Sunday, 8 July 2012

The Distance Between Us

I've just received my physical copy of Performance Research: On Foot. It's lovely to get partly because we've got a set of Artists' Pages in it, and although I'd been sent a link to the online version of it, the pdf doesn't quite do it justice, as it is designed to be held as two 2-page spreads.

I saw the call for the On Foot edition quite late, but knew it was something we'd like to contribute to. This is what I pitched to them:
In Third Angel's performance piece 9 Billion Miles from Home, artists Gillian Lees and Alexander Kelly were attached to each other via a pulley system that meant that for one of them to move forward, the other had to move back. 
Barefoot and supporting one another they created a perfect circle of talcum powder, so positioned that although they could both reach the centre spot of the circle, they could not do so at the same time. Once each in the performance they stepped into the circle, leaving (in Alex's case) four perfect foot prints or (in Gillian's case) evidence of ten minutes of barefoot running on the spot. This was a shamanic performance obsessed with travel, return, cycles and distance – distance measured in miles, metres, footsteps, days, years. 
Ten years earlier, in Third Angel's Saved, Rachael Walton stepped backwards through a floor covering of epsom salts in a performance in which the audience were required to remove their shoes in order to feel the salt shift under their feet. Rachael left perfect footprints in the salt, before stepping back and erasing them. 
For The Distance Between Us, Alex and Gillian revisit 9 Billion Miles from Home to discuss the task of performing it, and the physical and emotional memory it has left them with, and Rachael revisits the solo task of walking backwards for anything up to 5 hours at a time, erasing traces of her passing. The paper takes the form of an illustrated conversation, discussing how, in performance, Alex and Gillian would watch, not each other's faces as they travelled about the stage, but each other's feet. How they learned the measure of each other's steps. They compare footstep awareness with Rachael: when to place a heel or toe first; how to measure the transfer of weight. The blisters, scars left by, and the cold of, the different floors they trod on as the work toured. The footprints left in the talcum powder and the salts.
The On Foot edition of Performance Research is edited by Nicolas Whybrow and Carl Lavery. Nicolas asked me what "an illustrated conversation" might entail. I said I wasn't actually sure, but that I liked the sound of it.

Through talking to Gillian and Rachael, the illustrated conversation idea evolved into a kind of performance map, the conversation layout reflecting the performer-journeys taken in the shows.

The Distance Between Us : 9 Billion Miles from Home (detail)

The Distance Between Us : Saved (detail)

It was a really helpful process creating the pages in collaboration with Nicolas and Carl, and I'm pleased with how they've turned out. I am also interested in the process with  both Rachael and Gillian that created them. I wonder if there are more of them to be made.

Performance Research: On Foot (with lovely contributions, too, from Gregg Whelan, Dee Heddon and Stephen Hodge, amongst others) is in shops (and libraries) now. You can subscribe and download individual articles on the Taylor & Francis website, here.

1 comment:

Hannah said...

This looks ace, also I NEED THAT JOURNAL, Whybrow is a heavy influence on my PhD chapter on theatre, sound and the city, which also includes a lot about walking. Also, Carl is my external examiner for the Viva!

T&F have a horrid website, though, take AGES to work out how to actually access the pdfs via athens, and even then I can't see a 'download all' option :-/