What is a performance?

Reading The Performativity of performance documentation by Philip Auslander has opened my eyes to the broad spectrum that is ‘performance’ and what is classed as such. Auslander defines the two types of performance: Documentary and theatrical which leads us to the question – what is the performance? The process or the finished product?. Originally I assumed it to be the latter, however after a comment I read I have slightly changed my mind “to argue that Klein’s leap was not a performance because it took place only within photographic space would be equivalent to arguing that the Beatles did not perform the music on their Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album” (Auslander, 2006, 7) and of course when you consider a piece of music the original performance in your mind is the art and you are recreating this by listening to the recording. However when you think carefully the recording you hear did not happen at one time it is an accumulation of talent and arts recorded at different times, just like Klein’s leap it is not the true representation of what actually happened. Which leads to the question I stated earlier what is the performance, the process or the finished product? Musically I would argue it is the process, yet in terms of a traditional play you would rarely consider the rehearsals as a performance the whole lead up is to that finished product. This has truly opened my eyes to the possibilities site can offer as it is a form of non traditional theatre which we have the freedom to do whatever we desire with.

After forming our groups yesterday we considered doing a piece of Verbatim theatre, perhaps in the form of a tour or misguide. The text would be taken from snippets of conversation we would record from tourists/locals in and around the cathedral to see if we can create a mythogeographical walk based on rumours and old folk tales. The walk would probably be around the cathedral in our order to make our audience/participants take a different stance on the cathedral after our performance had finished instead of just looking at the front and seeing it as a building of breath taking beauty, we want to dig deeper.

Map made my walking


This is a map me and my partner made my walking around the cathedral. We chose to do this because just by chance when walking around the cathedral we found very interesting things unnoticed at the first glance, such as headless figures and skull gargoyles. We are interested in bring this feeling to our audience by making them look at the cathedral differently during and hopefully after our performance.

Auslander, P. (2006) The Performativity of performance documentation. PAJ 28:3 

Gargoyles and Mythogeograhpy

Today, on our walk to draw a map we came across a very interesting and odd gargoyle on the cathedral. Like many Lincoln residents we have all seen the Cathedral probably hundreds of times, yet never noticed the interesting additions its stonework has to offer. This gave us the idea of doing a walking tour around the cathedral of the non conventional areas of attraction. By studying the Cathedral you notice there are more unconventional gargoyles are than you first imagine, even in the surrounding walls which we can presume to be religious symbolism. Even on the front on the cathedral there are images suggesting the devil or sinning as a deterrent to turn away from God to the onlookers of the Cathedral. The idea of doing a misguide, or maybe even just an audio walk I think would encourage people to look past the ordinary which is why we chose the cathedral, looking at the non-obvious aspects of a typical tourist attraction. Our idea was to emphasise the more ordinary or darker bits to the cathedral either based on fact or fiction.This idea is also spoken about in Making a performance: Devising Histories and contemporary practises chapter ten Between Routes and Roots: “The emphasis on localism in community theatre has done much to challenge the idea that there was one official history.”  (Govan et al, 2007,138) The idea which springs from here is to challenge the facts that people cling to and perhaps change them completely or maybe even just slightly.

Changing facts completely is something that never occurred to me to do in sites so rich in history such as the Lincoln Cathedral. However, some of the suggestions from Tim Etchells ‘a text on..’ opened my eyes to the possibilities. Today we were asked to write something from the list we had heard and I chose ‘a text of obvious lies’ and due to the location where we were writing – I chose the Cathedral:

One day the people of Lincoln awoke to a very dark morning in the middle of summer.

Confused, they stepped out of their houses to see a huge building towering over Lincoln blocking out the morning sunlight.

The once empty field of grass on the top of the hill now housed a large Cathedral which seemed to have appeared overnight with no trace of where it could have come from.

Although clearly a lie and slightly ridiculous this instruction did lead me to think of possibilities once you step away from sheer facts and eventually inspired me to think of an audio walk with either slight shifts from the truth, or an emphasis on the less obvious attractions from a tourist place.

Making our own walk:

Although this was very challenging at first ideas soon became much clearer once we had decided our first destination for our walk. This then led us to view things differently that we had originally seen them before. For instance we stumbled across a wall and the only thing obviously different about it was the different bricks in one particular area, this however led us to develop an elaborate story as to why the bricks were different and soon devising a walk came quite easy.

Govan, E. Nicholson, H. Normington, K. (2007) Making a performance: Devising Histories and contemporary practises. Oxon: Routledge.


Watching the videos in our seminar about performance walks has changed my opinion about the possibilities of different locations. Watching videos about the Morcambe bay and how people reported that they felt like the were looking down on the earth as the stretches just went on forever has made me think that an ideal location for performance may be a rooftop. I think when people realise how small we are they are more likely to enjoy an experience e.g. our performance and take much more away from it. There are two types of locations from our walk on monday that I would consider, either a regular everyday destination with views of Lincoln, or a high up place off the beaten track, with views of buildings and countryside. I think this could be an important location to consider as taken from Adrian Howells Foot washing for the sole, people are much more likely to take in more when they are removed from everyday circumstances, and I think making people feel small in relation to the earth is a good way to do this.

BritishCouncilArtsSg’s channel (2010) Adrian Howells. [Online Video] Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7btf8Tdg_s [Accessed 5th February 2015].

Janan Yakula (2012) Sand Pilot. [Online Video] Available from http://vimeo.com/58462237 [Accessed 5th February 2015]

Exploring Lincoln’s hidden gems…


Exploring all of Lincoln’s sites was admittedly very daunting as there were so many possibilities for places to perform. I particularly like the surroundings of the secret garden, which although were near a hotel to me, did not feel very tourist-y, in fact it felt quite private. The beauty of Lincoln is the history in its surroundings, the roman foundations within this site particularly stuck in my mind as they felt like a little bit of privacy in busy Lincoln

IMG_4345Although I find this area very interesting, I think it is more of an obvious choice for performance and personally think given the opportunity to perform anywhere, I should grab this and choose somewhere a little off the beaten track. Depending on our theme for our performance, I think something behind bars could be very interesting both from an audience and actors point of view.



I believe performing somewhere different from the beaten track would inspire our audiences members to explore more as they will see what can be found from deriving from the usual tourist areas, not just in Lincoln but everywhere. This links back to the reading from Between Routes and Roots where “contempory devisers have sought to develop performative practises that invite audiences to re-envision and re-imagine familiar places and recognise the multiplicity of meanings they carry”. (Govan et al, 2007, 138) This hopefully means we will inspire audience members of our final piece to take a different view on the places they see everyday.

Govan, E. Helen Nicholson and Katie Normington. (2007) Making a Performance: Devising Histories and Contemporary Practices. Routledge: Oxon.


Social practises and space

Yesterdays seminar opened my eyes to the boundaries of performance. Looking at work by Adrian Howells has particularly played on my mind because I think the idea behind taking on a persona of a hairdresser is genius. Hairdressing is a very unique environment which Howells quite rightly recognises the unspoken relationship that seems to appear between hairdresser and client, and that is the exchange of personal information between two people in a seemingly confidential environment. I think Howells to recognise this environment and use it as  a form of ‘therapy’  is indeed very clever. This led me to contemplate site in relation to The Place of the Artist text where it is stated that: “What becomes important is not just the geographical place in which the work is sited but also the social practises that are engendered as part of the space” (Govan et al, 2007, 121). This is because it is not the building of the hairdressers that makes people open up, it is the social practise and the trust that happens between people there that allow people to be comfortable. This has led me to focus more on the social practises of a place as well as the site itself as both help make the site unique.

Govan, E. Nicholson, H. Normington, K. (2007) Making a performance: Devising Histories and Contemporary Practises. Oxon: Routledge.