Posts Tagged ‘Lucy Harriet Hobbs’

Our Utopia

 We decided to create a backdrop and label it as OUR UTOPIA. We would then ask the customers who ,we said, were working class to write what their utopia would be or one dream on the white board and have a picture. This corresponds to the notion that manual labour is hard and that often an indivdual’s dream is a source of escapism.
On refelection , and the end process of our cafe, we had angled the socio-political message towards class and industrializition in which lends itself towards Marxist concept of “class and the capatalist mode of production.” ( Strangleman  2009 p.812)

Below are example pictures taken from the day – (Photo images by Charlotte Mooney, Friday 3rd May 2013, Great Central Library Lincoln)

austrailiafranceteacher8less scary place

zoo keepercomfort

References
Halford, S, & Strangleman, T 2009, ‘In Search of the Sociology of Work: Past, Present and Future’, Sociology, 43, 5, p. 811, Publisher Provided Full Text Searching File, EBSCOhost, viewed 11 May 2013.

Word count: 97

Want a cake? Earn it.

‘Archaeology is, I suggest, a process of cultural production… that takes the remains of the past and makes something out of them in the present. A contemporary creative work.’1

With the statement above in mind, we began our performance on 3/5/2013 as we set up our ‘pop up café’ at approximately 6:30am in the ‘free zone’ on the ground floor of the library. We prepared to open the café for 9am to get ready for a working day until 5pm. Completely transforming the entire space where there were only walls, tables and chairs proved overwhelming not only to ourselves but also to the many people that entered the space with fresh eyes after being familiar with the space as a place of study.

180 ̊ view of pop up café, 3/5/2013, GCW Library, Photograph by Stephanie Alcock

180 degree view of pop up café, 3/5/2013, GCW Library, Photograph by Stephanie Alcock

We soon fell into a regimented structure that we had created whereby we each allocated ourselves to a station. These five stations being:

1) at the door greeting customers
2) stood in ‘Our Utopia’ section ready to photograph ‘working class’ customers
3) moving the grain from point A to point B
4) decorating cakes on the icing counter
5) serving tea and coffee

Pop up Caf'é in progress, 3/5/2013, GCW Library, Photograph by Rim Petros

Pop up Café, 3/5/2013, GCW Library, Photograph by Rim Petros

Every half an hour I would blow a whistle and we would rotate stations, which echoed the factory regimented work ethic of the building’s history and reminded our audience that we were in fact still playing the role of ‘the working men’ despite how eccentric the environment seemed to be. Every hour on the hour another whistle was blown which signified a tea break for 3 minutes, therefore no matter what situation we were in with a customer we would leave the café and stand outside either with a newspaper or a cigarette, reflecting the nature of factory workers. This element of our piece showed to the audience that despite the appearance of our café our escapism came in our 3 minute break every hour, contrast to their escapism being in our café. To make this message more clear we created a section of the café where ‘Our Utopia’ was signified, this coincided with us as performers having an idealised version of utopia (a beach pictured on the poster) as well as the ‘working class’ audience members being photographed next to it holding a whiteboard specifying what their idea of utopia was.

‘As utopia, performance envisages the righting of wrongs and the nascence of a new social order.’2

Utopia, 3//5/2013, GCW Library, Photograph by Stephanie Alcock

Utopia, 3//5/2013, GCW Library, Photograph by Stephanie Alcock

After tallying all of the grains that were placed from point A to point B by the ‘working class’  audience and performers the total was 2300 grains by the end of a 9 to 5 working day. Our aim was never to reach a specific target of grains to count; our intention was to reflect how a day’s work is never truly complete as the following day continues the same monotonous and mundane work cycle.

Cakes, biscuits etc, 3/5/2013, GCW Library, Photograph by Stephanie Alcock

Cakes, biscuits etc, 3/5/2013, GCW Library, Photograph by Stephanie Alcock

The majority of people experiencing the ‘pop up café’ had no incline that there was a performance taking place and thus made them more vulnerable to the project yet also more willing. We saw this through their receptiveness and hunger for knowledge (as well as literal hunger for the cakes on display) yet their participation with the tasks at hand meant that they got to experience a café like no other, in a place like no other. I overheard one ‘working class’ customer say they felt that their cake tasted better as they had earned it. This says a lot about our socio-political message that we were trying to convey, even though the cakes were free of charge, working for them in the smallest way made them more desirable. This made me question whether some people are simply programmed with the work ethic of ‘if you want something, you have to earn it.’

‘As site of cultural intervention and innovation, performance is a place of experiment, claim, conflict, negotiation, transgression: a place where preconceptions, expectations and critical faculties may be dislocated and confounded.’3

The effect of our performance only registered once it had ended, we had restored the ‘free zone’ back to its empty space, and the transformation of the space were now only memories fresh in my mind. Through pushing the boundaries of performance as well as of our audience, we successfully transgressed from the general expectations of ‘theatre’ and thus created our own sacred performance that effectively conveyed our socio-political theme to the audience. As Tim Etchells says

‘I ask of each performance: will I carry this event with me tomorrow? Will it haunt me? Will it change me, will it change things?
If not it was a waste of time.’4

Word count: 824

  1. Pearson, Mike (2010) Site-Specific Performance, London: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 44 []
  2. ibid., p. 141 []
  3. ibid., p. 141 []
  4. Etchells, Tim (1999) Certain Fragments, New York: Routledge, p. 49 []

“Want a free cake? Earn it!”

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(Rim Petros, Friday 3rd May 2013, Great Central Library)

My previous blog entry It’s an Experience discussed the idea of giving customers a different experience depending on their class position. The Middle Class would be treated to sit down and enjoy a warm drink and a cake of their choice. Customers categorised as the Working Classes would be asked to complete a task.

We had many discussions about what the task could be? We wanted a task that would signify working labour  From looking at the time line of the transitional change of the library’s building, labour and trade has dominated the building’s past. First opening in 1907 as a Central Grain Warehouse and in 1967 a builder’s merchants took residency. So we thought it would be effective if the task represented manual labour.

As a group we have already decided to incorporate grain into the cafe (see blog – The Grain Escape and the Socio-political message) [To use grain to reflect library statistics]but on reflection we thought it would be more effective we asked the library users to count the grain themselves rather than walking into the cafe and the grain counted out already. We thought it would have a bigger impact because of the physicalailty of the task.

Previously we have collected many interesting statistics about the library. Did you know, 3000 people a day visit the University of Lincoln’s Great Central Library? We thought that we could count 3000 grains throughout the day to represent this statistic. We would also be saying that each Grain represents a library user. This Reverts back to the core meaning of a cafe in the library, bringing all the library users together. This supports Majorie Mayo’s notion that through “participation in drama , provides a welcome alternative to top-down forms of devlopment because it is orientated towards faciliating the particpant’s vision of social change.”(p.77, 2010)So, by making the working class library users participate in a task we can also discuss the issue of the difference between social classes.

The task : To move an x amount of grain from the scales (A) to the tin (B) in a short amount of time. We also wanted to add an element of fun by using tweezers to move per grain.
Tin was used to collect the grain as this symbolises manufacturing.

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(Both pictures taken by Naomi Shaw, Friday 3rd May 2013, The Great Central Library)

Reference
Govan Emma, Nicholsan Helen and Normington Katie, Making A Performance , Devising Histories and Comtemporary Practices , Routeledge (2010)

Word count: 400

Cake Memoirs

‘The social aspect of food along with the inevitable ‘eventness’ of the many rituals surrounding food encounters, makes for an eclectic and dialogical artistic process involving conversations and crossings between the physical, the social, the cultural, the personal, the representational and the pragmatic.’1

This description of Jenny Lawson’s work as an artist describes her performance of ‘Bake me a Cake’ as part of the Compass Festival of Live Art in Leeds in November 2011. In her performance she invites audience members to participate by inviting them to share their favourite recipes for cakes and be a part of the process. This intimate exchange that she divulges into with the audience is incorporating their identities and own memoirs into her performance and thus creating a piece like no other that is unique both socially and culturally.

‘Bake Me a Cake’2

‘Such performance works with memory, raking over enduring ones, stirring half-suppressed ones.’3

Drawing inspiration from this we wanted to make our baking process personal to the people in the library and through this create audience participation even before our performance began. We questioned what random students’ favourite cakes were and why in the library on the 20/3/2013. Through documenting this we were able to bake cakes with participants in mind as well as allowing the sentimental value of the cakes to resonate through our café by quoting their memoirs on a notice board that other audience members could read.

Cake memoirs, 3/5/2013, GCW Library, Photograph by Charlotte Mooney

Cake memoirs, 3/5/2013, GCW Library, Photograph by Charlotte Mooney

We decided the best way to keep our research and process flowing into our final performance was to use multi media performance to project video footage of us recording our baking process onto a wall of the café. The contrast between the live performance of serving the cakes compared to the baking process would hopefully serve as an authentic aspect in showing the final result of the cakes.

‘Baking Process for Pop up Café’4

Word count: 364

  1. Lloyd, Annie (2011) Compass Live Art, Online: http://compassliveart.org.uk/live-art-events/jenny-lawson (accessed: 28 April 2013) []
  2. Lawson, Jenny (2011) Bake Me a Cake @ Compass, Online: www.vimeo.com/52326752 (accessed: 29 April 2013) []
  3. Pearson, Mike (2010) Site-Specific Performance, London: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 57 []
  4. Alcock, Stephanie (2013) Baking Process for Pop up Café 2013, Online: www.youtube.com/edit?ns=1&video_id=9OgYq7pnnS4 (accessed 13 May 2013) []

Cakes Aid Conversation

“Collective identity serves as the normative backdrop against which individuals articulate their unique personal attributes. In short, without a clearly defined collective identity, an individual cannot engage in the normal processes that would allow him/her to develop a personal identity.” (Taylor and Sablonnière p.22)This was written by Taylor a psychologist who in his article discusses the issues surrounding dysfunctional societies and the breakdowns surrounding no collective identity found in certain societies.

So, how does this relate to the concept of The Grain Escape?

Outlined by our initial concept the pop-up cafe is aiming to create a communal space in the library. By creating a communal space, personal identities can be established as  individuals can participate in conversations and group discussion which enable individuals to digress their own opinions. In Cohen’s words , “people consider community to be a resource and a repository of meaning, a referent to their identity.”(p.74, 2010)
Personal Identity is crucial because through observation the library is very much based around independent study and dismissive of whom the library users are? For example [as discussed various times] we scan with a library card that issues a number and that very same number is used to log in to computers.

The concept of Initiating conversation through cake was explored by placing plates of cakes in the middle of library and seeing what the reaction would be from the library users.
The findings were very varied ,only when we approached the library users by kindly asking if they would “like to take a cake?” Was when the library users would participate in conversation?
Initially we started in the stairwell of the library but we found this was too imposing and people were reluctant to speak to us. We found that we came across to intimidating and this not what we wanted to achieve. We aim to create a relax area and conformable for people to enter.
Cakes on book shelf156
(Naomi Shaw, 14th April 2013, The Great Central Library)

A lot of the reactions resulted in people asking us, “What’s the catch?” Only when we smiled pleasantly and told them there is no catch merely we are offering out cake in trade for a conversation. We found people were likely to chat to us. A lot of the conversations centred on what people were studying? How long they had been in the library? How they were feeling?
cakes on desk
(Naomi Shaw, 14th April 2013, The Great Central Library)

It was often found that people were happy with being offered a cake and commented on, “How this was such a positive thing to do, and made their days better. ”
cakes on desk 2
(Naomi Shaw, 14th April 2013, The Great Central Library)

From carrying out this small project it became clear to the group that by introducing a cafe in the free space our aim of creating a social environment will have a positive effect on the library.  It will attract interest, especially where cake is involved.

References
Taylor, D, & De La Sablonnière, R 2013, ‘Why Interventions in Dysfunctional Communities Fail: The Need for a Truly Collective Approach’, Canadian Psychology, 54, 1, pp. 22-29, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 14 April 2013.

Word Count: 513

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