Since the Performance Drawing Collective was founded in 2008, we have been excited about collaborating with other artists in this field. Last year, in May 2013, Birgitta Hosea curated an event, Dialogues on Performance II: Drawing Performance – Performing Drawing, at Central Saint Martins with presentations of the work of staff and PhD students at CSM who are working in this area. After this, in December 2013, all four members of the collective participated in Draw to Perform, a three day symposium curated by Ram Samocha at ]Performance Space[.
As the symposium had featured the work of many artists and raised some fascinating issues, Birgitta and Ram worked together to organise Dialogues on Performance III: Draw to Perform, at Central Saint Martins to show documentation from the event and presentations from some of the participating artists.
Watch the full seminar here, or scroll down for a summary, photos and sketches from the event.
Here are notes from the event. Apologies to the speakers if there are any misspellings or if anything was misheard.
Birgitta Hosea introduces Ram Samocha and that this event shows documentation from the original event and symposium, curated by Ram Samocha. She is pleased to be able to show this work at Central Saint Martins.
Ram introduces himself as a studio artist at ]Performance Space[. He developed his original idea for a symposium on drawing performance, because he often got questions after his own live performances when people would ask him if he was doing performance art and he would reply, ‘yes, I am doing a drawn performance this’. This reaction to the work interested him. When he started his residency at Performance Space with artists doing performance art, people were asking him if he was a designer or what he was doing. In response to this, he wanted to look for other people doing the same practice as he did.
He started to collect artists through the web or through personal recommendation of people who did similar work. For the symposium, he approached 20 artists from all over the world with zero budget and asked if they wanted to participate and the response was unbelievable even though he didn’t have a budget. This strong response made him realise that there is something going on. People are doing more live drawing actions. This made it clear to him that the discussion would be interesting and relevant. The first day of the 3 day symposium was a screening for artists from outside London. The second day featured live live drawing event. The third day was a discussion panel. At this event today, the presenters will show some of the things that had happened during these three days. Ram then showed a short video compilation of the performances.
Here’s a different compilation video Ram made previously of artist images from Draw to Perform:
Next Birgitta Hosea explained that herself and Maryclare Foá often collaborated under the name Foá+Hosea and that they would re-enact the performative lecture they gave on day three of the original symposium. At the time, Birgitta was in China, so her contribution was in the form of a video created in Maryclare’s studio.
The video starts with Maryclare’s disembodied voice explaining that the presentation will focus on revealing the historical emergence of performance drawing within the contemporary art context. The aim is to examine notions of what performance drawing might be, while expanding the perimeters rather than constraining or restricting its potential to a narrow range of conformist conventions. In the video, Birgitta holds up a series of placards while Maryclare is talking. The live Maryclare heckles and disrupts her pre-recorded voice by interrupting or singing along with her original speech. In this re-presentation of the original lecture, Birgitta held up the same placards again, an echo in the current time of her past actions.
Maryclare then goes on to give a history of the many artists who have created work that has contributed to a contemporary understanding of performance drawing. While she is speaking, in the video Birgitta goes through piles of books and holds them up to the camera when a particular artist is mentioned to physically show the original reference. This text draws upon Maryclare’s original research for her PhD, Sounding Out: Performance Drawing in Relation to the Outside Environment, which is available for download here.
[Photo by Birgitta Hosea]
Birgitta then interrupts Maryclare to talk about animation and the connections between performance drawing and drawn animation. Her text is adapted from the paper she wrote for Animation Interdisciplinary Journal on Drawing Animation and can be downloaded here [requires subscription]. It also draws upon her PhD research on the animator as a performer. Her PhD, Substitutive Bodies and Constructed Actors: a Practice-based Investigation of Animation as Performance, can be downloaded here. While Birgitta is talking on video, the real Maryclare holds up placards with drawings on. In this re-presentation of the original lecture, She echoes words from the pre-recorded script and also references two audience members, Malcolm Cook and Steve Roberts, as experts in aspects that she mentioned (the Lightning Sketch act and traditional character animation respectively).
The audience all had cards on their seats with a 0 and one side and a 1 on the other. At the end of the presentation, Maryclare invited the audience to enact a digital drawing by holding up one side of the card to their face and then the other, while Birgitta photographed them.
[Photo by Birgitta Hosea]
The full text of Foá+Hosea’s talk can be downloaded here: DRAW TO PERFORM. For further details, full references and bibliography, consult the source documents listed above.
Carali McCall had been invited to talk about the work she had made with Jane Grisewood, Line Dialogues. The pair had made a series of these, including one version created with all four members of the Performance Drawing Collective for line process echo repeat2 during their first residency at the Centre for Drawing Project Space, Wimbledon College of Art. Unfortunately, Carali was unable to attend so Birgitta read out a short text and showed a video of a new piece of work she has recently created, Work no. 4 (Restraint / Running) Back Hill, 2013.
[Still from the video documentation of Work no. 4 (Restraint / Running) Back Hill]
Carali’s statement, “In an area of performance drawing, which considers drawing to be connected to movement through the act of doing and physical activity, this performance addresses what it means to use the extreme form of physical activity – running. Using (myself) the runner to articulate an understanding of how the body moves through space, I use the ‘breath’ and the discipline of marathon training to explore how the physical act of running can be a viable form of drawing.”
Kimbal Quist Bumstead explained that he is interested in performances that involve disconnection. Initially, he was going to be in another country during Draw to Perform, so he wanted to do something from a distance. He first thought of using SKYPE, but then became interested in the idea of exploring a phone call and talking to one person at a time. Drawing is only one aspect of what he does. He is also going to show documentation of a few other works to contextualise what he has done. For him, drawing is a tool for interaction: the final product of the drawing is not the main point it is a motivation for the action. The drawing becomes a trace or a documentation of a dialogue rather than an end in itself.
[Photo by Birgitta Hosea]
The background to the work is that his Grandmother just went into a nursing home. They were always a bit distant and he never felt comfortable in her house. Recently she has started to develop dementia, can’t live independently any more and has to go into a care home. He wanted to do a journey around her house and connect the objects to memories using the audience member as a medium to trace his memories. During the exhibition, you dialled the only number on a mobile phone and you’d get through to him on a mobile phone at his Grandmother’s house. He would pick up object and describe it, sometimes not even knowing what they were. In the house, he felt like an intruder. There were old photos of him, his brother, his Dad and other family members tucked away in drawers and not displayed. Photos were never important to her. Whenever someone sat down in the exhibition, he would start describing something. The audience member had to put a blindfold on and draw according to his instructions.
He didn’t want the focus to be on the drawing itself, but on the act of listening and thinking about the object. The resulting drawings are interesting, but he doesn’t need to exhibit them. The artwork was the live performance. The act has been and gone. The drawings are not the artwork.
He shows photos from her house – in the bedroom, on the mantle piece. It was all a very emotional experience for him, trying to get close to her. He had an idea of emptiness. She has let go of her house and moved into a nursing home. She had no intention of going back and let go of all her possessions. He also wanted to explore this detachment – her from her home – him from her – him from the audience.
In previous works that lead to this, he was very interested in home and memories. At ]Performance Space[ he was describing the house he was born in and got someone to translate it over the phone and show it the rest of the audience, using the same idea.
In another piece of work, he had his family drawings from when he was 3. Each drawing had a story about his family and then he asked the audience members to draw a picture of the house where he grew up. The main point he wants to express is that the act of drawing and the act of performing is about the body itself being a vessel to transport memories and the interaction between the performance and the audience member. The idea behind these drawings is a focus to create and generate an interaction between performer and audience member.
He is also interested in the idea of drawing through touch. In another piece of work, he interacts with a stranger and makes a drawing of their face while blindfolded and touching their face. He becomes a vessel translating touch into a drawing. Drawing is a performative act, is a tool.
The event was then opened to the audience for discussion. As the discussion was lively and the notetaker was also one of the panel, this is a summary and some elements and nuances may have been missed. It was impossible to capture the names of the people who asked the questions.
Q. to Kimbal: How did the work change your relationship to your Grandmother or your experience of feeling detached?
A. He felt like he knew her better and warmed to her. His Dad had power of attorney. They had discussed the project and he had full permission to be there. He felt it was an act of homage to her. She was a family member and he felt a deep sense of regret to not know her better. He did feel like a trespasser and it was also a sad occasion to find presents he’d given her stored in the cupboard, but still unopened. There was a real sense of sadness. He’d transferred old cine film onto DVD for her, but she had never looked at them. She had totally let go of the past. Didn’t want to go back there. He felt he now knew and liked her better, but in reality is not closer to her and is very sad that she’s very sick. In terms of the other pieces, it’s an illusion of closeness. He has done other pieces exploring physical intimacy with strangers and using sound etc, but its only an illusion of intimacy, not real intimacy.
Q. to Kimbal: How much do you as a person want to get close to the idea of telepathy? On the level of emotion? Mind to mind? On the emotional or mental level?
A. He’s not ever thought of his work in terms of telepathy. He believes in synchronicity – things happen for a reason – but not as far as telepathy. He didn’t really know why he wanted to do this work.
Q. Suggests he is searching for telepathy. What is his drive to do this work?
A. His drive is selfish, about the personal connection. The reason he does artwork is because its an interesting concept to explore and curiosity. He doesn’t know how to answer that as he’s never thought of his work as telepathy although he is interested in alternative methods of communication.
Q. Most of my experience of performance is in theatre, where there is a formal idea of mutuality. The audience pays money for a ticket. The performers do something. The audience gets their moneys worth. In these works, what does the audience give you, the artist, when you perform?
A. Ram – the audience and live drawing is a tricky subject. When he does search for an interaction it’s something about finding a communication. As an artist, he finds when he gives an audience the freedom to draw, to be creative it could end up with an uninteresting object or process. Sometimes his actions involve giving the audience specific instructions, but the audience doesn’t always want to do what they are told. Like dancing together this can be a powerful experience.
A. Maryclare – her first audience is Birgitta – sounding off ideas. The second is the audience in the space – she thinks its a quasi performance – it’s not acting.
Q. You are occupying territory between theatre and film, potentially redefining the relationship between performer and audience.
A. Kimbal – However much you can break down the barrier artist and performer and give the audience a specific task, there is a beauty when people take their own initiative and do their own thing. The question is to what extent do you give the audience freedom and to what extent does it interfere with the work.
Q. How do you evaluate if your concept was successful if your instruction was followed but they don’t react how you elected them to?
A. Ram – the interesting thing is the performance and the act itself it is the artefact not the drawing which is residue.
A. Birgitta – For me what is interesting is being in the moment and not recorded. In this I am very influenced by Zen Buddhism. For me, liveness is a material, presence is a material, physicality is a material – it’s about the process. In the Deleuzian sense, it’s a becoming. But of course, the work is partly done for the camera, for the documentation, for the people who couldn’t be there.
[Photo by Ram Samocha]
Q. to Foá+Hosea: Why did you call it a re-presentation of your performative lecture rather than a performance? -
A. Birgitta – Because we used the same video and script rather than doing it afresh as a new piece
A. Maryclare – You had to be there: performance is ephemeral. We were making a link between the recording and the live performance – if we did it again it would be different.
Q There were interesting multiple temporal levels as opposed to a traditional live performance with immediacy between performer and audience, but there is also a level of rehearsal and preparation. The experience of the audience – they don’t know what will be coming next and they experience time differently from the performers who do know. The different temporal layering is interesting in this work – engaging with the audience on different temporal levels. That is more of a statement, so my question is – what is the role of the rehearsal? How much is it spontaneous – how much is rehearsed – how much does it change from time to time?
A. Ram – if he thinks about his process as opposed to pioneer artists in the 70s and in Happenings etc, he is trying to achieve something different. He always has an image that he want to achieve and get to. There is always a plan. He is thinking when the live night started at Draw to Perform and there was an official camer man who specialised in documenting performance artists and their actions – he was shocked how many people were there with their cameras. From the exhibition he just had – Remnants at the Hatched Gallery – what does he do with what is left over?
A. Maryclare – is fascinated by the idea that we explore time differently and that there is a split in time between performers and the audience. Birgitta and her did do some rehearsing, because we feel more relaxed if we know what we were doing, so we had rehearsed and wanted to know if the interruption or subversion of the video would work. But it’s also multi-layered in terms of time as the performative lecture draws on research from our PhDs. We can’t ad lib or give presentation without notes.
Q. So is performance defined by having been done it before and having been practised before or it completely improvised?
A. Ram – it’s about seeking a connection, an interaction with a live audience. Jackson Pollock in the videos looks as if he knows what he is doing and has a plan.
A. Birgitta – I think it was Eugenio Barba? who said that performance is a twice performed action – repeating something that has been planned and prepared. Improvisation is an illusion as it draws upon a repertoire of tried and tested behaviours.
A. Kimbal – You can’t predict how an audience will react to the situation you have set up. The element of spontaneity and chance is important. There is a framework of what would happen set up, but the results are unknown.
Q. What is the purpose of the remnant? It’s not important to Kimbal? How do you evaluate a successful drawn performance?
A. Kimbal – The drawings are a trace – the task of the interaction is more important.
A. Birgitta – the work can be evaluated through peer review, audience feedback and reflecting on the documentation afterwards.
Q. Is there a concept behind this work or is it just about the experience?
A. Ram – In his recent performance at the Hatched Gallery, there was always someone there, but sometimes he wanted to be alone. He wanted to focus on the act rather than the acting.
A. Maryclare – She thinks a performance is anything done in front of anyone else.
Q Could success be defined in terms of Walter Benjamin and having an aura – is being successful in terms of being near the act of making?
A. Maryclare disagrees. A performance could be continually remade.
Q. The closer you are to the aura the less mediated the work is is the stronger the aura?
A. Maryclare likes the dance between the live and the recorded.
Q In all the range of art, there are three different mediums – drawing, painting and photography. Time is not included. To achieve something that has validity it should be two dimensional drawing and painting. All you are doing is adding a dimension of sound, time and movement to the flat 2d drawing. You are just adding more dimensions, because it’s more busy. He thinks the current generation is making work that is just adding more and more dimensions and becoming like a circus. He thinks it’s about putting time into the work – the ambition is zero – its just about more and more noise.
A. Ram explains that the questioner was a performer artist in the 70s and now has turned to painting. But what is interesting nowadays, in terms of the concept of drawing performance and performance itself, is that lots of things happening over the internet. People are searching for things you can’t do over the internet – a primary connection between people. He meets more and more people that want to connect in a live situation.
A. Birgitta says that they need to wrap and and vacate the room so let’s leave it on the note of connecting in a live situation and anyone who want to continue the discussion in the canteen – please do so. The audience is reminded of the next Draw to Perform event, planned for December.