Magnetic North Blog
This year’s Rough Mix will be the seventh time we’ve run this multi-art form residency, but the first time we’ve taken it outside the Central Belt. The 2016 edition will take place at The Lemon Tree in Aberdeen and is being produced in partnership with Aberdeen Performing Arts.
Each Rough Mix is different, its character created by the mix of artists involved. This year we have a wonderful group of artists from near and far: playwright Arthur Meek will travel 12,000 miles from New Zealand, while visual artist Aminder Virdee will come the 16 miles from Inverurie. It is always fascinating to see how the ideas each artist brings develop over the two weeks. We’ll be blogging regularly during the residency, and you are welcome to join us for a sharing of work at The Lemon Tree on Friday 15th July at 6.00pm. Book a free ticket here.
Rough Mix involves 15 people: 5 experienced artists, 2 emerging artists, 6 performers, a stage manager and me as facilitator. Each contributes to the success of the residency, but the project ideas that the experienced artists bring are at the heart of what happens. Here is a brief introduction to the experienced artists and their projects:
Aminder Virdee is a visual artist based in Inverurie, Aberdeenshire. She graduated in Mixed Media Fine Art from the University of Westminster in 2012, since when her work has been shown in galleries across the UK. Her recent work includes ...And the Odds & Sods - a piece motivated by the ‘Fit To Work’ ATOS scandal in 2012 - which was part of a touring exhibition across London and England with Shape Arts; Keep This Leaflet, You May Need To Read It Again, shown at the Bonington Gallery in Nottingham and the COAST festival in Banff. Exploration of the disabled identity is a crucial aspect in Aminder’s work, influenced by her own experiences. The synergy between her body and her immediate environment is entirely dictated by her physical impairments and she implements different approaches to her work according to the way her impairments manifest themselves at any one time.
Aminder’s project explores stereotypes, connotations and narratives of disability. She plans to create multiple fictional identities for herself as performer, building on her personal experiences. These new-born identities will each have a narrative relating to bodily difference, supported by fictional evidence such as hospital letters, x-rays and scans. By performing these new characters herself, Aminder aims to use the disabled body as a critical aesthetic medium rather than an object. Aminder's sharing of work in progress will be BSL interpreted.
Arthur Meek is a playwright and performer from New Zealand. His plays include Trees Beneath the Lake, On the Upside Down of the World, Charles Darwin: Collapsing Creation (Downstage/ Nelson Festival of the Arts), Dark Stars (Artworks/ international tour), Yolk (Young & Hungry), Mando the Goat Herd (Allen Hall), The Burn (Wellington International Fringe), and The Eeneid (IronBark at the Bush).
He is the co-adaptor of On the Conditions and Possibilities of Hillary Clinton Taking Me as Her Young Lover (La Mama, New York) - which he will perform at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe – is an original member of the musical comedy band The Lonesome Buckwhips, and was the co-creator and star of the television show Feedback (TV2).
Arthur is exploring Samuel Butler’s 1872 utopian satire Erewhon as the starting point for a new one-man play. The novel draws on Butler’s experiences as a sheep farmer in New Zealand in the 1860s and Arthur’s starting point is the illustrated talk that Butler’s narrator describes giving after his escape from the land of Erewhon.
Katherine Nesbitt is a theatre director. Originally from Belfast, she is now based in London after 10 years in Glasgow. She’s created work for the Tron Theatre, the Arches, Toonspeak Young People’s Theatre, the Scottish Refugee Council, A Moment’s Peace Theatre Company, Prague Fringe and the Edinburgh Fringe. She has also worked as an assistant director with Magnetic North, Oran Mor and the Traverse Theatre.
Her project explores the miscommunications that are present in all relationships, and the compound effect that depression and anxiety have on the ability to speak to one another honestly and clearly. The project will build on the idea of a couple who speak to one another both directly and indirectly on stage – telling each other one thing, and then telling the audience another – but the female character’s direct speech to her partner will be in another language. This idea explores research that has shown that learning a second language can have huge benefits for some sufferers of depression or anxiety. People are found to often be less emotional and more practical in a second language, and Katherine is interested in the idea that this might enable one character to speak more openly to the other about her problems. This openness, though, is only effective when the second language is also understood by the listener, which is not the case with her partner. Katherine will use this as an opportunity to explore how we perform or translate our internal selves to others.
Marisa Zanotti is a film maker, writer and researcher based in Brighton. She originally trained as a dancer at the Laban Centre and has worked extensively in performance, choreography, theatre and installation practice. She co-directed San Diego with David Greig for the Edinburgh International Festival in 2003 and worked extensively in new writing theatre as a movement director from 1996-2002, collaborating with many directors including Vicky Featherstone and John Tiffany, on plays by Abi Morgan, Stephen Greenhorn and David Harrower amongst others.
She has consistently explored new technologies in her work, initially in relation to their role in live work and more recently in transmedia work. In 2012 she developed the UK's first choreographic Web App for phones and tablets with choreographer Ben Wright. She is currently collaborating with choreographer Lea Anderson on the The Pan’s People Papers a transmedia project commissioned by South East Dance with funding from The Arts Council of England.
Her project arises from observing her own behaviour when using connected devices and questioning how this affects society more widely. Are the fragmented attention spans of being constantly connected to different online platforms creating new languages and capacities? She will explore how technologies produce different bodily capacities and experiences in people and how these experiences might be represented and explored in performance, film, text and sound.
Matthew Whiteside is a composer, collaborator and sound designer based in Glasgow. He writes music for concert, film and collaborative installations often-using live electronics within his work. His music has been performed across the world including Dublin’s National Concert Hall, Glasgow City Halls, Salem Artworks in New York and the Belfast International Festival at Queen’s. His debut album Dichroic Light was released in 2015 and includes Solo for Viola d’amore and Live Electronics, recorded by Emma Lloyd. He composed the music for Michael Palin’s Quest for Artemisia, shown on BBC 4, and has scored the feature films Anna Unbound and The Loudest Sound and the short film Edward. He is a founding member and director of Edit-Point, an ensemble dedicated to the performance of electroacoustic music.
Matthew’s project explores physical theatricality within musical performance. His work to date has involved fairly stationary and seated performers but he is interested in the idea of creating a new piece for a small ensemble, singer and dancer. During Rough Mix, he will explore how technology that tracks people’s movements can be used to control live electronics and visuals.
Rough Mix 2014...
It's been a great adventure, with many new approaches I've not been exposed to before, and the excitement of working with a large group of creative artists everyday for a long period. This is something rather new to me; as a composer a great deal of my time is spent working alone, so this was a great change. It was also fascinating to get a look into how other artists develop work and put it together - and interesting to see this unfolding out in front of you. Usually I don't show work unless it is fairly fully formed, so it was both humbling and inspiring to physically see and hear the ideas pour out from every direction , to see them tested, succeed and fail (also stimulating my own ideas process as we went along). For me, often the 'failures' or ideas which fell by the way-side were as exciting as those taken forward.
The great thing about collaboration, especially with people you've not worked with before is how you find different things about your own practice emerge. For me, especially during the second week as sound became more of a part of numerous projects, it was a challenge staying on top of the constant flow of ideas, and contributing from different angles. It certainly kept me on my toes, and pushed me to come up with clear ideas quickly, which varied drastically during the course of a session - sketching out a soundscape for an imaginary peninsula centered around a literal giant beating heart for Morna Young's 'Edge', finding a bed of sound for Claire Willoughby's raft and dance moves, live speech sampling and manipulation for Tony Mill's 'truth creature' followed by a score encompassing epic and tragic aggression for Ian Waugh's audio-visual performance based on the 1984 Miner's Strike. I'm confident I would never have produced this work without the other artists and I've already come up with a number of future ideas inspired by these blasts of ideas and energy. Hopefully these pieces will grow and I can be part of them again in some way, and witness how they develop from these sketches into the fully-formed, brilliant pieces I'm sure they will be.
This week, everyone has been really focussing on what to present on Friday but still leaving room for play and experimentation around their ideas. As these pieces are works in progress, the artists and performers seem keen to keep the ideas alive and not set anything in stone.
The morning began with a dance routine rehearsal before each group begins outlining the logistics of what they'll be presenting tomorrow night. There's also a sense of sadness that we all only have two days left together on what has been such a unique collaborative experience. I think everyone has learnt a lot from observing each other's practice, and a lot of this has informed the work which will be shown tomorrow night.
Unfortunately there are no more tickets available for tomorrow night but I'll be working on creating access to a series of photos and audio as a document of the event.
It’s been an intense, stimulating, challenging and exciting week. My project spirals and meanders around the myth of Echo and Narcissus; I’m exploring (in no particular order) mimicry, repetition, echoes, stones, birds, parrots, circles and landscapes. I generally have quite a solitary practice, so having the opportunity to collaborate with so many other people is fantastic, although it can be a little terrifying too, and I’ve definitely felt out of my comfort zone several times this week. I’m working with some ‘cut-up’/collaged texts and some texts that I’ve written, working with spoken text is a new direction for me but is something I’ve been keen to experiment with for a while. I’m interested in exploring how live text and performance could form part of my installation practice, co-existing with drawings, objects, video and written texts. It’s been great to observe and participate in some of the other sessions and workshops, and the morning work that Nick has been doing on Viewpoints has been a really interesting way of thinking about connections between different practices and processes.
For the past week in Rough Mix 2 I’ve been investigating in two main concepts. First of all, darkness, second, us. The first one questions what happens when you put out the lights in a performance, in a theatre, in a room. The second thinks on how do we tell the story of ourselves nowadays.
Each day, all the team of RM, has met as the work time comes to an end in the T4 space of Tramway to jump into the darkness. It has, in a way, become a sort of ritual, day after day, meeting each other as a last action, and spending some time together deep in obscurity.
There is something compelling in a community of people inhabiting a space where they can’t really see each other, reaching to one another, trying to stay together in a place where solitude is extolled by the surrounding and thick darkness.
Darkness, as I see it, has two main characteristics related to the individual and the community. On one side, it makes oneself more aware of himself, his physicality, his loneliness, his voice, his thoughts, his actions. On the other hand, it equalises everyone, sharing a common reality where we are blinded, dissolving our outlines into a sort of totality where we are one, where our edges can`t be really defined.
It is this duality that links for me darkness with the story of ourselves nowadays. Where we need particular stories, private anecdotes, confessions, dreams, that touch our individual being next to songs, events, facts that define a common background, history. A place where what is told has this dual characteristic, it has a personal link, told by a voice, attached to a personal life, but belongs to no-one, as there is not a body to link it with, it flies through the darkness and hangs there, like vibrating, resonating in all the bodies. Saying it belongs to no one is also saying it belongs to everybody, it has no owner or it is owned by all of us, to the community. We are free to feel addressed, identified, with it, as it doesn’t belong to anyone.
This path from individuality into community provoked by darkness and worked through storytelling takes roots in a long ritual tradition that can be traced into tribal feasts and shamanic events and somehow, in a society where this apparently doesn’t exist, still echos in us.