Tag Archives: Jane Collins

Launch of Theatre and Performance Design

CCW Professor Jane Collins, Professor Arnold Aronson of Columbia University and Routledge will launch the new journal Theatre and Performance Design, devoted to the study of scenography, on 22 June at the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space, PQ 2015. Theatre & Performance Design is a quarterly journal publishing in March, June, October and December.

In their introduction to the journal Aronson and Collins explain why this new publication is so timely. ‘In the past, discussion pertaining to design and production has been hampered by the fact that it was spread across a range of different publications where debates were often subsumed by other aspects of practice. As a result the field has been denied the opportunity to engage with other related areas at the appropriate level, and the critical edge in debate has often been diffused. Further complicating the effort, a de facto firewall was seemingly erected between practice and theory. We hope that with the publication of Theatre and Performance Design, there will be a true conversation, and that researchers, teachers, students and practitioners will now have a dedicated journal that will facilitate rapid and informed response to current, ongoing and emerging concerns, thereby stimulating further enquiry and providing a strong base from which theatre and performance design and scenography can confidently engage with other discourse on its own terms. We hope that this journal will not only make a contribution to the advancement of knowledge in the field but crucially shape how that knowledge is produced.

We wanted this first double issue to address the state of the art in theatre design and scenography internationally and explore the challenges and questions the field faces in the twenty-first century. In the call for papers we suggested that we are currently undergoing a significant “turn” towards scenography, both as a critical framework and as an expansion of practice across a broad range of theatre- and performance-related activities.

What is a “turn”? The Oxford English Dictionary lists more than 40 definitions for the noun “turn” and another 28 for the verb. None cites the academic usage, but a few definitions seem relevant: “change of direction or course”; “the action, or an act, of turning or changing; change, alteration, modification”; “The point at which one named period of time gives way to the next; the beginning or end of a named period of time, regarded in relation to the transition point between it and the preceding or following period”. One definition stood out as particularly apt: “The time for action or proceeding of any kind which comes round to each individual of a series in succession; (each or any one’s) recurring occasion of action, etc. in a series of acts done, or to be done, by (or to) a number in rotation”. This, of course, is the definition embodied in the song “Rose’s Turn” from the landmark musical Gypsy: “Starting now it’s gonna be my turn”. So not only do we believe that theatre and performance studies are altering their direction, moving into a new period, but also that within those fields and beyond it is time for scenography to take centre stage. It’s our turn.’

The online version of the journal is now available from Taylor & Francis Online.

Broadly Speaking: Carol Tulloch at Brighton Art Fair

CCW Professor, Carol Tulloch, recently showed her work at Brighton Art Fair, 26th -28th September 2014. Tulloch’s academic biography is as a writer and curator with a specialism in dress and black identities.

Describing her practice, Tulloch said, ‘In the development of my textile narrative I am drawn to the idea of rough simplicity. These works incorporate the dynamics of broad ink strokes and the unpredictability of torn paper. They are assembled like fragments of cloth secured by gestures of stitch. A graphic line anchors the composition. Here line is force.

The element of quiet and intensity connects with my interest in the street, the tension of divergent spaces—country, city, inland, coast—that are an integral part of my lived experience. The street is the exterior fabric of a place, necessary, pervasive, where society leaves its mark.

Within this maelstrom of the street lurks the X, which I am drawn to like so many before me. The X is present in the architecture of the street, it marks locations and represents the anonymity of the street. For me the X is reassurance and agency. It allows one to be.’ During the fair Tulloch was offered a gallery space to make a more installation-type piece to push the work, developing it in three dimensions. She hopes to create a publication about the process.

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Colleague, Professor Jane Collins attended the Private View of the fair:

‘Thursday 25th September, 7pm

I am looking at Carol’s work at Brighton Art Fair. It is the Private View, packed and stiflingly hot!  In the midst of the hullaballoo I lean in.  They make you lean in, these works, up close you get the detail. Tiny stitches, ruched delicate torn black, black white and white black paper, a line of red, a gash. Curious compositions under glass, I am no artist-maker and these materials are strange to me.  I am intrigued.  Why did my friend place this on that on there?  The logic of following a thread. Where do they lead me? These are torn pages of a book I once read.  This one is a bird trying to raise itself up out of the frame – not quite done yet; this, a mountain; this a needle puncturing time – she did try to teach me to knit once. Pins and needles, bodies and flesh. Is that a family, man, woman and child etched out in simple lines of paper and nabbed with stitch? In this familiar unfamiliarity “Up Close and Personal”, I search for clues. My favourite, the cross, the X marks the spot, the meeting place, the loss, the possibility of …

Dear Carol, I want to match in words the eloquent gestures that you have wrought with these materials but as ever words fail me. So, back to the hullaballoo, a drink and a smile.’

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UKIERI Thematic Partnership at Wimbledon College of Art

The works realised during the March 2014 UKIERI Thematic Partnership workshop in Hyderabad will be on view in the main building of Wimbledon College of Art until 12 September 2014. These works are the result of a joint research project between Wimbledon College of Arts and the University of Hyderabad exploring The Means of Performance in the Digital Age. Jane Collins, Simon Betts and Douglas O’Connell from Wimbledon, together with CCW PhD students Jenny Wright and Vanessa Saraceno, collaborated with students at the Fine Arts and Theatre departments of the S. N. School of Art and Communication of Hyderabad.

The UKIERI thematic partnership investigates the impact of ‘new media’ on performance in India and the UK, bringing together two recognised centres of excellence to create a cross-cultural research platform at the inter-face of fine art and theatre. Using the ‘scenographic’ as a frame of reference, a broad term that encompasses all the elements that contribute to the composition of performance, this joint research compares how digitalisation and electronic media have been absorbed into our respective performance cultures.

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Find out more about the UKIERI Thematic Partnership.

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As a companion to Tim Crouch’s recent production, Adler & Gibb, at the Royal Court Theatre, five Camberwell students on the BA Graphic Design course were invited to create the website for the fictional artists, Janet Adler and Margaret Gibb. Crouch initially contacted CCW Professor, Jane Collins, to ask if she could recommend students to become involved. Collins, in turn, approached BA Graphic Design Course Leader, Tracey Waller, who suggested Stefan Graham, Vanessa Periam, Nisha Gouveia, Taylee Morris and Mai Trinh.

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Graham recounted the experience, saying, ‘It was an interesting process, working with Tim Crouch to create a website supporting the possible existence of the two artists who are central to the play. Beginning by reading the script, we “created” their lives primarily through magazine and newspaper archive images. We arranged them in combination with other images that might suggest certain details of their lives, but not explicitly explaining anything. The group then decided that this would be the way the website would distribute information, allowing the user to draw their own conclusions as to what happened in the artists’ lives, based on the arrangements of images. At many points during the project we were so engrossed in image sourcing and arranging, that we were talking about Adler and Gibb as if they really did exist, wondering whether this image was a piece of work they made or whether they knew Andy Warhol!

What made this project enjoyable to work on was that Tim allowed us freedom to create the most appropriate website for the ideas that were needed to be communicated, rather than coming with a preconceived idea of how Adler and Gibb’s stories should unfold. It’s great to be offered such freedom from a client in that respect. It also opened my eyes to conceptual theatre and the parallels it had with certain ideas that are debated within the field of graphic design.’

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Periam said, ‘Working on the Adler & Gibb website was a great learning experience for me personally – as I had no prior experience of either making a website, or working for somebody outside of the college. The project proved to be one of the best things that I worked on during final year. The website, as an addition to the play, explores the lives of conceptual artists Janet Adler and Margaret Gibb in 1970s New York. Whilst Adler and Gibb are in fact fictional, the aim of the website was to play with reality, providing potential evidence that they could have existed. This came in the form of four different photo-paths to follow on the website – the existence of the two artists to be completely determined by the viewers themselves.

What made the project so good to work on was the collaboration with Tim Crouch. Allowing us almost complete freedom over how the website worked, he was encouraging and enthusiastic about ideas that we had, giving our involvement in the project so much more meaning than if we had had to follow a strict set of instructions. As a result, working on the website was a very rewarding experience.’

 

Acts Re-Acts: A Reflection

Acts Re-Acts, a month long festival of performance held at Wimbledon Space,  brought together practitioners from across UAL through a series of residencies, performances, talks and screenings. Participants included Eleanor Bowen & Laura Gonzalez, Stella Capes, Edward Dimsdale, Katie Elliott, Rossella Emanuele, Richard Layzell, Douglas O’Connell, Camilla Palestra & Hanae Utamura, Annette Robinson & Belinda Wild, Jane Collins, Finlay Forbes-Gower, Katie Lerman, Italia Rossi & Trish Scott, Michael Spencer, Tansy Spinks & Iris Garrelfs, Mette Sterre, Jennet Thomas, Paul Tarrago and Charlotte Turton. The festival was initiated by Simon Betts, Peter Farley, Clare Mitten, Lois Rowe and Jane Collins in response to the fact that theatre and fine art practitioners often work in parallel rather than in dialogue, with the aim of bringing these different practices into the same discursive realm.

Scott, a CCW PhD student, whose research project Socialising the Archive examines the relationship between performance, documentation and the archive, reflected on the festival for the Graduate School. She is interested in the translation between events and documents and in amalgamating art and archival encounters.

Michael Fried’s ideas in Art and Objecthood (1967) (as conveyed by Ken Wilder) were used to position the festival in critical terms, specifically via a closing debate. In this text Fried compares modernist painting with minimalism, attacking the latter as being “theatrical”, setting up a divide between art and theatre proposing that “art degenerates as it approaches the condition of theatre”. He argues that once a work starts to exist for an audience in a particular time and space it fails to transcend its own objecthood, and approaches the condition of non art. The success of art, Fried argues, relies on its ability to defeat theatre, to surpass its own objecthood, becoming autonomous from the beholder. In later writing, Fried contrasts theatricality with absorption (anti-theatricality); the difference between an artwork engaging with an audience (e.g figures in a painting staring out of the picture plane, looking directly at the viewer) and an artwork making no concession to an audience (i.e. figures in a painting being absorbed in a world of their own). Acts Re-Acts sought to test the relevance of these ideas in relation to contemporary performance practice.

This idea of a boundary between fine art and theatre, absorption and theatricality was addressed head on by Richard Layzell who noted that in the 1970s, as a fine art performer, there was pressure not to cross the line/break the fourth wall (as demonstrated through his re-enactment of Twitch). Now, for Layzell, the dividing line has gone (as demonstrated in his screening of Art Work – Work Art, a performance in which he is both waiter and performer in a cafe).

This sense of openness and fluidity characterised most of the work in Acts Re-Acts. Instead of being easily identifiable as either fine art or theatre, work tended to be experimental, interdisciplinary and collaborative. Rather than there being a division between works (in terms of performances being either fine art or theatre), tensions existed within individual works. One of these tensions was between the live and the recorded, most performances being predicated on a dialogue between live and unlive media, akin to what performance theorist Rebecca Schneider terms interanimation. This is where live media (e.g. performance) and capture media, or media-resulting documents (i.e. video, photography) cross constitute and improvise each other. At Acts Re-Acts this meant that many of the works occupied complex temporalities, and afforded different modes of beholding and types of engagement within a single work.

In Jennet Thomas’s I am your error message, a performance critiquing institutional ideology and capitalist reward structures, what appeared to be a fictive world was portrayed on screen alluding to an ominous, spreading error that needed to be eliminated. But rather than this projection existing in a separate world, immune from theatricality, with no concession being given to the audience, Thomas entered into a live dialogue with the work, bringing it firmly back to the here and now, the space and time of the video bleeding into the space and time of the gallery.

Edward Dimsdale’s work Model Love Re-Kindled, a durational installation and performance involved the artist subjecting a sequence of photographs purporting “to capture a series of instances of love at first site” (Simon Jones) to forensic scrutiny, then playing with the representation of these actions using a visualiser and other devices. Dimsdale’s performance questioned not only the narrative inferred by the photographs but also the very nature and status of the photographic act itself. From observing the photographs, to becoming the observed to turning his phone camera on the audience, Dimsdale experimented with subject/object relations, delving into the various meta levels of the work, playing with the invisible fourth wall. The focus of the work and relationship with the audience constantly shifted, theatricality and absorption operating in symbiosis.

Having more critical debate (beyond one panel session) would have been good. But if Acts Re-Acts is just the start of a growing forum and a way of providing space for considering interdisciplinary performance that will continue to develop, the creative team behind Acts Re-Acts played this well. If Acts Re-Acts had been more about words and discourse, and less about the work, I suspect what might have been reinforced were differences and boundaries, rather than areas of communality. Letting the work lead the dialogue, rather than conversation being at the level of textual extrapolation, established a baseline for what constitutes performance within UAL. It’s now time to build on this, and the momentum generated by the festival, through further discussions and events.

The Means of Performance in a Digital Age

CCW staff (Jane Collins, Simon Betts and Douglas O’Connell) and PhD students (Jenny Wright and Vanessa Saraceno) travelled to India for the second seminar, called The Means of Performance in a Digital Age, of the UKIERI Thematic Partnership between CCW and University of Hyderabad (the first seminar was held in September 2013). Once there, teams discussed the ‘materiality’ of production in digital age. The seminar considered the way new technologies are impacting on the ‘physical’ processes of making work and replacing the tangible materiality of wood, paint and metal. Wright and Saraceno led workshops at the seminar and have reflected on their experiences.

Wright said, ‘This work has links with part of my research into the development and use of drawing as a primal recording and learning skill. I am interested in the haptic, physical nature of drawing and how movement and the physical interaction with tools onto a surface is used both to record and to develop deeper cognition. My role as facilitator on the Fine Art drawing part of the UKIERI work helped me gather more evidence on the performative nature of drawing and its key role in communicating and developing abstract thought. Working alongside the excellent Fine Art team in Hyderabad  has led to discussions on supporting drawing within the art school curriculum across different fields. Our particular remit was developing work with digital theatre design. The MFA students I was working with in Hyderabad were really enthusiastic and open to extend and broaden their work into the digital realm, whilst also being true to the primal nature of drawing, in terms of gesture and mark making. I am certainly hoping to develop a long standing dialogue with the teaching staff at Hyderabad in terms of evolving drawing practice with students. I can also see many links being made with students at Wimbledon and Hyderabad, with a mutually enrichment of performative work in theatre and fine art drawing.’

Sarceno said,  ‘In my role as facilitator, I discussed with the students of the Theatre Department the case study of the artistic duo Claire Fontaine, formed by artists James Thornhill and Fulvia Carnevale. Claire Fontaine’s practice offers a perfect example of how to play with new media in order to further develop the potentialities of the performative gesture. Assisting the students in the development of their projects for the final exhibition, I have encouraged them to always consider the problematics of the specific context in which their performance take place, and to embody these problematics interweaving all the knowledge they have with the potentialities of a new artistic territory. The uniqueness of this project lies in its offering evident and incontestable results since its very beginning. Thanks to their rich cultural legacy, and a textured theatrical tradition, students at Sarojini Naidu School of Arts in Hyderabad have fully understood the potentialities of new media and were also keen to explore them further in relation to the political and cultural situation in India. Indeed, the titles of their projects -City of Trash; The Savage; Natural Disaster, to cite a few- refer to the status of life today in India. In their call for a different, more sustainable relation with the environment, the students have been able to employ new technologies not merely as a tool through which to look at the world, but as a path for a new sensorial dimension where to practice an alternative way of experiencing the world through the body.’

Ishu Kumar, a student from Sarojini Naidu School of Arts, also responded to the seminar, saying, ‘This workshop helped me break away from my notions of mainstream theatre and helped to view theatre and its methods in a different light. It allowed me to look at how different elements such as the projector, the body, as well as acting, can be combined together, as well as used alone to provide meaning to a performance. It also allowed to me understand a new language being developed in the field of theatre primarily due the advancements of postmodern world. This workshop helped me push the envelope in terms of my understanding of theatre. It helped me gain new view in terms of how a theatre production can be designed. It gave me a perspective which broadened my viewing and understanding of theatre.

‘The entire experience would help me in my future works. I am also keen on using the experience I gained in my future ventures and always keep in mind the possibilities of the digital media. I now have a clear understanding of how theatre and the digital media can work hand in hand with each other. I would also like to take the experimentation of theatre in new context further through my own future projects.’

Douglas O’Connell made a short film of the seminar.