Babel

And so it has been, and so it is written

 

As terrifying as it is to see your piece come to life, I am thoroughly proud of what I have achieved. In order to take part in the piece, I asked prospective audience members to supply me with an email address that I could send the link and instructions to. I then instructed the group to meet outside the library 15 minutes prior to the performance time to receive their prop pack, which contained a white mask, some blu tac, a marker pen, a card with a fact written on it, and a blank piece of card.

Upon starting the piece, I followed the group round the library, taking notice of looks and remarks by other library users. I realised that the group wasn’t exactly in sync due to a lag when they had pressed play, though was still happy with the effect I was creating.

When the piece started, the majority of the people I saw looking at the performers didn’t remark, just stared. Halfway through the piece when the performers put on the masks however, the reactions changed dramatically. People began to appear visibly unnerved by the performance, as though the masks added an extra factor.

One problem that the performers came across was an error in timing. Part of the performance included standing on the first floor landing, facing the glass and holing a card with a fact written on it. I then asked the performers to stick the card onto the wall and walk downstairs where they would be given another instruction. Due to an error on my part, the timing was wrong and they were given their next instruction as they walked down the stairs, meaning that when they arrive to the bottom floor to do their first task, they were being fed a new instruction. Although I had listened to the tack in the library, I can only assume that as the writer I knew what was coming next and so started walking downstairs earlier than told to. This meant that the timings seemed to work well for me, but didn’t for the performers.

The piece ended with all performers standing in the entrance to the library, wearing a mask and holding up a on which they had written their passion. As a person watching the performance the visual effect was strong and I noticed a large number of people staring and commenting to their friends. My favourite comment, though I can only apologise to the man that made it, was said to the library desk and went something along the lines of ‘Are the people wearing the masks doing some sort of drama thing? Well I don’t think it’s very entertaining at all. In fact it’s bloody freaky and disgusting, you shouldn’t have let them do it in here.’. Though meant as criticism, I took the comment as a compliment. The aim of my piece was to make people notice, not just my performance, but anything in the library and the fact that this man felt moved enough to make a complaint, I consider to be high praise.

I thoroughly enjoyed making and watching the piece, and have since been inspired to take part in small pieces of performance art and demonstrations throughout Lincoln.

Rebecca Baines. This is how the library will see me from now on.

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Posted: May 13th, 2013
Categories: Identity - Becca Baines, Library, Uncategorized
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The Recording Process

Over the last few days, I have been putting the finishing touches to my ‘script’ and have now begun to record the audio for it. Although I was given a tutorial in the program I am using to create the piece, I have been struggling with certain aspects of it.

I had decided to set the spoken piece on top of a musical accompaniment, and after choosing which piece to use (I have decided upon In a Time Lapse by Leudovico Einaudi, purely for its melancholy and haunting feel) set about putting the music as a track under the speech. It’s harder than I originally thought. Once I finally figured out how to add the track, I realised that the music was so loud that the speech could not be heard over the top of it, though 3 frantic phone calls later and I resolved the problem, simply by clicking the volume button next to the track. I then realised that due to the length of the track, the program had ‘zoomed out’ to fit the whole track onto one screen, though because the track was roughly six times the length of the recorded speech, I was not able to click on parts of the speech track that I needed to edit. After eventually finding the zoom out button, I set about editing the piece, overcoming small obstacles along the way.

Once I had finished the track, and was happy with it, I downloaded it and set off to the library to do a trial run. I chose to do this late at night so as to avoid crowds of people and strange looks.

When I was happy with the length and effect of the piece, I set about uploading it onto YouTube and Soundcloud, though quickly encountered a big problem.

In order to upload onto YouTube, I had to change the file from audio to video, and managed to do this quite quickly. Upon trying to upload it however, I was told that it was not in the correct format for the site and forwarded to a page that could change it for me. Half way through the hour and a half process, my laptop ran out of steam and shut down, meaning that I had to go through the entire process again; though this time I wasn’t met with any obstacles. When the file had been converted, I uploaded it onto YouTube, only to be met with

Blog picture

01/05/2013

Slight confusion followed, as I was able to open the page on my iPad and phone, but was repeatedly met with the above sight when trying to access it on my laptop. After sending the link to a number of people, all of whom accessed it with ease, I decided it was just a problem with my laptop and got on with uploading the file to soundcloud which didn’t present any problems.

Files uploaded, I can do nothing but buy an unnecessary amount of white masks and wait.

Posted: May 13th, 2013
Categories: Identity - Becca Baines, Library, Performance Art
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Comments: 1 Comment.

What makes a library?

As previously mentioned, I feel that the use of headphones increases confidence in an audience member, and Blast Theory’s previous work seems to back up this theory. I am therefore considering using this combination of elevated confidence and suggestibility to create a piece of work that will push the audience to perform

I have settled firmly upon the idea of using an audio tour to produce a piece that guides my audience around the library. Using this, I hope to be able to encourage them to perform certain tasks that will aid them in understanding the concepts behind my piece.

As I am aiming to portray the lack of uniqueness and personality in the library, I am almost hoping to show the library as an entity. To do this I will pick apart the qualities that I think are most important to a library, and exploit them throughout the performance. The ideas I have chosen for this are;

  • Silence
  • Learning
  • Personal space

Silence

One of the most important aspects to consider when entering a library is to be quiet, as studies have found that a lack of noise can increase concentration. Many libraries ask visitors to remain silent or keep noise levels to a minimum out of courtesy to other visitors, although the University Library has only one floor where a complete silence rule in enforced. ‘Out of courtesy’ to other students, I will not be taking my performance onto the third floor of the library (mainly because I don’t want the performance to be stopped halfway through by an angry librarian) and will concentrate on the bottom two floors instead.

Learning

Without wanting to state the obvious, libraries are a place of learning. Many public libraries are used a place for reading books/newspapers etc, but the University Library is used mainly by students for research and written work. One idea I have had to exploit this aspect is to create ‘fictional facts’ or lies and portray them to the users around the performance. The students reading them may or may not believe them, and so will be learning, but not in a conventional manner.

Personal space

This is the area that ties in most with my original concept for the performance. When in the library, you are expected to respect the boundaries of touch and pay attention to personal space. Touching someone on the arm, for example, would be seen completely normal in any other public space, yet in the library would be seen as absurd.

Through exploring these options, My aim is to make people notice their surroundings and begin to realise that things do happen, and people do exist, when in the library.

Posted: May 13th, 2013
Categories: Identity - Becca Baines, Library, Uncategorized
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Making the Audience the Performer

Since deciding to explore the idea of an audio piece, I have been looking at Blast Theory’s A Machine to See With. The idea is for a participant to receive a phone call and be given directions through the city centre where they become part of a ‘heist movie’.  Their website states ‘Blast Theory is renowned internationally as one of the most adventurous artists’ groups using interactive media, creating ground-breaking new forms of performance and interactive art that mixes audiences across the internet, live performance and digital broadcasting.’1

 

As I am interested in working with media for my final performance, I have looked at a number of their past performances for inspiration. A Machine to See With particularly interested me due to their use of audio to virtually manipulate people to do tasks they would normally not dare.

 

Another aspect of the majority of Blast Theory’s work is that the line between performer and audience becomes blurred, if it existed in the first place. In Site-Specific Performance,  Mike Pearson writes ‘Audience need not be categorized, or even consider themselves, as ‘audience’, as a collective with common attributes. All three sets of relationship, performer/performer, performer/spectator, spectator/spectator, become part of an active matrix of interaction and available for negotiation: momentary and durable, individual and collective.’2 Stating that an ‘audience member’ at a site specific performance shouldn’t consider themselves a bystander or observer, but as an active member of the production team.

 

I also looked to Marina Abramovic for inspiration in making the audience the performers. Abramovic has always produced work in which the audience members play a vital role in the piece, from The Artist is Present, in which she sat silent and motionless on a chair in the middle of a circle of light, seven hours a day for three months, with the ‘audience’ joining her to sit in the circle and stare silently into her eyes, to Rhythm 0, where she lay motionless on a wooden table and invited ‘audience’ members to use instruments on the table next to her on her body. The entire performance depended on which items the audience decided on use on her, and the extent to which they took their damage. In an interview for the Guardian, Abramovic states ‘I also take the energy from the audience and transform it. It goes back to them in a different way. This is why people in the audience often cry or become angry or whatever. A powerful performance will transform everyone in the room.’3 Explaining the power that the audience hold in a site specific performance.

 

I am interested of taking this idea, that the audience and the performers can be one and the same, and incorporating it into my work. Having previously stated that I am interested in showcasing the lack of ‘personality’ in the library, it makes sense that my primary audience have this idea shown to them through their own actions. In this way they are learning about the notion by ‘teaching’ it to themselves. They will also be able to fully engage with the performance through their own actions.

  1. Blast Theory (unknown) About Blast Theory Online: www.blasttheory.co.uk (accessed 26 March 2013) []
  2. Pearson, Mike (2010) Site Specific Performace New York: Palgrave macmillan. P. 175 []
  3. O’Hagan, Sean (2010) Interview: Marina Abramovic Online: www.guardian.co.uk (accessed 26 March 2013) []

Using the Library

In one of our taught sessions, we toyed with the idea of exploring the library through instructive audio. Group members were given wireless headphones and a transmitter was used by the lecturer to feed us instructions as we walked around the library.

The commands were not particularly difficult to begin with. Simple tasks such as pretending to look for a book, or pretending to type, eased us into the situation, before they began to get a little more intrusive. After we had begun to feel comfortable, we were asked to do tasks such as sit down near a group of people and begin to sing happy birthday, made slightly more difficult for myself as I had decided to travel to a different floor of the library on my own, so gained no comfort from ‘safety in numbers’.  We were also asked, at the end of a short countdown, to collapse to the floor and lie motionless. We realised upon doing this that nobody came to our aid, and the majority of people didn’t even want to look at us. They would glance over when the movement caught their eye, then look back at their work, as if not wanting to become involved with the drama (excuse the pun). Upon discussion, we decided that this was more to do with the fact that the wireless headphones we were wearing were large and prominent, not because the people in the library have no souls.

The size of the headphones, in my opinion, made the piece a little less effective, as it was obvious to the audience that we were part of some kind of performance or pre-planned event. This made them a little tentative to become involved, through fear of being dragged in and possibly humiliated.

Another flaw with the idea was the lack of signal in some areas of the library. Because we were using wireless devices, we were relying on an adequate reception for them to work. This meant that in certain areas, such as the back end of the library and the stairwells, where the signal was not detected,  the speech and instructions were not audible. This meant the participants were unable to take part if they walked into one of these areas.

I realised when doing the exercise that when you put on the headphones, you suddenly became a more confident person, it was as though you were in your own little world. Because the headphones blocked out background noise, you could only hear the voice of the person giving you your instructions. This meant that you were not worried about the other people in the library. It was also reassuring to know that there were a large number of people doing the same activity.

We also looked at some podcasts online by Fuel Theatre, who created a series of podcasts called ‘everyday moments’ based around everyday life, designed to be listened to whilst doing the same activities mentioned in the audio, such as sitting in bed in the morning with a cup of coffee, or standing in a licked bathroom in front of the mirror. They created a piece for a completely dark room at the Oxford Playhouse, and described it as ‘an invitation to move without inhibition’.1 I feel this statement ties in with my earlier suggestion that an audio piece can make you feel more confident as you are not as aware of your surroundings.

From this experience, I have decided that an audio piece would work well with my earlier idea of being a person in the library and not a number, though I would be tempted to work with a downloadable podcast so as to not incur the problems that we had with signal whilst using the wireless device.

  1. Shechter, Hofesh (2011) Everyday Moments, Online: www.fueltheatre.com (accessed 19 March 2013) []
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