Ideas Exchange Day 2: a blog by Josh Cannon
By the second day of the exchange, everybody was feeling a little bit more comfortable with each other. The initial ‘nice to meet you’ barriers were down, and we were starting feel more like a group who were working collectively. This notion of belonging was also the starting point for Bradley Smith’s session which began by talking through the benefits of belonging to a group. Discussion quickly turned to ideas of interactivity, and how we can use the digital to enable interactivity, as opposed to hindering it. Perhaps the most lively discussion of this session was when one person asked ‘Does the use of recorded media undercut the liveness of a piece of performance?’ – it is not within the realm of this blog for me to try and answer that question, but let’s just say that after a whole day of digital exchanges, this question seemed imperative for us to debate.
The second session of the day was led by Anthony Briggs (Briggsy), who took us through the history of his autobiographical, and often improvised practice. What really seemed to strike a chord with the group was the therapeutic nature of making and exhibiting work, a point which many of us agreed with. The latter part of Briggsy’s session saw us all get to our feet for the first time, and actually have a go at experimenting with some technology. It was remarkable to see us all begin to work together, and even though it was brief, the speed at which we began to to collaborate was a testament to the weekend. Technologists, performers, writers and directors all gathered around a modest projector set-up and we actually began putting some of our ideas into practice.
Maya Chowdhry took to the helm for the final session of the weekend exploring her own practice around food and live dining. The main focus of Maya’s session was on microelectronics (that’s very small computers in layman’s terms) and how we can explore and use these seemingly ‘accessible’ technologies in performance and artwork. Maya’s practical heavy session, involved a lot of demonstration, and the artists once again seemed to thrive, asking Maya to move her arm around, which in turn generated a series of pre-programmed musical notes from a micro computer attached to her hand. What resonated with many artists was Maya’s self-taught approach, she herself admitted she wasn’t a ‘microelectronics’ person, but had managed to program and operate a microcomputer, and demonstrate its use in performance. Once again, ideas started sparking after Maya’s session, with artists putting forward ideas ranging from a symphony created by performers movements and microcomputers; to using contact microphones to hear the inner sounds of a performers pulse and digestive system.
The weekend drew to a close with a group debrief, where artists expressed their thanks to each other for everyone’s openness and willingness throughout the event. It didn’t feel like the end of something, but rather the start of something, as if the weekend had somehow supercharged our artistic imagination. The community we had built over the weekend has never felt as strong as it did on this last day, and many artists put that down to the exploratory nature of the event itself – this meant there was no pressure for us to make or exhibit something – the perfect setting for ideas to exchange between one another. There was no sense of competition in the air either (as there often is with symposiums or festivals), we were just given the space to explore, play and experiment – something which we don’t often have the chance to do these days. It was only in the debrief that we realised much of the weekend had been spent problem-solving, with one artist describing the detail, drive and passion of problem-solving as fascinating and thriving. The quote that stuck out the most for me in the debrief, is the quote I shall end on, with one artist simply stating: This weekend reminded me of why I got into this business in the first place.