KONFORM

Third year Drama and Performance student at the University of Portsmouth, blogging about the process of a Post Dramatic performance.

"Situation"

Today our work was more formally presented to spectators. I have named this viewing as a “situation” after Lehmann’s unpacking of the word “event” in his book Postdramtic Theatre (2006, p.106). The naming of “situation” allows for the ontology of the piece to be less pre-empted by the spectator, allowing for no “certainty” (Lehmann, 2006, p.106).  This title suggests the act of participation from the spectator, highlighting the presence of the piece and focusing on “the act as opposed to the outcome” (Lehmann, 2006, p.105).


By using a public space we have often had onlookers, but today we initiated this spectating by inviting people to come and interact through the use of advertising, our online presence (twitter campaign), flyering, word of mouth and the performative instructions given to the audience during the piece. The spectators occasionally expressed feeling lost; this was partially created through a ‘map’ being handed to them which was not conventional in its appearance, but also the intermittency of the actors entering and exiting the space in the umbrella sequence and in their own installations as well as the formulaic structure not being conventional to other forms of theatre which have traditional beginnings and endings. This feeling of being lost reflects well on our central theme of the city, as the sensation of loss is often felt when in a new environment especially in an imposing city. However, I feel the performers could have explored this reaction from the spectator more had we used the public more during the process.

As the over-seer I noticed the live-ness and interaction of the “situation” focused the performers to being more alert and more responsive to the space. I think this was because of the act of knowing someone was viewing what they were doing. Lehmann identifies with this thought when he says “presences and chances of communication were favoured over represented actions” (Lehmann, 2006 ,p.105). For next time, I would provide more opportunities and “chances” for the performer to interact with the spectator to allow for these relationships to be reflected on and embodied further within the process.

Bibliography:

Lehmann, H. (2006). Postdramatic Theatre. Doi: 792.02/23/09430904 

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Workshopping

Through our process we have worked in a ‘playing’ environment, with which we have applied four strategies to our praxis: repetition, improvisation, reduction and chance. As Margaret Thompson Drewal explains “Whenever improvisation is a performative strategy in ritual, it places ritual squarely within the domain of the play”, suggesting whenever improvisation is used our human instinct performs the everyday (Schechner, 2013, p.112). Also, to help with inspiration, we have used Brian Eno’s and Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies cards.  
Listed below are some examples of workshops which have been influential to our work:

Workshop 1

Charades cards - pick an everyday action or chore and apply the strategy on the card.

Card 1 – Take all meaning away from this action

Card 2 – Exaggerate this action by x10

Card 3 – Invert this action

Card 4 – Vocalise this action (without the use of mime)

Card 5 – Use a pair to create this action

Card 6 – Give the audience instructions on how to do this action

The audience would then guess the charade and sometimes this would be obvious (and sometimes not).

The purpose to this activity was to involve and play with audience participation, alienation of the everyday and the use of instructions on an audience, and their interpretation. To begin with the group felt uncomfortable with trying to think of how to ‘invert the action’, because this went against their conventional preconceptions but quickly, the inversions had less connotations and became more about the focus and movement of the gestures. The actions which could not be guessed by the group were more effective because the actor had to improvise by revising, reducing and repeating the action for the audience to guess. 
If repeating this exercise I would give the actor less of an overloaded stimulus to begin, allowing them to take one part of the body and focus on isolated movement so that the meaning would be comparatively less important (than the physical action itself). This exercise I devised from the style of  Augusto Boal’s workshops with a Fluxus twist, influenced from Brecht’s symphonies which reference inverting an action for example Flute Solo*.

*Further reading and Fluxus workshops, Friedman, K., Smith, O. & Sawchyn, L. (eds.) (2002). the Fluxus Performance Workbook. Retrieved fromhttp://www.deluxxe.com/beat/fluxusworkbook.pdf

Workshop 2

Looking at the sound architecture of the space and different objects, we looked at how sound is heard and how the sound can be distorted through different materials. Influenced by the work of Luigi Russolo ‘The Art of Noise’, he suggests the world was once silent and has now become polluted by urban sounds of machinery (Russolo, 1967, p.4). 
I the wanted the actors to consider the over loaded term music; and instead consider the urban noises which Russolo describes as “noise-sound” rather than “musical noise”, he says, “we infinitely get more pleasure imagining combinations of sounds…than listening once more, for instance, to the historic or pastoral symphonies” (Russolo, 1967, p.6). Therefore by doing this exercise this allowed us to consider the “noise-sound” of the space and taking these ideas of “ritualized gestures and sounds” of the everyday city and apply them within the installations (Schechner, 2013, p.52).

Workshop 3

This workshop was influenced by my map installation and the idea of the spectator going on a journey. However I also wanted to play with the idea of removing the senses, considering the multiplicity of scores which could be altered simply by removing one of the senses. 
In pairs one person was blind folded whilst the other led them around a space. The job of the person without the blindfold was to disorientate the blindfolded so that they would not know where they would end up. By alienating the sight, meant the body relied on other senses such as oral, touch and smell to try and recognise the journey and final destination. We all knew the space we were in so this made it easier for the blindfolded to distinguish where they were. I want to apply this idea to the Round Tower, making the spectator feel detached from a space they believe to know. 
After both pairs had done this we reflected on the effect of alienating the sight and considered the map of the journey each pair had been on. I then asked the group to draw each of their maps in whatever way they felt best explained the journey they had been taken on. Seeing how they documented these journeys was interesting to explore in my Flux performance box.

Bibliography:

Russolo, L. (2004). The Art of Noise. M. Tencer (ed.). Retrieved from:http://www.artype.de/Sammlung/pdf/russolo_noise.pdf
Schechner, R. (2013). Performance Studies. S. Brady. (ed.) Oxon: Routledge.

From looking at Maciunas’ Flux Year Boxes I felt it was appropriate to create something similar to show the process and allow for further experience to be had by a spectator during the performance. Therefore we are having ‘Flux Performance Boxes’, a box per installation, to create a visual impetus to the installations and also to allow audience participation, as many of these boxes involved instructions and activities for the audience to explore.

From looking at Maciunas’ Flux Year Boxes I felt it was appropriate to create something similar to show the process and allow for further experience to be had by a spectator during the performance. Therefore we are having ‘Flux Performance Boxes’, a box per installation, to create a visual impetus to the installations and also to allow audience participation, as many of these boxes involved instructions and activities for the audience to explore.

Experiential Music

I felt it was important to explore the use of music in Fluxus performances. The structures and strategies created by George Brecht, Brian Eno and Micheal Nyman, along with Cornelius Cardew, and “idiosyncratic groups” such as the Scratch Orchestra and Portsmouth Sinfonia were all composers who share the Fluxus ethos of being; “free of narrative and literary structures” (Nyman, 1999 p.xii). Interestingly, the structures often used to influence compositions, are elements which we can apply to our installations:

1. Chance/determination process - often governed by the spectators
2. People process - “performer makes calculations to determine the nature, timing or spacing of sounds”, the composer may only hint towards “temporal areas in which a number of sounds may be made or heard” (Nyman, 1999, p.4). 
3. Contextual process - is dependent on unpredictable conditions
4. Repetition process - to create new experience
5. Electronic process - synthesizing compositions 

At this stage I feel we need to consider the ‘chance’ element in our piece, how can we involve the audience so that the outcome is determined by them and not preconceived by the actor?

Bibliography:
Nyman, M. (1999). Experimental music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Our flyers and publicity have become an integral part of beginning the audience experience of our performance. Not only is the flyer an example of a Flux score, The flyer is an example of a flux score, a less conventional format to a standard flyer, but our social media campaign has begun the publicity and experience for the spectator. We have been tweeting Eno and Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies cards, complimented with our own versions of these cards. We felt twitter would be an appropriate medium to use for our publicity, as this is an everyday source of promotion and similar to a blog we are able to tweet regularly about the process. Also this medium reflects the use of intermediality in the world today and especially in the Postdramatic world where the relationship between the spectator and audience member. We now all confirm to using technology, which, despite its issues with creating simulations, allows for us to begin the spectator’s virtual experience. 

Dramaturgy of the space

Maps
To link all of our installations together and create some dramaturgy for the space and the performance, my installation will involve creating a map of the site and where the other installations are. I want to highlight the performativity of a map; “Interpreting maps this way is to examine map-making “as” performance. Every map not only represents the Earth in a specific way, but also enacts powerful relationships.” (Schechner, 2013, p.42). I will pre-draw maps for each audience member, allowing for the inaccuracies in practical issues like scale and positioning to be examined, and the different forms of map providing speculation for the receiver. A map is often indeterminate, a theme which runs throughout the Fluxus movement and something deeply rooted in the work of John Cage. I want to play with the element of chance that the audience member may get lost or be unable to find the other installations, and feel emotions of frustration, alienation, anxiety and exploration, the same feelings when navigating around an unknown city (Schechner, 2013, p.44). I imagine the maps to resemble the London Underground tube map, with colours and endless lines, reflecting the city, but also the confusion and sense of alienation a tube map often provokes when first glanced at. I also want my map to echo Schechner’s thought that “Everything on a map is named – being “on a map” means achieving status”, even with a map where you cannot identify the area somehow employs a sense of power on the person reading it (Schechner, 2013, p.41).

The Space
Throughout the performance, to enable the audience to participate there will be clearly marked areas for the performers ie. marking a chalk box on the ground and labelling it performance space. There will also be blurbs and instructions in some of the installations, so that the audience can be invited to interact. There will also be billboards reading “Fluxfest, Street Theatre, FREE” so that people are aware of what’s going on and can choose to experience the work. Similar to the signs in the street art below, I think this is an appropriate way to promote the “Simple, small and cheap” installations that I would use to describe our performance (Kellein, 1995, p.11). Also these signs pay homage to the negation of Art in Art Fluxus promotes and more an everyday  ““art for arts sake”” attitude “then by viewing [Fluxus] as a “cipher” standing for something else” (Higgins, 2002, p.103). Along with these structures to the performance art we have also created a series of performance cards which will promote the other installations. These will be handed out to the audience during the performance as a gift, giving the idea of incessancy after the spectator has left the space. 

Bibliography:
Higgins, H. (2002). Fluxus Experience . California: University of California Press.
Kellein, T. (1995). Fluxus. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd.
Schechner, R. (2013). Performance Studies: An Introduction. Oxon: Routledge

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The Round Tower - a microcosm of Portsmouth

With Fluxus the space is important for influencing the work, taking the performativity out of a conventional theatre and repositioning it in an everyday space, to, as Kellein notes, “[break] away from the aesthetic and cultural controls that had been imposed” on art (Kellein, 1995, p. 119). The use of the Round Tower naturally allows for a fresh eye to be applied to our installations creating a microcosm of Portsmouth as a city. The local public will experience this area not only absorbing Fluxus work, but allowing for the space to perform; the weathering and history of the buildings to be appreciated and played with in the installations. Without these raw elements the actor would be constrained to the semiology of a conventional performance and theatrical space. The space allows for the audience to congregate and watch from no specific auditorium, the arches create natural rooms allowing the audience to view inside but also inviting them to step inside and experience the actor’s installation and the inside of the Round Tower provides an immersive space for the silent disco to involve the audience.


We have planned for the timing of dusk to hit the performance, so that during the duration of the piece the light will fade so that the audience have another experience of the space and with relation to the city this will portray the idea the city never sleeps.

Bibliography:
Kellein, T. (1995). Fluxus. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd.

Mobiles

The use of the media is something integral to everyday life: “simulated media environments are now so ubiquitous” (Gane, 1971). We wanted to confine our use of technology to the everyday, through the mobile, embedding the idea of intermediality into our city. The audience will use a phone provided to text a number, the audience member will then be able to have a text conversation with an unknown person at the other end. This allows the audience member to consider the communication which they use subconsciously in their day to day lives, showing them how we have become dictated by this object, allowing the device to create “a self-conscious reflexivity that displays the devices of performance in performance” (Chappel, 2006). The “intermedial inhabits a space-in between the different realities of performance” (Chappel, 2006), creating a relationship with the performer and spectator, allowing them to “spark up conversations” and interact, with “nothing else but the humble text message function” (Watershed, n.d.).

This installation was influenced by an exhibition in Bristol, where mobiles were used to engage with inanimate objects in the city landscape, it enabled “you to look at your city with fresh eyes, engage with street furniture that might have become commonplace to the point of invisibility, to slow down, reflect…”, which is how I want the actors and the audience to view our performance, with a “fresh glance” (Watershed, n.d.).

Bibliography
Chappel, F. & Kattenbelt, C. (2006). Intermediality in Theatre and Performance. Retrieved from http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=zwt49yGGE6oC&oi=fnd&pg=PA7&ots=2lu-MBO69P&sig=kar8_4Px6kY0KdwnKtUM_1kBhGI#v=onepage&q&f=false
Gane, N. (1971). New Media. Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com/lib/portsmouth/docDetail.action?docID=10356341
Watershed’s website (2013, November 4). Retrieved from http://www.watershed.co.uk/playablecity/2013/hello-lamp-post/

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Fluxfest

Our Fluxfest, the term coined by myself to amalgamate traditional ideas of a of Macunias Fluxus Festival or Flux Concert from 1962, shares themes of performance art through the “time-based, and process orientated work of [the] conceptual” every day. The process to this Fluxfest will be paramount to the performance, as Schechner says “any product is more profoundly in the process, in the action, in the exchange , than in any formally discrete object” (Schechner, 2002, p.159). The actors will create independent art to explore ““Who is this person doing these actions?”” (Schechner, 2002, pp.158-159).

Bibliography

Schechner, R. (2013). Performance Studies: An Introduction. Oxon: Routledge.

Being the ‘Over-Seer’

The “over-seer” was a term coined at the beginning of this process, for the role of the person who would guide the process through to the stage of the performance. One of the reasons for choosing this title rather than the common term director, allowed for less preconceived expectation from the actors so that (in hope) they would be freer within their artistic practice and exploration. 

Perhaps more directorial than I intended to be, we have worked independently on our installations and as a group on workshops to aid to each other’s work. I plan for more group work and evaluation to happen in the lead up to the audience present piece, however as I have stressed to the actors this should not be classed as a “situation” to allow for a ‘stopping’ of the work rather than an ‘ending’.

For next time, as an “over-seer” and performance artist, I would insist for the actors to do more experiential research, I do not feel enough everyday performativity has been applied to the performance, because of too many constraints within the process and too much rehearsal in a studio space.