An end to the head and all that ‘follows suit’

Time to move on! I have had an enjoyable run of improvising absurd sequences from (and around) self created text, formidable images and stolen dialogue from 1970′s televisons series – in which the tedious in life is the most important – but my head is no longer being pulled out of my colon and thrown into the stratosphere to land on the floor and melt with the various coloured masks which crumble beneath my ‘far too heavy feet.’

Initially the process and style of performing was to learn about myself, to escape to a manageable world where I could make clear decisions to leave one happening and enter another, to see myself string all these slight images together to produce a firm and effective narrative and to be larger than I could in life in the performance space (where for some bizzare reason I could allow an audience to watch me get excited without the aid of alchohol).

I have observed three seperate modes of delivery which have consistently arisen in my solo work – the sentimental and profound self (always directed to an audience member or an imagined being in the space with me), the head-strong, upper-class and dictative self (prob a Welsh feminist in atual reality – though I view myself as masculine in the performance space) and the derisive, out of control and sometimes humorous clown.

The next move is to seperate, exploit and expand these modes of delivery with material that is researched – that is informative, that which has more of a bearing on others lives – though feed back tells me the simplicity and abstractness of my comments might have made more of a connection to the audiences interests? Time to think…

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A new piece: Read my mind and dance for me

Read my mind and dance for me.

Myself and Alex Herod (following more than a share of a bottle of vino) arranged to work together on a new piece after individually concluding and sharing that we would like to partner up to devise and deliver the methods of performance we were both interested in with a fresh concept. Also, and perhaps more importantly, we wanted to confront oursleves with techniques in performance which we had not yet approached in our own solo works. We were aware that when you are used to working solo and structuring your own process for creating work it is difficult to compromise in a new partnership and work through workshops in a constructive and fair manner. What is essential is that mysellf and Alex have respect for one anothers individual work and we are very patient with one another. Alex thinks in a much more conceptual manner than myself – wonderfully mind-mapping the effectiveness of an image before presentation and exploration – and thankfully very up for trying variariations on an idea.

We had very limited workshop hours living in different cities before presenting this work for the first time. The first presentation of our idea at NEWK at LAB shone a light on the areas first and foremost to be altered and concentrated on to have a more effective piece – the changing of the materials (heavier bandaging to allow seperation of the individual strips, heavier table to remain stable throughout tugging), (for myself) delivery -speaking internally or directly to the audience and the focus on our individual task in the piece and our performance of that task – for myself I allowed time restriction for the seperation sections to interrupt my concentration on my task of reading and digesting the text which affected my improvised speech in a following section. However, now we can ask ourselves certain questions: should there be a time constraint on each task? Or should the priority be freedom of time to complete the task ready to move onto the next section when we are both ready to do so – of course this then affects our relationship and awareness of one another in the space – do we want this? Is it necessary to make decisions on our influence of one another prior to the perfmance space? Is it important to share with one our knowledge fo ourselves in the space – whether, after a duration, we are likely to be influenced greatly by the audience or the soundtrack or the text or the other in the space – and does the latter suggest the risk of role reversal – is this okay? Okay just skimming the surface with thoughts now but much to discuss with Alex.

What was very useful was people resposn at the QandA session at NEWK following the evenings performances. I am reminded to concentrate more on the work for the audience – what kind of work are we making and what are the compelling aspects of this perfromance type? – we need to develop a piece which is fresh and interesting for a specator from a psychological point of observation and appears as an intriguing concept without compromising our own desires to inject (and reappropriate) the much recycled techniques of performance we are individually excited by – the most prominent being found in the works of Samuel Beckett.

What is exciting for me (and I hope Alex) is that, as discussed, the actions within this piece seems to lend themselves to a durational performance (Alex’s idea which I would love to challenge myself with) which will allow the spectators to witness variant psychological delivery as tasks have to be repeated – words may be lost, spoken with greater effect, greater speed, with fatigue or excitment, bandaging may be more constricting or tasks not achieved – how does this effect the alternate performer – individual coping mechanims are revealed. The duality of Alex and myself involved in different action may synchronise, contradict, be simply representative of any relationship or seem potently abstract…Now to discuss how the end becomes the beginning, how this can become a cycle of psychological indulgence and enjoyment!

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An unedited video of my recent improvisation

Meeting resistance. First and foremost listening to yourself (‘arrested stillness’ in motion throughout the performance) – listening to yourself enjoying the time. And, in the background the audience, who help shape what is delivered – keep you from monotonous repetition, encourage you to use the space, to make new suggestions away from the last, to encourage you to go further away from yourself … and much more. what fun!!

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Temple Works performance

This performance ‘That which has been smoked…’ consists of prewritten text (which is delivered in still pose from within the wall) and improvisation from this prewritten text and a preconsidered image of happenings. The attached video shows the section of improvisation.

The script (which can be read two posts below) is a stream of consciousness in response to the question ‘if I was restricted within a hole in the wall for a long period of time and I couldn’t see people but I knew they could see me what would I feel and think?’ This question was the first thing that came to mind after visiting the venue. This performance, then, derives from the shape and state of the space in which I was to perform.

If I am proud of this work (and others in the past, as they, as yet, do not differ greatly) it is because I have been brave enough to abandon my objectivity to spontaneity, to now exceed the point where I am working to pull relevant phrases in my improvising, in hope of creating an interesting and sentimental vison for the audience. Now, for a few moments, I find an authority that is very natural and new, an enjoyable feeling of control and purpose in which everything matters. I am unmoved by what verbally and physically comes out (wether it may look right or wrong) I use it, as though in that struggle there is something very human and important to convey, a self confessed emotion that I hadn’t realized was there. One in which I’d hope can be related to by those watching.

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Working with Rage.

A mans work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover through the detours of art, those two or three great simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.

Albert Camus

I don’t mind admitting my fear before starting this project. Every solo artist knows what they want from their work, they understand their individual interpretations and have their own way of communicating. Working with two artist’s with whom I was a little intimidated gave me second thoughts – but how could I miss this opportunity?

We all researched heavily in preparation of a project in which we had a loose impression of the outcome.

The first day, for me, was difficult but the general attitude from my co-workers of respect and trust within the value of our previous, present and forthcoming work had me relaxing and trusting in the following days of the process myself; a project in which I was ready to compromise and learn, and I did.

Essential learning’s are of the power of the un-tampered image, the creation of an intimidation, a sensation and feeling in the space before or perhaps without any over-worked physical action or verbal contribution. And, for what was the most enjoyable experience for me, the utilization of vocal and physical contributions in work, creating a spiritual presence for the spectator.

I would have never have expected to make the fortunate discovery that I could, so much, enjoy the performance space both with other artists there while understanding the value of (in favour of learning a new way) leaving my own ideals behind.  In fact, if anything, my passions were escalated, but like Nick commented ‘we are all growling to the same twisted hymn’.  Rage Actions was led by Nick Kilby and performed by Nick Kilby, Alex Herod and myself at Bradford’s Theatre in the Mill on July 23rd 2011.

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That which has been smoked…performance text and images


…Held high I stuttered by. It wasn’t in the picture it had just stained the glass above, tracing the glass above; apparent but not involved. How would that black satin finger joint feel down that white velvet torso? The feel of the end of that finger? That long, long finger? The door is prodded, pressed and pushed through to that small yellow, murky yellow box occupied by snake. Snake passing by. Though… never looks down…always ahead always to the side of the wall. It is frightening in its concentration. And on this carefully placed white table there is a sentence waiting to be finished…to be aware but helpless for it.

…On it’s arrival the picture is easy to me. The outward familiarity. The outstretch of the bones to pinch…pinch…grasp and pull in, pull through with it, through…with it. Up on their ends. In this instance it is the sound that is the graphic of the body. It holds hugs, maneuvers and pulls up, pulls up, up on their ends. I can’t live, work, beyond this line, this bright white line you have drawn. And though, drifting by, finds a way unplanned, unpredicted, pure ease intuition and it talks its way in, in it’s own way, through over and out. I am invaluable in this. This place, in this back ground of yellow.

…Limbs immobile but you’re able to hear malignant mutterings from behind a peep-hole, a curious sensation, that. To be aware but helpless…

…A cancerous kind of terror, starting in the gut and then spreading like a dangerous fire. I detest enclosed spaces as much as I hate control. So maybe you’ve asked the wrong bloke.

Photos by Liliy Bob Cat

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A new performance: The Story of Sitting Crow – text and images


On the second seasonal rising of the brightest star in the lake of sky, Sitting Crow felt a fire, furious, expanding and impressive in his stomach. Sitting Crow asked the tribesmen in his village why he could feel a fire he could not see. The men did not know, for they had never known a fire they could not see, or indeed a fire they had not started themselves. But they did not for a moment doubt Sitting Crow. He knew he had been given an honoured opportunity to regenerate the new or reunite with that which had once passed, but like all those chosen for a special adventure you must wait for the adventure to take you up in her arms and carry you away, for you cannot wish to question that which resides inside your belly.

Three days following Sitting Crows realization he was dazed in observation at a raven hopping amongst the tall grass.  Sitting crow transcended into a vision in which the raven flew in front of and ahead of his gaze. The raven moved to the right of his sight and danced with an eagle. With synchronized footsteps the birds declared

‘you will find the fire in the wings. Listen to the words, the words are in the wings’

Sitting Crow looked ahead of his sight and all he could see was an empty open space of dim blue light. A black line descended from the sky. It was a row of black birds which all landed together and started tapping their feet in exact rhythm. Also in the vision was the crown of the court, the moon, smile stretching from cheek to cheek, tapping to the rhythm of the birds, which birds Sitting Crow did not know. He could also not hear any words from the wings, only sounds from the feet.

He decided to question the birds but as the fifth row came down from the sky it was noticeable to him that here was an empty space amongst the row. Sitting Crow stared at the empty space in wonder at it’s possible significance. Then he heard the sound of the tapping slowly ebb away. The birds stared at him, as he stared at the empty space. Then, one by one, they lifted their wings to turn and look too at the space. The sound from each their wings revealed a recognizable difference from the one following and preceeding it…and there came the most haunting rhythm that made the fire inside Sitting Crow just big enough for him to…

Photos by Vicky Trueman

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Action without reflection

Photos by Vicky Trueman

So, Art being, well, whatever you want it to be, but undeniably about creation, criticism (of life), rearrangement, progression and personal gain (self development and healing) it’s inevitable that it would be centred on the study of people and behaviour. For me it’s a very natural direction to want to master a skill in which all these above developments can be used. The improvised and frantic dialogue I perform allows me to do this. The discussion I often have with myself on this way of performing is always on the topic of ‘for me or for the audience?’ Feed back has taught me that the audience is divided on this; either they find it brave and compelling or it is commented on as self indulgence.

I am then reminded that I unavoidably judge myself and others on genuineness in performance – though who am I to judge or to know somebody else’s authentic dedication? If a performer seems to be uninvolved in their action, bored or clearly reading out a text which they have grown tired of then of course you can hazard a guess as to their real emotions being one of wanting to be else where or wishing they were playing another part in the drama. For me, the most transparently honest performances take on both a clear spiritual nature and a willingness to leave yourself vulnerable in what you are doing – you have no choice but to lend yourself completely to it. This is the direction and continued challenge in my own work.

Returning to the point of self indulgence, I suppose this too is unavoidable as I cannot filter my speech, and therefore my dialogue and therefore my thoughts cannot be subject matters which I think, or would guess, would be relevant to the spectator. However, in this abstract expressionism the words are recognized, the sentences are accepted, even if they are not logically linked together and the images created by the spectator differ from one individual to the next. Imagery and text aside it is on a very basic level that I might relate to the audience, one in which they can find attractive my presence of spontaneity, my physical and verbal recovery, my confusions, wit and aggression, because they too are human beings who have all these qualities.

Everything that emanates from the unconscious is symbolic. Those who do not react emotionally to our antics are cold and calculating, certainly wrapped up in some intellectual framework. They are incapable of enjoying life.

Jerome Savay

Though Savays’ Grand Magic Circus may have moments in which they themselves, or their audience members, act in an unconscious fashion, completely unaware of their actions, my own efforts are to encourage subconscious behaviour. I am not intentionally saying a particular comment or aware of what verbal declaration will follow but I do hear myself speak and I catch on to the suggestions in my imagery to therefore respond to it and link those comments later through out the piece. I do agree with Savays’ point that encouraging alternate states of play other than conscious action from performer or participant are important within any Art. It is in this domain, as I have formerly suggested that I may find a shared energy with those that watch me.

Without our knowledge, the life of the unconscious is going on within us. The more the critical reason dominates, the more the impoverished life becomes; but the more of the unconscious, and the more of myths we are capable of making conscious, the more of life we integrate.

Carl Jung

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A new solo piece: The Story of Sitting Crow

As I recall my first solo piece started by focusing on form in favour of content – me in the space with my chosen object considering; how do I move and manipulate it, what is my physical structure, frame, my wants and will in the space and time I have.

Having learnt, then, the value of form, for my next work I would begin the process with a stimulus for content, as an alternative to manipulation of the physical to then summon present thoughts and commentaries.

Researching the beliefs and habits of Native American Indian tribes led me to read a collection of folklore stories which were originated, preserved and passed on from such a culture (the words in the stories don’t change but the manner in which the story is told changes significantly from each individual to another). I fantasized on the myth I might pass onto my descendants and how I might deliver it to them to justify their attention. The story of Sitting Crow was written.

Having researched stimulus allowed me to experiment further on presenting variations of a given theme. Included in the piece were physical figurations of ritualistic dance, abstracted sentiments, natural story telling and impromptu text sourced from the prepared text (the Sitting Crow story).

Along with my chosen object (this time filled with paint for visual effect and metaphorical representation), the speed dialogue made up of improvised thoughts which concentrated in the theme of ‘searching’  so fundamental in my first piece, I was not ready to leave. This style of performing was the only access to presenting the subconscious self and this is my first and main interest. I wanted to see how this mode of behaviour would sit in the context of action that was opposing – straight forward story telling and still, statuette gesture.

In this mode you leave yourself vulnerable to the audience, being uncertain of subsequent behaviour in this improvised frenzy. The uncertainty is what I wanted to work on and make an art of.  I had decided that I was to repeat a set structure: extreme physical gesture and text, story telling and then improvisation from story. This was to occur three times in the piece.  However, I had no fixed point in which I moved from the story to the improvisation and as the performance develops and I move through the pattern again the modes interrupt one another. When I repeat the pattern for the third time I am improvising through most of the sequence and the story of sitting Crow is changed and fragmented into what preceeds and follows it- the work becomes humorous and less predicted and, I would hope, charming and obvious in it’s courage.

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The Fibre Skirt

While confident in my own emerging performance style I always recognize the importance to keep constant learning present from those more experienced. I became involved with Pointed Arrow Theatre’s couragious project for Light night 2010. This consisted of written scripts inspired by popular stories from around the globe. The short stories were told by individuals in seperate sections of the space in a convincing environment where spectators were free to walk into a piece of mythical history and take in as many stories as they wished. The performance area (Left Bank Church) was divided into four continents, my chosen area of research and story placed me in the African quater. The script The Fibre Skirt was written by myself and edited and directed by Pointed Arrow’s Dan Brown.

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