Magnetic North Blog
I’ve been meaning to write something for the Rough Mix blog for the last few days but things have been fairly full on and time has just flown by, so its now the weekend which seems like a good time to look back on the first week.
I took part in the Rough Mix 1 in October at Lyth Arts Centre, near Wick, where I first met Linda and Christine, which had more of a retreat format and where we discussed in depth approaches to collaboration and how to keep developing as an artist. There are a few things that we talked about then that seem to keep cropping up again and again over the course of the week - discovery moments, formless hunches, going back to a default setting, avoiding saboteurs, being open to change, staying curious, seeing yourself in a different context, being in an in-between place, freeing-up-ness.
To begin with this week I found myself saying “this is not my area” or “I’m slightly out of my comfort zone“ but as time has past and we have become used to the rhythm of the days I’ve realised I’m not really out of my comfort zone at all and I’m doing things I really enjoy. As with so many of these kind of activities, so much of it is to do with having confidence…
We are all united each morning during the one hour warm up, which usually involves working in the studio space, working with the space and then we get on with our own endeavours. During my introductory session I asked the group three questions; “What are the big questions?”; “What have you learnt about life so far?” and “What advice do you have for others?”; and then asked them to choose one word or phrase to use as a basis for a collage.
I guess this kind of workshop, which I often do with community groups, is a good ice-breaker, a way of getting to know people, of finding out what other people have to say. In a way I wanted to see how this kind of workshop would work with a group of creative practitioners. As always happens, the session becomes as much about the conversation round the table as the images that are being created.
Other questions I’ve asked have been “What is your quagmire?” and “What does angry look like?” I’ve found myself going back to the familiar, e.g. using the children’s game of “Consequences” as a working process, working with text, protest songs, creation of lists, flags, and revisiting ideas that I’ve had previously but rethinking them within this new context. Also it’s a luxury to have willing and able people to work with. Other things that have influenced the work this week have been conversations with my ten year daughter about political parties and their use of colour, things shouted by drunk students outside my flat during the night.
My final session of the week became a bit of a revelation as I decided to work with the ‘personal’ rather than the ‘political’. I asked the group of five to create a list of things that upset or annoyed them and we started off reading these out, discussing them, adding anecdotes, and as others gradually joined the group the session extended and extended until basically we ran out of time. I had anticipated spending about 10 minutes on the lists, and getting on with other activities, but our lists of annoyances took over the entire session and it seemed more like an outpouring or therapy session.. All very interesting in itself… those other activities can happen next week!
There has been a subtle cross fertilisation going on which I became aware of on Friday when Christine got us involved in a piece of choreography, that used movements she’d seen Bill doing while making his sound works, and also stemmed from the text piece she had made during my collage session. Also Miguel who has been working with darkness, asked us to give a confession while sitting in complete darkness, and I divulged a dark secret of mine from when I was in primary six. Again this felt really therapeutic. We are all learning from each other.
This first week seems to have flown by and I think we are all starting to think about Friday’s ‘Sharing’ which currently feels like a double-edged sword, as we all seem to be working with what appear to be formless hunches. But having an event with invited guests tends to focus the mind somewhat, which is probably a good thing.
As I didn't get a chance to get near my computer last night, here's an update on days two and three. Sadly my laptop isn't playing ball and won't let me upload more than one photo to this blog. I'll have to save them all for later!
A morning Viewpoints warm-up seemed to set the tone for the day. Rhythm and response, reacting to one another's movement through text, music, sound and darkness.
After warm-up Janie led a collaging workshop as an introduction to her social and community practice. Creating collages in response to a set of questions kept our hands busy and allowed us to feel comfortable getting to know one another. A collage of voices was then built up in Kate's workshop using text from the myth of Echo and Narcissus, through mimicking and repetition. Later in the stable, Linda lead a group in a series of games about comedy and play in order to discuss and discover what makes something funny. Playing a series of non-verbal games allowed the focus to be on 'how' things are funny rather than content, and encouraged non-verbal responses across the group. Complicity and conviction were explored, between performers and their audience.
To end the day, Miguel asked us to write stories of ourselves, our societies and our world. We then experimented with interacting with complete darkness in the space. Next time Miguel will work towards combining these elements.
This morning's warm up was similar to yesterday but with a greater sense of play from the artists, who 'found the game' in the spirit of Linda's workshop yesterday afternoon. Miguel then led a playful game of 'Monkey', using numbers and gesture, at the request of Linda who would like to work comedy games into some group warm ups to develop her ideas across the two week residency.
In the stable, Christine first developed a way of working with and towards Ian, responding to and connecting with one another through the space before adding sounds from Bill, written text performed by Kirsten and improvised observations from Sean. Christine will continue to develop the work this week before moving to a residency at Dance Base where she will continue to work with these ideas.
At the end of the day, Miguel wanted to play with darkness again, this time sharing stories we heard as children. Stories, some remembered, some half-forgotten were shared along with familiar and traditional songs. The group reflected on the intimacy and also fear of speaking to one another in the dark.
It's a shame I can't sit in on every rehearsal to record, photograph and document, but hopefully I'll be able to make updates on how all the projects are progressing as the residency goes on. It's really exciting to see how what began as 6 distinct ideas and projects are being influenced and expanded by the work and ideas brought by others in the group. The ideas are being given new possibilities in a way that wouldn't happen were these being developed on their own, it's really unique to be witnessing it all.
*Tramway 4, one of the two spaces we'll be using during our two week residency*
Day one of Rough Mix was a chance to get to know one another and learn about each other's work. After a morning of introductions and group warm-up work led by Nick, some of the lead artists (Linda, Chris, Bill, Miguel and Kate with more to come tomorrow) shared their work through presentations and workshops. Each discussed what they want to use their time on Rough Mix for, ranging from experimenting with storytelling and darkness, playing and the form of comedy to exploring mimicry and repetition in text and physical gestures. It's been interesting to see connections between dance, sound, text and visual art already emerging which will doubtless lead to some great discoveries and an exciting two weeks ahead.
I'll keep blogging with more photos once we're into workshopping individual ideas from tomorrow afternoon.
It's not every week you get the opportunity to work with a company you have wanted to work with for well lets just say a long time. I'm getting to spend the next two weeks 'playing' with Magnetic North and their exciting collaborators for the rough mix programme 2013.
The anticipation of meeting and working with so many new people is always a little scary but i think it is the best way to keep your game up and your passion alive. We can all become complacent even in our dream jobs and I'm a firm believer that it is when you put yourself out there into new and unknown situations with people you have never met before that you can learn and excel the most.
Hm, seems that my post disappeared into the ether somewhere around Wigham on the train up from Glasgow.
Anyway, I was writing that I'm super excited about the upcoming Rough Mix residency. The past two days were spent packing gear and trying to not forget that 'one thing' that I inevitably will. During my time, I'll be exploring ideas using transducers to send sound through objects. It's not a new idea and I'll be standing on the shoulders of giants (David Tudor), but I think there's still a lot that can be done with them and that it'll open up new territiory in my own practice at least.
I was reminded about transducers when working with Kathy Hinde during the Exchanging Worlds project at Aldeburgh Music. There we built them from scratch with students from Suffolk New College who then wrote electroacoustic pieces for the public to play through structures as they wandered the grounds. Since then I've performed with transducers in Austin, Texas during the Cage Centanary and in Scotland in a recent project, Trees Talk, with Ian Spink. I enjoyed it so much that I've invested in a further 6 units and about 600 feet of cable (I want to play the building)! Of course, in addition to the transducers, I've also brought my usual ton of gear to play through as well, so I'll be fully kitted out for whatever presents itself during the two weeks.
I'm looking forward to meeting everyone (and seeing Ian and Chris Devaney again), and seeing what we can all get up to together.