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
- 12.30pm 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.
For our image, video and map results go to https://www.flickr.com/photos/nothinghappenssite
Barrett, D. (2013) One surveillance camera for every 11 people in Britain, says CCTV survey. The Telegraph, 10 July. Available from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/10172298/One-surveillance-camera-for-every-11-people-in-Britain-says-CCTV-survey.html [Accessed 10 April 2015]
GOV (2015) Make a Freedom of Information Request. [online] United Kingdom: GOV. Available from https://www.gov.uk/make-a-freedom-of-information-request/the-freedom-of-information-act [Accessed on 28 March 2015]
Bingham-Davis, L (2015) https://www.flickr.com/photos/lilybinghamdavis/
Nothing Happens Here Apart from Us (2015)
Pearson, M (2010) Site-specific performance. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan
Surveillance Camera Players (2006) 1984 [online video] Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RILTl8mxEnE [Accessed 10 April 2015]
The Surveillance camera Players (2006) the Surveillance Camera Players: completely distrustful of all government. Available from: http://www.notbored.org/the-scp.html [Accessed 10 April]