironic ephemerality of the event” (Allain and Harvie 2006, p.184). However, creating a performance that lasted 33 days is impossible, given our other commitments and projects. Our piece then became 33 minutes. We started to generate an interest in creating a gallery feel to our performance. We, as performers could become objects within a sculpture, stripping away identity and becoming a part of a piece of artwork. It is necessary for the sculpture to appear clinical, as if cleansed, and rid of any emotive characteristics. Over the ten years, the news of the three girls kidnapped inevitably became less important amongst more current events and headlines. Their identities were lost as a result of diminishing media attention. As a group we want to portray this within our performance by concealing ourselves within our own sculpture, a sculpture created to be observed.

 

 

Works Cited

 Allain, Paul and Jen Harvie (2006) The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Performance, Oxon: Routledge.

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

Stitt, Andre (2013) Andre Stitt, Online: http://www.andrestitt.com/about-this/ [Accessed 1 November 2013].

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Join me…under the table

“theatre is not dependent upon its location” (Freshwater 2009, p.2).

 

During this week’s workshop we were instructed to produce a 5 minute one to one performance. At first this seemed impossible with no direction or stimulus to follow, but after discussing intimacy within a performance, the first ‘space’ that caught my eye was the small table that our lecturer used as a desk. I immediately went to this table, crawled underneath and sat under it. The space was very small and cramped, but with a squeeze would enable another audience member to fit. This then became my performance space.

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(Photos: Under the Table. Taken -8 November 2013)

 

 “Intimacy enables two sentient beings, who feel comfortable enough with each other on an emotional and/or physical level, to reveal something about themselves,” (Chatzichristodoulou and Zerihan 2012, p.1).

I found a black sheet to cover my table with and managed to squeeze a bean bag under so that my audience member would feel more comfortable. My performance was a whispered discussion about dreams, in which my audience member could reveal their most frightening and enjoyable dream experiences. Referring to the quote above, this describes that intimacy is between people that know each other well. Of course, not everyone has established incredibly close friendships within the class. This whole concept of being in such tight proximities with another person and also sharing emotions and personal thoughts that you wouldn’t normally share, was fascinating to experiment with, and to “impose situations of explicit intimacy and proximity between the artists’ bodies and the bodies of others, sometimes in more directly intimate settings of a one-to-one performance,” (Chatzichristodoulou and Zerihan 2012, p.39-40).

Some of my audience members sat up in the space, whereas some lied down, resting their head on the bean bag. The experiment worked really well, as I aimed to achieve a performance that not only incorporated a physically intimate space, but also made it more comfortable for others to talk to me even if they didn’t know me that well. The performance felt confessional, not too dissimilar to that of a Christian confession booth, but without the anonymity of the listener as it was affected by my own personality and presence. It was a personal and shared experience and I’d be interested to see how far this idea could go.

With the preliminary idea of experimenting with the theme of entrapment for our assessed performance, I realised, whilst under the table, this could be a significant exercise for my group to have engaged in. From the start of the devising process we have had many ideas for the final performance, and toyed with the idea of us being physically trapped for a length of time. It was then that I presented the idea of being inside three boxes for the duration of our performance, perhaps wearing night vision cameras for our audience to watch on a screen showing how we are isolated from each other, trapped and only accessible through this perspective. Although, perhaps the audience having access to us visually would undermine this sense of entrapment and therefore it might be better if they were unable to see us or unaware of our presence.

 

Work Cited

Chatzichristodoulou, Maria and Rachel Zerihan (2012) Intimacy Across Visceral and Digital Performance, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Freshwater, Helen (2009) theatre & audience, London: Palgrave Macmillan.

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Intermediality in Performance

“One contributing factor to the change in paradigm might be that our contemporary culture has become a media culture” (Kattenbelt 2008, p.20).

Something we have experimented with in the contemporary performance module is the use of sound media. Preliminary ideas within my performance group were to create a sound scape using only the voice to produce various atmospheres, whether it was singing different notes or simply using our breath to make certain tempos and rhythms.

From our initial thoughts we have decided to follow a stimulus: the feeling of entrapment. Within this we have researched a number of news reports which involved people being trapped, starting with the recent Kenyan Mall Massacre in which the victims were imprisoned by 4 gunmen in their local shopping centre. We would like to explore and experiment with this notion of being trapped, whether it is us that feels trapped, or our audience.

After watching a recording of Whisper (2008) by Proto-type Theater, it gave us the inspiration to continue with the same idea of creating a sound scape. The company used microphones on stage to produce their own sound effects throughout the piece. The actors would speak all their lines into the microphones but also used various objects, for example a plastic bottle getting crushed to make the sound of rain. This added another layer to the acoustically focused performance creating a suggestive atmosphere which engaged the imagination.

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(Photo: Proto-type Theater Website, Whisper. Accessed 25/10/2013)

 

“We like to experiment with different media and forms.” (Proto-type Theater 2013). Whilst we watched the performance we were each given a set of headphones to listen through. This was an interesting way to engage the audience, which turned my thoughts to how relevant it could be to our piece. Although we were all watching the recording of the performance together, the headphones somewhat separated us from each other, as we couldn’t talk or communicate, making me feel quite isolated from everyone else. This might be interesting to experiment with our audience. The use of microphones and headphones would displace our voices so that we could not be directly connected to them. This would therefore deny the audience access to us through direct sound and not betray the sense of our entrapment. Not only this but it would isolate each audience member and separate them from each other, encapsulating and trapping them within the space.

Another Proto-type Theater production I saw performed live was The Good, the God, and the Guillotine. The use of various media types was physically evident as their set consisted of different platforms with all their technical equipment exposed. They used laptops, two projectors, televisions, microphones and square lights which were hung from the ceiling and swung across the stage. It was a very impressive set but what I found more intriguing was that they made it into an opera. They used some speech but the majority of the narrative was told through song. They again divided the audience and performer, although this time it was created with a physical barrier by hanging a mesh material at the front of the stage. This added an interesting layer when they used projection, but also established a sense of separation. This has pushed us further to experiment with creating sound effects or song in our performance, and using techniques to create divisions with our audience.

 

 

Works Cited

 Proto-type Theater (2013) Proto-type Theater, Online: http://proto-type.org/category/company/# [Accessed 25 October 2013].

Kattenbelt, C (2008) ‘Intermediality in Theatre and Performance: Definitions, Perceptions and Medial Relationships’, Culture, Language and Representation VOL VI \ 2008, 19-29.

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