Sifting and Juxtaposing

To aid with devising a script to use for the live section of the soundscape, that shall become the crux of our performance, the group looked at Tim Etchells Certain Fragments: Texts and Writings on Performance.  This piece of literature became an inspiring stimulus for the group and from it; we have extricated ways in which to begin writing. The path which clearly became the route in which the group would travel was to use borrowed language, as Etchells describes his experience of “collecting, sifting and using bits of other people’s stuff – copied language like precious stones” (1999, p.101) the group looked at how to deliberately borrow language. We decided on a few books, works of fiction to begin with, mainly devoted to the theme of romance which juxtaposes the theme of our performance, and began “sifting” (Etchells, ,p.101) through the pages, stopping on a random number and picking out two words from the first sentence our eyes settled upon. We would repeat this action with multiple books until a sentence was formed. Sometimes these sentences were, on the surface, nonsensical. However, after experimentation with intonation of voice and expression, the group were able to make the sentences applicable to the performance, with an elite group of sentences making it into the final soundscape.

This method of writing compliments the experiment of juxtaposing the emotion of a word with the way in which it is said, by creating words and sentences which seemingly have a meaning to them but are, in fact, random combinations put together to subvert meaning and contradict emotion. Etchells describes how the difficulty we encounter when trying to create new writing might be due to the “inadequacy of language. It’s unsuitability for the job it has to do – it’s failure” (Etchells, 1999, p.102) this claim is, in essence, the point that we are exploring. If language is used with juxtaposing intonations and emotions to what it is used to being heard with, does the entire meaning flip and change? If this is the case, then language is failing, to some extent, to perform its job consistently. It is failing to have meaning, and cause meaning. This moment in which language breaks down is teeming with interest. Etchells describes it as “language transfixed on its own inadequacy” (Etchells, 1999, p.102) the performance is going to be transfixed on the malleable nature of language to be able to convey whatever emotion the vessels wish to convey. For example, if as performers, we wish to make the audience feel happy, we can quite simply say any lines that we have in a high pitch, jolly, inflection and this, in theory, should convey joviality. However, the experiment could go another way entirely.

When the group were recording some vocal sounds for the soundscape, they burst into laughter at a humorous event that happened at the time. Although their laughter was founded in humour and nothing sinister, when the recording was played back to an audience member, they remarked that the laughter was creepy and haunting. This was an interesting revelation as it meant that although the group thought they were conveying humour, the audience member received it very differently. This is where the experiment will become incredibly interesting when the performance takes place. The juxtapositions might have a certain emotional intention, however it might be conveyed to the audience in varying ways, and the audience may all experience different feelings towards it.

Works Cited

Etchells, T. (1999) Certain Fragments, London: Routledge.

Tagged , ,

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.

Andre

(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].

Tagged

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.

photophoto (1)

(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.

Tagged

Sound and Sight

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

 

Works Cited:

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.

Tagged

An Experience

The notion of a performance as an experience and event in its own right is becoming a demand in contemporary society. Marina Abramovic states that “the public always, until now, have had this role of being voyeurs, of not actually participating” (Kaye 1996, p. 187) and I am personally very interested in how theatre can be a unique experience for each individual audience member, and the techniques that help to create that outcome. Punchdrunk and the National Theatre are currently staging The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable, at Temple Studios in London. The promenade piece is an example of how performance can be immersive, rather than a typical theatre setting, which can be seen as a passive experience for an audience. The performance enables the audience to make choices about which room they should enter and when. Consequently, every audience member sees a different perspective of the performance, depending on what they chose to see, chose to miss, and the order that they took that journey. Furthermore, the performance expresses the idea that Your curiosity is key. The more you explore, the richer your experience will be. Delve in, be bold, and immerse yourself” (National Theatre 2013). The idea reiterates the importance of a contemporary audiences’ own reaction to a performance, and how an audience can gain more simply by ‘letting themselves go’.

Photo: Google Images - The Drowned Man by Punchdrunk and National Theatre [accessed

Photo: Google Images – The Drowned Man by Punchdrunk and the National Theatre [accessed 30 October 2013]

It could be argued that there must be a principle of subtlety when creating a unique, personal experience for a contemporary audience, as their own life experiences and knowledge of the theme should help them to shape their own meanings. For example, Emily, Libby and I have been influenced by the story of the Cleveland hostages, in Ohio, United States of America, where three young women were kidnapped and held captive for over ten years in Ariel Castro’s home. The story is particularly pertinent to us, since we are a group of three females, and we feel that this significance can help to portray the story more effectively. However, we are steering away from the idea of a naturalistic depiction, as we feel that the themes of imprisonment and abuse would be more effective when dealt with in a subtler manner.

The fact that The Drowned Man is being performed in Temple Studios is also highly significant, as the location was a famous film studio during the 1950s. The performance alludes to themes of glitz and glamour and the cutthroat world of stardom, which is evermore resonant within the setting and evokes a sense of fascination for the audience. Furthermore, Punchdrunk are known for their creation of “sensory theatrical worlds” (Punchdrunk 2013), thus reverberating this notion of the audience being an essential part of the performance. In relation to our performance ideas, we will obviously be unable to use a realistic location, but we are hoping to create a sense of violence and captivity through symbolic installations in a studio setting. For example, to hang a dog lead from the ceiling would suggest the brutality that the young women faced, but still remains eerily understated for the audience, who can then imagine for themselves. We understand that the topic must be dealt with sensitively, and these symbolic allusions to the hostage story enable us to deal with the topic from an unobtrusive perspective.

By Sophie Bullivant

 

Works Cited:

Kaye, Nick (1996) Art into theatre: performance interviews and documents. London: Routledge.

National Theatre (2013) The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable. [online] National Theatre. Available from http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/the-drowned-man-a-hollywood-fable [Accessed 18 October 2013].

Punchdrunk (2013) Punchdrunk: Company. [online] Punchdrunk. Available from http://punchdrunk.com/company [Accessed 24 October 2013].

Tagged