Two weeks ago I had a trip down to the Big Smoke which coincided with the next instalment and reformation of DJCAD's A CUT A SCRATCH A SCORE - Collaborating with an Event. It was a development of what AN ACTION OF WORDS Writers in Residence had instigated with the artists, production team, public, students and MFA students during the week long comic opera. Witnessing the projects evolvement in the new surroundings of the Royal College of Art was really interesting. It brought a real sense of continuity which on occasion was lost during the havoc and theatrics of the live events in October.
Writer's in Residence John, Ajay and Christina in the Hockney Gallery
An informal discussion took place in the Hockney Gallery between Artist Sam Belinfante and Scenographer David Barnett and the Critical Writers John Dummet, Ajay Hothi and Christina Manning Lebek. In the space, we were surrounded by edited and appropriated documentation from the A CUT week, visual and written responses from Dummet, Hothi and Manning and a spacial intervention by three DJCAD MFA students Sinead Bligh, Joanne MacFadyen and Rowan Richardson.
The discussion re-hashed a lot of the thinking, process and participatory nature of the original first week of A CUT. David spoke of Bruce McLean's "Visual Lexicon" and the way in which the project was framed by this unique aesthetic, reconfiguring the geometric, colourful shapes into a "meta-tableaux" in conjunction with the musical score/strip. This acted as the stage but the stage was "everything", capturing the whole event including the interchangeable viewer, artist, documenter and musical participator dimension.
"Jute, Jam and Journalism" - Dundee's slogan was the instigator behind the thematics of the week's production but once the dialogue of locals and students was introduced this became an after-thought. The people's involvement and thoughts becoming the most important aspect. This made the project entirely unpredictable because of the many characters and collectives of different people involved. Bruce's admission from the first 5 o' clock Salon of the A CUT week in which he thanked DJCAD Curator Sophia Hao for "giving us the opportunity to fail..." became a resounding prerequisite for the project, An Action of Words and subsequent Collaborating with an Event and future inspired collaborative projects of Sam, David and Bruce that we were informed about. David went on to admit that he believes "there isn't a language to support what we do." The documentation of the event became the supporting structure for the week, it allowed for the project to be reformed into a commodity passed institutionally from DJCAD to the RCA, experienced first-hand by many in Dundee and then secondly or differently by RCA students and visitors. Recording the events brought a democratic element of viewing, something that appealed immensely to David and Sam when participation is key within a project. David went on to use the Botanic Garden's Glass House Open Rehearsal as an example of the "sexy juxtaposition" it created compared to the other Rehearsals which were chaotic because of the uncontrollable nature of the surroundings such as City Square, Dundee. This "juxtaposition" was something almost essential, aesthetically luscious and brought in the idea of the importance of democracy of viewing as audience members had to work round props, trees, ponds, choir, documenters and other members of the public to attempt to find an optimum view of the unfolding theatrics.
Sinead, Joanne and Rowan shadowed the Writer's during the course of Collaborating with an Event exploring boundaries and space through their dwellings for the week at 9 Talbot Square. They recreated the measurements of their apartment's courtyard within the Hockney Gallery raising interesting questions about the nature of engaging the public with the project through visual, audio and written responses often shared through twitter and Cooper Gallery Notes Blog (more of their work can be viewed below).
It became apparent from the dialogue and creative outputs generated by both the MFA students and Writers how essential space is for collaboration. AN ACTION OF WORDS was situated in the DJCAD Boardroom, traditional and spatially daunting but disconnected from the evolution of the A CUT project in the Cooper Gallery. In retrospect, this once-removedness was essential in the Writer's in Residence maintaining their identity within the project, initiating original and thought-provoking discussion during the week. This ensured that the Writers were collaboratively inspired by the artists, public and the week's process without the somewhat contentious constraints artists inevitably create when working improvisationally to come to some means to an end which at the time was the Culminating Event. This off-site RCA event successfully expanded the discussions from the A CUT week, whilst continuing input from David, Sam and Bruce condensed many questions that were left open-ended with what seemed an abrupt theatrical Culmination in Dundee. Time and space to take stock of various elements of a discursive, documentary, participatory, collaborative project is fundamental. Without time and a new space the project would almost have seemed like some kind of creative tornado losing sight of the qualitative experience it gave to those involved. This refreshing white-space location gave room to recollect all the debris, brought those involved back together and cemented a sense of progression.
Bruce in conversation with Christina with background image of Mezzo-Soprano Lore Lixenburg in the Botanics Open Rehearsal