7.10.2017-8.10.2017 // Underbelly Arts Festival at National Art School, Sydney and live streamed at: aparilamentofowls.net
Live and mediated durational performance with Susie Anderson, Louise Curham, Holly Isemonger, Emily Stewart and Maria White.
A parliament of owls:
⚬ A solitary, nocturnal bird of prey characterised by its small beak and wide face.
⚬ A farsighted bird, the owl cannot clearly see anything within a few centimetres of its face.
A parliament of owls is a project that explores the intersection of performance, writing and experimental documentation processes. Working in a collaborative space, this project seeks to make visible the inherent subjectivity and multiplicity of experiencing a live moment. Here, the performer-turned-scribe acts as expert witness for the festival, recording their observations as narrative and graphic notations. These observations appear in real-time via a textual live stream housed on this website, evidencing the generation of a type of subjective real-time documentation.
At its core, A parliament of owls is an exploration of sight. Since antiquity, western culture has privileged vision and its deeply entwined concepts of truth, knowledge, leadership and rationalism. From Ancient Greek culture comes the motif of the owl as a symbol of Athena, the goddess of knowledge and wisdom; and Aristotle’s theory of the five-sense hierarchy, which privileges sight as the sense most closely associated with God, abstract thought and contemplation. Seeping into contemporary contexts, historical and cultural constructions of the senses influence what is paid attention to and what is overlooked. When thinking about the creation of archives and collective memories, the role of visibility is undeniable in the process of record-making. Histories are preserved through tangible objects and records that can be stored and displayed. Populations are surveilled, catalogued and represented. More recently, social media encourages individuals to document personal lives in minute detail.
A parliament of owls takes these ideas as a starting point to ask: who is accorded the task of record-making? How are events streamlined into a singular narrative? What is overlooked and lost in the process? By experimenting with the form and method of documentation, A parliament of owls acknowledges the vital role vision plays in constructing collective memories while also attempting to find space for multiplicity and the multisensory, both in terms of what is recorded, but also by whom.
13.10.2016-23.10.2016 // Ideas Platform, Artspace, Sydney
Durational performance in which the artist's hair was shaved, spun and bound into rope form, totally 33 hours of labour over 6 days.
‘The only thing that is different from one time to another is what is seen and what is seen depends upon how everybody is doing everything’ — Gertrude Stein
Implicit in Stein’s statement is an embedded sensory relation — the importance of visibility and the impact of creative practices in what is given attention. In recent decades, scholarly research within the fields of cultural studies, anthropology, geography and aesthetics, there has been a wide spread re-examination of ‘the senses’: an umbrella term that refers to a series of conceptualisations of sensory perception that shift over time and context.
Within western culture, various theories of the senses have long followed an established artificial division of the human sensorium —Aristotle’s theory of a five-sense hierarchy (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch). In subsequent theorisations, frequently touch is relegated to the bottom of the Western sense hierarchy and commonly associated with the animal, the instinctual, sin and the feminine. In Medieval Europe, representations of the senses regularly employ a spider as a symbol of touch. The spider is both a natural spinner of webs, but also treated with some mistrust. One cannot overlook the seemingly casual connections between spinning webs, the fear of entrapment by tactile sensuality and the implied treachery of the female body. Entwined within this history is the shifting status of women and superstition — hand-based practices such as spinning and knotting were believed to be a prominent means by which to cast charms and spells. What is the legacy of these constructed connections between touch and the feminine?
Spider is a durational performance that takes these gendered associations of touch as its basis, exploring them through a series of skilled hand work, namely spinning. An age-old technique, spinning thread is one of the oldest forms of production and one that continues to underpin contemporary life. Despite this continuous thread, the visibility of textile labour has shifted throughout history. Produced by both men and women, spinning has at times been central to a given society and revered; at other times dismissed as ‘women’s work’ rather than labour, or eventually overlooked as the body was displaced by efficient machines. As an affective practice that continues to be rendered invisible, hand spinning has become esoteric. What is lost in the process of discarding tactile knowledge?
Barber: Dave Parker from Hair by Tommy J
Video Documentation: Dara Gill
Photographic documentation: Derek Kreckler / Jessica Maurer
With special thanks to Diana Wood Conroy, who taught me hand spinning and gave me a wonderful insight to its history.
Additional documentation: https://www.artspace.org.au/program/ideas-platform/2016/boni-cairncross-spider/
It has been suggested that sensorial experiences are not simply a case of physiology, but are also imbued with social and cultural values. It is not something that is discussed much; rather this facet of sensory perception is simply practiced on a daily basis in a series of mundane interactions between people.
Since late 2014, Actions For Sensory Disruption has seen the artist adjust her daily behaviour according to a number of sense-based tasks– talking too loud, wearing the same unwashed clothes, avoiding eye contact, insistently sharing food, standing too close to other people and so on. Performed for as long as possible, these seemingly simple tasks became frameworks to explore the socially embedded values of sensory experience. The role of context and relationship became crucial elements – what does it mean to say farewell to a friend without looking at them? To stand very close by to someone who keeps asking you on dates? To tell someone you haven’t washed your clothes for two weeks?
In exhibition form (Bus Projects, Melbourne, 2 Dec-19 Dec, 2015) Actions For Sensory Disruption attempts to document the hours and months of these intangible gestures. Captured as a hand written account, the artist book was organised across three stations in the exhibition. Here the records become objects that detail and evoke the artist's strategies, the negotiations, silliness, paranoia, the failings, the moments when it simply became impossible and the insights it offered.
The stations included:
strategies for being heard and changing odour
megaphone, imperial leather soap, artist book (sections 2 and 4)
strategies for avoidance
artist book (section 1)
strategies for sharing food and increasing closeness
mango, orange, mandarin, peach, passion fruit, blueberries, artist book (sections 3 and 5)
still life with locally sourced flowers and fruit, silverware, velvet, candles, kitchen timer, thread, assorted camera equipment, the scent of 'Mania' and durational performance in the kitchen of a share house.
truth. beauty. opulence.
futility. pop and punk
and something not
For the lovers (working title) was devised for a group exhibition entitled For the lovers of the true and the beautiful curated by Anna McMahon held at gallery TWENTY THIRTY SEVEN, Sydney, for one night only.
Images: Alexander James
The artist sets the scene. Machines offer prompts. The audience enter as players.
In this iteration of Cat and Mouse, the gallery is given over to an immersive installation punctuated by projected instruction scores. The audience, suitably enveloped in costume and without shoes, enter the installation and into a self-directed, experimental performance.
Cat and Mouse offers, on one level, a light-hearted and playful experience framed as art. Audience-participants are encouraged to play, to discover, to improvise, to chase their curiosities. Underpinning this feel-good fun, Cat and Mouse asks its audience participants to pay attention to the often over-looked act of sensing. It asks – what frames and directs the act of sensing? How are sensations collectively experienced and shared?
image credit: Alexander James
Supported by the Creative Practice Lab, School of the Arts and Media, UNSW.
09.04.2015 - 16.05.2015
still life with assorted fruit and flowers, silverware, velvet and 2-hour performance by Kathleen Campone, Paul Roberts and Emily Robinson.
"Rethinking blankness requires two things: acknowledging that blankness is a fantasy; denying blankness its purity" - Astrid Lorange
The white cube is underpinned by the premise that artworks emerge 'ex nihilo' - out of nothingness. Isolating art from the chaos of the everyday, the white cubes claims a to be a space of neutrality, of blankness. It is a myth. Instead, the white cube operates as a vision machine that functions to shape and disseminate cultural production according to the collection and display of objects. As such, it is a highly charged site that regulates a specific politics of space, of history, and of the body. Le Plein (Full Up) draws on visual art vocabularies, art history and everyday gestures to explore, underscore and upend these intersecting politics of the white cube.
Le Plein (Full Up) was devised for the group exhibition '_____' curated by Alex Gawronski and Biljana Jancic presented at Margaret Lawrence Gallery, VCA, Melbourne.
Image credit: Sarah Walker.
performance workshop / 3 hours / The Lock-Up Cultural Centre Newcastle
This is about your senses – sight-sound-smell-taste-touch - and your awareness of them. Play with them. Isolate them. Stretch them. Intensify them.
Cat & Mouse is a performance workshop and an experiential game devised to draw attention to our everyday actions of sensing. Working through a facilitated setting, participants are encouraged to play, to chase curiosities, to re-discover.
Image credit: Julia Gove
Curated by Susan Gibb
Featuring: Boni Cairncross, George Egerton-Warburton, Zoe Robertson
From: Susan Gibb <[xxxxxx]@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Jun 17, 2013 at 11:25 PM
Subject: Potential Title
To: [xxxxxx] <[xxxxxx]@gmail.com>
So I think I have a potential title for the exhibition…
Following on from our catch up in Melbourne, I had a brief detour via Ned Kelly’s armour at the State Library of Victoria to dumplings and a VB or two with Mitch Cairns in Chinatown. He asked me about the exhibition and I rambled and he concluded, “so you’re public thinking” and I said, “yeah, that’s it, that’s the name of the show”.
What do you reckon:
I’m saying it out loud to normalise it but you can dispute it if you like. Keep in mind it’s less crazy than previous titles I’ve bestowed on shows, such as ‘Mother’. My mind’s a loose gun [sic.] when it’s free-associating, so thank god [sic.] Mitch stepped in.
No rush on your thoughts but would love to hear them when you have a chance.
27.04.2013 - 12.05.2013
real-time documentation of ‘The Situated Line’ at Articulate Project Space, Leichhardt, curated by Michele Elliott, featuring Brogan Bunt, Boni Cairncross, Michele Elliott, Ruth Hadlow and Jo Law,10 days, 6 hours each, 708 pages.
PTSL is a subjective, hand-written document of ‘The Situated Line’ – a group exhibition presented at Articulate Project Space, Leichhardt, between 26.04.13 – 12.05.13. As a form of real-time documentation, the pages trace sixty hours over ten days of occupying space, being in a given moment and an attempt to capture the elusive present. Dispersed with diagrams, sketches and pauses, the text is at times feverous, excitable and detailed. At other times, it is languid, mundane and tedious. Fragmented and disjointed, the text grapples with the process of evidencing the split between time frames – the ‘now’ of real-time, the ‘now’ being captured on the page and the lag between them.
The process offered a space of heightened awareness (until fatigue set in), making explicit the incomplete nature of live experiences and the role of attention in framing such events. While the process was performed publicly, the experience was highly subjective and internal. The distance that was established called into question the relationship between artist and audience within the live encounter. Here, the document-as-object operates on the same conditions of its production - as the 'third thing'. It supplements the performance as the mediator between artist and audience, questioning the legibility of the document and initial process in turn.
ongoing collaboration with Lauren Brown (UK)
“My silence has not protected me. Your silence will not protect you” - Audre Lorde
Relay is the title for an ever evolving cluster of durational actions that interrogate the social and political nuances embodied in the acts of hearing, listening, speaking and keeping silent.
The project emerged in mid 2012 from a series of conversations between myself, Lauren Brown and Laura Hindmarsh. These circulated around considerations of the relationship between liveness and mediation, the shifts occurring in the way we experience due to the proliferation of a networked society, and the nature of our participation within this society. Central to this project is an investigation into the shifts across the last century in the performance of political speech, its intersection with the network and the impact on our participation in the realm of politics. It asks how the network navigates our proximity to political debates and others, how it mimics and alters our participation.
Relay draws on a range of textual material spanning durational political addresses to a live audience (Fidel Castro), to political speeches broadcast across the airwaves (Winston Churchill), to responsive protest songs (Billie Holliday), to televised political attacks that gained momentum on social media sites (Julia Gillard). Performing othersʼ words we work through iterations and cycles to explore what it means to speak for oneself and on behalf of others, what it means to listen, what it means to hear and what it means to keep silent.
Relay (iteration 1)
Alaska Projects Level 2, Sydney AU and ]Performance Space[, London UK / 12.08.12 / 5 hours
Relay (iteration 2)
cycle 1: Alaska Projects Level 2, Sydney AU / 12.06.13 / 2 hours
cycle 2: Alaska Projects Level 2 and Level 1, Sydney AU / 12.06.13 / 2 hours
cycle 3: William Street, north side and south side, Sydney AU / 12.06.13 / 2 hours
cycle 4: IO Myers Studio UNSW, Sydney AU and CIA Studios, Perth AU / 24.06.13 / 2 hours
cycle 5: PACT Centre for Emerging Artists, Sydney AU and ]Performance Space[, London UK / 20.07.13 / 2 hours
07.2012 - 10.2012
You must follow me carefully is participatory and experimental. There is no right or wrong way to experience this artwork, no right or wrong way to perform.
We perform individually, but also sometimes as a group. Our actions are infectious, they spark a response from those present. Our negotiation of the task, the space, the other people – the stuff that happens ‘in between’ – is the performance. Amidst these goings on one person stands apart. Through physical hand-labour, they generate a subjective document of the events in real time as they unfold. Framed by the writer’s attention and focus, this is the record of the performance – its tangible manifestation. But it is also part performance itself.
These participatory performances are part of a larger system of an artwork that also incorporates intimate re-performances and an evolving sound installation. Thus you must follow me carefully actively seeks to collapse the distinction between the ‘live’ and the ‘recorded’. Through serial repetition, participation, chance and displacement. With each iteration, the series continues to evolve in a self-referential fashion raising questions about mediated experiences and authenticity in experience.
Sawtooth ARI, Launceston
Inflight ARI, Hobart
Firstdraft Gallery, Sydney
Firstdraft Depot, Sydney
PERFORMANCE AND INSTALLATION:
‘You must follow me carefully’, solo exhibition, Gallery 4, Firstdraft Gallery, Sydney
‘appearing as process’, group exhibition curated by Laura Hindmarsh, Sawtooth ARI, Launceston
PARTICIPANTS: Jayne, Alistair, Jimmy, Nick, James, Brad, Amelie, Lewis, Leah, Laura, Lleah, Rebecca, Lucy, Benjamin, Vitto, Anna, Lou, Tobias, Holly, Darren, Dan, Chloe, Rob, Rahni, Julia, Sara, Darren, Sarah, Jessica, Brian, Emma.
28.09.2011 - 13.11.2011
How do we understand the notion of ‘experience’ when so much of our daily lives are fast-paced, where our attention is split by a never-ending stream of distraction? How can we locate ourselves in the ‘now’? What would happen if you gathered a group of people in a space and asked them to perform one simple task, repeatedly and simultaneously for an hour? These were the motivating questions for Off the Route, a cyclical performance series that actively blurs the distinction between repeated live events and the subsequent documentation.
In the live encounter visitors are invited to participate in experimental performative workshops. On arrival to the designated space, participants are assigned one of three tasks: to speak – to read aloud a given quote repeatedly; to type – to record on a typewriter everything they hear; to observe – to watch and listen, taking in the event as it unfolds. All three tasks are to be carried out for fifty-five minutes, at which point everyone ceases and holds silence and stillness.
Influenced by Fluxus, performance and conceptual art and theoretical concerns of the live event and documentation, Off The Route is a series that attempts to interrogate notions of ‘experience’, ‘authenticity’, and ‘(re)mediation’. While Off the Route seemingly operates primarily around the live performative workshops, the documentation (audio, hand-typed paper documents, participant reflections) are vital components to the series. These documents not only become the basis for the following performances, but are also layered into various components of the series’ installation. The sound installation, the expanded publication and the projected reflections are dynamic elements that shift and evolve as the performances continue. In a sense Off the Route becomes a self-documenting art machine, reliant on individuals and group dynamics. It is a series primed for multiplicity setting out to deliberately blur the distinction between the live and the recorded. Each individual experience (whether encountered live or through various forms of documentation) constitutes the artwork – there is no criterion for the ‘truth’ in experience, no one location where the artwork resides.
For more information on the development of the series:
Image credit: Nick Clifford
16.04.2011 - 5.06.2011
Hatched: National Graduate Exhibition 2011, PICA
installation - turmeric, cornflour
Negotiations is an immersive site-responsive installation that employs everyday materials such as turmeric, cornflour and plastic lace to screen-print directly onto the wall surface.
Negotiations employs accesible materials (turmeric, wool batting and plastic lace as stencil), to explore Australia’s current relationship with the Middle East. Turmeric, as a commodity, is a product of India, yet due to its history of trade through the Middle East to greater Europe, it is largely associated with this geographic location.
For some, the richly patterned walls and soft pristine floor of the installation, evoke a meditative space similar to a temple. For others, the repugnant smell of turmeric can be assaulting and overpowering. For many the artwork does not exist in stasis, but instead shifts between the inviting and the repulsive, echoing common Western sentiments of the East (as both exotic and dangerous). The encounter of the installation is informed by the viewer’s own background and position: it is they who negotiate the space and its conceptual underpinnings.
35mm photographs, hand-manipulated negatives
traces is a series of 35mm photographs in which the negatives have been manipulated directly by hand. Time, chance and movement become physical traces etched onto the surface. These echo the body's movement as recorded in the photograph. This slow and awkward movement of the body was performed and sustained over the duration of a day. The photographic frame becomes a site that references the layering of time and processes.