Ahead of 4 Days, Project Boondock – who will be running the forum ‘You are Here’ as part of the event – interview Heather Phillipson and summarize the artist’s work according to Boondock’s unique ‘mapping system’. Heather Phillipson’s PRESSURIZATION launches 4 Days at 6.30pm on Thursday 17th January.
Taking place in Arnolfini’s Reading Room on the second floor ‘You Are Here’ invites 4 Days artists to discuss their practice and the idea of ‘collective action’. It also invites visitors to help blur the boundaries between artist and audience in the process and presentation of work.
“We are developing a system to map the different artistic approaches and ways that each artist invites audiences into their work, using the audience involvement spectrum and artists’ own descriptions of their work and approaches to creation. The system acts as a move towards understanding the process of participation, shared experience, collective artist and audience engagement. An offering we propose to sit alongside audience members’ experience of ‘4 days’, our analysis is open to interpretation and invites debate – inviting questions around taking part, activeness, and the creative process at the heart of creative programming.” Project Boondock
Each ‘You Are Here’ forum discussion will invite 4 Days participants to consider the work of the artists presenting during the event and the different forms of collective action evident, asking questions such as:
“What does action mean to you?”
Over to Project Boondock…..
“Heather Phillipson’s work PRESSURIZATION will be shown on the opening Thursday of 4 Days at 6.30pm. The audience experience a simulated journey, which questions notions of body, time and place. Ahead of ‘4 Days’ we have begun to look at Heather’s work alongside what we call our ‘cooking pot’ – a classification system attempt to understand different ways of live participation and sharing. From the get go of our interview with Heather she is clear her work sits outside of ‘performance’ – preferring instead a task based approach. Task based – but not necessarily action based for example she suggests that ‘sitting and talking’ can sit alongside what might usually be thought of as an action based activity like running. The body is always active – as site and place within Heather’s work. Questioning identity in PRESSURIZATION the body is located through voice and sight. But whose body? A simulated video journey depicts the lower end of a body moving. Is it us? An attempt to include us situated within a virtual journey springboards away from expected modes of ‘watching a performance’ or watching a performer – the question becomes ‘what is performance? Breaking down distinctions between artist, spectator and participant we are all as Heather states ‘implicated’ within the performative event underway. Highly experiential no demand other than being present is placed upon the audience. We are drawn very much to Heather’s description of her work’s location within the ‘hit-and-miss field of watching and listening’. Problematising signifiers of engagement Heather’s work defies expectation- occupying the gap inbetween the expected…
So far within our system (which we very much look forward to debating during 4 days) Heather’s work looks something like this:
Enhanced Engagement – I am included- experiential –Body/Space/Thought – Simulated Journey questions notions of time, self, space and ‘bodies’.
Much of live work and performance purposely sits outside of traditions of representation and classification and is purposely open to different kinds of meaning. In attempting to identity the signifiers within artists work as we have, we hope to understand the strategies live work can utilise. Our categories range from spectator based work where no more is demanded of a participant/audience member than ‘I am present’ through to work that is Co-Created where contribution is called upon ‘I contribute’ as in a collective workshop based activity.
A transcript of our interview with Heather Phillipson:
HP: First, let me say that I don’t want to use the word ‘performance’. I prefer something more action-specific, like ‘sitting & talking’, ‘maneuvering’, or ‘pressing play’. And, to all of these I should add, ‘in public’. An alternative would be the get-together-as-party concept – some idea that wherever there are people gathered, something’s happening. Though not much may come of it.
That’s the semantic part. The spatial arrangement I see as something more like an architecture of nerves – it’s an equation of wedged-in calves + multiple heartbeats + a cacophony of mental states. The whole point is that there are people nearby. Configuring bodies is not so different from arranging objects in space, except these objects might shout back/walk out.
Surprises never come head on. My events attempt to give a push into the hit-and-miss field of watching and listening, then looking back at each other anxiously.
PB: I’m really interested in that idea of an ‘architecture of nerves’, interconnected energies in a live network. Could you consider what occurs at particular nexus points within that architecture, moments of live interaction versus the framework as a whole and if there are particular examples you could give? Also, how you see the role and experience of audience/participants forming the connections?
HP: Well, much of the voice-off for PRESSURIZATION happens in the second person, so the audience is figured/implicated from the outset. At the same time, the perspective of the camera repeatedly returns to POV shots – from a body doing sit-ups, opening crisps, riding a bicycle, steering a racing car, cutting chocolate with a knife and fork, from the head of dog, from a supermarket trolley – so the audience is always, also, seeing from the position of the ‘I’. In other words, what’s heard happens in the second person, what’s seen happens in the first person, so there’s a conflict conflation/disjunct of positions.
In addition, the point of the ‘live’ event is that the bodies of the speakers (myself and Edwin) are present inside the room, and are part of the projection, so we creep between the actual and on-screen space. Likewise, the bodies of the audience. This is what I mean in my description of the event when I say that the screen is both the window and the retina – there’s a looking out from inside a body or inside a room into another space, but one which bleeds onto this one. We’re all implicated. With our backs to the audience, and facing the same way as the audience (towards the screen), Edwin and I are part of the same spatial arrangement. The ‘liveness’, which partly depends on our speech, is up-for-grabs – nobody ever sees our mouths moving.”
About Project Boondock
Project Boondock is a collective of multi-discipline artists who research and develop new work in Live Art and Performance. Boondock hold weekly workshops to facilitate the sharing of ideas and practical experimentation with a range of elements/materials. The locus at which these ideas meet ignites a new creative process towards a piece of live performance. The workshops can be experiment with a particular idea that may later be developed for performance or for individuals to share a specific skill with the rest of the group and facilitate dialogues that establish working relationships for future collaborations. The work produced becomes a product of the joining together of ideas and individuals through a process of ‘collective action’.