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.
In the last two weeks I’ve jumped from concentrating on how I was going to make work into actually making it. Following the path I outlined in the last blog below, there’s a big jump around e) to g). It’s so nice to take time to investigate objects but things jump to a whole new level when you want to animate them.
figuring out through constant mistakes about how centrifugal forces work by tying a ropes in various lengths and weights to various motors attached to a beam in the garage.
not taking Physics at school.
slashed a guy in Mitre Ten with my new LED light ribbon when he said to me, as I walked into the timber area, ‘Sorry ma’m the craft aisle’s back inside’.
in love with:
builder’s line - the string saturated in fine blue chalk.
bemoan the fact that:
PIR sensors have a 4 second delay.
have hours of joy:
patching code in the interactive software Isadora. It’s when I feel a real sense of flow, in the zone of problem solving, piecing things together, making.
6 wonderful people took part in the workshop on Saturday. We basically went through a condensed version of the process below. I realised that it’s very very hard to explore an object and not be mostly influenced by it’s visual aesthetic, and almost wish I could conduct exercise A) in blindfold, in the hope that we could really try to understand these objects in a very new way. A few interesting moments came up, especially when we were experimenting with how to lead the audience into and through a work. How do we know when a piece is finished, when there’s no blackout and clapping? How do we lead people in when there’s no usher and seat numbers? We realise we are very dependant on certain protocols to feel safe. We realise that even in very subtle changes in a set-up or introduction can result in a wide variety of emotions in the audiences approach.
Sometimes you bring two things together in the hope that, because you like them both, they will complement each other and lead you on to another level. Cinnamon & banana. National radio & the 45 minute drive into town. This week I had a few hours of dilemma when the theatre excercises I had thought would be helpful, providing methods for leading and guiding one another/ audience, did not help in creating an experiential, interactive ground for play. I had thought an old path would assist me in a new navigation. It did not. Perhaps it was just the choice of exercise, but a string around my finger didn’t lead me anywhere useful. Actually, that’s not entirely true - where it led me was to realise that a new path needed be forged.
Success is the result of failure. Onwards, concentrating on the exploration of the Call to Actions around us. This is my new exercise:
a) Put some things in a room. Go to each object. Ask it these questions. Ask them with your body. Poke and prod, displace and explore. Listen.
What have you been made to do?
What do you ask me to do?
Where are you, why are you here?
How do you work, what are you made of?
How do you want me to treat you?
How can I notice you more?
How can I look at you in a different way?
What else can you do, that is not your main function or objective?
b) Then, ask yourself:
How can I give this one character?
How can I accentuate or negate it’s functions?
Can I team it with some other objects to bring out new features?
When I place it in such a way, or pair it in such a way, or move it in a such a way - what is it's Call to Action, what does it ask us to do?
c) Then, ask yourself:
What would this experience of the Call to Action be like for the audience?
How is the CTA interactive?
Can I team the object with some of the other objects to invite an interaction?
d) Then, ask yourself:
Is this at all interesting?
e) If it is not interesting, leave it. If it is interesting, then concentrate on how the CTA experience involves the audience in these four steps:
f) Then, invite audience to experience the CTA. Notice:
Do they respond to the CTA? If not, why not?
If so, how?
g) Then, refine the CTA around those four steps again
e) If the CTA of the object would be improved with assistance:
imagine what the objects could do
figure out how to make them do that
pull things apart,
mash them together,
attach sensors to them,
These exercises have resulted in my exploration of the CTAs in skipping ropes, fan heaters, architectural chalk lines, automatic insect spray dispensers, and mobile phones. I’m also soldering up some motors and reprogramming a spotlight.
I’m quite fascinated by our mobile phones and how disruptive they are in our lives. My mentor comes to visit me in the studio. Before she comes, I leave my phone with it’s alarm on, in the far corner of one of the dark empty studios. It rings, it’s sound echoing throughout the hallways. The mentor arrives, and in the midst of our greeting, she is fumbling about in her bag. “My phone’s ringing, I’m not sure why”, she says. I suggest that it might not be her phone, and invite her to follow the sound. Hearing it bleating makes both of us feel anxious, urgent and strange, and relieved to turn it off. Such a violent Call to Action, the ringing of our phones!
Later, to end the session, I want to use the phone again, this time to create a more pleasing experience. With us both in the same room, I call my mentor, and by talking and suggesting routes, I guide her out of the room to find a key, unlock a door, and explore dimly lit spaces. I guide her back to me. We both enjoy the degree of separation and collaboration, and adventure. We are both autonomous, and physically distant, but hearing and speaking together - navigating, participating, conversing, collaborating.
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