Thursday, 22 April 2010

"Like You in Another Place"

We're coming to the end of the second week of practical work on What I Heard About The World in Sheffield (with a brief visit to Glasgow halfway through).

We appear to have made a durational work by accident. The 'Research Map' we ran at Forest Fringe Microfestival at The Arches last weekend nicely transferred the research set up in the workspace to a performance situation, and produced a lot of great stories. Over 6 1/2 hours of mapping the world alphabetically using post-it notes we got from Afghanistan to Italy.

All photos, What I Heard About The World (Research Map) at Forest Fringe Microfestival, Glasgow, by Gillian Lees

We are resisting the temptation to transfer exactly the same process to the PAZZ Festival next week, as we want to try out some other material, too, but we will take elements of it with us. Whilst we think the story-drawing / two-word titles and country post-it notes process we were working with is strong, it feels like this is exploring potential material for the 'theatre' version of the show, rather than defining the mechanism or form of it. We don't think a simple country & story list will sustain a 75min theatre piece. We are keen, though, to try a 12 or 14 hour version of the Research Map over the summer, to try and plan out the whole world in one sitting.

For me the live-drawing is nice, and since Glasgow we've been working with projected drawing and mapping which formally develops work we were doing with The Lad Lit Project and on our Mixtape piece Songmap (of which more, soon). Unsurprisingly, we are asking ourselves what the relationship of the three performers (Jorge Andrade, Chris Thorpe and myself) is, between ourselves and between us and the audience.

Some of the material we'll be trying out at PAZZ next week will be about our own relationships with maps, mapping, fakes, replicas, other countries and the world, as well as sharing and gathering more stories.

This fortnight of work has include two inspiring conversations with members of the team at the University of Sheffield. A few notes from those meetings:
"You can't be emotionally engaged with your subject matter the whole time."

Maps to help you "think about human beings as being 'like you in another place'."

The number of countries in the world is like bones in the body: about 200 and they fuse as you get older.

We are better at abstract thinking than our grandparents - but not as good at planting potatoes. There has been an almost biological change in the audience.

There are 6.8 Billion people in the world. How much space do they need? Not much to stand in. The entire human race could stand on the Isle of Wight, holding hands. How much space do they need to work in? When they closed down the pits in Welsh mining villages, those communities we’re always going to die. Because there was no way of employing that many people above ground, without building a skyscraper the size of the mines that had been closed.

Maps have been described as collections of white lies. A map gives you an understanding - not the understanding.

If someone is happy there is the assumption that they don't need/deserve economic justice.

So our challenge now, as we prepare to head to Oldenburg to present our work as part of Pazz In Progress, is to pull a few strands out of what we've been working on so far to make a (fairly) cohesive selection of material that explores the issues we want, whilst being open enough to encourage discussion and contribution from the audience.


There are more pictures of Forest Fringe Microfestival at The Arches on our Flickr pages and on the Doubtlesshouse website.

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