For those of you that don’t know what a Response Time is: Sandra Bendelow marshals a group of writers, artists and performers, takes them to a gallery space, and gives them 48 hours to make some performances in response to the Art in the Gallery (or the Gallery itself and its environment,) which are performed to a public audience at the end of the time. It’s crazy.
In October and December, Artes Mundi invited us to create responses to two of its locations (The National Museum in October and the ffotogallery in December).
These were the 8th and 10th Response Time events, and the 7th and 8th ones I attended, but they marked a new and exciting phase for the project, and weren’t like anything that came before it. At least in terms of logistics. Normally the events take place in Aberystwyth, with all the participants being more or less local, but these involved trekking down to a CITY. A CITY. And staying there for the duration of the process. It was definitely a bizarre experience, not being able to go home, but it was heart-warming to discover I can maintain a happy, homey, procrastination schedule even in the most unusual of conditions. Home is where you have a corner with a plug socket and a wifi connection.
The first event, in the National Museum was the biggest change, the space was vast and… Cold, I guess? Partly that’s down to the sheer size of it (The Gas Gallery, our usual home, could have fit inside it many times over,) and partly the clean and clinical nature of a big, modern art gallery. Lots of big open spaces and clean white walls. It’s hard to say if the work itself was more… cool and alienating than I’m used to working with, or if it was just the space that gave that impression. This had a noticeable effect on, if not my actual process of creation, then the mood of it; usually we’re all working together in a small space, able to observe and chat, but here we could each work individually, undisturbed for long periods.
The second space, the ffotogallery in Penarth, was much more like home, and I settled in to it immediately. A lovely, small space.
The two processes and performances ended up being fairly radically different. The first was a large group of us (9), responding to lots of different pieces, and taking the audience on a hefty journey around the space, which led to a very choppy sort of thing. It was difficult to achieve a real sense of flow (I didn’t envy Sandra’s Job of jigsawing our work together into a whole. At all.) While the second was a small group (6 of us), responding to 4 artworks, by 2 artists, in 3 rooms, and ended up really cohering, despite the various differences in performance tone, style and energy.
I think overall, I preferred the second event, even though the piece I produced at the first one is one of my favourite performances I’ve created, and the piece I made at the second is the first time I’ve really felt like I needed extra time… I just needed another day to really work out what I wanted to say, and how I wanted to say it.
If you’re a playwright, a poet, a prose writer (can we start calling them “prosers”?), an actor, a dancer, a musician, an artist, a photographer, a documentarian, a film maker, a… sculptor(?), whatever… I cannot recommend getting in touch with Sandra at Scriptography Productions and enquiring about getting involved with one of these things in future. Response time has radically developed my creative practice. There is nothing I’ve found to equal that buzz of adrenaline in going from a standing start to performing to an audience in 48 hours. Being unable to prepare, having to rely on inspiration, or an approximation thereof, and throwing caution to the wind, throwing out perfectionism, and just MAKING ART is an amazing experience, and I’ve been able to take those new styles and practices into my life in general.
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