It certainly wasn’t love at first sight for Site Specific and I. When first approaching the given task my heart sank. Drawing attention to myself in public, standing out from the crowd, was something that never came naturally to me. However I’m all for throwing myself into challenges head first, and once I let my guard down, I started to realise what Site Specific performances were all about. For me, the reactions of passersby fascinated me. I thrived on the thought that we had shaken their day up somehow, broken the formality of everyday journeys to and from places and made them realise what was around them. Fiona Wilkie stated that ‘Site-Specific performance engages with the site as symbol, site as storyteller’ (Wilkie, 2002, 150), and it was this sense of purpose behind the performance that I began to favor. Such as the symbolisation of the everyday office job in Glob Squad’s Work (1995), and the public demonstrations of government control from The Space Highjackers and The Surveillance Camera Players. Using site specific performances for public education or enlightenment really interests me, and is something I would like to explore further.
Wilkie, F. (2002) Mapping the Terrain: A Survey of Site-specific Performance in Britain. New Theatre Quarterly, 18, 2.
In our first lesson of Site Specific, we were introduced to what Site entails and some of the performance types that are included in the category “Site Specific”.
We all took part in what is known as a “Subtle Mob” which is like a Flash Mob but, where a Flash Mob is big, bright and noticeable, a Subtle Mob is often unnoticed by many of its “audience”. We followed a list of instructions such as look at the sky, take a photograph, copy a strangers walk etc.
This allowed us to get a beginners understanding of how Site Specific works because, if we had followed these instructions anywhere else, the end result would have been different depending on which location we chose.
Through reading Mike Pearson’s introduction on Site Specific Performance I have found an interesting quote; “The play as an event belongs to the space, and makes the space perform as much as it makes the actors perform”. (Wiles, 2003, 1) I believe this means in a site specific performance you take more interest in the space and you start to notice what makes it unique, whether it be the people, the time of day or the weather, these factors all have an impact on what the space is used for. The space ‘performs’ as itself like we did today practising every day occurrences such as ‘pause from time to time and take a photograph’, except it becomes a performance because it is forced, not natural. Just as the space is recognised as a liminal space in performance yet perhaps not in every day life. When you take a space in its natural form, for example not dressed up for performance, many different factors affect the outcome as it can’t be controlled. Today for instance – the weather was cold, people were not socialising outside perhaps as much as if it were a sunny day. Most people were in a rush, therefore there was a high volume of people in a fairly small space. That is the beauty of a liminal space; lots of different people with different objectives cross its path daily never really noticing the space until something slightly strange catches their eye. Today for example we merged two instructions together: ‘Pause from time to time and look up’ and ‘Find a raised point to stand and wait for others to join you’ which resulted in catching the interest of a few onlookers curious to know about our seemingly hidden objective.
Patrice Pavis refers to site specific performance as “a place in the real world” (Pavis, 1998, 337-338), an idea that we explored in our first lesson. Using the medium of a “subtle mob”, we were asked to follow a list of instructions to help us engage with the space outside of the Performing Arts Centre. By using movements and actions that would appear natural and ordinary to our audience of passer bys, such as walking, taking photographs, looking around, we were able to play with the idea of what a performance is or could be. This liminal space, a space “inbetween” that many people passed through and by, was an effective way for us to explore this new way of performing outside many of our comfort grounds. We later discussed the difference between a performance that can be generically moved, like the subtle mob, and a performance specific to a particular location, such as up Steep Hill. Whilst at first daunting, I am now excited to begin creating a new kind of performance.
Pavis, P. (1998) Dictionary of the Theatre: Terms, Concepts, and Analysis. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Welcome to the blog of the University of Lincoln’s Site Specific Performance class 2015.
We are working towards creating a series of public artworks and performances which will take place during 6-9th May 2015.
This blog will contain documentation from our project: our processes, thoughts, encounters and reflections. We hope you’ll follow along with us as we work throughout the spring to investigate, explore and illuminate areas of uphill Lincoln.