Posts Tagged ‘Rebecca Baines’

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: (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: (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: (accessed 19 March 2013) []
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