Monday, November 30, 2009

I am the director!

For our second joint project (The Weighting Frame), I was to work with a colleague of mine for one of the four rooms,precisely the one that has Insignificance as a main theme. Well the collaboration didn't really take place at all,as she dropped off the course. So I was left on my own. Now I am directing the piece myself, which is even more challenging. I will be the only performer in the space, and with the help of our talented lighting team the Insignificance room will be quite minimal and yet some actions are going to take place. The duration is three hours, quite a while we have at our disposal. I imagine the whole piece to be some sort of an installation-happening,where the line between theatre and performance art is almost inexistent.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

One out of four is good

Firsts is an amazingly versatile festival for young and emerging artists that takes place annually at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Beautiful place, smart initiative and last but not least, great prices for poor students. It is a tough job choosing what to see in London: no doubt there is always the embarassment of choice, but you know there is also a high risk of ending up in a naff show, with a touch of obvious, unvoluntary amateurism and bad taste. Well the risk is worth taking anyhow.

On Tuesday night there were four performances presented, and for me one of them definitely stood out by far from the rest for professionally carried out work and attention to detail.

Finnish Ilona J√§ntti, aerialist, presented Elsewhere, a short performance that combined aerial dance with video animation. Although simple in structure, the piece was visually very interesting and complete, the body language of the dancer and the video became the protagonists of the story. It showed that the animator (Tuula Jeker) had closely worked with Ilona during the creation of the work, so that the two elements fused perfectly together. Probably this is very often taken for granted in performance, but it's seldom that you see a performance where elements of different nature (for example 3D and 2D) are combined in a smart way, where they make sense together, even though different media is used in different ways.

The attention of the relationship between video and body reminded me of the work I did with Collettivo Almagesto in the past year, and it's definitely something to continue researching on.

Firsts was on for several nights, and each one offered a few short performances. Quarter to half hour really seems the best duration for a performance. You are sure to have the audiences' attention. If you go over that you really need to have something extraordinary to show to keep spectators satisfied (if you wish).

I would love to participate in Firsts 2010 and as this year we are embarking on a number of different projects at Wimbledon, who knows, maybe the VLP group could be on stage at the Royal Opera House next year...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gift 1 - Dinner for a fox

Here is the video I created for Tim Jeeves' workshop that looked at different points of view on what gifts represent.
Turn up the volume since youtube's compression has reduced it somehow.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dance, blindness and a change of roles

Although I have been fascinated with blindeness lately, as I think of my small project to present in December, together with my project proposal and critical practice paper I have started asking myself how I actually want to incorporate blindness into my work. I am not interested into representing a story or a fairytale about blindeness. I guess that the subject itself is a complex one to touch upon in performance and visual arts, where meaning is brought about by the spectator's interpretation of visual and verbal language.

However I am determined to find a way in which to propose blindness within the performative space, where the audiences' eye sight might be challanged. In the meantime I came across an experimental dance performance choreographed and conducted by Berlin based dancer and choreographer Felix Ruckert in 2002. 

Secret Service invited the audience to become the centre of a performance piece where dancers blindfolded the audience from the very beginning and led them through a long journey of exploring their body language. The piece consisted of two parts. The audience was introduced to the rules of the piece, blindfolded and led into the performance space by the dancers. From there on, they were to trust their 'guide', their senses, their body impulses. The second part involved taking off clothing and pushing the body to other limits, which doesn't particularly interest me at that point.

What I find interesting about this piece is that it put the audience at the centre of the performance (although credits are given to the dancers that conducted the 'spectator-performer' into the space) and the total privation of seeing, which put the spectators in a position to entirely trust people they don't know.

The originality of the concept of Secret Service lies in the fact that spectators were basically treated as amature dancers. So I imagine this piece very much as a workshop, a trait that I find is becoming more common in performance nowadays. Is this a way of bringing the spectator closer to the performer, making the work more widely accessible and responding to the ever growing needs of spectators to be on equal terms with the performer? Where does  a performance stop being one and becomes an open workshop?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Lines line up space (Tate Britain)

Last Saturday I went to see the Tate Britain. Of course Tate Modern is the 'coolest' one, and I love dropping by any chance I get. But fortunately, living in London obliges you to visit all the galleries possible. It was great seeing the original 'Ophelia', which was an obvious inspiration to Nick Cave in the nineties for the video of the song 'Where the wild roses grow'. Also I enjoyed some pieces by James Abbott McNeill Whistler, whose work I had only seen in books and on the net. Of course some of the symbology of 16th century British painting seemed quite curious to me as opposed to Italian Renaissance, with which I am much more familiar.


At the moment the Duveen Galleries house a massive site specific installation by Eva Rothschild, called Cold Corners. Twenty-six  black triangles of various sizes, made of light black aluminium tube, stretch out the whole length of the gallery. Almost looking like a refined scaffolding, the piece contrasts with the architecture of the space, creating a new space that can be explored from different points of view. The space seems 'outlined' by the black tube triangles, giving the gallery a system for measuring and perceiving chunks of space. The spectator's gaze is directed by these lines and when a 'cold corner' comes along, it seems that we change the direction we are looking in.

Eva Rothschild's work  reminded me of a set design technique that Richard Foreman describes in his book 'Unbalancing Acts'. In order to decentralise the spectator's look in one point, which is often the presence of a protagonist, he used pieces of string that accompanied the spectator's gaze to different directions on stage. I found this little detail of great interest as very often playrights tend to concentrate the spectator's attention in one centre point, where the drama takes place. Foreman escapes from this conventional idea by offering the audience to explore the actors' space in different light.

Many artists nowadays use string, plastic, metal and all kinds of materials to draw physical lines in galleries. Some works may be stunning (also due to their dimensions), I saw a huge installation of that kind at the Venice Biennale this year. It has become some sort of 'string fashion', or 'string style art' that may be a little over the top. But if there is a reason behind it, and it works within an exhibition space or a performative venue why not?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Show and Go

Our brief shows last Wednesday with David Gale went quite well. It was a great challenge to set up everything in a couple of hours, with the anxiety of taking it all down on time to return all the equipment we had borrowed.

I think all pieces had more or less the same duration, about five minutes. It's amazing how different all four performances were, and yet David really found that we had all worked very well as a team, and that all pieces had something in common.

What we could not have and so did not make use of is lighting. I am sure that our pieces would have been better with a more careful choice of lighting, but in that case we did not have the equipment required, as we were not using the theatre space and also had too little time to try things out. That of course made it easier to make up some creative, low cost techniques. I was happy to use the overhead projector once more, a great device that can be transformed into a very versatile light source. I had the pleasure of learning how to use those with  theatre director and visual artist Fabrizio Crisafulli, whose innovative work is   appreciated both in Italy and worldwide.

Another technical question in our piece was the video, and as in every performance, things started going wrong minutes before the presentation. But this is a must in theatre, so I guess it brings good luck. It all went smoothly in the end. David's remark about blindness regarding my part of the video (the moving images seen from a train window) reminded me of a patient described in Oliver Sacks' 'The man who mistook his wife for a hat'. A great book by the renowed neurologyst I read some years ago, it is a collection of some amazing short stories that deal with the complexity of our perceptions. The patient I recalled is Ingrid (and I remember the name because this is what I called my bicycle at the time), whose brain perceived images as frames, and although her eye sight was not damaged, she was unable to see continuous, moving images, but rather scattered fragments, like thousands of photograhs recording a singular movement.

Our performances were all recorded, and as soon as I get the chance to edit the videos I will put them up.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A One Week Project

Last Wednesday we had a workshop with Dave Gale in the filming studio space, and after a brief talk we were aked to individually write three different parts of three different stories. It was something I hadn't done before, but it was a challenge. I had two hours to create a beginning, a middle and an end for three different stories.

Mr. Gale talked about Jean Luc Goddard's idea of cinema: according to him, all stories had to have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order. I accidentaly saw a short film by Goddard the other day, and noticed that although the story was very simple and it didn't really lead anywhere, it was broken roughly into three parts. 

Before lunchtime we were split into groups by a random draw of names (which actually appeared  to be the most confusing part of the whole meeting) and we were asked to create a small play for next Wednesday (that is the day after tomorrow).

I happened to be working with Ilka and Marouso, and we have a beginning, a middle and an end. Any combination of the three could have come up (for example, two middles and an end, or a beginning and two ends). Our stories somehow conneceted, and although we seem to have quite a cinematic feeling for the whole thing, we hope to make a good multimedia performance.

We've been working on some video pieces and have the final storyboard for the whole performance. 

This is my middle of the story, it's about two men playing cards on a train. It took me the least time to construct and it's quite senseless. Well, it's only part of the story... If put in the right context it will work!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Showing not in Little Britain

It's been an intense Friday at Wimbledon College today, happily concluded by a nice get together at the nearby pub. Got to say that British pubs can be quite dull and sad, but if you are with the right company they start looking almost cosy and inviting. 

Today we had the lecture theatre booked for the afternoon to use as a performance and exhibiting space, where to show our work to anybody who is around and willing to walk in and have a chat. I found that a great idea and was looking forward to it. It got most of us working really hard to be able to put something up on time, and it was great seeing everybody experimenting and bringing things in.

As regards to my piece I was quite unsure what type of work I should propose. So far I have been reading and writing a lot, accompanied by some sketches and photographs. Exhibiting these would be really lame, as they are just some elements that support my research, but are not quite right to present as a 'sample' of my work. As my interest has shifted from the 'visual' to the 'non visual' or more pricisely to the 'not seen', I asked myself which direction do i take next? Is blindness a theme that I want to use in my work, or is it that certain condition which obliges individuals to use their other senses to the fullest that I want to suggest to the audience? This is why I first thought of a slide show storyboard for a small part of Orhan Pamuk's 'My name is red'. But while sketching I realised it was not the right thing. So if I was to take my 'blind' ideas further, i need to put it into practice. I decided to blindfold myself for an hour or two and 'explore' the works of my colleagues using my other senses, considering essential dialogue. I spent a while to find a simple ribbon to use for the blindfold, so as not to look like a performer who's on about showing something off. It was really to be part of my research. 

While everyone was preparing their work to be taken upsatairs, in my effort of not looking around too much before my 'perception exploring', I was doing some experiments with a small torch, trying to create only a small dot of light. I tryed putting on 'blinds' on the glass bit of it, with tiny holes, but the effect was still that of the diffusing light that a torch normally has. That's until I got Esteban to have a look and he suggested I make a long cone, attach it to the torch and then block it with a 'blind'. Great, it worked! But the torch didn't look like a flashlight anymore, it was half a meter long and looked like a small kalashnikov. Looking through the small hole on the blind with the light on, it created a really nice tunnel effect, so I made a black paper container for it, through which people can look. It wasn't gonna take long, and it was something I could show as well. While finishing it off, I was surprised by my colleagues who announced that we don't have the space which had been booked for us. Quite literally we had been kicked out, and for this kind of school and standards that is unacceptable.

Where things went from there is something I will go back to in another post. Good thing was we had a new group meeting to discuss our priorities and needs as students who are part of Wimbledon College. For as much as this country has hit us with a culture shock, it's good to know where we stand.

This is where the magic happens! And it's a miracle as well, just picture nearly 16 of us there making performance in that space...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


While writing 'insignificant' for the picture of the previous post, while not having space to fit it the whole word on one line I had to take a second one for 'ant' and just realised that an ant does have to do with insignificance. Not that ants are insignificant to our world, but for their size, they are (and probably would feel, if they could feel like us) quite insignificant, as opposed to the sizes and dimensions of our (in/human) world.

Insignificant timing

These days things are happening faster than what I can realise, let alone write about. But in the effort of keeping the blog updated according to 'VLP regulations' I might as well start by intruducing the new project we are working on.

There is already a new joint project our group is working on, and it's been less than a week that we finished the climate change projection. This obviously doesn't leavs us with much time for our individual research, but it's a great way of training not only your flow of ideas and technical possibilities, but also your way of coping with so many things at the same time. It is not easy working on a few projects altogether and running after tight deadlines without mixing concepts and at the same time keeping a high level of professionalism.

'Insignificance' is one of the four themes we are to develop on a performative level for a show taking place in December. It is only two of us working on that one, so it's another kind of collaboration, probably a more complicated one. When you work with many people you know you are bound to give up on some ideas and embrace others, while if you only got one partner then it's harder to hold back  what you might not agree on.
Probably 'Insignificance'  is the most difficult of all four themes not becasue of what it means (or doesn't mean) but of the context we are to put it in: performance. The whole act of performing is about communicationg an idea, however simple it may be, but when you are to communicate something that is insignificant itself that becomes a challenging task. Maybe also due to the fact that insignificance is a realtive term: what is significant to me might be totally insignificant to somebody else, and things assume their 'insignificance' in relation to place, time and taste.

The first thing that came to mind, considering we are to perform, was the repetition of a simple routine movement. Not particularly complex movements, if repeated over and over again tend to lose their meaning and purpose somehow. They say that 'practice makes perfect', or that 'repetition is the mother of knowledge', and that would completely prove me wrong, but in theatre, where  timing is to be taken into consideration (say a show has a duration of thirty minutes for example) I, as part of an audience, would expect some kind of development or plot to unfold. If a performer raises their hand and then drops it, for half and hour, repeating always the same exact movement, doing nothing else, I would have no doubt that the only thing that he is trying to say is that he doesn't care. And that goes quite close to insignificance. 
Another idea was to try and make a list of insignificant things we do every day. But I guess we make the best of our time, isn't it? We do insignifiact things, but that's only becasue the others notice them, they are not insignificant to us.
My work partner suggested we take a picture every day, at the same time, and then look at them later on together. That seemed like an interesting idea, but I thought that setting a certain time for taking a photo would actually give us time to think about what we photograph and so give a mening to it. I suggested  that we carry our cameras with us and call each other randomly, just saying 'Take a pic!'. This would definitely be taking pictures of unexpected things and it's also fun. It surprised me that this seemed probably a bit invasive to her, however we exchanged numbers and will give it a shot. 

Let's see where it takes us.


Few days ago I came across an excerpt from an eighty's Japanese tv show by, although still not at the time, great film director and versatile artist Takeshi Kitano. He had the idea of playing with people's vision in relation to their body movements and reactions. Even though we must bear in mind that it was originally created for tv entertainment, the video shows the artist's interest in the deformation of human vision. 

What he did was organise a football game, where players simply had to wear a pair of binoculars. Over twnty years after its release, this video is great fun!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

An essay on blindness

As I have been currently interested in blindness, more precisely by its different interpretation by non blind authors, I remembered another novel I'd come across a few years ago- Blindness, by Portugese author Jose Saramago.

It tells the story of an imaginary city hit by a blindness pandemic, progressively afflicting all its inhabitants and leading to a major social breakdown. Although I found Saramago's style too descriptive and explicit, the story really put me in a position to imagine what life would be like if we all started losing our eye sight one by one. Consequences would be way beyond simply not seeing the outside world.