Tag Archives: performance

You must follow me carefully @ FIRSTDRAFT

You must follow me carefully

Boni Cairncross

Exhibition opens: Wednesday 5 September 2012, 6-8pm
Exhibition continues: to 22 September 2012
Artist talks: Saturday 22 September 2012 at 2pm

Part live event, part documentation, part fragmented memory.

You must follow me carefully is an accumulative installation extending from the ongoing series of the same name. Sound, subjective text documents, personal reflections and live performance intersect within the space, unfolding over time.

Here each individual experience, whether encountered live or through various forms of documentation, constitutes the artwork. There is no criterion for ‘truth’ in experience, no one location where the artwork resides. Rather multiplicity and re-mediation are the crux.

You are invited to follow carefully. Then take the lead.

Participatory performances:  Saturday 8th Sept from 1pm, Sunday 16th Sept from 1pm and Saturday 22nd Sept from 1pm @ Firstdraft Gallery: 116-118 Chalmers St, Surry Hills NSW 2010, open: Wed to Sun, 12-6pm

You must follow me carefully (#2)

A snap taken by Nick Clifford from the second instalment of You must follow me carefully. This performative workshop was a little bit more playful than the first. Participants experimented with the spoken element by drawing the words out, improvising raps, shouting, whispering, interacting with each other and spelling words out. There was a lot more movement throughout this performance as well. Kate Vassallo (on the left) and I began responding to our scores and each other through a kind of stilted side-stepping movement.

There is a detail of the audio up as well: http://soundcloud.com/boni-cairncross-1/you-must-follow-me-carefully-2

the original and the document

Image: photocopy of hand-typed document from You must follow me carefully (#1) beside the original document from You must follow me carefully (#1). 

document v original.

original and original.

In The Object of Performance: The American Avant-Garde since 1970, Henry M Sayre argues that the performance document is not simply a trace of a moment now lost (thus marked by absence) but is also an object that has a presence of its own right. It has a ‘double stance’. Sayre states – ‘we experience [it] as presence itself – as a formalist art object – and as a presence signifying the virtual absence of some a priori experience’ (p1). This is particularly evidence when locating the document within the gallery frame as an artwork.

This notion of the double stance is a grounding concept for my current practice. In particular I am interested in the blurring of the seemingly distinct categories of ‘live’ and ‘recorded’.

But occasionally, I confuse myself. Such as when I took a photograph of an original document and a photocopied document side-by-side.

The ‘original’ document holds a double stance. It is a subjective trace of the hour-long live event You must follow me carefully (#1) – as recorded by James Gatt. So its marked by absence. Yet as a physical object in my studio, it has a presence and is an artwork in its own right (it more than likely will be exhibition within the Firstdraft Gallery come September).

The photocopy, however, has no relation to the live event – it was not generated through a process of recording a live situation. It was generated through a trip to the local convenience store and pressing a button. So it is most definitely marked by its absence from the live event.

Yet the photocopy went through a live process (it was brought to life if you will) during You must follow me carefully (#2) where it took the role as a score for a spoken performance – (does that mean it has presence now?). Here we are now, post-performance workshop and the photocopy is pinned to my studio wall. Again it is marked by its absence from the live event. But because it was part of a live situation, it was performed I guess that does mean it can be understood as having a multiple stance – absence, presence, absence. What is more this object can be understood as a photocopy (a document that is not original) and as an original (in that it was the only – if there were multiples of this page – that was activated through a spoken performance).

Define:

– Workshop. 
n) A room or building in which goods are manufactured or repaired. A meeting at which a group of people engage in intensive discussion and activity on a particular subject or project
v) Present a performance of (a dramatic work), using intensive group discussion and improvisation in order to explore aspects of the production before formal staging

Revisiting ‘Off the Route’

Tues 19th June – 11.21am

I arrived at the studio with a hearty list of things to do and a sense of impending deadlines (already!). Whenever I start these residencies I find the first few days/weeks (depending on the length of the residency) are rife with my own stress of not utilizing the time and space to its full capacity. Laura Hindmarsh is familiar with this I think – I once woke her up at some ridiculously early hour by talking in my sleep about how we needed to get up now and start working because I was dreaming about wasting time!

During my time at the Firstdraft Depot I proposed to revisit and extend my honours series Off the Route (If you’re not familiar with Firsdraft check them out here). Its quite interesting to have the time to come back to a work you’ve left alone for 6months or so. One thing I’ve found is that I need to get my head back in the space of the artwork – bringing back to the surface the things I was investigating and remembering the reasons behind certain decisions. Now I should add, because I’m talking like the concepts in Off the Route are things I’ve been uninvolved in for some time – this is not the case. The theoretical concerns that underpin Off the Route are in fact concepts I am still very much involved with and interested in. I’ve just been investigating them in different ways. I also don’t think of it as an area that is about reaching a conclusion/solution through process – rather I think of it as an ongoing investigation (hence the ongoing series format).

FYI: this is the description of the series I included in my proposal for Firstdraft:

How, when so much of our daily lives are fast-paced, where our attention is split by a never-ending stream of distraction, do we understand the notion of ‘experience’? How can we locate ourselves in the ‘now’? What would happen if you gathered a group of people in a space and asked them to perform one simple task, repeatedly and simultaneously for an hour? These were the motivating questions for the Off the Route, a series I began in mid 2011 – a durational live encounter that invites visitors to participate in experimental performative workshops. On arrival to the designated space, participants are assigned one of three tasks: to speak – to read aloud a given quote repeatedly; to type – to record on a typewriter everything they hear; to observe – to watch and listen, taking in the event as it unfolds. All three tasks are to be carried out for fifty-five minutes, at which point everyone ceases and holds silence and stillness.

 Influenced by Fluxus, performance and conceptual art and theoretical concerns of the live event and documentation, Off The Route is a series that attempts to interrogate notions of ‘experience’, ‘authenticity’, and ‘(re)mediation’. While Off the Route is based primarily around live performative workshops, the documentation (audio, video, hand-typed paper documents) are vital components to the series. Thus it is a series primed for multiplicity setting out to deliberately blur the distinction between the live and the recorded. Each individual experience (whether encountered live or through various forms of documentation) constitutes the artwork – there is no criterion for the ‘truth’ in experience, no one location where the artwork resides.

Since coming back to Off the Route I’ve been musing over the texts that were the starting point for series. The quotes given to participants to perform were sourced from a variety of written texts and range from Tim Etchells to Nicolas Bourriaud to Edward Siad and on to statistics from the 2006 Australia Census. Off the Route was somewhat of a sharp turn in my practice, which until that point was focused mainly on installation, and conceptually was engaged with the investigating the contemporary manifestations of multi-culturalism (post-colonial theory) to speak broadly.

The texts I selected at the time were a way to bridge this new interest with the relationship between the ‘live’ and the ‘recorded’ with my interest of post-colonial theory. Looking back on it… I’m not sure its relevant. If it is, should the post-colonial element of the series be highlighted more (although I’m not sure what this would entail)? As I do feel like I have overlooked it through the emphasis placed on the ‘live’ (thus maybe making no longer relevant to this particular series). There is also the idea that these texts are too dense a starting point…

The alternative is to begin afresh with a new set of texts. But what would I choose? And why? And then I come back to this same old problem of ‘authenticity’ and being ‘true’ to the series – if I change an element (no matter how big or small) now would this cease to be Off The Route and become the beginning of another body of work? (Is this even a problem?).

What I decided to do, as a way of working through this problem and to move away from asking a string of questions, was a practical experiment. I decided to take every document from the Off the Route series and read them aloud, one-after-another, recording the process. Afterwards I would consider whether keeping the texts was a good idea or to discard them in favour of ones that seemed more relevant. I thought I might even decide that the starting point was perhaps irrelevant in a series that aims to have multiple beginnings and endings and where the process is more important than the final outcome.

Tues 19th June – 2:52pm

I only got halfway with my experiment (which but this stage was an hour worth of talking). A few thoughts from the process:

  1. the text I initially started with probably aren’t relevant anymore – but the text that I would be working from is far removed from the initial texts anyway – so it probably doesn’t matter what the initial text was. However I thought it would be interesting to ask the participants for my first performative workshop at the FD depot to bring along their own texts. These could be anything from theoretical texts, to scripts, to txt msgs. In this situation I would be setting the controls but the content would be a subjective mapping of the participants interests. This appeals to me as it mimics the subjectivity of the typed documents (which is the participant trying to locate themselves within the present and simultaneously record this)
  2. I also thought it would be helpful to get a core group of people on board for the duration of this instalment. To date I am the only participant that has performed all the tasks as well as participating in all the workshops. My understanding and reflections on the performative workshops are influenced by a layering of memory and this is something I would like to explore further with other people.
  3. My final conclusion is that the text isn’t actually that important – the process of performing and recording the text is. Actually I think the main point was to see if the text would become familiar and then de-familiar through serial repetition. Is this a way for us to locate ourselves in the now?

The other thing that I discovered today was a time lapse app for my phone – hello video documentation! In fact I made a little video of me writing this post. I don’t actually think the quality will be high enough to use to document the performative workshops but I though I’d try it out. You can watch the video here.

Testing receptions with Lauren Brown

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Lauren Brown, Give Me Something to Listen to, Alaska Projects (Sydney), 2012.

I took advantage of Lauren Brown’s recent performance work, Give me Something to Listen to, at Alaska Projects (Kings Cross, Sydney) yesterday afternoon (read more about Lauren’s project here). Lauren is an artist that Laura and I have been in conversation with over the last few months. All three of us are interested in these overlapping ideas of experience, mediation and documentation.

In this performance piece, Lauren asks her viewers to bring along a piece of audio (on a device ready to play – which seriously opens the performance to all kinds of elements. I merely dragged along my over-used iphone, a device I rely on too much these days, but it did occur to me that it would be interesting to use a more unusual device to mediate my audio track). Whatever it is, however fun, great, painful or awful – Lauren will listen to it. My role, as a viewer, is simply that. I watch on, cut out of the sonic experience through Lauren’s use of headphones. But it is still a shared experience for I am familiar with the track that Lauren is listening too. So when she laughs, I know exactly what point in the track she’s up to. I find it interesting to think that Lauren is now mediating, and generating another layer upon, my experience (knowledge of?) of this particular piece of audio.

So what did I take for Lauren to listen to? The last recording of We Are Formatted Memories*. Since performing we are formatted memories on Friday with Laura, it had been playing on my mind that perhaps this work would not be accessible to an outside audience. It is after all quite a subjective experience and performance (see this post for a more detailed musing on the nature of the work). Would it make any sense without any contextualisation? Why would I want an audience to listen to this? What would they ‘get out of it’? Would it just be down right boring?

I gave the track to Lauren without any prior explanation, I have to say I was a little relieved when she started laughing. At least it wasn’t painful or down-right boring. I also asked for Lauren’s thoughts before explaining anything of the work.

She had a couple of interesting first comments – that there was a level of intensity and urgency about it due to the speaker reciting the words at rapid pace. She was also unsure what the text was, but seemed to thing it was definitely a text that was either being read or communicated in some way. I then explained a little about the piece.

A few questions that Lauren brought to the discussion:

  1. Is part of Laura’s re-performance of my initial recording taking on my own ‘persona’ so to speak?
  2. Is Lauren’s act of listening itself another performance?

Was the re-performance about trying to be ‘true’ to the original text or ‘true’ to the mediation of the original text. That is, what decisions did the performer make during the process that determined the outcome of the recordings. This was something that Laura and I had talked about briefly on Friday. For example, Laura speaks French fluently – I do not. And so in the initial recording (I am trying to avoid using the term ‘original’ because I feel it is too loaded with notions of authenticity), I stumble over the French names and terms in the text. Laura, made the split second decision not to correct these in the second performance. Rather these trips and stumbles where embedded as part of the performance – a performance that in many ways is about communication and miscommunication. Part of this discussion between Lauren and myself was centred around the confusion over who was actually speaking in the audio I gave to Lauren to listen to – myself or Laura. Lauren raised the question of whether a musician impersonates the original composer/musician when re-performing their music, or if they re-interpret instead. We decided that it was both.

Listening as Performance. Well yes. Through the act of listening, Lauren was brought into this shared experience. It perhaps would have been interesting to get her to speak aloud as the track was played (which is worth considering to bring into this performance piece), but this was after all a test in reception. But I guess the main point is that the last recording was played out in its entirety to another person who, while only performing half of the initial action (listening only rather than listening and speaking simultaneously), framed and thus mediated this performance through their own understandings and experience. In fact I like that this performance, once played through, can exist as memory – particularly apt considering the title.

One thing I would also like to acknowledge is how difficult it is to frame these kind of works through language. I find myself getting confused when trying to distinguish between the layers… and how to communicate which layer it is that I’m talking about. I tend to use numbers at the end of the title. But I also find myself wondering – is each layer its own performance (I like to think yes)? Or is the whole series combined the performance? Perhaps it’s a case of sub-performances within a whole. I noticed that Laura tends to use the terminology of ‘acts’ when talking about her projection works. This makes sense, indicating to the viewer that each element is its own entity, but within a larger whole (there is also room to include sub-texts with the use of ‘scenes’). Perhaps alternative terminology may be ‘instalments’, or if where are talking about sonic artworks, perhaps ‘bars’ or ‘phrases’ (although I am fairly unfamiliar with musical terminology).

*Side note: Actually I thought it was the last recording – which would have been performed by Laura, bringing it to the 8th time the performance had been repeated. I later discovered that due to my technological disorganised mess that is my computer right now – it was actually the second last recording, performed by me. Oops.

originally post published at http://appearingasprocess.wordpress.com/2012/05/21/we-are-formatted-memories-testing-receptions-with-lauren-brown/

Developing ‘We Are Formatted Memories’ at Ic

Original text: ‘We are formatted Memories’ – Orlan (Orlan, Omnipresence, 21 November 1993, Sandra Gering Gallery, New York; seventh surgery-performance).

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 Boni performing We Are Formatted Memories #3

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Laura performing We Are Formatted Memories #8

I selected a text by random, flicking open the book and simply reading the article I landed on. The duration of the work was to be determined by the length of the article. What I found was three pages by Orlan on performance and documentation. I recording my initial reading with a zoom recorder. I then played this track back to Laura through headphones. She spoke aloud the text as relayed through the audio she was listening to. We continued this performance – relaying the text between us, as mediated by the audio recordings, for a total of eight times.

The task was in itself quite challenging as each layer continued to deteriorate in quality – not audio quality, but rather in communication quality. We would speed up verbally to keep up with the track, but quite often we found it overwhelming to keep track of the audio while keeping our place in the sentence we were speaking. We found that you end up almost splitting your experience – half your mind is keeping up with the audio, the other half is three seconds behind speaking what you’ve just heard. And then there is the accumulation of slips – a spot forgotten, a jumbling of words, new words added – perhaps spoken from memory rather than what was heard. That being said I also found the task quite enjoyable, and perhaps part of this was because it was only a 5min task. It would be interesting to see how much this deteriorated when performed over a longer period of time. Or if the text was particularly complicated and dense.

For Laura and I, this performance task is an interesting investigation into ‘subjective’ documentation, That is, the document, in this case the text re-performed in spoken word, is compiled from a series of split second decisions:

–        do I correct mis-spoken words?

–        Do I stumble if the pervious track does?

–        If I can’t keep up, then the document maps this though omissions (which are carried forward through out the rest of the performance).

There is also this interesting overlap where each new layer obscures the previous through little slips. This is something that we’ve been finding with our daily commutes – if we don’t verbally acknowledge what has happened previously, its becomes an invisible element within the performance – embedded within our memories. It is us that mediates between the experiences and determines what it is that is verbally remembered and what is to be forgotten in the audio track (sometimes this is not a case of self-censorship, but determined by the conditions of that commute – what is consuming our attention at the time?).

I do however come back to this reoccurring question – what would this be like for an audience? Is it accessible?

Perhaps this performance task excites me, due to my own nerd-like interest in the ‘live’ and ‘recorded’ within contemporary art, but would the wider nature of my investigations be conveyed to an outsider?

There is something interesting though in this exercise with Laura, because it’s a shared experience. And importantly – I can’t self-edit myself simply by removing myself from the following re-performance task. I think it is worth asking other people to perform this task.

It is also an exercise I want to try by myself with a longer text for comparison.

original post published at http://appearingasprocess.wordpress.com/2012/05/21/we-are-formatted-memories-performance/