Contributing to IdeasFromElse[W]here: London, July, 2014.

Reflections and ramblings on an enjoyable day

The many and varied artistic offerings for the drawing sheds IdeasFromElse[W]here project was the starting point, and key focus, for my own contribution, (I think I was lucky to have been there on the final day of the project). I always consider that in being invited to share your own ideas to an art project there has to be a thought that it might be appropriate for your work to be a commentary on the environment for presentation, or on the history of the space, or at least be fitting to the through-line theme set up by those organizing the project and those who have previously contributed. So, despite Sally’s encouragement that I should play with and deliver whatever I wished (reminding me of my own comfort that art is so about personal interpretation – with a sense of isolation), I took the approach to use what was in the space as a stimulus for performance action. This is of course a simple and easy approach to creation, especially as the art there was so attractive. I set to pick a collection of the art pieces (there was not the time to use all of the art that adorned the space sadly), and then observed each art piece separately, extracting and recording basic and obvious aspects of its presentation e.g. observation 1: a photography image of detail with a black circle set in it, the aspect of this was of absence in time – something missing, an sudden gap or emptiness midst action and happening (?). Once I recorded the observations of each art work I then translated them into a performance action. To help form the performance action the observations were categorized as stillness, inconsistency, or repetition, an effort to lean even more on these three elements which exist in performance art. The second art piece I responded to was a stack of sculptured bottles, with the aspects of difference, deformity and hardness, while these suggest all elements: repetition, inconsistency and stillness, this work was categorized as stillness due to the material used: they were ‘rock-hard’ and cannot be reshaped and appeared with a discomfort which shows a lack of freedom, this art piece was performed as an performance action of a stillness which provoked endurance and tightness/stiffness – shown in the body. My process worked with the aesthetic – interpretations of the physical appearance of the art and representing these using the physical – the body-voice. Perhaps I was too occupied (or lazy) but what I thought about only after I left the space that day was that all the pieces of work were conceptual, with (perhaps) a specific message which I over-looked in my own observation of the work; perhaps these ‘black spots’ , these absences set in a photo are a personal expression and symbol of a lost moment or, memory or identity connected to the artist, perhaps it’s a more generic statement on society(?). I wondered that while I am a firm believer that ‘a camel is a horse designed by committee’ (that an idea is pure coming from one artist without interference) I couldn’t help think that had I spoken to the artists and had a detailed explanation of the work, beyond the aesthetic, my response would have been vastly more interesting. And, I am left reminded that while, should one declare themselves so, everyone is an artist, ones art is perhaps more interesting if we took more time to investigate the variety out there, to understand the process behind the presentation. OR is it enough just to walk into a space and engage in whatever way we as individuals choose with a collection of many varied artistic offerings! – well done IdeasFromElse[W]here!

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The next step: Trifling with DaDa

So – the next project! I have for a long time felt an affinity with the concepts included in the Dada art/ anti art movement. As well as an understanding for their methods I hold a great appreciation for the courage Dada artists adopted to dispute the regular methods (in art), advocating the importance of autonomy and imagination. My fascination has led me to want to present a project which is not about me but about others, some selected central figures of Dada. Fascinating to me are Hugo Ball, Walter Serner and Tristan Tzara, the key men of the Zurich Dada movement which began at the Cafe Voltaire in 1916. I am currently constructing a performance proposal to apply for space to carry out a performance experiment which works with research into the period, phonetics, abstract performance presentation and performer-audience engagement. More on this soon…

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An extract from A Hunch, performed at Barkston Art Studios

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New performance: A Hunch

As a result of some research through performance practice (done for my MA dissertation), I created a performance piece I titled A Hunch. A Hunch was, I felt, a fitting title which reflects the notion of improvised acts being ‘a hunch’ rather than premeditated, but also because it captures the re-occurrence of ‘going ‘back’ (made explicit in various ways), which took place in my improvisation workshops which preceded the final work. It also references the line ‘hunchback’, spoken in one of these improvisation workshops. Here, we can see the follow-up from previous work, and how the mind falls on prior practice to as a starting point to generate new ideas when improvising without direction, or boundaries which are not self made.

A Hunch was performed in John Thaw Studio in the University of Manchester. Following this is was also performed at two East Street Arts events. The first was in an all white surrounding, and a further environment of beautiful art work, the second down a staircase at Patrick Studios, Leeds. The piece was created to be performed in a large space – the size of John Thaw Studio in fact. To perform the work without rehearsal in a new and much smaller space was a challenge, this challenge was taken much further by then performing this very physical piece (unrehearsed) moving down and then up a long  narrow staircase. I enjoy these challenges, and allow repeat performances to be kept stimulated by new and unfamiliar performance spaces because you are encouraged to make intuitive adjustments throughout the work.

Following a showing of this piece I received one of my favored compliments yet: ”Now I know how my mum felt when I first played punk music”.

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Working with Idle hands: collaboration with Philip Sanger at Yorkshire Dance, December, 2013.

Working with Idle Hands was a performance piece created by Phil Sanger and myself. I loved this performance – very sad this wasn’t captured on film. All considered following the show it was tough – we were the last of a line-up which comprised of a ‘family orientated’ audience, people had come carrying family pride to see Uncles, Fathers and children dance rehearsed routines and were perhaps not aware that our style was being offered up on the bill.

Our performance was described by an audience member as DaDa – with the added comment that it should be in a New York loft – very pleased about that! I was pleased with our performance because it is sometimes difficult to maintain sincerity for your work when you are shifting between very differnt ways of presenting ideas. I think we also elevated in our ablility to trust and respond to one another and above all feel enjoyment for being in the performance space again!

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Images of the performance Working with Idle Hands

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The VERB Project: collaboration with Philip Sanger, Manchester, July 2013.

69813249The VERB Project (link to a showreel of the performance)

The VERB event: an hour (almost) of improvisation, with very little preparation but lots of resources. Prior to entering the space on the first day of the VERB project (curated by Kathyrn Miller and with a group of very interesting and diverse artists) we had very little discussion on what would be performed there. There were only a few fixed ideas – the use of certain materials, the possibility to return to previously performed text, and the actions of following and interrupting with water and wine – there gave birth to Phil’s title for the piece – ”Out to Dry”. Perhaps little meditation was rightly so, this was site specific response. Some artists spent time in the space working and building creation around there environment in the weeks before the event. As me and Phil are not local and it was some what natural for us to just play in the presence this was an improvisation for us. Phil was well prepared in giving us much stimulus (materials) to provoke ideas – and, too, decorated nicely in the space – the resulting effect of the improvisation in that space was a fairly interesting creation in itself. What was interesting was the difficulty we seemed to feel in enjoy an dresulting a positive performance – this, I imagine, was down to the vastness of material – sometimes there is too much to play with and one experiences a sense of ‘stuckness’. The experience, however, we invaluable, both as a lesson learn’t but a tyest on ourselves individually to see the work through and also on our relationship as perofrmance partners. Above is a wonderfull edited film of moments form the performance.

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Carrying through with Idle Hands – a text response to Philip Sangers post performance text

I am required to tell him that there is no avoiding this. I consistently refuse, foolish considering the longevity. It’s only two turns to grey, isn’t that what he said? Might we say that he believes I understand what’s in that room that sits behind…sorry. Might we say that he believes I can see what’s in the room that is behind him? I would elaborately describe this as a hunchback story for a tiny mouse. Here, each of us knows our place. I’d like to rest beneath his chair and thank him for altering a sequence much abhorred, but, his cries seem to expend the word ‘’heave’’. And then, a doubled-quick sharp-cutting inhale which required total breathing to bring him to his former position, his frown brings him closer to the ground than he may appear, his former position to…start again. It’s just two turns to grey, isn’t that what he warned us of?
He hooks his lower lip as to forward his curiosity. What is clear is the strobes of light escalating towards the next re- appropriation of far-fetched familiar states, now, altered states …ever so slightly, but to tilt, to ponder. He reminds me it wasn’t enough. No matter how much you try occurs to me as he, overwhelmed, pants and crawls slowly from his station. But it wasn’t enough to expel his curiosity. You are a strong one, again (I think), again. He hooks his lower lip as to forward to me his curiosity. I want to lean over and tell him all this could have been avoided, but I need only face the mirror and smile… ‘’tea’’, I ask. It’s ‘’strong’’, its after a time, ‘’satisfactory’’.
What’s that? He asks. I can only look, after a slight glimpse, beyond him, then to the mirror, then to myself. Might he imagine that I have suspicions of that ‘other’ place? The truth is I was matching the gaze of our watcher. Not original, but I’m told that’s the best way these days. Both body and brain are united. I can tell by the way he nods with his words – this time without confusion. I watch myself move behind him and, suddenly, bark that ‘’things don’t last forever’’. But I smile. He asks me if I have had my mouth widened. Naturally, of course, that was the first requirement, and yet he manages, assuredly stood, settled with hands on his hips, open glare as he asks me, he smiles for me.
He stretches the logic of what is familiar to me, I effort to make no heed of parametric change in this much-lived chamber. Chamber…the last refuge for sanity? For a sound mind? Space is distracted by moments of tapping imagined as a polyphonic sound. As time gets smaller and faster these tapping sounds, they gradually increase their frequency. A polyphonic sound which can only be administrated to one door, diagonal from me, to the right of me, and even further away from him. I clasp, grasp and fall to the floor with un-hinged hysteria at the suggestion that in future ‘’things might be quite different’’, then we are both back, forgetting that we were momentarily elsewhere, the strain on my aching jaw a reminder of the sudden (and rare) out-cry at the notion of an altered time.
I want to move forward and tell myself, to say, that all this could have been avoided. Instead, I move into myself. Respite from the effort to be original, incorrectly it seems. I am a watcher as he moves across the space, and as he gestures for the people to part, that he might find a way, I realize that I want a leader, and I smile.

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The Pavlov Syndicate have Idle Hands Collaboration with Philip Sanger, Vantage Arts 2012.

”He’s been sighted on several occasions half-mourning around the lower end of the terrace, adorned in lilies and a daffodil wreath…still to creek, to bark.. it wasn’t enough…I wondered why he’s had that door widened..if I stood on a chair I would be taller but birds on palatial busts are not to be reckoned with…yes rapping on many doors…but it’s so small and the radius has trebled – again!… he’s so small and he rode in and trebled…but the spirals, the spirals they run in my family, they gradually increase their frequency and time moves smaller and faster…”

''just a few more feathers''

Ahhhh. To work with someone you greatly admire is more than a moveable feast! I admire Mr [Philip] Sanger greatly and we had a ball performing our first collaborative piece ‘Working with Idle Hands’ at Vantage Arts 2012. Initially this was a written response to Edgar Allen Poes The Raven – well chosen Phil. This textual response was a mixture of our interpretations of the concepts in the poem, paraphrasing of the poem, direct quotes, speech patterns and paraphrasing from Victoria Wood sketches – of all things – concepts from quantum physics and personal chit-chat from camaraderie. The intention of course was to (sat stationary) visit this text twice throughout the performance and then move into spontaneous action, ‘playing’ with the ideas from the script. Our first performance lent more than a little towards improvisation and play, but I think a delicious way to learn about each other in the performance space. Future perfromances will see the text subjected to specific instructions which will allow us to experiment with various concepts in theatre, though the improv/ ad-libbing will always be there – Phil is some what of a master at it!

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A commissioned solo work as part of ArtistsNorth’s Beyond The Parasol: NSCD, 2012.

Working with Artist North: Beyond the Parasol performance Video

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