The following text was an email written to Lauren Brown on July 9, 2013. It follows on from a discussion that Lauren summed up on her blog, and was written the day after performing Relay (iteration 2, cycle 5). In reply, Lauren said – “I think this discussion/brain explosion should be public – how do you feel about putting those words (verbatim – please don’t censor them) up on either of our blogs, underneath the post about the work itself?” I have a bit of an ambiguous position currently to the accessibility to my work, particularly to the processes that inform the works (which I’ve not questioned until very recently), but that emerges in the text.
That was a great link – I think Goldsmith makes some great points about the responsiveness of literature to current methods, although I’m not sure that mash-ups aren’t that unusual, it seems to be pretty frequent with dramaturgy.
When we re-performed this score again yesterday (Iteration2, cycle 5 as part of Exist-ence 5) the words certainly seemed emptied, certainly out of context. Its difficult to say such words with conviction when I don’t necessarily agree with some of the positions expressed, along with the monotony of saying these words over and over again.
I think when we began this project 12 months ago, there was an interest in the shift of political speeches over the last century or so. From long durational speeches that functioned to communicate ideological positions, policies (etc), as well as functioning to demonstrate to the public the speaker’s eduction and qualification – to the current mode of political speeches which is manifest in soundbites and snippets. The function has kind of shifted right? And with it so has the role of the listener. But what is that now? What was it then?
I’ve also been doing some reading lately on past avant-garde movements such as Dada and Italian Futurism, IS – thanks Claire Bishop (Artificial Hells). Bishop makes a comment that Italian Futurism and Soviet Constructivism were intwined with political positions (Futurism directly leading to Fascism). Dada on the other hand negated a single political position and worked on negating all. Bishop directly links the participation debate with political action – for Marinetti for example active participation was seen as a total commitment to a cause (Is the oversimplification of the active/passive spectator debate mirrored by an oversimplification of political debate – symptomatic of this age of absolute access, absolute excess? What is the link between this neo-liberal world, performance and politics?). I think our aim with not selecting a political position to argue from, but rather choosing to negate them, is a strategy to remove a didactic and dogmatic edge… we could continue this, or determine our position and go for it. For me there is a fear of making overtly political work and I’m not sure why this is – perhaps because I don’t want to tell people how it is, because I think I don’t know what I’m talking about. But perhaps there is a way of determining a position and communicating the uncertainty and questioning… actually why can’t we just start asking questions – thats what I’m always doing and whats wrong with verbalising them? Its also another way of engaging the audience – challenging them to listening and think… (or own voices?… see below)
Active and passive spectatorship. This is a live work – we know its got to be live. But what exactly is the role of the audience. Currently we, the performers, are in a self-contained process, the audience exist as onlookers. Is this oddly replicating the reality of a democratic system? Also there is a power in the locations we’re using – and yet we’re also not being clear with this. What are the actual sites? Why is there no direct reference between these and the score (when we performed yesterday, Lauren became aware that the references are very Australian based)
However, as it stands the score doesn’t commit to one thing or another. Its flakey and shifts all over the place. We’ve got lots of questions, but haven’t quite gotten to the bottom of what this thing is.
Active/passive spectatorship – there is a link back here to Bishop.
Is this about the futility of political activism? The futility of performance as a political action? (we’re making a performance, there is something important in the choice of this medium – the live and the duration, I think there are lots of links between politics and performance and spectatorship, lets pull them out, or make the questioning clear and conflation of these things clear throughout the score)
Contrary to what we decided with this iteration – I think this performance actually has to commit to the radicalism of the words being spoken – we will go on, we will fight, we will not be deterred, we will persevere… this is a political statement that we need to speak up, that people need to listen, that listening is active and engaging – that listening is the first step of participation in a democracy… but as a political action, a revolt against the disinterested and disengaged, this performance has to commit to the necessity of the need to speak and listen all the time – it must go on for as long as possible – until it becomes physically impossible to continue.
Otherwise what is the point?
To take a tea break between speaking and listening to the loaded and weighted subjects we are dealing with, is almost like saying – that’s okay, take a break now, watch that youtube clip of that kitten over there and forget about this for a minute – for many people in the situations we are dealing with, forgetting about it, taking a break isn’t an option.
We are in a position of privilege that we can walk away, stop listening, stop speaking.
At the moment – this score, with its mash-up, glitching, slightly nonsensical sweep of a variety of positions (from multiple contexts, which frankly I have no position to speak of) is one without conviction. Taking something that could be a powerful and moving speech and transforming it into a succession of babble. How is what we are performing any different that turning on the television and listening to a consistent stream of nonsense – effectively switching off? I don’t want to babble and I don’t want to drone. I want to move the audience, provoke them to listen, to think, to engage them and make them stop this disinterested disconnect for at least a moment or two. Why have we stopped caring? Why is it daggy to give a fuck about other people and to express that?
A few things that we need to work on for the next iteration:
1. a much longer score, clearing up what the aims are of this score – if it is about speaking and listening, then why isn’t it focusing on this – others’ words mixed in with our own. Why are our own voices missing?
I don’t actually think it should repeat. How long would an audience engage for if there was no repetition? When I performed at Exist-ence the audience seemed to stay around for one cycle of the script – as soon as it repeated it left.
2. I don’t think the listening/speaking needs to be so clearly demarcated in the action. If we perform this live and work through the cycles – there is no reason that the dual-performance can’t intersect with each other. Why can’t I stop to listening to you speak – then reinforce those words by performing them shortly afterwards and vice-versa? As we begin to move away through the cycles, the devices and network come in to facilitate (as well as disseminate) the speaking, allowing the listening to function.
I also think its really important to shift away from a clear division of speaking/listening (active/passive) and start blurring these. Isn’t it possible to listen while speaking? Responsive listening, responsive speaking… if that makes sense.
Reading the score – yes but I tend to just focus on the screen then (hide behind it) – I think that’s been okay when I’m not using my own words – but there needs to be a connection to the audience. It has to be live, there has to be a committed, enduring live audience (the changes to the script will probably help), but there needs to be contact with them – eye contact, gestures that engage them. Politicians use gestures all the time – they’re conventional but stamped with individual personality, lets start doing this.
The costumes – ? I like the circles, I like the all black – I reckon it needs to be more formal though – I’m still hanging onto power suits.
Duration – performance for as long as possible.
Site: what’s the significance between London and Sydney? Potentially, this could be performed moving through the cycles with both of us in Sydney, again with both of us in London, a third time completely mediated between the two sites. Alternatively, we perform it once completely mediated.
… My brain just exploded onto the page. I hope it makes sense.