This week I could focus more on my third research question of making space for other artists whilst being rooted in your own practice, as in contrast to last week, this weekend was helping set up and frame other artists’ work. I was to be a performative waiter at A La Buzzcarte, a café run by Buzzcut only serving performance instead of food, as part of THAT Festival at the Macrobert. 5 artists had made 5 and 10 minutes pieces in the shape of a meal, to be performed round a table to 6 audience members at a time.
Although our main priority was to set up and clear away for each artist, we also created 3 different ways in which the audience could order their meals that allowed us to create the context around the performances. Audiences had to pick from illustrations, actions or objects and partake in a slow-motion race. Both Rosana and Nick were bringing themselves as artists to the event; the use of personas that experiment with gender presentation, and taking a well-known construct and playing with it are things they both explore in their own work. A small dining table and one performer provides the intimacy and opportunity for connection with strangers, a theme clearly seen in Walking:Holding.
Though they, and I guess myself included, naturally brought themes from their practice in to the work, I felt like the practicality of sustaining a persona and worrying about logistics for each course was that I was often forgetting to perform. There was a lot going on, having not just to support in the set up but having to hold the space. I was actually testing out the question: can one literally stay rooted in one’s practice (i.e hold on to a persona) whilst literally making space (setting and clearing tables) for other artists? I would certainly say it is possible, and for some of the runs we kept that balance successfully. To go deeper in to the question, it is a matter of not whether it’s possible but how. For me, it was good to experiment with a new concept but next time I think setting a clearer rule/intention to create a specific world within the café will help the waiters/hosts to not feel as if they are flitting between performing and logistical concerns.
Another aspect to balance with work that is ‘hosted’ by performers in persona is making the work about the artists and their pieces, not about your performance as someone creating a context for the work. We found when devising that although we had many ideas of entertaining things we could do, if we had put them all in we would have had too much going on in between each course. This would have taken away from the performances we were framing; I think there is an element of letting go of preciousness around your input as an organiser.
All in all it was a successful day, because of not being afraid to prioritise the artists’ work but simultaneously allowing themes from one’s own practice to exist in the context. I think we also had an awareness that perhaps there needed to be more waiters or more of an intention with the world to make it easier for us to be physically rooted in the personas as well as performing a functional role. What felt especially uplifting was the way in which Rosana and Nick made space for me as an artist, being completely open to me having creative input and discarding hierarchy. We could have very easily slipped in to the roles of placement provider and placement, there everyone is clear in their pre-defined role. But I am fast learning that I’m lucky enough to be on placement with people who aren’t interested in roles that we already know how to perform, but in exploring what comes if we float in between or transcend pre-defined roles completely.