There’s a natural desire that when you show your work which is still in progress, that even though it’s unfinished, the work will actually deliver like it is finished. It’s so odd to have to present works to an audience while they’re (you’re) still raw and somewhat vulnerable. On Friday I presented a Research Performance. I thought of it more as Work in Progress. It calmed me to think of it as an Open Studio. I think it was actually a Show and Tell. I wish it had been an Experience.
After presenting, I can’t help but wonder if there were a better way of doing it. The original plan was to let the audience wander through rooms viewing my works. But I was flummoxed by the fact that I had inadvertently let one of my friends jump on one of my works and broken it the minute before I was ready to let the audience through, which meant that there wasn’t really enough of the works working to let the audience through to see on their own whim without guidance, which meant that I led them through and talking - head - chomped my way through explanations of what I have been dreaming about for each work.
A few of my ideas were around having big ropes swinging in the enormous rooms. One swinging vertically, one swinging horizontally. They would swing so big and so wide that to enter the room, you would have to jump one, and negotiate the circle of the other to enter inside it. When I set out, I didn't realise it would be so hard to get a rope to swing in a circle using motors. So on Friday when the audience came in, one (the one mentioned in the previous paragraph) is completely undone, while the other is swinging in an large, noninclusive S shape.
A phone starts ringing while I’m talking to my audience about ‘natural frequencies’ (they’re the reason why my ropes aren’t swinging in circles). It rings very loudly and annoyingly. I stop talking. Everyone looks at the phone. A guy picks it up. He tries to turn it off, he can’t. It stops ringing. He puts it down. So I begin to talk again. It rings again. I ask if he could just answer it. He can’t! The particular swipe you’ve got to make on that phone to unlock it is very cryptic. It is barely unlockable. It keeps ringing. Somone else tries to answer it. They abandon it. It rings, every tries to ignore it. I keep talking, hiding my inner disappointment. Won’t this distraction help stop me from talking? That call was organised - I had Naomi on the other end calling, she was going to ask the person who answered what their experience of the work was like. My intention is tousled again, thwarted because of the nature of the very machine I am working with.
However! I realised that these very discoveries - the act of putting people and things together, the ‘what would happen if’ sum…. this is the part of creating work that I thrive on, and which I’m inherently putting back into my finished works. I love playing with machines or figuring out how things work, and so I want to invite the audience in to charge or change or react to a call to action that I offer them, and this has the potential to result in chaos. I prefer the sum of these two parts to be successful - in that the audience reacts to the work in a way I had more or less accounted for but which is totally new and enjoyable for them. However, while a work is in progress, this is less likely, and so I just have to learn from the lessons that come out of the chaos.
So, my favourite moments of the day were:
a) Julia (who was helping) and I up 6 metres on the elevator scissor lift, she defying death and vertigo by straddling the sides while screwing in a shaft coupler to a motor above us
b) Sam (who was audience) jumping on the rope and breaking its force. The rope spins sickly, shortly followed by a motor spaz out and flying shaft couplers
c) Realising, while trying not to show it, that the phone call, although succeeding in completely diverting the audiences attention for a while, was not going to mean that someone else would speak for me
& so, this Research Performance was really a brilliant opportunity to get some ideas built and hear people’s feedback about them.
& I must say that these days of research have given me valuable time to think through, plan out and evaluate my personal art making methods and the objectives inherent within. I’ve come out with a wealth of ideas about how to work, ideas about what to work on, and a few works in progress. Thank you to all involved, and most of all to Julia, who has been a constant source of support and suggestion.
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