London, UK 2009
Material: blood stained torn grey cotton trousers, flour, blood.
Action: 15 minute Butoh movement & 5 minute blood letting.
Shown in February & November 2009 at Camden People's Theatre, London as part of Scenepool. Performed to an original composition by Stephen Hughes.
This work began an enquiry that would evolve beyond it and into the basis of my doctoral research. It is therefore notable as a key point in the evolution of my practice.
Here in order to begin to understand the construct of who I was as a performance artist coming from a theatrical tradition I purposefully mixed two distinct styles of form; opening the work with one and concluding with another. Contrasting in two, the ‘performed‘ persona (a term I used and would later reject) & the ‘real‘ actions of Performance Art, I wanted to sharply juxtapose rather than synthesize them into a hybrid Live Art form.
The intention of this practice-as-research experiment was to affect the audience’s perception of the Being of the persona on stage. Allowing them to see a notable shift (perhaps disjointed) in its presence through two forms of practice (Butoh and blood letting). As evidenced by audience feedback gathered at the end of two performances in February & November of 2009, the work, in this sense, was a success but it led me to further queries in regard to perception. Spurred on by my own indeterminacy in regard to my findings that appeared to indicate how the construction of Self may be split, I began to become fascinated with the idea of perception: what made up the perceived whole, and how could one account for the distinctly different perceptions that were created by the same event for different audience members. This a selection of three responses to the work:
The artist was not a person nor a body, more so another, a spirit maybe, a sacrifice, a martyr, I suppose if I believe in ‘God’ or let’s say instead of that I believed in “religion” then the artist was Christ but something higher than a body of figure. Which yes, did change over the course of the performance, [as] the artist went from human shape to a contortion, to almost a metamorphosis from this human form to the “light” or being/spirit.
...I felt connected with the piece as my heart ached with all the emotion I felt. At the ending of the piece, as the cutting was taking place, I felt a sense of freedom for the artist and intense emotion, I was unsure if I was going to breakdown and cry as I felt so vulnerable...
...I felt moved by the intimacy and honesty of the work. I felt that the artist spoke to me personally and I also felt some frustration on a personal level that I am unable through fear to express my self in such a way. For the most part I viewed the performer as a living sculpture within a composition. The passage of time within the piece allowed me to focus on the detail of movement and its impact within the aesthetic. The blood felt like part of the sculpture...
It was these findings: experiential action, audience feedback, and my own indeterminacy, having no firm conclusion, which led me towards exploring a phenomenological approach to my analysis of the body of the performance artist and what I would eventually begin to describe as Self/s within a Lived Body.
All photography by Bobby Whittaker