Posts Tagged ‘Kim Bates’

The long journey to the end (if there really is an end…)

So, the performance is all over and done with – and the journey to a finished product has indeed been a long one. Our piece has morphed and evolved so much that it is unrecognizable from what it started as – and in nothing less than a good way. We have been influenced by many site specific performers along the way.
It seems like a distant memory that we were looking at doing a Gob Squad inspired piece – the idea of creating something similar to their Work was exciting. The way that they were able to open up people’s minds to the many ways that one space could be used and make a place that is used in the same way every day become unfamiliar to those that inhabit it. However it seemed that this would be impractical in our chosen environment and also, with it being such a unique piece, we couldn’t find a way to make something entirely of our own from it.

So, what was our next move?

When we started looking at Lone Twin’s performance of Walk with me, we began to consider the aspect of placelessness and how we could explore this inside – and outside – the library. Lone Twin say “if you dress up funny, people will shout at you.” (Govan 2007 , p. 125) referring to the idea that in an environment of routine and normality, people don’t like to see change, therefore when they experience this change, it stirs a reaction. The way that their method caused a reaction provoked us to search for a space in the vicinity of the library.

So, how did we end up outside?

We began to think about where the largest number of people moved through the empty space in the library; and that is how the idea came to us. Why not combine Gob squad’s idea of ‘making the familiar become unfamiliar’ with Lone Twin’s idea of ‘placelessness’ by taking the library outside. Also by doing this, we could amplify the library to all who passed it. With this also came the thought process of whether we wanted a primary audience, or if we should just have a secondary audience. “Audience need not be catagorized, or even consider themselves as an ‘audience’, as a collective with common attributes.” (Pearson 2010, p. 175)

So, how did we come up with the format?

As Lone Twin had inspired us so much, we decided to look into more of their work, whereupon we came across their piece called Town Crying – My Name Is John Stevens. This particular piece of work can be seen in the video link below:

We liked how personal the piece was, both to the location it was being performed in, and to the performer as well. We began to think about how we could make the library more personal, and how we could demonstrate to those that use it, the way that it is a system. Reading out the list of books would show the library’s systematic function, but by inserting pieces of texts and interruptions, it would show that the library had a life of its own – it’s language is it’s life. If we announced this to passers-by, in a way not dissimilar to the Town Criers piece, they would be able to see just a snippet of this life.

So, where did the idea of the infinite come in?

As I have discussed in an earlier post, we were heavily influenced by a text by Jorge Borges called The Library of Babel, in which he discusses the idea of the infinite library. This theory of the building we were performing in front of out-living humanity was exciting – it provoked an explosion of questions and ideas in our minds. If, in reality, the library was the only way of humanity living forever, we should expose this, make people aware. The library is a place that we take for granted when it truly is so powerful. So this is why our final performance incorporated themes of infinity; which actually makes the whole process quite ironic, for if the library is infinite, we could, in theory have continued with our performance forever also. But, alas, we are only human. We shall have to accept that these buildings, libraries, perhaps are better than us. (Borges 1998)


Works Cited

Borges, Jorge Luis (1998) “The Library of Babel” Collected Fictions Trans. Andrew Hurley, New York: Penguin

Govan, Emma et al. (2007) Making a Performance: Devising histories and contemporary practices, London and New York: Routledge

Pearson, Mike (2010) Site-specific Performance, Palgrave Macmillan

The Right Frame of Mind

Now that we finally have a piece of work that resembles a full performance, we have been able to start considering other elements surrounding our work, such as, how an audience might view it and how we can archive what we are doing. We have attempted to do a couple of ‘dress runs’ of the performance, and this has opened up many new routes that we could take with the finished piece. So naturally, we shall continue to make adjustments to the piece before its final showing.

One question that came up after our preview was: How could we frame our work? The positioning of our piece is very important as we are representing everything that the library is inside, outside.In his book Site Specific Art, Nick Kaye states that “the ‘inside’ of the work is always already penetrated by the outside’ (Kaye 2000, p. 192), therefore choosing the right sort of frame for our work was vital in order to allow the audience to interpret the desired meaning of our piece. Having thought about this, we thought that the perfect place to perform our work would be in front of the construction site of the new extension of the library; after all we would then be deconstructing language in front of the construction of the place that is the centre of language. This could potentially create a very strong image to an audience. In his book Site Specific Art, Nick Kaye states that “the ‘inside’ of the work is always already penetrated by the outside’ (Kaye 2000, p. 192), therefore choosing the right sort of frame for our work was vital in order to allow the audience to interpret the desired meaning of our piece.

Secondly, we began to think about what we could do to “fill the gaps” between our individual readings. This led us to create motifs that were relevant to our personal ‘language breakers’. For example, I am using French to break down the library list, so after my performance I will kiss each individual piece of card that I am holding. This is because if someone were to say the term ‘French kiss’, it would conjure up the typical image that most people have of this phrase, however I am breaking this down by giving each piece of card that has French writing on it a single kiss, therefore challenging the semiotics surrounding the term. Another example is that Hannah holding the book in various different ways. This is to demonstrate the fact that we talk about being able to hold a book in an infinite number of ways, but once again we are unable to truly demonstrate what infinity is, being only human.

Lastly, we decided that we would like to archive our work, and show the progression over the four performances. This is where the idea of the pieces of card that we have written our lists on comes in. We decided that, rather than simply read off A4 pieces of paper on a clip board, we would hand write our lists on small rectangular pieces of cards. The thought process behind this was that when we went to the library in Lincoln town centre, they had thousands and thousands of pieces of card with all their records on archived at the back of the building. This made us think how fantastic it would be to mimic this by creating our own record of our performance, with the pieces of card all marked in our individual way. It would really tie the library into our performance.

The plan now is to do one last run through of our piece before the official performance dates, in order to receive yet more feed back. Hopefully we can create something that people will be able to look back on as part of the library’s history.

Works Cited

Kaye, Nick (2000) Site-specific Art, London and New York: Routledge

Posted: April 28th, 2013
Categories: Library, Taking the Library Outside
Tags: , , ,
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Impossible infinity

Recently our group’s work has progressed a great deal; in particular we have managed to condense our work down to one specific element, and that is us reading a list of book titles from the library along with their numbers. The idea behind this is to show how ‘endless’ language is, and whilst we have advanced this even further recently, this particular part of our idea reminded me of a piece of work we were asked to write towards the beginning of the module.
It got me thinking – Is anything truly infinite? We read a passage from The Library of Babel, by Jorge Luis Borges, and this looked into the library’s ability to portray infinity and its reflection on human nature. Whilst this gave me insight into what we perceive infinity to be, it did not truly answer the question I wanted it to.
What is infinity? By dictionary definition it is simply a word used to describe something which we could not possibly begin to measure. However, when thought about in depth, does infinity in fact have infinite meanings? Or perhaps even no meaning at all?  It is powerful, yet it signifies weakness in the human race. It is supposed to represent everything we don’t understand, yet we have no evidence of it. Infinity is a contradiction.
Let’s first analyse the idea that there are infinite definitions to the word. Each and every one of us will have a different image in our heads as to what infinity is. Whilst one person might see it as forever, another may believe that infinity has an end, just not one that can be found. Infinity covers many unknowns. It could be used to describe the size of the universe, the number of atoms that make up the world around us or the amount of discoveries still to be made; all of these things are near to impossible to comprehend. This then poses the question: Is infinity meaningless?
Is it possible that infinity is just a word that we use to describe something that we, humans, as a race, are afraid to discover? Perhaps because we are unsure of the sheer of possibilities that something described as infinite has, we label it with this powerful name, creating an image that almost prevents us discovering what infinity truly is. Infinity is big, bold and bewildering to us; but should we be afraid of it? Should we use it as an excuse to stop seeking knowledge, merely because we believe we can never find an end? To put a simple answer to it; no, we should not.
Borges puts forward the theory of the infinite library, out-living the species that created it; it is a terrifying concept. He states in his musings:

“I am perhaps misled by old age and fear, but I suspect that the human species – the only species – teeters at the verge of extinction, yet that the library – enlightened, solitary, infinite, perfectly unmoving, armed with precious volumes, pointless, incorruptible  and secret- will endure.” (Borges 1998, p.118)

The human race has stuffed these buildings to the brim with all the knowledge that we possess, and we will continue to do so until the day that we cease to exist. It is hardly surprising that in history there have been attempts, some successful, to completely destroy these magnificent monuments. They are a considerable threat to our existence, whilst aiding in improving ourselves as a species, aiding our destruction also. The attempts to end the legacy of the eternal library were made in fear of what knowledge would do to our race; it was seen as being ‘against God’ to be so all-knowing. Perhaps those that held this view had a valid point. After all, is it natural for something so lifeless yet full of life at the same time, to out-last a species which is supposed to be at the height of intelligence? If we are so intelligent, so full of knowledge and wisdom, as we truly believe, why do we feel the need to keep everything we know in these libraries?

The reason we engage in this habit, so strange to all other existence on this earth, is possibly because of our fear of the infinite. Human beings are so determined to exist for eternity, to make our mark on this planet forever more, that we are seeking any method we can to try and beat the theory of infinity. However, that is all it really is; a theory – we do not know of the existence of infinity. It is simply a concept, put in place for we have fear of an end more so than we do of lasting forever. Either way, infinity will always be the powerful unknown that we live in the shadow of.

Our performance can somewhat represent our battle with infinity and what it means for the library to contend with potentially lasting forever. We are trying to create a seemingly endless list of books, labeled with numbers that could go on for infinity, using infinite methods of representing language. We have engaged with the concept of endlessness, and began to explore it’s impossibility by showing this in individual sketches. In trying to create an accurate representation of the libraries infinite aspects, we will no doubt face challenges, but we aim to demonstrate what humanity can understand from the word “infinity”. However it would clearly be impossible for us to exactly represent the extent of what infinity is. Maybe that’s what infinity is. Infinity is simply impossible.

Works Cited

Borges, Jorge Luis (1998) “The Library of Babel.” Collected Fictions, Trans. Andrew Hurley, New York: Penguin

Posted: March 27th, 2013
Categories: Borges, Library, Taking the Library Outside
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Art and Performance. What is it?

After watching an in depth documentary which looked into the work of the radical artist Marina Abramovic, many questions arose in my mind. What is art? What is true performance? Marina’s work certainly challenged what I had always perceived to be these things. The word “performance” has many meanings.

“In business, sports, and sex, “to perform” is to do something up to a standard – to succeed, to excel. In the arts, “to perform” is to put on a show, a play, a dance, a concert. In everyday life, “to perform” is to show off, to go to extremes, to underline an action for those who are watching.” (Schechner 2006, p. 28).

I would never have previously considered various acts of what can only be described as self harm to be art. However by doing these pieces, Marina is pushing her limits and actually becoming the performance, making her very soul the art; because it IS art. By putting her whole self into the performance, she is appealing emotionally to her audience and evoking diverse opinions, both things which ‘ordinary’ art pieces can do also.
In the documentary, she says “When you perform it’s your own blood.” – and this is the difference between performing and acting. To perform isn’t to create a character and hide behind it; it is to do something meaningful to you and share it with others. In Marina’s exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, she did a performance called ‘The Artist is Present’, and this is the perfect example of how she throws herself into the piece. The performance was raw and emotional; just an artist connecting with her audience. With regards to this she says that “The hardest thing to do is nothing”. It may be the hardest thing to do, but it can also provide an audience with an extremely hard-hitting piece of art.
Whilst Marina’s work hasn’t directly influenced the direction of my ideas for the site-specific performance, principles within it have given me inspiration. It has certainly helped me to understand the true meaning of performance.

Works Cited

Schechner, Richard (2006) Performance Studies: An Introduction, New York and London: Routledge

Posted: March 7th, 2013
Categories: Early Research, Marina Abramovic, Performance Art
Tags: , ,
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Experimenting in the library

Last Thursday, myself, Jess, Kristina, Beth and Hannah decided to experiment with the idea of game, and making the familiar unfamiliar (This concept is from Gob Squad’s piece Work). The library is a place of study, not a place which one might consider fun. Therefore, would it not be interesting to introduce elements which are totally contradictory to the library’s usual conventions and restrictions?

At first, I was personally quite interested in Gob Squad’s piece named “Work”. I found the concept of making the familiar become unfamiliar exciting and started to look for ways in which this could be executed in the library. When I teamed up with Jess and Hannah, this soon developed into the idea of creating an experience in which the audience would be taken on a surreal tour around the library and be asked to do tasks considered normal in the building, however they would listen to a sound track which would make the audience member notice how strange our rituals in certain places really are. Jess was particularly interested in this element as it was similar to a piece created by the artist Miranda July, who’s work inspired her. In order to attempt to put this into action, we explored the library from top to bottom finding various appropriate sounds to record and play to our audience. We then aimed to create a podcast for audience members to download. The idea behind this was that because the audience would be experiencing the ritualistic happenings in the library, but out of sync, they would be experiencing an out of place feeling, therefore highlighting how habitual we behave in environments such as the university library.

Our work evolved into using game when we then teamed up with Kristina and Beth. We still like the idea of introducing a foreign feel to the library environment and thought that game would be ideal, as it vastly contradicts everything that the library is. Lincoln library in particular, has a great layout for playing games. I first thought of the idea of using each floor for a different game. Each would be linked with the library system in some way, for example, “Library Pac-man” would involve escaping the ghosts whilst attempting to return a book to it’s correct shelf. This was then evolved into the idea of a scavenger hunt. Influence of this was greatly from a performance by blast theory called “Can You See Me Now?” :

We were interested in the use of modern technologies aiding in the game play, especially as the use of headphones would reduce the need to speak and disturb those studying in the library. In the particular experiment we did, we used a phone to communicate instructions, however we are currently working on making a pre-recorded podcast to play to audience members instead, as there were problems including loss of signal and feedback with the mobile phone method. This is something we plan to try within the next week.

Posted: February 10th, 2013
Categories: Early Research
Tags: , ,
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