With the restricted nature of the group show once again meaning I’m not able to test out a work in an immersive environment, rather than opt out as before, I’ve used the opportunity to take a closer look at an experiment I did a year ago – an extension of my ongoing habit of recording the audio of noise shows and sound performances – where I wore a go-pro camera clipped to the inside of my jacket to record the entirety of a live show (or until the battery died) by noise/power electronics artist Pharmakon.
The video is played in two channels to allow moments of action, which are slowed down, to sit alongside moments of inaction, which are sped through at 1000x the actual pace, and for those moments of inaction and of action to sit together for comparison. Other than this the video is relatively untouched in terms of editing.
The process and result were both quite interesting. Looking back, I realised recording in this way enabled me to fully experience what is meant to be at least partly an immersive show, rooted in the exchange between the audience and performer because there was no point at which I broke from this exchange to take a photo or video. What did break the experience, though, was observing others doing so – the glare of phone screens and camera flashes. The video did, however, allow me to take note of some of the subtle goings-on of the performance; where eyes and attention normally fall on the performer, I was able to see the other side of the exchange, the awkwardness, discomfort, amusement, etc. felt by those viewing the performance, as well as other things like the stillness of the crowd – largely awkward white men and some women in denim jackets and band tees – as well as how strangely bright the room seems.
This reminds me of research into the work of Bill Viola, that many aspects of his work and the nature of video are closely related to that of performance, and how my own intentions reflect those same connections – that the exchange with an audience are at the forefront, rather than necessarily the subject matter, which I’m realising more and more can be secondary, non-linear, and even the opposite, a littering of ideas through a central structure.
I think Vignette 4 / GIG, which I’m fast realising is very much paired with Vignette 1 / IWBYD in its lo-fi approach and live-performed presentation, would benefit from including this kind of footage – footage that explicitly focuses on the viewer – because the way in which they differ is the presence of the audience. My initial plan for this section was various viewpoints of the performer at almost ground-level in direct contact with the audience, and encourage more fluid interaction and actually enter the crowd, and capture this from numerous angles. I think what might be more useful, interesting and provoking in a way is to quite intentionally jump between focus on the performer and the audience. Not necessarily two-sided, but literally moments where audience are in focus and an out-of-focus performer breaks into the frame.
The observation of how the actions of the audience, for instance photo-taking, or even the light from checking a phone, seem like something to note here, though the inclination to attempt to control it with a ban seems counter-productive. Perhaps instead, it would be more interesting to do a subtle play of the viewer, in the way I identified with Elizabeth Price’s The Woolworths Choir of 1979 at Tate Britain, which made you aware via a countdown clock the duration of the video. By allowing you to come in at the beginning if you choose to, an informing you of how much time you’re dedicating, this set up seemed to have the potential to overcome what Neumeir states as our “relationship to the exhibition of pictures,” which “induces us to assume that can be grasped just by ‘glancing at it’.” My thought it a playful nod at a ban that acts as an entry point making the viewer aware of this exchange.