19. All precious things, discovered late

We performed our site specific piece three days ago, which has given me time to reflect on our process and the day itself.

Unfortunately, it was one of the wettest and windiest days we have experienced outside for our performance, though we tried to keep our spirits high and continue on. We arrived early before the performance was planned to start, and placed our moments of coincidence and the scallop shells around the tours walk, as some can be seen documented here. We all enjoyed preparing for the piece, and were intrigued to which ones the audience would see and connect to.  For the performance, we had a small audience of a couple of people, due to the bad weather, though because of the nature of our piece being an individual audio tour, the number of the audience had no bearing on the actual performance. They each arrived with their audio already downloaded through the event page, and once they had been introduced to the tour and offered their scallop shell, they listened to the audio and walked the piece. When the tour had ended for them, they returned to the meeting point and were asked for their feedback on how the journey was for them individually. All said they had a positive experience and enjoyed spotting the scallops and the moments of coincidence, whether it be on the audio itself or a visual prop that we had placed. Additionally, we were told they each noticed more moments that we had not planned, such as a robin tweeting, an elderly man walking his dog and a van with the word “pilgrim” in bright and bold lettering parked where we first met. These were true moments of chance, which added a pure connection to our audio that was just there for the performance in the right place at the right time. As a group, we were all very proud and pleased with how the performance went, and despite some of the obstacles we faced on the day, such as the low audience number and the weather, I think it was a success.

Moreover, because our piece was an audio tour, the performance can live on in the future, though without the moments of coincidence that we purposefully planned for the day. However, as we ourselves experienced, true moments of coincidence can occur whilst the audio is played, making it that much more serendipitous. In the future, perhaps the piece would be better experienced when performed on a “nicer day”, though this is not something we can truly plan for either. Regardless of this possibility, our piece can be performed at any time, allowing for it to continue on without us.

Overall, I personally feel very happy with how the performance played out and the progress we as a group made from when we initially came together to the final performance three days ago. I think we all embraced what site specific performance can be, and in the end made something that reflected what we all wanted to make at the very beginning. As Mike Person suggests, our performance “may also become a lasting part of the story of that place” (Pearson, 2010, 16), offering a bigger purpose for the hard work and time we put into our piece. Though this module has been a challenge at times, it has impacted how I define “performance”, and shown me a new world to “drama” that I had no previous idea or concept of. I believe I have grown as a performer, and learnt that a “stage” to perform on or with can be found anywhere.

Pearson, M. (2010) Site-Specific Performance. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

Performance day!

“Imagine a winter landscape. Your senses working overtime: you shiver and squint, stamp and blow. Only then perhaps do you look, listen, touch. You flog through the snow your feet and fingers freeze. You are aware of surface, climate and ambience” –  (Pearson, 2010, 29)

The inevitable happened; it rained, meaning devastatingly we only had 2 participants on our tour. But all was not lost – the audio was our main piece of work which was of course unaltered by the weather, but the overall experience I feel was hindered by it. Instances such as the handing out of drinks, I feel would have worked better on a drier day as would the beginning and the end on the picnic blanket. However, hopefully the participants that came were aware of ‘surface, climate and ambience’ which is all we hoped for really – for them to observe what was around them while accompanied by our audio.

Amazingly enough, there were a few orchestrated serendipities we were not responsible for (some of them we were!) there was a ‘pilgrim food service’ van, a Robin at the statue whilst the cradle song was playing and an actual man walking a dog near the Tennyson statue.

The most disappointing thing about not having any fresh eyes (and ears) to our piece was not being able to collate feedback, we were excited to ask people of their opinions in a hope that in the future could perhaps take this further providing it was successful. I believe an honest amount of constructive criticism would have been very helpful for our plans to perhaps expand our tour further. However, we did have one person try and test our piece in an earlier dress run and we were able to collect feedback from him. However, this feedback was of a different kind, it was more how we could improve for our performance day as oppose to looking upon our audio as a finished product. However, our spirits will not be dampened, if we were to do this again I would suggest perhaps on different times over a week period as you would hope it would be unlikely that the weather could affect the performance all week. This, I believe would offer our tour a different dimension; people could pick times that suited them which may inspire more people to participate. Another idea is instead of it being a one off, people could download it and do it whenever. This would be different from our original idea as there would be no orchestrated serendipity’s, shells along the way and no one to greet you or say goodbye, however, this would be something to consider when considering taking our idea further.

I have documented some of the day on my flickr which can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/130413370@N08/sets/72157650150127103/

Pearson, M (2010) Site Specific performance. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Dress rehearsal

“Our intention is to show walking not only as directed movement from one place to another, but a wandering, an odyssey of sight and sound, a quest for knowledge and stimulation, a grand roaming expedition, and a living breathing work of art in its own right.”  – (Wrights and sites, 2006)

The day before our dress rehearsal with Rachel, we all undertook the journey ourselves to see if we thought any improvements needed to be made. One thing I found was that the instructions could be misinterpreted wrongly and I believed we needed an indicator along the way, therefore, I bought a chalkboard which we drew an arrow and also a scallop shell on, something so simple could stop a lot of confusion from our audience who are independent along the journey (besides our companion of course). We then decided on where to place our orchestrated serendipity’s for our exam (only a few of which were used on the dress rehearsal as to keep something back for our performance). All in all we hope to achieve the aim of our performance; to take our audience on a personal journey, to encourage them to look up and around and consequently make the most out of everything thrown at them, something I think Sarah Gorman understands in Wandering and Wondering: “My perceptions of street activity, the sounds around me and my sense of ‘belonging’ in that environment were heightened, I had a greater sense of visual stimulation, and was amused rather than irritated by the idiosyncrasies of people who passed by” (Gorman, 2006, 168) this is what we  hope to achieve in our piece. We decided on our dress rehearsal that we would ask for casual feedback from the audience in an informal manner, questions such as “how was that for you?” are ideal as they offer no biased way for the question to go which we want – we want total honesty from our audience members.

As the journey is supposed to be a personal voyage, we would like the audience to keep their scallop necklaces after their journey as a reminder of what they learnt and a memory of the day. People will also have the audio on their smartphones/ipods/mp3’s etc so we hope the journey and memories of the journey can live on after the event has taken place.

Referring to my earlier quote from Wrights and Sites we hope to give walking tours a new awakening, so they cease to be thought of as boring but intend to breathe new life into them, so people look upon them as art. Although we are not doing a misguide, I have taken inspiration from their ethos of looking at a city and noticing what the people who spend a lot of time there don’t notice, such as structures that may not be considered beautiful but can have a personal meaning for someone if they found them upon a journey. This can be seen in their A misguide to Milton Keynes: https://vimeo.com/21391861 We hope to instill this sense of nostalgia around the cathedral for those who participate.

One of the reasons we chose one of the main attractions of Lincoln was so that people will come to the site, not expecting to learn anything new – people have seen the cathedral before why would they see it differently? And our journey will hopefully be powerful enough to make them see through different eyes almost, as if for the first time yet with a pre-existing connection to the place.

Gorman, S. (2006) Following Janet Cardiff’s Missing Voice. Wandering and Wondering 167-178.

Wrights and sites (2006) ‘Dealing with the city’ [in press] A manifesto for a new walking culture. Available from http://www.mis-guide.com/ws/documents/dealing.html [Accessed on 5th May]

Edelstyn, D. (2011) A misguide to Milton Keynes. [online video] Available from: https://vimeo.com/21391861 [Accessed on 5th May]

18. The Dress Rehearsal

We spent the final weekend before the performance day recording the final audio (an example below is of the first audio piece), using the small changes Rachel had suggested to us. Though having to record the audio several times over this process has been difficult at times, we are all pleased with the final version of the audio, and finally have it at a place where it is ready to be released to our audience.

After collecting together all the coincidental moments that we needed for performance and deciding where we as performers would be placed, we prepared for the dress performance for our piece. Prior to Rachel’s visit, we placed all the coincidental moments around the site, such as confetti near the corner and a child’s book-bag on a bench, and made scallop shell “necklaces” for our audience to accept. Jess and I began the tour with an introductory welcome, with Rachel then walking the tour whereby Charlie would hand her a drink at the Tennyson statue and Fleur would take photos within Castle Square. Afterwards, Rachel gave us some positive feedback, as well as smaller details she suggested we look at if we have time, which we plan to do so.

Overall, I think our performance piece is finally ready to be shown to our audience in two days time, and I am incredibly proud of all our hard work and time that we have dedicated to this module. Inspired by Fortnight, I hope that “the personal nature of this audio walk, its solitary and embodied performance in the streets…creates an ever-expanding series of unique experiences in the city”. (Hui, 2001, 5)

Hui, Allison. (2011) Art as an everyday intervention: shifting times, places and mobilities in the pervasive media performance project “Fortnight”. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Baptist University.

What we did on our Site weekend

Over this weekend we managed to potentially finalise our audio, ready to be sent out on Monday evening. Due to technical issues we had to push back the public release date of the audio from saturday afternoon to monday. We had planned to have a media student record and edit our audio so it sounded professional (and as none of us had ever had any experience with audio editing before), however we were informed that they had exams and were unable to help. This left us in a rather worrying situation as we had four complete audio novices, and two days until the public release. We decided to use the audio editing program Audacity that I had downloaded on my Mac.

Before we could start recording we edited the script with the improvements that we were given during our trial run. We found formulating clear conversational directions particulally challenging (especially around Minster Yard / The White Hart Hotel), and we often fell back into the habit of speaking like a ‘sat-nav’ rather than a companion.

Because I was the only one with Audacity on their computer, editing the recordings and exporting them to Mp3 files was my job. For me this weekend consisted of placing the recordings together, adding sound effects, getting the timings right, editing out background noise etc. It took a long time, was extremely tedious, and often tested my sanity, however it meant that we had a recording that was available for downloading – not necessarily to the quality or standard that we had hoped – but a recording none the less. We then trialled the audio in the site, and the timings were much better.