Category Archives: collaborations

Relay / Iteration 2. Cycle 5.

relay. iteration2, cycle 5

cycle 5: PACT Centre for Emerging Artists, Sydney AU and ]Performance Space[, London UK / 20.07.13 / 2 hours




Call and Response (changing title) #31


Sorry for the silence. For the lags, delays and gaps.

The first six days (or thereabouts) were in fact a silly accident on my behalf. I read
the words ʻI wonʼt be more than two daysʼ and assumed you would indeed be
another 2 days at most, failing to notice the attachment at the bottom of the email.

The last six days of silence were carelessness, frustration, fatigue. Iʼd quite simply
written my way into a crisis and I was in revolt with myself. Art, my own and any
other collaborative project I am currently working on, was something I couldn’t, didn’t
want to face. It sounds melodramatic. It was and there were tears.

I am sorry that it had such an impact, that it came across as a personal affront.

Perhaps “lessons on waiting, still, time” was more a reminder to self to learn to
manage my time better. Iʼve often thought of your repeated suggestions that my
participation in this project wait – to not over-commit, to stress and stretch.

So I am sorry (and thankful in a way) that my stubbornness has stretched this part of
the project.

Thanks, a repeated thanks, a repeated and sincere thanks, for allowing me to participate in this project. It occurred to me that itʼs an intimate form of participation. Iʼm thankful for the thought its opened up for me surrounding the idea – its issues and its tensions.

For me, the experience has been fun and confusing, exciting and frustrating, guilt
inducing and also a guilty pleasure in that it often functioned as a vehicle for my own
experiments and thoughts.

An apology for the dense academic framework I bring with me. It is immersive. But,
thank you for the notes on emotion, emotions as loosening, dumb. It resonated. It
still is. Although I realised that Iʼve laboured over this final piece and in doing so the
emotion has been sucked away – existing of the moments past.

Arthur Russell. Wonderful.

Iʼve been listening to Hope Sandoval quite a bit over the last few days, but Arthur
Russell is playing as I write this sentence.

Perhaps that the project has no point is the point. It is shaped by the engagements
with individual participants, and much like life sometimes this is exciting, burning and
at other points frustrating, boring. Perhaps that is its pleasure.

I hope you are well and I send this with warm regards,


Call and Response (changing title) #30

Sorry Boni for my aggression

I was frustrated with waiting.  I understand you have maybe over-committed, and this project was close to the last thing in your mind.

I have been late and protracted in my life too.  It is a double standard of mine that blackens all the pots and kettles in my head.

But as it is my double standard, six days of silence is hard not to take personally.  I was angrily annoyed by the disregard, the carelessness that I have seen so often in myself.  Be assured that my bark is by far worse then my toothless gummy bite.

I am getting over it, and in affect, have.  There is no point to getting upset over a project that has no point.

I do have to say though the most recent exchanges have been exciting, dynamic even.

The emotional exchange was surprising for that very reason – emotion.  You are very academic which is clever and difficult at times to grasp.  I do not mean this to be passive aggressive but emotions are loosening.  Immediate.  Dumb.  Be dumb for a bit.  See a letter by Sol Lewitt to Eva Hesse.

Did you hear Agatha Gothe-Snape’s Emotional Wall fell on Susan Gibb’s head, slicing thirteen stitches across Susan’s brow?  Susan bled all the way to the hospital and Agatha cried in her public explanation.  Their relationship was strained, and so the poetics of the falling wall are beyond ludicrous to the point of stupidity; a “dumbness” that dare I say was exquisite.  One that cannot be orchestrated by equation or exercise, rather propelled by an unconscious ease as to allow emotion and reason to magnify the metaphysical fractal of an objects innate artistic aura, whether it be an actual object or object of performance or its conceptual framing.   I digress.

The Friday just gone, after walking idly around the streets for the entire day, I found myself at a particularly gay bookshop on Oxford Street.

I bought the film Keep the lights on by Ira Sachs, a true story about a 10-year relationship of two guys coping with the devastation of drug addiction and the grace illuminated from its recovery.  The film made quite an impression on me.  The two handsome actors, New York City, life on film and a soundtrack made of pure, and purely of, Arthur Russell songs.

Google him.

I’ve since bought his entire back catalogue.  All in the same day, in the one go.

I’ve been listening to it while writing in the same way I’ve known painters to paint and sculptors to sculpt to music; Arthur’s in my ear now.

I hope this finds you well Boni.  I genuinely thank you for agreeing to participate in this project.  I look forward to your last entry.  Please keep in touch.

Sincere Regards


Liveness: questioning form and capacity

Despite an incredibly smooth tech run two days prior to performing Relay (on August 19th), the actual performance was marked by complete a technology fail. So much so that it completely altered the work from what Lauren Brown and I had intended to something very different. After a patchy beginning (for more details check Lauren’s own blog post about the work here), the first 2 hours of the performance was consumed with trying, and failing, to get a sustained connection via Skype between Alaska, Sydney and Performance Space, London. This was the crucial element in which the simultaneous performances were evidence in the alternate site, and what created the ‘relay’ aspect.

After the 2 hour mark, Lauren and I were completely out of synch, we were frustrated by the failing technology, and the struggle of trying to perform while also trying to sort out the connection was taking its toll. Through a txt, we had decided to continue performing our own roles, continue recording what was happening in the space and playing back this audio – focusing on listening to our own performance instead of the other’s as was intended. A little while later Lauren sent me another text:

“i’m going to have to log a DNF. the tech is not happening and the listening isn’t either. go forth and i’ll see you at the end”

The following three hours of the performance were tense. Whilst performing I was questioning whether to continue with the performance which had now drastically shifted from what we intended. At what point do you quit? How do you decided if there is an integrity in the altered form of what your doing – whilst your doing it? Do you just blindly continue anyway – because there is a set duration for the performance? Because maybe something will come out of it.

I felt decidedly vulnerable and exposed. At the time I couldn’t remember why I was doing what I was, why I had decided to work in this form, and why I wanted to place myself in such situations by making work publicly. The situation was also tense for Lauren – her reflection can be read here

I did complete the 5 hours. I could still talk by the end of it. I did cry. There are a few considerations that emerged in the aftermath of this performance:

1. Without the possibility of an audience, this performance would have been a studio experiment. And more than likely I would have given up at the first sign of any tech difficulties. In fact I’ve been in that situation before and cancelled what I was doing because it would have emptied the work.

2. There is an element of exposure in making artworks live. With a studio practice, if you try something out and it doesn’t work – well no one needs to know. But when you’re running through an situation that is contingent on ‘liveness’ – the here and now of the performance site, with an audience watching on, everything is on display. That being said the ‘failure’ of the planned intention to play out exactly as you imagined it can add to the performance (not detract from it – as I was thinking during relay). In this case, the perseverance and endurance I drew on to reach the end of this performance resonated with the words I was speaking. The score – compiled from over 25 political speeches – often referenced perseverance and endurance, fighting against the odds.

3. Was it really a failure? At the time I thought so. But no.  The performance became something different, nothing like what Lauren and I had intended, but it was still attended. It was still a durational task that challenged my limits – and in more ways that I could have foreseen. It still had an element of ‘relay’ – instead of relaying between sites located across the globe, the work was relaying between the live and recorded elements, but also between the two levels of this carpark in Kings Cross (A live feed video was being played the level above – where Alaska is located – from where I was performing). And I asked more questions about my own practice – something we probably don’t do as much when things run smoothly. And I learnt a lot – mainly have a contingent plan!

notes on R E L A Y

– R E L A Y –

A 5-hour durational performance between Lauren Brown (Performance
Space, London) and Boni Cairncross (Alaska, Sydney).

A spoken performance is relayed between the two performers, the two spaces.
What is seen and what is heard is ruptured by the delay of relaying
between the two locations.

To be performed simultaneously on August 19th, 2012

6am – 11am @ Performance Space, London


3pm – 8pm @ ALASKA, Sydney

When devising this performance with Lauren, I was very much interested ‘where’ the artwork exists. Does it exist as me, performing in Alaska? Or does it exist as Lauren, performing in Performance Space? Or does it exist somewhere between us – in the interwebs that are connecting our performances? Or does it exist between the mediating technologies and our bodies? Or between the people present in the space? Or is it all of these things at the same time?

And what about the unintended contextual things that will no doubt fold into this performance? Are these to be seen as irritations that should be minimised (possibly eradicated from the documentation), or embraced as part of the contingency of performance work? Considering that for two-hours of this performance, there will be a 2-hour experimental music performance to celebrate John Cage at ALASKA, I am leaning towards embracing these contingencies as an important aspect to fold into the work.

Beyond these conceptual philosophical musings – we also began to think about the act of speaking and listening for long periods of time. It seems history is littered with long political speeches. Before the ‘sound-bite’ it seemed that long political speeches were an acceptable way to demonstrate your knowledge and learning, as well as communicate policies and addresses etc. Speaking and listening are two roles (inter-changable of course) that set up a dialogue for a political system.

But long speeches are not limited to politics. We also began thinking about sports commentary, performance monologues, graduation speeches, song cycles and other modes of speaking which had an intended listening audience. So when devising the score for ‘Relay’, Lauren and I looked at a broad range of texts that were constructed deliberately for an audience. We will quote from twenty-five separate speeches in our own marathon speech. The score has been broken into five sections – 12 minutes each. There are five texts referenced in each section. The whole score should last for an hour. This will then be repeated four times.

Built into our performance is the task of recording and playing back. When researching this area of liveness, I came across a section in Philip Auslander’s ‘Liveness’ that points out that distinguishing something as ‘live’ is a fairly recent thing. According to Auslander, it was with the rise of radio that caused the need to categorise something as live or recorded. Prior to this, of course music could be heard live or recorded, but the source was obvious – one could see if it was one or another. With radio, the source was made invisible to the listener – therefore creating the need to communicate if something was being played live in the studio or from a recording. With radio we can also see the blurring of the categories – playing a recording live across the airwaves for example. So in part, our performance is an attempt to explore this blurring of live, recorded and live recordings.