A nice week in Glasgow last week at the Sibmas Conference, discussing the problems associated with documenting and archiving intangible cultural heritage, specifically live performance.
4. Some Problems With Documentation
From the outset, an ongoing company debate about the documentation of live performance. We need to produce full length videos of our performances for promoters, archives and educational establishments. We also need 5 – 10 minute samplers to show when giving lectures about our work. We require them, practically, but these video documents don’t satisfy us creatively. They're constrained by having to represent the performance, but are some distance from the experience of seeing the work live.
Senseless 02:47:18 opened a door for us. We realised that we could carry on exploring the ideas and themes of a live project, even as we are fixing it in the process of documenting it.
The process of making these shorts has much in common with our process of making our live work. The core of Third Angel is the two Artistic Directors - Rachael Walton and myself. For each project we draw together a group of collaborators – performers, sound recordists, composers - some familiar and regular; some new. Christopher Hall, now Associate Artist, has been working with us since we set up in 1995.
In devising the work we map out a territory, an area of interest, set an agenda. We ask our collaborators to explore that territory with us, respond to what we've got, bring in new ideas. We generate far more material, more ideas, than we can use in the final piece. Many of these ideas will not be used because they don’t work, aren’t interesting enough, aren’t good enough. But some of them just don’t fit, through time or formal constraints; some are the beginnings of something else.
So even when a project is ready to start meeting an audience, there are still loose ends to be used, or new ideas nagging at us. Even as we tie a live performance to video in making the documentation we need, we are able to continue devising, trying out ideas in relation to the themes we are exploring, through making a digital short inspired by it.
We go in to the edit suite with rushes, much in the way we go into rehearsal with a bit of text or an idea for a section of the show. Rachael and I have already set a territory by making the live work; Chris begins his exploration within that territory, sometimes responding to seeing the work live, sometimes responding to making the documentation of it. He sets out to find something that interests him within the territory we have laid out.