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Postgrad Seminars 01
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Virtual Physical Bodies
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Mapping Processes
with Shobana Jeyasingh and Sanjoy Roy, Errollyn Wallen and Gerry O’Riordan,
Ghislaine Boddington and Coral Hyde. Chaired by Chris Bannerman, Head of ResCen,
and Jane Watt Research Associate and projects editor.

Tuesday 16 May 2006 at 6:30pm

Venue:
InterChange Studios
Hampstead Town Hall Centre
213 Haverstock Hill
London NW3 4QP
www.interchange.org.uk

Draft editor:
  Jeanette Bain
Final editor:
  Marianne Tyler
  F indicates female speaker
M indicates male speaker (Where names are unknown)

This transcript can be downloaded in full
as an Adobe Acrobat pdf file (file size: 220 KB)

 

Introduction by Christopher Bannerman

I’d like to welcome you to this seminar hosted by ResCen, Centre for Research into Creation in the Performing Arts. This evening’s seminar is slightly different. It varies slightly in the format, as it’s focused entirely on the work of three of our Research Associates, Errollyn Wallen, Ghislaine Boddington and Shobana Jeyasingh. Each Research Associate Artist will be speaking about their work along with collaborators, who I will for now, refer to as the mystery guests. They are all in the room but are mysterious, as you don’t know who they are. This evening has largely been organized by my colleague Jane Watt, so I’m going to invite her to stand up here and co-present this with me. The evening is really designed because we have had major additions to our research outcomes and each conversation between collaborators will be focused on that particular outcome. I am happy to say at the end of the evening you will be given some gifts to take away with you, one of which is actually one of the outcomes, and Jane would you like to say a bit more about each of the projects?

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Jane Watt
Yes, first we’re going to start off with Errollyn Wallen talking to Gerry O’Riordan (the first mystery guest) and they are going to talk about working together on a CD publication which is called About Errollyn. They have worked together on this project along with Mark Goddard, who did the visuals for the publications and they’re going to be talking about the process of doing that, but also specific aspects of that reflection process. Then Ghislaine Boddington and Coralie Hyde are going to be talking about their process of creating mind maps, as well as looking at some of Ghislaine’s work, which is now what we call a process mapping website or web pages. This can now be found on the ResCen website, so it’s quite a substantial addition to our digital archive.  
 
Christopher Bannerman
It was launched about one hour ago.  
 
Jane Watt
And there’s a lot of new materiel on the website too which we shall talk about later on with some of the artists. Then later on Shobana Jeyasingh and Sanjoy Roy will be talking about their DVD publication, which they’ve worked on and was in fact the first one we did. So ResCen is entering into a new phase of actually having tangible items that we can give to people. We would also quite like your feedback on that as an idea for future work.  
 
Christopher Bannerman
And you’ll see also information on the table about a forthcoming book. The DVD really is the first thing that we now call our ResCen publication. We are very much launching a new strand to our work. So without further ado, perhaps we should move on through the evening and hope you enjoy it…and of course there will be time for questions after each presentation and any more questions at the end.  
 
Jane Watt
So I am pleased to introduce you to Errollyn Wallen and Gerry O’Riordan whose publication, which is this one, (holding up CD About Errolyn) you are all very welcome to have a copy of.

Presentation by Errollyn Wallen

 
 
Errollyn Wallen
We thought that we’d start by playing you a track from the CD Errollyn about which we made a CD About Errollyn for ResCen. When you’re recording, all you can really aim to do is capture a particular atmosphere at that particular time, and it took years of recording for me to realize that you have to enter into the spirit wholeheartedly. You can only print one version of a performance. So we thought we’d start with a track from Errollyn.
(Recorded Music)

So that’s a track. When we were making About Errollyn we suddenly realized that actually for practitioners themselves, it’s very rare after you’ve recorded an album, to talk about the processes involved. After you record you talk and do interviews about the music, but I’ve never had to talk about the recording process itself.

 
 
Gerry O’Riordan
Much the same…I’m a recording engineer, so my business is putting out the microphones and actually technically creating the recording and it was an interesting process of going back and examining how it works, because normally you’ll go and make a recording, it gets pressed on to a CD or wherever it’s happening to go. You listen to it when it comes back, make sure it still sounds right, but then you put it on the shelf and do the next lot. So it’s quite interesting. It’s about a year on for me from this project. We did actually go back and listen to the out takes, listen to the album and sort of examine why we made certain decisions or whether we made right decisions about certain things and you know, again looking at more in depth, I suppose, how we work in the studio together. It’s a very different process working in the studio. That was one thing we wanted to mention, the project we were doing for ResCen, we specifically wanted to make it predominantly an audio publication that would stand up on its own.  
 
Errollyn Wallen
Deciding on the format, I mean, often I find it very difficult to go back and talk about work that I’ve made. I had to think of encouraging the listener to enter the world of recording, a sense of illumination of what the role is when you are recording. In this case, you’re performing a work that you’ve written yourself, which is a very particular thing. I wanted to capture the intimacy between the two of us in the studio…a very intense atmosphere, so after all the discussion we decided we wouldn’t make a DVD.

We thought Errollyn would be a CD that could be listened to in living rooms. We wanted that experience to be carried over into this reflective process, so we decided to treat About Errollyn as another sound adventure. So it’s not just a documentary where we’re talking through the processes, but we actually try and show those processes without explaining them. So there are examples where there will be times when I’ll be talking about…say composing but as I talk we change the effects on the voice, so the sound is very close and we add delays. Because I think what’s so exciting about being in the studio is that we start with this raw material of sound, but every time you come up to mix it again or to perform it again it could be completely different.

 
 
Gerry O’Riordan
Yes, a lot of that’s the case with these particular songs, because although the dots are written down on the page, there is a certain amount of improvisational element in some of it. I mean some of it is very strictly written down but they will be performed differently every time. Particularly on Daedalus, the opening track on the Errollyn CD, I think actually in the recording process we left that to record last, because we figured it was the piece that Errollyn knew best, and we were up against the clock, to some degree, in that when we were actually recording the solo project we were in a studio. There was a piano on hire and so we had to be very disciplined about how we did things. So when it actually came to that track Daedalus it’s the only track on the album that we recorded it pretty much at the eleventh hour, and we did two takes of it, both of which were very different, and we sort of listened to them afterwards and just sort of made a decision on which one had the better atmosphere and better feel. It’s interesting as you say…We could play the opening of Daedalus from the recording.  
 
Errollyn Wallen
Daedalus is a song, which has quite a long introduction, and I play this piece quite often as a solo or with a band.

(Recorded Music)

I mean, I’ll never play that like that again. I did a gig a couple of weeks ago…I just sit down at the piano and with this song I usually start with that same chord but I just play what I feel like playing …

(Sits at piano and plays introduction)

You see, I can’t really play that again - the thing is all the chords. What was crucial for me in this solo project was to capture the spontaneity of improvisation, which is how I compose, together with the fixed elements of the first elementary chords. When recording you have to be aware you’re making something that can be played again and again. I’m deciding what mistakes to keep, but what’s important to me is capturing a specific atmosphere, to the point to be able to record a track, somehow you, through the rehearsal process, you’re working towards an atmosphere here, and when you record and you do two, three, four, five takes, what you’re listening for as well as accuracy of execution, is atmosphere. That is the kind of pressure you’re under when performing.

 
 
Gerry O’Riordan
Capturing a performance, it’s an interesting collaborative process between what Errollyn does, and what I do. I suppose I’m coming from the technical side of it rather than the artistic, but obviously I have to have some kind of artistic influence or feeling for what she’s trying to do. So you know, I will be listening to things like, is the floor creaky, is the piano stool making a noise, can I hear a problem here, whereas she’ll be listening to more musical elements, and it’s that kind of collaboration that we have to be quite aware of.

In the process of making About Errollyn for ResCen, it is interesting going back and listening to some of the out takes that we had where my voice comes across talking to Errollyn after she’s done a take saying “that’s not good enough, do it again, it’s the wrong feel somehow” and Errollyn would be saying “it was a great take” and I said “no, come here and listen to it because it sounds different in here” and so it was interesting examining that collaborative working process.

I think, having heard that specifically, it would be nice to talk about the sort of the visual element of your music. Errollyn’s always been quite specific again, in the preparation of the process with the recording, she’ll always come to me and explain to me fairly categorically why she’s written a particular song, where she wrote it, the frame of mind she was in, and therefore how she’d like that to come across in the sound quality as well as the performance, and on previous projects I know she came in and brought in postcards of works of art and various things, saying “I want this to sound like that”. It’s an interesting idea, so that has a take on how I will make it, where I put microphones, how I will treat the sound of the piano or voice, how this again. In this project for ResCen specifically, it was nice that you incorporated cards, although it’s a CD, the graphic side of things has come across. There are cards inside the box with the CD show image that relate to each tune.

 
 
Errollyn Wallen
Yes, on previous projects there was a particular track; we’d recorded the whole thing. I had this particular idea of mist and I brought in a post card of a Howard Hutchings painting Rain. The honest truth is that once we had that in front of us, it did actually guide us in the mixing process. You know, when you’re mixing, you are adjusting the levels of the various tracks and then adding effects. In this particular case, what was so different, I suppose, was that it was one piano and one voice.  
 
Gerry O’Riordan
Yes, I was going to say very exposed, in the sense of being it was just piano and voice. There was a limit to saying we could just hide this with a load of electronic stuff, it was very much just you performing.  
 
Errollyn Wallen
And in fact to start, we started recording this album on one piano and I actually realized it was the wrong piano, just because, for the simple things, like…

(She plays a chord)

That chord would sound very, very different on a different sort of piano. I know I sound like a diva but I knew I needed a particular Steinway piano that would give me a certain resonance and for even simple things like playing one note.

(She plays the piano)

 
 
Gerry O’Riordan
It’s just how that note resonates in a room, a bigger piano has a bigger soundboard, it has a bigger kind of scale to it when you play it, really. And add more dynamics as well, I mean, you can play, I’m not a pianist but I mean, certainly the dynamic levels that come across, you get a far greater degree of light and shade with the right piano or the wrong piano, really, in terms of how it delivers the impression of your touch on the keys.  
 
Errollyn Wallen
For this project I just felt that the raw material was the piano and the voice. The sound had to be absolutely right, you know, relatively little to do with the mixing. So we actually started recording again, starting with a new kind of Steinway, and we just had, we only recorded for four days, so we had to get all the tracks, about fifteen tracks recorded. And then the next decision was, that we wanted this album to sound live, but for technical considerations to allow the maximum freedom at the end we decided to record the piano separately to the vocal track. So you know, when you’re in the recording studio, you’re dealing with the practicalities all the time. So all the reflection work happens before, you know, the composing, before you go into the studio.  
 
Gerry O’Riordan
Yeah, I mean the preparation from your point of view, the preparation for recording is very different to preparing for a live gig. In the live situation you’re obviously trying to deliver something exciting and immediate, but if there’s a few wrong notes, it’s a passing moment, it’s gone, whereas when making a recording, you have to be much more focused, well, if I hear that over and over again, it’s going to drive me nuts, we have to correct it, we have to do another take. So in preparation for you I guess there’s a lot of technical practicing that gets done before going into the studio, so that you feel you’re ready. It’s an interesting combination of disciplines, in that you know, from Errollyn’s point of view, she has to deliver a performance that she feels emotionally is doing justice to the song, and from my point of view I have to feel that I’m capturing it technically to the best of my ability, and you know, just in terms of the sound quality, and equally you’ve got to sort of try and enjoy yourself at the same time. So it’s an interesting combination of disciplines, but it becomes very focused, I guarantee like Errollyn said, your ears feel like they’re standing out on stalks sometimes, you become so focused on, you know, I’ll be listening for a wrong note, I’ll be listening for a creaky piano stool, can we actually take a step back and listen to it as a piece of music and just hear it as a performance? All those things have to come in, because certainly with the available technology these days, it’s very easy to more or less bolt a piece of music together bar by bar, recording on to a computer system and a hard disk, you can create all manner of deceptions. I mean, to some degree, Errollyn can play a bar, play another bar, and I can stick it together, but at the end of the day, it would actually sound very mechanical, and as we weren’t really making dance music here, we’re trying to make something that has a bit more emotional content, we want as much as possible to try and get two or three complete runs of all the pieces right the way through, so we had sort of a template on it, and then to actually go in and say, OK, that bit’s sort of a bit wonky, let’s repair that try and stick it in, so you know, we’re not saying that we haven’t edited, but we like to try and keep. My aim is to try and keep a sense of live performance, and a sense of emotion and movement in the music, rather than just creating something that’s regimented and technically correct.  
 
Errollyn Wallen
I just wondered, are there any questions?  
 
F
Do you ever feel you’ve finished a piece?  
 
Errollyn Wallen
Actually, for example in a song like Daedalus, as long as I’m performing the piece myself it will always be in a state of flux. Strangely enough, when I’ve recorded a piece, I do feel a sense of relief, at least there’s a version that’s out there – not necessarily a definitive one but there is a particular journey towards a commitment when you’re recording.  
 
Gerry O’Riordan
We were talking about it earlier, saying that it’s like that you’ll go out and perform it and it will be slightly different wherever you do it, depending on the frame of mind, the venue, the piano, and having recorded it, there is a version recorded that is the version that was at that time. If you went back in a year’s time, and re recorded all the tracks on this album, it would probably sound very different, you know, because of being in a different frame of mind and approaching it from a different direction.  
 
Errollyn Wallen
Although I have to say that when I write music I do my best and I think “Right, that’s finished.” But knowing that it begins another life of performance where things will change, people will find maybe better solutions for a particular phrase. When I write music for other people (for orchestra), I have to write in all the bowing, all the articulation, how short a note is, all the dynamics, that alone was quite a huge job, and then a performer would come along and actually improve on that, and say “actually that’s not so good for that instrument”. So it’s like a living thing – you finish things but you can’t control the outcome because each performer is so different and each situation is so different.  
 
Gerry O’Riordan
Something else that I came across when working on this project, was that a lot of these songs you had originally specifically written for a band or for other people to perform, and you thought that the song would work quite well with solo piano and voice, so you re-jigged them slightly to fit around the medium that we were working with here. So that’s quite interesting, from your point of view as a composer, taking something you’ve specifically written for another context.  
 
Errollyn Wallen
There’s a song called Beehive, which was written for string quartet and I thought I would quite like to see if I could sing that. So actually I approached my own work as if it wasn’t mine. Patricia Rosario recorded it and she had a different version and I sort of stole it from her and make it work for my own voice. That’s the joy of working with my own material. It’s as if you have to begin again, and you learn. You know, I was practicing every day and acknowledging that there were some things that were too difficult for me to play, and I’d written them. It’s quite nice – that sense of moving out from yourself. I suppose everything starts in here and gradually you’re going outwards. You’ve composed the music but then you, yourself approach it in a different way. The recording process is the ultimate because you are literally outside of it. I like to try to hear what I’ve done as if I hadn’t taken part in it; a bit like a producer, I like to listen in that way.

And that’s what’s so great about our particular relationship, because I think that we are hearing complements to each other. We could have spent a year on it – you hear about people spending years on albums and I know how it happens, because you decide on one version out of maybe ten. It’s a bit heartbreaking, but we always know which one it is, don’t we?

 
 
Gerry O’Riordan
Yeah, we usually come down…You’ll listen back to stuff and say, well, that’s great but that is completely wrong, we can’t fix it, and that is great but we can’t keep that bit. So you know, you get sort of pushed into making a decision that that’s the one. You very rarely do, I mean there are occasions when you just play something through when it’s finished and say that’s it, it’s not going to get any better, you know, the goose pimples come up on the arm, the hairs come up on the back of the neck and it sort of does it.  
 
Errollyn Wallen
What was interesting, you know, in the recording process, after you’ve completed the whole thing, you take it along to the mastering studio, where you’ve got all the tracks compiled as it is. That was an interesting process, then you work with somebody else who’s hearing it with totally fresh ears. Even at that stage which is really the final imprinting before you go to the factory. At that stage I would be deciding gaps between the tracks and there are still little things you can tweak.  
 
Gerry O’Riordan
That’s the thing, it’s not until it actually comes back from the factory on the CD, you think, you can’t change anything now, because otherwise there is definitely a danger that you can potentially fiddle for ever and like Errollyn said, there are people who do spend months, years, working on recording projects, whether they are any better for that, I don’t really know. We completed all the piano on Errollyn in four days, and the voice was put on afterwards. It was nice incorporating bits, although throughout it we were actually talking about the processes involved in recording. We specifically mentioned Errollyn’s solo project, it does sort of stand up on its own. We talked to some degree in reference but also in generalizations. It was nice being able to create something that was almost like a short radio programme that stands up in various little sections talking about elements of how Errollyn works as a composer and her preparation,. Also how we work in the studio, and to illustrate those, not only with bits of music that we’d already recorded for the solo project, but also creating our own little sound canvasses, to illustrate certain elements that we were talking about. It was a nice project to be involved in.  
 
Errollyn Wallen
It’s not every day you have that. I mean, most people don’t have that opportunity – it’s like being involved in another creative adventure.

Thank you, any questions?

 
 
F
Can I ask you how you made the decision of what tracks to put on the original album; then also how you decided what to include in the ResCen project?  
 
Errollyn Wallen
Yes, the music on the CD spans over about twenty years, picking fifteen tracks. I think the idea came originally, after I’d made a show called Jordan Town, which is songs, music, dance and film. When we performed, people would ask for recordings, so I decided to include songs from that show on to the album. But there are also things like for instance there’s a student track from when I did my Master’s called funny little things, but it’s trying to make a collection work, so that it works as a whole, not just the individual piece. That takes time. Then to link the two, to link Errollyn to About Errollyn, I decided to mainly take the songs that are on the album, but to take lines from the songs and to use them as titles for the tracks on About Errollyn. Then I take that as a starting point for thinking about making work in general.  
 
F
You spoke a bit about the journey up until the point of recording, and I wondered in what sense after the recording the journey really does come to a stop. I’m thinking, those of us who deal with the written word, you give your life to your writing and when you actually see it published, it becomes very distant, it becomes public, not only in the philosophical sense but experientially it doesn’t belong to you any more, and I wondered if you have the same experience when your work is recorded?  
 
Errollyn Wallen
Yes definitely, I think I’ve only listened to Errollyn twice. It’s as if you have very little interest. It’s very strange. When you’re involved in it, it’s everything.  
 
Gerry O’Riordan
Yes, Its incredibly focused for the period of time you’re in the studio and as you say, listening to it again and again, listening to bars, certain sections and becoming very focused on bits of it, yet once it’s actually on CD it goes on the shelf, and it then becomes something that you’re no longer involved with other than the fact that you think, well yeah, we produced this, it sounds great. I guess it must be strange from your point of view on the creative side of things just to handle that stuff and put all your emotion into the performance… but then it’s done and you move on to something else.  
 
Errollyn Wallen
You see I have to perform some of this music so I would say the recording has informed how I play certain things. For instance at the recording I’m still discovering, I come across a different interpretation which then feeds back into the live performance, so in that sense, the journey does continue, but there is something very satisfying about giving a lot to a project and then, it’s a good feeling to turn your back on it as well.  
 
Gerry O’Riordan
As I said the music carries on in that you’re going out playing it live. I should imagine from a writing point of view, as you say, you put it onto the page, you then don’t go out necessarily and do it again in exactly the same format.  
 
Errollyn Wallen
My next project’s going to be interesting. My publishers are making an Errollyn Wallen songbook. I’m starting that now. A lot of my songs were written just for me to sing. I’ve got to decide what would be a good version to me. That’s going to be interesting.  
 
M
Following up from that question. After a recording has been made and before being distributed, how much do you accept that is the way it was recorded. How much is there to the editorial stage after recording?  
 
Errollyn Wallen
After you’ve recorded before you do the mixes?  
 
M
Yes.  
 
Gerry O’Riordan
Well… a certain amount of choices will be made at the time of the recording, in terms of the actual sound, the basic sound quality, simple things like how far away do you want the piano to sound. Errollyn again on this particular project had a very specific idea. She came to me with a CD of I can’t remember what it was of. She said the piano sound on this, I really like. I like the sense of distance from it, it’s not the standard classical sound where the piano sounds like it’s at the back of a concert hall, but it’s equally not a jazz recording where the piano sounds like its right in your face. So we spent a certain amount of time actually positioning the microphones, doing a little bit of test recording, listening to it, and saying yeah, that’s a bit too close, let’s try something different. So there’s a lot of preparation like that. That basic sound is imprinted. However, you can go in, you can add artificial reverberation to it, make it sound like it’s got a bigger place, you can change the tonality of it by adjusting certain frequencies up or down, and like Errollyn said, even at the mastering stage, when you’ve actually compiled your final take you then go to master it, where you basically take all the tracks, stick them together into a running order for the final CD. Even at that point you can say, well, yeah, let’s make that one a little more trebly, let’s add a little bit of extra reverb to that one. We’re not averse to fiddling. If you just want to treat it like a purely classical recording, and although there are elements where you set a specific sound for the track, equally there might be key moments, particularlyin Daedalus.  
 
Errollyn Wallen
You want short gaps or take up less of the voice – little things. Even when we were mixing, if we didn’t have enough takes I think we would have gone back to repair it significantly.  
 
Gerry O’Riordan
And just adding…certainly on the voice we might actually add a longer reverberation time, so the voice on one particular note sounds like it becomes cavernous but then becomes more intimate on the next line. And certainly you know, we could use that. It’s by no means a purist classical recording where there are two microphones and that’s it. So yes, we’re certainly not averse to using that effect if it enhances the emotional impact of the music.  
 
Errollyn Wallen
What is important to me is that (and Gerry this is something you don’t see) at the end of each session I took one mix and listened to it over and over again. It would give me lots of ideas and how I’d want to change things.  
 
Gerry O’Riordan
Yes, the multimix is basically the raw material as taped on the day, so on this particular project I record the piano, the piano was recorded separately and we then played the piano back to Errollyn on headphones and she sang to it, so we effectively ended up with a stereo piano track and a voice track that we could treat independently. The balance of those, you can change electronically. Errollyn at the end of the day would take home a rough mix, which is basically just what happened at the time. She could then come back and say I think it would be great if at this point you lifted the vocal level or at this point we made the piano more reverberant, or you know, that chorus stinks, let’s rerecord it. You know, there is a fair amount of post-production editorial work that you can do, right up to the last minute, which does make a difference.  
 
F
It’s very interesting hearing all the adjustments, all the things that happen after this first idea. Can you describe where the first idea – when you’ve closed it down and finished and said it’s in the box now, that’s it? Where does the next first idea start, with a song, with a thought about playing the piano, or what, where do you begin?  
 
Errollyn Wallen
Literally I just play the piano and say oh, that’s nice, or that’s not nice, and so usually it’s very immediate. I don’t know, because the piano, I think of it as the fulcrum of all my ideas.  
 
F
It comes out of improvising, does it really?  
 
Errollyn Wallen
Yes, and sometimes I literally I play little games and I think I want to start a piece – like with Daedalus I went to the piano and…

(She plays a chord)

Oh that’s such a nice chord

And I think let’s start a journey with that chord. So I believe, I like starting anywhere, and then seeing what I can make of the material that’s beneath my fingers, really - usually at the piano.

(Applause)

 
 
Christopher Bannerman
We’re just preparing for the next presentation, which is Ghislaine Boddington and Coralie Hyde. This presentation by contrast refers to a website rather than an artifact you can hold in your hand, and it also does not focus on a single work. Rather, it looks back over decades of work, and draws together certain strands of investigation. And then as the website’s called The Weave and Ghislaine has taken strands and woven them. I expect Coralie’s challenge was how to represent all that in a website. We’re now going to hear and see from her the results of that. This website went on line probably an hour or two ago, so it’s very fresh.

Presentation by Ghislaine Boddington

 
 
Ghislaine Boddington
Great, so thanks Chris for that good introduction. This really is a different presentation. We’re going to speed you through quite a few slides and bits of theory and bits of computer software etcetera. So we’ll go through what we’ve prepared and then take some questions at the end. What Chris said was really right, the site has literally just gone live about two hours ago and I’ve got a lot of people to thank a lot in this room actually, for working very hard, particularly this last week, so I’ll do that at the end.

The Weave is a series of online pages attached to the ResCen site, and attached to those online pages are three other websites, which are linked to particular subjects. The whole thing overviews and reflects the evolution in my own work of group creation processes, and in particular looking at the whole concept of inter-authorship, in today’s making processes, in today’s world.

There is a focus on the development of myself as what is termed a process director, so in a way directing the process of the group creation. The focus of this website uses by example about sixteen projects from the last six years, which are particularly linked to telematics and that’s the live dual stage performance work which I have been making. So the group creation process does actually involve a number of projects, not just the telematics projects but this website uses those as examples. So I’m going to introduce Coral in a minute. Just quickly, we’ve known each other since about 2000, and we’ve worked on quite a few websites together we realized today, shinkansen and Future Physical and now Coral is also working with our new company body-data-space. And basically in a way, it links in quite well with Errollyn’s because we had to find a creative way, to put our heads together, and put our thought processes together, to connect them.

We had to do that in a way that comes out as visualization, and what Errollyn was just talking about was about coming out in a sonification. So I this kind of link up of head processes is quite similar in the way that we’re talking. I could really feel that coming through. So, anyway, we’ll end up at a word that everyone knows, used constantly and irreverently in the arts, and used all over the place and lots of people use it in different ways. I’m really interested in the last word, inter-authorship and that’s what a lot of The Weave is looking at. So this is a group process, a pretty normal one that most of you will know, a transcending concept that any project, whether it’s a one day one or whether it’s a four week one, will actually form norm, storm and perform and I’ve tested this out with numerous projects and it’s true, and you will always have a forming period, a norming period a storming period, and you have to storm to perform, so there is a slight point in there which has to be directed carefully. We’ve got here a hierarchy thing that we’re very interested in.

What I’ve been looking at are flattened hierarchies. I’m very interested in the porous networks that appear from that, and the activity that happens from the nodes and clusters that come through the connectivity that is made between those nodes and clusters. So this kind of fluid connectivity where goodness knows what leads to what is what makes The Weave up, and over the last ten years or so we’ve been using as a group, shinkansen in particular projects, we’ve been using this concept of The Weave. The Weave is the act of engaging simultaneously, with strands of investigation, holding one while activating another, drawing across and over together to make a plan which retains physical evidence of each, whilst also forming a unity stronger than any one of them, and what I’ve been working with is The Weave between, and this is like our plait, the three strands of the plait that you have to think of as a unit, literally when you’re plaiting, the body is one part of it, the technology is another part of it and the group process and the content is the third part, and so the process in place is just to keep that simultaneously happening at the same time, as that is the only way you’re going to get a strong thread coming through in the group. And I feel that this is really particularly important with digital technology. If you let one part go ahead, the dance or the technology to go ahead, you’ve got a loose plait, and that will show very strongly in your work. It shows, well women will know it will all start to fall out. Everyone knows plaiting and braiding so the group process and inter-authorship, the biggest idea. We’re showing dynamic networking, but it’s facilitated by that, in this and again, always looking at what the emerging patterns of behavior are and the spontaneous-ness of all that.

So, my job as the process director was to keep an eye on that. What we’re really key on is that actually, if you decide to join into a group process, you are playing an independent engagement which comes with your personal choice; but you are also accepting that you have a deep dependence on the others in that group, and the identity of yourself, the clarity facilitates awareness and discussion of both what an individual, a specialist brings into a collective or group, and how they see themselves participating, which is a highly personalized thing, how you participate, but effectively into a group process with others. And we all know that this is quite complex and in many situations where groups are in play school or your office or whatever, these group processes are complex environments. So, how to make those flow through when you’ve got an artist hierarchy of a kind of star system and author system which is prevailing all the time and actually here in all of us, you have to actually move through that into a much more joint group made environment which comes through the inter-authored project. And that’s what this site is looking at, it’s a series of projects, which are and aim to be truly inter-authored, with groups of between 6 to 35 people. So this is the kind of linking and the kind of madness that I like to have happening in projects, these kind of nodes and clusters.

I’ve just taken two very quick slides from the group process which actually is on site on a mat on the floor, and it’s a process briefing really that shinkansen has used since about 1991 around the European Choreographic forum in Dartington and we were working with five other European organizations working with dance and we made this process between us as a group, and very, very simple things about co-authorship. The fact that everybody was there, learning and playing, learning and teaching equally. The fact that everybody was a creator, whether it was the top level digital artist from Germany that we managed to get to come, whether it was the new trainee or the particularly creative technical, we were so clear about that. This is all on the site, you can look at this much clearer there, but here we have the process, processes based in the weaving and plaiting, and the interaction between participants, debate throughout etcetera. So there is much more information on this on the site. This process has been used as a briefing for all group projects since that point. People sign up to it, basically. They kind of literally sign a contract. I’m coming to this project and I know it is an inter-authorship project, and this is what I sign up to, and this is what I aim to do, Ghislaine even if I find it really hard, and we all do find it hard. And this is a construct very quickly just to show you, once you’re in the group and this is a Future Physical, which was a two year project, about 22 of us were involved in it, with the particular, we call this cell or pods, break down into various areas, in the middle is very obviously practical day to day stuff, above this for Future Physical was actual activities and programmes, and below this is the themes of Future Physical, but these diagrams can be placed anywhere and you’ll notice if you pick out a name or two, you’ll see that we’re all in several pods and you’ll see that everybody is in every day, whether it’s in the actual form, the practicality, the operational, or the actual content there. So everybody has a say to call theirs, to create this flattened hierarchy and to enable input from all in all levels. So if someone comes on the project, and they are marketing experts, they never are just in marketing. They are also being engaged and asked which other areas they wish to join into. Now I’m going to hand over to Coral, and she’s going to tell you about how we worked together on making the sites to reflect all this work and I won’t say any more, because when we come to the end part I think you’ll see the process of what’s been happening between us in terms of actually finding each other and finding a way to put these two different heads together in a way which suits both of us well.

 
 
Coral Hyde
Good evening everyone. As Ghislaine has mentioned, we met in 2000, and we were working on several websites together, and over the course of those years, I discovered mind mapping, as a piece of software which I have used as a tool to work with a client basically, and it seems to have been sympathetic to the methods and processes that Ghislaine put in place and working creatively. I’m not sure if anyone is aware of mind mapping as a concept. Mind-map definition is that ‘a mind-map is an image-centered diagram used to represent links with words and ideas and it’s similar to semantic network or a cognitive map’. We used this as a starting point for building the website on the artist pages for ResCen, and also creating a new version of a website called Cellbytes in 2001. So, from the outset we got together and brainstormed the content that either existed or that was to be created for each of these websites. Ghislaine and I seem to have developed into inherently kind of creative intuitions and this is a digital reflection of what I’ve seen her doing. We’d sit down together and this is the mind map that we created for the ResCen pages.

Now I’m not sure if anyone has ever seen how mind-maps work before. But generally it can be used for planning or just personal to-do lists. There are many different functions and functionalities of mind maps. I’m not sure whether it’s been used before, maybe it has, for creating and developing structure of websites, but my great nature is to play with software once I get my hands on it and I thought this was a very useful function of the software. I’ll just show you very quickly, this is what the software looks like. This is a piece of mind-mapping software created by Tony Gusack, who is the guru in the mind mapping world, but there are other open source software available, and one which comes to mind is one called Free-mind which is an open source mind mapping package. So just to start with a center to a diagram, this is a home page, for example. You can switch on brainstorming mode and you instantly can start creating a section and then another section and then more content and then as you brainstorm, you go through the content that you have brought out and at the end of that you can then very organically move that around as you want to put the hierarchy or the content in a logical, usable, findable system for the website. So this is our initial input. The mind map and this software enables us to generate output of two different things.

The skeletal structure of the website, and a word document for Ghislaine. This was a fantastic thing for us to have, as I work remotely down in Somerset and Ghislaine is in London. She has a Mac, I have a PC and. When we first started this software was not available on the Mac. So having the facility, having had that initial meeting to then communicate back to her the entire structure as it would be meant that she could then start working immediately on creating content for the site and I could start working on the structure…So this is the HTML version of the mind map that you saw on the previous slide. So if I just click here…it won’t open. So if anyone would like to come and see how this works, it’s just an empty shell, but what it will do is say I need content for this area. So all of this brings us back to Ghislaine’s earlier point about flattened hierarchies and we felt that this definition supports our methodologies of working together as individuals and that it’s a creative, intuitive and organic process throughout.

I’ll refer to another website which we’ve done, one was the website for the ResCen pages but the other was re-doing the Cellbytes 01 project website. Now this was a site where content existed already but the job to be done was a complete new design overhaul of the site, but it was also kind of working out ways where sort of additional functionality of the site might be appropriate five years on and so again, we instantly sat and did a mind map of that site and putting together the content that existed and then being able to work back and forth to Somerset and London on the content. That’s just to sort of go down into the detail of the mind map so you can see that this reflects a structure where the first level is the first level of navigation in the website and you’re going down to the next level. So all the way a kind of mapping process. So this is the CellBytes 01 website or the new version of it which has gone live today along with the web pages on Ghislaine’s site. So if anyone, once again, would like to access one of these websites or anything about mind-mapping processes then please come and ask one of us.

 
 
Ghislaine Boddington
So I think for that’s how we’ve moved through this. So we can take some questions now but I think just before I do, I just wanted to say, on the ResCen site now, there are about five or six essays and reflections which Chris has really, really helped me with, so I wanted to say thanks a lot for getting out - It’s interesting what someone said earlier about writing and it being, once it’s out there, and that for me is quite terrifying because I‘m a live person and I tend to be- I much prefer temporal – time-based situations so this fixing writing is hard, so that’s pretty poor it’s there you know, so thanks a lot Chris for really a lot of time that he put on to that. Also there are fifteen projects outlined, all of the telematics ones and there’s quite a few people here I can see, various people who’ve been involved in them and Shobana’s project the Web and Leanne and various people who are here who are part of the Cellbytes projects too. So there’s a lot of information on those and all the movies and all the photographs from those. So really a lot of stuff out there on those projects as well.

I also wanted to thank Coral hugely for masses of time in and Andrew Lang as well who has worked very hard. And all the ResCen centre, people working at ResCen who are a great group of people, and also here in the group Debbie, Leanne and Christine and Ahmid as well, you’ve all inputted into this site, but who’ve also helped me and supported me through the last five years or so, and actually just to say we’re now doing Body-data-space which is a new company, so that’s, if you want to talk to Ahmid or I afterwards about that, that’s great. We’re looking at interacitivity in deep ways into architecture and our new project called Skin Touch Feel, which is an audio visual interactive project, still working with the whole ideas coming from virtual and physical body and touch, intimacy and presence and tele-presence. There’s a lot more about this on the site so you can follow that through. So that’s body-data-space. And also here are some of the sites that Coral mentioned. This is Coral’s own site at the top, mind mapping software, and a free open source one.

 
 
Coral Hyde
The first one is a commercial product developed by Tony Gusack that I mentioned earlier. The second one is a free open source mind-mapping system for Mac and PC. Oh I wish I knew something about that one all those years ago.  
 
Ghislaine Boddington
I can go back to this slide in a minute, but just to say here’s the body-data-space information too, but also Future Physical, Creative Fusion and Connectivity which are still three live sites from shinkansen. And Connectivity is actually not live yet, but will be soon because the shinkansen and Future Physical archives go to the British Library on 12 July and Connectivity and the British Library archive site will hold all the details from the last fifteen years of the projects including 750 pieces of media, I believe, at the British Library from all our work since 1989 which is, Debbie and I’s big release. We’re coming to the end of something quite big, so with the ResCen work too, it’s quite a significant point in time for us, so that’s The Weave…I don’t know if there’s any questions?  
 
Christopher Bannerman
Any questions?  
 
M
How is the website built as a mind-map, a website built to aid people to get information about something?  
 
Coral Hyde
What I focused on tonight was the process of creating the website with Ghislaine rather than looking at the content that was actually put up within the final site. What you saw with the ResCen pages was a media output, just a skeletal site. It was merely meant as a tool within that process so that Ghislaine was able at her end to start working immediately knowing what this website was and where it was going to be, and then feedback that information in chunks, logical chunks.  
 
Ghislaine Boddington
So it could have been any content. It could have been my shopping list in there. But it just shows me where the content’s needed, and also I can move that, I can discuss with Coral and move that around and say that’s not making sense, that section by that section or whatever. So it’s more a visualization thing.  
 
Coral Hyde
So that I can know the structure and I can get going on building a template from the outset with no but then Ghislaine knows at the same time what I need at the next stage and we can plan it to a particular point months after that initial meeting.  
 
Ghislaine Boddington
Which is actually, considering the size of these two sites going up has been a real relief. It has been very confusing at some points but the mind maps have kept us in line on that.  
 
M
As far as I can see, what you’ve described is a framework for a notional project. Using that framework could you give me more concrete examples of that; have you found that that kind of flattened hierarchy, clusters, nodes is conducive to desired results and are those results have you found them to work better for particular goals or do they work better with particular goals in mind?  
 
Coral Hyde
Is your question with reference to the actual mind maps?  
 
M
It’s with reference to how it would work on particular projects. Does it produce certain kinds of results?  
 
Coral Hyde
We’ve used it for the building a website project and Ghislaine uses a very creative and intuitive process within her projects, but it’s not necessarily using a mind-mapping system that we used to create the site. Though I would say mind maps can be used in multiple ways – personal planning, business planning, mapping out a garden. You can use them in so many different ways. This is just the way that we struck upon as being a great tool for doing what we needed to do.  
 
Ghislaine Boddington
In terms of the content coming from the inter-authored or flattened hierarchy, multiple nodes and clustered projects I don’t know how many videos are on the site. It would be about thirty or forty. You’ve got different groups every time. Each group is totally different than another. Each group will describe and go into – make its own visuals of how they work together. I never fix a visual on a group, a visual process and it’s no less diverse in its outputs, inter-authorship, no less diverse than authorship. I mean, obviously not, I think, personally. So it has very, very diverse outputs, just as with individual authorship. And many great things in between because we’re using structured improvisation, total structured work, totally improvised work, you know, with a lot of variations on the way as well. All the movies that are up there are two to five minutes, seven minute bits, and they are really like microscope slides. They’re not final per formative results, there’s a few which are post-edited performance and have been used as little bills and things post the project, and a few which have been re-created and re-performed. There’s a series with …actually, called the DigiID project, which then got taken into the NightWalking night cam on the boat as part of the ResCen symposium and also going to the cluster in Cambridge and that was the War, Peace, Battle ones because we were dealing with topics around the Iraq war at the time and they were very relevant at that time. Some of those are finished but the majority of these are more like microscope slides. it’s a very ResCen thing, I think we’re showing our outputs at a particular point in time, so I’m going OK I’ve been looking at all these things and actually here they are, you can all have a look at them. And each one of them is a little experiment really. Some of them worked great. Some of them aren’t so great but there might be one key moment in them, which is what we’ve really been trying to aim at – a touch point in virtual physical bodies so they’re all there. We haven’t chosen – Chris requested that they all went up – the results from these fifteen projects in Inter-authorship and Telematics.  
 
M
Could I ask a question about the website? Because here’s my impression as observer this evening, watching and listening as all this unfolds now, I get a chance to offer an observation. If somehow Mind Map creates a site and it’s quite inter-related, and there are probably a number of pathways through it, and part of the fun, the joy of using the website is that you’re on a kind of voyage of discovery, and that the notion of information needs to be considered in a very wide sense, because we sometimes imagine information being a very linear way through something in which the logical progression as actually being clear and honest for you. I think there is a line through, but I think there are many avenues and byways that have probably been produced through the mind mapping, and that’s a kind of key attribute that I’ve experienced so far.  
 
M
I think that was the point I was going to add because I think it’s a very intuitive way of developing what in other terms is called the architecture of the website, and I think again it reflects the kind of neural connection and again it tends to have a very organic thing about it, so as you said pathways can be created and sparked through a number of different versions of it. That was kind of my observations – It was lovely, thank you for the presentation, which explained and described that bringing together the intuition and the architecture. I suppose just a question is, how do you avoid it becoming closed as a system and continue that organic growth?  
 
Ghislaine Boddington
Yes emerging dynamic. Yes, that’s a really good question, actually. I think one thing is, what Chris has mentioned is, that we have already – Coral has got this amazing tagging stuff so everything starts to get linked into each other, so key words popping up everywhere. Chris also wants to ask someone to go through and do more hyperlinks throughout the essays back into the site etcetera, and also the other thing is that there’s a glossary of terms there, which is the shinkansen glossary of technology terms we’ve used a lot in the nineties, and many other key words, which I think we’ve just been talking at the shinkansen archive grouping about linking those to things like wikipedia and actually being able to take it out that way, so that they’re not just our terms. They need to go beyond that. There are multiple links to other sites so for example we have got a page on Ignite – the Ignite project links to NESTA and it links to the Ignite creative team. There are some cross over links so each page has got about two to seven links out.  
 
Coral Hyde
I think the creation of a website is a journey and like what you guys were talking about, you know when is a creative process over and so when do you finish a website. There is always more that you can add. You know it’s something that should be growing and changes and can be added to.  
 
Christopher Bannerman
I think we have time for one more question if there’s one more question.  
 
M
Do you find that when you have such a fluid site that links into lots of other sites that you’re almost tempted to leave little gold nuggets in places? Just like, every time you pass go you collect £100?  
 
Ghislaine Boddington
What like secret windows?  
 
M
Well, you know, like an enticing video, an enticing piece of audio or just little nuggets.  
 
Coral Hyde
Little presents, so you have to check and see what’s behind this thing…  
 
Ghislaine Boddington
I think there is one thing that comes into mind when you say that. It’s a project called web-scrawler which actually came out of Back-space the previous to Deck space which was in Kitch Street. It was the first Internet café in London which allowed artists to meet, where we went to do our first shinkansen site, where Andrew Ward made our first shinkansen site. Which is why we moved to London Bridge with shinkansen because we thought – we’ve got to be near these big computers. It was 1995-96. In about 1998-99, a group of artists made a project called web-scrawler and it won a prize. Basically it was something that you put on the site and it made a dynamic drawing of all of the things that went out from your site and all the links back in. Your site would be in the middle like mind maps. So the next thing we’d do is to write to, Coral would send an email to them to say we’ve done one to you, can you do one back because that’s again the dynamic energy that continues. So check web-scrawler I think it’s continued. It was very important at the time, it was the first visualization of that concept and how the network is constantly moving and dynamic – the virtual network and how you can use that and buzz off it.  
 
Coral Hyde
Can I also make another recommendation about a search engine, which uses a simple mind-mapping interface, which is called Web Brain? I believe it is webbrain.com, but it is a reflection of the search mechanism and you would be able to use it as you would understand a search engine but what you will see is what you’ve seen tonight, a kind of mind map for categorizing and structuring.  
 
Christopher Bannerman
We’re going to draw it to a close now. So thank you very much.

(Applause)

 
 
Ghislaine Boddington
Thanks everyone, and I think we’re going to put the website up on the screen at the end here.

Presentation by Shobana Jeyasingh

 
 
Sanjoy Roy
This presentation is about a site-specific work that Shobana has created for the opening of the Arts Depot, which is a new building in north London, launched last October. Shobana was invited to create a site-specific work for the building for the launch event and that is what the DVD was produced for. I came along rather later in the day, and my link to Shobana is as a dance writer. My first thoughts were to think about how the process of writing might link to the process of choreography. As a dance reviewer, I’m sure that most artists don’t think of what I do as actual creation and making, more talking about their creations but, I guess thinking about writing as a process, I then started to think about how different the choreographic process is and I’m just going to mention a couple of things.

Writing is basically a solitary activity. The medium that you’re working with is absolutely full of grammatical rules and rules of format, length and style and although you’re working within that, there are a whole series of things. If you don’t get them right, they are actually wrong, and as a medium both the techniques and technology are really both set in comparison with choreography. Choreography is a whole series of variables at any particular time. For a start it’s much more collaborative art, not quite inter-authored in this case, but I think I can say collaborative.

In this case, in addition to her dancers there were some musicians, there was in fact a conversation with the architect and contemporary choreography, even classical choreography has less rules than writing. With contemporary choreography you often have to make up a certain set of rules for each piece and the whole meaning of the piece is much more malleable. For me it just seems that there are a rather large number of things that are actually out of your immediate control. That’s a whole load of innumerables and variables. What interested me in this particular event were two other very undefined facets of the project, which were fundamental to it.

Firstly it was made for a particular building and when Shobana began to come up with some ideas, this was in fact a building site; it wasn’t actually built at the time. It was basically much more than a blank stage because it was actually, well, a site of possibilities…no concrete plans. Secondly it was done for a particular event where people were arriving for the launch of the building rather than simply to see the piece, so there was going to be an introductory part then people would go to a presentation with some lectures about the building and how it was constructed and who was going to use it, and afterwards there was going to be another performance. But how people would behave was also not going to be like how they would in the theatre. They were certainly drinking for example and there were no chairs. So Shobana, how did you feel needing to fill this vast field of innumerables and variables?

 
 
Shobana Jeyasingh
As you say, the first thing was that the building actually wasn’t there, which made planning for it quite an interesting challenge. We started off meeting in a café with the person who was commissioning, who was actually the director of the building and looking at architectural plans, which were also subtly changing as we proceeded to look at them. It started in an abstract way because I had no idea what the building was going to look like or feel like in a three dimensional way. I had a very one dimensional image of it, but there was something very exciting about that one aspect of it and I could see two stairwells and some lifts to the highest height of the space with the balcony. I thought it looked quite interesting and so I actually put in a proposal where the theatre would be the main focus the audience could see between the stairwells and the lifts. I had this idea that the dancers would be using the lift and coming out onto the public spaces.

The building had a huge atrium and so if you stood in the atrium you’d be able to see, or at least that’s what it looked like in the plans. You’d be able to see dancers emerging from the lifts up and down the stairs. I actually felt it would be quite interesting to make a piece about those kind of fluid spaces like stairwells, like lifts and I had these wonderful ideas about costume changes which they did in the lifts. I factored in the speed of the lift, the fact that they open and shut and they conceal the dancer, they reveal the dancer they let them be in a space which had that kind of potential invisibility and visibility so we kind of built up a huge project about making the dances there but when I went to what they call the ‘topping ceremony’ where they check the roof of the building, and still I couldn’t see what the building was really going to look like. It was still a building site. Finally right towards the end, I was able to go and see the building. I went away from London for a month and when I came back it was there, almost, and then I realized in fact what had looked very viable in the plans, actually couldn’t really be done.

The simple reason was that we were all looking at this plan and what I thought was this huge atrium looking at these lifts turned out to be a smaller space and this dotted line, which I hadn’t really taken much notice of, was the roof. So actually I realized as soon as I stepped into the space it was just not going to be possible because people would have had to crane their necks to actually look at these sites. I then had to quickly change everything and put it somewhere else and that’s actually before the building was painted and there was a rough sketch of the final building.

 
 
Sanjoy Roy
So Plan 1 was ditched and Plan 2 had really much more to do with the architecture as it developed and also related specifically to some conversations you had with the architect, so maybe you could describe the building as it now emerged, some of the main features and how you dealt with or what to do with them.  
 
Shobana Jeyasingh
Well, I think things began to move finally when the building was nearing completion, and also I was able to talk to the architect, which I couldn’t before, and that was actually the starting point because as I actually had a guided tour with the architect and I listened to his story of or his narrative of the building and that immediately sparked off you know, the kind of main ideas. The two things that I took away from that conversation, I mean I already noticed that the building used a lot of natural light. It had all these kind of incredible cutaways in the walls so at any point in the building you are always able to see what is outside.

There were a series of perspectives so wherever you were you were able to see a window or a cutaway and through that you could see another window and through that you could see the outside. So it was a building that seemed to me to conceal and reveal at the same time and it’s a theme that the architect also talked about, that he wanted it to be a building, which really in some ways opened out to what was outside. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the Arts Depot, but actually it’s in the middle of this huge roundabout in North Finchley and it’s in a site where the reason it’s called the Arts Depot is that it used to be a bus depot at some point so it was a place where everybody came and went. That was one of the things I think the architect took on board when he made the building. The other point which I noticed myself was that there weren’t any circular spaces in the building. The only circular things I saw were some pillars and I asked him why he had those pillars as a circular thing while everything else was actually quite angular and it reminded me of a Mondrian painting. He said he wanted some square pillars but they weren’t very friendly to the people who would be passing along because that was actually a prime communal space, so they had to be round.

Apart from these pillars everything else was actually quite angular and he hadn’t really provided any round spaces. When I thought about it most cafés or anywhere where you wanted people to congregate are usually provided with a place where people can sit around and then see each other and talk, that’s the start of any kind of human communication where you can see others. However in this space there were only long benches so you can’t see your neighbour and you have to relate to your neighbour in a kind of strange profile way by looking out at what was happening. We had a chat about human communication.

To me it seemed an incredible theatrical space because it forced you to display yourself and to observe other people displaying themselves rather than actually communicate with them, you know, eyeball to eyeball. He actually said that he didn’t want to give any spaces for people to hide, he didn’t want a café where people could disappear into a dark corner and just talk, and he wanted them to actually look at the building. So choreographically a very interesting idea reminded me again, (apart from the Mondrian) of an Egyptian Frieze, where you just didn’t have the three dimensional quality to human interaction. So those were the two elements I took away and started making the dance.

 
 
Sanjoy Roy
Well maybe you can explain about the first section, which was done for a particular part of the architecture with spectators in another particular part and there are certain features like a glass panel and the window behind it.  
 
Shobana Jeyasingh
Shall I talk about how I chose the two spaces?  
 
Sanjoy Roy
Yes, and then talk about that.  
 
Shobana Jeyasingh
So finally, having thought about the building, rather than having one space as I had originally thought about, I chose two spaces, which I thought would give a very contrasting perspective for the audience. So space one was the balcony, which the audience actually looked at from the foyer, so I had to imagine. It was a quite strange thing because usually I always make for the theatre and I don’t usually worry too much about the audience, in fact I don’t think about them until I get there and wonder why there aren’t more of them. But here actually in some ways I had to choreograph the audience, which you couldn’t because you didn’t know what they were going to do but in my head I had to have a plan as to how the audience would behave. So my first dancers/bodies… so I had to imagine a story where the audience would come in and that would be how the dance started. At the Arts Depot the audience have to come up an escalator to actually come to the theatre itself so I had to imagine my frame one is heads just coming up the escalator so that’s how you saw them, you came up and then gradually kind of emerged in a kind of vertical way. Then they were going to be in the foyer talking and having wine. They were then going to go into the theatre to have a lecture given by Tessa Jowell and come out again.

So actually I made it so that these dance interventions happened with that in mind. So I just presumed they were going to be talking and chatting and really the first dance episode happened in this balcony. I didn’t want to have a fanfare announce the performance so the dancer who was almost unnoticed began to dance on this balcony but actually in the event everyone stopped talking, they still carried on drinking but they weren’t chatting.

They all stopped and actually looked at the balcony, which wasn’t what I was expecting – at this point I thought they would ignore it and carry on their conversations. For the second site that I chose I didn’t want them to come down from the theatre, which was on the second level, so as soon as they emerged out, I wanted them to actually see something that was happening below them.

The first part would be where they were actually looking up at something, which was much more background, and the second part was they’d come out and actually there would be something much more performative happening in the atrium which had these pillars, so the second part of the dance was choreographed with the pillars in mind, and I think the other element that I wanted to have was to actually add a layer to the building and so I worked with a digital artist to in some way change the balcony, make the balcony into something other. I was thinking of like a bowl, like a fish tank – that’s really what it looked like because it had this glass panel. So it was the audience, the building, the digital artist, obviously the composer and the dancers, all together had to kind of make a narrative that included all these people.

 
 
Sanjoy Roy
Shall we have a look at the first balcony part.

(Video clip of dance)

 
 
Shobana Jeyasingh
So that’s a pretty typical section on the balcony, but the reason I chose that really was because one of the things I found when I started working putting dancers on the balcony was a wonderful optical illusion which it was only possible to have if you were standing in the foyer behind them. What is possible, which you can never get on stage is that the dancers could just disappear to the back, and even though the floor was flat it was just an illusion it was possible to use, so we had quite an interesting way of making the dancers disappear, because at the beginning they came on and you saw them leaving and then in the middle of the piece actually they would roll off and disappear and then we had two kinds of exits; they came on and you saw them leaving and then in the middle of the piece they would suddenly pop up at the back like they did there because what you don’t see is the fact that they all left the space, so it’s quite a magical thing to play with really. Sometimes when you work in the theatre, I find that I’m very frustrated that they can only exit through the wings, and sometimes I wish like a film maker I could just do an edit and everyone would disappear and leave a spare stage, or you could just whisk them up. That would be great but of course that’s not possible. So here one had a kind of interesting scenario where there were real time dancers, it was in a physical space, yet they had this way of entering and exiting which was quite seamless, so that was what made it interesting on the balcony, as you can see cause of what we showed. That’s the only formal bit that happened in the balcony because in the beginning it actually has a completely different feel.

(Video clip of dance)

 
 
Sanjoy Roy
Before moving on to the foyer section, there’s something particular about that balcony section, which for me is a very Shobana and it links to the architecture quite a lot. The architecture itself, as Shobana mentioned, was very ‘Mondrian’ and it’s very geometrical, very artificial, and here the sense of an aquarium with fronds and seaweed. I think something that Shobana finds interesting is that a lot of people think of the artificial and the organic as rather opposed at opposite ends of the spectrum, and here especially with the overlay of the fronds very clearly being generated from a computer process. It sort of thematically became appropriate to the architecture where the architect was very much talking about the light and plains but at the same time about how people in a more organic way would use it. I don’t know if you’d like to comment on that.  
 
Shobana Jeyasingh
I’d love to comment on that. Yes, actually when I saw the building, it’s a very geometric construct, the whole building, and as we’re saying by human interaction in some ways it seemed to throw up an ideal human interaction which…wasn’t very organic, It didn’t promote a sort of eyeball to eyeball contact. I feel that in the end the piece that I made for that building was Foliage Chorus and I was actually quite surprised how the word foliage came into it because when you look at the building, foliage is probably the last thing you’d think about because it was actually like a garden of Eden type of building. It’s a very abstract, type of intellectual building, but one of the things I’ve always thought about as a choreographer and I continually have as a source of anxiety for me is how, the more I work with bodies the less they feel like organic entities and I kind of feel that the boundary between us and the artificial, I find actually more and more, no less and less convincing. And I find that a source of anxiety for myself. And when I make dance on bodies I’m always very aware that these bodies are, or they seem to me to be shifting and not very reassuring anymore for me.

So making the piece for the building, I think it became a kind of statement of that because I began to think what sort of foliage, it seemed to me quite natural to think about what kind of foliage you’d see in this building and so the piece became the Foliage Chorus and I think the dance was like the logical organisms that I wanted to come out of a building of that kind. And so one of the things we did for the computer graphics was that we found a formula which, I think it was a biologist had come up with which actually articulated the way trees proliferated and the animation actually used that formula. So actually what we had the fronds, in some ways I think they captured it perfectly the kind of border attention between the organic and the artificial because they’re very frond like and they obviously, they don’t have the rhetoric of the frond. They just have the structure of the frond.

 
 
Sanjoy Roy
I’ll just very quickly say something about the foyer section. We’re actually going to take some questions, rather talk about it in detail. It was more traditionally, it was in more of a theatrical space, it was in an atrium and it was more upbeat. It used the pillars a lot and we could call it, instead of pole dancing, it was pillar dancing. But we’re actually going to take questions after we show you this last clip…

(Video of performance)

 
 
Shobana Jeyasingh
Pillars have always been fascinating, maybe it’s my kind of Indian memory because, it’s a very Indian thing, I think if you’re Indian, especially with Indian classical dance or visiting lots of Indian temples. Women and pillars seem to have a kind of natural symbiosis, I don’t know why. One of the kind of fertility symbols that you find is actually a young woman clutching a pillar, so that’s one of the images I used here. The camera is at the wrong angle because actually you can’t see the mechanics of how the young woman actually slid down the pillar but believe me, when you’re actually in the balcony, it looked much better from there. So really the foyer bit is a kind of party piece, as the people came out from listening to the speeches, I just presumed Tessa Jowell’s speech wouldn’t be that interesting, I might have been wrong but as they came out the music was very loud and it was actually very fast dancing. And then at the back, in real life, the atrium is actually quite spare, but we had this motion capture projection there, which was a camera which very obliquely captured the dancers’ movements and then actually generated the pattern that you see there at the back. I think that’s all I have to say about the foyer really.  
 
F
I’m sure you know Finchley is renowned as being the leafiest boroughs in London so it was actually trying to bring the outside in.  
 
Shobana Jeyasingh
That’s actually quite true. Finchley is a leafy borough.  
 
Christopher Bannerman
With the exception of the Arts Depot. OK, I’ll ask a question. How about making sense of all that in DVD format. We’ve seen screen techniques.  
 
Sanjoy Roy
Well, as with the process of creation, what actually happened when we got the filming was different to what was planned. Along with Richard Coldman who organized the filming, we did have a brilliant plan whereby the audience would be moving around chatting, having their drinks and the balcony section would be basically happening in the background. We had a plan that we’d have a fixed camera to record the balcony and then a moving camera to basically simulate the experience of the audience. What eventually happened was that the audience all stopped completely still and looked in one direction. So there was one whole take of the DVD where we only used as a background to an interview.

I think Richard was very resourceful in using the material from that to illustrate the points that Shobana was making in conversation. The other thing I think about this particular DVD is the structure, and the framework is very straightforward. There’s a track with Shobana talking in response to questions by myself and also with John Thornberry, the architect, which basically takes you through the process. Then there are two tracks which are the still shots of the two sections of the performance which gives you a good angle on it and for me, we did think about doing lots of cross-links and so on. But apart from becoming brilliantly expensive on a CD-Rom or a DVD-Rom, I personally really like it straightforward in style. I actually write in print so I really like those linear type things with three options. I don’t know how you feel about that but that’s what I felt.

 
 
Shobana Jeyasingh
I suppose, in some ways the conversations about the ideas and the comments of the architect are quite appropriate in order to make the format quite simple and it wasn’t really about showing the performance. Obviously if we wanted to show the performance we would actually have to film it in a much more expensive way, so the performance was just going to be documented.  
 
Sanjoy Roy
The performance was really as an illustration.  
 
Shobana Jeyasingh
Yes. Not that any kind of documentation could be a perfect illustration. Obviously it can’t be. It’s a partial documentation of what happened.  
 
Christopher Bannerman
Have we stirred you into further questions? If not then we could move in to another phase of whether there are issues or points that people want to raise about the whole evening. We would like to say thanks to Shobana and Sanjoy.

There are two parts to the rest of the evening. First is this more formal opportunity to make points or pose questions about any particulars or general overview points. And the second part is a more relaxed social in which you can also exchange your views over a glass of wine, or water or juice.

Then before we close this formal part, my duty is to say thank you a whole number of people. And first of course is the internal ResCen team who did so much to put this evening together. Marianne Tyler, Helen Ryan, Dominique Rivoal, who’s filming me as I speak, Joshua Sofaer, who leapt into action whenever necessary and also Andrew Lang who is our ResCen web designer who has been working feverishly over the past few days. And I’d like to thank NESTA who are our funders for the our Navigating the Unknown project, and I should also point out that there are three other ResCen artists who will be presenting work in the autumn, Richard Layzell and Rosemary Lee, and Graeme Miller.

They will each be presenting their recent work in the autumn, so keep your eyes open for that. Please log on the website, tell us what you think. There’s an interactive forum there, so lots of responses would be very useful and perhaps I should turn now to the person who organized this evening, did most to organize this evening, that’s Jane Watt, who has also been working on another production as you may notice when she stands up. She will be away from us for a while, we will miss her enormously but we are looking forward to inviting, welcoming her back to ResCen with the patter of tiny feet as well, and so thank you very, very much Jane for all the work you have done in putting this together. Thank you.

 
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