Final Blog Submission- Laura Ivy Cooke

 

Framing Statement

Our task was to create an audio based performance to go alongside our journey around the City of Lincoln. As a group, we chose The Museum of Lincolnshire Life as we felt that it would be a great basis for our site specific piece as we had an idea of wanting to base it on something to do with the topic of war. Our piece was titled Women of War, performed on the 7th of May 2015. We decided to base our piece on women in Lincoln during the First World War. As we were an all girl group, we thought that this was a good topic to choose, as it was also from a women’s perspective. We knew that as a group, we couldn’t replicate the First World War, as this was not possible; we therefore decided that we wanted to set the piece in the present time period, but with the feeling of memory being present in our audio track, providing a ‘ghostly’ feel to the piece, almost as though you are walking, whilst in their presence. The route of our piece began at the bench outside of Slug and Lettuce, which then involved an old fashioned sweet shop along the way, Steep-Hill then onwards towards the Museum. As our site piece was set out as a journey around the city of Lincoln, we felt that we should include Steep-Hill on the way to our site, as when people think of Lincoln, we thought that Steep-Hill would be something that they would associate Lincoln with. Also, Steep-Hill was part of the journey Florence Bonnett (we created a monologue for her story), took on her way to work, to go and work in the William Foster Factory, where she made the tracks for tanks.

 

With our piece being heavily audio based, we had to learn how to work with the software Audacity. I feel that the software was challenging to use at times, but I enjoyed working with it. We came to realise that our piece was in fact more tailor-made to represent a site generic performance, more than a site specific performance. Our piece was more site generic as we could actually perform it anywhere else in the City of Lincoln. Of course a site specific performance is based on a particular site, for example a room or a building. I feel that it was a shame that our piece wasn’t based mainly on a site; however I feel that it made us realise how we could improve our piece in the future if we were to do it again. Audience interaction with our piece was quite limited, with around 2 people at a time, because of the rainy weather. We had to improvise and change certain parts of the piece on the day, as they weren’t going to work because of the weather. An example of this was mine and Hannah’s part in the piece, as the rain stopped us from flying our paper aeroplanes properly and being able to carry out the performative actions in the correct manner; so we had to go to the next location of our piece sooner than we originally planned.

 

 

Performance Analysis

 

Our Drift to the ‘Museum of Lincolnshire Life’ was interesting and enjoyable. The particular topic which caught our attention was the treatment of Women during the Victorian Era and the war. We came across a classroom, which was very small and basic. Women teachers would have set rules in which they had to obey, one in which being that ‘they could not marry during the terms of their contract’ which is very strict and is something that doesn’t happen now, it sounds quite odd to hear. I wonder how women would react today, if these rules came back. The museum had many points of interest, such as letters, nursery rhymes that would be sung and games that were played. We felt that maybe we could incorporate some of these aspects into our performance. Overall it was a great experience. We all very much looked forward to creating our piece as a group and couldn’t wait to get started.

 

As a group, we decided to take a look at Punchdrunk. Punchdrunk inspired us because of their piece The Borough (2013) as they used audio in their piece and took their audience on a ‘theatrical journey’ (Punchdrunk,2013). This piece therefore links to our piece because we were taking our audience on a journey, around the city of Lincoln.

 

Whilst researching, I read Mike Pearson’s Introduction, where I came across the quote: ‘Site-Specific performance can be especially powerful as a vehicle for remembering and forming a community for at least two reasons. First, its location can work as a potent mnemonic trigger, helping to evoke specific past times related to the place and time of performance and facilitating a negotiation between the meanings of those times (ibid.,p.42).’ (Pearson,M.2010). From reading this quote, I thought that it related to our performance, as we are trying to evoke emotions, by using the monologues, to help portray the memory of these women’s lives.

From reading Fiona Wilkie’s Mapping The Terrain: a Survey Of Site-Specific Performance in Britain, Wilkie writes ‘Who is producing site-specific performance in Britain? Who see’s it? Where do these performances occur, or more particularly, ‘take place’? (Wilkie,2002). From this quote, I feel that myself and my group felt as though the Museum of Lincolnshire Life was our Site, as the audience, at the end of the piece could go and learn more about how the war impacted Lincoln in the museum. They couldn’t go into another museum and learn about how the war changed lives in Lincoln.

Dreamthinkspeak also inspired us from looking at their previous performance of Don’t Look Back (2003-2008). Dreamthinkspeak use different types of audio in their pieces; this is quite like our performance as we used our audio, but we layered it and used sound effects from freesound.org, it was quite like a soundscape, but with monologues included.

After researching what penny sweets children would eat during the war, liquorice appeared the most popular.  Gobstoppers and ‘bulls-eyes’ also seemed a great buy for the children, using their pocket money.  For our piece, we thought about including the sweet shop located near Steep-Hill, as we wanted to ask our audience into the shop and buy the liquorice. This was a way we wanted to keep the audiences attention, and was also a type of audience interaction we used in our piece. (BBC,2015).
Researching war time songs, ‘We’ll Meet Again’, was a popular song from the time.  Other war time songs include: ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’, ‘Run Rabbit Run’ ‘Don’t Sit under the Apple Tree’.(Classics Website, 2015). And so on. I felt that we could use sections from these songs in our performance, when moving on to the next scene perhaps. I felt that if we used songs that were played during the war, it would make the audience feel part of the performance and it could have also created further imagery in their minds about the time period. We later on in the process, decided to not choose any war time songs as we where having trouble finding a way to do it without breaching any copyright laws. Instead we picked a couple of war time poems.

During our process, in one particular seminar session, when we were looking at performance in terms of framing and threshold, I felt, it was a different and interesting way of looking at the performance as a whole. The repetitive actions such as opening the door and saying ‘Hello’ over and over again, showed that in ordinary day situations, a greeting in which we say so naturally, can be turned into something that almost becomes robotic, as it was the same word being said at us, the meaning of the word felt like it was being lost in the process and we couldn’t do anything about it, we had to wait. During the exercise at first, we as an audience, didn’t know whether we should interact and say ‘Hello’ back to make it stop, however we tried saying ‘Hello’ back and it kept going, although us saying Hello back didn’t make it stop, I feel it was good that we all decided to try something as a group. For example my group needed to try things out a few times to see if they worked, such as the ‘wave goodbye’.

When thinking about our performance in terms of framing, I felt that we wanted a linear structure to it, but to also to make it interesting for the audience. We thought about the idea of using music from the war period, for our transitions, (from monologue to monologue) for example. For our performance, we wanted it to make sense for the audience members. We also said that the use of headphones was an example of a threshold for the audience, because it’s their way of entering the performance but in a different way.  It was also discussed that The City of Lincoln could be an example of framing for our piece.

When researching what the words ‘Ethnographer’ and ‘Phenomenologist’, I found that an Ethnographer is when someone ‘deals with the description of specific human cultures, using methods such as close observation and interviews’. (Free Dictionary.com,2011) ‘Phenomenologist’ comes from the term ‘Phenomenology’ which means: ‘the study of structures of consciousness, as experienced from the first person point of view’. (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,2003).

After quite a few Audacity sessions, I felt that I gained a better understanding of the software and I really enjoyed looking for sound effects to go with our performance too. Throughout the process we came up with an introduction for the performance and researched Women during 1915 and how women had to work when the men went away to war. Also our aim was to portray how women, before the war, had their ‘traditional roles’ like cleaning the house and having children etc., and how from the women’s perspective was ‘not enough’, and how they felt like they were being patronized. When the women then went to work during the war, they finally had a voice and could do something other than their usual daily routine. Using symbolic movements in our performance we felt would be a nice way of audience interaction. The theme of ‘Working Women during the war’ is what we based the performance on. For symbolism in our performance we were thinking of getting our audience to use rubber bands and linking them together to represent the tracks of a tank for example, however we did not include this in the final piece. We learnt that minimal, but small symbolic movements, can have more of an impact on the audience. We also researched women’s narratives during the war, to see what their views where like.

 

To start writing our monologues, we had to decide on what tense we wanted to use, so they would fit with our piece. We chose to write them in the present tense from the characters perspective. For the piece, we decided to base them on: Amy Beechey, Florence Bonnett and the point of view of a Teacher. We went with the idea that all of these women connected with one another, as the war affected each of their lives, and how everything changed for them. We then edited our monologues to make sure that there weren’t any mistakes or things that didn’t sound right. After this we recorded two of the monologues, Amy Beechey and Florence Bonnett. We feel that we needed to make more changes to the Teacher piece. Having recorded our monologues, we uploaded them to Audacity and saved them to my drive account. As a group, we then planned to go to the Lincolnshire Archive to see the Letters that Amy Beechey received off her sons; as we wanted to include more in our monologues and to also make sure that we were using correct information. We also wanted to find out more information on Florence Bonnett and her fiancé who went to war. After being at the Archive for a few hours, we found some useful information for our piece. I feel that the trip to the Archive was interesting. During the visit, we looked through some of the letters which the archive had saved on a selection of discs that we then put into the computer. I found this particularly interesting as we not only found out more about the letters, we also found out about the use of censorship during the war. A main point of the visit which really interested me was the Beechey Boys letters to their mother, Amy Beechey. The army used post cards which told the soldiers what they could and couldn’t write, they also had to cross out anything that the soldiers had written that they didn’t want people to know. I couldn’t believe how secretive it all was, as I had never heard of them being limited to what they could and couldn’t write. We also read the telegram that Amy Beechy received when her son, Barnard had died. It must have felt awful of course, but even more so that when she opened the envelope and saw that the writing was typed and not written in her sons handwriting, it must have broke her heart even more, because she would have had an idea of what she was about to read.

 

 

Figure 1 (Cooke,L.Women of War,2015)

IMG_20150203_151136090

 

On our trip to the site with Karen, we figured out what we could work on, to make our ideas more solid and suitable. We tested out different actions to see how we could make them relate to our performance, and explained our thoughts to Karen. An example of our actions was the ‘wave goodbye’, we wanted this to show that the journey could continue to the next point. We also used repetition with our actions in the classroom part of our piece. I felt that having this session was really helpful as it helped us get back on track with our process and gave us more ideas to think about. It was also a positive for us to have the opinion of another person and to see it from their point of view. We then went on to work on our audio using audacity, to see if our audio worked well with our site and that all the timings where correct.

 

Evaluation

For our final piece, we decided to use performative actions, the ‘wave’ and the ‘aeroplane movements’ frequently used throughout our piece; just as subtle hints to do with our audio. When we finished our audio track, it was a great moment for us, as we had all worked very hard on the audio as we wanted it to sound right and be interesting for the audience. We were pleased with the outcome.

From the monologue of Florence Bonnett, to the monologue of Amy Beechey, we feel that we tried our best to include as much information, attention to detail and energy in the performance as we possibly could. When we thought about using the chalkboards as a symbolic reference to the people that lost their lives during the war, we wrote down the names: ‘Bonnett, Beechey, Wetherall and Foster.’ Overall, I feel that our performance was a very different experience to what I thought it would be. The weather had varied during the day whilst we were practicing our piece, unfortunately when it came to our assessed piece, the wind was strong, and the rain was torrential. However this didn’t stop us as performers; we kept going and tried our best to still put on a good piece.

We originally had the idea of wiping the names away to represent the end of their lives, however with the rainy weather, this symbolic part of our performance became even more symbolic, (I felt), as the rain aided us in washing away the names on the chalk boards. It was quite emotional in a sense, as it created a more intense, sad atmosphere overall.

To improve our performance if we had to do it again, I think that we should choose a stable site, and create a piece that is Site Specific. I feel that it would be nice to work in a site, to see the contrast between how our performance would be in a site, and how different it would be compared to, what we now realise, was a site generic performance.

 

Word Count:2755

 

 

Works Cited:

-BBC website (2015) Schools World War One: What was family life like? [Online] Available from http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/0/ww1/25415720 BBC Website [Accsessed 10/5/2015].

– Classics Online (2015) All Clear: Favourite Wartime Songs. [Online] Available from http://www.classicsonline.com/catalogue/product.aspx?pid=836389 [Accessed 9/2/15].

– Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2003-2013) Phenomenology. [Online] Available from:http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/phenomenology/ [accessed 18/2/15].

– The Free Dictionary by Farlex(2003-2015) Ethnographer. [Online] Available from: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/ethnographer [accessed 18/2/15].

-Punch Drunk (2013) The Borough. [Online] Available from:http://punchdrunk.com/#past-shows/column/3 [Accessed 13/5/15].

Wilkie,F. Mapping The Terrain: a Survey Of Site-Specific Performance in Britain. New Theatre Quarterly (2002) Cambridge University Press.

-Dreamthinkspeak (2003-2008) Don’t Look Back Dreamthinkspeak. [Online] Available from: http://dreamthinkspeak.com/productions [Accessed 13/5/15].

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

 

 

 

Final Blog Post- Emma Rewse

 

Framing Statement 

Our group was different from the other class sets in the sense that instead of being given a location for our piece to perform at, we were given a completely different format that we had to comply to. That format being audio tours, meaning that we had the freedom to choose almost anywhere in Lincoln to set our performance. This naively appealed to us, thinking that we could choose anywhere within the city to perform in. As I said, naively, this came with problems of its own, mainly where would we choose. To come up with the answer to this Karen told us to go on a “drift”, a journey where you do not plan where you will end up you just randomly go where you feel like in order to hopefully end up in a new and exciting place. Ours started at the Lincoln Performing Arts Centre, working our way through town, past the college and up to an amazing park called the Arboretum on Monks road.

The Arboretum itself has been around for many years since the Victorian years between 1870 and 1872 so offered to us a vast history for us to dive into and gut out. To our luck, on the map of the park it points out the main characteristics as well as small stories behind them, one that caught all of our eyes was ‘The Cold Bath House’. Bombed in the Second World War it immediately grabbed our attention and made us want to find out more about it. Sadly, finding more out about the cold bath house proved more difficult than we first thought. Despite these problems we had already been given loads of inspiration for our piece, we wanted to make it all about lives of those involved in World War Two, and more specifically about a young couple, a soldier who proposes to his girlfriend before he goes off to fight in the war. We wanted to follow their lives, finding out about the war starting, him proposing to his beloved, him leaving for war with the hope of one day returning to his fiancé, and him inevitably dying in the war and her finding out about her future husband’s tragic death. Not only did we have the strong link of the cold bath house being bombed, but in the wars Lincoln was a pivotal point in Britain, being as the first tanks were built here and it continued to help the forces dramatically throughout the years to come. The whole idea for our piece to me was taken from a performance Karen told us about in class where she followed a guide around Greece, listening to an audio tour in which there were times where she was not sure if it was the recording or someone talking to her in real time as the timing of the audio and the lip syncing of the performers was so spot on.

We wanted the performance to comprise of the whole of the Arboretum so that the audience got to see each bit of it, including the lion statue which is a main part of the Arboretum, brought over to the site in pieces but was put together on that spot in 1872. We made each of the more dramatic points within our piece be performed at the more iconic locations of the Arboretum; The bandstand being where we find out over the radio that World War Two has begun, the secret garden within the park where the audience see the solider propose to his girlfriend (the secluded nature of the secret garden adding to the intimacy of the moment), the bridge over the pond where he must leave his girlfriend to fight for our country, following him into the maze where he is shot and dies alone and lost, so that the audience would have to find their own way out finishing at the lion statue with the girlfriend and his family learning the news giving poppies to the audience in a tribute to all those who fell in the two world wars.

 

The concept of time was a tricky one in our original piece; on the one hand we were using a symbolic time as we were condensing the 5 years of WW2 into one 15 minute long performance. We planned on using different places of the Arboretum to signify various different lives changing moments of our characters. On the other hand we had a set time, we needed to try and fit going round the whole of the Arboretum into about 15 minutes. As well as that we planned on a few moments within the piece where timing with our audio needed to be exactly spot on, for example for a time we wanted one of us to sing on the audio and in real time so it looked like we were singing right in front of them. Choosing a piece that revolves so much around the past has problems of its own, our plan was to take them back in time, to make them feel as though they were living through this time along with our characters. However, this did not come without problems that would have taken some serious thinking to overcome which is why we decided to try and simplify the idea.  After trying to rethink and failing to come to any solutions we had to come to terms with the fact that the performance idea had too many flaws that we could not change, mainly being that it was too much of a play with the characters and dialogue where it should be more of a performance art piece so we decided to scrap our ideas and start from scratch with a whole new idea, although we all had our hearts set on using the arboretum and involving the past.

Initially we thought about changing it to do a piece on hellos and goodbyes seeing as a it was set in a park and many people meet up in parks, we considered saying them in a multitude of languages and using the well known signs to go with it however to put a twist on the idea have it so for example when they heard hello the audience would see us bowing which is the custom in Japan. Although this again seemed like a good idea when we sat down and thought about it we realised that even though it linked well with parks in general it was not site specific to the Arboretum. At a loss of where to go next we decided to go back to researching the park, more specifically the cold bath house, bombings of it and in turn the bombings in Lincoln in general. Through researching the cold bath house we found out all about the owner Sir Henry Irving, both his life and his death, (he died after consuming some gone off clotted cream) and accounts by the gardener. As well as this we found fascinating accounts by people who were there in the bombings themselves including one by a man, Fred Hurt talking about how he was with his best friend having tea at five  o clock when the bombs hit. “I’d just got into seat when someone said something about a siren. You could just hear it started to wind up when the bombs actually fell. They just fell out of the rain cloud. People tell me it was five o’clock when they looked up to see the bombs falling down. One of them hit Cold bath House and another landed on the allotments in St Anne’s Road.” (BBC, 2005).

This gave us new ideas and inspiration revolving around the accounts of these men, of what the cold bath house, the arboretum and Lincoln were like back in the days, however other members found really interesting stimuli for working with the concept of time which although was fantastic work it was once again sadly not specific enough to the Arboretum. As a result of this we decided to combine the two ideas of talking about time, how it changes and the effects it has on us as people and the history of the Arboretum and the people living near and in it. Giving us the basic ideas and material for the piece that we ended up performing for our final assessment.

Our whole finished end piece was about time, more specifically how it changes, how our lives revolve around it and how it changes as we do. Throughout our walk through the Arboretum we asked the audience to not only view time differently but really think about what it means to us, how the thought of a life without time is completely unimaginable. Each of us had our own part and view on time, Lee was playing the part of Sir Henry Irving, the first owner of the cold bath house, his part entailed him looking over at what he once owned and doing sketches, Hayley and Sara were playing the part of joggers, showing another way that time rules our lives seeing that timing themselves is a big part of a joggers training, Sarah’s part was the part of the gardener of the Cold Bath house, again like Lee linking to the past of the Arboretum and my part was me sitting in the children’s play area as though I was waiting for something or someone. My part of the performance revolves around how time changes as we age, as children we do not think about it, our days are as a whole endless hours of fun that we either do not know how or just do not find the need to keep track of those hours, it is only when we get older that time and the concept of running out of time comes into play and slowly takes over our lives. The idea that time moves fast when you are having fun but a minute feels like an hour when you are waiting is something that everybody over a certain age understands, but when is that age? At what point do we start caring?

During our early walk throughs and rehearsals it became tricky keeping track of how long we needed to get in between places there were many factors we had to keep in mind, would we have someone who could not walk very well in our audience, would the audience want to stop for a while to look at a certain point in the tour. With our original ideas we had one of us being the tour guide leading the audience through the chosen path, however knowing when to lead them on was difficult without having the audio playing for us as well, as we could easily move someone away from a point too early or too late so that the next bit would not make sense and the whole of the performance would become out of sync. Karen also pointed out that we were not leaving ourselves enough time to get from one performance point to the next without having to run around the Arboretum without being seen by the audience rushing around, as well as this following a tour guide limited what the audience would see as they would be concentrating on the person in front, however the way in which the fist idea was performed it meant that it would not work any other way. In our later ideas luckily it worked out with the instructions being on the audio meaning that not only could the audience make their way through it without as much worry of the being behind time or lost but in doing it in this sort of style it allowed us to focus on the performative actions we had on our stations. Rehearsing with the audio though was still a tricky task to compete with, we had to make many adjustments to the timings as we did not give enough time to allow the audience to get to the next point.

During our walk through rehearsal trying to manage all the timings we came about some issues that might come up in the real performance, the main one being members of the public and specifically to me children playing in the play area where I’m supposed to sit. However due to the nature of my part it works with me being alone in the play area or surrounded by playing children provided that I do not look as though I’m joining in or enjoying myself.

The day of the performances came with the problem of weather, for the whole morning before we performed it was very heavy rain, which would of made performing more difficult and in places getting around quickly trickier as a lot of our piece was on a grassy hill. However to our relief when it was actually time to perform it stopped raining long enough for the two showings to Karen and Conan. The first performance went without major problems although for the ending where we end up on the steps in front of the lion statue, we did not realise how long that bit of audio was so were a little bit at a loss of what to do as we did not really think about in depth actions at this point. The feedback from Karen was all good at this point as she did not go for a full feedback conversation just yet, however one thing that was pointed out is that seeing the lion statue from the maze where Sarah was situated was difficult making the instructions tricky to follow, the reason being when we put the piece together it was winter so there were no leaves on the trees to block our view, however when it was time for our performance, it was of course spring so the trees had leaves once more. The second performance went equally as well, apart from we had more of an idea of what to do at the end. Conan had many questions for us, one being why having the joggers in the piece, our answer being that we are showing all sorts of styles of time and joggers are always training for a certain amount of time, try to beat their personal best times. It was just another way of showing how time affects us in many ways.

Given the chance to redo this process again I would have liked to get a solid idea earlier on meaning we had more time to look at more specific aspects of the performance, as well as giving us more time to tidy up the problematic moments as well as having a more trimmed and well drilled performance. As well as giving positives, having a more clear and solid foundation earlier on would have meant that we weren’t changing so often as this became very stressful as we kept thinking that we had a good performance idea only to find too many flaws o issues with our portrayal of the idea. Looking back on the process now I realise that as well we did not spend enough time on site in the Arboretum, or get some of our friends to play as dummies for run-throughs, giving us practice to resolve any kinks in the show, as well as offering us the chance to receive honest feedback. If we had done that maybe the tree issue would not have been a problem. If we had more time as well there are things I would’ve liked to have changed, for example, Sarah’s part in the maze we just had the audience walk past the maze watching Sarah doing her gardening actions, however it occurred to us after that it would have been better for the audience to follow her into the maze itself, letting them go through and maybe even stop the audio for a time so that they can find their own way out, adding to the idea that they are, in a sense, getting lost both physically and in time in an immersive sense.

However, despite all of the problems we encountered and the ideas we could have potentially placed into the piece to add to the enveloping of the audience, many of our ideas we collaborated together to create were strong and powerful moments that we were impressed and proud that we created. I feel that we portrayed not only the concept of time but the past of the Arboreturm. We immersed the audiences successfully and our message was clearly portrayed and explained, something which could have been a dilemma due to our more unique format of having an audio tour.

 

BBC(2005) WW2 People’s War [online] London:BBC Available from www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/10/a7503310.shtml [Accessed on 16 March 2015]

Final Blog Submission – Sara May McGrath

Framing Statement

Our final performance A Journey Through Time was centred on time and the importance it plays in our lives, as humans base their whole lives around time. Our chosen site was the Arboretum in Lincoln which is a popular recreational space for dog walkers, runners and the general public. With the performance being based in such a public space when creating a performance we had to consider the practicalities of the general public being around and using the space alongside them. Within our piece we wanted to be able to blend in with the general public and seem inconspicuous to our audience members, during our piece many different people will make their way through the park therefore each time we perform it will be different as there will always be a new set of people moving through the space.

Due to the nature of our performance we chose to perform every hour on the hour to create a consistency and have the idea of resetting within our process. Furthermore with the performances starting on the hour, the audience and actors would hear the Cathedral bells which act as a constant reminder of the time. Once one performance finished we had time to consolidate and reset ourselves ready for the next audience member to lead themselves through the park encountering us on the way. As a group we found it suited us to perform between the hours of 11am and 5pm as we hoped to capture the best natural light for our performance which would make the aesthetics more appreciable for the audience. The audience will play a spectator role, therefore what they see is going to help reflect the subject matter of our performance. By setting up the performance to give the audience members good vantage points of the Arboretum, they can see the full beauty of the park while cementing our comments about time and the way in passes by having them directly compare what is happening in the park to the audio.

To make our performance site specific we have researched into the history of the Arboretum and the part that is played during the Second World War, with parts of the space having been bombed. The historical setting of the Arboretum and the importance it plays in the landscape is what we wanted to also have influence our piece, as the character pieces we could derive from this helped give another depth to our performance.

Ideas and Influence

Our main influence was the company Punchdrunk who aim to show a ‘changing form of theatre in which roaming audiences experience epic storytelling inside sensory theatrical worlds.’ (Punchdrunk, 2013). Our main inspiration was their piece The Borough, based in Aldeburgh and influenced by both George Crabbe’s poem The Borough and Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes. Punchdrunk tried to use the stories surrounding Aldeburgh, historically, geographically and socially as well as interweaving the story of Grimes to create a narrative which the audience members would be completely immersed sensually into.

As we tried to recreate, Punchdrunk combine the past and present with fact and fiction to keep their audience intrigued and immersed within the piece, so that whatever is going on around them washes over and they see the deeper meanings which can underlie performances. We tried to re-create this in our own piece with the audience members going on a journey through time as well as around the park, by including monologues from people who would have seen the park throughout time. As a group we found this added a new level to our performance with the audience being asked to think about time and the way in constructs our lives.

Analysis of Process

After being given audio as our chosen medium and having twelve weeks to develop our piece, we have developed and changed our idea many times to fit in with the site we chose and tried to consider what would be more effective for an audience viewing our piece. As Coverley states ‘The Imagination of the would – be traveller allows him to transcend the bounds of time and space’ (Coverley, 2012, 61) which is an aspect which we tried to include when creating our piece.

Coverley creates an idea where the audience member can be in numerous different time periods at once and in many ways with the audio aspect of our performance, some may find that parts of our performance bring back memories or spark the audience to think beyond the Arboretum and themselves to bigger issues and philosophical questions.

With the location of our Site, it was key for us to try and go beyond what the audience can actually see when making their way across the Arboretum. Therefore with the use of audio within our piece, we could add another dimension to our performance wherein the audience could hear more about the Arboretum and questions could be posed to them whilst they overlook the Arboretum from different perspectives.

One aspect which was difficult to try and achieve was making sure that our performance was site specific instead of being site generic, due to the nature of our site it was difficult not to include dialogue and actions which could be generically transferred to other similar sites.

Our first idea was centred on the war and the involvement that Lincoln and the Arboretum had within this historical time, we researched into the people of Lincoln who were remembered during the war and decided to base our first performance on the characters who had a link to the Arboretum. We found the story of a couple and developed these characters to create a family who the audience could follow during their time around the park and see this story develop over the period which the war took place. Time and its importance has played an important part in all of our ideas and this was true for our first idea, with the audience seeing what had happened while encountering the present goings on within the space. However on reflection and meeting with our tutor we found this idea to be too character based and with the audio aspect of our performance, it would have been difficult to fully confer to the audience who everyone was and we tried to create too much of a theatrical performance for an open air, site based performance. Despite this the research which we conducted into the Arboretum, Lincoln and the way in which the war changed the landscape could still be transferred to our later ideas in order to retain the specific nature of our performance.

In our research we found a 1981 census for the Cold Bath House, and accounts from people who had been in the area at the time of the bombing. The Cold Bath House was a glass building which stood in the Arboretum and was home to Henry Hebb who built the house and lived in it, as well as offering the main room to the city council to meet. We then adapted these accounts and placed them in our piece to give the historical context of the site. In using these accounts to create essences of people who had been there, we created a past dimension to our piece which allowed the audience to have a glimpse at some of the people who had lived in the area and been a part of the Arboretums history. We tried to create a performance which saw ghosts of the past moving among the present time in a current space with no consequence or alteration to the site.

One of the greatest difficulties we encountered was the audio aspect of our performance. When walking around the park for the first few times, we didn’t notice the different sounds which come into focus as we moved around the path we had created. As a group we walked around the park with earphones in to pinpoint the sounds that we should be hearing at different moments in our performance. In addition to this when in the children’s play park we went around to see what kinds of different sounds could be made by the different climbing frames and structures within the park. Included in our audio was the chiming of music steps which when stepped on chimed in a whimsical manner. These different aspects and sounds had to be greatly considered when thinking of our overall performance, as we didn’t want to overload the audience member with lots of different sounds. We wanted to allow the audience to pace themselves and hear the wild track which included birdsong at intervals where they had the opportunity to look over the Arboretum and take in the spectacle of our site. In creating our performance we hoped to encourage the audience member to think beyond the performance as ‘They have left me with the whole universe; immensity and eternity are mine to command’ (Coverley, 2012, 64), the idea that a performance can leave the audience feeling empowered, and that they can command their own destiny is something that I wanted to try and get across in our final idea. The philosophical debate about time and how it works is always ever present and if we can encourage our audience members to consider these ideas about time, how they affect us in different ways, we could leave the audience with a deeper understanding. As well as making them consider making changes within their daily routine to maximise the time that we do have, in order to spend it doing something constructive instead of wasting hours that we can’t get back.

One of the main influences of our piece was a section from Mitch Albom’s book The Time Keeper, in the text he poses, ‘Try to imagine a life without time keeping. You probably can’t, you know the month, the year, the day of the week. There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car, you have a schedule, a calendar, time for dinner or a movie. Yet all around you time keeping is ignored, birds are not late, a dog does not check its watch, deer do not fret over passing birthdays. Man alone measure time, man along chimes the hour and because of this man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out.’ (Albom, 2012, 8). Albom writes about the physical importance of time as we all move like clockwork, we all run on cycles. In our choice of site the audience would be able to compare and contrast the difference between what human beings do in the space compared to the animals. In choosing to repeat this section at the beginning and end of our piece we hoped to show the cyclical nature of our piece, where the audience are posed this same section on completion of the tour.

Due to the focus on time we had to consider whether our piece would be cyclical of linear in progression. Our final idea can be considered as both Linear and Cyclical, as on our performance day each time we take an audience member around then finish our piece we then take a break and reset ourselves for the next performance. Therefore giving a linear repeated action to our performance, yet it can be noted that our performance is cyclical with the way in which we repeat the actions continuously throughout the day, always resetting and repeating with minimal changes to our own actions, only the people around us will change. Within parks there is going to be a cycle of people moving in and out, doing what they need to get done the leaving. While we as a performance group stay the constant within the park the action going on around us changes constantly with the public performing repeated actions for themselves or doing something out of their daily routine. The ambiguity around the members of the public and their reason for being there adds to our questioning of time, we do not know why the people are there but that at moment in time they are and we will become a part of their day as they possibly encounter us as we perform.

One risk we took with our site was the open nature and lack of cover which it would be able to provide if we did have bad weather on the day of our performance. The positive of our site is that in the summer months, the sunlight creates a positive, upbeat atmosphere. Although during rehearsals we had to brave the elements, in our later rehearsals we had bad weather and we found that it did caused a hindrance as it distracted the audience member from the audio and made it difficult for us as actors to move around the Arboretum quickly with the wet grass and health and safety hazards. Moreover with bad weather and the distance that our site was from the town centre we would be unlikely to get many people come and visit our site. If there was to be bad weather on the day of our performance, I believe that it would change the tone of our piece and make the way in which we approached the subject of time and the questions we posed via audio. As we hoped to insight thought and further discussion after being a part of our piece, there may be a more negative or pessimistic view of our piece if the weather creates a darker mood within our piece.

Our final performance idea was a culmination of ideas around time, space, past and present. We combined the historical details from our research with the general public who we encountered in our time at the park. We used some of their actions as our own repetitive performative actions within our performance, actions such as running and exercising within the Arboretum. As runners we chose to select a section near the fountain and ran around it, with one runner being faster than the other and continually stopping to wait for the other to catch up. By running in the cyclical yet stilted nature we created a pattern which we followed through the performance. In addition the character of Hebb, moved around the Arboretum and continually stopped in order to draw different aspect of the park, including the cold bath house which used to stand near the entrance to the park. Through combining these repetitive actions with the essence of characters who over time have been a part of the Arboretum such as the designer of the Cold Bath House, Henry Kirk Hebb and the Gardener to tended to the Arboretum since before the Cold Bath House was bombed in the Second World War. We created a performance that transcended time and allowed the audience to take a walk through history as well as the physical space.

In our final rehearsal before the performance we attempted a run through where I took the part of the audience member. We decided to add an extra character monologue into our piece therefore our final rehearsal also acted as a last effort to adapt the audio, in order to make sure that the speech matched up to the sections which would correlate to what was being said. Moreover we wanted to make sure that the time gaps in between the speech would allow the audience to move to the next part of their journey around the Arboretum.

As performers we had to be aware that whilst moving around the site, we would constantly be on show to the audience as the path we had chosen to make the audience follow would mean constant exposure. It would then be key to stay in character and understand the route we would take so that we all moved as clockwork around the site.

Performance Evaluation

On reflection our performance was executed well and worked effectively in our site. Through our audio we had a sound consideration of time and the way it affects people and spaces, however we could have extended this thinking further by including more physical actions and interactions with the audience. The way in which we developed our idea meant that we wanted the audience member to be an observer, despite this our performance could have worked better by including moments in which the audience were encouraged to join the performers and try to join in their actions. As actors we could have worked to integrate the audience into the piece and make them feel the movement of the piece and well as the passing of time which they take to complete each task. The main example of this being with the use of the maze, we could have told the audience member to move into the maze and pause the recording while they find their way in and back out again. By including this we could have furthered the audiences thinking about time, as each person would complete the task in different times and they could experience getting lost in the maze and also getting ‘lost in time’. On top of this, at the beginning of each performance we heard the chimes of the Cathedral signalling the hour, which added another level to our performance as the audience was again being reminded of time and the part in plays in human lives.

If we were to change anything about our performance to do again, I would change our performance group. Fortunately four of the five of our group worked well together and shared the work so that even if slightly unequal we all contributed. However one member didn’t contribute fairly within our group and had to be carried along, throughout the module they let us down and in our final performance their section within the journey was unimpressive. More could have been done with their section in the play park and due to it being near the beginning of the audiences walk didn’t set a good standard for the audience to continue their walk on.

One concept which we wanted to focus on was the details which we included for certain actors, Lee who played a character of Henry Kirk Hebb was repeatedly moving around the Arboretum and drawing the maze section and what was The Coldbath House which was bombed. To create this we drew outlines of both sections and left details to be added while we performed, therefore as the end of the performance day we had a more completed drawing of both parts.

I believe that as a group we felt restricted by the audio aspect of our piece as I personally have never worked with audio before, as a result it was a new idea and venture for a performance piece. Once we had our final idea, it became easier to consider the audio and due to this I took into consideration what you can see but not always hear. As a group I think that we worked well and tried to come up with a piece which was thought provoking and linked in with the historical setting of our site. In addition to this with the conditions which we faced in the Arboretum with the intermittent bad weather, we performed well and worked with the space we had chosen.

Word Count: 3216

Bibliography

Coverley, M. (2012) The Art of Wandering: the writer as walker. Harpender: Oldcastle Books.

Albom, M. (2012) The Time Keeper. Sphere.

Punchdrunk (2013) The Borough. [Online] Aldeburgh: Punchdrunk. Available from http://punchdrunk.com/past-shows/article/the-borough [Accessed 28 April 2015].

Final Blog Submission – Anna Leigh Starbuck

Framing Statement

yOUR Journey Lincoln was a site specific performance, performed on the 7th May 2015. Our piece was a twenty minutes of an audio/visual journey which eventually leads to our final performance site where there was a 10 minuet performance. The journey itself started from the Lincoln’s performing Arts Centre, where silent guides would lead our audience through the centre of Lincoln to a deserted park under the fly-over in between Kesteven Street and Archers Street. Our journey itself was inspired by the idea of a ‘drift’, described here in ‘A starter kit for drifters’;

“It’s not a stroll in the park, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Drifts are for opening up the world, clearing eyes and peeling away the layers of spectacle, deception and that strange “hiddenness in plain sight” that coats the everyday… so that rather than wandering ankle deep through the sediment of discarded images and illusions, you can explore the whole whirling snowglobe.” (Mythogeography, 2015)

With this is mind we set out to explore the city in a different and unique way, by not being compelled by direction. This really allowed us explore different parts of Lincoln and begin evolving our creative process. The journey we undertook from this drift is the route we decided our audience should experience. To expand on this, another type of journey that we looked was that of the theory of the ‘Imaginary Walker’. After reading the article by Coverley, it inspired me to think of journeys as not only a physical one, but as a mental construct as well. This led us to the idea of developing our journey into a more philosophically challenging experience. We resulted to the idea of exploring time by talking our audience through the subjects of ‘past, present and future’ of Lincoln’s vast cultural/economic history. A quote that resonated with me personally from Coverley is that it is “better to travel than to arrive.” (Coverley, 2012) Especially with the whole of the city being the site we were told to explore, by focusing on the journey rather than the final destination. For example the ‘drift’ it allows the audience to reconnoitre, as we did on our drift, to display a different side to Lincoln that could possibly lead the audience to notice ‘interventions’ they have never seen before. With the use of an audio/ visual guide showing the pre-recorded journey it allowed us to challenge the ideological concept of time and existence. The audio promoted the audience member to look and engage within the city in a different intimate way.

Our practical site itself, namely the park, is where we ended our drifting journey.It was at this point during the performance the audio tour stopped and audience were free to roam. When in the site the group and I continuously persisted to draw images on the floor in multi-coloured chalk. We then encouraged the audience to take part within our activity, giving them free range of the chosen space. The images we drew as a group differed from footprints, to childish images such as stick men and play ground games such as hopscotch. This linked in with the park’s original use as a play recreational space for children. We also wrote quotes from the audio such as “Lindum Colonia” (The original Roman name for Lincoln) and interesting landmarks seen on the journey, such as Lincoln’s historical Stonebow, situated in the heart of Lincoln. The mixture of images and text led to the site looking like a huge canvas reflecting on our memories and development of the journey. After we had drawn images we continuously then washed them away with water, this symbolised the futility of time perhaps how everything changes, and how things we construct all end up being destroyed or fall into decay.

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Figure 1 (yOUR Journey Lincoln, 2015)

Analysis of Process

When being challenged with creating a site-specific performance many thoughts came into my mind, being as though I haven’t created a piece of performance art such as this, the idea seemed daunting. Heightened with the thought of incorporating audio into our performance, I began by doing some deeper initial research into what site-specific performance actually is and what it involves. Through reading Fiona Wilkie’s work Mapping the Terrain (2002) she highlighted variation available when working with a site other than site-specific performance. With our site situated inside Lincoln we wanted to ensure our performance was specific, over generic. This idea was something we kept in mind and monitored throughout the ensuing process.

After our ‘drift’ we found multiple and even possible sites which we could have used for our performance, we then discussed and established many thoughts of inspiration that could take place within them. One building  in-particular we found of interest was that of the Lincoln Equitable Cooperative Industrial Society Limited, there are several of these building situated around Lincoln and so we thought there would be a great potential for a performance opportunity hidden within them After researching into the building’s history we found it compelling, yet unfortunately the practicalities of using this space were inadequate. Instead we looked into some of our other available choices that could be transformed into a performance site, this being the park. Our first encounter with our performance space after our ‘drift’ was inspired by the thought of what time had done to the park and the area around it; Its decay. Looking at what use to be bright colours on the slide it promoted us to think of how the park would have originally looked when first built, and more importantly the children who would have used it and maybe even the impact they had left upon the forgotten landscape. This exploration had given us the topic of time, and in particular the children of Lincoln’s past to possibly research into for our performance. Inspired by Tim Etchells’ notes on performance writing we looked into creating “a text composed of fragments” (Etchells, 1999) we thought when approaching our script to use multiple sources. Our original research brought our attention too two videos which audio we would like to use. One of an elderly lady, Margret, talking about her experiences growing up in Lincoln in Post-War Britain. Another is taken from 1935 by British Pathé, where a gentleman talks about the history of Lincoln, pointing out key features which can still be seen today, such as pointing out the Stonebow in the centre of the High Street.

As our process developed we decided to move away from the idea of children in Lincoln and moved towards exploring the subject of the past, present and future of Lincoln. Delegating these sections between the group we collectively compiled a script, which highlighted the passage of time and questioning the inevitable future of Lincoln and our within a developing city. The conceptual performance of time was inspired by Alicja Kwade piece Something Absent Whose Presence Has Been Expected (2015) who describes time as follows;

“When attempting to describe time, we have recourse to images from very different areas: time ‘flies’, ‘flows’, ‘flashes by’, ‘passes’, ‘runs out’. Equally, for measuring time there is a wide range of formal constructions available – time is sometimes organised in numbers, sometimes arranged in a circle, and sometimes divided into strips, as for example on the globe.” (Kwade, 2015)

Her piece follows the continuity and deconstruction of time. During her exhibition the spectator passes by a wall of clocks, and this translates as literally watching time pass by. Incorporating ideologies of time into our script and beginning to finalise sections, we began the long and delicate process of recording our audio. When we first started recording our audio, my group and I have previously had very little experience with the equipment on hand to us and so we had to experiment within different locations and proximities to the microphone in order to achieve the optimum sound when recording. When continuing on the process we had begun we gathered a multitude of test recordings and samples, more-or-less, of everyone saying each descriptive piece of dialogue. Using these mix-matches of recordings we decided a running order and set out recording right away. For a more refined sound we ended up using on of my group member’s professional mics. Once everything was recorded we headed over to the editing phase of the process. A lot of the group, however, were unfamiliar with how to edit audio files on audacity and so we had to accommodate to the knowledge gap.

Inspired by Blast Theory’s Can You See Me (2004) we wanted to engage our audience through the use of technology. Blast Theory does this in this show by the use of a game. The game is simple, the audience members place themselves into the virtual world (which is an exact replica of the city) and the audience would have to navigate around the space, when in real time the actor would run around outside trying to find the virtual embodiment of them. The idea of creating a synchronisation through the medium of technology is what we wanted to explore. One of the members of our group had a GoPro camera which was mounted onto a helmet. We then reordered the route taken when we went on our drift. After a few attempts slightly altering the route and the angle we finally got the video of our journey. The angle of the video taken from eye level indicates the ‘human’ aspect of the journey, one in which the audience can directly relate too. Also when challenging our audience within the audio about the difference in time they are holding an accurate depiction of the past for them to relate to. The synchronisation of both the audience’s and the groups journey is what inspired us to create our show same yOUR Journey Lincoln.

When looking at the park it easy to imagine what it once was when first built. Brand new with sparkling equipment, encouraging children to laugh and play. However time has not been kind to this place and the equipment that once was there is all but a memory, apart from the old battered slide. Within the park you can still see reminisces of what once was the play equipment, shown by the green areas on the park floor. These areas show a presence of the equipment which is now absent. Exploring the idea of the presence of something ‘absent’ I looked into the findings of Frank Ankersmit and his essay ‘Presence and representation’. In which we found these questions, “what could it possibly mean to ‘make present again’ what is ‘absent’. How can we say of something which is absent ‘that it has been made present again’? Or that something is ‘present’ in its ‘absence’?” (Ankersmit, 1992) these questions we found could to relate to our performance. Therefore we explored ideas of how we could represent the past equipment, and showing the fluidity of time. This is how we came up with the idea of turning the playground into a living piece of art by drawing on the floor of it.

This was inspired by Carlotta Brunetti’s Forét Surprise (2002) in which she painted trees within a local park in a red-ish-brown clay. The overall effects made the trees look like a painting, suggesting the simplicity of a child’s painting. This evoked the idea of nature being innocent and that “we can only experience ‘nature’ second-hand through its mediations, narratives and constructions, proposing a vulnerable to fluctuation and change.” (Rugg, 2010) this idea of drawing in a child-like manner to have a deeper meaning reflects both the normal use of the site and the dramatic use we we’re trying to convey. We henceforth experimented with lots of ideas of what to draw within the park. Firstly we explored the idea of using shadows on the floor of where the equipment use to be, we thought of using black spray paint but found that this would be been impractical to clear away after the performance was done. We therefore had to compromise, using an idea to show both this representation of the playground equipment, and a solution which would easily was off. We therefore tried out a recipe for chalk sidewalk paint consisting of corn flour and food colouring.

 

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Figure 2 (yOUR Journey Lincoln, 2015)

Thinking, with this being a water based solution, that it would be easy to wash off. Evidently not as even now, 2 months after we first tested it, there is still a trace of it on the floor. We then had to resort to a new plan, this was using multi-coloured chalk. We found this to be a far more practical, cheaper solution, which would wash off easily was off with water.

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Figure 3 (yOUR Journey Lincoln, 2015)

 

When using the chalk it was a lot easier to use and move around the space allowing us to have more freedom with what we could draw and the size ratio. This meant that drawings could scale from small handprints to a massive clock in the centre of the park. The chalk itself could be used as a simulacrum for time. Starting out with a fresh chalk, then as its used, progressively it gets shorter and ever shorter, sometimes snapping. This shows how easily and quickly time passes and you don’t notice until there’s hardly any left.

The main feature of our drawing was the multiple sets of footprints around the site. This again links in with the presence of something absent, ourselves. Although still within the parameters of the park we were no longer present in that precise space or time, and so there is a ‘presence’ of the past being shown. Once we had drawn an image in the park we would wash it off fully, or partly, and draw it again. The water itself represented time, and the act of washing away the past drawings and starting again shows how throughout time there is always a sense of progression, the destruction of something and its replacement. An example of this we highlighted on our journey where we paused along our route and looked at a building site happening across from the park and posed questions to the audience of what Lincoln will become.

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Figure 4 (yOUR Journey Lincoln, 2015)

Performance Evaluation

                On our final performance day the weather was against us. Rain meant that we had to consider our ‘wet weather plan’ making sure the video was watched before leading our audience to the site in order to protect the tablets we were using. This plan was a last resort for our intention was to have our audience watch the video, listen to the audio and go on the journey with us all at the same time. However, reluctantly another group member and I headed towards our starting point, Lincoln Performing Arts Centre, thinking we would perform our back up plan. Thankfully, just before our journey was about to start the weather lightened up, meaning that our original plan could be done. This worked in our favour because the audience could experience the full performance as intended, and they could engage fully with the audio and watch the video of our journey while in synchronisation with theirs. The practicalities of the tablets, however, still hindered our performance to an extent. The feedback we received from our audience members is that they were awkward to carry and difficult to watch due to the backlight. Another issue with technology we faced was presented to us by an audience member who struggled to hear audio at times when passing loud areas. In hindsight we should have tested the tablets more in order to make sure they were practical for the performance. Similarly we should have provided the audience members with over the head earphones in order to cut out background noise. This is something to consider if we were to put on this performance again. With having silent guides there was a little miscommunication at times when leading audience in the right direction on our journey, after a little kafuffle this was quickly rectified and soon the performance was back on track. Something we as a group worried about for our performance was the audience’s journey and our video journey synchronising. However, on the day they seemed to line up almost perfectly to our relief. Our journey took two audience members at a time due to the reliance on technical equipment, yet with posting our video on our independent performance blog (www.yourjourneylincoln.wordpress.com) audience members could have pre-watched the video and then attended our performance still with the same theoretical knowhow. This meant that every jouney is indivisual with regards to if they wacthed the video before hand or during, or just focued on the audio.the opportunity for everyone to experience a different performance also links with the idea that time effects things and people in different ways. We would have carried the performances on throughout the day, yet the weather held us back and so we only actually carried out one performance.

Personally I enjoyed the creative element we did in the park, knowing what it represented made it feel more than just an action, but a symbol. Although as a group we had disused certain ideas together about what we were doing in the site, we left partly of the performance as improvised meaning that everyone, including the audience, could use the space how they wanted without constraint. When challenging the audience members to join in and draw in the space they chose to do so briefly but then retreated and became more observers than participants; passers by as well stood and observed rather than participated. Both the situations worked with our performance, by the audience choosing to observe rather than take part they still get to acknowledge the repetitive performative actions we are doing, and by choosing to get involved they became integrated in the performance structure and part of the construction of performance we eventually destroyed.

I feel now, after working on this project that my understanding on linking theoretical ideas into a performance has become more interrogated within my theatrical work. After finding the task of creating site-specific audio work daunting and out of my comfort zone, I feel as though if I was to do this again I would be able to approach the task more confidently and creatively, knowing that performing in a non-theatrical setting hold no bound to what is available.

To conclude I wanted to highlight what an audience member, when participating in the drawings, wrote. I find the thought of this quote an interesting concept, one in which we could consider in including in our performance if we were to do this again.

“Abandon this place”

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Figure 5 (yOUR Journey Lincoln, 2015)

 

Word Count – 3,051

 

Bibliography

Anna Starbuck.(2015) yOUR Journey Lincoln. [Online] Lincoln: Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdtQSaearoY [Acsessed 09 May 2015].

Campbelltown Life Story Circles. (2013) Margaret- Lincoln UK Growing up. [Online] Lincoln: Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b43j1HkNMvY [Acsessed 08 May 2013].

Ankersmit, F. (1992) ‘Presence’ and Representation. [online] Groningen University. Available from: www.rug.nl/research/centrum-voor…/presenceandrepresentation.doc [Accessed on 8th May]

Etchells, T. (1999) Certain Fragments. Oxon; Routledge.

Coverley, M. (2012) The Art of Wandering: the writer as walker. Harpenden: Oldcastle Books.

Fiona Wilkie (2002). Mapping the Terrain: a Survey of Site-Specific Performance in Britain. New Theatre Quarterly, 18, pp 140-160.

Kwade, A. (2015) Something Absent Whose Presence Had Been Expected. [Online] Available from: http://artforum.com/uploads/guide.003/id03714/press_release.pdf [Accessed on: 6th May 2015]

Mythogeogrpahy (2015) A Starter Kit for Drifters. [Online] Available from: http://www.mythogeography.com/starter-kit.html [Accessed on 8th May 2015]

Rugg, (2010) Exploring site-specific art, issues of space and internationalism. London: I. B. Travis & Co LDT.

Figures 1 – 5 yOUR Journey Lincoln, 2015

 

 

Final Blog Submission- Kyle Higgins

Framing statement

“Site specific performance are conceived for, and conditioned by, the particulars of found spaces, (former) sites of work, play and worship. They make manifest, celebrate, confound or criticize location, history, function, architecture, micro-climate. They have an interpretation of the found and fabricated. They are inseparable from their sites, the only contexts within which they are ‘readable’”(Pearson,2010, 04).

The constant changing of time is a concern to use all, time is owned by no-one and we are all finding ways to outrun it. Our performance, named yOUR Journey, looked at the very aspect of time and the place and impact that Lincoln as a cultural and historical landscape has impacted upon its constant shifting topography around us. Using inspiration from sources such as, Blast Theory’s interactive performance ‘Can You See Me Now’ in 2004 & Talking Bird’s as well as verbatim monologues of those who lived in the developing area.

Our performance took place in a decrepit and forgotten playground as Talking Bird’s states on performance spaces, “places that you might stumble across by accident. Places which have interesting features, histories and former uses, perhaps layered with recollections and associations which are on the brink of slipping from living memory” (Talking Bird’s,2015).

Site-specific performance is vastly different to that of conventional theater, tearing down the facade and safe environment that traditional theater evokes, and instead placing you within the transformable and often surreal experience of the fractured real world, looking at Joanne Tompkins methodology I realised that site performance is, “to recontextuailizelise performance, just as performance can reformulate how we perceive and experience space and place”(Tompkins et al,2012, 01).

Overall our silent performance took over twenty minutes, the reason for this was to show a constructed representation of time that led the participators on an interactive journey, that incorporated the use of audio/video media of a pre-recorded walk of the same route previously taken by us as performers. This was overlaid with audio and interesting/informative information about the developing and changing area. It centered on the past, the present and the ideological future of tomorrow and our place within an observed, uniformed and maturing society. Taking place on recreational space near Archer’s & Kesteven street, on the 7th May 2015 during a seemingly quiet afternoon, unexpected and unannounced. We openly transformed the site into one of reflection and interactive imagery, that could be openly explored and changed, with the use of repetitive actions to illustrate our point, and the contentiousness occurrence of change over a small period of time. Being a spontaneous event passer-bys were encouraged to engage however this was to little avail, and the only interactions with our performance was carried out by our lecture’s who were led to our ‘intervention’ and asked to walk around the space, observing, interacting where they felt at ease using chalk as there main source of communication, to interact with our performance and there thought’s/feelings of the space, along with small instructions to help continue the experience. Our location was chosen after a exploitative ‘drift’, and as a collected group we ventured aimlessly through Lincoln’s busy and congested streets without a predetermined end. We decided that in order to interact with the city we should find ourselves in a location that most passer-bys would avoid. Our drift took us down winding alleyways and crumbling buildings that had long seen better days, until we decided to explore a once joy filled location that now inspired dread and disillusion.

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Figure one (Your Journey Lincoln 2015).

Analysis Of Process

Beginning with a below-basic understanding of audio production is a daunting thought when thinking of the journey that lay ahead of us when creating a site-specific audio piece that is explored by an outside viewer. Through exploring the range and standards that original professional site-specific/generic pieces had captured on a large scale, led us to the creative ideas that would later form our ‘intervention’, within the consent shifting landscape. Our ‘drift’ as a group was crucial to this process as without a ‘drift’ there would be no experience for us as performers to engage with, and no way to share our experience with an unsuspecting viewer. Our intention was to show a new journey hidden within Lincoln’s vast culture and growing society. While drifting we found several places such as public walkways, bridges and even abandoned alleyways, however these seemed impracticable within the space they provided. Continuing on we arrived at a forgotten historic building lost in Lincoln’s past; Lincoln Equitable Cooperative Industrial Society, the building was architecturally impressive but this was merely a facade as through further research we saw the building had fallen into dark times and needed dire repair, and so was structurally unsafe to use as a performance venue for our interactive audio piece. Undeterred we continued on our ‘drift’ and stumbled across a frankly depressing, disgusting and un-nurtured park, little known to us as a group that this would be our chosen location. Entering this location for the first time as a group we were struck by not only the space it entrapped, but also as a performance site the potential it had hidden within. It was unused, unloved and time had simply let it become nothing but a secluded, uninviting smudge on a blurred, changing landscape. As Miwon Kwon explores innovative locations, “the uncontaminated and pure idealist space of dominant mod-ernisims was radically displaced by the materiality of the natural landscape or the impure and ordinary space of the everyday”(Kwon,2004 ,11).

The park was an ideal interactive space as it was almost absent from the surroundings around itself, the only physical memory that showed its previous glory was that of a large and striking slide that had been left to rust. Upon investigating the future of this location we found that no credible source of information was available and this only added to the mysterious and saddening environment we had chosen. Through this I feel it led us to the identification of time as performance and as interactive concept, and this would influence all our future work as it developed.

With many different and exciting ideas on which to explore inspired by videos such as (Niemandsland, 2013), which used names and messages to create a continuous, spontaneous ‘intervention’ on a large scale. However with budget restrictions and location in mind we began the intimidating task of pin-pointing the kind of audio experience we wanted to show about Lincoln’s fascinating heritage, through our task of creating a plus twenty minute audio journey from one set location to another. Choosing Lincoln Performing Art’s Center as our starting point due to its busy and recognizable location, we created a journey in which anyone could take part, regardless of background knowledge they knew or needed. Research for our piece came from hours of searching through various online archives, in order to find historical non-fictional accounts of those who had experienced Lincoln’s bygone years. Upon researching we found the original historical name now known as Lincoln to be, ‘Lindum Colina’ and this inspired us on our historical journey. Further research uncovered audio/video media of a man from 1935 narrating his surroundings in the early years during the development of Lincoln, far from what it is today. Simply listening to the video we heard statements such as, “ Lincoln is one of the most interesting city’s in England, with a history going back to the ancient Britons”(British Pathe, 2014). This finding was crucial when developing the style of our piece and eventually would feature as one of the main sources of information within our finished audio track, along with our own independent research including videos of those who had grown up in Lincoln (Cambelltown Life Story Circles, 2013).

Focusing on the conceptual identification of time we began to devise a working script that could be moulded and shaped to fit any future inspiration we have in our developing understanding. I could lie and say creating a script was easy, however that would be a lie, and I have to admit it has been one of the more challenging, yet constructive barriers I have overcome with time and tolerance. This alongside itself brought the challenges of producing audio into a format that could be presented in a range of suitable and approachable ways. To combat this each member of our group was allocated a role that they were best suited to, so that one person was not solely responsible. This seemed to an effective use of time between absences or other university commitments.

Through deeper discussions with our tutor we were asked whether or not a video of our journey alongside our audio would be a beneficial aid, in order to show the movement that time has taken on the city around us when we first started our project. After a brief discussion we decided to incorporate this as a visual travelling companion that could be viewed and listened to during transit to our ‘intervention’ site, and to make sure it was viewable on all media devices, & create a separate blog with information about our performance that could be openly accessed in order to follow our process and our interactive video journey (yourjourneylincoln, 2015). Our video could be argued to show the use of phenomenology, defined as by Robert Sokolowski as, “every act of consciousness we preform, every experience that we have, is intentional: it is essentially “consciousness of” or an “expe-rience of” something or other”(Sokolowski,2000, 01). Our intention was to make the observer aware of every footstep that they were taking was being echoed from the past of a previous journey already taken. As Pearson observes,“you begin to make perceptual judgements about distance and dicer-tion, near or far, this way or that way”(Pearson,2010, 29). Filming our journey through the use of a GoPro allowed us to capture the real world and a first-person perspective of changing of time, seen not only through a viewer’s eyes but that of a captured image, poetically capturing the moment to be viewed whenever desired, this was a personal and a emotive experience, unlike that of the fleetingness of time which is lost forever. The idea of being lost in time also linked to the concept of silence and how this would integrate effectively into our piece, companies like Forced Entertainment’s Tim Etchells explores the use of silence in performance and the communication it expresses saying it is like, “the kind of silence that has everything in it” (Etchells, 1999, 108). Also with the idea of a silent performance it draws attention to distractions in the ‘intervention’ as Etchells states, “by noise, by interruptions, by the actions of other performers”(Etchells, 1999, 110).

After many re-shoots for various reasons such as sound quality or visual deficiency’s, we at last finalized our visual element to our piece. Our audio in comparison was far easier as it required several attempts to finish and through the use of past sound recordings experimentation and also the program audacity, which in earlier sessions we had briefly explored and was now fairly at ease with, and through now knowing how to manipulate audio in order to improve its quality, and add ambient noise to fill in any dead space within our audio. We also wanted our audio to be in sync with that of our journey, and so painstakingly the process of chopping, cutting and extending audio tracks so that they would fit within a real time-scale in the outside world. Through the use of music tracks we were able to breakup the information that was being given and create a relaxed pace from which to listen, while walking the predetermined route we had already arranged. Having the advantage of having the use of a good quality recording microphone, we were able to create a clear, concise audio piece. Ensuring that everyone had also contributed to the final recording was simply done by having each person read a small section of our script, varying our tone and voice so as not to become repetitive. During the final cut and also this was easier to detect were words/phrases may have become distorted during the original recordings.

However the question remained, what would our physical performance be? There were many ideas to begin with but we wanted to ensure that participators were able to interact in our ‘intervention’, and so through the manipulation of practices associated with playgrounds/recreational spaces we spoke about using paint to define childish imagery, and the idea of time maturing while spectators were inside our ‘intervention’. Of course with the idea of painting we began to explore the practicality of using this medium in an open environment, we also had to consider the lasting impact on our site and the lasting damage that could be created, from using the park as large blackboard on which we could articulate our emotions. Eventually through experimentation we decided on the medium of chalk as a suitable substitute for paint. Inspired through our discovery of the term simulacrum the identification of an image or representation of someone as discussed by Jean Baudrillard and Mark Poster as ,“the simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth–it is the truth which conceals that there is none (Baudrillard and Poster, 1988). This linked to the idea of a forgotten space and had proved to be useful when looking into deeper research of what our performance could elevate to.11253774_10204221372040298_1293720078_n

Figure Two (Your Journey Lincoln 2015).

Using typography for example the study of text to explore Lincoln’s past and writing future messages through this medium as it still invokes childish connotations, and is more easily accessible and more significantly less harmful to the surrounding landscape, and less likely to cause a disturbance to nearby residents or the local council, who we were unable to gage a productive response from, despite unproductive countless attempts.

Our final rehearsal of our looming performance can only be described as a exploration of ideas and scenarios that could unfold throughout our changing performance within our ‘intervention’ site. We were also constrained by time, as the night before while carrying out final checks we had discovered that our performance video had rendered in it’s entirety with no under-laying audio what so ever. This left us with a harsh ultimatum of the choice to discard the video media, or spend the very early hours in the university’s mac room, praying that it would render it time. During final discussions we made the choice that the video media was crucial to our performance and we would have to wait until a new uncorrupted copy had rendered. This took several hours as technology is known to be unreliable and often unpredictable and would without warning turn off during the rendering process, leaving all of our work lost. It was only through spending the night in the mac room that we were able to leave at eight in the morning knowing we had a working video/audio piece. Arriving at our ‘intervention’ site we discussed the final imagery we would display and the type of messages that would help to show our ‘intervention’ in the broken facade of time.

We discussed and developed the structure of our piece by including the concept of repetitive action, similar to that of which had been explored in class of the impact and mundanity of a continues repetitive cycle. With the example of the same breakfast given to a patient everyday for several years.

We also discussed how we could incorporate the slide into our piece through the repetitive action of drawing on the ground in chalk and then passing down the slide, in theory this gave a literal sense to the increasing and negative effects that were changing the landscape around us.

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Figure Three. (Your Journey Lincoln,2015). 

Performance Evaluation

Overall I would say the end product of our process was one of reflection and relief. Even though we only had two main participators, consisting of our lectures who understood the performance we were trying to convey, we did however have the unsuspecting public who seemed amused and often alarmed at the thought of defacing a closed off space. I would argue this was interesting and also captured our aim, as we wanted the location to stand out rather then be forgotten as it always had been previously. There were worries that our piece would seem non interactive, maybe even intimidating, however we quickly were assured when our tutors joined in and followed the instructions they were been given within the ‘intervention’. The only issue we mainly faced was running out of our means of communication, the medium chalk. It seems poetic that over time the chalk would erode within our space without warning, much like that of time. Our performance was undertaken in complete silence and we all had roles to play. One such role was after each participant had drawn an image on the ground, it would slowly be wiped away, and replaced with another image that had evolved into a new form or subject, therefore showing the entrapment of time within a closed space. One crucial criticism we received from one of our observers was the overall sound quality of our piece, and the strain it had placed upon a listener in the loud and active streets of Lincoln’s high-street. This could be argued to have been avoided through the use of better software or a soundproofed room, or through the use of noise cancelling headphones. However this is something that could easily be addressed if the performance was to be developed for future use.

To summarize I felt we delivered a compelling and visually stimulating interactive experience, that was unique to the city of Lincoln and its burden of the shifting sands of time. It felt natural and unapologetic and broke the facade of the conventional sit-down theatrical experience, in order for realism to take its place.

The subject of site-specific as a whole taught me that acting has many forms and does not have to be surrounded by the comfortable surroundings and safety-net of a theater, and instead you can invest yourself and also entice others into a performance space, that is unused and even unconventional to create something entirely owned by itself. As Pearson explores performance outlining, 

our appreciation is not confined to the features of landscape and terrain. We are always aware of the men and women who have lived in these parts and the history of which they have shaped”(Jones, 1985, cited in Pearson 2010, 101).

Word count- 3,053

Bibliography

Anna Starbuck.(2015) yOUR Journey Lincoln. [Online] Lincoln: Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdtQSaearoY [Acsessed 09 May 2015].

Birch, A. and Tompkins, J. (2012) Performing Site-Specific Theatre: Politic, Place, Practise. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Baudrillard, J and Poster, M. (1998) Simulacra and Simulations. [Online] Stanford: Available from http://web.stanford.edu/class/history34q/readings/Baudrillard/Baudrillard_Simulacra.html [Acsessed Online 09 May 2015].

British Pathe. (2014) City Of Lincoln (1935) [Online] Lincoln: British Pathe. Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNKuYdFAuAY [Accessed 08 May 2015].

Campbelltown Life Story Circles. (2013) Margaret- Lincoln UK Growing up. [Online] Lincoln: Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b43j1HkNMvY [Acsessed 08 May 2013}.

Dries, Verhoeven. (2013) niemandsland utrecht 2013/ trailer. [Online] Dries Verhoeven. Available from //vimeo.com/73218446 [Accessed 08 May 2015].

Etchells, T. (1999) Certain Fragments: Contemporary Performance and Forced Entertainment . Oxon: Routeledge.

Kwon, M. (2004) One place After Another: Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity. USA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press.

Sokolowski, R. (2000) Introduction to Phenomenology. Cambridge: Cambridge Univeristy Press.

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

Talking Birds. (2015) About Talking Birds. [Online] London: Talking Birds. Available from

http://www.talkingbirds.co.uk/pages/about.asp [Accessed 08 May 2015].

yourjourneylincoln. (2015) yOUR Interactive journey. [Online] Lincoln: Available from https://yourjourneylincoln.wordpress.com/about/ [Accessed 08 May 2015].

Figure One (Your Journey Lincoln 2015).

Figure Two (Your Journey Lincoln 2015).

Figure Three (Your Journey Lincoln 2015).