Take Time For Play and Relaxation

This is the view from outside my hotel in Scarborough. When I arrived on Tuesday I went straight to the university and into the classroom. I didn't leave campus till nightfall and took a taxi back to the hotel. So when I went outside yesterday morning to run an errand I was shocked to find out the hotel faced the ocean. It's a not so subtle reminder of how often I go buzzing through my days without taking time to appreciate the world around me. I forget to savour each and every precious moment of life.

I didn't have much time to enjoy the sunshine and the ocean air before getting back to campus for our second length session. I told them all about the performances I did at the Once More With Feeling event that I had produced at Tate Modern in 2009 as the recipient of The Women's Art Library/Feminist Review bursary. Then I asked them to perform their very own re-enactments of a few different performance art peices from the 1970s. The time flew by much faster than on Tuesday which was odd because I believe for me and for the students the first day had been much more engaging. Maybe it's just that a bit of fatigue set in - the calm before the storm, the storm being tomorrow, the day before the performance when major decisions need to be made.

At the very end of the day I tried out an exercise with the group that I'd done as a participant in a workshop run by Oreet Ashery. It involves coming up with a performance piece based around a variety of predetermined elements. In this case my students could choose one option from the following four categories:

1) use of language: english, bilingual, whispering, shouting, baby talk, gibberish, body noises, etc

2) form: TV chatshow, audition, telephone conversation, silent abstract video, immersive sensory experience, public intervention, etc

3) re-enactment: a list of live artworks made from the late 60s to today which I had introduced to the students during the various slide presentations of the workshop so far

4) a quotation or phrase that means something to the student 

I also had a variety of props and costumes that they could use if they wished. There wasn't much time left at the end of the day to follow through with this exercise and come up with a performance. Instead the students got really into playing around with the props and costumes. They had been struggling with how to incorporate the work of other artists into different contexts and use all of the various elements. I gave them some examples from my own work to demonstrate how it was in fact possible to do so. We're going to try again today - I haven't given up on the exercise. But something good happened at that moment when they were playing with the props and started to perform, ignoring my instructions and the exercise altogether.

They had picked 'audition' as the form but ignored all the other categories. One student took the lead and asked the others to each audition to play themselves. I thought this was a great idea and in a way related very much to my work and what I had been trying to teach them about performance art and authenticity verses theatricality etc. I had spent half the previous day telling them about myself and then discussing how I play with sincerity and artifice in my work. I explained my fascination with performance art as a confessional medium in which the boundary between art and life is blurred. In this way, I believe we have found our theme for the final performance - just in time. It was through playing - playing out of exhaustion and out of not knowing what to do. 

I went back to my hotel with a healthy dose of optimism. Ending the day by taking advantage of the hotel's spa with jacuzzi, sauna and steam-room, for the first time since I arrived in Scarborough I allowed myself to relax....