Documentation from the other project I’ve been working on this year. For consistency this won’t be shown in my exhibition next week but it’s something that I’ve really enjoyed working on and plan to continue with. Its possible that eventually the strains of practice will come together in a future exhibition.
‘Off the Route’ is an experimental performance series that focuses on repetition, duration and social interaction.
At the beginning of each performance participants are given one of three tasks: to read aloud; to type what was being spoken; to watch the event unfold. Every participant was told to repeat this task for the duration of the performance. In this series the time was on hour. At the end of each performance there was a 5 minute silence. The performance is self documenting – with the typing task producing a strange mash up of all the quotes being read aloud. The documents were then used for the next performance creating a cycle of deterioration (I also found that when you were reading aloud words that made no sense it was much easier to find a rhythm and settle into the task – although it was much harder to follow as a typer. It was also kind of amazing how certain sections began to make sense…)
Each performance was fundamentally shaped by the social interactions between those present. I found it particularly amazing how each performance varied so much depending on the group performing. Furthermore how each participant responded to the performance was as equally diverse. Some had fun with it. For others it was a special kind of pain. And the concept of time seemed to vary for each person (the participants were asked to remove their watches and turn off their phones…) – for some it went quicker than they expected for others I’m sure it was drawn out. For me personally – the final performance was the longest and the hardest (i was typing… i think this makes a huge difference).
For me personally one of the most interesting things was how each person worked within such a broad set of instructions. For instance the first performance was incredibly playful and cheeky. People walked around, sang, put on accents, argued with each other, had yelling matches across the room and played with the acoustics in the room. Whereas in the final performance (perhaps it important that it was an all female cast?) it was quite a sombre affair. No one moved, no one laughed. There wasn’t any singing or mucking around but instead was very straight to the point.
The other really interesting thing for me that emerged from this series was the affect of silence after such a long period of chaotic noise. It was intense! Deafening. Seriously the hardest part of the performance! It was crushing! But it did make you very very aware of your surroundings.
The series developed out of an earlier experiment that was very similar. In the original experiment – the time was much shorter a whole 20mins only. And no silence at the end. The time for this series, as with the period of silence at the end, was determined as a direct result from the original experiment. There was however a venue change for this series. Instead of Gallery 5 Crown Lane, this series was held in the Project Space at UOW. This made a huge difference! The space is stark and empty and almost characterless but most importantly it ECHOES! Which just added a whole new layer to the performance.
This all being said and done (quite literally) I’m not too sure what it is that I’m trying to achieve with this series. I certainly like what its doing and the affects it has (and its kind of interesting as an artist to rely so much on other people to make your art happen – to hand over so much of the control) but it seems the performance is now incredibly problematic for me. How do I present it? Do I even want to present it? How do I communicate what it was like to be there – what it was like for each individual person? Does that even matter? How will i use the documents that it generated? Is it important that the quotes used in the original performance make no sense what so ever in the last one… so many many questions.
”OFF THE ROUTE”
3-4pm each day:
WED 28TH SEPT
THURS 29TH SEPT
FRI 30TH SEPT
1 room. 2 typewriters. People.
3 tasks: to speak, to type, to watch.
“Off the Route” is an experimental performance series that focuses on repetition and duration as strategies for creating reflective spaces. In a media crazed world, where text, sound and image consume our everyday lives, do we really take in and reflect on the information given to us?
‘Off the Route’ isolates snippets of information, slowing the participant down and focusing attention, creating a individual reflective space. Yet each person’s focus – in tone, volume, speed and so on – influences the group creating a collective experience.
To join in come to the Project Space at 3pm.
Tasks and instructions will be given on arrival.
Project Space: Level 3. Building 40. University of Wollongong.
You don’t need to be in all three performances but you can if want to.
J: Its surprising how many different ways there are to say one sentence – which is all I had. And you could just
B: yeah, keep going
J: … emphasis one word or a bunch of phrases, put a pause in … for twenty minutes – I wasn’t bored. … there were different ways that you could repeat one sentence over and over…
B: And I found depending on the way you guys were playing with the phrases would depend on what I was focusing in on to write. ‘Cause when you were speeding up I was like ‘oh my god’
A: I notice there was a speed thing going on sometimes when I would take a breath and I don’t if it was me locking onto you or you locking onto me but it would be roughly when you where like, like moving the thing [typewriter thing across]
B: Whenever you [A] took a pause thought I’d pick up on one of you two guys [T and J] cause I guess you’re closer. But it seemed to be the same phrases over and over again – like ‘the site is evading you’ and I only ever got ‘the here and now’ from you I.
Be: Yeah – I got heaps of ‘here and now’
B: Did you get any of the rest of what Iz was saying though because you were closer?
Be: Yeah I think so, but I can’t even… cause it all kind of overloads, like and you just get all the little pockets of words … But I think you kind of tend to pick up on the same words as you’re going. And then you find a new word and you’re like ‘oh I didn’t hear that before’
B: It does your head in, cause you’re like ‘how do you spell that?’
Be: And yeah you kind of go in and out of flows, but yeah there is heaps where I didn’t even hear the click… I think
B: yeah and then it stops working
Be: and then it stops and … it kind of stops the momentum of it
T: I was really surprised that I didn’t learn yours all the way through as well
B: I noticed you dropped your sheet, like you’d just learnt it enough to not…
T: wasn’t sure if I was supposed to… yeah I really thought I’d pick up on somebody elses or something of theirs but it was impossible to
B: because you had to focus on what you were doing?
T: yeah. Even though you know it off by heart…
E: Well at the beginning… it was really soothing. … I found it really soothing because there was heaps of people talking. And then you had the rhythm of the type writers which is quite mechanical and you felt like you where transported back to the 1920s… And then one of you [typers] was faster. You [BO] had a lower pitch and you [B] were higher … and you [BO] had more of a drudge like yours kept going a bit more. And then everyone kind of hand their own things so I got ‘route’, I got ‘here and now’ – lots of ‘here and now’, something ‘in space’. But it wasn’t like… I tried to get everyone elses but I didn’t really think it was that important. It was just to get it all holistically. Then maybe halfway through everyone kind a bit [lethargic] and you could hear the typewriter a lot more clearly. And then people started changing it up a bit. So you started to repeat your phrases…. Condense them and so that changed the rhythm. Like it was still a buzz but it was different.
EM: Yeah it was interesting because at the start you can’t hear anything – its just a big mess of noise. And then the longer you sit in it the more you pick up what people are actually saying…
El: You guys kind of got a bit weary… like you guys started to change your body positions. And I don’t know if it was just me and I was waiting for the end, when Chris checked the time – it was like everyone perked up and went ‘lets go in for the hard yards’.
B: I didn’t even see you check the timer though. I was really stressing out…
Be: Yeah I was just watching the keys the whole time.
B: I kept rolling my shoulders because I’d get to a pint where I just couldn’t handle all the noise and then I’d freak out and go ‘ehh’.
Be: But if you do some small thing that distracts you – you know like moving the thing across or something – I find after that starting the next line you have to concentrate a bit more to kind of find a word again sometimes.
B: Do you reckon it would be easier to do it by hand – writing instead of on the typewriter?
A: No – that would get really messy…
Em: yeah and the sound of it…
El: I felt like I actually wanted to write things down… but it didn’t know if I was allowed to
Em: yeah you could have other people writing by hand…
El: yeah like a conscious stream of thought
Em: it’s a soundscape and the typewriter kind of make that
B: And what do you reckon it would be like doing it for a longer period of time?
Em: yeah… as an observer – I think watching the deterioration of the people was half of it…
Be: Yeah because – if you did it for an hour you’d get quite tired by the end of it and…
K: I think you would start giggling as well… cause like I started giggling a bit because … the phrase just started sounding so unusual to me. Like I had to restrain myself…
A: I was more giggly – more smiley at the start. As I went through I kind of got used to it. As soon as the camera goes round I couldn’t help but smile
Em: The build up of the paper to is something too that can’t really happen unless it is for a really long time.
T: It is a beautiful image…
B: I was just chucking the paper…
T: It looks good as it just falls down the side…
El: If you did do it for a really long period of time – you maybe need to swap
B: It is really stressful being on the typewriter.
Be: But even if you wanted more paper – because I was just doing it like regular type with the spacing
B: I think I was getting… like I was trying to mix it up a bit by just twisting it through a bit more and tabbing through a bit – because I couldn’t pick a word! Just having a bit of a meltdown…
Be: Even that as well – like when you can’t concentrate and find a word – say press ‘tab’ or keep pressing ‘space’ until you hear something so that the sound is constant – your not pausing [in the typing] …
B: so structuring what the typers do a little bit more…
Its interesting how different Be and I interpreted the recording of the words – given no direction. There was already going to be a vast difference because of he difference in the typewriters but its quite obvious from the way we were writing that it was two different people.
J: If you wanted it to go for longer could you have it like ‘tag’ where you jump up and take over the typewriter and so on…?
B: I think part of the thing about this is the repetition and the monotonous aspect of it and the words just become really bizarre and – its almost a trance thing.
Em: for me its much more interesting if people just have to keep repeating it.
Be: I think the longer you go its like a real kind of endurance test…
A: At the end of it you wouldn’t be able to put two words together…
Em: … something like 4 hours where it becomes completely difficult to talk straight for four hours – or type for four hours. I mean obviously that would…
B: I think I would struggle to type for that long…
El: You were kind of tense Boni – but I think you would get over it. Like you would go ‘I’ve already typed that word’ and then maybe you would have 10minutes of not typing…
B: See I was like ‘but I’ve got to get everything down’
El: yeah you could tell because – you were like ‘rahrhahrah’ and you (bec) were like ‘eh’… but it was nice because it had different tones.
K: I that the progression is harder whereas at the start you’re like ‘ok I’m saying this right, I’m saying this right’ and then eventually you stop caring about the task and it just becomes about the…
B: … the ‘doing’ it
Em: also your trying really hard and its getting it to a point where you can’t do it anymore and that’s really interesting.
B: And if you guys had to talk for a long period of time without a glass of water… you know raspy voices by the end
A: depending on what you wanted to do with the people typing – could actually plan someone to leave halfway through and it would be interesting to see how everyone reacts to that. Like if everyone stops or if everyone tries to keep on going…
El: … the influence of time. Like the concentration levels – because you guys don’t actually have watches on… I felt like because I didn’t know what the time was I felt like I didn’t know where we were. So its quite stressful – like you didn’t know how long you’d been going for … it would really change it if you did have watches on because it might change the way you talk.
I: I think its really interesting because time is a really personal thing – you can have an hour – it’s the same amount of time but for someone it can go really quickly and for someone else it might drag on…
I think finding your own rhythm is part of it instead of tracing it against a clock.
There was also a suggestion in the de-brief that perhaps as the paper drops someone picks it up and starts reading that. So instead of doing separate performances you could just do the one really long one that deteriorates continuously and all the information overloads at once. And I think Tobey mention that it was interesting that the documentation informs the script for the performance – its cyclical.
I’d been stewing on this idea for a while.
Well not this exact idea but things to this effect. In fact much earlier in the year I’d attended a few first year theory lectures that where about the Wooster Group. Amazing stuff. I’d seen some of their stuff earlier but it was interesting to come back to it in light of what I’d been writing about in my thesis – live art, mediation, documentation and the like (for anyone who hasn’t heard me talk about it yet…). In the lecture we covered two pieces – Brace Up! and House Lights. Both pieces are ‘mash-ups’ of a sort I guess, for example Brace Up! is actually Chekov’s ‘three sisters’ but performed in a way that also references contemporary society. Anyway what I found interesting about Wooster Group was their use of technology, both within the live event and in the documentation of the live event. For example Brace Up! is recorded each time it is performed, each recording is added to the last and so there is not only the confusion of what is happening live and what is post edited, there is also confusion of WHEN it actually happened (combined with the fact that this is also used within the live event itself whereby recordings are presented live as part of the performance…). In House Lights there was an interesting dialogue between onstage performers, offstage people and recordings. In this instance the performers were wearing ear-pieces and were reciting lines that they were hearing through these devices. The movements, likewise, were being copied from various screens positioned on stage (which were showing Olga’s House of Shame – retro soft porn). Anyway, I haven’t done these justice (look them up), but what I walked away with was a sense of being able to play with the mediation of the live event and simultaneously with documentation.
This I guess then combined with my wider practice that is largely concerned with trace, movement and repetition (to put it in a nut shell). Indeed I was suddenly struck by how much repetition and duration are such a vital part of my art practice when I was helping Michele Elliot de-install an installation – 6 000 delicate glass bullets (each glass bullet had been carefully hand crafted, carefully placed and laid out on the floor of the gallery creating a glimmering pool on the gallery floor). Each bullet had to be picked up and carefully wrapped in its own plastic bag for storage. Such a simple task. Yet over time this simple task becomes almost meditative and allows you to just exist. Its like time has paused because the immediate past and immediate future have blended together and you are here, in the now. Well that is my take on it anyway. Its something that I feel when hand-sewing. Or when I made those hundreds of hand felted balls.
5 x quotes
5 x speakers
2 x typers
2 x typewriters
Give each speaker a quote, typed neatly on a single sheet of paper. Ask them to repeat this quote for the next twenty minutes. Simultaneously. Ask the two typers to write down everything their hear over the next twenty minutes. Get everyone in position. Go.
In addition to this I also had two people whose sole job was to sit and observe the whole thing, one person videoing and an audio recorder.
It was important at the time to not give too much instruction – for example to tell the speakers to pause at certain points, or to tell the typers how to record the information they were hearing. It was an experiment and so it was a case of setting some parameters and then just seeing what came of it. I mean there was always the chance that it just wasn’t going to work. Or that someone would crack the shits and leave. Or that no one would show up.
Recruiting for the experiment:
Anyways the whole point about mentioning Wooster Group earlier was to point out that I’d been thinking about this for a while, but in a much more convoluted way. In the end I had this works in progress exhibition booked for a week in August. I got to the week before this, was under the pump with my writing and was feeling like I’d left my creative practice sitting on the sideline. The short of it was, I went ‘oh fuck I need some stuff for this exhibition’. Which was just what I needed to be honest.
So I put an event up on facebook – a general call out for volunteers for the experiment.
Speaking about it in my supervisor Lucas Ihlein earlier today – he pointed out that its quite similar to how Allan Kaprow used posters to recruit participants for his happenings. Which is a lovely idea and maybe something to think about…
Anyway people did show up. And such a great mixture of people as well I might add. We were mainly all students but from visual arts, performance and creative writing. Because of the cross over between performance, text and art I thought it was really quite great hearing everyone’s thoughts post performance about what their experiences had been like. And this I guess was the most important thing about not setting too tight a game plan from the very beginning.
I can only be in one place at one time (I was typing by the way).
And so for me to really understand what this performance was like from all angles it was important to leave it open enough to take into consideration the other performers. I mean I had my suspicions of what each role might be like – but I was also surprised by some of the responses.