Tuesday, 2 November 2010
a piece of
lost in sink
or slit cheeks
Sunday, 26 September 2010
Here are some some photographic records of the last Dummy Company show, Glossia, which we performed last August.
A strangely satisfying and challenging evening for all concerned, including the local patrons which consisted of an unanticipated audience of a family with their children.
The duration of the event might have lagged too much, primarily because we resorted to 'short' intervals to change the set up for each mini-show. But the benefit of this arrangement led to an informal occasion punctuated by the shadows of an expected formality. Despite the theatricality of its setting, complete with a velvet red curtain, it felt like we had invited people into our front room, as if we had just moved into the area and were keen to have any of our new neighbours over for a look at our workshop. Apart from the inevitable attendence of friends and associates, we had a welcome selection of strangers who were willing to give us their time to see and hear these strangers perform in their local theatre. Unfortunately we were never privy to what they actually thought or felt, but we know there was laughter from a child and a late middle-aged woman.
In hindsight, it must have been quite an overwhelming night full of guttural noisescapes, and performance pieces on hydrocephalic infants and female ejaculation. If you spend a lot of time thinking and working on these things it's easy to forget that the large majority of the rest of the world hasn't really given them much thought. But perhaps we opened a few minds...
Carina Levitan in Glossia
Thanks to Shaun May for providing last minute tech support and putting the night on the internet, which you can get as a free podcast here.
And thanks to Carina's friend whose name I have regrettably forgotten, for taking these photos during the get in.
Myself performing 'Stoma Tong'
Kirstin Smith preparing for 'Stunt:Ejaculate'
Saturday, 24 July 2010
with Stunt:ejaculate and Stoma/Tong
7.30pm August 3rd•
Colour House Theatre
Merton Abbey Mills
Box Office: 0208 544 1222
GLOSSIA is an evening of new sonic and verbal performances.
Kirstin Smith promises to teach and delight with her modernist inflected and erudite lecture on Female ejaculation whilst Ollie Evans will speak, chant, belch and sing his new electric opera, Stoma Tong. All of this will be bracketed by Glossia, an ‘Articulated Babel Construction’ made in collaboration with Brazilian sound artist, Carina Levitan.
Wednesday, 9 June 2010
Last Sunday I performed the Ursonate for the first time with live electronic manipulation (e.g. my Kaoss pads).
At the risk of 'translating' it into a cheap digitalisation, I think it opened it up even further to the possibilities of its performance as a piece of 'Merz' - where forms miscegenate and coagulate.
Rather than a straight 'accompaniment' it became more of an accomodating conflict between the input of my voice and the output of the kaoss pads. Maybe...
LISTEN: Kaossonata @ Arch 468
Wednesday, 17 March 2010
Finnegans Wake: Ventriloquent Agitations
The speedboat steered towards disaster seciton of the residency.
The attempt was deceptively simple enough: try to get Finnegans Wake through new throats whilst miscegenating objects in the same splace.
On Thursday 4th, I led a 'workshop with close friends (who else would want to attend one of these things at the end of term?). The last thing we did involved everyone (but me) reading from and playing with Finnegans wake. I inserted labels into a copy of the book with words like "fall" "homunculus" "stomach" "ventriloquise" and "miscegenate" written on them. Being a 'ventriloquent agitation' (FW, 56), rather than a 'performance' or 'improvisation', material was literally 'agitated', as in the way the OED describes agitation as 'the mental tossing of a matter to and fro'. I wanted something that has existed for so much time inside my skull, to be tossed about in a room with other people.
It was an indulgence to say the least.
But on that day, my (mostly) sceptical colleagues played along with the whim and produced some interesting doings. Despite the apparent formlessness of everything that was happening, things were remarkably tied together (aside from Kirstin's proclivity towards the spool of string) by the voices that spluttered, delivered and refused the text. This is a text that rarely instructs you how to read, yet due to its delusions of mythology, it can often determine a particular, grandilquent and ultimately pathetic tone. But when someone like Jeremy Hardingham flicks through the pages, beginning with a cod Irish accent flattening into something which quite simply takes the piss, the joke of the matter really seeps out.
This book shouldn't be read with reckless abandon, but it should be abandoned, it will always be abandoned because it can never be finished. A performance of it will always be an abandonment in some way. There was a point when Jeremy began reading, probably one of the most famous passages in the book, the tale of the Mookse and the Gripes, at which point he violently spat at it and flicked to another page. Afterwards he told me that he starting making some of it up whilst Kirstin tied him to the lecturn with string.
Is it frustration? tedium? disgust? does the text agitate its reader as well as itself? I thought that this could be, out of all this impossibility, an entry point into a performance of Finnegans Wake. A series of abandonments, agitations and revulsions. As well as the love that is always there whenever someone generously offers to read it.
However, I should have left it at that and let these thoughts sink in. A week later I attempted to recreate the agitation in the Miscellaneous Theatre (?) Festival, but this time with strangers from the audience.
I outlined (what I thought was) a simple structure that would lead into a crescendo and then descend back to a single reading voice. It was a large audience and they'd already been there for 3hours (and there was at least another 3 to follow), and people did not hesitate to participate.
The long and short lesson to be learned: the gift of freedom can be an ugly prison.
I was entirely open to 'anything' happening, so politically I don't regret the 'performance'. But there was a part of me that lost faith in humanity as I saw people sawing my objects in half and mindlessly dropping flour everywhere. I am, of course, entirely to blame for encouraging such directionless squalor and my vagueness in my introduction, "You will be given a label with a word which you can regard or disregard as you please", didn't help to dictate any kind of ethical expectations. But ultimately I was disappointed in the general lack of respect that took place. It's one thing to tie some one up with string, but it's another to confront another persons objects (whether physical or mental) with deliberate violence. Apart from the examples above, I can't really pin point specific actions but it was more the violent absence of communication that was quite disturbing.
Alot of this does depend on circumstance, the mood of the room , the selection of volunteers, what had come before and what was to follow; and perhaps I did waste alot of people's time. But despite the failure, it was a valuable, ugly experience which was necessary for figuring out what I want to do with Finnegans Wake in the future.
Finnegans Wake: A Solo Droma
The quieter, solitary route into 'performing' with the Wake.
Following a sketch for a 'Ten Minute Tone Performance' that I had made a few weeks before, I gathered some materials (A flower, some eggs, water, two puppets (Which I had made as Albany and Cornwall from Unfolding King Lear), and a large hardback book, the Complete Lewis Carroll), and then I recorded an audio piece to accompany some tabletop object manipulation.
Whilst listening to the audio and going through the actions Jonny came into the studio and watched. Afterwards he told me that it was far more engaging watching me perform to myself, with headphones, than if he could hear the audio that I had composed. I agreed (half because I thought the audio I had made was pretty mediocre), and it became part of the performance.
Essentially, the little performance attempts to depict the skeleton of the Wake through symbolic objects (e.g. The egg for HCE, water for ALP, the flower for Isabel and the puppets for Shem and Shaun). But the outcome was not to effectively describe or represent Finnegans Wake to an audience but to present a creator doing Finnegans Wake, exploring the many ways of treating and ultimately cracking an egg. My favorite moment involved using a cracked egg as a mouth which plucked petals from a geranium and eventually devoured itself as the pressure of the bites gradually crushed the shell.
It's hard for me to really assess the piece as its so introverted. In a way, it doesn't really feel like a performance, or more precisely, it doesn't feel like I'm really 'showing' anything, but simply 'doing' something in front of an audience. In a way, the absolute extreme opposite to the Ventriloquent Agitation in which the audience are asked to participate.
But did I forget about the audience entirely? How can a performer actually 'forget' an audience?
I think there's a value in the act of giving something to the audience, even if it is just a series of solitary actions. An audience doesn't have to be physically dragged into an action in order to feel part of it.
But ultimately, with a text like the Wake, which will always seem to be a 'members only' kind of experience, how far can an audience be included in work made around it?
That's the next (series of) question(s) for the project.
How should we consider an audience if we are ultimately abondoning a text in front of them? How privy to this experience can they be? And how far can they 'understand by enjoying', as Gertrude Stein would put it, whilst retaining the inevitable sense of bafflement and frustration that the text inevitably produces on everybody in the room?
Wednesday, 10 March 2010
We set rail on a crusty Monday morning, a Luna, a Liron and an Orte in toe, clasping backsacks.
We depart with the Luna at Shadwell who, the night before, had lulled us to the harmonic tones celestial of glossolalic incantations, after le Liron played us out to a Town Bloody Hall.
Evenmore the night before, they did condecent to join me in the Little Angel where disembodying puppen won amok with amateurisms. But the impotent ring being that we played with our shadows.
So above is the record of this playing with light in the studio
we kept for the week, all ourself, and we put a whiten sheet up with string and brick.
'One Doing' from the Gertrude Stein through the Kaossssss Pap.
Rilke's Elegy IV found its splace. Happy coindents like 'quivering before heart's curtain' and 'enter first dancer...no...', 'glowing behind every shape'...now was not a compliment to sentimental puppentry but a critiquical invest into both pome and form....And no to mention where ay maun put Hugh McDiarmid to rights with the dulcets ofNaplammo Death. Still, undistilled, I run out with Nothingman by Pearl Jam - from the 6months previous exerjive when Lironi did bop his Edmund hips to the trip of Macreedy, gossard, ament, camron and vedder.
I wanted shadows and this being an OBJECTSPERFORMINGTEXTS residence, his tropical body became the obbjet, but who could keep him from being a toy? we pull down the shadow curtain he being touching from behind 'OH FOE PA!! DO NOT SO MUCH AS BRAKE THE RULER BY TOUCHING THE ILLUSION, YOU'LL BURN!'
so touching the mask.
But how not to do doing? Do nothing? what is doing nothing?
Not standing neutral for only, as that is clearly doing something.
In the end, did we get it? eyes moving, legs hesitating, breathing breath-ing.
Light on a body, one that was once a model for Egon Schiele, is affecting but statuesquing.
Once we tried to balance on bricks but then it became a spectaculule of virtubotic endurance.
Who has not quivered in front of the curtain of your heart, before an audience and the light.
Chooseday and Wegsday morning up out for Cauis continental 8aim into studio for 10aim and warming up we doing 'Doings.' Below is one doing of a doing.
Sunday, 21 February 2010
But it was a worthwhile attempt at trying to use Rilke on stage, if it was only to become a hamfisted one.
Below is my translation of the poem. Not the entire thing, and I take a few liberties with words, such as using 'dummy' for 'spielteug'.
Duino Elegy IV
O living trees, when is your winter?
We are not in tune with the migrating bird.
Overslept and overtaken
we drag ourselves up into the wind
and drop onto an icy pond.
Birth and death weld in our minds.
And the lion power-prowls majestic,
alien to the meak.
But we, as our minds fix on one thing,
feel the tug of another thing. Combat
is our neighbour. Lovers always tresspass
on eachother’s space – despite the promise
of a sprawling hunting-ground called Home.
We don’t know the actual contours of our feelings,
Only what crafts them from the outside.
Who has not quivered before the curtain in his heart?
As it opens onto a parting scene, the familiar
garden swaying softly then…enter, the first dancer.
No, not him! Enough of this. However light
His moves; beneath this mask is a man who
scuttles into his home through the kitchen.
I won’t tolerate these half-filled masks.
I want the Puppet. The puppet is full. I will
bear its bulge, its wires, its wooden face.
Here. I wait.
Even if the lamps go out and a voice from the dark
Says to me: “That’s all” – even when the stage
Drifts emptiness in a grey draft towards me, even if
my silent ancestors do not sit with me, nor women neither,
or the squinting boy with brown eyes.
I’ll still sit here. You can always watch.
Is it too much to ask
to sit before a puppet stage and stare
so intently, that, to realign my sight
an angel is forced to ignite these stuffed actors
Angel and Puppet. At last, a true theatre.
Where the things we divide by being here
Come together. Then, from our lives
Will arise the entire cycle of transformation.
Above and beyond us
The angel plays.
Must know that all we do is a lie, where everything
Is forbidden to be itself –
O, hours of childhood,
When more than the past glowed behind every shape,
And what was formed before us, was not the future.
We felt our bodies grow and already yearned to be
Bigger, half for the sake of those with nothing more
Than their bigness. But even then, we were in love,
When playing alone, with things that endure. We stood
In the corridor between World and Dummy,
In a space which, from the first beginning,
Had been established as a pure event.
Who displays a child as he is? Who moulds
His death out of clay, or leaves it on the shore
For the water…Murderers are easy to understand.
But this? That death, the entirety of death, before
Their life has even begun, can be
Embraced so gently, without the fear of being,
Monday, 15 February 2010
On the first night (Friday) I had to go it alone as my compatriots were busy looking for or doing actual jobs. The audience received it rapturously (most likely because it was performed in the Reading Room right next to the new bar set up in the corridor). It was the first time I've had an audience whoop and cheer during a reading. I felt a bit like John Coltrane.
The following evening it was Dummy Company's time to shine and Shaun and Sophie took centre-table with various objects and puppets. This time we did the whole sonata and, having only just improvised it an hour before, the final movement went down a treat as we debuted our new 'Golemming' puppets (new for Stomunculus the Homunculus).
The final presto sounds a bit like techno music, so I decided to throw a little Golemming party complete with party poppers, shaving foam and a little glitter ball. Aside from the laughter, the audience were the complete opposite to the night before, as they focussed intently on the puppets.
Here is an audio recording of the Saturday 13th performance:
URSONATE@SHUNT (13th Feb, 2010)