Final Blog Submisson – Hayley Anne Spindler

Framing Statement

Our piece A Journey Through Time was the product of 12 weeks of work within a group consisting of Sara, Sarah, Lee, Emma, and I working within the Lincoln Arboretum to create a site specific performance. The Lincoln Arboretum is full of history and within this we ultimately decided to use a part of the history of the site which had no visible remnants left in the year 2015, that we were performing. This piece of history was the Cold Bath House, a council building that was unfortunately bombed during the second world war during an air raid. An account we used within our piece was an account by a child during the war Fred Hurt a part of this says “People tell me it was five o’clock when they looked up to see the bombs falling down. One of them hit Coldbath House and another landed on the allotments in St Anne’s Road.” (Hurt, 2005) We liked this idea due to the unknown nature of the house as; as much as we tried no member within the group could find a picture of the Cold Bath House in full glory.

World War II was such an influential part of the history within Lincolnshire that we felt compelled to include it within our piece. The air fields around the city made the county a target for the air raids going over England to be hit. So when we discovered that the Arboretum and World War II were intrinsically linked to each other. This gave encouragement to research further into the rich history that surrounded our site.

We took inspiration from a theatre company called Punchdrunk and their 2013 performance The Borough in Aldeburgh. “Punchdrunk’s 2013 performance The Borough in Aldeburgh is an audio led tour around the seaside town. Their piece like ours is based upon a piece of fiction, theirs a poem by George Crabbe, ours a book extract from The Timekeeper by Mitch Albom. This use of fiction creates a more mystical element, a piece of fiction around the everyday life. This parallel between fact and fiction is a common theme – intriguing multiple people including our group.

The Guardians review of The Borough states “Punchdrunk encourage you to look seawards, finding a place where the sky and sea, past and future, fact and fiction collide.” (Gardner, 2013) this idea of standing in a spot overlooking something and being asked to think is reminiscent of a point in our piece where we encourage our audience members to overlook and think about the affect of time. Punchdrunk’s piece has helped us develop our piece with its audio led piece, directing the audience through Aldeburgh as we are guiding our audience members through the Arboretum.” (Spindler, 2015)

Part of our performance was moulded strongly on the fact that we were outside in the Arboretum, we had no control over the weather. Our performance date given to us was the 7th May 2015 and the weather was predicted to be cloudy with intermittent rain. This was less than ideal as rainy weather affects peoples interpretations and moods within a space and having thought about our performance being in the sunshine due to the hope of it being May and not any winter months when the dress run of our piece happened in the pouring rain our group were concerned with if it was heavily raining during our performance. Thankfully, our performances managed to avoid the rain as it began after we had finished the audio tour with the audience members each time.

Analysis of Process

During our drift at the beginning of the semester we encountered the Arboretum in Lincoln, this park is a picturesque part of the City saturated with history and from the moment we stepped foot into the park we had unanimously decided that this would be our performance space for this module. At the top of the Arboretum when we had decided to head back into the City Centre we came across a door

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Fig. 1 (Spindler, 2015)

This door intrigued us as it was abandoned and human nature having no idea where it led to it, introduced our first theme of our piece, the past. This first emerged as an idea to show a story of a couple from World War 2 and how his enlistment and then death affected their lives. However, we had taken our idea to literally and had taken it in a different direction than the module and tutor wanted for this so we were back to the drawing board and we briefly left the past behind to focus on the broader aspect of time. We briefly toyed with the idea of hello’s and goodbye’s within the park setting, but we could not adapt this idea to suit our group, nor fit in a site specific performance our performance would have been site generic at best. Fiona Wilkie states for a performance to be site specific, performers need to have “layers of the site [..] revealed through reference to: • historical documentation • site usage (past and present) • found text, objects, actions, sounds, etc • anecdotal guidance • personal association • half-truths and lies • site morphology (physical and vocal explorations of site)” (Wilkie, 2002, p.150) As a group, we took this into consideration and through research Sarah Cameron and Lee Meachen in our group discovered the history of the Cold Bath House that was located within the Arboretum, the beginning brick in our performance. Henry Hebb was a councilman from Lincoln who designed the Cold Bath House and had it built at the top of the Arboretum where it was used for the council. This past usage of the site was one of the factors that helped make our performance take on the ‘site specific’ route.

Writing the script was something Sarah Cameron and I undertook with Sarah Cameron writing the character monologues and I wrote the more reflective passages on the effects of time. We used a quote from the book called The Timekeeper by Mitch Albom, this was “Try to imagine a life without timekeeping. 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, a time for dinner or a movie. Yet all around you timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late. A dog does not check its watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays. Man alone measures time. Man alone 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, p.8) This quote was perfect for our piece as it encompassed our idea and more. By using this at the beginning and end of our piece it resembles a clock beginning and ending at the same point. By having this cyclical nature to the piece both within the performance and repeated performances throughout the day.

Writing the reflective passages I wanted the audience to focus on their own actions within their lives and how time affects this. We used repetitive actions to stand out in the space, although our outfits were chosen to blend into the setting. Lee Meachen was the only member to stand our slightly and that was for character work as he was playing Henry and as a group we decided that he should dress smartly for it to not juxtapose the audio for the audience. The idea of repetitive actions was to look like we were running on clockwork just doing the same thing again and again. This would jar with any members of the public who were in our site at the time as their movements would be unpredictable whereas ours where. This predictability and unpredictability reflects how human nature can often end up, with people living completely predictable lives and some people flourishing off spontaneity. By not knowing what the members of the public where going to do whilst in the park and around us, it had the potential worry of causing interference with our actions but also the freshness that every performance was new. The constantly changing surroundings showing how much the Arboretum has changed from the accounts heard via audio and how much it will change in the future.

Due to the nature of our piece we felt it best to have one audience member visit at a time so that they could focus on the audio and be fully immersed into our piece establishing a more focused aura to our piece as there was no aim to have the audience getting distracted by other people and due to it being incredibly hard to sync up media players to play an audio track at the same time and a minor second clash would have meant that audience members would be moving onto the next stage in our performance before the others they were with. Another benefit of only taking one audience member round at a time is due to the reflective passages within the audio it meant that they did not feel a pressure from anyone else to react in a certain way. The calmness that was the aim to induce felt more achievable by letting the audience member reflect on their own and peacefully walk around the site appreciating the aesthetics.

We ended our performance as these steps in the Arboretum that can be seen below:

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Fig. 2 (Spindler, 2015)

The end point being here was chosen for aesthetic reasons as it is the centre point of the Arboretum and we wanted to end the piece in a memorable location. The stairs were a convenient place for all of the performers to gather in one place together for the first time, as if peoples stories where intermingling together to create a joined ending where everyone is united. This picturesque ending was intended to do just that, leave a final picture for the audience member to view. This had it so that both in the beginning and ending, the performance with a specific view of an object from doors to stairs.

Limitations to our Performance

Audio as a performance form caused a lot of limitations on our performance, as essentially half of our performance had to be pre-recorded and perfect before our performance and although it stops the panic of forgetting a line if something went wrong upon the day the audio would not be able to chance and from that point on there would be a juxtaposition between what was being seen and what was being heard. By using audio we were introduced to an audio editing program called Audacity, this program was easy to use once understood and I am pleased to have a new skill learnt from this experience. However, having audio as a non-optional part of our performance it was non-beneficial as any struggles with audio had to be overcome otherwise the performance would have not had a good outcome. Using audio limited our actions we could do at the park as we as performers could have no way of exactly pin-pointing the exact second that the audio was running to. This meant that the more character based individuals could not do any gestures at any specific point in time and had to create more general actions to do. By having these general actions there are points in a performance that could get lost such as interacting with audience as there is a headphone barrier between the two people.

Another limitation we had within this creative process was trying to make sure that our performance was site-specific. The changes between the stages of; outside theatre; site sympathetic; site generic; and site specific are thin lines which can easily get muddled up. The consequences of mixing these up would have ended the module with a performance that did not efficiently reflect the learning criteria. This focus on making a performance site specific meant that we were narrowed down the options that we could undertake. This focus on the nature of site specific at points became a ground point for our group as there was one point when the ideas within the group were too clashing and we had to discuss whether to divide into two groups or to stay as one. Ultimately we found a way to combine our ideas making it a site specific piece that was not too focused on characters yet it was not site generic and therefore the group managed to meet in a satisfactory middle point.

 

Performance Evaluation.

On reflection I think our performance went smoother than expected but there were still improvements we, as a group, could have done. Our interaction was lacking due to a choice we had made to have the audience observe and not participate, however the performance in hindsight would have been more influential if we had asked the audience to partake in the performance. A great spot for this to have happened would have been in the section where the audience were looking at the maze in the Arboretum. It was unfortunate but, it would have worked exceedingly well to have had the audience get ‘lost in the maze’ and therefore ‘lost within time’ and if we were to edit and perform our piece again this is an aspect I would be sure to add within the audio.

Another edit I would have made to the performance would have been to remove the ‘play park’ part of the performance and replaced it with another option. In my personal opinion the ‘play park’ was the weakest part of the performance and it did not have the feel to it I originally intended when writing the script. That part however was out of my control and it did not give off a good impression considering how it was the middle of our performance and to dip in any part of a piece is regrettable and unsatisfactory.

An additional audience interaction moment I would include next time would be based off Lee’s action in the performance and have the audience join him with drawing the Cold Bath House asking them to draw the building where it should have been in amongst the landscape of the Arboretum. This would have added a nice touch, by having them access their imagination and contribute to the site and performance.

A regrettable aspect of our performance was a difficulty within obtaining audience members. The assessors were the only people to come to the performances and due to a lack of interest and clashing with other site specific performances no one else came to view our piece. This defeated morale slightly and meant we could not complete the day we were intending on doing as we originally wanted to do seven performances between the hours of 11-5:15 and have one performance every hour excluding one hour so that the group would be able to get lunch. However we only performed at the hours of twelve and three leaving a huge gap in the middle where we could have performed but were unable too. Although this ultimately helped as the weather went sour after our performance at three o’clock and it would have been completely unsuitable weather to perform in both for performers and audience members.

Overall, the theme of time and accounts from the Arboretums past blended in to each other in a well-suited manner. With our first experience of using audio as our main means of performance I am content with what we as a group produced. Our first experience with Audacity caused us to have complications that we did not expect, for example, the sheer amount of wind background noise you record when recording anything in an outside space. This is one of the main things I wish I could have changed, which is to have a clearer recording for our audio as I felt certain areas within the audio demonstrated our lack of expertise within the field. Some vocal parts showed an inexperienced nature, with some bits sounding stilted and non-flowing. However, this was again an unavoidable part of having a group with members having never recorded audio for a performance. The main changes I would make to our performance would be to rerecord all the audio to try an achieve a higher standard of work, and within the Arboretum actually have our audience members give more of a contribution to our piece by interacting with us as performers in the site and actually going into the maze instead of passively observing it from the outside.

 

Bibliography.

Albom, M. (2015) The Timekeeper. London: Sphere.

Gardner L. (2013) The Borough – Review. The Guardian, 11 June. [Available from: www.theguardian.com/stage/2013/jun/11/borough-review]

Hurt, F. (2005) Memories of Wartime Lincoln Part 3. [online] Lincoln: BBC. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/10/a7503310.shtml [Accessed 11th May 2015]

Spindler, H. (2015) Fig. 1 [photograph]

Spindler, H. (2015)  Fig. 2 [photograph]

Spindler, H. (2015) My City of Lincoln Story Punchdrunk’s influence on our piece. [blog entry] 21 April. Lincoln: Available from: http://sitespecific2015ksa.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2015/04/21/punchdrunks-influence-on-our-piece [Accessed 12th May 2015]

Wilkie, F. (2002) Mapping the Terrain: a Survey of Site-Specific Performance in Britain. New Theatre Quarterly, 18 (2) pp.140-160

Final Blog Submission – Chloe Downie

Framing Statement

Our performance was an audio tour of The City of Lincoln. The influence for our final performance came from when my group and I went on a drift. We started at the LPAC on the university campus and ended at The Museum of Lincolnshire Life. When we entered the museum we found it very interesting. We found out a lot about Lincoln that we had not known before. For example, we did not know how much influence Lincoln had on World War 1. We thought this would be a good starting concept for our performance for the reason that we wanted others to know how influential Lincoln was. As we were an all girl group we decided focusing on the women in WW1 would be interesting as women are usually not spoken about when discussing the war for the reason that people mainly think about the soldiers. With this in mind, we decided women would be an interesting topic for our piece.

Our practical piece was an audio tour. We looked into different practitioners who have used audio in their site-specific work. The company Punchdrunk used audio in their performance of The Borough (2013) which took “audience members on individual theatre journeys” (Punchdrunk, 2013). The performance was through the streets of Aldeburgh, inspired by George Crabbe’s poem. This was similar to our performance as ours was through the streets of Lincoln. Likewise, we wanted to take our audience on an individual journey listening to stories inspired by the women of Lincoln in 1915. The performance included “worlds within worlds and layers within layer” (The Guardian, 2013). Layers are something we had discussed in lesson, as there would be many different layered sounds on the audio. We wanted our audio to exist “simultaneously in the mind and out on the streets” (The Guardian, 2013) which was what Punchdrunk’s performance achieved. As well as layered sounds, having the audience out on the streets whilst listening to the audio was another layer. “The ‘host’ is already the layered ‘space’ formed by lived experience, so that the givens of site-specific performance comprise” (Turner, 2004, 374) of experiences lived by others. Therefore the involvement they are experiencing at that time is layered with someone else’s experience.

Our final performance was on the 8th May 2015. The City of Lincoln was our inspiration before we began this module. After our drift our final destination was The Museum of Lincolnshire Life. As a group we discussed what would be the most thought-provoking walk to our final destination. Steep Hill is very famous in Lincoln therefore we thought it would be riveting to walk our route up there towards the museum. We believed this would be interesting as people usually walk up Steep Hill without thinking about the past lives of the people of Lincoln. Consequently we thought it would be interesting to get the audience to think about people who may have walked up this hill hundreds of years ago. We wanted our audience members to relive the walks these women could have taken. Also, on the route to the museum there were some lovely places were we were able to have interactive moments with the audience members.

Analysis of Process

We read “Mapping the Terrain: a Survey of Site-Specific Performance in Britain” by Fiona Wilkie. During this reading we discussed what our performance would be classed as because the discussion as to what site-specific work actually is, is still being debated. Wilkie asked the question “’Does “site-specific” imply “site-exclusive”?’” (Wilkie, 149). This had us discussing this question because if something is specific for a site, in theory it should not be able to tour. However, if the site were a library, for example, then the performance would be able to be performed in any library. This still makes it site-specific, as the performance has to be in a library. Therefore we came to the conclusion it would depend on what type of site you would be performing and “[its] relationships to place” (Wilkie, 149). As we are taking our audience on a walk through Lincoln to the destination of The Museum of Lincolnshire Life our performance was site-specific, as we would not be able to perform this anywhere else. Also the context of our performance was about women of Lincoln and therefore the material would not be as powerful if the performance was set somewhere else.

When we first decided upon our idea we went away and researched different women who influenced World War 1. In the museum there was a woman named Amy Beechey, who had five sons die during the war. She lived in Lincoln and we decided to use her in our audio, as her story was very touching. We also researched into women who worked in factories; this is where we found out about Florence Bonnett and her work in the William Foster Factory. We felt her story would be interesting to include as she was only young and gave up working with her family to help during the war. We began our research into these through the Internet, but we ended up at the Lincolnshire Archive finding out more about Amy Beechey and her sons. We read the letters they sent her. This was very touching and we thought it would be a good idea to include in our performance since we wanted the audience to understand the pain mothers had to go through when they sent their children to war. We felt these two women were good representations of the lives women lead during the war, for the reason that they are on different ends of the spectrum. Beechy had to let her children fight in the war whereas Bonnett changed careers to help in the war. Both of these women helped towards the outcome of the war but in very different ways.

Along side researching the women for our audio we also researched different practitioners who have used audio for their performances. We felt this was essential to do as Site Specific work was something we had never done before. We had also never performed using an audio tour, for this reason we looked into other practitioners. The first was Blast Theory. They helped to inspire us in many different ways. However, the performance that helped us with the audio was Fixing Point (2013) that was an audio tour where you “pick up a smartphone, put on your headphones and start to explore” (Blast Theory, 2013). This included history from the 20th century, which is similar to our performance as we are also using history to help create a story. As the audience used their own phones it sparked us to think about what would happen if the audience got their phones out during our performance. However, we felt they would not as they would be listening to the audio and when they stopped listening to it they would be interacting with the cast members. The next practitioner that inspired us was Dreamthinkspeak’s performance of Don’t Look Back (2003-2008). This performance was “recreated for twelve sites” (dreamthinkspeak, 2008) which is opposite to what we were looking to do for our performance. However, we thought the journey the audience go on with Don’t Look Back could inspire our performance. As we do not want our audio to be 100% monologue, we wanted it to be layered with different sounds and music. We looked to dreamthinkspeak as their performance was “told through beautiful scenarios and an equally beautiful soundtrack” (Australian Stage, 2008). This gave us hope that our performance would be able to take the audience on a journey without the whole audio being dialogue. This motivated us to include soundscapes, poems and narration in our audio alongside the monologues of the women.

When we first developed our idea we found it difficult to figure out how we would portray the 1915’s, as we were using audio and we wanted to walk through Lincoln streets. At first we thought it would be possible for the actors to dress up in post Edwardian clothing whilst the audience listened to the audio. However, with further thought we decided against this idea, as it would look unauthentic, as we would not be able to access genuine Edwardian clothing. With further discussion we came to the conclusion that when the audience had their headphones on they were in the past and once they took them off to interact with the cast members, they were in 2015. We decided upon this, as it would be unachievable to represent 1915 Lincoln for our audience whilst they listened to audio walking through Lincoln in 2015. Combining the two centuries makes “it a paradoxical space: objects and identities are both separate and merged, simultaneously” (Turner, 2004, 379).

We thought if the audience interacted with us in the present day they would be able to see the connection between the audio and the interactions they were involved in. The practitioner that inspired us to think about the ‘here and now’ was Blast Theory and their performance Can You See Me Now? (2001-2010). This was an online game where the audience were playing whilst competing with the actors of Blast Theory whilst they ran through the streets. This performance toys with the idea of space and ‘liveness’ as the performers and audience are in separate areas, “issues of presence and absence run through the game” (Blast Theory, 2001). For the player to be out of the game the runner has to take a photo of the empty space where the player is on the game, “each player is forever linked to this anonymous square of the cityscape” (Blast Theory, 2001). This relates to the discussion we had in class about ‘liveness’ because the game is being played live and the runner is there in the moment, however to catch the player the runner has to take a picture of a space, not a person. Therefore the person is not in the same ‘now’ as the runner as they are in different locations. However, you could argue they are in the same ‘now’ because they are both involved in the same game at the same time. With this discussion, we had to consider the idea of ‘now’ in our performance. Using technology in our performance connects the two ‘nows’ together. The now of 1915 and the now of 2015 worked well, I believe, as we intertwined the work well through the audio and interactions. Meaning our audio and interactive movements “present themselves as two inseparable aspects, not as two separable ideas” (Turner, 2004, 376).

Our initial idea was to have three monologues focusing on the three women we had researched into; Florence Bonnett, Amy Beechey and a woman teacher. However, that would be a ten minute monologue for each and we thought it would be very dull for the audience members. This is when we decided it would be interesting to include performative actions and pause the audio to bring the audience into the 21st century. Our performative actions were related to the audio so the audience members could see the relation to the two.

We thought it would be interesting and necessary to have layering in the audio as twenty minutes of monologues could become monotonous for the audience members. This is when we decided that having a narrator in the piece would be stimulating and would be able to introduce the performance and the monologues. We also included soundscapes as we thought this would give the audio more dimension. We layered different sounds of the sweet shop, including the sweets being poured and the ring of the bell when the customers open the door. With layering these sounds, it gave the listener a sense of where they were about to enter into. We included pieces of information about Lincoln, for example about what the Ruston, Proctor and Company factory was, and how there are still Royal Air Force (RAF) bases near Lincoln now. Connecting the past and present together in the audio allowed the audience to see how the past has affected the present Lincoln and how it will affect the future. We initially were going to include the song “We’ll meet again” by Vera Lynn. However, we discovered that it was written in 1939, a later era than the one in our performance and therefore we were unable to include it. Consequently, we decided to include a poem from 1915 instead. Using a poem meant we were able to layer the sounds of soldiers marching over the talking which brought the poem to life.

Performance Evaluation

For the final performance, we included performative actions that we had not thought about when we first began. I believe these actions helped to bring the piece to life and allowed the different periods to be brought together in a smooth transition. The layering of sounds we included in the audio was something we had not first thought about. This allowed us to discover the different actions and emotions that were in Lincoln during the time of the war. The layering of sounds gave the monologues more depth and allowed for the audio to bring the audience through different emotions with the women on the track.

There were many different key moments in our performance as we included audio and interactive actions. During the performance the audience members would meet other cast members during their walk. This first encounter was when the audience member was near the sweet shop at the bottom of Steep Hill. As all the monologues of the women spoke about saying goodbye to loved ones, we wanted to reverse this in the present day. For this reason, when we saw an audience member we would wave to say hello. When the audience members were going to be asked to stop their audio the cast members would wave. This was to show the audience although the women on the track had said goodbye to people, today the audience would be saying hello to the cast.

The second performative moment was at the top of Steep Hill. It was after Florence Bonnett’s monologue, a young girl who worked in The William Foster Factory, building tracks for tanks in the war. At the top of the hill the actors built paper aeroplanes and threw them down the hill with the audience members. We did this because we wanted the audience to build something as they had just listened to how Florence built tanks for the war. We used paper aeroplanes because later on in the audio we spoke about the Ruston, Proctor and Company Factory in Lincoln that built planes for the war. We thought the two tied in well with each other as both companies built vehicles for the war. At first we wanted to make daisy chains with the audience members, to show that Florence was young. She should have been building those instead of tracks for tanks. However, she was sixteen at the time and sixteen year olds do not usually make daisy chains. For this reason, we believed the aeroplanes worked better, as it also tied in well with the sound later in the track.

During our performance it was torrential rain and as our performance was an outdoor tour this affected it. The rain meant the audience had to turn the volume up on the MP3 players and although they did this, there were still some parts of the audio that they missed. Meaning they did not feel the full effects of the audio or they may have missed key parts of the dialogue. The rain also affected two of the performative interactions. The first was building the paper aeroplanes. Because of the weather the planes did not fly. We wanted to measure how far the planes went, but because of the rain they did not fly at all and therefore there was nothing to record for the audience members. For the second interaction the group and I were meant to be sitting on individual benches, however the rain was so bad we all had to sit on one bench under a tree. This did not give the effect of a school classroom therefore this interaction did not display what we wanted.

I believe the strongest part of our performance was the audio. We used layering to enliven the piece. There was many different emotions and feelings involved in the monologues. Including the soundscapes of the sweet shop, aeroplanes and playground gave the audience something diverse to listen to rather than twenty minutes of speaking. Having these soundscapes allowed the audience to look around at their surroundings and process what the monologues had been talking about. Although it did rain, it did not hinder the whole performance. It helped enhance the sadness of Amy Beechey and also gave the audience a sense of how the soldiers would live in the trenches.

Our audience was only able to be a maximum of two per show, as we did not have enough MP3 players and headphones for more than that. With it being a tour, we wanted the audience to be small so they were able to interact with the performance more easily. For example, if we had a big audience they would not all fit into the sweet shop at the same time, therefore the experience would not be the same as it was when we had a small audience for the reason that they would not have the individual time spent with the actors. Greeting the audience and interacting with them was a large part of our performance. Hence, if the audience were large this one-on-one interaction would not be able to occur.

Previously we had never discussed having the performance anywhere other than the walk up Steep Hill, as we wanted the audience to end up in The Museum of Lincolnshire Life. After the tour we wanted the audience to go into the museum to discover more about the women we had spoken about. Nevertheless, after the performance we thought that we could have set the performance in a factory, or where one of the women we mentioned lived, as two of them lived in the city of Lincoln. Then the site we were in would have been related to the women we were discussing.

However, as we were speaking about three different women it would be peculiar to set the tour in one location related to one of the women. The other two women would not be related to the site. Therefore, in my opinion, setting it on a walk through Lincoln was more appropriate as all the women have a connection to the city. Our monologues allowed the audience to picture themselves walking side by side to the women rather than becoming the woman they were listening to.

Before I began this module I did not know much about site-specific work. However, after this module I believe I only know about guided site-specific tours. Although this has been helpful to me for the performance it has not expanded my knowledge of site-specific as a genre. As site-specific has such a broad spectrum there were many different options we could have followed. The reason we looked into audio walks was because that was the task we were set at the beginning of the semester. With further research into what site-specific is I discovered there are also many different site related works, for example site-generic. I believe it would have been ideal if we had these options opened to us. As site-specific work is so broad the module was not long enough to look into all of the options. With this in mind, I know more about site-specific now than I did before, although there is a lot more I could learn.

 

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Work Cited

Australian Stage. (2008) Don’t Look Back : dreamthinkspeak. [online] Available from http://www.australianstage.com.au/reviews/piaf/dont-look-back–dreamthinkspeak-1113.html [Accessed 16 March 2015].

Blast Theory. (2010) Can You See Me Now? [online] Brighton: Blast Theory. Available fromhttp://www.blasttheory.co.uk/projects/can-you-see-me-now/ [Accessed 16 March].

Blast Theory. (2011) Fixing Point. [online] Brighton: Blast Theory. Available from http://www.blasttheory.co.uk/projects/fixing-point/ [Accessed 16 March].

Dreamthinkspeak. (2008) Don’t Look Back. [online] Dreamthinkspeak. Available from http://dreamthinkspeak.com/productions [Accessed 16 March 2015].

Punchdrunk. (2013) Past Shows: The Borough. [online] London: Punchdrunk. Available from http://punchdrunk.com/#past-shows/article/the-borough [Accessed 16 March 2015].

Turner, C. (2004) Palimpsest or Potential Space? Finding a Vocabulary for Site-Specific Performance. New Theatre Quarterly, 20, (4) 373-390.

The Guardian. (2013) The Borough – Review. [online] The Guardian. Available from http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2013/jun/11/borough-review [Accessed 16 March 2015].

 Wilkie, F. (2002) Mapping the Terrain: a Survey of Site-Specific Performance in Britain. New Theatre Quarterly, 18 (2) 140-160.

Daniel Davies: Final Blog Submission

Framing Statement

For our site specific performance we have been told to use the resource of audio. This may be in the form of speakers, headphones or both, whatever we feel will speak to us on our ‘wander’ or ‘drift’. Karen has spoken to us about both these forms of movement throughout an area, preferably one we haven’t visited or been to before.

Drift ‘a continuous slow movement from one place to another’ (Oxford, 2015) Karen told us that a drift allowed us to move through the city at a pace of our own and follow paths and roads to places we hadn’t been before. To drift through Lincoln in our groups and have an epiphany on what we could achieve and where we would like our site specific performance to be based.

Whilst different people began their drifts on foot I chose a different method, I would use my bicycle to move from place to place. This, I felt would help me understand the meaning of time within a drift, as I would literally be drifting by places without fully taking in what was around me at that specific moment in time. Thus allowing me to stop and take pictures of things that intrigued me and I found interesting, therefore making my ‘drift’ more personal to me, whilst still conforming to the hour time limit Karen had imposed on us to allow us to get the most out of our experience and not travel to far out of Lincoln.

These are just some of the pictures I took whilst out on my bike,

 

(Davies, 2015) fig.1

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(Davies, 2015) fig.2

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The pictures you see above are the places and objects I found most interesting whilst on my ‘drift’. For me, they both relate to time and the speed at which time passes. For example, the later photo is an image of a B road into Lincoln that goes from a 60pmh speed limit to a 50pmh speed limit as you can see. Whilst approaching this area as I often do, you can see ahead for quite a while, therefore changing the speed limit by 10pmh, seems to be unclear to me. This is what correlated between this image and my thoughts of the ‘drift’. As the drift was a voyage of ambiguity, a point in which travelling became unclear and the recent past seemed quite distant. The drift highlighted to me that, although we have restrictions on speed and time, we all travel at the same speed and although not necessarily at the same time.

Speed is controlled by the forces around us, as is time, but time changes from places to place. For example, Australia are nine hours in-front of Britain, but Albania are eight hours behind. This gave me a starting block for what I wanted to achieve from the drift and what I wanted to achieve for my site performance.

The first image you see above is of Tennyson, for me it wasn’t about his importance to society, it was more about the effectiveness of the statue. As I sat across from the statue on an old weathered rickety bench, I noticed that it had aged itself within time. There were parts that were rough and faded due to the conditions it had been in for the 113years it had been stood there. Nonetheless, it had been stood there for over a century, I then realised that I wouldn’t fair to well if I had been stood there for that long. I therefore set out so that I would use the stimuli of time and time passing, when I joined a group later in the course.

 

 

Analysis of Process

 

 

Now I have joined a group, there are 5 of us, Emily, Anna, Kyle, Nick and me. For our first group task, Karen has asked us to take a recorder off of Richard (The sound expert) and record different sounds in different areas to get used to live audio recording and understand the difficulties that arise whilst recording in even the quietest of rooms. We first recorded each other speaking at different pitches and different volumes. The problem we found with this specific activity, was that you had to make sure that your mouth was within the right distance of the microphone, as it wouldn’t otherwise pick up the full quality of your voice.

We secondly tried to record a few notes on a piano, to help distinguish between different notes and see whether the full quality of the recording was highlighted in the playback. A problem we found with this was, although the recording distance seemed adequate, the distortion we experienced in the playback was quite unfathomable, as we couldn’t understand what could have caused it.

However, after extensive research in recording we found out that it may be due to the recorder and the transference of analogue to digital sound waves. Therefore if we needed to record sound in the form of music or instruments we ruled out the recorder as we deemed it inadequate to record high quality sound. Thankfully we could still use music as a resource in our performance, as Nick had a high quality microphone for recording.

The final hurdle we encountered when choosing a recorder and the recording process we would use was, wind. Not matter how we covered the microphone, the blowing gales would interfere massively with the sound. We used a variant amount of wind socks to try and muffle out the sound and get a deeper and clearer sound. However, we didn’t find these apparatuses useful, as they left our recorded material with a quieter sound, a distorted vibrato due to the sock and a, what can only be described as, ripping sound due to the texture of the sock. At one point in the recording process, we even stood around the recorder with all our coats open, shielding it from the wind, hoping it would create a clearer sound. Much to our dismay, this attempt didn’t work either, however we had realised that, to record a clearer sound we would have to record in a near silent room, as recording outside would be just too unequal and would ruin our end product.

 

 

The Final Route

After last week, of testing the recorders and using different recording equipment, Karen had told us to go on a ‘wander’ or ‘drift’ as a group. This journey would help us discover what we wanted to portray in our performance and would hopefully find the place in which we would perform our site specific piece. We set off on a dressily morning, we didn’t know where we were going and we didn’t know where we’d end up, the only thing dictating our final destination was a simple left or right and the time we had been allocated. As before, we had been allocated about an hour to find a natural end to our wander. We set off into town, walked past the old architecture and over the canal, through the Stone Bow once or twice, past the train station and over the flyover. Once in the middle of the flyover we turned around to face the city. We could almost see where we had come from and the path we had taken to get the where we were. We looked up at the church in the centre of town and then further up again to the magnificent cathedral. We then turned back around and continued on our voyage, finally ending up at the furthest end of the flyover, we found a park. One that hadn’t been taken care of at all, it had graffiti throughout the walls, fences and equipment, of which there was only a slide, the rest had been ripped up and moved.

We found this park quite astonishing, the fact that it was still there amused us. With just a slide to the left and patches where other recreational equipment and structures would have stood. The resonance of the missing and apparent abandonment of this place was projected all over, as if people had forgotten it ever existed as a park. From what we could see, it had only been used as a walk through for local residents.

A stimulus I engaged with when we first found our Site, was Brecht’ theory on ‘Epic Theatre and the ‘Street Scene’. The relations between site specific work and Epic theatre is that of

‘Eschewing the usual depiction of human action as psychology driven to show instead causes of a social, historical and political kind; thus representing the individual less as the agent of events than the focus of external forces.’ (Counsell, Wolf & Wolf, 2001, 43).

This I feel fuelled my interest with my groups Site area, as it made me think not just of what we could create within our site but, what has been there before ‘the park’ and what will become of the place in time?

This spurred us forward to create a piece in which time was always relevant and people, be them participants or not who interacted with our performance, would themselves be entering our space and at our time and stepping back from the contextual form of society and reality to participate in creating a format of time that showed the past, present and future. However, it has to be remembered that

‘To compare life to a movie is not to say, as the cliché has it, that life imitates art, though surely there is truth in that. Nor is it to say that life has devised its own artistic methods and thus reversed the process – art imitates life – though that also is true.’ (Bial, 2004)

The quote above shows my only qualms about our site specific piece, as I don’t want our performance to be seen as a performance, as we won’t be acting. I want our piece to be seen more as a piece of live art.

 

 

 

 

Debating Changes

 

When we had finally chose an area we all liked (the park) and had chosen our main stimuli (time/time passing) we decided to have a discussion about the key features we would include within our audio. We decided that we would include part of a You Tube clip that had a gentleman speaking about Lincoln in 1935 and what it was like. The clip did have a video accompanied to it but at this point in the process, we weren’t using a visual stimulus, just an audio one. The short video is called ‘The City of Lincoln (1935) and is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNKuYdFAuAY  (You Tube, 2014)

We thought this video would help us project the audible image we wanted to portray, as he spoke about specific places in Lincoln, which we would walk past on our ‘drift’. We thus thought this would show our audience/participants what Lincoln was like then and how it had changed. Showing the significance of what happens through time and how people don’t notice it happening until it has happened. This, we felt would be shown particularly well, as our participants would probably not have been around in 1935 to remember what it would have looked like. Therefore having the stimuli of audio we could allow them to hear what was being described, whilst they had the chance to look for themselves how it looked now.

Photography is the science, art and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either electronically by means of an image sensor, or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film. Therefore, my group’s ideas of how we can relate our experience to our audience have changed. Instead of taking our audience/participants on a tour of Lincoln, through audio only, we have decided to ingratiate in the use of a visual stimuli.  This idea came to us when I recorded our wander ‘destination map’ on my GoPro, in order to add the audio over the top, so we could asses where we were in relation to the audio script and in reality.

 

01b91dc8eb746c31ca0e3ac688ae2439d0d89dfe7c(Davies, 2015) fig.3

When reviewing the footage with Karen, she directed us towards the notion of a multi-media experience, in which our audience listen to our vocal information/guidance, whilst viewing what we saw whilst on our own tour. This type of media integrated work reminded us of the performance format for ‘Uncle Roy’, by Blast Theory.

This work by blast theory involves participants buying tickets to become part of the game. They sit in an office area on a computer playing virtually and wandering around the city. The initiators of this ‘performance’ then walk around the city with a walkie-talkie and a hand held computer, on which they can see the virtual representatives in real time. Their objective is to find as many people as they can, once found, the participants are ‘out of the game’. Obviously, our site specific work wouldn’t become a game, by in which we try and find our participants, but one in which our participants can see what was happening and what it was like when we partook on our destination specific walk.

we thus thought that taking our participants on the destination ‘tour’ with us virtually would help them understand their surroundings as we did and hopefully let them see what has changed in the time between our tour and theirs. As

‘The city is an arena where the unfamiliar flourishes, where the disjointed and the disrupted are constantly threatening to overwhelm us. It is also a zone of possibility; new encounters.’ (http://www.blasttheory.co.uk/)

Whilst our participants are on our ‘tour’ they will experience the sights we saw whilst hearing the group and I talk them through the area, its past, present and the ever near future, the tour to our site will also help our audience understand our stimuli as they will be guided to places which have significance to our site, these areas will become apparent once on the tour and the site is completed.

As, when the participants of our site specific performance join us on our ‘voyage’ they will be undertaking in a part of history themselves. They will experience that the things we do today, in the here and now, reflect towards the future and resonate in the past. Our ‘journey’ along with theirs, will consist of theories about ‘Life=Art’ (Berghaus, 2010, 128). This being that everything we do in life can be constrained down to a single art from, for example, breathing can be seen to be an art as it is so delicate and is ‘performed’ differently be each and every one of us, however together, we all par-take in it. Thus showing that life can be seen as one live performance, for Shakespeare does say

‘All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players, they have their exits and their entrances’ (Shakespeare, 1970). Therefore, who are we to say life cannot be a performance, even when we enter and exit? Gunter Berghaus speaks of a ‘reconstructed universe’ (Berghaus, 2010, 128) the idea of a ‘reconstructed universe’ (ibid, 128). We hope to portray this idea to our participants, as our tour features historical content but it allows each audience member to question what happens and will happen in life. We show them that life is a simple building block that is constantly being removed, re-sculptured, re-imagined and then replaced. Each generation creating a newer reality in which we refocus our ideas for our time and the times to come. Audience’s members will become the generational builders for moments when we, as a group will give them insight into what happens after we are gone and what will continue to happen in order to build a ‘stronger’ society.

 

 

 

Performance Evaluation

 

 

Our performance was at 2pm on the 7th of May and all day it had been raining. When myself and Anna entered the LPAC to wait for the arrival of Conan and Karen we had a dilemma. Start the performance inside and not get the full effect of taking the tour with us, or go out with the I pad’s and risk getting them wet. Luckily as we embarked on our drift the rain stopped and the sun started to show. We set off from the same place as the video shows but, on a different day and at a different time. The video had been shot a few weeks prior but still followed the same route the participants would take. We hoped this would show that we may all be at the same speed but not necessarily the same time, we hoped that the participant would understand this fact and see that a differentiation in instant didn’t mean a differentiation in speed.

 

 

Our performance took place on a damp park floor but, it was of no concern to us, as the chalks we were using to draw were perfectly capable of drawing over water. We draw imaginary objects and apparatus which could have been in the park, the idea was to draw something that resembled the significance of absence. Thus I chose to draw out a roundabout with children playing on it, I later washed this away, to show the resemblance that time keeps moving forward but, what we bring with us is our choice. This symbolised that through life we build things for our generation and the generations to come, but whether we edit it and keep it for others is our choice. Throughout our performance we remained silent, even as tour guides, myself and Anna didn’t speak. We hoped this would signify the fact that silence is like a change in a force through time, you don’t notice it until it is fully happening or has happened, much like the ending or beginning of a song.

Conan used the word, simulacra, to describe our piece. I feel this translates our piece very well as, our performance contained images that had a resemblance to what was occurring, but at the same time it had a very unreal semblance about it.

11212375_10203083825856662_1379529700_n(Davies, 2015) fig.4

 

 

01420db1012e87c1776cfd5c41f2f3fc9888788b86(Davies, 2015) fig.5

 

Here above you can see the act of creating a resemblance of what was before, but at the same time washing away those creations and memories to create and recreate a different scene that we felt should be there at that specific time. Looking back, I would only change one element of our piece. This being the equipment we used, as the in-ear headphones were of little use within the city and near traffic. If I had a chance to re-do or recreate this piece, I would definitely use over-ear headphones, to help create a better atmosphere and a better quality of sound for our participants.

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Oxford. (2015) Pocket Oxford Dictionary. Oxford: University Press.

Counsell, C et al. (2001) Performance Analysis: An introductory Course book. 1st end. United Kingdom: Taylor & Francis.

Bail, H. (2004) The Performance Studies Reader. 2nd end. New York: Taylor & Francis.

You Tube (2014) City of Lincoln (1935). [Online] Lincolnshire: You Tube. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNKuYdFAuAY

http://www.blasttheory.co.uk/projects/uncle-roy-all-around-you/

Berghaus, G. (2010) Theatre, Performance and the Historical Avant- Garde. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Shakespeare, W. (1970) As You Like It. (Shakespeare, Signet Classic). United States: Signet Classics.

Davies, D. (2015) Site Specific: Drift work and Analysis (figure/s: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5)

Final Blog Post – Nicholas Wilson

Framing statement

    For the past three months, my group and I have been developing our piece of site specific performance, entitled yOUR Journey. The experience we created revolves around the idea of time; what it means to us, how it changes and, perhaps most importantly, the terrifying thought that there is nothing we can do to stop it. Our performance took audience members on an audio/visual journey through the heart of Lincoln, whilst simultaneously walking the same route in real life, to an abandoned and desolate playground, in which the audience is greeted with an interactive performance, showing the changing of time with chalk drawing and water (lots of it). Our performance lasted just over half an hour, with 22 minutes of that time being taken up by the video journey and walk to the site.

    When the audience arrived in our space, we initiated ten minutes of drawing on the floor of the park, with chalk, things that symbolised changes in time, the passage of time from past to present to future, and things related to the idea of a park; childlike game such as hopscotch. Throughout these ten minutes, we would randomly wash off part of the chalk with water, and then someone else would start to draw over these parts again. This symbolised the changing nature of time, and what it does to a space. The water represented time, washing away the old and making way for the new, and the chalk being drawn over the same spot showed the present and future, something replacing this past area. At the end of the ten minutes, I stood up, tapping each of our group members on the shoulder, signalling an end to the piece by standing and freezing, staring at the work we had done.

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(Wilson, 2015)

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(Wilson, 2015)

     Throughout the entire performance, we, as performers, remained silent, instilling an emptiness in our experience that represented the harshness of time as it manipulates its environment. We were particularly fond of the idea that as human beings we cannot perhaps explicitly see time change, but nevertheless it happens, whether we like it or not. The silence therefore showed this idea through us as performers; you cannot hear us or notice us as explicitly as if we were vocal, but our actions are still prominent and explicitly. In some respect, actions speak louder than words.

        Kaye talks of site-specific work as work that ‘might articulate and define itself through properties, qualities or meanings produced in specific relationships between an ‘object’ or ‘event’ and a position it occupies’ (Kaye, 2000, 1). In our piece of work then, the ‘object’ was the park, the ‘event’ being the passage of time, and the meanings produced being that time is manipulative and ever changing, without us noticing. The park is a place that had clearly been vibrant in its past, is now desolate in its present, and shows promise for regeneration in the future.

Analysis of Process

    The process began with our initial finding of the performance space, our park. Our original arrival at the park was as a result of a drift, something suggested to us in our initial briefing from our tutor. Kris Darby refers to drifting as ‘a type of walking that places emphasis on the senses in which one is led by in-the-moment thoughts, feelings, and sensations that prompt a liquid-like drifting through the city.’ (Darby, 2013, 50) and so this is what we as a group did; exploring the city of Lincoln with no real motivation to go in any set direction until we found an area of interest. This ‘drifting’ through the city led us to our first discovery, the Lincoln Equitable Cooperative Industrial Society.

    The Lincoln Equitable Cooperative Industrial Society Lmt. is an old building situated not far from our final performance space. We were first drawn in by its intriguing architecture and obvious history, and so noted it as a possible performance space. After researching further into the building and area with my group, we soon realised it would be almost impossible to create a performance in this space, as it was structurally complicated, leaving almost no room for exploration of the space and ultimately no room for a performance to be created. We did find some archived files surrounding the building, pinning its inception back to 1861, which made it even more disheartening that we couldn’t use the space, as the history was so rich and relatable to Lincoln culture (industrial aspects to the city).

    This defeat led us swiftly on to explore more places we had seen earlier on our drift, resulting in the finding of our final site, the park. I had read in Nick Kayes book, Site-Specific Art, that ‘Rather than mirror the orderliness of place, space might be subject not only to transformation, but ambiguity’ (Kaye, 2000, 5) and it was with this knowledge that our group took particular interest in the park we found as a ‘space’. Not only did it seem to display a transformation, as the initial park structures such as swings and roundabouts has been torn down, but it also showed ambiguity, as there was no revelation as to why this had happened, or what the plans for the park were. We found the idea of a park being abandoned and torn down particularly enticing, as it invited an exploration of what was their before, something only our imagination could envisage. From this our desire to explore ‘time’ as an idea was born.

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(Wilson, 2015)

    As we continued to develop ideas, this idea of something related to time was the only thing set in stone. With our brief being to create an audio related experience, myself and my four other group members spent some time exploring archives and online resources for audio clips encompassing the idea of past, present and future in Lincoln. We stumbled across a short snippet of audio from 1935 of a man talking about the history of Lincoln and its architecture, something we already found interesting before engaging with this module. He spoke factually about the history of Lincoln, something we knew we wanted to include in order to lay foundations for the present and the future.  For example, the audio clip stated that:

We have our housing problem, but the people of Lincoln had when William the conqueror destroyed 166 houses to make room for a mighty castle. Its strength and position brought much fighting to Lincoln, a fact which is no doubt used by local disarmament advocates.” (British Pathe, 2014)

    Once we had the starting point of an audio clip describing the past history of Lincoln, we began working on our full script for the audio tour, which would consist of this audio snippet as well as our own ideas surrounding what is happening and what could happen in Lincoln. As our initial brief was to create an audio tour style performance, this was what we began working on exclusively. We spend a week or so each writing something that we thought we could bring in to the experience, again to do with time, be it the past present or future. We then compiled all of our work into one script ready to record and edit into one smooth audio journey. As we began to compile audio tracks together, our tutor suggested a change that would make our performance bolder and more unique. Instead of taking our audience on a simple audio tour to the location, she suggested creating a video of the chosen route to accompany the audio. The idea was a simple adjustment, but fit perfectly with our exploration of time, as audience members could see a ‘past’ Lincoln on the video, be it a very recent past, compared to a ‘present’ Lincoln when they are actually walking the route. This new premise also aligned perfectly with our fondness of Blast Theory, another company ‘using interactive media, creating groundbreaking new forms of performance and interactive art’ (Blast Theory, 2015) that influenced us heavily.

    Danny, one of our group members, had acquired a GoPro that we realised would be perfect for recording the video aspect of our journey. The first draft version of our video was shot with the GoPro, attached to Danny’s head with a helmet mount. The reason we used this piece of technology and the helmet mount was so that we could get a realistic looking video with the most ease possible. By having the video shot from the head level of a person, it helps reinforce the idea that what they are watching is from somebody’s eyesight, making the whole video seem more personal and immersive; the video is from the viewers perspective. We wanted the video to be immersive to emphasise the idea that the passage of time and the changes it brings is happening to everyone, including the viewer. After a few logistical hiccups, including encountering a suspected drug deal near our location that obviously meant we had to re-shoot our footage, we had a final video, clocking in at 23 minutes.

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(Wilson, 2015)

   With the initial video idea sorted, and the production taking form, we turned our focus as a group to what would actually happen in our space when the audience arrived. We knew that whatever we did, we wanted some form of interaction with our audience. McAuley proposes that ‘If the performance event can be defined as what takes place between performers and spectators in a given space and time, then the spectator has to be seen as a crucial and active agent in the creative process’ (McAuley, 2000, 235). With the stimulus that we chose being the passing of time, it would be idiotic not to include some form of interaction, as this would be the most powerful way of representing our ideas.

     After meeting with the group and discussing ideas about what could be performed in our space, the suggestion of using some form of paint to draw pictures and phrases was put forward. As well as drawing these scribbles on the floor, it was proposed that would would wash away these artworks with water, making way for a new canvas to be painted on. Not only did this idea resonate with each of us on a creative level, we realised that the ideological and theoretical side of our original proposal would perfectly fit this performance. The washing away of the paint would be a somewhat repetitive action, symbolising the future washing away the ‘present’, turning it into the ‘past’, making way for a new ‘present’. The performative aspect would be sporadic and in a way quite rhythmic, representing the often sporadic nature of time.

    We began the recording stage of our process. As a musician, I own a studio quality condenser microphone which I was willing to use to record all of our audio tracks ready to compose into one smooth audio file for the video. As quality was something we wanted to ensure throughout all of our recording, we found ourself a small room in the main university building, with a low amount of reverb. We took it in turns recording separate sections of the script we had crafted earlier in the process, and, once recorded, applied equaliser to ensure the highest quality recording. This meant stopping the audio from clipping, taking down the high end to depress the ‘hiss’ and boost the mid frequencies to ensure a tonally smooth sound. A few of our tracks had to re-recorded due to errors in the dialogue and technically, including too much ambient noise in the background as well as interference from phones. We recorded on a second date in the back room of one of the group members’ houses, and although the sound environment was different and perhaps more reverberant, we managed to fix it in post, making it incredibly similar in sound to the original set of recordings. With the audio recordings done, we were ready to start merging these with the video.

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(Wilson, 2015)

    Editing our video took little to no time at all in comparison to the rest of our process; all that was needed to do was align the right parts of audio with the right moments in the video. For example, we knew that at a certain point in the 1935 audio track there was mention of the Stonebow on the high street, and so we wanted this to line up with the moment in the video where the Stonebow could be seen. This was not only because it makes for an easier watch a a viewer, but also because it makes the whole journey easier to dissect as a listener, as the audience member can see what is being talked about. We really wanted to get this sense that what was being talked about is what the viewer can see at that moment. After layering a royalty free music track that we found online over the sections of no dialogue, we were finished editing the video. This meant that most of our performance was finished, all that was left was rehearsal in the space and the final performance.

    The final rehearsal came in the form of a playful exploration of the park as a site. We knew that we wanted to use the only piece of playground equipment that was still standing, the slide, especially when ‘objects on the stage tend to merge into the background, and they become meaningful only when handled, looked at, or referred to’ (McAuley, 2000, 91). We decided to use the slide as a basis to incorporate another repetitive action; sliding down it as children would. We made this decision as we felt as a group that it would help bring out some of the character of the park and actions that would be found in a park, juxtaposing with the desolate, unused nature that it currently resonates. We gave some slight structure to our performance by making sure that once we had each finished a drawing on the floor, we would then proceed to go down the slide, only then returning to carry on drawing. We had to also figure out the logistics of how we could supply enough water to keep washing away the audience and performers’ artwork in this rehearsal, but this was easily accomplished. As one of our group members house was nearby, we filled buckets with water at the house, walking them to the park to leave as a pre-set for the performance. We knew that on the day, it would therefore be easy to top up with water if need be.

Evaluation

    The final performance was surprisingly exhausting but also incredibly satisfying, in terms of personal gratification as well expanding my understanding of performance instead of typical acting. We didn’t receive any audience aside from Conan and Karen, but this is mainly due to the weather on the performance date that, whilst staying clear for our marked performance, decided to take a turn for the worst shortly after. The audience we did have, however, interacted in exactly the way we would have hoped.

    The journey to our site seemed to go perfectly, with the audience arriving exactly on time as we had hoped. As audience interaction was such a huge part to our performance in the actual space, we were unsure whether anyone would actually step forward and join in, but this fear was quickly settled when both of our audience members took some chalk and joined in. Both seemed to be enjoying themselves, and fully involving themselves with the idea of our piece. At the end of our piece, we had an alarm set to go off, prompting the end of the piece but also symbolising the fact that we do not have any choice as to when things happen in time, they just do. However, this alarm did not go off as loudly as we had hoped, and so although we could still end the piece, the audience members probably didn’t notice it, which is a shame. The chalk worked incredibly effectively on the floor, especially when it was wet, but we had already seen how well this worked when we tested the chalk previously. However, in hindsight we should have purchased some thicker chalk sticks, as the ones we used kept snapping under the slightest pressure. This wasn’t a problem as such for the performance, more of a change if we were to do it again, as it would prevent having to use more chalk than we needed.

    One piece of criticism we received was regarding the volume of the audio track on the video, as Conan’s experience was slightly hindered as he couldn’t hear what was being said. We managed to track this down to a hardware fault, as Karen’s experience of the same video was completely fine. To avoid this in the future, we would make sure to double check every piece of hardware, including the earphones to make sure that no individual experience would be hindered. In hindsight, we should have perhaps used over ear headphones to cancel out surrounding noise too but this was not possible for our deadline due to expenses. If we could do the performance again, there are some things we would change even though we are very pleased with how effective our experience turned out to be. One thing we would adjust would be the quality and volume of the audio in the video, as with a louder audio level, we would be able to avoid the problem of not hearing much. The sound quality was fine we felt, but again, we could have reached a higher level of quality had we had better software and perhaps the use of a studio space.

    Overall, I feet that yOUR Journey was an incredibly effective piece of site-specific performance, successfully representing our ideas surrounding time and the changing nature of physical and emotional elements in these changes. By interacting with our performance, I feel I have expanded my horizons when it comes to different forms of art and performance, now knowing that it doesn’t have to just be ‘acting’. Spaces and areas have different background and different meanings, and site-specific performance helps to display this in a way that is accessible to all, no matter how much knowledge you have of the space previously, and this is an incredible thought.

3,059 WORDS

Blast Theory (2015) Our History and Approach. [online] Brighton: Blast Theory. Available from http://www.blasttheory.co.uk/our-history-approach/ [Accessed 8 May 2015].

British Pathe (2014) City of Lincoln (1935). [online video] Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNKuYdFAuAY [Accessed 9 May 2015]

Darby, K. (2013) Framing the Drift and Drifting the Frame: Walking with Wrights & Sites. New Theatre Quarterly, 29 (1) 48-60. Available from http://ejournals.ebsco.com/Direct.asp?AccessToken=5WF494FTRPFWQS9NURS6FRYR4RRWTR9Q6U&Show=Object&ErrorURL=http%3A%2F%2Flinksource%2Eebsco%2Ecom%2Ferror%2Easpx [Accessed 8 May 2015].

Kaye, N. (2000) site-specific art: performance, place and documentation. Oxon: Routledge.

McAuley, G. (2000) Space in Performance: Making Meaning in the Theatre. United States: The University of Michigan Press.

Wilson, N. (2015) Final Performance. [photo].

Wilson, N. (2015) Finding the Site. [photo].

Wilson, N. (2015) Footage Review. [photo].

Wilson, N. (2015) Recording Audio. [photo].

Final Blog Post – Samuel Robinson

The Madness Behind Coffee

 

The Madness Behind Coffee was our site specific piece performed at Stokes High Bridge café, 207 High Street, Lincoln. Performances started at 3:30 and went on until 5:15 with each performance being 10 minutes long. Audience had a minor role within the piece where they sit and take in what they are hearing and seeing. The performance was done to one person at a time; this was so that the audience could feel a one to one connection to the characters.

The Madness Behind Coffee is a piece that portrays the history and future of The Lawn Lincoln, of which has been taken over by Stokes coffee company. The portrayal was done using the themes of time, people, fact and fiction. The piece starts with the positive views of a doctor Edward Parker Charlesworth as he opens the Lawn as a Mental Asylum. The Nurse then takes over, portraying the negative aspects of working at the asylum. A patient at the Lawn gives a view from her perspective, being stuck inside for an unknown amount of time. After the patients story the audience are thrown forward in time to recent history, when Lincoln City Council was selling are the Lawn. Finally we heard from the Nigel Peirson the owner of Stokes Coffee company who has bought The Lawn.

The piece works using fact and fiction to create a story that will inform and entertain the audience. The background for the piece is based on information collected from the Lincoln City archives and sources within Stokes Coffee Company. Each characters dialogue had been created as a work of fiction with the basis and inspiration for the dialogue firmly based in fact. The piece was created in this manner to make the audience think about the history within their city and their country as mental asylums are found throughout the country. The future aspect of the performance was designed so that the audience would understand what is being done to the building, and how it can affect them as performers or as a part of their community.

The group was influenced by The Lawns unused state when we happened upon the building, and felt that the building had stories to tell the world. The original performance ideas where based around ghost stories conforming to the horror that could have occurred within the walls of The Lawn. The research process took shape by following these stories through the archives, from the words of the doctors and the lists of patients treated at the asylum. When moving into the present day we had to rely on the stories printed within the local papers and communications made with Nigel Peirson about his plans for the building. The performance moved into the coffee shop after construction work was due to start at The Lawn, making it impossible to perform at the location. The movement change the dynamic and ideas already planned out. This movement of location created the future aspect of The Lawn and the link to coffee.

 

 

Analysis of Progress

The piece The Madness Behind Coffee started as a piece about the fact and fictional hauntings of The Lawn. The influence behind the original idea came from the drift we took around the Lincoln. “Clearing eyes and peeling away the layers of spectacle, deception and that strange ‘hiddeness in plain sight’ that coats the everyday” (Mythogeography, 2015), being with a group helped us peel back our thoughts; and so we could start to express our ideas about the city around us.

The drift gave the opportunity to see The Lawn in a new light, we saw the modern rear exterior and where intrigued and wished to dig deeper. Digging deeper caused us to move around to the front of the building to discover its potential to a performance space (see Fig 1 and 2).

 

DSC_0157DSC_0165

(Fig 1)                                                                             (Fig 2)

The Lawn has a raised area around the columns, which becomes a natural stage from the perspective of a performer. The columns become a perfect area in which to hide and use to make the audience move to see what/who is there. Once we had discovered the building, we instantly saw its potential for horror and hauntings. At night the building produces an eerie feel to it, elevating the sense that it is haunted.

Our original idea saw us research deeper into the accounts of The Lawn being haunted. “There have been many reported sightings of ghostly figures, including those of children, roaming the corridors and grounds of the Lawn” (Haunted History of Lincolnshire, 2015). We played with the ideas recreating these stories and creating some of our own, as the audience where moved around the site. Upon further research into The Lawn as an Asylum we discovered that it was pioneering in the treatment of the mentally ill. The head doctor Dr Edward Parker Charlesworth was changing the treatment of the patient, “Dr Edward Parker Charlesworth pioneered new ways of treating mental illness, without the use of restraint and barbaric methods to control patients” (It’s About Lincoln, 2015). We saw this new information as an opportunity to show how the mentally ill where treated and when the change in treatment occurred. We were following the route of a horror story/tour because we wanted to entertain as well as informing the audience of the history behind The Lawn. The Lawn was very important as they went to great extents to help their patients, “The buildings stand in grounds of 8 acres which were deliberately planted with trees to shield the patients from “poisonous miasmas” which came from the industrialised parts of Lincoln.” (It’s About Lincoln, 2015). The planting of these trees showed how much care was taken to try to improve the standard of living for the people placed into Asylums. At this point, we thought that the horror story/tour would work best, as it would immerse the audience into the feelings that the patients would have felt, at their time at The Lawn and in other asylums of the time.

Archieves

Fig 3

To better understand the inspirations behind our ideas we went to the Lincoln County Archives (see Fig 3). At the archives we spent time looking into patient records. Through these patient records, I discovered what the patients were being admitted for. The most common illnesses were Mania, Melancholic, Mania Hysteria and Dementia. This was interesting as it linked with a quote that was written in the catalogue of records available. Patients are to be treated, “With all the tenderness and indulgence compatible with the steady and effectual government of them and every occupation which may divert the mind, win at the tensions and awaken the affections be cheerfully and readily promoted”(Hospital Records BRO-RAU). A modified version of the quote remained in the final piece as it was a crucial part of the history of The Lawn in expressing how Lincoln was at the forefront of treating the mentally ill. The quote had to be edited because we felt it needed to be changed to flow with a modern audience, and to fit into the script that had been written around the quote.

The Doctors notes were also found in the archives. The Doctors notes gave us an insight into how the doctor treated, and thought about, the patients. The Doctor documents about Christopher Bonner, became one of the initial stories to be recorded.

“Christopher Bonner aged 25 was admitted on 4th (May 1824) He has [suffered] from his childhood, and just showed symptoms of insanity about a year since: this is his second attack. He has also congenital [diseases]. He is occasionally violent…’   (6th May 1824 J.M.)

‘Bonner has had several [attacks] of violence since his admission, he is very noisy today and is confined in a cell in a strait waistcoat.’   (9th May 1824 J.M.)

‘Bonner and Giston are dining in the adjoining room. The latter became violent yesterday and is confined with a chain around his waist and handcuffs attached to it. Bonner remains convalescent.’   (24th May 1824 J.M.)” (Marshall, 2015).

The story, even though important, was not used in the final cut of The Madness Behind Coffee because we could convey the information through other characters and formats. We also needed our male actors for other more import parts, as the site did not alow for easy or quick costume changes. The information from the Christopher Bonner recordings were placed within the menu and the speech made by the doctor at the beginning of The Madness Behind Coffee. We used a female patient’s story to portray the story of the patients within the asylum. Throughout the process the female patient stuck to our original idea of making the audience connect on an emotional level rather than giving the audience information like the other characters do. We wanted to make the audience connect with the patient, so that they could see what it might have been like to be mentally ill and stuck in an asylum.

 

We came to a stage where we discovered that we could not use The Lawn as our venue on the day of the performance. We could not use it as the new owners were planning to redevelop the site ahead of reopening in 2016. As we talked with the owners of the building, we discovered that we could use the grounds but with the possibility of construction interrupting the performance we decided to move the performance to a new site. The movement of site was to Stokes Coffee shop on Lincoln High Street (see Fig 4).

Fig 4   DSC_0237

The coffee shop was chosen as it represented The Lawns future. The plans for the building are “The company will make The Lawn an operational outlet for Stokes Tea and Coffee, with a roastary, café, barista training and wholesale.” (Elizabeth Fish, 2014). These plans for The Lawns future, started to make me look at the pilgrimage the building has taken through the writing of Frederic Gros. Gros talks of how people go on pilgrimages to become better within themselves. “Internal transformation remains the pilgrim’s mystical ideal: he hopes to be absolutely altered on his return.”(Gros, 2014). The hopes for the owners of the building are for “internal transformation” (Gros, 2014) of the building as it takes a pilgrimage through time finding its purpose within the community. The buildings pilgrimage through time was represented in our piece using the different occupations it has held, and how Stokes is looking to the buildings future. The Lawn is also a part of other pilgrim’s journey, during its time as a mental asylum. The building was a shelter for the mentally ill, the pilgrims, as they passed through on their way to being healthy again or to see out their lives.

The purchasing of The Lawn gave us new material to work into the performance. We now wanted to include the thoughts of the new owners. We created a fictional speech made by Nigel Pearson about their plans for the buildings new developments and why. We included these factors into the speech as we felt it would give the audience a clear picture of how this will affect them as a community. We also wanted to include the information in another format, so that the audience would not be bombarded with information through the audio, and so the audio could be more of a narrative than informative.

We started to experiment with the formats that we would use to convey the information about the history of The Lawn. The first format to be worked on by the group was to use newspaper of the period as tool portray information. Ultimately, the newspapers were not used, as it was felt that it would be too much information to be read by the audience in the time that they had. The next idea to be experimented with was to use mood boards. The reasoning behind the mood boards was to give the audience a 3D texture to the information they were reading (see Fig 5).

Fig 5

DSC_0234

The 3D texture was achieved though using leaves and sticks, from The Lawns grounds, to link with the site and provides the audience with a feel of being at the site. The use of the foliage from The Lawn reflected the traces left behind at the site and what occurred during the passing of time at the site on its pilgrimage through time.

After a rehearsal with the mood boards, we discovered that they were not suitable or practical for use within the performance. They were not suitable because they were too large for the tables we were using in the coffee shop and difficult to be used by the cast during the performance to move on and off ‘stage’.

The next the idea was to create a tablecloth in which to write the information upon, but we thought that the audience would not read all the information. This was when we decided that the information could be in a menu in a similar style to that of the coffee shop. We choose this format because it blended with the new site and gave us plenty of space to write the information upon. During the performance, we found that the audience enjoyed interacting with the menu and took it home with them after to read further into.

 

Performance Evaluation

For the final performances of The Madness Behind Coffee we had four audience members come to see the piece one at a time. The additional two audience members were another tutor interested in seeing this year groups productions, and a friend of the cast. Two of the audience members where our markers, who saw the performance last. We used the first audience members performances as dress rehearsal, to iron out any issues that we did not foresee during our rehearsals. The reactions from the all the audience members were positive and we used the time with our first members to discover their thoughts on the piece. It was mentioned that the first audience, member was not sure when to read the menu we had given her. The audience also noted that it is very ambiguous as to whether they could interact with the actors. Both of the previous points were solved by telling the audience that they could interact as much or little as desired, and directed towards the menu once sat down. We also found that the way we had blocked part of the piece where the action moves outside, was not clearly interpreted by the audience. Solving this lack of clarity was to have Ellie O’Sullivan to look out the window for a period to draw the audience member’s attention away from the room. A comment we received was that it felt branded towards the Stokes Coffee company, this was partly because of the site and the menu we used. The branding is something that we would have to alter if it were performed again.

The area that worked best was the patient’s scene, in which she set up a chessboard and played against the audience. During rehearsals, it had not been thought that the audience would try to play chess against the patient. As the patient and audience member started to play chess, it began to create a connection between the two that was not there before, as the patient did not have any physical connection like the other characters in the piece. The game of chess also brought the audience into the mind of the patient cutting them off from the rest of the world.

In hindsight, we would have liked to bring the Doctor, Nurse and Patient all together in one scene. Bringing these characters together would have drawn the threads together and given the audience an idea of how the staff and patients would interact with one another. The extra scene would have also delved deeper into the practices of The Lawn in comparison to the other mental hospitals.

If we were to perform the piece again, I would have liked to make it longer and more indepth to some of the characters from the past. There were also periods in The Lawns history that we only touched upon in the performance. These periods of history, I would like to create new characters to explore these through the communities’ feelings towards the building.

 

References

 

Bullock, L; Fitzgerald, A; Marshall, A; O’Sullivan, E; Robinson, S. (2015) The Madness Behind Coffee. [performance] Lincoln: Stokes Coffee Shop, 7 May.

Elizabeth Fish (2014) RW Stokes win bid to revamp The Lawn in Lincoln. [Online] Lincoln: Lincolnite. Available from thelincolnite.co.uk/2014/11/stokes-coffee-win-lincoln-lawn-bid/ [Accessed 13 May 2015]

Gros, F. (2014) A Philosophy of Walking. London: Verso.

Haunted History of Lincolnshire (2015) The Lawn [online] Lincoln. Available from: http://hauntedhistoryoflincolnshire.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/lincoln/the-lawn/ [Accessed 11 May 2015]

Hospital Records BRO-RAU, (date unknown) The Lawn [Interim Draft Catalogue] Lincolnshire Archives. Lincoln.

It’s About Lincoln (2015)Lincoln Lunatic Asylum. [online] Available from http://www.itsaboutlincoln.co.uk/lincoln-lunatic-asylum.html [Accessed on 11 May 2015]

Marshall, A (2015) My City of Lincoln Story The Lawn – Lincoln Achieve – Alex Marshall. [Blog entry] 6 February. Lincoln: Available from sitespecific2015ksa.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/author/13393935/ [Accessed 12 May 2015]

Mythogeography (2015) Starter Kit. [Online] Available from www.mythogeography.com/starter-kit.html [Accessed 11 May 2015]

Robinson, S. (2015) Fig 1 – The Lawn [photograph]

Robinson, S. (2015) Fig 2 – The Lawn [photograph]

Robinson, S. (2015) Fig 3 – The Achieve [photograph]

Robinson, S. (2015) Fig 4 – Inside Stokes Coffee Shop [photograph]

Robinson, S. (2015) Fig 5 – Mood Boards [photograph]