A great last day: super workshop with 28 pupils from St Uny in Carbis Bay, who made us some excellent graphic scores that we really enjoyed playing (photos below).
Then we were joined by Judy Harington from Plymouth College of Art, who brought in energy & many ideas & helped us realise Rachel's concept of stringing canvas panels through the space, recalling sails, the washing that using to be hung out on the Island & at the Harbour, as well as more immediate artistic surfaces. This was the setting for our penultimate performance; we finished things off in Cellar 4, culminating in a ritual cutting of threads & an outing to a 4hr Frug session enjoyed by all.
Photos below, plus some audio from the 3pm performance here (2nd session to come in due course). Once we've returned, we'll post a number of unpublished photos, videos & audio int he following weeks, but for now, a big thank you from me to all the collaborators - Gary, Sarah, Clare (& also her partner Iain), Nina & Rachel, as well as to our workshop participants, the communities of St Ives who have adopted us into their activities, & finally to Chris Hibbert of Porthmeor Studios & the Borlase Smart John Wells Trust, whose interest & enthusiasm allows this project to exist in an amazing building, & to the artists & fishermen of Porthmeor who have made us feel so welcome.
A busy day: the tyre got a hot pink refit, but otherwise almost all the time was spent in the upper space, which, having been cleared for a yoga class earlier in the day, suddenly had a lot more space in it to play with. Nina led us towards rocks & threads, & building this into the space gave Studio 10 the volume we've been after. Rachel created another eroded notation drawn score, & this was performed by Nina as part of the 3pm event, which also included movement, with Rachel threaded in to place in a way that limited her ability to play violin, Nina gradually entangling herself in twine to 'complicate her situation', & Gavin using the flute to weave thread & sound through the space, reminiscent of net-setting or shuttle-weaving. Clare explored movement & close sounds in audience's ears, & we have another poem by Evelyn Holloway, as well as a responsive drawing by Susan Schneider (see photo below). One visitor called to mind the opening of Dante's Inferno, so these immortal words have now entered the installation:
Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
ché la diritta via era smarrita.
Evening: an exploration of something we've been circling for a while - splitting the performance between the spaces simultaneously (with Rachel performing in-between spaces), with Nina & Clare putting the threads through their paces again (more thoroughly this time) in Studio 10, & Gavin working with flute & electronics in the Cellar.
Audio: excerpt from 3pm Studio 10 here; excerpt from evening performance here, here & here. Plus some water bottle gamelan ambience here.
Tomorrow is our last creating day before the take-down on Friday; we have a workshop with Y5s from St Uny in the morning, followed by one or two University students shadowing us in the afternoon, & 2 final performances. With the end in sight, here's a bit of reflective writing on a couple of themes:
Some notes on mess
One thing that has struck me during our work in both spaces is that it can often be difficult to work out what is just 'mess' taking up space on the floor, & what is material designed to be part of the work. With both the cellar & studio now environments as opposed to exhibition spaces, all areas of the room are fair game (floors, walls, ceiling & the volume in between), & the processes we use generate plenty of unused offcuts, fragments, sand, bits & just mess, much of which ends up scattered around the rooms. Occasionally someone clears up this 'mess' - & then the interesting thing is that it feels (to me at least) like something is then missing; materials one has become habituated to are removing into absence, without the relief of the cleared space one might normally expect..
The reasons for this are not too hard to figure out: our approaches to the project allow anything to be part of the work, & often this anything tends to be the flotsam & fragmentary leftovers we stumble across as much as the designed object, so 'rubbish' is a familiar & necessary part of the work.
Even more topically, the 'mess' we leave is a primary trace of our own activities, tracery evidence of actions, engagement, encounters of that day or the day before, & as often as not directly haunts whatever it is the leavings of (a negative, positive, remainder, or similar of something admitted 'officially' into the installation).
So, the mess is important & a physical part of the working & the work, especially for our topic, & for an installation like ours that can never be finished, only taken down, & each sweeping up is a mini-premonition of the take-down that will have to happen in a couple of days. But each tidying reveals another layer of traces underneath that will take us into the remaining days.
One of the big themes of doing up time-trace-place is collaboration, & it's been interesting ot see how this process has changed over the time we've been here - not only a linear change, but also different fluxes, eddies & whorls of collaboration that spring up here & there.
With 4 or 5 people all working without a particular brief or territory & in disciplines that necessarily overlap with everyone else's (whether their official specialism or not), navigating the concept of collaboration is an interesting activity; I raised the possibility before the start of the installation that each person might have to be open to others working over, through, around & with their own material, & that there should be a willingness to disrupt, entwine, & be disrupted.
In the first few days, we were all very polite - would you mind if I added text to your image here? Would it be OK if I drew through your assemblage there? Clare, our visual artist, provided the spur beyond this by saying "you shouldn't have to ask". We should trust each other to respect the work done even in the process of seriously disrupting it, & trust our own decisions to work through/over/etc others' materials. The result of this, for me anyway, is that any one thing done that might have stood OK on its own & be 'owned' by its maker has in every case been improved, activated, brought more into the ethos of the work by the interventions of someone else. Sometimes these interventions are immediate, sometimes at the remove of several days. Sometimes the changes are extremely subtle (Clare scoring over photographs with a pin), sometimes drastic (occlusion, accretion, even destruction).
Another interesting effect has been the emergence & dissolving of pockets of collaboration; with 4 or 5 working together, as with Sarah's shoaling concept, smaller collaborative groups form & fade, either to make something together, explore something together, to create something for somebody to interpret or use, with these collaborative temporary 'clumpings' always then becoming available to the whole group. Finally, it's important to mention the unexpected collaborative engagement of our audiences, whether through discussion, or writing poems as reactive collaboration with our performances, or doing off-set drawings during them (invisible & unknowable until revealed & often shared between different audience members for any one drawing), which we then use as scores in future playings. It's been a varied & rewarding process.
presence / absence
If the above highlights the potential value of disruption, one of the most disruptive moments of the duration has been Gary & Sarah leaving for work in the middle weekend & Nina arriving to join in. Disruptive? yes - by the time Gary & Sarah left, a group relationship had developed that could have had many more weeks to run before any fatigue set in, & their departure was certainly a jump in the tracks, & Nina had to arrive into this settled practice (including operating hours almost the opposite of her own natural schedule) & make her own place, with all of us having to 'rewire' for different approaches & interactions. As with the disruptions mentioned about, this has been an entirely positive thing for the work (even as we miss Gary & Sarah & what we might have done with all 6 collaborators here) - already this week we've explored things that the old group might never have hit on, & given the installation a continuing life that will take it on until it has to be packed down on Friday.
Another feature of this is the traces Gary & Sarah have left, & the traces they've taken with them to the North. A sound file from Sarah here, & a photo:
The day's photos:
Instrument-building a big feature of today: Nina experimenting with various designs incorporating movement/constriction as well as sound, with Clare exploring amplification of found & built sounding-objects. This resulting in a much more physicalised performance than we've attempted before, with audience members commenting on how close we were getting to choreography. Also, instrument modification, intricate eroded scores, exploration of the many traces occupation by artists & fishermen has left on the building. Evelyn Holloway graced us with 2 more poetic interpretations of our performances, & audiences members were encouraged to create off-set drawing responses as we performed - something of a fixed feature now.
2 more days = 4 more performances = 1 workshop with 30 Y5s = shadowing by Falmouth Uni & Plymouth College of Art students.
First day of week 2 reminds us that in fact we're only here for 4 more days, so diving straight back into the studio early morning, moving more traces on - Nina exploring sound traces, Rachel tracking light, Clare developing a really exciting shadow traces element for live performance, plus another response-poem from Evelyn Holloway which will be posted tomorrow.
Audio: a curiosity - abstracted audio trace of a performance here; extract of Studio 10 performance (Clare shadow-playing) here; recording of Cellar performance here, in its full 10mins as it's considerably different to other things we've done.
In a project like ours, a rest day mid-way tends to morph into a relaxed way to explore the themes of our work. Gary & Sarah's last morning before the train revisited the coastal path where the traces of wave, wind & human are clearly evident. Nina's arrival gave us the opportunity to re-trace steps & extend followed-paths in new directions, seeing new things. We also introduced Nina to the spaces, & her perspective immediately cast fresh light on materials & approaches - setting things up nicely for diving into our remaining 4 days.
A brief summary of explorations so far:
Light traces [cyanotypes, shadow tracing, reflection, refraction]
Time traces [historical layers of usage & design, diurnal & tidal shifts]
Material traces [human, animal, wind, wave, sun, fire processes]
Sonic traces [human, animal, material, musical analogue, musical digital - & absences of sound]
Smell, taste & haptic traces [cooking, mineral, textural, action]
Text traces [erasure, engravure, printing, writing, asemic writing]
Reactional traces [interaction between live mark-making & sound making]
Sounds: Nina's impromptu instrument building from buoy fragments & shells here
Sound of fisherman's harbour refrigeration unit here
Ringing the changes today - last day for Gary & Sarah, so some Tate & Hepworth inspiration before a final day's working & performing in the spaces. We explored Sarah's shoaling focus (see her earlier blog below), allowing Gary, Rachel & Sarah to move around the space. We also had Clare working live with ink & paper with the musicians using this as stimulus for sound-making (a video of this will follow soon), & finally a real treat - poet Evelyn Holloway, who we'd met a couple of days earlier at Frug, came to the performance, & made 2 poems while we performed, & then read these to further musical interpretation from us - the poems appear as the last 2 photos below.
& to round off the day, singer & composer extraordinaire Nina Whiteman has now arrived, ready to thread her own unique collaborative talents through the traces Sarah & Gary have left. Goodbye week 1, hello week 2!
Audio: 2 clips of an extended flute/electronics improv (elecs part only) here & here
Inky improv here | Shoaling improv here | Evelyn reads with us here
More photos & videos to come, but the following courtesy of audience member Andy.
Audio here, here, here, here, here.
many joys to pass on from today; first, a mini-blog from Nina Whiteman, who'll be joining us from Saturday evening for the 2nd week of the installation:
I'll be joining the project tomorrow for the final week and I'm interested in exploring traces of the activity of the two collaborators who are departing as I arrive. These traces might be sound recordings, fragments of scores, found or created objects...
I will also be thinking about creating auto-destructive work that will break down or disintegrate over time, and about the local fishing industry and the objects and rituals associated with it. Nina Whiteman (composer/voice)
Then a super-packed day: a coastal walk, a big push on the making side of things (with Sarah & Gary departing Sunday morning, they are deeply into getting as much creative activity done as they can); this followed by an afternoon with some really engaged Tate Members & both an afternoon & evening performance (including live painting by Clare Wardman to sound by the musicians). Our audiences have been a real pleasure - curious, engaged, discursive. We share some of their photos in the post following this, but first a piece of writing from one audience member, Rod Griffiths, who puts into a few words a lot about what we're trying to do:
What is a trace? A slight thing, a remnant, a copy made on tracing paper? Or reins to hold horses together, cutting those traces, lets the horses run free.
Are all these the same thing? Is there a deeper meaning, a common thread of shared understanding?
Tracing can be a process, following something that came before, like a detective.
Beneath that following there may be finding; revealing lineage, events, history; traced, or perhaps gone — without trace.
Traces matter, they hold us together, reveal a shared history; cut those traces and will we be free or will we be lost?
a packed day today - our own work is accelerating, proliferating, interpolating; spaces are evolving, becoming richer whilst still leaving possibilities for next steps:
but for a big chunk of the day, including the performance, we were joined by some great art folks from Falmouth University: Bianca Cocco, Rosie Goss, Rusne Stankeviciute & Jane Birbeck joined us to explore the themes of the installation & make work for us to perform. It was a real pleasure for us to have them in, & the results can be seen below, & heard in the recordings here, here & here. Special bonus coffee audio courtesy of Mr. Farr here.
the day (or night in fact) was polished off with a fantastic trip to FRUG, an informal open performance evening for local poets & musicians helmed by the legendary Bob Devereux. We enjoyed great readings+music by Bob & guitarist Adrian, plus poetry by Evelyn Holloway, guitar blues from Mr. Moon & piano blues by Jack. We had the pleasure of both presenting our own sounds, & performing with Bob (along with Adrian & Jack), & enjoyed hearing a different side of Gary as he stepped across into the blues for Mr. Moon. A really grand way to end the day & our thanks to all & to Phil for getting us along in the first place.
Our previous performances have been several shorter improvisations; today, we explored a full 30min session. The entire performance will be posted later in the month as part of a general uploading of larger size materials from this installation, but 4 excerpts can be heard here, here, here & here.
Plus a bonus extra of Sarah & Rachel testing an approach (with added canine improvisation)