Working Together

29 February 2008

Talking in Leeds tomorrow with Kate Valk and Andrew Quick. Kate is one of the most extraordinary performers, a stalwart of the New York theatre makers The Wooster Group. I’ve met her a few times here and there and seen her perform often over the years but I’m really looking forward to talking with her and Andrew. It’s going to be a great event. First time I saw Kate on-stage was 22 years ago, hard to believe, in The Wooster’s L.S.D: Just The High Points alongside the amazing Ron Vawter. A lot of water under the bridge since then but it’s still very vivid to me, that first encounter with the Wooster’s approach – clipped and in some ways clinical performance style and a high-speed mix of materials, live and on video. What spoke to me most (in that piece and in later ones) is that the tricks of it, especially from performers Ron, and Kate and Nancy Reilly always created space, opened doors – all surface and all depth at the same time. Can’t wait. Here’s a short fragment I pulled from an interview with Kate a while back, and what I wrote after seeing her, Scott Shepherd and the rest of the group in the Wooster’s recent Hamlet. The panel Working Together is at WYP’s Courtyard Theatre, Leeds, Saturday 1 March 2008 at 2.30. In the evening (tonight and tomorrow) in the same place there are what may be final UK performances of my piece with Forced Entertainment, Bloody Mess. Next stop for that is Bogata in a week or so!

Andrew’s The Wooster Group Work Book which was published by Routledge late last year is also well worth checking out – a scrapbook collection come archive of documents, rehearsal logs, texts, long interviews and photographs that show the process and aesthetic of the group’s work incredibly well. It was designed by old friend Lewis Nicholson, who did my own Certain Fragments and much of Forced Entertainment’s early publicity materials.


A very nice blog The Leila Texts pointed out to me last night by Vlatka and comprising an on-going collection of SMS/texts from many different senders, arriving at someone’s phone mistakenly, thanks to a technical glitch. I like this one:

 Leila sheryn will pick u up after school do not take the bus i will see u in the parking lot i will have your things call me as soon as u get this message

Also this one:

Lets her know she s not missing anything 


27 February 2008

Accounts of this undercover operation and the related convictions this week were the by-now usual mix of outward-bound bonding exercises for wanna-be terrorists in Hampshire, combat skills and camaraderie honed during cut-price Paintball long-weekends. The last part of the article though, about the initial arrests, came over especially cryptic, blunt and vivid.

Surveillance transcripts recorded the moment when armed officers raided the private dining room shortly before midnight on August 31 2006, shouting: “Sit down. Hands on the table, please. Everything will be explained to you.”

Seemed like the kind of moment that conspiracy theorists or zen monks might dream of – when the secret/reality police burst into the room at random and explain everything.


Meanwhile a friend in the midst of emotional dramas wrote:

i couldn’t do anything yesterday except wait for him to arrive. i didn’t know that a person can just sit there and wait for hours. just watch the clock. creepy


26 February 2008

i thought he was dead tho.
but its good tht he s not

hes like your age

plenty of dead people are my age

why did you think he was dead?
(you joking?)

i guess i thought he was dead for the 'reason' that people in the world start to think that certain celebrities are or are not alive or dead…
there is not realy a 'why' that I can think of

Wait Life

18 February 2008

Overheard from Vlatka:

what i don't get is that he is texting her from a combat situation and she doesn't reply to his texts. i mean if he was my boyfriend I would be glued to the computer. I'm not bothered really cos the important thing is that she cares for him. I would say something but i guess it is just her nature, to be like that.

And another, also via Vlatka, this from the ageing philosophical Georgian classical pianist/taxi-driver (think Soviet rather than Deep South) that took her out to JFK last week. Stuck in traffic, at the end of a long monologue, describing the trials/tribulations of his family, immigration/exile and poverty economic situation, the whole thing punctuated by bursts of his daughter playing piano on a tape in the in-car stereo ("how i play is nothing she has fingers like rubber.. they would not let her come here to join me, she is a separate person they say") he confides in her:

Now we only wait life. this is not yet life that we have. we only wait life.


All the leaves are brown

16 February 2008
Empty Stage - Winter Garden

Roman Ondak Leaves

Something quite Philip K. Dick about this story, with its promise of replacement pets cloned from the tissues of loved-but-lost animals.

Meanwhile, in a beautiful project for Art Sheffield Roman Ondak covered the floor of the city’s Winter Gardens with autumn leaves, confusing first by virtue of switching the seasons and second because  the Winter Gardens is all ever-green trees. The first thing that hit me walking through the space yesterday was the smell. Something deep, earthy, walking-in-the-woods – in any case a far cry from anything you’d expect in there. At the opening lots of people venture stories about reactions to the leaves. Adults don’t notice them so much one person says, it’s more the kids that engage with them, as if the adults don’t have time. It’s true that during the opening event speeches there are a few kids scooping handfuls of the leaves and chasing each other. Someone else describes how one particular shop/coffee stand owner in the Gardens was sweeping away the leaves in a neat circle around her space. It’s good I think, says Roman, she becomes my performer.

Art Sheffield

12 February 2008
Art Sheffield

Working hard now on the last stages of the pieces for ART SHEFFIELD 08: Yes, No & Other Options. The opening is Friday and the show runs from 16 February – 30 March 2008 in venues across the city including Bloc, End Gallery,  S1 Artspace, Site Gallery, Yorkshire ArtSpace, Sylvester Space, The Winter Garden and the Millennium Galleries where my stuff will be. I’m showing three new neon pieces alongside two works made with Vlatka – our existing video Insults & Praises (2003) and what began as a kind of mutant follow-up to it titled Threats & Promises. Sneak preview of one of the neons below, meanwhile late night video shooting to complete the Threats & Promises piece got abandoned sometime around midnight tonight when all the lights in the studio tripped out. Desultory end to the long work day which was just starting to clarify (and not before time!). Will help make tomorrow nice and pressurised.

Press release goes like this: “Taking as its foundation a specially commissioned text by art critic Jan Verwoert, this city-wide exhibition addresses the fact that in a post-industrial condition… we have entered into a service culture where we no longer just work, we perform in a perpetual mode of ‘I Can’. (Even advertising tells us that ‘Life gets more exciting when you say yes’).Verwoert asks, “What would it mean to put up resistance against a social order in which high performance and performance-related evaluation has become a growing demand, if not a norm? What would it mean to resist the need to perform?” He suggests that certain means of resisting are in themselves creative – that as well as embracing exuberant performativity, art has also used the ‘ I Can’t’, by creating moments where the flow of action is interrupted, established meanings are suspended and alternative ways to act become imaginable. He suggests that as well as yes and no, there may be other options.”

Please Come Back - Neon

The mix of both emerging and established Sheffield-based, nationally and internationally-based artists includes Tomma Abts, Michal Budny, Phil Collins, Andrew Cooke, Kerstin Kartscher, Silke Otto Knapp, Július Koller, Jiri Kovanda, Ruth Legg, Hilary Lloyd, Deimantas Narkevicius, Ines Schaber, Sean Snyder, Frances Stark, Mladen Stilinovic, Esther Stocker, Nasrin Tabatabai, Wolfgang Tillmans, Tsui Kuang-Yu, Gitte Villesen, Eveline Van Den Berg, Ryszard Wasko, Nicole Wermers and Xu Tan. As well as from Vlatka and I there are new commissions from Katie Davies, Annika Eriksson, Host Artist’s Group, Janice Kerbel, George Henry Longly, Roman Ondak, Kirsten Pieroth, Paul Rooney, Dexter Sinister, Esther Stocker, Neil Webb, Katy Woods and Kan Xuan.

Una cosa es una cosa

10 February 2008
Una Cosa

Vlatka wrote me about a performance Una cosa es una cosa (“a thing is a thing”) by Columbian artist María Teresa Hincapié. She saw documentation of the work in a big show Arte ≠ Vida: Actions By Artists Of The Americas, 1960-2000 at El Museo del Barrio in East Harlem, New York. The show, which from reports sounds amazing, runs until May so I will get to see it before too long. For Una cosa es una cosa Hincapié took all of the objects from her home, except the furniture, and then spent a two week period arranging and rearranging them, according to a set of shifting criteria and principles.

There’s some material about Maria Teresa, who died very recently after a long illness, in the book Corpus Delecti: Performance Art of the Americas by Coco Fusco. I really love the text below which Hincapié wrote connected to the Una cosa es una cosa performance.

“…movement here. then. in the corner. in the center. on one side. near him. very far. further. very far. very, very far. here are the handbags. here, the pocket. here the bag. here, the box and over it, the pocket. at one side, the box. in the corner, the pocket and the bag; in the center the paper bags and very near, the box. leakage. dispersion. everything getting empty. everything disappears. everything scatter. disseminate. blend. stop. organize themselves in a cue in a random way. they mark a space. they separate in groups, one beside the other. common groups. where they are similar. because they are white. because they are made up of fabric. because they are dresses. because they are made up of plastic. because they are large. because they are covered. because they are ceramics. because they are jars. because they need one another as the toothbrush and toothpaste. but also because the paste is by itself and the toothbrush is with other toothbrushes or by itself. all the flowers here. the dresses are extended. the black ones are near me. the pink ones here. the towels by themselves. the coverlet by itself. the blankets by themselves. the bags by themselves. the pencils by themselves. the dresses by themselves. the colors by themselves. the broom by itself. the onions by themselves. the carrots by themselves. the corn by itself. the sugar by itself. the wheat by itself. the plastic by itself. the handbag by itself. the rubber bag by itself. the box by itself and empty. the mirror by itself. the shoes by themselves. the socks by themselves. the herbs by themselves. I, alone. she, alone. we, alone. they, alone. a space alone. a place alone. a line alone. one sock only. one shoe only. everything is alone. all of us are alone. a mass of rice. a mass of sugar. a mass of salt. a mass of wheat. a mass of coffee. a mass of different things”.

Reading about the piece also made connections to me with the first Jérôme Bel show Nom donne par l’auteur (1994) in which Jérôme and Frédéric Seguette systematically construct arrangements and imply temporary relations between a small group of objects culled from Bel’s apartment. At Bel’s the show must go on last night, seeing the piece for the 5th or 6th time in as many years, I was still completely sucked into its space, drawn in by its great blankness, by the sheer time it gives you to think. It’s a pretty devastating work, even now, when somehow it seems so much easier for audiences to deal with than it did back in 2001. Great to see it in such a big epic space as Sadler’s Wells too – the kind of space (all potential) that it really needs to stage the decisions of its vivid starkness. The programme note I wrote about Jérôme’s work recently is here.


7 February 2008

Strange thing about the early slot in the huge city pool is that they seem to test the fire alarms at a set time each day, when there's not so many customers around. So as you make your way through the water in the great emptiness of the competition pool, not quite yet awake, you often get this voice booming from the PA:

This is an announcement for all staff and customers. We are about to test the fire alarms. No action is to be taken. We are about to test the fire alarms. No action is to be taken.

Then a short pause, and the fire alarm itself comes on as promised, which in this case is just a short bell sound followed by another announcement:

There is an emergency. Would all staff and customers please exit the building by the nearest possible route. Please evacuate the building.

I've liked starting the day with this strange contradiction, living between the denial and the assertion of an emergency.

Later at the cafe down the road to get coffee, three days running I came in through the door to find the same song greeted me – 10cc's 1975 art pop I'm Not In Love. It wasn't the childhood song or the words I thought about so much, as the fact that my routine was colliding me with yet another sonic repetition. I had to imagine the cafe owner coming in at the same time each day, switching stuff on and hitting play on the only compilation CD, the same tracks playing through over an hour or so before 10cc came around with its pre-sampler loops and whispering voices, just in time for me to come in through the door.