After having struggled for a while to pin down a certain subject for our site location, we eventually landed on a fairly obvious subject matter that was pretty much staring us in the face the entire time; Water. We use it every day and in many different ways that we don’t think about, until of course we do and it becomes obvious. With our site location being a playground right next to the Water Tower in Lincoln, it seems fitting that our site specific performance is centered around water. But there are more connections between our location and water other than the massive tower itself. The site where we’ll be performing used to host a number of water related environments, including a public swimming pool and a public bath. As a group we’re hoping to link these into our performance in some form.
We are drawing influences from endurance performances, and our main source of inspiration has been Tehching Hsieh, whose performances through the years were primarily year long performance pieces. Of his performance pieces, there was one that stood out and that we have drawn influences from when considering how to base our performance, and this is his year long piece called “Time Clock Piece” (FACT, 2010). The main aspect that we liked when looking at this performance was the seemingly remedial task of repeating a repetitive action for a long period of time. Drawing from this performance, we’ve come to land on wanting to perform our own instance of an endurance piece. Our performance will include hour long rituals that most people will participate in during their every day life, or have participated in at one point in their life. We will repeat the very repetitive actions that we use water for throughout our performance, starting with the task of washing our face and brushing our teeth in the morning. Each of these pieces will last an hour, and to prepare for this performance, I’ll be participating in a “rehearsal” tomorrow morning, where as I would wash my face and brush my teeth in a small period of time, I’ll be doing it as I always do but for an hour. I’m personally hoping this will give me a bit of insight into the struggles of performing endurance pieces. I’ll be doing this standard morning ritual with no outside influences, for example a phone or any kind of electronic device. All my focus will be in simply doing something we do every day but for what I consider a long period of time. I hope to find out just some of the challenges of performing endurance pieces with this “rehearsal”.
FACT (2008) Tehching Hsieh – One Year Performance 1980 1981 (Time Clock Piece) [online video] Available from https://vimeo.com/16280427 [Accessed 27 March 2015].
There is so much difference and variety in the way we live our lives, but life takes us all on the same pathway which leads us all through the same stages of life. Regardless of our individuality, we all finish the journey at the same place.
During Rachael’s visit we ran through the script with her whilst she pretended to be an audience member. This was very helpful as she listened from a fresh outsiders point of view, and pointed out aspects of the script which didn’t make sense or needed tweaking in order for clear understanding. We spoke to her about our idea of having the famous Shakespearian monologue ‘all the world’s a stage’ playing as the audience make their way round the final leg of their journey back to the beginning. We wanted there to be an underlying message of the journey of life, and we thought that the words in that monologue reflect exactly what we wanted to portray. ‘First childness’ as a baby, and ‘second childness’ as an elderly person, in parallel with our tour starting at the picnic green and finishing there too. One interesting comment that Rachael mentioned was that the green where we are intending to have our starting picnic is actually a mass burial pit where bodies were dumped during the plague. This gave us the idea to remove the picnic blankets and anything lighthearted whilst the audience are on their journey. Therefore when they arrive back at the place they started, it is bare, empty and a reflection of the death that’s been underlying their journey from the start – much like the journey of life itself.
To ensure that this theme of the life cycle is evident and justified we needed to place audios or objects around the site that would represent adulthood and retirement between the Tennyson statue (childhood stage) and the final picnic green (death). We walked along the route and decided that adulthood could be represented by marriage, and we would use subtle coincidences to represent it. We are looking to scatter confetti on the ground on the corner of Minsters Yard where there will be another audio track, which is very different to the previous ones. This audio represents when we reach midlife, the crossroads where you question life and start on your inevitable decline. The audio will ask them to reflect upon their journey and ask a series of rhetorical questions with the sound of wedding bells in the background. Phrases such as ‘as your journey draws to a close’ and ‘you have reached the peak of your journey, please continue on towards the finish’ it echo’s the peak of adulthood. As well as adulthood we also focused on the elderly stage of life, the final stage, which will have audio that will be listened to when they reach the west face of the cathedral whilst they make their way back around to the green. We thought that this would be a good place to have the ‘all the worlds a stage’ speech and we are going to have an old man (my granddad) reading it. The last section in the speech talks about ‘second childness’ that we thought could be read by the girl who read the Cradle song. Representing the life cycle.
This week we have focused on developing the specifics of our performance idea. For example we created a rough script of the audio that our designated speaker (Fleur) would record once finalised. This took us a lot longer than expected as we found it hard to create instructions that were not too patronising, structured or contained not enough information. After four painful hours in the library we finally completed the script, however in hindsight it would have been a lot easier to have written it in the site, saving us trying to imagine where the audience would stand. Despite the extra work we made for ourselves, we managed to complete the scrip ready for Rachael’s meeting.
Today we went to the site and conducted a trial run through of the script and pretended to hear it from the audience’s perspective. There were several little things that cropped up, such as ‘look to your left and you’ll see the statue’ is actually suppose to be ‘look to your right…’ etc. However whilst running through the performance a middle aged man, roughly in his 40’s, stood next to us whilst we were examining the judgment gates and suddenly said ‘I wonder who the women are on the archways, and why they’re headless’. This then sparked a very unexpected conversation between himself and our group about the headless statues around the entrance. Which is exactly what we were looking for in our piece. The complete irony of it all and the sheer perfect topic of conversation allowed us to see the site from even more of a different angle. Whilst talking to the guy he mentioned that a lot of the smaller statues around the archway are also missing a head. Despite staring at the gates twice a week for a month or so, we had never noticed this! All (except two) angels surrounding the statue to Jesus had no heads, and several of the smaller female ‘saint-like’ statues were also missing a head. The fact that only some of them had their heads removed made us really think? We know that the heads of the non-biblical saints were removed in the Reformation, but these were identical angels? Why are some headless and some not? This made the man suggest ideas/ stories why there were like this (again exactly what we’re basing our performance on). He suggested that one night in the Reformation a man crept up to the cathedral and was chopping the heads off the statues when he was caught half way through the job. This opinion from a complete stranger will be included into our piece and played to the audience as a valid perception of that’s site.
We met with the rest of the group to share the new information we had gathered and began to talk about plotting our routes and what our audio was going to sound like and what we may include. we have decided to make it about 20mins long and that based on the books we read our route will have a significance and not be and idle wonder.
Easter is almost upon us and we are all busy and also need rest but we all have a role and will try to fulfil what we need to by the end of Easter.
Jade- Routes and Research
Elizabeth- Routes and Research
Jess – Marketing
George – Audio
Me – Audio
By the end of the Easter holidays we plan to have a solid route and our reasoning behind it and an audio piece that has been edited and altered over time and why.
Standing in our first site today, a man approached us and asked “Why are they (the headless angels around the archway) headless?” We told what is thought to have happened in the Reformation, which he then used to create a story of a man who during the Reformation secretly cut the heads off but was caught before he could finish. Although we weren’t able to record this great encounter, we plan to use some verbatim from the moment. After speaking with Rachel, we want to add more perspectives to the site, allowing the audience to think more creatively and see differently perspectives to the architecture. Like Fiona Wilkie, we also feel that “it’s not just about a place, but the people who normally inhabit and use that place. For it wouldn’t exist without them” (Wilkie, 2002, 145), and thus we need to keep them prominent into our site-specific tour. Rachel also informed us that the grass area we begin our piece on is in fact a graveyard, which adds a strange layer to the playful picnic we have at the beginning. Using this new information, we plan to change how the audience sees the space by telling them at the end of what they previously stood on, hopefully tieing in to the theme of life and journey. We also discovered that we need to link our tour more to the themes within the speech of “All the worlds a stage…”. We think the first site connects to the idea of creation, the second site to childhood, and the ending graveyard to death. To add more links, we plan to sprinkle some confetti on the corner nearby the front of the Cathedral, subtly showing the idea of adulthood with marriage as prominent moment in an adults life, often with a wedding performed in a religious place. After we found this link, we saw a family walking past dressed in wedding appropriate clothing, a coincidence we were all excited about. Lastly, by having an elderly person read out the speech, and the ending lines read by a younger child, we hope to reflect upon the circular journey of the walk around the Cathedral and life in all, leaving our audience with several ideas and perspectives to think of.
Wilkie, F. (2002) Mapping the Terrain: a Survey or Site-Specific Performance in Britain. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.