Response Time participant Hannah Pullen talks about the project and responding to Black Smoke Rising which will be performed Saturday 15th November 5PM
How did you get involved with the Response project?
I first got involved in the project about two years ago. At the time I was studying a level three national diploma in Performing Arts at Coleg Ceredigion. The course introduced me to all styles and disciplines of performance that I had never before considered having only experienced a brief period of youth theatre. One of my college friends (James Baker) became involved with the project and I became instantly swept up in his enthusiasm and got involved myself. Having begun to have developed a process for creating and performing my own theatre within the college environment, the opportunity to further explore my process and performance techniques in a more experimental space allowed me to establish myself as both a solo and collaborative performer.
What are your favourite things and least favourite things about the response time project?
The most rewarding aspect about the response time project is the chance to work with so many multi-disciplinary artists from such diverse backgrounds. As long as you are open to the process and other participants methods of working you can learn a lot from the artists you get to work with. I value any opportunity to work collaboratively and develop new ways of devising and performing, and this project gives me exactly that.
The thing I love most about the response time project is the opportunity to open up a conversation between the arts. Too often we categorise art and separate the forms. I think the arts can be strengthened by the cross over and combining of forms. Our performances come as a result of a direct conversation with the art work in the space. The time limitations provide an interesting foundation for us to build our relationship with the work upon. Often our responses are led by an initial feeling or connection with a piece and the concept has little time to develop – this means there is no time for the concept to get over complicated and blur the communication of the piece. What we’re working with is raw honest responses.
The most exciting development in the response time project is our recent visit to Cardiff to respond to Artes Mundi in the National Museum of Wales. I am so pleased with how well the project has been received and the amount of support and interest we are getting. It was such an incredible experience to leave the comfort of Aberystwyth and head off to the big city. The Artes Mundi response had a very interesting dynamic to it. Previously we have predominantly worked in Aberystwyth Gas Gallery – a space that now feels like home, a space we have become very comfortable and accepted in, and a foundation for our little community of performers. When working in the museum the pace change was instantly noticeable. No silence or stillness could be found in this space. The gallery where we were working welcomed a constant flow of rushed, confused, and disinterested people; some on lunch breaks, others looking for dinosaurs, and others shaking their heads and saying “this isn’t art”. Occasionally you would discover someone who genuinely engaged with the art work, took notice to the responses in the room, and respected the relationships that were building in the space. I found it challenging to find my feet in such a foreign place, making me realise I had become far too attached to the performance spaces and that my responses were being clouded by my fondness for the space. Artes Mundi brought the response time project back into focus for me, allowing me to return to the initial instinctive connection and respond honestly and purposefully to the art.
It’s hard to think of anything that I don’t like about the project at this moment. In some ways the things I love about the project are also the things that frustrate me the most. The limitation of time is both a blessing and a curse; more than once have I thought “if only I could have rehearsed that one more time,” or “I should have developed that further…”
However, once you commit to the project and the process of responding, accept the things you can’t change, you sort of get caught up in it – there’s a positive pace and energy to the group that always keeps me going.
You have been involved in a few now, which has been your favourite and why?
It’s very difficult to choose a favourite when each response time has been so different to the one before it. Each has a unique tone that is impermanent – arising from the art work and fading as the performers leave the space for the last time. That’s what’s so beautiful about this project!
My first response is definitely my most memorable – a movement piece situated in a small storage room. I was responding to a relatively small piece, probably not a lot bigger than A4. The image depicted a young woman in a room with the light being cast behind her, turning her into a silhouette. The physical piece tried to explore this character in the picture, and explore her feelings about being in this space – the picture doesn’t suggest any freedom, it appears frozen in time, stuck forever.
Responding to Black Smoke Rising was your idea, what was it about the exhibition that made you want to respond?
It’s rare to find such emotionally charged art that is so demanding of its viewers – inviting us to engage with the space, the atmosphere, the structures in the space, and the emotional and political content of the pieces. In a way Tim Shaw’s Black Smoke Rising, is a performance in itself. The gallery has been transformed into an environment for its viewers to explore and navigate in an unconventional way. Usually when entering a gallery we are restricted by the behavioural expectations of the art viewer. I mean to say that our behaviour is pre-determined for us; we enter the space quietly (often never talking more loudly then a whisper), we stop and wait for a few seconds to make sure we have given an acceptable amount of attention to each piece, we do not touch the art, we do not get too close, we try and think critically and this shuts us off – viewing art has become a mechanised learnt response.
I felt these expectations instantly fall away upon entering Black Smoke Rising. The sheer intensity of the environment shocked me out of this “correct way to view art,” and left me raw and vulnerable in the space; open to engage with the art in a very instinctive and honest way.
That is what the response time project is about.
“Immediate, real and authentic responses to art and space”. Sandra Bendelow (producer)