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here/there/then/now. site, collaboration, interdisciplinary performance. C h e r y l S t o c k with thanks to V a n e s s a M a f e S t e p h e n S t a n f I e l d I a n H u t s o n Q U T c r e a t i v e i n d u s t r i e s b r i s b a n e a u s t r a l i a.

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site, collaboration, interdisciplinary performance

C h e r y l S t o c k

with thanks to

V a n e s s a M a f e S t e p h e n S t a n f I e l d I a n H u t s o nQ U T c r e a t i v e i n d u s t r i e s b r i s b a n e a u s t r a l i a

stairs to nowhere


deep crevices with no purpose


pillars in dialogue with floating objects


the inviting void of the black box


BACKGROUND with human presences

bringing together of 10 independent artists in dance, music, theatre, design, visual, media arts

responding to and evoking four sites inside the Brisbane Powerhouse

development of concept 2001

rehearsals March to May 2002

performances 15-19 May 2002

supported by Arts Queensland, QUT Creative Industries, Brisbane Powerhouse, Ausdance

PURPOSE with human presences

  • support creative partnerships, established and new, in an interdisciplinary project

  • work together on a common concept that allows for personal aesthetic positions and specialist art form processes and outcomes

  • explore flexible performance platforms and theatricalise site-specific work

  • investigate ways of creating narrative through fragmented intertextuality

  • re-engage audiences in live performance through choices on how to view the works and from where

CONCEPT with human presences

  • 3 discrete performance installations, each with their own aesthetic and communicative intention culminating in a fourth site where memories of the first three coalesce

  • promenade journey of subliminal meanings through multiple viewpoints

  • construction and deconstruction of narrative revealed and concealed by the embodied experience of site

  • the body as site and repository of its own performing and lived histories combined with the inherent and imagined meanings and associations of the former industrial site of the Powerhouse

artists…. with human presences

chosen for the unique qualities each could bring to the project

dynamic and supportive mix of experienced mature artists and emerging artists

high level of expertise in their field(s)

generous approach to sharing ideas and processes

independent and curious

committed, creative, resourceful

diverse in art forms/practices and response to the sites

four teams of new and old partnerships with crossover of some personnel in each team

Concepts of site in performance

  • ‘a site-specific performance defines itself ‘through properties, qualities or meanings produced in specific relationships between an “event” and a position it occupies’.

  • the integral link between performance and place is ‘articulated through interdisciplinary practices’

  • the creative process in site-specific performance acts out a “writing over” the site…’

    (Kaye: 2000, 1-8)

Writing over the site
WRITING OVER THE SITE with human presences

  • the site is like a palimpsest in that is written over, effacing the original ‘writing’

  • in the case of here/there/then/now the sites were written over with graffiti, so we were often ‘writing over’ the write over

  • a site-specific work ‘inevitably operates in anticipation or in recollection of the places it acts out’

  • ‘site-specific performance attempts to define itself in the very sites it is caught in the process of erasing’

    Kaye 2000: 11, 220

erasure with human presences


‘one of the beauties of live performance is that it ignites a space and time and then disappears’

Meredith Monk

Focus of the work were the following sites: with human presences

  • heightened theatrical and dramatic space of here

  • isolated entrapped enclosure of there

  • framed but open space of then

  • architectural extended space of now

shared space of memory concealed, revealed, fragmented, disturbed by light

SITES of here/there/then/now

here with human presences

stairs to nowhere

heightened theatrical and dramatic space

Here stairs to nowhere
here with human presencesstairs to nowhere

A study of contrasts around victim and aggressor


- the familiar, safe, protected where fire is power and warmth

- a dungeon where risk becomes danger

- a shadowy realm of dreams and memories

- a sharing of private moments publicly revealed

- the animal in the zoo; fascinating yet dangerous

Performer/creator: Brian Lucas

Sound artist: Brett Collery

Visual artist: Ian Hutson

Lighting designer: Jason Organ

deep crevices with no purpose with human presences

isolated entrapped enclosure


There deep crevices with no purpose
there with human presencesdeep crevices with no purpose

An Australian dancer and a Thai singer explore there

  • barred vertical site of shadows and blinding light

  • place of confinement and entrapment

  • enclosed intimate world of no exits

    through dance/physical performance with acoustic unaccompanied voice and projected imagery, investigating reactions to situations of extreme stress when confronted with confinement.

    Choreographer/performer: Leanne Ringelstein

    Composer/singer/performer: Nok Thumrongsat

    Visualisation: Ian Hutson

    Lighting Designer: Jason Organ

  • pillars with human presences

  • in dialogue

  • with

  • floating

  • objects

  • framed but

  • open space


contemplate the performer in a still life of objects, floating, hovering

  • then

  • theme of the “still-life” as its organising principle

  • distorted beauty and fragmentation of the body and sound in space

  • heightened colour and unconventional framing reflecting a Baroque sensibility

  • a platform for the interaction of industrial site and theatrical setting

  • Choreographer/director: Vanessa Mafe

  • Dancer: Ko-Pei Lin

  • Sound composer: Stephen Stanfield

  • Installation artist: Jondi Keane

  • Lighting designer: Jason Organ

then pillars in dialogue with floating objects

now floating, hovering

the inviting void of the black box

architectural extended space

Now the inviting void of the black box
now floating, hoveringthe inviting void of the black box

now treats the theatre as architectural site housing a sparsely fragmented repository for what has gone before

  • place of multiple entries and exits

  • performative dialogue of intersecting solos

  • emerging relationships of bodies and kinetic pathways

  • visual and aural connections to the sites left behind

Concept and direction: Cheryl Stock

Performers/collaborators: Ko-Pei Lin, Brian Lucas,

Leanne Ringelstein, Nok Thumrongsat

Composer: Stephen Stanfield

Visuals: Ian Hutson

Lighting Designer: Jason Organ

the viewer’s relationship to site floating, hovering

wide range of people from arts aficionados to those who had never attended contemporary performance

led from site to site in a promenade journey by guides

able to move around the sites but not within them thus changing points of view and relationship to the performing body; looking down, in, across rather than at the performers

mobility assists in making causal links between the sites and their stories drawn progressively through the building and into its depths

COLLABORATION floating, hovering

“collaboration is a "catalytic process" used in interactive relationships among individuals working toward a mutually defined, concrete vision or outcome”.

Idol and West, 1991 

Since a creative project entails working with ideas that seem new or original, or transforming existing ideas and concepts in fresh ways it also relies on the harnessing of group innovation and creativity.

Theories of group creativity

  • a group’s creative potential depends on level of diversity in the group; cognitive & intuitive

  • relationship between diversity and creativity includes context, decision making strategies, leadership issues, feedback mechanisms

  • importance of ‘authentic dissent’ (diversity of opinion)

  • danger in early consensus or giving into conformity pressure

  • involves divergent and convergent processes

    Nijstad & Paulus, 2003: 326-339

Key areas of creative collaborations

  • Communication skills

  • Developing a positive environment

  • Keeping decision making moving along

  • Recognising needs of individual members of collaborative team

  • Resolving conflict and risk

    Pritzker & Runco, 1997: 115-141

Collaboration an artist view
COLLABORATION floating, hoveringan artist view

“Collaborations, at their best, are profound learning experiences that empower the collaborators to expand their visions and their creativity, give them courage, critique and support to move into areas of work they might otherwise not venture into, and provide exciting spaces for experimentation. At their worst, they allow some collaborators to colonise others and this is a most disempowering experience!”

Marion D’Cruz (2003:77)

Malaysian choreographer/artist


  • relational/creative

  • developing interpersonal relationships of mutual respect and interactive support

  • valuing specialist art form differences in language, aesthetics, processes, outcomes

  • consideration

  • valuing and accepting difference which encourages new avenues for understanding

  • positive / affirmative behaviours

  • transactional/task

  • common creative agendas which allow for diversity and cross over of practices, approaches and ideas

  • acceptance of leadership and shared responsibility

  • discipline based confidence and expertise

  • ‘a communicative relationship’ (Grau, 1992:19) - between collaborative partners, within the work and with the audience

  • dependability

  • proactive and reactive process

  • participation at all levels of the project including budgets, marketing, scheduling etc

Collaborative challenges in here there then now
COLLABORATIVE CHALLENGES floating, hoveringin here/there/then/now

  • sudden and tragic death of a key member resulting in a 8 month postponement of the project

  • an experienced choreographer/dancer who had done the concept mapping for one site was offered and accepted full-time work

  • personal political agenda of one member became an undermining and obstructive force in the early stages of the process, creating unacceptable tension

  • personal artistic agenda of a lead team member resulted in non-engagement with the site and therefore a threat to the integrity of the project which was site driven in its concept

Four of the original ten team members were replaced through the following circumstances:

Views of participating artists
views of participating artists floating, hovering

Vanessa Mafe - choreographer/director then

old and new collaborative relationships

with experienced visual artist Jondi Keane:

  • both experienced artists with a long history of collaboration and open to investigate ideas

  • had already established images as the foundation for a common language

    with young dancer Ko-Pei Lin:

  • guiding and mentoring role to encourage interactive participation

  • need to establish a way of working together and then identifying “breakthrough” creative experiences beyond the usual dancer/choreographer relationship

Views of participating artists1
views of participating artists floating, hovering

Stephen Stanfield, composer then & now

Differing collaborative processes


  • initial discussions of concept and viewing of images and movement of work in progress

  • composition starting point was the concept of ‘still life and decay’

  • composition and choreographic processes were almost entirely independent from one another


  • score constructed of transformed material from other sites, with new elements idiosyncratic to the fourth installation.

  • past sounds were manipulated and recontextualised in time and space creating a sonic-wash of fragmented, distorted, and distant memories…

  • collaborative process was quite organic with the music and choreography developing symbiotically

Views of participating artists2
views of participating artists floating, hovering

Cheryl Stock - project concept/direction

director/choregrapher now

  • assumed role of director / coordinator as conceiver of project

  • interactive communication with all collaborators crucial aspect of role

  • ‘participant/observer’ in first three sites; no primary creative role

  • collaborative consultative process involved overview integrating visual, theatrical, auditory elements, and links between sites

  • creative process of now dependent on deconstructed narratives and images from other 3 sites; fluid , morphing between created and creating images, objects, artists

  • blurred and indecipherable ‘ownership’ of resultant work


for the artists:

opportunities for expanded dialogue

renewed investigative practices in the artsbuilding of artistic communities

emergence of more layered approach to own practices

for the audience:

collaboration between performer and audience results in “meaning-making”, ‘where the performative text is the reading, and where the emphasis is on process, on meaning as becoming’

Sandra Kemp, in Campbell, 1996:9

Dance as a basis for interdisciplinary collaboration

  • space / design / shape – the architecture

  • rhythm / flow / time – duration

  • dynamics / force / energy – texture

  • body / instrument - medium

elements of a discipline/artform applied to collaboration form the basis of a shared interdisciplinary language:

Dance language, in common with music and visual arts, is poetic rather than prose-like because of its ‘multiple, symbolic and elusive meanings’ (Hanna, 1997:147)

Interdisciplinary practice

  • involves collaboration between distinct disciplines with different approaches, viewpoints and forms of expression

  • enables specialists to find the spaces between their individual practices in which to discover a shared creative/performative language based on common principles

  • entails a change in processes of creation, observation and reflection

  • an ongoing journey of discovery, questioning, and discussion

  • requires multiple interpretations and knowledge of more than one discipline

  • allows what is there to form the interdisciplinary language being created for each particular project

  • creates multi-layered narratives since ‘reading, watching, listening…assumes that a story is being told’ (Kemp, 1997:172)

Interdisciplinary outcomes

  • establishes common working ground between disciplines

  • generates open lines of exchange

  • questions and offers alternatives for the conventions, vocabulary and assumptions inherent in each discipline

  • defines one’s own artistic practice more clearly inside and outside the discipline

  • has the potential to shift, connect differently with, and transform one’s particular practice

  • broadens one’s knowledge of other approaches and opens up new possibilities personally and creatively

Here there then now
here/there/then/now floating, hovering


Concept/direction: Cheryl Stock

Collaborating artists: Brett Collery, Ian Hutson, Jondi Keane, Ko-Pei Lin, Brian Lucas, Vanessa Mafe, Jason Organ, Stephen Stanfield, Nok Thumrongsat

Project manager / production coordinator: Kyle Petersen

Lighting/site coordination: Jason Organ

Sound coordination: Stephen Stanfield

Stage manager: Ryan Colbran

Wardrobe: Bianca Sevil

Program design: Ian Hutson, Pam Koger