My final project for my Beyond the Studio module was a complex, yet entertaining piece involving a large group of 20 students in an enclosed space. The activity was simple: the students had to guide me from Point A (a disclosed location within the LICA Building), to Point B (a student hidden somewhere within the building) to Point C (LICA CO9 - the space that the group of students was based). Each member would take it in turns to dictate a direction for me to walk, for example: “three steps forward, then turn right”, until I had safely returned to them, thus ending the performance. My position was broadcast live on a large TV via the Bambuser app. This provided the group with a visual indicator as to my whereabouts in the building. In conjunction with this, I communicated with the group via a Skype call that was connected to a Kindle that I was holding. This allowed the students to dictate directions to me whilst seeing if I was completing them as they desired. To add to this, I was blind folded, meaning the group had to use their knowledge of the building to guide me. There were a number of key ideas behind the project.
Firstly was dialogue. The piece centred on the dialogue between the group, i.e. where they wanted me to go, the dialogue between me and the group, my dialogue with the group and my dialogue with passers-by had the group told me to speak which, in this this case, they did not. Secondly, the project was about the journey I made, how I traversed an environment I was familiar with but could not see. I required the help of someone else to get me through. Thirdly, it was to do with how well everyone knew the building that they would consider recognisable. Finally, the piece looked at our dependence on technology and how this is beginning to shape and change our lives and how it can sometimes fail. We need a screen to get places; we need and use maps on our phones when we’re lost, as opposed to asking others or reading signs. These do not always work, however. In this piece, there were instances where the stream was interrupted or stopped completely due to loss of service, highlighting that technology is not always reliable.
The project was partly inspired by ‘The Missing Voice’ by Janet Cardiff & Georges Bures Miller. Like ‘The Missing Voice’, it was the voice of strangers that guided me. While I may have known the names of the people in the group, and may have known some better than others, everyone was still, to some extent, a stranger. The piece created a relationship between me and the group as I was putting my trust in them. I had faith in them and trusted them not to put me in any danger. In case they did, I had a tutor act as a spotter, telling me to stop if I was about to walk into something or someone.
I chose to document this piece as a video as it was the best way of showing what happened during the performance. By filming three different locations (the room with the group, the Bambuser Broadcast and a GoPro attached to my head) and putting all these different videos together I was able to provide all the perspectives from the performance in one place and show the contrasting forms of dialogue that took place. For example, in the video it is clear to see and hear the main group discussing where they want me to go. It also shows my reaction to their instructions which, in some cases, make the performance more enjoyable. For example, early on in the video, one of the students can be heard saying “jump”. After a short delay, the camera appears to show me jumping. By putting the footage from Bambuser, as well as the footage from the room together, the audience can get a new perspective on the performance and can relive it as though they themselves were there interacting. To further this idea, links to the full individual videos can be accessed from the main YouTube video, meaning viewers can watch both the integrated video, as well as the individual angles to see what they were like. By documenting the full length of the performance as well, I am able to give new viewers a chance to experience the performance, despite not being present when it actually happened, allowing them to form their own opinions on the piece.
Students that took part in the performance noted a number of things. Most noted that, at the start, the performance seemed to be like a video game. The students were controlling where I was going and there was a novel quality to the whole thing. They noted, however, that as they became more used to the idea and as time went on, they began to take the concept seriously and worked hard to try and find the hidden person. Some also noted that the initial stages of the performance were humorous, but that it became more serious as the task went on. They all considered it to be incredibly difficult and stated that they would have struggled had I not given them a clue. A number of students also noted that they became more aware of me as the performance went on and were considerate towards trying to prevent me from getting injured.
I came across a number of challenges during the performance. I had found from previous experiments that the wifi signal in the LICA building was not consistent and noted the areas where it was weakest. Despite this, however, both the phone and video signal cut out on a number of occasions, meaning the group and I were cut off from each other. To combat this, I told the lead instructor in the group to refresh everything should the signal cut out prior to starting. As a result, we were able to get the performance back up and running again. Another problem I faced was not being able to walk straight because I was blindfolded. This meant that the instructions the group gave often did not correspond to what they wanted. There was no way of preventing this during the performance. The group decided, however, that after I had found the missing student, I should hold on to her shoulder so she could guide me back. This was a clever solution to the problem, and meant returning to the group was quick.
Below are photos from the performance, taken by Ollie Bradley-Baker.
Click the links below for the individual videos.
Main video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mn2Ft-8xkvQ
Bambuser Broadcast: https://youtu.be/otR2yEmnn1M
GoPro Hero 4: https://youtu.be/8pB_ZAci-Mw
Canon 70D: https://youtu.be/G6W1yEzNgKk
My proposal for my final project can be seen below. It displays the influences for the piece, as well as my original plan to use a GoPro and the ideas surrounding the performance.