Home Centre People Events Publications
Blogs Links Contact Search Sitemap
In this section:
spacer spacer
  Knowledge generation
ResCen 15 Years
G Boddington Symposium
E Wallen Symposium
Artists Open Doors
Emerging Voices
Artist Exchange
Navigating Process
Mapping Processes
Outside Looking In
Making Space
 down arrow Mis-seeing
Seminar transcript
Discussion forum
spacer spacer
Motivation: the artist and the psychoanalyst
the Motivation of the Artist
the Artist: working?…playing?
the Artist as Catalyst
Transformation and
the Artist
Intuition and the Artist
NtU Book Launch
Postgrad Seminars 01
Virtual Physical Bodies
spacer spacer
Mis-seeing: vision, experience and prejudice
in the creative process
Presented by ResCenspaceronline forum

with guest Daniel Glaser

Wednesday 17 November 2004

Venue: The Theatre Museum
Russell Street, Covent Garden, London WC2E 7PR

Research Associates:
  Ghislaine Boddington
    Shobana Jeyasingh
    Richard Layzell
    Rosemary Lee
    Graeme Miller
    Errollyn Wallen
Guest Speaker :
  Daniel Glaser [web link]
  Professor Christopher Bannerman
edited by:
  Jane Watt
photographs by:
  Vipul Sangoi
Group photo


This seminar transcript can be downloaded in full
as an Adobe Acrobat pdf file (file size: 352 KB)

spacer spacer spacer
  Introduction by   
Christopher Bannerman   
Christopher Bannerman Good evening friends. Welcome to this ResCen seminar, which is entitled ‘Mis-seeing: vision, experience and prejudice in the creative process’. My name is Chris Bannerman and I’m Head of ResCen, the Centre for Research into Creation in the Performing Arts at Middlesex University. I’m delighted to be joined this evening by our six research associate artists. Starting here on my left we have Richard Layzell, Rosemary Lee, Ghislaine Boddington. Then skipping one special person, we then have Graeme Miller, Shobana Jeyasingh, and Errollyn Wallen. Our special guest in the middle is Daniel Glaser.

This is the second in our series of public seminars for this academic year, and we’re delighted that Daniel Glaser can join us. He is an imaging neuroscientist, and Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College, London. This evening Daniel and the Research Associates will explore the relationship between artistic intention, creation and reception of creative work, focusing on specific examples from the Research Associates’ own practice. The group will consider: what happens when an intended outcome manifests itself differently than expected; to what extent artistic intention anticipates an audience; and the degree to which that intention is borne by the interpretation of the work. At least that’s where we started our internal discussions yesterday. My expectation of what may emerge this evening may be overturned of course, but I do know with certainty it will be a stimulating, and provocative evening.

Daniel may be known to many of us here tonight as his work has spanned disciplinary boundaries. He has been engaged in the arts as well as in science. I became aware of his work when, in 2002, he was appointed Scientist in Residence at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), in London. This was the first appointment of its kind in an arts institution, and a very significant moment for the arts, and for science. During that residency he collaborated with the ICA curators to present talks, panel discussions, dance workshops and psychological experiments. He uses functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine human brain function. This involves putting people into a powerful magnet to see which bits of the brain are active when they perform various tasks. He is particularly interested in top-down influences on low-level processing. This is how experience, prejudice and expectation alter the way in which we see the world. He may tell us later a bit more about that, so I won’t go into detail.

He has worked on a collaborative project with dance experts examining the connection between seeing and doing, and how being expert in something may change how you see that thing. He also comes from an unusual academic background. His first degree began in Maths, he then moved on to English Literature at Cambridge. He has a Masters in Cognitive Science from Sussex University and has undertaken graduate work in neurobiology. He has made numerous appearances on national and local radio, and featured in articles in daily newspapers and on the internet. He chairs the ICA’s Café Scientifique, which is the London branch of a national series of meetings that provide a new way for scientists to interact with the general public. Perhaps I can also say he has recently been awarded a Fellowship from NESTA, the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts. Is that public Daniel?


  Daniel Glaser      It is now! It is gradually becoming more public.


  Chris Bannerman     We too are funded by NESTA, so that’s even more reason for Daniel to be with us this evening. So welcome to Daniel and to all our research associates. The format of the evening will be as follows: we will hear a short presentation from Daniel; we will hear responses from each of the Research Associate artists in which they draw on their expertise in their own creative practice. Then we’ll hear from you, the audience, so be prepared.

Now, as you might imagine, I need to say thank you to all my ResCen colleagues: Research Associate Jane Watt for organising tonight’s seminar; Research Fellow Joshua Sofaer for his help in a number of areas; to the ResCen Administrator Natalie Daniel for managing the booking process this evening and for many other things as well; thanks too, to Helen Ryan for managing the finances. We have Yael Lowenstein to thank for videoing this evening’s proceedings, Vipul Sangoi who will be taking photographs, Leon Lewis for providing the vegetarian food that will help us to extend the conversation more informally after the formal bit of this evening. In addition, a special thanks to our web designers, Roberto Battista, who is with us this evening, and Andrew Lang. They have, along with the ResCen team, worked magic on our website. We have some exciting new developments on that website, so please have a look at www.rescen.net. We need to say, again, a special thank you to our funders NESTA. This seminar is part of a NESTA-funded project called Navigating the Unknown in the creative process. Thanks too to the Theatre Museum for hosting this event.

We have begun a process of gathering feedback on our seminars, so there are questionnaires for you this evening. If you haven’t filled one out on a previous occasion, please do fill one out and give it back to us this evening. It is also available on our website, which now also features an online forum. So if there are thoughts about this evening that you don’t have a chance to express, or things that emerge after further reflection, go to our website and tell us what you think. The online forum for this seminar is ready for this evening, so hopefully you’ll be ready as well.

Finally, the next seminar will be at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) at 7.30pm on 12 January 2005. Our special guest will be Doreen Massey, Professor of Geography at the Open University whose special research interests involve various aspects of the theorisation of 'space' and 'place'.. And now on with this evenings event - thank you all so much for coming. We begin with Daniel Glaser.


  Daniel Glaser      Thanks very much Chris. One always feels with these extended biographies that one’s life is flashing before one…


  Chris Bannerman      It’s quite a life though.


  Daniel Glaser      Daniel GlaserWell, so far, I have two things to do after I thank Chris and everyone for hosting me yesterday and inviting me to this seminar series. What I need to tell you about first of all is some of the work I’ve been doing, why it’s involved dancers and what we found. So I’m going to give you a bit of cognitive neuroscience. I’m also going to layer on a bit of theory about the way that I think scientists and artists, or non-scientist experts, as I prefer to call them, can collaborate. So there are two different strands. Part of the point I’ll be making is that the two strands are interlinked in my case.

I work in the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, which is in Queen Square, in Bloomsbury. One way of starting off is to tell you how cognitive neuroscience came to be. Cognitive neuroscience is what happened when psychology and neurobiology met. So if you think about the history of people in the twentieth century who have looked at the brain, there are psychologists who were called behaviourists. They liked black boxes and did lots of tests, but as a matter of theoretical principle, many explicitly claimed not to be interested at all in what was going on inside the head. Where I come from, is neurobiology. Right up to the 1990s and even now neurobiologists frequently study brains in vats. In many cases it is quite literally animal brains in vats. A lot of the visual science, neurobiology, and the stuff I did in my PhD is with an animal that is anaesthetised. You give it a stimulus, you measure the responses in the brain. You think of the brain like an information processing machine which tries to make sense of the world. It does this by looking at dots in the world, building the dots into lines, the lines into objects, the objects into patterns and the patterns into people. So that’s what has been happening over the last ten to fifteen years, and I think it’s fair to say that these two communities – psychologists and neurobiologists – have been coming together with an exponential growth.

The first point to make is that people worry about the art/science divide. They should try getting two scientists who come from different areas of sciences to talk together. It turns out that if you look at this as a sociologist, the social mechanisms that keep groups apart work just as well for keeping neurobiologists and psychologists apart, or even systems neurobiologists and molecular neurobiologists, as well as scientists and artists. So what are those mechanisms? Well firstly we speak different languages. We pride ourselves on using words which nobody else understands or, even worse using words which people think they understand until they hear us use them in a different way. Then they get alienated. So, for example, practice was a word which I had to get to know a lot more. What is practice? Its what makes you perfect.

In neurobiology we published in coterie journals, that means journals that are principally read by our mates and are designed to be largely inaccessible to people that aren’t our mates. We have conferences where we only invite people we like, and we sit and have coffee with each other. So with all of these processes, we form institutes. Ideally we form institutes which either have our names in them, or the names of what we think we do, just to make sure that people who don’t do what we do wouldn’t dream of coming to work there! So this formation of disciplinary boundaries has, what I would call, a fractal dimension. That is to say that they look the same at all scales. Its just like the coastline of Britain: it looks the same as you zoom in, and in, and in. Even within our department building there are the motor neurologists and the visual neurologists, or there are the cognitive neurologists and the neurobiologists.

So that happens and part of my role, both here, and back in the lab is to try and find a common language between the psychologists and the neurobiologists. The language in the case of science is also about the way you do science, the way you tell your scientific stories. So there are ways of designing an experiment which a psychologist would use and which a neurobiologist wouldn’t use. A couple of weeks ago, I came back from the Neuroscience Convention in San Diego where there were thirty thousand neuroscientists. I was with my colleague in the hotel room the night before the convention and I was wondering if I should tell the delegates that we did a ‘two by three factorial design’ or are they just going to hate me and ignore everything I say afterwards? I mean you all hate me for saying it at all because that’s a psychological way of talking about the experiment. So I was anxious as to whether I should mention describing the experiment that way to the neurobiologists in case they felt alienated and didn’t listen to the rest of the talk, so these interdisciplinary boundaries and I work to make things that happen across them.

Now, does that mean that I’m against disciplinary boundaries? The answer is no, I don’t think I am. I see these interdisciplinary boundaries as being like membranes. If you think from a biological perspective, one of the bases of life is what’s called homeostasis; that is keeping yourself, homeo the self, static. That means maintaining, let’s say your temperature, or your concentration of salts or whatever, with respect to the environment. If your membrane is permeable to all things its a lousy membrane. That’s how detergents work: they break down membranes and make stuff flow through them. Membranes are selective barriers, they keep some stuff in and they keep other stuff out. If you don’t have membranes, you don’t have barriers. Then you’ve got mush. So interdisciplinarity is not about breaking down barriers. We’re interested in having barriers, but we’re interested in smart barriers that are permeable in certain ways. They allow things to evolve and change, but still maintain an integrity.

Then to zoom out, for example, you can think of the kinds of processes that I’m engaged in as being a reaction to a thing called sci-art. Who here has heard of sci-art? It must be everyone, surely? Who’s not heard of sci-art? Good, it’s nice to know that the tentacles have not spread completely. Sci-art is a good example of the fact that scientists and artists follow the money. Sci-art is a project richly funded by the Wellcome Trust as well as a process and a practice. But I think it’s fair to say that it is influenced by the fact that there is money in it, would anyone disagree?

Quite a lot of what I’ve done has been in response to sci-art, not as a criticism of it. Ken Arnold at the Wellcome, who its fair to say is a mate of mine – we have dinner together often – agrees with most of the points I have to make. I’m not sure if he’d see them as criticisms, they’re observations. So one of the things that I think sci-art has made problematic, is the necessity of parallel engagement; that people on both sides of the divide should proceed in parallel. We should make sure that at no point, is the scientist doing more than the artist, or the artist more than scientist. I think that’s quite silly and, and it ends up with people doing all sorts of unhelpful contortions to make sure they’re not leaving anyone behind. So that’s one of the problems with sci-art, and the other thing I think is that sci-art thinks it’s making a new end point, a new set of results of things which are themselves both science and art, three’s a sort of a combination of the two, a new hybrid discipline.

Now there are plenty of very smart people like Sarah Diamond (it doesn’t matter if you’ve not heard of her). She has an institute in Banff in Canada, which, as far as I can see, she and others have tried to form as a new institute, a new discipline. Science is part of the history, the root of that discipline, as is art, but it is a new thing unto itself. As far as I can see, they are doing the right thing, they’re starting to invent a language that no one can understand, they’re having parties, they’re going to invite other people too, they’ve got their coterie journals and they don’t talk to anyone who doesn’t agree with them [joking]. So, in a sense they’re becoming a fully fledged discipline and that’s cool in my view.

But the process that I’m interested in being part of is a slightly different one. It’s called a convergent divergent model, which I will explain, and having explained it I’ll then tell you a little bit about the results that wave had for a science project which I think fits with that model.

So what the convergent divergent model looks like is that you start with people who come from different places. Those of you who know the NESTA Dream Time Fellowship will know that the recipients have to have at least ten years of achievement in some domain, and that they have to be excellent and innovative. I think that’s cool, you’ve got to come from somewhere. If you start off saying I am a child of the world, I talk with all, it seems kind of unhelpful generally, you want people who have origins. So in the convergent divergent model, there is this convergence of people who come from different places. They converge into a project and they engage in this rich process of collaboration. I call it the orgy model collaboration, this kind of Dionysian creative frenzy, and what Phillip Dodd at the ICA, (has he gone now?), calls promiscuous interpenetrations. It is one of his favourite phrases in the cultural realm. A promiscuous cultural interpenetration is the notion that it doesn’t matter who’s doing what to whom, in fact at a certain point you may even lose track of who’s doing what to whom.

This Dionysian moment is the creative sense of it. If you are a scientist and you are working with a choreographer, it’s actually okay for the choreographer to say I think this design sucks, I think you’ve got the wrong control group, or this interpretation of the results is wrong, or are you sure the stats are doing what you think they’re doing? And equally, you might say, as a scientist, this passage doesn’t work, it’s got to move faster. In this situation, no one is going to say shut up, you’re a scientist. So that’s all good.

Then the divergent phase which follows is as you work towards production. What I’m advocating for this argument is that productions are best set in a regular context. So in my case what I do is science, and my end points are peer reviewed scientific publications. I’m happy to say that the work I’m about to describe has been successfully peer reviewed recently. We were very happy about that, and we talk at conferences to other scientists and it gets reframed within our home discipline. Equally the artist may go off and make an artistic product, and the assessments of that will be things like performed in front of an audience, reviews in The Guardian and successful funding.

So that seems good. Again, if I wanted to criticise some sci-art projects, I’d say that they ended up failing to be a product in either domain, failing by all criteria. For example: it was quite a boring exhibition, but at least the scientific content was really good; or the theatre production didn’t really work but at least it had been produced in collaboration with scientists; or the experiment was a dumb experiment but there’d been a lot of input from painters, from a scientific point of view. So I think I would argue that that the safest way to get away from that is to ground your end points in home domains. I think, of necessity, that also means that the intensity and the degree of collaborations is what we call phasic in science. That means it’s not tonic, it’s not a constant amount. At some parts of the project, there’ll be more engagement and at other parts there’ll be less. So that’s my story about collaboration.

Now let me give you a quick sketch of a couple of experiments that we’ve been doing, and again because they’re a cognitive neuroscience we had to use the insights from non-scientists to do them. So, I’m a visual neuroscientist and what I try do is to understand how the brain makes sense of the world. Once you take the brain out of the vat, once you wake the animal up, once you start working with humans, you realise that perception is not a passive process. I mean, in physical terms the photons come into the eye. Descartes and the Greeks reckoned that seeing was a kind of active process, with seeing rays coming out of the eye and feeling the world. I think that’s pretty much correct. What roughly happens, is that you’ve got a set of models in your head, and you’re constantly projecting them out into the world and trying to see what matches and what doesn’t. That’s another way of saying that I’m interested in how prejudice and expectation shape the way you see the world.

In the last few years, I’ve become increasingly interested in how your own ability to move, and your own knowledge about movement, helps you to see other people moving. What we have discovered, or what we’re discovering, is that it is a particular kind of expertise. Now, I just want to make it clear that it’s not the only way of seeing movement. If something falls over, a leaf falls down or a car goes past, even if you’re not a mechanic, you can understand movement in purely visual terms. But it just so happens that when you’re a biological system seeing another biological system move, then you can use extra information. It is information that is not just based on your visual experience of the world, but based on the fact that you are, yourself, a moving agent. You can project your own movement experience, that which you know how to do, and you can use it to help you see other people moving.

So, let me describe a couple of pieces of evidence for that. One is that some of you may have seen a thing called the point light display. Now if you haven’t seen it then Google point light display (it seems to me that Google is even more now than a verb, its really a way of life, you can go out and Google it). The idea is that you attach light bulbs to the joints of people – the wrists, the elbows, the shoulders, the head, sometimes the neck, the hips, the knees, the ankles and then you darken the room. We actually did this at the Royal Institution on Friday with infra-red lights so the room was quite dim and you could still see the person, but on the screen all you could see are the dots from the joints. It turns out that you can see the movement of that person very clearly just from the pattern of dots. Now, there is a very interesting thing when you show someone a number of different people moving, some of them strangers, some of them friends and neighbours and colleagues, and some filmed with that person herself, all in point lights so that all she is seeing is patterns of dots. Firstly, we know that she can recognise herself differently from others and can recognise individuals just from the pattern of movement of dots. She can also recognise emotions. There are new results that show that even more than recognising herself, she can see herself from all different angles, from the front, from the side, from the back. That’s something she can’t actually do with her friends, with her friends she’s better at recognising them when they’re walking towards her than when she sees them walking in profile. This is just the detail of the result.

Now ask yourself how could it possibly be that you recognise yourself moving better than you recognise your mates? It makes absolutely no sense from a visual perspective because we do not spend lots of time watching ourselves moving, especially not the whole body from a distance. Perhaps we see our arms moving but not the whole body.

So it seems to me this is a rare example of there being a very, very strong interpretation that we can make directly from the result. The only plausible account of this result that I have is that you are using your own movement patterns to read the movement of the dots. When you use your own movement patterns to read your own dots the movement resonates more strongly than when you’re looking at other patterns of dots. Now there are scientists here who know more even than I do on this subject and we can have an argument about that interpretation later, but it’s part of a large amount of growing body of evidence that we use our abilities to see the people moving in the world.

The last thing I want to tell you about is the experiments we’ve been doing recently. We wondered whether your own personal motor experience – the things that you’d learn over a lifetime of training would also change the way you see the world. The motivation for that was, for me, from high diving. When I see these guys diving off the board I have no idea what’s going on. The commentator will say that it’s amazing, he has just done a double back somersault with two half twists and a pike. Even in slow motion I can’t see it, and yet it’s clear that the commentator can see it. It’s clear that, for example, football commentators tend to be former footballers.

So are these people seeing differently because of their motor abilities? To test this, we took two groups of movement experts: ballet dancers, classically trained from the Royal Ballet; and Capoeira dancers. Capoeira is a Brazilian martial arts form. We used Capoeira because, like ballet, you can write down specific moves and, if a practitioner reads that move off the page he’ll do the move in quite a reproducible way. We worked with a fabulous choreographer called Tom Sapsford. We got him to design us a series of ballet moves that physically matched the Capoeira moves. So when the Capoeira person did a step to the left, step to the right and a kick then we got a ballet move written down that was the same thing with a twirl. We showed these different sets of moves to the two sets of practitioners in a brain scanner. We looked at the activation in their motor cortex, that’s the bits of the brain that ordinarily control movement, and do movement planning. We also looked in the visual parts of their brain. What we found was that when these practitioners were seeing the things that they can do, their motor brain – the movement brain – was more active than when they were seeing the thing that they can’t do. Even though they were not physically moving they were lying as still as they could in the scanner their movement brain was more resonating with, and more excited by the thing they can do than the thing they can’t. We also put people like me, who can’t do any of this stuff, in the scanner and their motor brain, their visual brain, responded equally to the two kinds of movements. So there really was a direct resonance. What we’re seeing is the first evidence of our own motor experience changing the way we see the world.

There is another experiment which we just did and which I’m not going to tell in more detail, beyond to say that there’s a wrinkle in the first experiment because to become a Capoeira expert, or a ballet expert, you have to do a lot, but you also have to see a lot, of ballet. We did a smart experiment with male and female ballet moves and showed that when you show the boys male moves they respond more strongly than when you show them female moves. In classical ballet, boys tend to do male moves and girls tend to do female moves. So we were able to distinguish between visual experience, because in the studio, the boys look at the girls and girls watch the boys for years and years. They have equal visual experience of both, but they only have motor experience of one. We’ve shown that this resonance is really due to the motor programmes inside you, not just your visual experience.

So, we get it published. We do science, we make a living, that’s good. But we couldn’t have done that experiment, both in terms of the stimuli, the subjects, the analysis and the interpretation without intimate collaboration with movement professionals. It seems to me that from my side, and now I’ll hear perhaps for non-scientist sides, that in many cases, they have been studying the same questions, memory, personality, consciousness, movement, vision, for hundreds and thousands of years. In a way we have been segregated until recently from scientific factors. I think that the way forward for neuroscience is to be working with the non-scientist experts in a mature academic fashion with a coherent discourse. I think a lot of the unexpected results we’re getting from cognitive neuroscience are from precisely the kinds of interactions which forums like this one are designed to promote, even if we end up back in the lab with a peer review paper from time to time. That’s it for now, thanks for listening.


  Chris Bannerman     Very stimulating and Daniel is on good form today, as he was yesterday. Our Research Associates are no doubt formulating their thoughts, but just a couple of quick thoughts from me. Some things arose in yesterday’s discussion. One being that perhaps an audience is going to be more stimulated by seeing movement that they themselves can do. Indeed you might be saying that if you saw yourself on stage it would be the most powerful experience for you. Also, that Dionysian moment, which sounds so wonderful, in which no one is quite sure who is doing what to whom and yet there is an end product. That end product exists within disciplinary boundaries and of course arguably creative artists in the performing arts have to have an awareness of that end product. Arguably their living, their livelihood depends upon that end product. So, yes, there is the Dionysian moment, but there is also the end product as well, which clearly has a set of expectations and might set up a set of perceptual distinctiveness in each artwork.

We will now hear from the Research Associates and see what points they have picked up on. And well start at this end I think, with Richard Layzell.


  Richard Layzell     Richard LayzellOkay. Well I suppose I was thinking about my brain and I was thinking about the brain of a friend of mine who is a scientist. He won the Nobel Prize a few years ago. He is President of Rockefeller University. He’s called Paul Nurse and he was a Government advisor on science. He’s a regular bloke as well, and we communicate. As far as I know, he’s been researching cell division in yeast all this time, and clearly made some extraordinary discoveries in that area. He’s very personable. But where did we go wrong? Where did I go? When we were teenagers, I impressed him with my identification of a wild flower of which he didn’t know the name. What was that about? Was it that he was shocked at my level of recognition as a botanist, which I wasn’t? So what’s wrong with my brain? Well that’s one thought.

On being expert, I don’t particularly feel expert in anything, as someone who is an interdisciplinary artist. But I know what I think. I think I know what I think. I know what I want sometimes. So I suppose I’m taking this back to the original point that Chris raised where you start with something and it seems convincing and then it changes. I have chosen something that I made. It’s very relevant to a point that Daniel made about the new hybrid discipline idea. It’s probably ten years ago now, more probably. Lois Kedan, who’s probably Nobel Prize material herself, runs the Live Art Development Agency. She was working for the Arts Council and the ICA (I can’t remember which came first, I think the ICA came first, it doesn’t matter). She set up something at the Arts Council called the New Collaborations Fund, which was her idea to generate hybrid activity that stemmed from the live art area, which was also a term that evolved around this time. So why expand the territory of performance art to become live art? Well, I don’t think I want to go into that, but clearly there was a reason for it and it worked, it’s been a successful expansion of a piece of territory. The New Collaborations Fund, well as Daniel says, I thought of the money, and thought that this is interesting, I think I’ll apply for this. So I made an application to the New Collaborations Fund for something that approached new audiences and was collaborative across art forms. I wanted to work with an African drummer called Isaac Tagoe, brother of Emmanuel Tagoe, founder member of Adzido whom I also knew. Isaac was my drumming teacher at the time, and I thought that I could work with him. I put this proposal together, I might quote from it briefly: “A networking project that brings live art and African drumming to the blind, the deaf and school/community groups culminating in large scale performances”.

I had to reduce it to a few words, lots more words were in the proposal. Well I got the money, and then the story began. I learnt about blind communities, deaf communities, and the terminology. It was a long, quite difficult journey. It was very confrontational to me. I realised that my early initial thoughts of what would work, weren’t going to work in the way that I thought. So the research period which this funding was for was, was a huge learning process: in terms of disability; in terms of my use of terminology; in terms of my understanding; in terms of working with Isaac which didn’t go tremendously well, as my understanding of him and what I thought he could do with me, didn’t quite go in that direction.

[Holds up a large folder] But I found this huge report that I wrote about this research period. The report is an extraordinary act of love. The linking theme of the project was the sense of touch, but the work I put into this report, which was seen by one person, is just staggering. I have no memory of this since I picked it off the shelf. There’s bits of detail, there’s holes in pages. You are welcome to have a look at it later, because then more people would see it. I’m holding it up for people, I always hold up something, there we go, there we are. This isn’t my drawing, this is one of the other collaborator’s drawings…

So this was the research phase, but where it led to was that this could not be a performance. It would work as an installation, and this installation was very successful. It was subsequently seen by a hundred thousand people in four cities. It could still be touring today, but I thought it was time to stop it in the late nineties. It was called Tap Rattle and Shave, having initially been called Drum Touch. I suppose when I was looking into this, first of all I wondered what I’d originally said, probably four or five years before it reached its zenith. Then some of the images which were taken by a photographer who was a former student of mine called Amy Robins. There are some very lovely photographs of people experiencing it when it was at the Festival Hall. [Flicking through the folder] That’s a very nice one, another nice one here, another nice one here. I was very happy with the piece, I suppose I still am. But there was also a letter from a solicitor in the file, Stephens Innocent, the solicitors who deal with artists:

Dear Richard,

I gather that so-and-so is still looking for a lawyer. I know this because coincidentally he contacted a colleague of mine who was not aware that I was acting for you…

So I’m not going to tell you what this was about, but the breadth of experience including solicitors’ letters, contributed to a vastly changed piece of work. I haven’t got a conclusion, I suppose I just thought I would share that with you. I’ll stop, because I’ve probably gone on a bit, thank you.


  Chris Bannerman      We’ll proceed along the long line if that’s okay, Rosemary Lee next.


  Rosemary Lee      Rosemary LeeI’ve got a bit of a hotchpotch of questions and thoughts that have come up from today and yesterday listening to Daniel, particularly around seeing and knowing. If, as a supposed expert in movement, when I see movement, the bit of brain that controls movement and the bit that perceives movement gets more oxygen – not that I know how that feels – than the brain of someone who hasn’t danced that movement, what does that tell me about the audience’s response? Does it mean that I need an audience of experts? What does it tell me about a disabled audience member who may never have moved in that way or may never move in that way? It has made me think a lot about what it is to see that movement. What does that tell me about how the audience might feel, because I guess, really I’m not as interested in how they look at things, but more how they feel. So how do feelings connect with how they’re seeing? And what does seeing mean?

It did make me think of something I’m a little ashamed to admit. I always say that I can’t see my own work for about three years. If I look at a video of it, I just can’t see it. I feel a bit like I do now; what on earth am I going to say about this? I guess it’s too confused with all my expectations, the story of how it was made, my feelings and empathy with the performers, nerves. I don’t know what stops me seeing. Or am I seeing it in a way that I can’t recognise that I’m seeing? Then three years later I’ll look at the video and I’ll see it and understand why someone said it was too long, or I’ll think that a particular bit was a really weak patch. I couldn’t see that weak patch before. I think that’s probably a weakness in my practice because I think maybe other people could see it straightaway and change it but I can’t manage that. But how? What is that telling me about how I’m seeing something? Where’s the oxygen going when I’m looking at my videos? God knows, down to my feet probably.

The other thing that it made me think about was talking about a common language, finding a common language, a non-alienating language. I suppose the most collaborative act that I enter into – and I collaborate a lot with film-makers, visual artists, composers, and performers – is the collaboration with the audience. So the collaborative bit that I’m interested in is how can I make the audience, or help the audience see the work in the way I want them to see it. I don’t think seeing is the right word, I think it might be feeling, I think it might be sensing. That might be because I’m more of a motor person than a visual person. How can I get them to have a similar sensation to the sensation I have when I’m imagining it and creating it? If it isn’t kinaesthetic sympathy, which I thought it was, if Daniel is telling us that people who haven’t done the movement aren’t going to quite get the same experience (although I may be misunderstanding it) what else am I trying to connect with the way the audience sees the movement? The last thing I was going to say is it really has made me think about virtuosity. I would say my work isn’t virtuosic, although I think the dancers with whom I work are extremely skilful and virtuosic . What they’re virtuosic at is being as natural, and as open, as they can be to the audience. I think sometimes something in me says virtuosity alienates an audience. Is that because they can’t do twenty pirouettes? Does that alienate them? Is that something that is connected with where the oxygen starts going when you see someone doing twenty-two pirouettes? Anyway that’s all I’ll say for now.


  Chris Bannerman      Ghislaine.


  Ghislaine Boddington      Ghislaine BoddingtonTo follow on from Rosie, I really agree with the question: how do you know you’re getting across to an audience in a way which is more than just a sense of everybody out there feeling that they don’t understand it, or can’t do it, or it is just a mystery, it is up on a pedestal? Most of us might say that it’s a sign of the times that we are even discussing this, because previously, when there was more of a star system situation, it was aimed at an audience who would respond to the mystery of it: a bit like “wow look at that, they do that and I can’t even imagine doing it”. 

So from my own work perspective, as many of you will know, I work in group processes all the time with shinkansen. When we started the company in 1999, it had an equal focus on the artist and the audience. That was very deliberate. As a group, we really wanted to take this focus. There was a lot of discussion about taking more notice of who the audience was. As you know, our brief is to make a piece for a particular target site for a venue, or festival, or whatever, but not just make what we want to but also make something that is needed within that environment or within that particular brief.

With the last three years of work we have been working on a technology based project Future Physical, which is about putting the body at the centre of digital interaction. That’s actually how I met Daniel. A link was made between us two or three years ago by Andrew Chetty. I think that link was made because we were both saying the same thing (and you know I’ve shouted about this for years too). Why is it that body researchers who are the most knowledgeable people about the body are not involved in the discussion about the body works with the scientists, the neuroscientists? Why is research going ahead without a direct interface with people who know about the body? So Future Physical set out to address this. About twenty or thirty projects were chosen specifically because they took the audience value at a straightforward level first and foremost. Some of these projects included proscenium arch projects with an audience which would normally be seen as passive. In pieces like Texterritory by Sharon Wray, the audience, and some of you may have done it, used their mobiles to text in what they wanted the performer to do next. They make choices about the work, so interactivity is happening.

The most important works, in relationship to our discussion tonight, are a series of seven or eight projects we did that involved groups of artists working in teams. There was a lot of collaboration, working towards making work in which they let go. They’re setting up interactive environments which are not for them to perform in but for the public to be creative in. We’re just finishing a report on those projects which is called The Creative User. It looks at a lot of these issues around how you can enable the arts go-er, or the general public to come to an event. Many of these events are not held in traditional arts venues, they are in circus spaces, or shopping centres, or clubs. This allows the free flow of those people to be creative within the space. We have been looking at the expectation of people coming into those environments. Many different methodologies are used at the moment to enable people to go further with the work. For example, guided situations which have performance situations that then allow the audience to be performative or to take over. In others we just let it free-flow, we put people into the environments and let it happen. Now those environments don’t necessarily have to be technology-led. It is in our case because body technology work is our base, but there are many examples through history – street theatre, carnival, social dance environments – that allow participation to happen. I was really fascinated to work with Daniel on this crossover with Tom Sapsford. That came through Future Physical where we looked at how people move from thinking “I can’t possibly do that” to a situation, or maybe a reflective moment where they’ve been shown what was happening by the guides, or by the performance ahead, and they just have to go for it. They’re in a space and there’s all these things to do, or play with, or move around, which means that they have to be the creatives within that environment.

Our report comes out in a couple of weeks. We used a lot of feedback from the case studies, we did a lot of market research of pre and post-performance expectation and perception. We looked at when people are in the environment, and the learning that happens when they are in those situations. We looked not just at the visual, but also the motion.

What I’d like to know more about is actually how that moves into the next stage, where we get beyond the sense of alienation of the audience and performer. I think there’s some interesting work happening in gaming. How much do you learn through games? Examples of gaming models are coming into education. They’re already used in military training. And how much do you learn if, say, you are a fairly good skateboarder and you use a skateboarding game? If you go up through phase one, phase two, phase three of the game, does that then go back into your physical skateboarding skills? We have talked about this before, there has been a lot of debate around that. Maybe, unless the gaming models are made up through motion capture of real-time, expert skateboarders, there isn’t that connection because they are animations which don’t quite work in the way that we can reflect into it. For example, a joint which bends like that doesn’t quite do the right bend because it’s actually an animated version from illustrative animation. So I wondered if you knew anymore about that side, Daniel? And how much further this research is going and what we learn in reflection points and feedback points?

I also wanted to quickly pick up on collaboration that you talked about at the beginning. I think that what you’re talking about is really fascinating in terms of how artists are beginning to work world-wide. We’re just working on a project in Japan at the moment where we’re having a data server – like a pool of content – set up where we all put jpeg images, or movies, or anything, on the theme of skin/touch/feel into that pool.  It is continuing our work around touch sensation. The contents of the pool are then there for everybody in this group of thirty or so of us, to use in any way we want, to make anything we want out of it. So we may well make one big performance, or people can go back in and take out material and use it for a photographic exhibition, or make a CD rom, or take particular elements and just write about them. So it is a content pool which then you can multi-distribute in your own way as individuals, or as groups. I think that those models are clearly becoming a way we can work to get multi-use out of content and get it into a wider range of places. Then the potential targeting of different worlds and different audiences becomes even more then because you can use the material in so many different ways.


  Chris Bannerman      Shall we move on to Graeme?


  Graeme Miller      Graeme MillerOkay, I’m just going to pick up on a few live balls from the discussion so far. The first one is from Ghislaine, whose way of working is completely contradictory to my own. I’m looking at the relationship with an audience. I think the difference in culture between the communications advertising industry that has a demographic approach to an audience seems to be increasingly and my own. As someone who is quite an expert at being in an audience and quite an expert at dishing things out to an audience, I’m quite interested in reintroducing a membrane of anonymity. I’ve said, quite often that I always make work for an audience full of Graeme Millers. They are in various thin disguises. Some of them are dressed as old ladies but you can see it’s me underneath. This really connected very strongly with two ideas that Daniel threw into the debate. One is the membrane and the usefulness of a membrane.  The other is the example that Ghislaine mentioned. I haven’t seen the performance so I’m not criticising it, but to some extent I worry about the idea of texting through messages to what a performer can deal out to you in terms of recognition on stage. It seems like driving a tank through a pinhole camera. To me, the whole system of staging relies on separation of the audience and the performer by a membrane – and it’s through this membrane and the tiny apertures in it that we can achieve focus; it’s a system that relies upon remoteness and our ability to recognise and our ability to educate ourselves quickly in that recognition.

I did a piece of work in 1987 that was based upon five years of traipsing round a particular place in South East England. The whole five years was based upon moments of recognition. The question for me was how can I recognise a place I’ve never been to. It wasn’t déjà vu, it was jamais vu. So how is it we can have these profound moments of jamais vu? In responding to Rosemary’s question about virtuosity, it is my belief that a disabled person can experience recognition from virtuosic movement in just the same way that I experience flying in my dreams. Do you have flying dreams? I love them. I hadn’t had one for fifteen years. I always begin slightly awkwardly, my feet are like that and I start to fly and then I realise that I can sort of flip over and fly forwards and swoop about. How do I recognise it? What is my recognition of that? It is intensely mysterious, but I do recognise that view though.

The interesting equation is this idea that I am seeing myself on stage as a leader, as someone who is a performer, my view of the audience is by being a performer. My philosophy as a performer is being the audience’s representative on stage. It’s being a type of foreign correspondent, talking into a microphone on a crackly connection. This representation of the audience by the performer happens in real time across a divide, in the moment, but the performer, or the performance, can project a view forwards in time or refer back to a kind of diary of events which have led up to this moment too.

I’ve come entirely out of a collaborative background, and in working with performers I have moved quite overtly towards more of a situation of leadership, I suppose. But it involves a lot of techniques of collaboration and is extremely exhausting to have to tell performers what to do all the time. Lazy me has come up with a method of getting them to do what I’ve already thought of in the first place. But it’s done by entering into a culture, and a shorthand recognition system if you like. The recognition system can be really quick. It’s about repetition, it’s about copying, it’s about echoing if you like. You could just simply use those phrases as the building blocks of any sort of musical, choreographic, or pattern kind of language.

I’m interested in the prime directive. I’m interested in why, when I’m looking for an Arran jumper I can go into a jumble sale, or a charity shop, and find one. But if I don’t know what I’m looking for, I just walk around like an idiot for ages and come out with nothing, or come out with something I didn’t really want in the first place. But I do have an ability to set a prime directive and the ability to share that prime directive with my collaborators. I have this idea that sometimes I show in my work that I’m like Oz. I’m behind the scenes somewhere but I’m getting people to be me. So not only are the audience me in thin disguise, but the performers are me in thin disguise as well. That’s why they can communicate reasonably well with each other. But they have to use a kind of shorthand.

You know people say don’t judge a book by its cover? One of the techniques I used in a collaborative situation years back with Impact Theatre, was to come up with a title, start to define what it’s like, start to use adjectives, start to find a little pool of an example of what that might be and then just let the rest accrue around that. It could be a gaudy, murder thriller paperback. It’s got a purple cover. It’s called Revenge. Revenge of da da da… So you can find content that fits that. So I’m quite interested in systems that are purely driven not just purely by a visual recognition process, but by a recognition process that for some reason, those elements themselves often betray a quite deep moral, or social kind of content, and I can’t work out why that is.


  Shobana Jeyasingh      Shobana JeyasinghThere was certainly lots to think about for me and I suppose the first point that hit home with me was the whole kind of divide between art and science. In my home, there was a huge culture clash between art and science. My mother was a mathematician. I wasn’t very good at arithmetic and maths when I was at school, but I was very good in literature and language related subjects. There was always this kind of very subtle guerrilla warfare in my house where my mother really made me feel that anything so subjective as literature was vastly inferior to something as pure and objective as maths. I remember having to really battle with her about my choice of A Level subjects. I obviously wanted to do literature and language and she really thought I should be doing maths and physics. Being Asian of course, achievement in academics was very highly prized, and she basically said “you’re not really going to do very well if you choose English or literature because it all just depends on your examiner’s mood. What kind of subject is that? Someone gets out the wrong side of the bed then you get a D. With maths, no matter what that person may be feeling, you know two and two always going to make four”. So I just had to get an A in English in A Level otherwise I would have just lost any further argument in my house.

I went to Sussex University, and one of the interesting things is Sussex was one of the first universities to have this course Art/Science where they tried to make all art students do a science course and vice versa. With my mother’s words ringing in my ears, I thought that this is something I must do. It was a bit disappointing for people like myself, because the people who did science got to read Shakespeare, which was easy for them because obviously they had the language skills. But for us, because our mathematical skills weren’t so sophisticated, we ended up really doing kind of pseudo-science. We all ended up doing economics which actually wasn’t very interesting even though numbers were involved.

Later on, when I started my dance company, one of the first projects that I did was about an Indian mathematician. Now, looking back, I really think this probably tried to compensate for my family disappointment. I researched this Indian mathematician called Ramanujan. He was one of the great mathematical geniuses and was alive during the First World War. Researching that project was interesting because I had to go and meet some very high up pure mathematicians. For example, at Trinity College, Cambridge where Ramanujan studied, through talking to these mathematicians, I realised it wasn’t very different to talking to composers. So I understood a lot about the culture of scientists and I found that they too needed inspiration. They needed systems, they were very jealous of each other, there was professional rivalry… all these things that you thought only existed in the arts! For me, what was fascinating about Ramanujan was that he died of a sort of culture clash. He was a mathematician who lived in Chennai in Madras, but he was very poor and he started writing letters to all the mathematicians he knew. The professor of mathematics at Trinity College got one of his letters and he was so impressed that he invited him to study at Trinity. But what Ramanujan found out was that when he was at Trinity he found that culturally he was very different. For example his love for maths was really a kind of religious, almost spiritual, motivation. That’s really what led him to excel in maths. I think he just wasn’t very interested in the whole Greek idea of maths in which things had to be proved and proof had to be written down. In the end, he became very ill in Cambridge for various reasons, and he died at the age of thirty. The more I studied him, the more I realised that in something as scientific, or objective as maths, there are cultural differences. And I found that quite fascinating.

I also find this idea of the smart membrane a really intriguing concept. As you know, I was trained as an Indian classical dancer. One of the reasons I stopped doing it was that I tried doing it in Britain for many years and I realised that it was very difficult to communicate, or what I thought I was communicating. The shapes and patterns of the Indian classical dance were not what the audience were actually receiving. When I was younger I think I was a bit seduced by this idea of dance being universal, and I found out very quickly that dance is not universal, that people’s preconceptions and prejudices of what is good in movement are just so vastly different that actually dance works very much in tribal forms. But having said that I don’t know whether it’s recognition that I actually want from my audience. I know that if I did Bharatha Natyam in India I would have a completely different response because people would recognise what I was doing

It has always fascinated me that if you go to a school in India, and ask someone to do an elegant foot movement they would flex it. I don’t know whether it’s because of cultural conditioning, but that would be the most natural thing to think about elegant movement. Whereas if you take a very young child in Britain, I’m sure if you asked them to do something really elegant, or beautiful with their foot they would point it. I’ve never really found out why this is. Of course, the flexed foot in a Western setting would be considered a kind of inversion of the norm. In ballet it’s usually used for comic effect, or in contemporary dance, it’s used in a kind of ironic sense where people actually bring to the flexed foot all that history of where the pointed foot has been in culture. So when I think about it now, the work that I do is not Indian dance. I suppose it is trying to function with that idea of the membrane, something that is porous. There are some things that I let out through that membrane and other things which I keep. I think my definition of that membrane, or my creation, or my use of that membrane actually shifts all the time from year to year.

Very recently I did a site specific piece of City Hall for mostly older Asian people. I just happened to be in the audience and I don’t think they realised I was the person who had made the piece. This man said “Ah but this is not our culture”. The music was Indian, the two girls wore red dresses, and I had taken all their movements from an Indian narrative dance piece but I’d just completely changed the elements. I’ve always been fascinated by seeing how superficial people’s reading of dance language can be, and so in some ways, I never really look for recognition. I just wonder whether the rush of oxygen to the head, or whether recognition is the same as appreciation, or identifying with something. I think in the end, if I think about my audience, sometimes I work against recognition. That’s not what I want from the audience. Sometimes I want incomprehension and I think I probably value that just as much as I do recognition. Thank you.


  Chris Bannerman      Errollyn, last but not least.


  Errollyn Wallen      Errollyn WallenIt’s fascinating to hear everything that Daniel had to say and I’ve been thinking a lot yesterday and today that I decided to be a composer partly because it is the very best way you can escape time, space and your body. Yet I came to music through movement because that’s what I studied first: dance. But also this idea of patterns and recognition is what lies at the heart of working with music. It is my basic source material. So my life is actually spent looking for patterns as well as listening to patterns in music, other composers’ work. I’m also very interested in visual patterns. I recently made a website for ResCen which is in the form of a diary. It was the beginning of writing this piece and the entry said something like “I was just sitting on the train looking at the shapes of the buildings”. That would stimulate me probably more into starting the piece, than thinking about notes. So the work I do before writing a piece of music is all to do with the visual world and patterns. And for me, it is the heart of what I’m trying to do.

My life is spent looking for things, looking for patterns and looking for new ways of looking, but also making a world of patterns run alongside the material world. It’s very strange, because music begins and ends in air but it becomes this solid thing – the score. Through the solid entity of notes and patterns, you have to sort of try to always return to this timeless space. That’s what I want. My strongest experience of music or any form, whether it’s a picture, photograph, dance, or play, is to be in a place that is almost suspended out of the body but, most particularly, where time is suspended. With music, you can do that and it’s the best way you can do it. I’ve talked about this before that in other words, you can make five minutes feel like two hours, or two hours feel like five minutes. All I’m given for a commission is a timeframe. Then I have to think about what that means, what patterns I will create: whether I’m trying to create this snapshot in two hours or three hours; or whether I’m trying to make a really big landscape piece in say just two minutes. So that’s what I’m thinking about to be honest, time becomes a visual element which enables me to return to the space. Can you understand what I’m saying? Maybe I’m just talking rubbish. But I just realised how much I’m hung up on pattern.

Daniel showed us these point line displays with people who had these infra-red dots on their body. It was quite incredible. This one particular contortionist, I’d never met this woman, but what struck me was that I could tell a lot about her personality by the way she walked and yet all you could see were maybe eight dots. That is just fantastic. Recently, I had a piece commissioned which had to be a companion piece to Handel’s Fireworks music, which is not a piece I particularly care for. I looked at that piece in terms of: the patterning; the phrasing; how bigger arches of phrases work; the overall rhythm of it; how things segmented; the symmetrical nature of most of it. But I also looking at the overlapping patterns. So I decided to write a piece which somehow you couldn’t recognise it as Handel. I looked at those patterns and then somehow tried to understand what he was about in my own way. In other words, I came up with a new sort of music I wouldn’t normally have written. I would say that most honest composers would say that when they’re trying to write music what they’re trying to do is to understand other music. That’s what I’m trying to do and actually I can listen most clearly and see most clearly through the act of bringing new patterns to life.


  Chris Bannerman      Well thank you to all six of you. As you can tell, the ResCen project is not about achieving a kind of unified coherence, it’s quite about the individual, the artist, and one of the joys about working together over a period of time is how that individuality can be expressed in an environment in which hopefully one can freely express some quite very different responses. Daniel, if you would care to respond to some of the points raised, and then we shall invite questions and responses from the audience.


  Daniel Glaser      I wanted to add in the thought about the difference between recognition and identification. It came up in our discussions yesterday as well. I thought it was a useful distinction although I’ve not quite teased it out yet. Part of the thought about being able to see people moving by projecting it onto one’s own body is what I think one thinks of as identification. One can pick that out in purely computational terms about having to map the body onto your own body. If you can’t map that body onto this body because you don’t know what the arm is, you can’t use your arm experience to predict that arm. So identification is important. I think disabled people are virtuosos. I mean, if we could do with our bodies relatively what they can do with theirs even in daily life, we would be the most extraordinarily virtuosic performers. So it does seem to me that there’s a kind of extended action that comes through restriction rather than a restricted action.

Rosemary, you seemed unhappy about the fact that the audience were not seeing it the same way as you and I just think that’s the deal. What I mean to say is that another person I have met (on one of Ghislaine’s projects), Isabel Rocamora, is an anti-gravity artist. One of the nice things about watching acrobats and hanging work, and I think it’s partly true of dance as well, is that although it is recognisably a body, it is not one with which you can identify because it’s moving in a way that you don’t know how to move both consciously and non-consciously. I talked about this yesterday and I’ll repeat it today that your body doesn’t know about moving without gravity…


  Graeme Miller      I do, as I was saying about flying dreams…


  Daniel Glaser      Yes, but the artistic experience, from the point of view of the audience, is about things which aren’t the same as you and also aren’t completely different. It’s this intermediate degree of identification, as it were partial identification, which seems to me in many ways to represent the artistic experience of the audience. All movement is a metaphor. When it’s hanging, you can’t read it literally but you can read it, and so I think partial identification would seem to me to be a part of it.


  Christopher Bannerman     Very interesting. Over to you, the audience now. Who is going to be the first to ask a question, or a comment? Yes, down the front here.


  Audience member     Yes I was thinking about Olafur Elliason’s recent installation Weather Project at the Tate Modern. His sun, got a whole bunch of people lying down on the floor, bring their parasols, making shapes. But it is interesting because the piece is not directly relating to movement. It’s just an installation. He just created a situation which got people to respond as they would if they had that real-life situation available to them. It was interesting that most people who were doing that would be the beach bores, it was some group of people who were doing it a lot more, the sun played a certain role. It was a very clever piece to get that reaction out.


  Daniel Glaser     Yes but the coolest thing about the Tate installation was that as much as the sun had a role, so did the old whorehouse trick of having the mirror on the ceiling, I mean that was really what people reacted to.


  Audience Member     Even the sun was reflected in the same way, I think it was the coolest trick of the lot.


  Ghislaine Boddington     I worked on a public forum event for that installation and the artist Olafur Elliason and the people at the Tate did not expect any of that movement to happen, it was totally unexpected. We did some of the documenting of it and now the Tate are documenting the audience movement patterns for those installations in the large space of the Turbine Hall. So for the next one, Bruce Nauman’s installation, the Tate are looking at the movement because they realise they missed a major opportunity from the creative use by the public of that space. But it was the mirror reflection that did most of it. Of course the sun brought on the beach parties and the other things but it was incredible watching people. I spent hours in there and I think it is a prime example of how you let something go and people really will go much further. They don’t need something to respond to in body terms, but they bring through stuff that they know already and that they use in every day life.


  Audience Member      I think the whole area is absolutely fascinating. I think it’s already been a most stimulating and exciting event. I’m very interested in two areas of psychological response, and I’m speaking as a complete lay person, so I shall be using terms that are incredibly inappropriate. I’m interested in the aspect of apprehension and comprehension, the way in which performance work in particular lays hold of you. And grabs you in that kind of apprehension way, which I think is somewhere in the cognition area. There is that aspect of seeing yourself up there, and later the recognition, the comprehension when it comes back to you that there’s a deeper connection that has been made. Now I think that’s not quite what Daniel was explaining in terms of recognition cognition, but maybe you are? The other psychological aspect that I’m interested in is whether you’ve done any work on anticipation where, particularly in music, you’re anticipating the next few notes will fall back to a major key, or will it go in the other direction? Or a dancer will take off and you’re anticipating that they will land. Wouldn’t it be marvellous if they didn’t and took off. If Graeme’s flying dream actually came became reality. I’m just wondering if you’ve done any work, Daniel, in those areas of cognition the psychological value of audience expectation that comes through anticipation?


  Daniel Glaser      I can only comment very generally, which is to say that when we speculate about the possible evolutionary benefit of being able to simulate actions, then anticipation is going to be an important part of it.  I’m just thinking about predators and prey in the Savannah. Again, it’s all very speculative even within science but there does seem to be a connection between this mirror system (it’s called the mirror system which responds both to your own actions and to the equivalent actions of others) and what’s called social cognition. That is to say that maybe, it turns out you can read people’s mood from their movement. So two things are true, one is that their mood effects their movement. There are two brains involved like in all performance so their mood effects their movement and their movement can be read by your brain. Now whether the reading of their movement as mood by your brain brings on the mood in you, we don’t know yet. Although there is some evidence, early evidence that shows that being disgusted and seeing disgust activates the same brain area. If that is true, then maybe these movement patterns are the basis of empathy. Wouldn’t that be cool? But we’re, a long way off that. Certainly anticipating, predicting is clearly of great value in cognitive terms so it will have evolutionary benefit. It’s a bit of a wishy washy answer.

  Audience Member      But surely, we feel as audiences that we are, at times, anticipating? Sometimes the artist is satisfying that space, so there’s a play almost of recognition and norm.


  Audience Member      Thank you. I’m very pleased to see over the last year or so, and it’s gathering pace, the gradual coming together of artistic and scientific communities. I’m sitting on one side of the fence professionally, but perhaps emotionally on the other side of the fence. So it puts me somewhere at the cusp. I was interested in something that Daniel was saying earlier about movement. I have been to the Hayward Gallery earlier today to see the Eyes, Lies and Illusion exhibition where, in fact, they had a short film loop of illuminated joint motion. It brought to mind what you were saying, about recognising human motion from patterns. It struck a chord in me because I thought about it many years ago, when watching cricketers who were anticipating the flight of a ball whilst they were hurtling from one side of the cricket pitch to the other to catch it. I thought, as a mathematician, that they must be solving these differential equations damn fast! Of course they’re not are they? Rather, they’re not doing it consciously. Presumably they are solving some equivalent forms of motion prediction. So in that sense we shouldn’t maybe be quite as surprised that self-awareness for motor modelling is particularly important because I that’s how we move about in our own space, time and dimension. I think it’s really interesting to see the scientific and the artistic communities moving together and what is even more interesting is to see that the scientific model is starting to mellow and open out and to bring in the expertise, the experience, of people from outside the scientific domains. They’re realising that non-scientific experts have got an awful lot to offer. Surely education and expertise always brings about new ways of seeing. It’s equally interesting to see that the artistic community is starting to engage a lot more deeply in reflective practice, to think about the underlying processes. I guess this brings me to an area that I’d like to see explored a little bit more if the panel could try: what they feel that they’re aiming for in a performance when they’re anticipating audience reaction. It’s been touched on a little bit but I think there’s an awful lot more to be teased out in this area.


  Chris Bannerman     Well I quite agree and perhaps we’ll have someone who might volunteer to respond to that point. But I can also say that have a look at our website in which we’re able to go into more depth about particular pieces of work and, and particular artists. Although arguably, it might change with each work, one can’t say from such a small sample but there are other sources available as well. Would anyone like to respond to that point? More deeply into the audience expectation, or creating?


  Richard Layzell      Well I could say that sometimes I’m looking for an emotional response, sometimes a sensory response. It was very nice to hear Shobana say that she wants confusion sometimes. Going back to where I think I began, my research has been a journey into the unknown. Unlike my friend Paul’s, which is a very specific area. It’s an extraordinary journey that feels like a huge piece of research because I don’t know where it’s going to go. I have some markers, and sometimes the audience is part of that, and sometimes that relationship is not so important. I think empathy does come into it, I think if anyone knows about Gestalt psychology one can be the other person very strongly looking back at what one is presenting, and that’s a sort of device that I think artists use without necessarily knowing it some of the time.


  Chris Bannerman     I think Richard has also invented another device for this so I’ll invite him to say just a few words about Tania.


  Richard Layzell      Well I’ve mentioned this a few times at these seminars now. Through the research I have been doing about my process, my art, how I make my work, I invented four artists for an installation I was building. I thought they would reflect the artistic process. Four different kinds of process, different kinds of activity: a painter; a sculptor; a print-maker; a Brit Art person. In the end, to cut a long story short, I had to make all their work. It was the simplest way round it, I found one of the artist’s work very easy to make and I still do. So I’ve continued a dialogue with her that is on the website which is becoming quite a significant project for me. It’s actually coming to the centre of my practice. We made a collaborative installation together for the first time last month. I declared it as a collaborative work so people didn’t know she was invented. And that whole journey has put me in touch with another aspect of creative self. It’s obviously a part of me, or is it? I honestly don’t know the answer. I’m not schizophrenic, I think…. Why did you want to know?


  Daniel Glaser      It seems to me a way of imaging the other, and indeed psychologists often use this. But you need to be a superhero or…


  Richard Layzell      I’m very, very particular about how I describe her. It, She is not an alter ego. She is not even a persona, I don’t want to perform her, but I want her presence within my practice now because it’s very dynamic and it’s another state of making or another state of looking.


  Daniel Glaser      Let’s hope she doesn’t get her own lawyer, and you start getting letters from Tania’s lawyer. Can I make a, a quick remark?


  Richard Layzell      Please.


  Daniel Glaser      Maybe a closing remark from me, in fact. Just to say about consciousness and self-awareness. I, myself scientifically, am not that interested in consciousness, I have to say. It’s kind of fashionable, but I do think it’s somewhat driven by kind of narcissistic elements of scientific practice. But I do think that one of the interesting linguistic ticks or, or tricks, that we can observe in ourselves is that when things become automatic or learned or, expert, or skilled, then people tend to describe them by referring to the periphery of the body rather than the centre. So people say that they learn the pieces now in their fingers, she’s got a good ear, he has a good eye, a good nose… body memory. It seems to me that this driving of expertise into the periphery, away from the brain, out into the body and out into the sense organs, is an obvious mistake in some senses. It points to a lack of awareness. I think back to my Dionysian moment. It does seem to me that the creative process, and also the process of assimilating, or becoming complicit with a piece, which is required in an audience member, is often about the stuff of which one isn’t aware. I do think that is a pointer for science. Looking at things of which one is not aware, you don’t have to be a Freudian to think that’s interesting. Also, not to worry too much about conscious identification, if anyone were worried, but I do think that we should remember that it is all in the brain even though we kind of talk about it as being in the ear. I’m afraid, that is going to have to be the end of my contribution as I have obligations which I must fulfil.


  Chris Bannerman      We are very grateful for Daniel coming this evening because he does have a family project that he is working on which is separate from his professional life, so we’re very grateful that he came tonight. Perhaps we have one more artist respond to that point about the audience.


  Ghislaine Boddington      That’s a really interesting question. I haven’t got any answers here but the idea of anticipating the audience has been going through my head a lot. I’ve watched a lot of performance work over twenty years and I think when you go into, say, a West End musical, the people that are producing it, performing in it, or the audience that come will pretty much know what’s going happen. There’s an absolute clarity of thinking where the audience come for this and the performers are going to give it to them. I think in more innovative performance work, and in more contemporary work that we’ve had for thirty, forty years there is a different experience that the audience have come for this and they think they’re going to get this, but actually they are not going to get that, the performers are going to give you something else. There’s an element of don’t expect the next note to be this, don’t expect the next jump to do this.

I’ve reached a point at the moment, and maybe it’s from my current over-viewing experience, where I anticipate it not to be the note that I expect. In many innovative, or performance, environments you know that they’re an innovative performance, so you can start to anticipate where the actual rebelliousness will happen. And now I’m finding that a bit boring. I think that we’ve got to be a bit realistic about that.

I just want to go back to Sharon Wray’s Texterritory piece where you know she is doing a seemingly set performance piece, but there is a choice in ten places in the show for the audience with mobile phones to choose between A, B or C. The audience can see the votes coming through a projection so if it says ‘C’ then the performer moves into that section of the piece. That part is then pretty much improvised, so every single show is totally unique, there’s never one which is the same. So the anticipation occurs both ways: the performer doesn’t know what’s coming; the audience don’t know what’s coming. Improvisational forms also break down anticipation. I think contact improvisation, or seeing group work in that way is really interesting. The dancer could go there now, join with that one, do this but actually it’s often the choice of that experienced dancer not to do the obvious.


  Chris Bannerman     Interesting point. Are there comments, questions?


  Audience Member      I wanted to ask the artists whether their anticipation of the piece they’re about to create affects the creative process? Whether you manage to lose that anticipation sometimes and get carried away with a piece that you didn’t… I think Richard’s touched on it in the, the earlier piece with the drummer and the collaboration?


  Chris Bannerman      Did everybody hear that by the way? Good. Who would like to respond to that? Shobana are you ready to say something?


  Shobana Jeyasingh      I didn’t quite understand exactly what you mean.


  Audience Member      It was just the idea of when you start off to make a piece you have a certain amount of anticipation of what sort of piece you’re going to make. Then when you’re actually making it, how much does that early anticipation affect it. Or sometimes do you find yourself making a piece that you didn’t think you were about to make because you managed to let go of the anticipation?


  Shobana Jeyasingh      Well I think in choreography I never really know what the piece is going to be about. I find this very difficult especially in the systems that where you’ve got to describe to your marketing person the whole plot when haven’t even opened the book yet. I think what I have are signposts. I think that’s what I start off with. So of all the ten million movement choices I could probably make, if I’m lucky, I start off with five signposts. Then, when I get into the studio, in responding to those signposts other signposts emerge. It’s a process from then on really. I sometimes feel that I really don’t know what the piece is about until it’s finished touring, which is a bit sad for the marketing people. You know it has a particular quality in the studio, and then of course there’s a huge change when you take that into the theatre, if it’s going to go into the theatre. Then the whole meaning of it radically changes. When you see that experience of the dancer performing it in many different venues where the frame of the thing changes because the stage situation has changed, then you see it in the of myriad cultures that are brought to bear upon it. One day the dancers are very tired and I’ll say “oh that’s another way of doing it”, or another time they’re not tired and then it all looks different. The chemistry between dancers changes and somehow in that whole interplay of the initial signposts and the ageing process of the piece, I sometimes have a kind of glimmer of what it could be. But when I start it off, I always think of the title as a pointer towards something, rather than the thing itself. I don’t know if that answers your question.


  Chris Bannerman      Graeme.


  Graeme Miller      Yes.


  Chris Bannerman      Since you know what the performers are going to do before they do it because you described that process to us…


  Graeme Miller      I try to enable them to be in a position where they know. So I can only, sort of agree but a lot of that is to do with sharing this prime directive.


  Chris Bannerman      Has the prime directive…?


  Graeme Miller      The prime directive is remarkably aesthetic. It’s very interesting because I’ve discovered that the things that, for me, have ended up closest to the smell of the idea of what I wanted, were things I surrendered completely to the content. Apart from what Shobana described as the signposts being the only kind of coding method, I suppose otherwise you’re surrounded by infinite choice. But the trick is about minimum steerage, and the maximum amount of letting go. Then the surprise is that you know you go to the end of the book where it’s the end of the tour. You look at the beginning of the book and there’s a remarkable correspondence, there’s a kind of chemical… it’s about valency. I suppose that my sense is sometimes to do with breaking things down enough, like particles of things.  If they’re in small enough lumps, then there will be ones that are going to go together. For me, there’s a real setting process where I know this what I’m going to do and I’m going to take the shortest route to the end. There is this period of complete lostness somewhere in between. Sometimes, the greater the degree of lostness, the more likely you are to end up at that position because you’re not worrying about losing momentum. It happens over time and so momentum is quite important in that.


  Richard Layzell      I just had a little glimpse, when you used the word ‘anticipation’. I felt that’s fantastic, I know exactly what you mean. At the beginning of something I’m at that stage. Then the other glimpse is the night before the thing opens, or whatever it is finished. Its all just about the total practicalities, I lose track of that feeling of what it’s about. Then there is the period of reflection a few days, or weeks later. Those three little points came to mind when you said that.


  Audience Member      I think the feeling of anticipation is what we live for. It’s that feeling when you’re little that it’s going to be your birthday. With the process of creating, it’s that constant anticipation of what the code will be, that’s sort of the crux of it. You’re looking for this code that would set the parameters…


  Chris Bannerman      Daniel said something yesterday that I thought was interesting that he didn’t refer to today. Clearly, he is after the peer review paper, in spite of that Dionysian moment he talked about. The kind of paper which states that “we decided to test the experiment at room temperature” which Daniel said was a code for saying that the technician forgot to turn on the freezer and therefore everything was at room temperature when it shouldn’t have been. So clearly there must be times at which events intervene. Or you identify, or do you recognise that something emerges which is strong and enticing, which may not fit the original? You wouldn’t say this is a failed work of art would you?


  Audience Member      You’d say it was a living work of art. I just feel artists are always supposed to stay alive to the material. You start from a point you set up, set up the map or something. Then you see what happens, and if you stay alive right up to the end then, then it’s living.


  Chris Bannerman      So then we must recognise this process, that there are times at which the end…


  Audience Member      What do you mean?


  Chris Bannerman      The events of the process do not reflect the anticipated outcome or the anticipation even of the process.


  Audience Member      Yes, and sometimes that might be to do with the dynamic of the dancers or the performers that are with you, whom you hadn’t anticipated. But there is the effect of a particular person and the piece, or the relationship between two people that you might not quite have seen before.


  Richard Layzell      Or a sudden, a sudden change of world events around you...


  Rosemary Lee      Yes exactly. I was making a study to Bach harpsichord duets with Glen Gould playing (and Jamie Laredo on violin) and right in the middle of making the work 9/11 happened. We couldn’t work for two days, because we just thought how pointless this is making a piece of dance to a bit of music. What a pointless exercise. But somehow, the world events had to be in the work somehow. It was really strange because I didn’t know how to shift the piece. I couldn’t make a piece about what was happening right at the same time. But every single thing the dancer (Joviar Longo) did was coloured by how we felt. There was a movement that we’d already planned in which he was walking along a diagonal. I had asked him to walk very slowly, then suddenly feel as if he felt something on the floor, to immediately drop to the floor and scurry like a squirrel looking for a nut, like when you see them in the garden and they’re trying to find the place where they hid the nut or eating your tulip bulbs as the case may be. So the dancer was a sort of squirrel who was dropping down. But what it looked like after 9/11 was a memory of death and a memory of dead bodies. I think it worked very well but I would never have thought of that. I’m sure that motive wasn’t there at the beginning, but it couldn’t not be there after that world event happened.


  Chris Bannerman      My friends, we could go on, but of course we can carry on discussing these issues with refreshments. Is there one more comment or question that we want? If not then why don’t we sample some refreshments and carry on the discussion. Thank you all very much for coming and thank you to my resident team.  
spacer spacer spacer spacer

    Adobe pdf icon
 download this transcript as an Adobe Acrobat pdf file
(file size: 352 KB)


back to top  
online forum
If you have comments to make about this discussion, or would like to join in with others who have responded, click on this link.
spacer spacer spacer spacer

spacer spacer
Bookmark and Share