Friday, 6 April 2012

Of Work Made and Un-made

For the fortnight after Easter weekend, Forest Fringe are taking over The Gate in London, with a really exciting line up of artists and projects. Our regular collaborator Chris Thorpe is curating the first week, and performer Dan Canham is curating the second.

For Chris' week, he's performing a different one of his brilliantly complex story-monologues each evening, and presenting something(s) from (a) guest artist(s). On Monday 9th April I'm going to be showing something of/talking about a new project Cape Wrath.

I would hesitate to call it a work-in-progress. A work at the start of its progress, perhaps. Though that said, it has been in process in my head for a while now. But this talk at The Gate marks the beginning of making the thought-and-travel-and-research-and-conversation-process-so-far, into what will be a performance. Of some sort. At some point.

Last September I travelled from my home in Sheffield to Cape Wrath, the most north-westerly point of the British mainland. (I tweeted about it as I went and you can read a Storify of that, here). I went because over twenty years previously, my Grandad had undertaken the same journey, from his home (in Walsall) to Cape Wrath. When he got there he sat and looked at the sea for a couple of hours and thought about his life. Then he got back on the bus and went home. I've known for a few years that it would be something I would do, too.

I don't know exactly when the performance of Cape Wrath will be “made” by, or what it will eventually be. But if I've learned anything about making work in the last 17 years, it's that you should trust your instinct and that the next thing you make should be the piece that you, or your collaborators, need to make next. The thing that preoccupies you. The story that bothers you, or moves you. I'm interested in letting Cape Wrath evolve, rather like the touring version of Class of '76 did, into whatever it will become, partly through try-outs like we'll do at Forest Fringe. So, I'm going to be talking about the project, trying out a few things, reading some stuff, showing some video. Taking the next step.

The following week (on Wednesday 18th) Annie Lloyd and I will be talking about The Dust Archive, our book of performance memories from Leeds Met Gallery & Studio Theatre. I've written about The Dust Archive a couple of times on here, but talking about it now has added poignancy as the performance programme that survived the closure of the Studio Theatre itself also came to a close last month. In one of those timely not-quite-coincidences, the final performance in that programme was Dan Canham's 30 Cecil Street, the piece he is presenting nightly during his week at The Gate. Dan invited Annie and I to talk about The Dust Archive because of the elegiac nature it shares with his beautiful documentary/dance piece.

Given that The Dust Archive marks the end of something, albeit unintentionally, and feels like the closing of a chapter, it has been gratifying to see it take on a life of its own. Perhaps that's just what objects are able to do; as someone who mostly makes performances and screenings that I am then usually present at, I can sometimes forget that exhibits and books are out there, meeting audiences on their own. Yes, of course that's what books are able to do. Anyway. An example of that is an article by Saini Manninen in the latest volume of the Journal of Media Practice. In The art of leftovers: Memory, matter and decay, Saini discusses The Dust Archive in relation to the work of Alastair MacLennan and to Doris Salcedo’s Shibboleth installation in Tate Modern's Turbine Hall, arguing for the idea of an archive “as something which does not resist decay but partakes in its processes.” You can read more about her article here.

And you can still get a copy of The Dust Archive itself. There are still a few copies of the Second Printing left, so Annie and I will be selling copies (at a discounted price) when we talk at Forest Fringe (and signing them should anyone want), or you can get them direct from us.