Care, Rest and Misrecognition
This October Artsadmin partnered with Birmingham’s annual international performance festival extravaganza Fierce Festival to programme a Weekender Lab led by Simone Aughterlony in advance of Simone and Jen Rosenblit’s show Everything Fits in the Room during the festival. We asked Emily Warner to write about her experience of being a guest performer in the show as well as a participant in the Weekender Lab.
Everything Fits In The Room
Everything Fits In The Room is a performance by Simone Aughterlony and Jen Rosenblit, featuring sound by Miguel Gutierrez and Colin Self, and an invited ‘guest’ performer. Everything Fits in the Room had its UK premiere at this year’s Fierce Festival in Birmingham. Fierce commission a selection of regional artists to research and extend their practice within a development programme called Fierce FWD. Living in Birmingham at the time, I was one of the ten artists that made up this year’s Fierce FWD cohort. When programming Everything Fits In The Room, there was an invitation put to the Fierce FWD artists to perform as the guest. I was interested and responded, and was subsequently involved in the piece.
I connected with Simone and Jen over a Skype conversation earlier this year. Prior to this meeting I was sent an extensive and beautifully designed digital pamphlet that mapped the origins of the piece and the project’s conceptual framework. Taking its departure from research into the feminist writings of Alexandra Kollontai the work considers her radical politics surrounding equality of the sexes and the role of women in family and work structures. During the conversation we discussed the format of the piece, the connections within Simone and Jen’s practice, and the role of the invited guest.
The work is situated around a custom-built brick wall and during the 70 minute performance a constellation of materials is altered and adjusted by moving bodies as the sound conjures a descent into otherness and unknowing. The guest appears to present an unexpected provocation, highlighting cracks or openings in the work, presenting new areas of research to generate new material. Both excited and apprehensive, I anticipated that my position in the performance would be precarious and uncertain, these ideas being integral to the arrangement. Following our encounter online my thoughts circled around notions of trust, and the tension that might linger between knowing and not knowing. Looking back over notes I made during the conversation, I noticed I highlighted the words care, rest and misrecognition. These themes connecting closely to my own research interests and work that is to do with process, practicing and preparation.
A selection of further notes made during the call:
The dwelling guest
The mobile body
I am the ungovernable guest
The constant labouring to make things fit
Structured by sound of machine / domestic / cooking
Shifts and new information
Not always having to participate in grand gestures
A Necessary Ecology
A Necessary Ecology was a two-day lab, led by Simone Aughterlony at Toynbee Studios as part of Artsadmin’s Weekender programme, a week ahead of the performance at Fierce. The 12 participants making up the group were artists, working to site the material components – the ‘stuff’ of Everything Fits in the Room – within the conceptual scores that structure the performance. Through group improvisations, we moved through ideas associated with phenomenology and function, attention and desire, machine labor and deviance. A sensitively composed inventory of materials including bones, chains, leather skins, latex and grapefruit (the actual materials used in the performance) was repurposed throughout the workshop and performed within the context of the ‘room’, acting as a microcosm for the world. Actively exploring ideas of world building, and the contradictory nature of rightness and order, the bodies and materials evolved through states of suspension, rhythm and dissonance. The resulting architectures forced us into both fixed and broken states of attention, permitted the materials a new kind of alchemy, whilst provoking a sense of entanglement and constant adjusting. The group action was driven by tension and uncertainty, as bodies temporarily formed around sensual constellations that became agents for function and movement.
Key propositions noted post-workshop:
Contradiction as methodology
Deviance is part of social order and not a departure from it
The anarchy of togetherness
Everything Fits in the Room was performed in an industrial warehouse in Birmingham for an audience of 160 people. Two days prior to this the wall construction began and we met in the space to research my position within the two shows. As a guest in this situation, I felt the weighty responsibility to attend to specific choreographic moments within the framework of the performance while simultaneously managing conflicting impulses toward material, space and desire that had been nurtured during the two-day workshop. Like a guest in the others’ home, I was aware of parameters without the capacity to know all the rules. Moving through seven states of possibility spurred by the shifting sound-body, the performance would entice, attend, unravel, emerge, and disrupt the architecture of the room. Feedback after run-throughs highlighted the difficulty I felt having been given freedom to enter the work while also negotiating the constraints imposed by hyper-specific structures. Making things fit demands constant fixing, adjusting, labor and care – (the scores that underpin the work) – and the demand to sustain this impossible proposition can inevitably force loss and marginalization. I tried things my way, but was it the right way, and was it the way it needed to be done? My invite now expired; I find my thoughts still linger round these contradictory notions making it a hard task for me to conclude. Perhaps I will step outside the room for a moment, and look for another way back in.