Please join us in watching, experiencing and celebrating new Site-Specific performance works from emerging LSFPA 2nd year artists. The performances are the result of 12 weeks of research and exploration into the area at the top of Lincoln’s remarkable hill and focus on the unusual, the overlooked, the public and the private.
Please find more information via the links below and be aware that 2 of the performances require you to download audio in advance of your arrival.
“Site-specific performance can be especially powerful as a vehicle for remembering and forming a community[…] its location can work as a potent mnemonic trigger, helping to evoke specific past times related to the place and time of performance and facilitating a negotiation between the meaning of those times”. (Harvie, 2005, cited in Pearson, 2010, 9)
Our Site Specific Performance took place on the 6th May 2015, around the Bailgate and cathedral area. We invited people on our course as well as non drama students. Our performance looked at the 1185 earthquake which destroyed a lot of Lincoln, including the cathedral. We hoped to inform people about what happened as it is not a very well known event. Our performance was aptly named Disturbance to reflect both the disturbance of what the earthquake would have created, as well as the everyday disturbances that people experience e.g. screeching children and bumping into people.
One of the first theories we looked at during our Site Specific module, was the ‘drifting’ theory. Starting in castle square we went on an adventure around the top of Lincoln, moving around a place without any set destinations or pathways to follow. This technique led us to areas of Lincoln which tourists would like, such as the high water tower and the Roman well. It also led to other places they would not like, such as the public toilets which no doubt have had their fair share of visitors.
During one of our seminars, we were set the task of listening to Adrian Howells’ podcast, created for The Guardian (2011). ‘Everyday Moments’ is a podcast series created by theatre producers, Fuel and Roundhouse Radio. Each of the podcasts is created by different artists.
The nine minute audio track featured an assortment of noises and sounds. The instructions were to listen to it in bed, in the early morning with a hot drink. I did not follow these instructions and this may be why I experienced different reactions to the podcast comparted to other people. Due to the variety of experiences I had, I knew I wanted to create my final piece using audio as the main focus. As even though reactions to the piece may not be what the creator (or I) set out to accomplish, the listener still experiences something stimulating from it.
The other main influence for our piece was Janet Cardiff. Her name was brought up by one of the members of our group. Lizzie liked Cardiff’s Memory Walk, whereas I had more of a connection to Cardiff and George Bures Miller’s FOREST (for a thousand years) (Cardiff Miller, 2012). I enjoyed the back to basics, simple performance which was an audio piece in the forest. The tranquil surroundings were highlighted by the sound installation. Gregory Volk says,
“A remarkable thing about Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller’s utterly captivating sound installation is how it blurs distinctions between site and art. You enter a clearing in the forest, sit down on a wooden stump, and simply listen. Cardiff and Bures Miller’s work incorporates the actual forest into an audio composition emitted from more than thirty speakers. Sometimes there is a near synchronicity of natural and mediated sounds, and it’s tough to discern what is live and what is recorded.” (Volk, 2012, cited in Cardiff and Miller, 2012).
I completely agree with Volk and see what Cardiff and Miller were aiming to achieve; their piece could open up the mind, allowing the audience to think about the space for themselves but with some stimulation in the background to help them accomplish this.
Analysis of Process
Our performance went through a few changes before we had our final piece in place. From the start we all liked the idea of an audio walk but we also wanted to add a twist onto it. One of our ideas was to have our audience participate in an audio game (almost like a scavenger hunt). The idea of incorporating the cathedral into our performance intrigued us so, bearing this in mind, we looked around the building for some ideas to use. That was when we came across the war memorial part of the cathedral, the side room dedicated to those who perished in WWI, WWII and the most recent wars. It was quite daunting, walking around that room as there were historical artefacts such as old battered Union flags from the different time periods and old records which listed the dead. It struck a chord as in that moment the wars became all too real and also highlighted just how important Lincolnshire was during the wars and even to this day, how many RAF bases there are in Lincolnshire. We knew at that moment we wanted to use this as some sort of basis.
We were going to start our audience off with a pre recorded tour which would have instructions on it to follow. We had the idea of having a choice of three walks so that our audience members could experience different things and could discuss their findings with each other. One of the walks would have incorporated the war memorial in the cathedral. The audio would include bomb sound effects along with the audience being told to duck or find somewhere to hide. Their path would have started at the castle, thus including the historical elements of wars and battles and would have led to the cathedral. We would also have told the audience members who were taking the tour, facts about Lincoln during the war.
Inside the cathedral (Cleasby, 2015)
The only problems we thought we had with this idea would be getting the permission to go inside the cathedral and use it as part of our tour as well as the issue of entrance fees. However, it took us a while to realise that our first idea was flawed from the start as the RAF is connected to Lincolnshire, not Lincoln itself, making it not specific enough for our site and therefore our performance. We were also over complicating our performance by wanting to include two different audio pieces; one was the ‘war tour’, where the listener would be surrounded by bombs detonating, air raid sirens and bomber planes flying over and the other was a new idea of the 1185 earthquake, which we had little to no information on, as we had hardly researched it.
The next contextual idea was the theme of ‘Heaven and Hell’, using Exchequer Gate in front of the cathedral to represent ‘judgement’, leading our audience around the cathedral in two separate directions, which would be determined by the ‘judgement’ cast on them. This idea was scrapped due to the unperceived negative religious connotations which could be connected to the performance. We also did not go along with this idea because we felt as if we had just picked something at random and run too fast with it; there was no rationale behind this idea. We soon found out that this idea was not the direction we wanted to go with our performance.
Our Final Performance Idea
Upon showing the RAF idea to our markers, we also showed them a second idea which was the 1185 earthquake in Lincoln. We were told that this was an interesting path to go down and that we should pursue this concept further. This led us into researching more about the earthquake, whereabouts in Lincoln it had hit and what was the damage it caused.
We found out that the majority of the cathedral was part of a rebuild which was caused by a few earthquakes and a fire which had destroyed most of the building. The cathedral as it stands now is a lot bigger than its predecessor. With each different destruction, new parts of the cathedral were slowly built, renovated and restored.
The audio was the main element and force of our Site Specific performance, (our route was important also) but I felt that if our audio was not up to scratch, the performance could fall flat. I took a step back from creating the actual track as I have limited technical knowledge and I was aware that I did not know how to use the software. However, I always gave my feedback into the track as it went through the processes of change.
With each new edit, I believe our audio improved greatly. The sounds became crisper, the rumbles became more understated but very powerful and the inclusion of definition of an earthquake added a subtle element; there is never any specific mention of an earthquake, but it is casually described during the opening speech. Maybe an audience member would understand what we meant from it, maybe they would not. It is down to personal perspectives and that is why we wanted to include a verbal part at the beginning, encouraging the audience to think.
We also decided to include the ‘call for information’ at the end of our track. This was information our group found when researching the earthquake in the archives of the Lincoln Library. There had been a call put out to the neighbouring cities asking for any information surrounding the 1185 earthquake. By adding the definition and the ‘call for information’, I think that the audio track was drawn together in a conclusion. However, we did leave the audio piece slightly open ended, allowing for questions for our audience to think about. ‘Did they know of anything, did they have any information that would help with more research and knowledge into this specific event?’
In my opinion, I think we left creating the audio track to quite late in the day. By doing this, it sometimes became hectic to fix any bugs we had in the track. If we had created it sooner, we could have done a few more edits and versions on the piece, during our different dress runs, allowing for it to flourish a bit more and making for a better listen. However, I understand how difficult it can be in creating an audio track, therefore, I think the track we created in the time we had is a very strong piece of performance.
The next idea was to construct the route which our audience members would take when participating in our Site Specific performance. We knew we needed a route which held importance to the whole performance. I was set the task of finding the route and I have to admit that I found this difficult. I was in charge of this side of our performance going back to our idea of the RAF, and as mentioned previously, there are no connections to the RAF around the Bailgate area. So when we changed our idea, I thought it would become slightly easier, but I was wrong.
Researching a route with a specific need in mind was difficult when I did not have that much information to go on. Other members of the group were looking into the history of the earthquake and relaying the information back to myself. Even this did not help me all that much to begin with, as I had no idea where to start our performance from but I know we wanted it to end facing the cathedral.
Looking at the cathedral from Exchequer Gate (Cleasby, 2015)
However, my problems were fixed when during one of our meetings at the top of the hill, I was told an ideal route had accidentally been found; from Newport arch to Exchequer Gate. This route would serve a few purposes: firstly, our performance would start and finish walking through the arches, so that the end would mirror the beginning; secondly, the Newport arch is one of the last remaining Roman arches and the only one used for everyday transportation; lastly, the arches were at a distance from each other which would work with our audio track, as it allowed for the build up we needed to create the desired effects.
Newport Arch (Cleasby, 2015)
Exchequer Gate (Cleasby, 2015)
After walking this route and listening to the audio during dress runs, we found that we were through Exchequer Gate and looking at the cathedral too soon. The audience would have been waiting for the concluding events for too long. Therefore we decided to slightly change our route. We kept it the same but told our audience to ‘loop’ around Castle Square; this gave more time for our audio to reach its peak when our audience were at the cathedral, but without making them wait too long for it.
We also decided to introduce the walk at the start. Lizzie introduced the audio walk to our audience, explaining what they were about to participate in but without giving too much away. She also provided the audience with some facts and information about the history of Lincoln, and the two arches.
Kia was placed at the end of our route; she was there for the audience members to relay their thoughts and feelings about what they had just participated in and to answer any questions they had.
The day of our performance was a very wet and windy day and I had some reservations about whether the people, who said they were going to turn up, would actually come and I was right to have had this doubt. Including our two markers, Disturbance had five participants. This was considerably lower than the group had hoped for. The turnout became disconcerting during our performance as it felt as if all the effort put into our performance would go to waste.
Out of the three participants (not including our markers) we received feedback from just one. She liked our piece and enjoyed the total collapse of the cathedral when sitting looking at it and taking it all in. The problem with not having any feedback was that we were meant to send a questionnaire or evaluation for the audience to complete and send back to us. This was never completed and therefore was never sent to anyone. This was one of the problems we ran into; we never found out how the participants felt about the experience of Disturbance.
As to whether the final performance triggered any new ideas, I have to say no. I do feel though, that myself, Jess and George could have had more of an involvement during the actual performance but as to what that could be, I have no idea. I know we needed to be spread about our route just in case there were any technical issues but I feel as though we could have done a bit more.
I think the slow build of our soundscape worked very well. The casual rumble which was underneath the ‘real life’ noises helped bring a feeling of suspense, without giving too much away. Then as the audience was sitting or standing (whatever they felt inclined to do), looking at the cathedral, the rumbles would increase into this loud and shocking collapse of the cathedral. On the other hand, I believe that there were a few technical glitches that were not meant to be in among the other purposeful glitches. I think if these were noticed then this would have taken away from the experience, bringing the participant out of the mind-set we were trying get them into. By sorting this out, I think that the audience could have achieved a deeper level of connection with our audio walk. I also think that we could have increased the length of the audio track, therefore increasing the length of the walk. This could have amplified the depth of experience for the participant as there would have been more to listen to. I also think we could have had a wider variety of sounds; the natural high street effect worked well, but sometimes it became too ‘same-y’.
If I were to perform this again, I would make the above improvements, but I would also like to do the performance on a sunny day, again giving the audience members a different experience. This would be a hard change to make as the weather is very unpredictable.
I would also include a feedback questionnaire or form; the audience would either have been given this straight after the performance (even though that could disturb the thoughts of the participants if they filled information in after experiencing the audio walk), or via email at a later date. I would make sure I would have a way to obtain information from the audience which could include: ways to improve, things they liked and did not like as well as their thoughts about the audio walk.
I can say that I have learnt a lot during the Site Specific module; I have learnt that ‘performance’ is subjective and there is more to ‘performance’ than just acting. However, saying this, I can truly say that I do prefer the ‘straight’ acting which leans more towards Shakespeare than Yoko Ono. Even though the module has been an eye opener, I know it is not for me, but I accept this as everyone puts their own stamp on drama, theatre and performance. The whole objective is to make you think and this module did just that.
“Site-specific performance – acts of theatre and performative events at landscape locations, in village streets, in urban situations. In houses, chapels, barns, disused factories, railway stations; on hillsides, in forest clearings, underwater. At the scale of civil engineering; as intimate as a guided walk.” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)
Our Site-Specific Performance module began back in January 2015, with the chosen site of Uphill Lincoln. It was a tough, yet eye-opening experience which challenged and contrasted the theatrical conventions we were thus far used to. Given the opportunity to explore uphill Lincoln and its surroundings, our group chose the cathedral grounds as our site route. We specifically focused on the ideals of walking round in a loop, following the route back to the green where the audience first begin their journey. This route underlined our piece as a metaphorical representation of the life cycle: how we grow, who we meet and how our paths interlink. Most of these things we take for granted and our site piece aimed to bring these questions to the forefront – letting the audience take an individual journey to discover and reflect upon all the little things that surround them.
‘All precious things, discovered late’ was an audio-assisted journey surrounding the grounds of the Cathedral and through Castle Square. Since the very beginning of our process, we had all been fascinated by the amount of perspectives people had on the Cathedral, whether that was through story-telling, myths, personal experiences or overheard conversations. As stated by Persighetti, Site-Specific work has to ‘deal with, embrace, and cohabit with existing factors of … architecture, chance … incident.’ (2000, 12). Relating this to our piece, we went into this challenge head on and decided to ‘embrace’ the site as a performance, adding layers to its pre-existing history and allowing for small suggestive ‘incidents’ to help guide us on our serendipitous process.
As our piece developed, it became apparent that we had generated an underlying theme of a pilgrimage of life: looking at the place afresh and being able to recognise if there had been any change. Our audio aimed to connect one on one with the audience member as a companion, telling them snippets of their own life, as well as highlighting key points of significance on the journey. Incorporating Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem The Cradle Song and the Seven Ages of Man speech from As You Like It, we were able to create a solid route which is an appreciation of everything around them – the same way they should in life.
Our Performance took place on the 6th May at 11.00am, lasting approximately 20-30 minutes. The audio for our piece was uploaded to our event two days in advance, giving them the opportunity to listen to it beforehand if they wish, or waiting until the day to experience it. It started informally at the green with a picnic blanket, with Jess and Megan welcoming people to the performance and presenting them with the gift of a scallop shell as a symbol of acceptance before embarking on their journey.
An Analysis of Process
Opening our eyes to the ideas of ‘space’
Whilst conventional theatre takes a play and refines its meaning into the given space, Site Specific involves making a performance that ‘responds to a place from the perspective of an outsider’ (Govan, 2007, 121). Performance artists look at a space and draw meaning from it – whether it be cultural, historical or philosophical, it generates a narrative for new perspectives to arise. It can happen anywhere at any time and for any length. Henceforth when reading Mike Pearson’s Site-Specific Performance, I realised that spaces around us, whether neglected or bustling, withhold meaning on their own. It does this by engaging with ‘site as a symbol, site as storyteller [and] site as structure’ (Wilkie, 2002, 158). Simple moments of a loud conversation, a torn up piece of paper on the floor or an interesting architectural design all have a story to tell. Site-specific performers can then take these as documentation and reinvent a new or reflective meaning for those who are visiting or those whom know it extremely well.
Site, representation and perspectives
When originally exploring the site, I took many photos of documentation to reflect what intrigued or inspired me about the uphill surroundings. Having lived in Lincoln for over a year, it would be more than likely that I would carelessly walk through the site without really taking in every aspect of its culture and history. As described by Phil Smith in the chapter:The Handbook of Drifting, he encourages that individuals who partake in Guy Debord’s ‘derive’ (also known as a drift) must look for a theme: textures, the old, the new; looking for meaning in everything. This type of walk described as ‘drifting’ aims to detach us from our comfort zone and take chances on where a walk may take us. Debord developed a concept known as ‘pyschogeography’ – intertwining our conscious everyday critical thinking as a ‘playful encounter with [a site]‘ (Govan et al, 2007, 141).
Arlene Sanderson talks about ‘Wrights and Sites’ for those interested in the performed activity of ‘walking’. A manifesto was created which depicted how they wanted to generate walking that ‘engages with and changes the city, it recruits the arts not as passive expressions, but as the active changes of it.’ (1991, 70). Me and Megan decided to act upon the idea of playfulness and decided to view the courtyard as if from a child’s perspective. The benches near the well were the safety zone, whilst the shape formed on the floor further away from the well was the deep dark depths of the underworld. We found that we shared a common interest in exploring the themes of ‘playfulness’ and ‘perspectives’ with Charlie and Jess, and this formed our group – on the basis of our ideas.
Experiencing Audio Performances
After our last session, I went home and listened to a few audio pieces, mainly The Guardian Culture Podcasts, which are meant to be listened to independently as an individual type of performance art. Now, when originally asked to participate in something like this, I wondered how an earth something like listening to audio could be classed as a ‘performance’. We listen to audio through our headphones most days, don’t we? Some listen to music whilst walking to various locations, some to podcasts of their favourite radio shows and much more, yet I had never once considered this to be a performance.
The first audio I listened to was read by Adrian Howells and is number eleven in part of the Everyday Moments Podcasts, whereby audience members listen to this ‘audio drama’, in order for them to participate in and become their very own ‘private performance.’ (Howells, 2011). Each audio in this series are to be listened to at different moments throughout the day. This particular one is to be listened to in the early hours of the morning whilst sipping on a hot drink. His welcoming and down to earth tone of voice really made me feel at ease and by the end of the audio, I felt like I knew him.
I also listened to Fuel Theatre, in their collection of ‘While You Wait‘ for something, which is supposedly there to produce ‘a moment of reflection’. (Fuel Theatre, 2015). I took part in the first one called ‘Waiting Now’ and found something very intriguing about this piece. Unlike the Everyday Moments Podcasts being audio from one individual, Fuel Theatre culminated various different sounds, recordings, and telephone calls. There were lots of pauses to give the audience member time to reflect, which I found really quite intriguing as a performative action.
Initial ideas and sparks of inspiration
Having formed our groups, it became quite a struggle to spark initial ideas of where to go and what to do first. We decided to go back to basics and think back to previous tasks we had done whilst exploring Uphill Lincoln. We thought back to last weeks’ session of misguided tours and decided to write down any ideas or places that seemed to spark any of our interests during the day. Here are some of the things we listed to look at or research further:
Looking at the space with a child-like mindset – interview children about some of the pictures we have taken surrounding the Cathedral?
The Archways around the Cathedral – Stepping back in time, like a time capsule: the old and the new.
The Hut, or ‘pixie’ hut as we referred to it outside the Cathedral – what myths does it have. Could we combine fact and fiction into our piece?
Alfred Lord Tennyson statue – research some of his poems and reflect them back into the space in some way.
The picture of the man’s head coming out of the wall. What is his story?
The theme of ‘walking’ and going on some sort of tour.
This came from the inspiration of Robert Wilson’s ‘Walking’ in North Norfolk. Where they were told ‘don’t be afraid to walk too slowly’ (Hyder Dewachi, 2012). A journey that changed the way the viewed the space. They instilled a large tunnel in the country which deprived them of visualising the space around them, yet allowed them to use their other senses more vividly.
Interviews and collected recordings
In development of our ideas from our last session, we felt it might be quite difficult in obtaining recordings of children, so we decided to switch up our idea and interviewed people of various age ranges, some questions referring to the picture below. We really wanted to pay homage to the variety of people that inhabit the space and their perspectives upon the site.
Roberts, C. (2015) Headless Figures
One of our questions was ‘what do you automatically think of when you see this picture and how would you describe this if you were conducting a tour?’ Looking back now, it is clear to see that these questions were particularly vague and open-ended, thus meaning not all of the recordings had the impact we had quite hoped to achieve. Nevertheless, here is an example of one of the first recordings we have as documentation of our interviews:
After writing a brief script together, and as I was chosen as designated voice for the audio, I began to record a rough idea of what we had written. For a first time recording, it was successful in the way that it was clear and directional. One the other hand, it was recognisable to note that my tone of voice was too robotic – like that of a stereotypical ‘tour-guide’. Since this was not our intention, we decided to go back to the drawing board and spent hours choosing specific wording to make our audio more successful.
Feedback upon our initial ideas
Once we had decided on the specific areas we intended to use as part of our tour, Charlie created this map – pinpointing the significant places to listen to the audio and what way to follow the route:
Roberts, C. (2015) Map of our site
We felt that the audio on its own was not strong enough to earn its right to be a ‘performance’. Thinking along the lines of childhood creativity, we thought it might be interesting to link the thoughts of the audio into a short activity. For example, in our second site (Tennyson statue) we had a recording of a young girl reading the ‘Cradle Song’ poem. We then wanted our audience to reflect upon how they felt about it, by drawing with chalk on the floor.
When receiving feedback from our lecturers, they believed that audience members given the task to do something – won’t willingly do it, or we would curate a piece that puts pressure on the audience. Conan suggested that they may worry whether they are doing the right thing and may feel a little patronised. They also felt that although the map was detailed, it would take away from our ‘observe’ everything intention. Whilst Conan and Rachel were intrigued by our layers of perspectives, they suggested that if we were to work more solidly on constructing a detailed audio script, then that would be the performative experience itself. Rachel also suggested that if we were interested in playfulness, then gifting the audience and being generous to them may be the way to approach our work. This lead us to research into Proto-type’s performance of ‘Fortnight’ which became a huge influence on our work. Their work is ‘an exploration of what it means to ‘be here, now’. Part theatrical magic, part philosophical treasure hunt’ (Proto-type, 2015). Interweaving with that of our subtle ‘orchestrated serendipities’.
We had been discussing perhaps the use of bringing in another text that was relevant to the stages of life. It immediately reminded me of Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like it’ and Jacques’ notorious Seven Ages of man speech. In order to trial this we recorded an elderly gentlemen reading the speech, as presented below:
Taking a change of direction
Over Easter I wrote up our detailed script (Audio-Script-First-Draft) and highlighted points that perhaps needed reworking or more substance added to them. Once we met up to go through this, it became apparent that our main theme was to be gifting or making subtle coincidences of ‘orchestrated serendipity. After having a read through of our first drafted script, Rachel felt that it was almost becoming like a pilgrimage. Not in the religious sense, more to experience something through new eyes and for things to have ‘changed’ for them along the way. As we noticed that we were gathering interviews from people of all ages, we began to think of the audio as rather a ‘journey’ than a ‘tour’; to develop into some sort of reflection or become a physical metaphor of our human life cycle. Having now incorporated Shakespeare’s ‘Seven Ages of man’ speech, we wrote down (without hammering it in too hard) the specific part of our site that reflected each stage of the speech
The Judgement Doors at the beginning represent inquiry – The moment of hesitation before taking a leap to participate in something.
At first ‘the infant’ – Tennyson’s Cradle Song.
The ‘whining school-boy’ – The sound of school children and reflective questions on childhood.
Then the ‘lover’ – The sound of wedding bells with confetti scattered on the floor.
A ‘soldier’ – Castle Square, the people walking in the space become the ‘marchers’.
The ‘justice’ – Exchequer gate and the library above, along with questions reflecting life up until this point as they pass through the gate.
The ‘lean and slippered pantaloon’ – Here there would be further rhetorical questions about their journey prior to our performance.
Lastly – ‘second childishness and mere oblivion’ – The speech itself read aloud by an elderly gentleman.
Audio and the implementation of Scallop Shells
On our trial run, we suggested our idea of ‘gifting’ our audience with Scallop Shells, as an acceptance of embarking on our journey. This idea stemmed from that of ‘Crabman and Signpost’ in their A Sardine Street box of tricks, whereby they asked their audience to make a mark in the salt to confirm they were ready.
Our first audio recording was a complete shambles and our feedback completely shot down all the hard work we had previously spent hours on. What we hadn’t realised was that by being directional, we had become too forceful and placed pressure on the audience. There were words which would not be used in everyday conversation and some directions were wrong. However, personally, I feel this was a very important stage in our process in order to get back on to our original ‘playful’ tone of companionship.
For our second audio recording, we wanted it to be as authentic to our everyday conversation as possible. Therefore we recorded our own process of discussion:
We then transcribed our rehearsal, ready for our recording. Once ready to record, I then spoke our words as casually as possible, as if talking to Megan, Jess or Charlie.
Janet Cardiff’s audio walk ‘The missing voice’ bestows an insight into familiar spaces that are perceived as ‘new’ when ‘other presences and resonances are called into being’ (2001, 5). When our audio suggests moments from their life: ‘I came here the other day’ could make them question the last time they walked through that same space. A performance piece therefore ‘owe[s] its character not only to the experiences it affords as sights, sounds, etc. but also to what is done there as looking, listening, moving” (Pearson, 2010, 16).
Here is Audio One of our final collection to ‘All precious things, discovered late’:
Naming our piece and marketing the event
‘All precious things discovered late’ is a line from one of Tennyson’s poems called ‘The Arrival’ in his collected works ‘The Daydream’ (1842). We felt that this line within the poem wholly encompassed our reflections upon our audio journey – making them think in a philosophical way and appreciate precious moments in life. This made me think back to Duncan Speakman’s ‘subtlemob’: ‘As if it were the last time’. It opened people’s eyes to the everyone around them and made them think: what is their story? Are they participating in the same thing I am? The power in audio can be so overwhelming and we had hoped that through our journey, people would feel some sort of emotion, especially at the end: the detachment of the Audio’s voice saying ‘This is where I leave you now’; making the audience feel very alone.
Our event was published on 17th April via this link: https://www.facebook.com/events/729015657221978/ and invites to this were predominantly students. On here we advertised it as an ‘eye-opening audio assisted walk around the grounds of the cathedral and passing through castle square.’ (All precious things, discovered late, 2015). Originally, we had intended for our audio files to go live at midday on the 2nd May, however, with difficulties getting the audio polished, we had to push the date back to Monday 4th – which still allowed time for people to get in contact if they were having any technical issues.
Trialling the audio and our final run through
Our last run through went successfully and this was the point we felt extremely proud of the work we had produced. The feedback this time were only picky things that stand out such as some words needed changing to sound more realistic and timing for paues need to solved, but apart from that everything else worked very well.
All precious things, discovered late (2015)
On the day of our performance, the weather was miserable, however, this did not deter us. Before arrival of our audience, we had pre-planned serendipitous happenings around our site, such as confetti for marriage; they may not get the link, but if they do it produces a uniquely special moment for that individual‘ and can become a lasting part of the story of that place” (Pearson, 2010, 16). Due to the rain, we only had two audience members. In a way this kind of worked in our favour – as it presented them with a more personal journey. Having the audio on their own devices means that they may stumble back upon the audio in the future and be able to reflect upon or re-do the audio, to see if it has changed their perspective of the site or themselves. If we were to expand our performance further, I feel that our ‘roles’ within the performance could be more succinct. Perhaps have more offerings of gifts in order to obtain our style of generosity?
Allison Hui depicts how Site-Specific ‘works of art are meant to provoke affective responses … by seeking to change perspectives and spark new views of social relations or social spaces.’ (2011, np).Through life, wherever we go, there are changes; in ourselves, the site and the way in which we view it. With the symbol of Scallop Shells representing our journey, if audience members come across another shell, it invites the possibility of reflection upon ‘All precious things, discovered late’ and the experience may, once again, be reignited.
Scallop Shells ‘Orchestrated Serendipity’
Crab Man and Signpost. (2011) A Sardine Street box of tricks. United Kingdom: Blurb Inc.
CIRCUMSTANCE (2009) OFFICIAL “as if it were the last time” – 2009 subtlemob video. [online video] Available from:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FY6S4GkCZ9c [Accessed 10th February 2015].
Etchells, T. (1999) Certain Fragments: Contemporary Performance and Forced Entertainment. London: Routledge.
Govan, E., Nicholson, H. and Normington, K. (2007) Making a Performance: Devising Histories and Contemporary Practices. New York: Routledge.
Holloway, L. and Hubbard, P. (2001) People and place: the extraordinary geographies of everyday life. Essex: Pearson Education Limited.
Hui, A. (2011) Art as an everyday intervention: shifting times, places and mobilities in the pervasive media performance project “Fortnight”. The Association of American Geographers’ Conference, New York, 25 February 2012 [unpublished].
Kenneally, F., Langer, M., Martin, J. and Robert, C. (2015) All precious things, discovered late. [performance] Fleur Kenneally, Megan Langer, Jess Martin and Charlotte Roberts. (dir.) Lincoln: Lincoln Cathedral, 7 May.
Lees, G. Petralia, P. (2011) Fortnight. [performance] Proto-Type Theatre. Bristol: 2nd – 15th May.
On the 6th of May we will be performing our Site Specific performance piece ‘Nothing Happens Here Apart from Us’ in Castle Square at the following times 9-9.30 am, 12.30-1pm and 5.30-6pm. We have chosen to perform throughout the day in small doses as we thought these times would presumably be the busiest times of the day. We also wanted to show a ‘working day’ 9-5 with a lunch break; hoping that passers-by would see us at least twice in the day which would seem as if our piece had been continuous, when in fact it had been different performances.
Our piece consisted of two of us, myself and Tania becoming a ‘hub’ a constant in or piece to be the centre of our performance. We intend to be using a GoPro camera and an iPad, I will be wearing the GoPro on my chest moving with the CCTV camera situated on the side of the Magna Carta; for example if the camera is pointing Up Hill I will turn and face the same way. Tania will have her back to mine and will be hold the iPad; using a live feed we will be showing what the GoPro sees through the iPad. We hope that audience/ passers-by will understand that we are trying to mimic the CCTV camera and where it looks. The hub is also used by Lucy, Brittany and Charlie who represent ‘researchers’ and ‘feeders of information’. We thought it would create a cycle of information, here is a diagram of how we propose to represent the cycle:
As it is show in the diagram above, Lucy, Brittany and Charlie will be using mapping to follow civilians around Castle Square, documenting their exits and entrances on a map and then pursuing said persons route. They will be following as many routes as they can with each half an hour slot, then will compile their results by overlapping the information they gathered at the end of the project. As will Tania and I with the videos we recorded. The researchers/ feeders will also come back to the ‘hub’ when they are inactive for over two minutes. We want to push the idea of an operating system and how we are all being controlled by CCTV cameras. A survey estimates that there is ‘…one for every 11 people in the UK, although the BSIA said the most likely figure was 4.9 million cameras in total, or one for every 14 people’ (Barrett, 2013). We wanted to create a piece that had the main influence of CCTV cameras and how they are always watching us, and how people don’t notice they are even there.
Our main influences for our piece are the political theatre group The Camera Surveillance Players which we have used ideas around their work with CCTV cameras; more around the physical aspects of their work. Also we have used Tehching Hsiehs’ work called One Year Performance 1983-94 and how he made a performance around documentation and how that documentation was also a performance after the original performance.
Analysis of Process
In one of our first lessons/workshops we were taken around uphill Lincoln, and were introduced to audio walks and tours. After this lesson I decided that this was something I would like to do for my final performance. I wanted to create a Ghost Walk but with the element of audio based on local ghost stories and myths. After looking into audio walks and listened to some myself realised that by adding the element of ghosts make it more interesting. I found that they can be quite emotive and interesting in the sense that you can learn while enjoying a ‘story’ of the local area. When it came to forming a group I found other people that were interested in the same concepts and the five of us came up with basis for our piece.
Our first mind map of ideas:
The workshop following this lesson we went into our site and started to gather pictures and create stories in preparation to show Rachel and the class our ideas here are some of the pictures:
We then, a week later presented our ideas to Rachel and the rest of the class, we were given the following feedback:
Not to make a Ghost Walk and to keep away from the idea as the ideas we presented were too similar to the ones that already existed.
Research into the history of the site in further depth as not to repeat the Ghost Walk that already exists.
We need to have a reason as to why we want to peruse this idea.
‘Nothing Happens Here Apart from Us’
After realising that our ideas for the Ghost Walk were too similar to already existing pieces we decided to go in a different route. We came up with a new idea based around CCTV cameras; this came from another one of our workshops in Castle Square, specifically the one on the corner of the Magna Carter. We thought that it would be interesting to look at people and how they crossed the space, thinking about why they were there, where they were going or coming from and how they actually crossed the space.
We decided to base and call the piece after something a group member heard; “Nothing happens here apart from us” which a member of our group had heard a local say, as we were on one of Rachels’ tours which made us look like tourists which the we think provoked this view. We wanted to capture ‘us’ so we decided that an interesting way to do that would be to use time lapse photography which was already one of our interests so decided that it would be a good approach for our new piece . We would then compile them to present a , by doing this we could show our subject (everyday people) happen slowly, yet when put into a time lapse video creates a smooth impression of motion. A subject that changes quickly is transformed into rush of activity.
Here is a ‘map’ of a basic version of our site and how we propose to use the roads, as directions to film our time-lapse videos, we also have used these angles because of the CCTV camera and how it moves to watch these angles.
Taking time lapses towards these 4 directions will hopefully allow us to capture different angles of activity in the square, mimicking the CCTV camera movement. We also thought of about a live feed for by using a laptop stationed in the Magna Carta pub, so audience members could come and see what we were ‘performing’ live outside; with a GoPro that one of us would be wearing following different people around the square. Alongside this we will have 2 people in the square holding iPads that will be showing the time lapses we have taken and the other 3 people will be moving around the square following people as they cross and/or will be wearing a GoPro doing the same thing.
This week we focused on putting together the pitch for Conan;
We went back to previous weeks plans and we have decided to scrap the idea of the live feed to a laptop element of the performance. We want an accidental audience, not a forced one, so we thought that the idea of pushing our audience to take part in a viewing would not be appropriate, if we had kept this idea we would also be heavily relying on an audience which we just cannot be confident that we would have an audience or be able to provoke interest.
For our meeting with Conan we did a trial run of our technology (iPads) in the site as they are a big part of our piece, they were working well until we actually had to show Conan. This has shown us that we cannot rely on technology because they can be very temperamental and unreliable so we would need a backup plan for the real day. Conan seemed to like the ideas that we presented, he especially liked the element of CCTV and the concept of time-lapse, though he did say that they would become tedious and an audience would catch on what we were doing near immediately. Conan also explained that we were never going to ‘be’ the CCTV cameras but to still use the concept of CCTV and how it constantly watches the square, he also wanted us to take our ideas to the next level.
Ideas/revelations after the meeting
Look into retrieving the CCTV camera footage of the meeting
Look into the Freedom of Information Act
Go Pros – incorporate a live feed this way instead
Time-lapse videos; cannot incorporate into our new idea so will use as documentation rather than in our performance piece
Look into the Surveillance Players theatre group
Following our meeting with Conan we agreed that it would be good if we tried to get some actual CCTV footage so we came up with an idea for a performance. We perform the piece to a CCTV camera (the one situated on the corner of the Magana Carta) for 30 minutes. We called it a ‘CCTV Ballet’, we took some inspiration from a group called the Surveillance Camera Players who have done a lot of CCTV performances, their performances/ protests focus on political issues and say that “The surveillance camera Players are not watching you. They are watching the cameras, because we have forgotten to.” (Surveillance Camera Players, 2006) We are using their ideas of performing to the camera to create awareness of CCTV cameras and how they are constantly watching.
How we decided to execute the ‘ballet’ was to choose 1 person to be in constant view of the CCTV camera, so when the CCTV camera moved so would Tania, then the remaining 4 of us were to walk from different points/ entrances into and out of castle square, using Tania as a turning point; so we would change our route when we had walked around her. We used Tania as a point of contact to show that she was the continual part of the piece, we did this part of the piece for 15 minutes then decided to try something different. We then thought that it would be interesting to walk in any direction across, through Castle Square, Tania still being the constant and following wherever the CCTV camera pointed next. But instead of walking away we decided that we would all stand in a line facing the camera, count down from 10 then disband in different directions and repeat this when the camera moved again.
I personally found it really interesting and actually quite enjoyable; which I didn’t think it would be. We were all quite apprehensive and nervous at first but then after the first 5 minutes we were all enjoying ourselves. It was really interesting to see people’s reactions to what we were doing, passers-by were confused, and some were interested in what we were doing which was good because they stayed to watch, also workers were giving us odd looks as we moved around the square.
To get the CCTV footage we’ve had to do some research around how to retrieve it and who to contact. We have to two points of action either to make a Freedom of Information Act request or we may be able to get the footage through Lincoln City Council.
After reading about environment and cityscapes in Mike Pearson Site Specific performance and thinking about our own piece I am unsure if this quote is realistic, not after researching CCTV and how many cameras are in the UK. ‘In the city, we can be anonymous. This perhaps increased our freedom of action. We can be who we want to be without pressure of communal sanction. We are free to create the identity we desire through our choice of clothing, insignia, behaviour…’ (Pearson, 2010, 97) I do believe that in the city we can become anonymous especially for example workers in hi-vis uniforms, we know they are there but actually do we notice them? As they are so obvious in the clothes they wear they seem to become invisible. It is interesting that he mentions behaviour as our piece is connected to how people behave when they know they are being film and when they do not realise they are.
In the Easter break we had a meeting and discussed the Freedom of Information Act, we have now emailed Lincoln City Council asking about how we would acquire the CCTV footage in time for our performance; as the government website said we had to give them at least 40 days to get the footage to us and are awaiting a response. If it doesn’t arrive we will just us it as another layer of documentation but we hope that the council will accept our request as we are all interested to see what our performance looked like.
We have recapped on what we want our piece to be and have created a contingency plan for the next few weeks, including rehearsals, our dress run and our actual performance. In our next rehearsal (tomorrow) we will be testing out the go pro and iPad live feed for our dress run Wednesday.
Dress run will be on Wednesday 22nd April at 2.30pm
Assessment performance will be on the Wednesday 6th May at:
9am 30 minutes
5.30pm 30 minutes
We now know that we need more practice with the GoPro, we used it on two runs of our piece and it was temperamental at times, we have to now rethink our idea slightly as we found that to get the live feed from the GoPro to the iPad myself and Tania have to be in range of each other. We have also had our dress run with Rachel giving us feedback on our piece along with our own feedback of our piece:
Create a type of base or hub for myself and Tania to represent and be stationary throughout the whole piece.
The GoPro is a branch of the System of Surveillance – the CCTV camera is controlling the GoPro which will hopefully show that we are all being controlled by an unseen force
Create a stance – somehow frame the GoPro
The ‘hub’ is part of a bigger system– the feeders are feeding us with personal information then the ‘hub’ will pass it onto the higher power
Think about mechanisms and choreography of the ‘hub’ be like clock work
We need to make a leaflet with information of what we are doing in the space with web links to the blog and our Flickr. For people to look at our findings understand our concept.
People with maps need to look more purposeful and in more unison also create a choreography. Also follow people more closely, if we do this it could show the difference in behaviour we might see if they realise they are being followed.
We will be sure to address all of the comments Rachel gave us along with our new ideas in our next rehearsal, the final rehearsal before our actual performance day.
A Performance Evaluation
We didn’t have the best start to the day; firstly it was a very windy day and the sun was not out to bring tourists or anybody out into the square. We had set up the GoPro ready to start our first performance but when it came to 9 o’clock everything seemed to go wrong. We were just about to start when the iPad lost the live feed signal so therefore what the GoPro was seeing was not coming up on the iPad so we had to improvise, we used the front facing camera on the iPad to also record anybody who walked past. It was interesting to be in a very obvious view to the public but many people just ignored us or moved out of the way of use because they thought we were taking a picture.
I find it intriguing that people walk past CCTV without a second glance but when you have a camera out in the square they behave differently, either moving so they’re not in your ‘shot’ or one woman commented on us ‘people are so nosey nowadays’. Which is the response we wanted as it shows that we were intruding into peoples lives.
After our first performance we were determined to make sure the technology would work but we were again disappointed when our technology failed us again, so we used the same improvisation as our previous performance. We were always worried that technology would be an issue, so we rehearsed multiple times with the technology in the site anticipating the worst, it was disappointing for it not to work, again.
The last performance we did was close to being called off because the weather took a bad turn, as our performance happened in the middle of a rain storm with the wind nearly blowing us over. Thankfully the in our last performance our technology worked and it acted in the way we wanted it to. It was interesting to see that more people noticed us because of this. It was the fact that we were still stood there while the rain came down that attracted more puzzled looks from passers-by; if we had just been tourists we would have gone into one of the cafes or bars for cover. The best interaction happened in our last performance; a man walked past as said “have you been there all day? I saw you this morning when I went past.” This was perfect, had we been there an hour earlier we would not have had that comment. Referring back to my Framing Statement this is one of the things we hoped to do; make the performance look continuous and we achieved this for one person.
Overall I think by having three performances we were able to use each as a gave us comparative results and were rectifiable experiences. We used everything that went right in our following performances and tried to amend our failures.
If we were able to perform again I would like to do two of the same concept performances at the times of 9am-9.30 am and the 5.30-6 pm but instead of the performance at 12pm I would like to do another ‘CCTV ballet’ as I personally really enjoyed the concept of it.
Nothing Happens Here Apart From Us is a site specific performance which is taking place in Castle Square, Lincoln, on Wednesday 6th May 2015. There will be three performances, all being half an hour long, beginning with 9am – 9:30am, then 12:30pm – 1pm and finally 5:30pm – 6pm. Nothing Happens Here Apart From Us is a piece that explores the notions of CCTV and political power in order to conduct a social experiment in a local context. The aim is to explore and gather information on the behaviour of people using the space when they are openly being observed, in which we will record on a personal level and further advance to a wider system.
Our methodologies include the use of liminal space, pervasive media, documentation and a choreographed structure in order to appear as a larger system. Our piece echoes a political theme, which at first was only coinciding with the fact that our interest was towards the notions of privacy and how the abundance of CCTV cameras in this nation abolishes it. It quickly progressed due to the fact that we realised our performance was the day before the 2015 general election and became a main topic in which our work was closely related to.
During our performance we will be using maps to draw the routes that people take across the space. The space in which we map is the liminal space of the Castle Square, which people mainly use as a crossing to get to their destinations. Our tracks stop printing at the exits and entrances of the space, likewise; when we take the route ourselves, we stop at what can be interpreted as an invisible boundary. This is because we are part of the larger scheme and it is where the perimeter ends for the CCTV.
The use of a live feed will be actioned with a GoPro camera and IPad, which will allow the audience to see the space from the view of a CCTV camera operator. The two group members holding the system will be classed as the ‘hub’ and will move accordingly depending on the when the CCTV camera moves. They will therefore be controlled by a higher political power within our own circumstances. The tracks and information that the map drawers gather will be the feed to the bigger system. Every time that there is no one to follow, the map drawers will return to the base and resume when they see someone else. We will use this scenario in comparison to a larger scale version, which is how the CCTV all over England is fed into the government system which is used accordingly.
The influences which helped frame this piece consist of both individual and group theory and practice. The works of Mike Pearson and Emma Govan where the main contributors towards beginning the process as we used exercises that can be made relative to a space. Other inspirations involve the Surveillance Camera Players, Tehching Hsieh and the Panopticon concept.
We chose not to advertise our piece as it was dependent on an accidental audience, because if we knew we had people coming to see it their presence will ultimately be false as they weren’t going to be there naturally.
An Analysis of Process
During the first workshop of Site Specific Performance, we were invited to explore ‘subtle mobs’ which consists of various instructions for those in a specific space. The version that the class received incorporated a section instructing us to ‘locate and gather proof of the following’ which consisted of one suggestion in particular that caught my attention; ‘an escape to the roof’. The outcome I was so busy looking for was right under my nose, and arrived through divine intervention. In The Place of the Artist Emma Govan explains that ‘Within contemporary performance, site-related work has become an established practice where an artist’s intervention offers spectators new perspectives upon a particular site or set of sites.’ (Govan, 2007, p.121) This was thought provoking; an artist’s intervention doesn’t simply have to be showing someone a new way of looking at something, it can be made through suggestion, timing and a sort of planned, hopeful coincidence of recognition. In this case, the instruction of gathering proof suggested a photograph, in which offered a new perspective seen through the camera lens to get the result I was looking for.
This new perspective was carried out through other tasks in the forthcoming weeks, and played a big part in the process of our performance. It helped another group member and I create an unconventional map of our site, in which we used a picture of the stone floor as a bird’s-eye view to create a small village based on the depths and shapes of the stones. We took inspiration from the artist Slinkachu who is a photographer that creates installments using miniature figures in life size settings in order to create a perspective photograph, whose blog can be viewed here: http://little-people.blogspot.co.uk/
Photo: (Hind, 2015) Photo: (Hind, 2015)
Above is my creation, and I figured that there was no need to be 100% realistic in what I was doing and this allowed the simplest of things to become important. This notion has become very relevant and useful in site specific performance as it has taught me to look beneath the view.
Arriving from the theme of not having to be realistic, our initial idea was based around the Cathedral where we would do a mythology based misguided tour. Our mythology stemmed from pictures and thoughts we had toward historical aspects. One of our main focuses was the use of time within our piece, as we wanted to explore how things happen over a time period, which lead us to the idea of using time-lapse videos. After much discussion and feedback, we realised that a lot of what we were doing already existed in forms of ghost walks hosted in Lincoln Castle Square. To avoid similarity and to ensure that our idea was original we decided to move away from the idea completely, which included moving away from the Cathedral too.
To get some new inspiration we decided to use Mike Pearson’s ‘Some Exercises Towards Relating Space’ in the livelier Castle Square. An exercise that stood out to us the most was in section three, asking us ‘After visiting a location: What would you have remembered had you gone there without a camera?’ (Pearson, 2011) We all agreed that the one thing we all noticed was the large CCTV camera situated on the front of the Magna Carta Pub.
Using this feature, we looked into the implications of CCTV, gathering facts to shape our idea. ‘The British Security Industry Authority (BSIA) estimated there are up to 5.9 million closed-circuit television cameras in the country.’ (Barret, p. 2013) And Nick Pickles suggests within the newspaper article that ‘With potentially more than five million CCTV cameras across country … we are being monitored in a way that few people would recognise as a part of a healthy democratic society.’ (IBID) Our motive became about raising awareness of the fact that we are an incredibly highly watched nation, and from this we created a social experiment in which we would explore the behaviour of people when they are openly being watched by others in public.
We began by observing the CCTV camera on how often it moved and what was in view at different angles. From this, we decided to set up our own recording equipment to film using the effect of time-lapsing, to mimic and create our own CCTV, which on the performance day would be shown back to the audience via an IPad. This was to go against the usual limitations of being recorded on CCTV and never getting the chance to see it back.
However, after receiving feedback that we would never realistically embody the CCTV camera, we decided to use this as secondary documentation. We acknowledged that the best way to intrigue the audience is by being so engaged in our own work, instead of staging something for the audience. This produced an idea that we should perform to the camera itself, which quickly became labelled a ‘CCTV Ballet’. This broadened the experience of working with CCTV as we were able to connect on another level to the operator and it became about being controlled by an unseen force. The inspiration to perform to the camera came mostly from a group called the ‘Surveillance Camera Players’. On a 1984 performance video they quote ‘The surveillance camera Players are not watching you. They are watching the cameras, because we have forgotten to.’ (Surveillance Camera Players, 1984) To watch this video follow this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RILTl8mxEnE
The idea was to retrieve the footage and involve it in our final piece, however when we applied to get it from the Council, it was going to take up to forty days minimum. We couldn’t rely on the chance that it would arrive in time and again, had to use this as secondary documentation along with our time-lapse videos. If the tape doesn’t arrive until the assessment period is over, the tape still counts as a process, and will be external documentation that will continue to exist outside our performance.
In the end, we resorted to a live stream of video, in which we would use technologies to portray a tunnel of surveillance created in the space which made our piece more interactive.
Photo: (Nothing Happens Here Apart From Us, 2015)
Also, to counterbalance the space on a personal level, we referred back to the use of perceptions in our early lessons of Site Specific Performance and used mapping to track people’s personal routes which lead to their destinations. We selected a piece of the site in which we overlapped a bird’s-eye view map of the entrances and exits to the space.
Our group shared a lot of the same traits as the Surveillance Camera Players, but also differed in the sense that we were mimicking the traits of a CCTV system to raise awareness, while they performed to it. This created slight differences with our pieces due to our audience. With the Surveillance Camera Players, they wanted the message to go straight to the higher power, whereas we want our audience to acknowledge, interact and become involved with our piece whilst it was being received by the operator.
Other forms of documentation were compiled through pictures of the process, which involved dual layers of time. Documentation was an important aspect of our performance and we wanted to make sure that we had lasting, external evidence of us performing. The idea of representing layers of time arrived from the artist Tehching Hsieh, where the performative act of documentation was his performance. The result of the collected documentation at the end was just an exhibition for his works. The performance we studied and took inspiration from was his One Year Performance 1980 – 1981. A Video of this work can be viewed at this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvebnkjwTeU
We used similar traits to Hsieh in the forms of documenting our process for it to be external, though he underwent his method in isolation as opposed to us wanting to be in the public arena as we were interested in reactions. This is because, as our piece was progressing, the site was becoming ‘…a ‘potential’ space, a place for enquiry and invention.’ (Pearson, 2010, p.25)
FINAL DRESS REHEARSAL
Our dress rehearsal ran with no technical hitches, although it appeared to confuse some of the spectators. I personally had a gentleman mistake my clipboard of tracking as a drawing when I was stood waiting for someone else to follow. We also had no interaction with each other as a group and didn’t really seem to connect which affected the flow of the performance.
After our rehearsal, we received some feedback that would solidify our connection of the mapping and the CCTV tunnel. To achieve the appearance of a system, it was suggested that we should work on our body language during the performance. For the group members holding the tunnel, they would stand back to back and rotate in sync depending on where the camera moves. This was in order to appear as a mechanism similar to the camera. We decided that there would be no or very little interaction with the audience, and we would create flyers to point them to out blogs and Flickr site which would hold the results. This would help us achieve ‘…a creative act of interpretation and intervention, all of which depend on where you are standing, when and for what purpose…’ (Heddon, 2008, p. 91)
For the people drawing the maps it was agreed that we would all have a uniformed clipboard, in which we would hold up whilst tracking and following, and hold it by our sides when we were ‘inactive’. This made sure that our actions were unified and consistent, and also made our clipboards tools to the piece rather than an interest. If the mappers couldn’t follow anyone for more than 1-2 minutes we agreed that we would return to the ‘hub’ to provide a physical connection to the other members.
The link with the panopticon concept was created when we were looking at the behaviour of people when they know that they are being observed. The concept exists in a circular prison structure designed by Jeremy Bentham where the prisoners can be seen at all times by the guards. The guard couldn’t have been watching every prisoner all of the time but that had an effect on the prisoners’ behaviour greatly, as they didn’t know when they were being observed. The structure was described as ‘…a mechanical contrivance to obtain and exercise power…’ (Semple, 1993, p.10) This ideology was echoed in our performance through metaphors, as the members holding the CCTV tunnel were rotating in circular motion representing the guards. The view of the camera represents the view of the prison guard, which makes the public the prisoners as they don’t know for sure whether they are view of the camera which makes their behaviour change. The behaviour varied from looking the other way, to acknowledging the camera and feeling quite angry or annoyed which can be noticed in the way they walk past or discussed with acquaintances.
A Performance Evaluation
As a result of performing at three peak times of the day, we were able to get a diverse set of results in which we can relate and compare. The results varied in terms of audience intrigue and routes in which they walked, which was controlled by factors such as bad weather, busyness and where they needed to be at what time. Because the audience participation was more accidental rather than active, the numbers of people that would be involved were highly interchangeable and unpredictable which meant that the results at first glance may seem a bit bleak. This factor however was not seen as a downfall, rather as a means of further interpretation.
9AM – 9:30AM
On the first performance, our well tested and rehearsed technology well and truly failed us. Within minutes the group were forced to improvise, and although our intentions of being able to see the site through a tunnel of technology were compromised, we were still able to record and reflect in our space. The audience were mostly rushing, using the space as an obligatory crossing and the patterns were similar. While most of the reactions were towards the ‘hub’, there was a comment towards a person drawing the maps of tracks. It came from an elderly lady saying “people are so nosey nowadays”, which is ironic seeing as though the comment was said toward a person with a clipboard and not the people presenting a camera twenty meters away. The debateable question is whether the lady noticed that the single person was part of the larger scheme and aimed it at the group as a whole, or at what may have appeared an authoritative figure collecting information, which in the grand scheme of things is no different to what the CCTV camera operator is doing for the government. What presumably made her behave that way was our obvious act of recording.
12:30PM – 1PM
The second performance was under similar circumstances, in which the technology failed us. However the audience, in bigger numbers, were not using the space as a crossing so much, but a place to wait and gather. This meant that the audience had their own business to go about and did not give a lot of attention to us, although our presence was noticed. Interactions consisted of wanting more information in which flyers were given, and an appreciative comment towards the name of our piece.
5:30PM – 6PM
Our technology worked and it was the weather that failed us this time, as it rained for the duration of our final performance. Surprisingly, this made for interesting results, as when the audience hurried inside pubs and shops they wondered why we were still stood there which only affirmed our presence and meaning. We had a whole new level of audience in which the main unseen operator of this system did not see. The only comment we received was “have you been here all day? I saw you this morning when I went past!” which offered us a whole new appearance from his point of view. This put us on a whole new level of symmetry with the CCTV operator in which we appeared to be working the same standard working hours. Although we knew the hours we were present, us as citizens do not know when the operator is present, which is relates to the intended ‘panopticon’ concept.
I believe that where we were situated played a great part in the success of the performance, as we were quite plainly unavoidable. Overall, our performance could have been improved by our technical aspects, which would involve less reliance and a contingency plan. If we were to do this again, I would have definitely used the time more wisely in the sense that we could have incorporated useful elements like the CCTV ballet. My engagement with site specific theory and practice has broadened my awareness of the types of audience in particular. As experienced in this performance, the audience can be accidental, and the dependency on the audience type can change an entire meaning of a performance which in this case isn’t achievable in a traditional theatre.
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Nothing Happens Here Apart From Us (2015) Nothing Happens Here Apart From Us [Flickr] Available from https://www.flickr.com/photos/nothinghappenssite/17173050187/in/album-72157652314713146/ [Accessed 15/05/15]
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Slinkachu (2006) Little People – a tiny street art project. Available at: http://little-people.blogspot.co.uk (Accessed: 15 May 2015)
For Site Specific Performance, titled ‘Nothing happens here, apart from us’ our group wanted to explore the idea of surveillance and invasion of privacy that happens daily in the lives of the general public. Castle Square was the site we were given to develop this idea, castle square includes a prominent CCTV camera that is located in a central part of the square, above the Magna Carta Public House. This was our main inspiration, as we decided our performance would be an investigation into how the public use a busy and important place in the city like Castle Square. With inspirations such as the Surveillance Camera Players, Blast Theory and The Many Headed Monster, we wanted to achieve this by using three of us to follow the public through the square and documenting how they used the square and what direction they were heading.
We positioned two group members in the centre of the Square holding an iPad and a Go Pro to record how the public use the square and then play it back to them live. This was all done whilst facing the CCTV camera and moving in sync with the camera when it moves at certain points of the day. ‘We manifest our opposition by performing specially adapted plays directly in front of these cameras’ (Surveillance Camera Players, 2001) This shows where our main inspiration started to inspire us when thinking of ideas to include in our performance. The Surveillance Camera Players use CCTV cameras effectively to create and enhance thought provoking performances, if we copied what the CCTV camera does throughout a normal day through the context of real life performance. We could use our performance to educate the audience, to understand that their movements and actions are always being recorded.
Our Site Specific Performance was scheduled and performed on Wednesday 6th May; this date was useful as it was a convention md-week working day, with no outside events planned in Castle Square. This meant we could analyse and investigate the general public using the square in 3 different time slot throughout the day. The time slots were 9-9.30am, 12.30-1pm and 17.30-18.00pm; allowing us to see what our accidental audience were doing throughout the day. Encountering tourists, workers, locals, schoolchildren among others, gave us a well-rounded and diverse investigation.
In our performance, we didn’t have a conventional invited audience, that wouldn’t have fit in with our investigation as we were documenting people’s natural movements. Our audience throughout the day was accidental, as without them knowing about our investigation, they were the main bulk of our piece and made it a multi-dimensional performance. ‘The active participation of the audience is clearly a crucial element of the “metanatural” nature of the performance,’ ‘by taking the performance into “real life”’ (Auslander, et al, 2003, 376) this is what we attempted to do with our audience, by trying to make them participate in our performance that shows real life activity through performance.
Analysis of Process Initial practical & theoretical ideas
The process was a time consuming, challenging yet creatively stimulating 5 month exploration into this type of performance that resulted in an interesting and thought provoking performance that pushed the idea of surveillance performance to the edge. The start of the process was much different compared to the final piece. During our initial trips up Steep Hill, I was initially mesmerized by the beauty of the steep hill area, the scale of the area and the architecture of the buildings located.
Analysing the sheer size and beauty of Lincoln Castle and Lincoln Cathedral, made me realize that I initially wanted to do my performance based around finding the beauty of these buildings not only on the outside but on the inside as well. ‘Moving through the flux of the city in awe of dazzling consumer spectacles: gazing, grazing, consuming. As scenes of the modern city channel my gaze and limit my objects of pleasure, my circulation becomes disciplined.’ (Pearson, 2010, 18) This quote symbolizes my initial thoughts of the tourist attractions in our site, as there were lots of pretty buildings, which made the decision hard at the start.
When taking a tour around steep hill, an important and changing and moment happened. I was taking notes and pictures of the views around me, therefore I was left tailing. This wasn’t a bad development as I then had a chance encounter with an annoyed disabled OAP local male who thought we were tourists, he said to me ‘Nothing happens here apart from us’. Those six words kept in my mind for the whole process, I was constantly thinking about what that sentence meant in relation to my performance. In the next two weeks, when touring Steep Hill that sentence was inspiring my thinking so much, that I wanted to base my piece about how the locals use Steep Hill, which happened. In the long run that sentence was extremely valuable to my performance.
Even though I had ideas in my mind regarding the final performance, it was still a long time to go before the fruition. The group I decided to work with in the space of 3 weeks included Tania Smart, Lucy Hind, Brittany Hine and Lily Bingham-Davis, the mutual idea we first decided on was based around mythology and the demons and witchcraft that surrounds Lincoln Cathedral. The reason why we chose this idea was because we were all interested in looking beneath the superficial exterior of a famous place like Lincoln Cathedral, to see what lies underneath and seeing if we can make a performance out of subsiding and fictionalising the truths
Jokingly we named the idea ‘Creepy face and Cobwebs’ as they were two factors that would’ve been included in our audio walk. When researching our story we wanted to present, we found that another ghost walk company based in the Cathedral was using the same subjects as us. We felt like we were going to plagiarise their idea, we wanted to be original, therefore deciding to scrap this idea and start to development a brand new one in a different area of Steep Hill.
After the decision of cutting the Cathedral idea, our group had the idea of tracking people’s movements, as we were fascinated by the space that is Castle Square. For example people use Castle Square for lots of different reasons, when we first thought of this, 10 minutes went by with us observing what was happening in the square, during those 10 minutes there was everything from workers doing construction work to tourists taking photos.
This gave us the idea of using our performance as a form of documentation to see how the general public use Castle Square over the space of 4 months. ‘The connection between performance and document is thus thought to be ontological, with the event preceding and authorizing its documentation.’ (Auslander, 2006, 1) We tried to capture the idea of documentation as performance by situating mobile phones and technology such as iPads and Go Pro’s in key places of the square to capture everyday moments that make the square such an interesting performance space.
We had the idea of using time lapse footage which we recorded over a period of 3 weeks from numerous places in castle square such as the Magna Carta Public House, the benches in the square and also from the view looking up from steep hill. This was important for us as we gained footage from different of view focusing on more people, therefore showing more diversity in our piece, as evident in the images below.
The idea of using technology to enhance our piece on tracking and documenting the public’s movements, was inspired by Blast Theory. ‘Blast Theory is renowned internationally as one of the most adventurous artists’ groups using interactive media, creating ground-breaking new forms of performance and interactive art that mixes audiences across the internet, live performance and digital broadcasting.’ (Blast Theory, 2015) By using technology to visualise and enhance our performance, this shows the inspiration we gained from Blast Theory, as pieces they have done like ‘Ulrike and Eamon Complaint’ and ‘Digital Voices’ always involve technology like digital cameras, audio software and multimedia imagery to enhance and produce a ground-breaking contemporary form of experimental performance. With our idea of recording time-lapse footage of the general public then playing it back to the public live, that certainly had hallmarks of Blast Theories ideas and concepts. Finally the idea of having 4 people in the group holding iPads in 4 different directions with me documenting it by taking photos, came from the idea of using the space to maximum effect in order to gain more information to present a well-rounded and more interesting investigation.
‘The term refers to a staging and performance conceived on the basis of a place in the real world (ergo outside an established theatre). A large part of the work has to do with researching a place, often an unusual one that is imbued with history or permeated with atmosphere’ (Gleave, 2011, 2) This quote reiterates why we used all of Castle Square as it’s steeped in atmosphere and that inspired us as we wanted to make a piece that used the vibrant atmosphere that consists in Castle Square.
Initial Test Run and Feedback
The first initial test run of this idea we performed for Conan and Rachel, had its positive moments and contrastive criticism where we could draw inspiration from and improve our piece. For example when we presented our idea, we explained the iPads and the positioning in the square thoroughly explain why we are doing this to show how the general public use Castle Square. Conan liked the idea of surveilling the public’s movements and how by using footage we are mirroring what the general public do in an unsuspecting and natural way. However there were points he wanted to add to try and help us improve this idea, for example he was fixed on the CCTV camera that is overlooking and constantly recording the public in Steep Hill.
Conan suggested if we could incorporate the CCTV camera in our performance in any way, ‘It is estimated that there are five million CCTV cameras in use today. CCTV is used by a wide range of Organisations and for an increasing number of purposes.’ (Keval, 2009) With statistics like this found in this quote, we decided to use Conan’s feedback and use the CCTV camera in our performance, as we got thinking that is picking everything single thing that happens in Castle Square anyway, if we can mirror that camera and act like a well-rehearsed real life CCTV camera, then we can educate the general public and make them see that they’re constantly being watched by the government.
The other main point of constructive criticism Conan presented us with was the lacking use of direction and space in Castle Square, as he said the square is a unique space which has 4 exits and entrances you can use more by adding the use of direction when analysing the public’ movements, by trying to physically follow where they’re going in the square. ‘It broadens the types of relevant ‘spaces’ we might consider. The form also enables us to address a range of performative issues, from the development of site-specific ‘soundscapes’ to the role of the spectator in site-specific performance.’ (Birch et al, 2012) We decided to incorporate direction in our performance, making the visual aesthetic more pleasing to the audience rather than 4 static people holding iPads, the image below was taken during Conan’s feedback.
Continued Creative Development
After our meeting with Conan, the 4 weeks that’s followed before our dress rehearsals were an ever changing cauldron of performative ideas. The inclusion of the CCTV camera was a complex time in our process, as our idea was now focusing towards surveilling and intruding people’s movements and recording them live to act as a metaphor about surveillance. When developing this idea, we had a number of ideas in how to include the CCTV camera, for example we spent time and money trying to capture footage of a specific 30 minutes we spent in the square being recorded so we could stand directly opposite the camera and facing it showing the footage.
‘In reflecting upon the social engagement around the tool, (7) look beyond a common use of performance for exploring human-machine relations and implicitly consider the related area of performativity, or the creation of identity through repeated enactment.’ (Light and Wright, 2009) With the quote that was explaining the Panopticon of Performance Arena, we gained inspiration from this with our idea as with the CCTV ballet camera we were trying to see of the public acts in a different instinctive way even though their senses aren’t fully engrossed in the idea of being filmed. This idea would’ve created a CCTV ballet that was going to make our message to the public even clearer.
We hit a problem with that idea, the council who holds the footage wouldn’t give it to us under a Freedom of Information act when requested. This meant we couldn’t use the idea of having pre-recorded CCTV footage in line with live footage. We still wanted to use the iPads and the element of CCTV, as a group we decided to keep the CCTV as a big part of our performance by having Tania holding an iPad and Lily holding a Go Pro in the centre of the square and recording the public and playing the footage back live with turning at the same time of the CCTV camera, so we’re showing the public first-hand what a CCTV camera does every day.
Lucy, Brittany and I had the idea of following and documenting the movements of the public via a mapping. ‘The site-specific choreographer experiences and interacts with the site on a number of levels, metaphorically digging beneath the surface to reveal a uniquely personal interaction with the site.’ (Hunter, 2005,) As evidenced, we were allowing a personal interaction with the site by constantly walking through to see where the public leave their marks in the square. By mapping their movements we can show the results we got from our experiment at the conclusion of this whole process.
When going through a final idea two times before performance day, we made small final tweaks. When the public leave the square we’re going to down our tools and wait until more people come. If not then to present a united front, we are going back to the central hub, we believe these changes will present a smoother performance, the map results are below.
When evaluating our performance, I am first looking at the size of the audience. We didn’t advertise in the normal way with the poster above, we just had a poster there for clarity to prove that there was a performance happening on that day. As stated in the framing statement, we didn’t need to advertise, as our audience were accidental. Our performance still depended on how many numbers of people was using Castle Square on that day. Throughout the day, we were disappointed with the turnout of people using the square and interacting with our performance. The weather on that day was rain, this was a setback, in the first 30 minute period I followed 12 groups of people, with most of them either going up the exchequer gate or down Steep Hill. This was expected, in the morning most people were going to work or school, timing constraints didn’t help us, as they stop to engage with our piece.
Lunchtime was the most successful, I followed the same amount of people but got more diverse results, like tourists visiting the Cathedral. The central hub had interest and we gave out 3 flyers so they can see the results and explained to them about our investigation. The final evening slot was disappointing, heavy rain made my map wet therefore making it hard to write our results, there was no one going towards the hub as they were too busy avoiding the rain.
During the process, my thoughts on Castle Square as a performance site was mixed, visually the site was very pleasing and inspirational however practically it was hard to overcome barriers. The road in the middle which traffic used got in our way and the distractions in the square hurt us as they were distracting our accidental audience. On the day my thoughts slightly changed as the richness of entertainment gave us the perfect base to build our investigation around, our results reflect that as there are many routes to different places.
Positive factors of our performance include the diverse routes we documented as we were surprised on the difference as we wasn’t expecting this, also the fact that a Fudge Shop Owner actually talked to me about our piece and was interested in it. This showed us that people use castle square in different ways, this allowed us to present a well-rounded investigation. As evidenced in our results on https://www.flickr.com/photos/nothinghappenssite/sets/72157652870944665 as well as my own results below.
We could’ve improved the final performance by making the central hub with the iPad and Go Pro more central in the square, as people were walking past it a lot not knowing it was there. Also the people who was documenting the audience could’ve been more noticed, by being more in sync with each other as I felt we were too formal sometimes and people just thought we were ‘Poncy Art Students’ according to one lady and didn’t take our performance seriously. If we was doing this performance again, I would alter the lack of vocal expression in our piece, I would make us communicate with the public more. To make them interested in what we were attempting, as we did get results but not as many especially from the iPad and Go pro as we were expecting.
Finally my engagement with the theory surrounding site specific performance, has helped me understand performances based in non-traditional venues. Through researching Mike Pearson and companies such as Blast Theory and Surveillance Camera Players, I now understand that unconventional spaces contain the basis of performativity and can be transformed and developed into performance idea.
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Hine, B. (2015) Nothing happens here apart from us: The Results. (Flickr) 6th May. Available from https://www.flickr.com/photos/nothinghappenssite/sets/72157652870944665 (Accessed 15 May)
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