Nicki Polykarpou, Assistant Director for Every house has a door work-in-progress piece, ‘9 Beginnings’, reflects on the first week of the Remake development workshop.
I arrived on Wednesday of this week and Lin and Matthew had spent the previous two days looking through the various archives. By Wednesday morning, they had roughly decided on a set of nine possible archival performances they wanted to work with and grouped these into three by three sections where each third would comprise two possible solos and a duet. A sequence had been initially settled upon, however, it was decided that this initial sequence order should be reversed as it felt more ‘wrong’ than right: a place where Lin said she is paradoxically more comfortable working in.
As the decision to reverse the order was made late in the day on Tuesday, I was able to watch this new reverse order sequence when Lin and Matthew were looking at it for the first time in that arrangement. Matthew has coined this viewing as ‘the DJ version’ possibly because he was juggling several archival DVDs with archival website material using two computers and we were listening in on headphones moving from one set-up station to the next with Matthew always one step ahead loading up the material. So after viewing the DJ version, I was struck by how a unique composition has emerged by this simple selection process: viewing the first few minutes of each archival performance chosen and then sequenced by Lin and Matthew. To me, it already felt like an Every house has a door work. Is it possible that an artistic signature can be present and recognisable through these first few early steps in the process? By the end of my first day, I can say that I was thoroughly immersed and emotionally invested in this new work although the ‘9 Beginnings’ performance has yet to be created. But somehow I’ve seen a version of it and it exists in my mind as a performance piece. It feels wrong but it is right. The performers and performing stage hands arrive on Monday and I’m excited to see what that will bring – will I think it wrong if they perform it differently to the version in my head or what I see when I look at the archival material? Is this a devised performance process? How is it different to using an existing authored text in a play? It seems wrong but somehow it feels right.
Paul Clarke has been returning to the below text as inspiration for Performance Re-enactment Society’s Group Show.
The Lastmaker When Will The September Roses Bloom? Last Night Was Only A Comedy It’s An Earthquake In My Heart The Sea And Poison How Dear To Me The Hour When Daylight Dies It’s Shifting, Hank Can’t Take Johnny To The Funeral We Got A Date
You’re sitting in 2 long rows, facing each other, like at a parade. The performers enter: Matthew Goulish, Karen Christopher, and the brothers, big men, Greg and Timothy McCain.
Three of them stand in a line, Karen wearing a white wedding dress, with a veil, Matthew in a black dress and Tim wearing a suit. Greg lies on his belly, his face pressed to the ground and a harsh blues song comes on. The first lyrics are, “Ah Hello Baby, Ah We Got A Date”.
They lay Karen down over Greg’s back and he drags her across the floor. We can see a trace of sweat marking where he’s been.
Matthew sits in a pink jacket with black trim and says, “It feels nice doesn’t it” and at the same time he takes a pipette of fake blood and drops it beneath his eyes, until blood runs in streams down his cheeks and neck. He says he likes to make decisions during sex and at one point he even made the decision that a man should die. He takes a bandage and wraps it round his eyes; it looks like they have been put out. White Christmas plays.
Clare Thornton and dance artist Laura Dannequin have been working in the Arnolfini Reading Room, trawling exhibition catalogues and focusing particularly on sculptural works. Clare has talked about the need to impose limits on the research process, and the sometimes-paralysing experience of entering an archive and not knowing where to start. Beginnings steps are often about choosing what to ignore, what not to look at, where not to go.
Laura and I are inspired by works and texts from this exhibition catalogue:
Presentness is Grace: experiencing the suspended moment.
Curated by Catsou Roberts, Arnolfini 2001/2002.
The opening quotation grabs us instantly!
“The absolute present of things.
My soul has always been fixed upon the clock. I have done everything, in fact, to
have the time it struck remain present in the room where it would become nourishment
and life for me.”
From Stephane Mallarme, Igutur, 1976 (trans. by Catsou Roberts)
Works in the exhibition include: La Pluie (Projet pour un texte), 1969 by Marcel Broodthaers & Nine Perfect Minutes, 2000 by Pierre Huyghe
It is the first day of the ‘Remake’ workshop. Lin Hixson and Matthew Goulish of Every House Has a Door have arrived from Chicago and are meeting with Clare Thornton and Paul Clarke, who will be working as the Performance Re-enactment Society, alongside other guests. Bex Carrington, the keeper of the University of Bristol’s Live Art Archive, is here, and so is Jake Channon, who is a technician in the department. It is a practical meeting, the kind of meeting that always marks the start of a project. Dates are set, plans are made, questions are asked and answered when they can be – and when they can’t, someone volunteers to try and find out. There is coffee and there are pastries. There is a tour of the space. Lin and Matthew, who have worked here before, have memories and stories. There is an intimate impression of these spaces as sites of performance and performance histories. There is talk about what’s in the Live Art Archive, and what’s in the Arnolfini Archive, which is kept at the Bristol Records Office. There are processes for getting to this material, which aim for a balance of access and preservation, even if the going is tough sometimes. There is so much written about ‘the archive’, but it is both refreshing and sometimes bewildering to talk about these archives, with these particular histories and dynamics and functions. There is so much written about Live Art and ‘the document’, but these documents are something else altogether.
Over the next four weeks, I imagine that a relationship between ‘the’ and ‘these’ may develop, as ‘Remake’ unfolds. I would like, in some small way, to record here bits of the functions, dynamics and histories that attend this relationship. The ‘Remake’ strand of the larger Performing Documents project explores how artists may use the archives of other artists, other performances, other works to make something new. Every House and PRS are practically demonstrating the potential of this approach, researching in the Live Art Archives and Arnolfini archives, working with performers and makers, generating responses and perhaps finding something new. Certain results will be shown at the 15 September symposium at Arnolfini. Whether this date marks an endpoint, or the beginning of further work, it seems like one hopeful outcome of this process will be a meeting of the practical and the conceptual, of ideas and processes, of ‘the’ and ‘these’.