Posts Tagged: Walking Stories

Review of Walking Stories by Charlotte Spencer

As part of my work for Arts Award portfolio I wrote a review of Walking Stories by Charlotte Spencer.

On 24th September 2015 in Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park in London.

The group audio walk, Walking Stories by Charlotte Spencer is more than what it seems to be.
This piece is about movement, the language of the bodies in space and the choreographed activity to the music outdoors and in green public locations. The participants are also performers and there is an invitation to connect with ourselves and with others.

At the beginning we are given headphones and MP3’s players with the soundtrack we all will simultaneously follow through the hour-long journey. This start already made me feel a sense of belonging and as an artist I learned other ways of encouraging group awareness. A combination between instructions for physical responses, voice over and commentary encourages us to explore our senses and rethink about time and space. It is like your mind is tuned into a different frequency.

The people in the park who are not participating will only see a group of people walking together, splitting apart in random directions, running in circles, laying down on the ground, lurking behind trees, piling up objects, etc. It must be very interesting for those who happen to be there and I wonder what crosses their minds. While participating, I was really focused in my experience and on the tasks and I didn’t pay that much attention to the audience around me. I felt they could be part of the set.

From my experience the trance-like music, the voice over in our heads and being focused in the behaviour of the body changes the quality of time. Suddenly I find myself more connected with who I am and immersed in the nature. I feel I am actually living the actual present and it takes me somewhere else deep and makes me conscious about matters I never thought before.

By taking part in Walking Stories, I learned to be more aware of the people around me, aware of nature, aware of time and how we feel time passing; noticing and being more conscious of the fact that I am alive, in a certain place, in a certain time, doing something.

This is an opportunity to make the most of our own individual impulses as well as to collaborate.

Maria Rodrigues

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‘instructions for the uninitiated performer in the intent of making a home’

MAKING A HOME AD

At 26 Caledonian Road, N1 London, there was once a deli. There will be a deli again. In the meantime, there is space to be inhabited. Abandoned, to be reclaimed, a vessel for dreams, projections and plans of MAKING A HOME.  

What makes a house a home? How can we identify ourselves in a space which is not our own, only a temporary roof, yet so full of what we used to be?

A group of artists, curated by Tatiana Delaunay and myself, took over Geddes Gallery with their own notions of the passage of time, formations of memory, and the trauma of renting on November 20th, 2015.  We were questioning the relationship between a space and its inhabitants in the urban context, and more particularly in London metropolis, constantly changing.

For this exhibition, I created a choreographic/ performative piece called ‘instructions for the uninitiated performer in the intent of making a home’. It was inspired by the Happening instructions developed in the Fluxus movement of the 1960s, for example by Wolf Vostell or Allan Kaprow, and by Charlotte Spencer’s ‘Walking Stories’ and the exercise we devised on the Next Choreography programme in response to her piece (see Maria’s post below!)

'instructions for the uninitiated performer in the intent of making a home' by Katharina Joy Book, 2015

‘instructions for the uninitiated performer in the intent of making a home’ by Katharina Joy Book, 2015

Throughout the day, we gave out sheets of paper with these ‘instructions’ to the visitors of the gallery; it was intended to inspire them to go on a treasure hunt of sorts, look in places and corners of the rooms that they wouldn’t have otherwise, and discover new ideas about what it means to feel ‘at home’ in a space.

'letters to former tenants' - an installation created by Tatiana Delaunay, 2015.

‘letters to former tenants’ – an installation created by Tatiana Delaunay, 2015.

Glimpses of installations by Katy Jalilipour and Stephanie Johnston, Geddes Gallery, 2015.

Glimpses of installations by Katy Jalilipour and Stephanie Johnston, Geddes Gallery, 2015.

The Geddes gallery isn’t really a gallery. Not in the White Cube sense, anyway. It is an old house on the corner of Caledonian Road and Keystone Crescent, consisting of an eclectic collection of rooms: There is the entrance area, what used to be the storefront, lined with rows and rows of white shelves that formerly held an abundance of Italian treats; the back rooms on the ground floor, grimy, dim and somehow otherworldly, mainly used for storage in deli times; narrow, fragile staircases; a kitchen space with once-white tiles which, for some unapparent reason, has a shower crammed into one of its corners; two dilapidated bedrooms with flowery wallpaper and rock hard beds.

When the shop owner retired after more than 40 years last summer, an array of sculptures and other artwork was found in the basement of 26 Caledonian Road – they belonged to artist Jim Geddes, a neighbour who had asked for them to be kept there. It was then decided that his art should be exhibited – and then curator Cornelia Marland got in touch with the landlord to arrange a series of exhibitions that will continue until March 2016, when the house will be renovated and become a deli once more.

Currently, though, this peculiar place, five minutes from busy and booming Kings Cross station, feels like a time capsule; when stumbled upon, it is an entirely unexpected and charming surprise.

what I call an 'accidental installation': a discarded pipe in one of the upstairs bedrooms at Geddes Gallery.

what I call an ‘accidental installation’: a discarded pipe in one of the upstairs bedrooms at Geddes Gallery.

 With ‘instructions’ I wanted to recreate this sense of discovery and ambiguity for our audience. Tying into that agenda, our artists created installations and immersive spaces throughout the house, blurring the lines between fact and fiction by making it unclear what had been found and left in the rooms and what had been placed there by them. The instructions laid out for the visitor – ‘performers’ did not need to be followed step by step, or be taken literally at all – this was entirely up to them to decide. Ultimately, some of our visitors did spend many minutes going through every single of the suggested motions, understanding them as prescriptive; others seemed to think it was just a nice piece of writing, not for them to act upon; and then for some, it may have sparked one or two new ideas and helped them connect to the building.

It is worth mentioning that we also used ‘instructions’ as an input for improvisation when we devised the performances, the so-called ‘acts of inhabiting’, that took place during the evening on November 20th.

'recipe of the day' -  by Tatiana Delaunay and Katharina Joy Book, Geddes Gallery, 2015.

‘recipe of the day’ – by Tatiana Delaunay and Katharina Joy Book, Geddes Gallery, 2015.

Making this piece was part of my current choreographic research: I am interested in daily bodily habits and our ways of navigating familiar and unknown architectures; I am experimenting with ways of documenting our quotidian ways of moving, for example by tracing, drawing maps, or using strategies of intervening/ interrupting habitual movements. The question of what happens when choreographer/ artist and audience enter into co-authorship of a piece is very interesting to me as well.

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Participation week 10

Over half the group were ill this week. I was not well either, so our session was a little more quiet than usual. We talked about and played with ideas around participation – what ways are there of developing work where the presence and activity of the audience is essential for the work to be able to come alive. We spoke performances we had experienced where the participatory nature had worked really effectively, and experiences we’d had where it hadn’t. We wondered about what makes that interaction work so brilliantly in some contexts and not in others. We looked in a little more detail at 3 case study projects – my audio work, Walking Stories, Manual by Siobhan Davies, and the Performing Book by Janine Harrington.

Here is our book of words from our small, select session!

Book of Words 10
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Walking Stories revisit

Having moved on to the next term of Making in Next Choreography I find looking back and reflecting on what we’ve already visited or seen is a simple way to refresh my mind and incorporate ideas. Attached is my short visual response to Walking Stories, a walking/choreography trail, one of Charlotte’s own projects which we got to do ourselves in week 2.

I sometimes find that words limit me when I feel least limited. This piece brought up so many ideas and feelings that the best way for me to communicate them was through a visual tunnel. Transporting them into moving motions that create the same response, without having to confine what I took from it with just a few words that don’t quite express the scale for me.

The piece completely transported me. Having never done anything similar, to be skeptical is easy but to be drawn in was much easier and in the end, it’s these different ways of working that inspire me. The piece created a sensitivity and appreciation, there is so much to take for granted and it wasn’t until I was picking up a leaf and placing it down in a different place did I realize the scale of that. I was suddenly exposed to the raw world around me, drawn into connecting with these other people and within myself, taking everything in.

This piece limited no one, instead it challenged and renewed my everyday perceptions.

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Cultivating curiosity

After many months of preparations and recruitment, Next Choreography has started! The group met for the first time last tuesday evening and we started out by making our own manifesto for the year to come – as a group what feels important to us? what are the guidelines/frameworks that we will hope to live by? The process of constructing this brought up some interesting and I think useful conversations about care, support, space for failure and vulnerability, space for making a mess and getting lost – seeing these as essential ingredients for creativity to thrive.

As facilitator of the course, for me, my strongest aims for this course are about cultivating curiosity. If each person in the group walks away at the end of the year with a clearer idea about what their practice is, what it is that they’re really really curious about, hungry to keep investigating it and a few tools in their pockets to help with that journey, then I will be happy.

Tonight the group are going to do Walking Stories – my most recent piece of artistic work – a choreographed group audio walk for green spaces. Let’s see how that goes down!

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