Some audio that’s fun to listen to.

Posted in General on December 16, 2010 by djtheduchess

Alice Bayliss and Rebekka Kill are both lecturers based in Leeds, at Leeds University and Leeds Metropolitan University, respectively. In this interview they discuss the ways in which they have been able to integrate their interest in performance, music, digital live art and club culture into their academic teaching, curatorial, artistic and social interests.

Alice Bayliss and Rebekka Kill


A conversation between two academic-practitioners making performance work for club spaces, parties and festivals. Listen to them discuss their training, their work, how they share that practice with student performers and hear their plans for future collaborations and platform events.

Listen to Alice Bayliss’ and Rebekka Kill’s audio discussions.

Audio here

Dancing Queens: Personal Histories

I Don’t Like Mondays: Student Projects in the Party Environment

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun: Conferencing and Collaborations

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One of the PhDs I nearly did.

Posted in General on December 15, 2010 by djtheduchess

Over the last 15 years I have taught Fine Art, Graphic Arts, Electronic Media, Printmaking, Illustration, Time Based Media, Sound Installation, Performance, Cultural Studies, Contextual Studies, History of Art and Design, Performance, Live Art, PGCE PCET, PGCHE, BA, BSc, MA, PhD, NVQ and GNVQ, ND and HNC, Access to HE and FE, MEd, Cultural Tourism, Enterprise, Entertainment Management and Urban Geography. I have worked at beginner level and with PhD students, I have done curriculum development in FE, HE, and at post-graduate level. I work in partnership, on partnerships, site specifically, traditionally and non-traditionally with learning spaces and learners, in schools, universities, colleges, festivals, nightclubs, galleries, shops, journals, art catalogues, on and offline and in zines. In writing, in performing, in making, in doing, in DJing, in dancing, in teaching, in developing, in negotiating, in dialogue and in monologue. I eavesdrop, I mentor, I’m  externalling and internalling, I support, I meet, I facilitate, I do…..

In many ways I feel schizophrenic, torn, dis-located, homeless, nomadic. In other ways I am stimulated and motivated by transgression, by exploring boundaries, by travelling, by wandering, by facilitating, by meeting, by stopping and starting, by being swept along by enthusiasm, by being stopped in my tracks and resisting and complying, and succeeding and failing, and trying and opting out, and wanting to be something and not wanting to play. I’m an interdisciplinary practitioner working in the very spaces where disciplines are born, defined, maintained and defended. Personally I’m comfortable with my madness – most of the time….

Once upon a time I started a PhD. I wanted to write about why art students don’t like writing and interdisciplinary strategies to help them get going. So I wrote a chapter about criticalities, got interested in my many voices, explored hybridities, and polyvocality, and ideas about unique critical takes, transferability and reflective academic practices. I was reading Bakhtin and thinking about the culture of the weekend as I went out into nightclubs and played records. I was thinking about open bodies and travelling concepts as I wandered around music festivals. I did some more research on disciplinary formation in the University. Where did essays come from? What is a lecture? Why do we defend these forms? Is the university some kind of war zone where battles are fought over disciplinary contexts, languages, philosophies and practices? I used words like separatist to describe my experience of the way in which these disciplinary notions were policed and I thought about border guards and watch towers and things being lost in translation. And then I stopped the PhD because it was a bit depressing and it felt wrong. What is the discipline of a PhD? How is this policed? How can I be so hypocritical? It was conforming to all those institutional legalities I was challenging, it was working with a set of values, an academic and disciplinary culture, that were at odds with my ideas. Full stop…..

This work focussed on perceived intradisciplinary tensions in Fine Art between writing and making. However, many of the questions I want to ask are the same. This work initiated a process of mapping out the geography of the ‘art college’. I asked where is the written element located, in relation to studio practice? How does one travel between these elements as a student? In thinking about these ideas and the students’ responses to these ideas, my thinking jumped about. First, exploring the critical thinking debate, then back (as has happened often since my MA) yet again to linguistic imperialism and to resisting readers, finally I was overwhelmed with a desire to understand to source. So I began to research discipline formation and this lead on to an exploration of interdiscplinarity

After the abandoning this first study I went away and I wrote, and I wrote, about all sorts of interdisciplinarities, and insides and outsides, and contexts, and spaces, and I wrote lots of courses, and articles, and I worked on lots of projects and then I realised it wasn’t really a full stop; it was more of a semi-colon.

Is it possible to function in a truly interdisciplinary manner within the structures of the university? Is it desirable? What can we do to facilitate it? What are the barriers? What are the most interesting boundaries for me:  research/practice/teaching, live/digital, public organisations/private organisations, art/event/performance/music, lecturer/student? What is my experience?

Plan

Introduction

Which disciplinary boundaries am I interested in?

Why?

What brought me here? – reflection etc.

PART 1- What is It?

Literature, Ideas –academic writing

3 key notions of Disciplinarity,

Chapter 1- Disciplinarity in the Arts

Discipline Formation – history and theory (old chapter 2)

Chapter 2 – Intradisciplinarity in Fine Art

An intradisciplinary curriculum issue

Case Study in Fine Art (old chapter 1)

Chapter 3 – Interdisciplinarity in Context

An interdisciplinary curriculum development

Case Study in Art, Event, Performance developments

+ Theory (cltad conference paper)

PART 2

“Chapter 4”Doing It

Practice – visual, performance, event

Documentation and reflection here

“Chapter 5” – Writing It

A range of types of writing, differing authoring voice, interdisciplinary and academic/non academic publications

Theorisation of these practices + examples

“Chapter 6” – Teaching It

Action Research?? – micro case study

“Chapter 7” – Spreading it Around

Partnership work, projects

Documentation and analysis – perhaps image chapter here?

PART 3 – Developing It and Concluding it

Chapter 8 – Developing It

Looking at Parts 1 and 2 in relation to one another

Future Plans

Chapter 9 – Conclusions

Metaphors etc..

 

I think my big question is ‘What does it mean to be interdisciplinary in the University?’

Bit more practice stuff…

Posted in General on December 15, 2010 by djtheduchess

My name is Bill and I’m a Headcase, Gatecrasher, Leeds, 2008

 

 

 

Piggy Antoinette, Leeds Met Staff Development Day, the toilets, 2008

 

 

 

 

Skirting Around Situation Leeds: Eavesdroppings from the Edge

Posted in General on December 14, 2010 by djtheduchess

 

 

Situation Leeds is open submission, it’s free to take part, most of the events are free. In other cities, or in other disciplines, these tend to be the internal characteristics of a fringe festival. However, fringe festivals are usually a more avant guarde adjunct to another festival. Fringe festivals exist very deliberately, and often very successfully, on the edge of other more mainstream festivals – Edinburgh Fringe, for example, is bigger than the Edinburgh Festival itself. But, Situation Leeds is not an adjunct – it stands alone. So, here we have an arts festival that, internally, has some characteristics of a fringe festival but isn’t connected to another festival.

Is Situation Leeds a fringe festival? If it isn’t a fringe festival does it have a fringe of its own? If it does, what’s this fringe like? Where is it? Perhaps a notion of “fringeness” redundant in this context? So, I spent some time looking, and experiencing Situation Leeds. Trying to find a fringe. Trying to find a sense of fringeness. I looked, I experienced, but most importantly I listened.

Dinner

The first event I went to was the opening dinner at Patrick Studios, hosted by East Street Arts. We were met by Ken on the door and given our membership cards, “Ooh wow”, “how posh”, “what do I do now?” ESA is “re-launching” itself as a social club and there is an air of excitement and mystery tonight. People are giggling and smiling. We’re given a drink and asked to select a beermat/role. I’m a music maker.

“I hope I don’t actually have to make music”.

Is there dissent already? Probably.

Scott (probably the best) compere (ever), introduces the night. There are moodmakers with joss sticks, builders, music makers and decorators. We’re going to make a space and eat dinner in it.

“Everyone thinks there’s not really any food, what do you think?”

“There’d better be food, I’m bloody starving, I’ve been at work all day.”

I can smell curry.

We don’t have to participate but there appears to be one of those things you hit a horse with, a switch, and a threat of punishment of you don’t play ball.

“Food, yes, theme the music on food, um, mashed potato? Maybe, I’m not sure”

“We really need to start buying some music, who knows how to do itunes, who’s done it before?”

“What about dips, Deeply Dippy?”

The food is served, a queue system with raffle tickets, it’s delicious but people are starving and threatening to cheat, but no-one does. We’re regretting the soundtrack now. Right Said Fred; what were we thinking?

A Family Day Out

I took my children to see Sarah Spanton’s work Bridge. In a glass corridor suspended over a courtyard, two performers in white shirts and baggy trousers move, there’s writing on the windows, they ascend a step ladder. They seem to be mimicking each other’s movements. We’re watching from a distance, on the road, out of the back of a pub, broken glass on the floor. Instinctively we press our faces between the bars of the huge black metal gates that stop us from entering the courtyard. I can see they’ve seen us.

“it’s like a moving mannequin, like a living doll, it’s an astrologer with a telescope”

“Is it alive or not?”

“There’s a person building something and a person looking at the stars”

“It’s better viewed from the other side of the road”

“OK”, we’re not that enthusiastic, we were enjoying the caged view. Who was in the cage, in the zoo? Was it audience or performer?

“Why are two people doing exactly the same thing? Copying each other?”

“Maybe that one is a projection and the other one is actually there.”

AAHAAH X О – О – , she’s writing code on the window, I →   III← ←

At the Henry Moore Centre we can see close up what’s happening. The children are much less interested.

We walk into the dark arches and find Harry Meadley’s work.

“When sea creatures touch a seabed it’s like this.” It makes people laugh.

“It’s like a giant kaleidoscope.” The kids dance around in the interactive projection – this is proper participation.

“Yeah, some scallys came down and they just danced about in it and chatted up women.” It smells weird down here.

Coffee and a Chat.

I haven’t been to the information hub at Leeds Metropolitan University yet, by Black Dogs. I’m sitting in the Costa Coffee on the edge of the Merrion Centre, and I want Andy Abbott, from Black Dogs, to tell me about it. Does it really matter that I haven’t been? This work is, in part anyway, about asking people to talk about art works that they haven’t seen while pretending that they have seen them. So, writing about this vicariously seems appropriate. “Works still exist when they don’t happen.” This really is a different kind of encounter! “Discussion of the artwork frees you”. Really? No. Apparently, this might be wrong. “Does artwork just perpetuate the same conversations over and over again.” We talk about relational aesthetics, about Barthes, about spectacle…

“You can only refer to something in the past”

“It’s not that fun to talk about”

We’re in café, drinking coffee, in the middle of the city, there’s no physical evidence of Situation Leeds here but it’s bleeding in – Andy Abbott hands me a book.

“you don’t need venues when you’ve got spaces, you’ve got the city.”

“that was a piece made for artists, it’s in a gallery space”

“that idea of artists being original is a failed project”

I walk around the corner, into the Merrion Market, to have a look at Retoyed Trash.

“I made her neck stand up by putting pins in it, her name’s Lily Whitelegs, named after my fish that’s passed on, I’m quite attached to her”

There are a lot of women here, sewing, chatting, it feels nice.

“there was one boy here on Saturday”

“Lily Whitelegs needs a boyfriend because she can’t really talk to the animals”

Shopping in Leeds Market

FrenchMottishead’s Post Echo project involved them selecting phrases from the local newspaper, the Evening Post, the next day they would encourage people from Leeds to re-enact this phrase and photograph them. This seemed like an excellent opportunity to eavesdrop, to listen in, to encounter….

“it’s our special paper”

“it’s an art project”

“Do any of these tickle your fancy?”

“you could be a victim or a murderer”

“one last thing is we need to get your official permission”

“You’re a campaigning mother, what are you going to campaign about?”

“I suppose I should campaign about midwives”

“That’s very nice but I’m just waiting for my wife and we’ve got to catch a bus”

“ooh I’d hate to be in their shoes”

“lucky so and so”

“I’m not going to play the cello for you – no way, but I used to play the recorder.”

“He’s your man, Peter, come and have a look at this!”

“Do you want me then? I could be ski-ing, Oi oi oi oy”

“I’m a mechanic on the alps, so I could be ski-ing, I’ve not been yet this year”

“We’ve been on everything you know, street doctors, I were on that. When I was 25 I got Pyrani’s disease, you know, when the penis doesn’t go erect, I’ve been on Radio Leeds quite a lot”

It was a whirlwind, a spin, a cacophony of voices.

At the launch of the Post Echo. At Borders. There’s wine and crisps.

“on the front page you have to have death, politics, and human interest”

“we were hoping we could make the first page”

“he thinks he’s going to be on TV, he thinks he’s photogenic”

“it’s fantastic, such an ego trip”

“it was surprising and exhilarating”

“I didn’t even realise it was tonight; I was in for something else”

“that was nice, that, wasn’t it?”

“it’s about the event of the photograph”

“it’s a thing you could, sort of, you know, um, build on.”

A Drink in the Pub with Friends

I’ve been told to dress for a night out and I don’t know what to wear. “If they try and get us to take our clothes off I’m leaving.”

I’m back at Patrick Studios again. It’s FrenchMottishead’s event Ready To Where. We’re not allowed to know what’s going to happen – I’m suspicious. Plastic school type chairs are line up in rows facing each other. Rebecca French takes a Polaroid picture of me with my red coat over my arm. “Write down how you feel in you outfit that you’ve chosen to wear” The people in the room seem to be mostly MA students chatting about relational aesthetics and dissertations.

“Who are you and what do you do?”

“It was just exams”

Nobody wants to talk to me, perhaps because I’m sitting on the end of a row, I’m not worried because it gives me a chance to eavesdrop.

“So, what do you do, Clare?”

“I should make something different up each time, I’m a fishmerchant”, says Clare.

“Sometimes this kind of thing is really good, sometimes it’s just annoying”

“I’ve never been keen myself”

“I like him when he’s complicated on semiology.”

“I think everyone has their one Derrida text, one that they love!”

“Did you cut it off something else?”

“Are you spying on us? How rude!” I stopped taking notes….

They did make us take our clothes off, and swap with each other, and go to the pub for a drink in mismatched clothes. It was wonderful, and weird, and interesting. We got back to the studio.

“there’s a pair of black trousers missing!”

“that looks a bit sinister”

“ugh, other peoples sweat”

“I think I looked good when I was younger; I’ve lost it now.”

“Don’t write anything about ducks”

I’m not naïve enough to think that these overheard responses are more honest, or real. I wanted to eavesdrop, listen in, chat, as a way of potentially accessing those voices; the voices at, or on, the fringe.  This was a straightforward way of exploring the edges of Situation Leeds. All I did was attend some events and exhibitions and look, experience and listen. In this way this festival becomes a series of snapshots or encounters.

So, what can these snapshots tell us about Situation Leeds and its fringe, its fringeness, its impact on the whole notion of fringe. I realised through this process that although I have worked out (in advance) what a fringe festival was. I hadn’t really thought about an abstract notion of fringeness. I suppose, I thought, I would know it, when I saw it. I suppose, I thought, that the open submission, the free-ness of it would tell me what fringeness was. In a way, Situation Leeds did help me with think about fringeness, as at all of these events it was on my mind. So here goes.

A fringe can be a fringe benefit, it can be peripheral, secondary, marginal; an adjunct. A fringe can be lunatic, political, avant guarde. A fringe can also be an edging of hanging threads, cords, or strips, attached to a separate band or ribbon.

If we consider the Situation Leeds festival as the band, or ribbon, that joins up all these threads, cords and strips, then it has an extremely fringey character. However, these threads, cords and strips aren’t simply the works that one can find in the Situation Leeds guide. Through the weave of the central ribbon runs the urban space itself, Leeds, the city, the people, the places, the environments, the market, the butcher, the midwife, the café, the studio, the fishmerchant, the bookshop, the street, the people in the pub who saw us come in, in our mismatched clothes and drink, and laugh, and take pictures of each other. Tangled in amongst the threads of this fringe are the voices of children, of artists, of students, of participants, of Scott, of Sarah, of Andy, of Clare, of the man whose girlfriend thinks, he thinks, he’s photogenic. Woven into the cords are the processes, the experiences, the crunch of crisps, the making, the smell of curry, the drawing, the noise in the market, the feeling of someone else’s cold, stale sweat on your skin, the movements, the walking on broken glass, the looking for projects that are hard to find, the dressing and undressing, the projecting, the hunger, the writing, the eating and the talking. Hidden in the strips are the ideas, the concepts, the relational aesthetics (at least twice), the big ideas, the Derrida, the Barthes, the texts, the difficult words.

Situation Leeds is absolutely a fringe festival, but it’s not an adjunct, it’s not produced in opposition to more mainstream festival. It’s conceptually fringe. It’s fringe in its heart; to its core. No, it’s fringe in its weave and its weft. A notion of fringeness is definitely not redundant here, it’s central. Because of this it does not generate a fringe of its own. It doesn’t need to. It’s inclusive. Situation Leeds is the most fringe that a festival can be.

A little bit of my practice in pictures…

Posted in General on December 14, 2010 by djtheduchess

Cumulonimbus Crowds and Pollution at Nastyfest

Posted in General on December 14, 2010 by djtheduchess

I wanted to find out something about how groups of people work in a crowd, at a gig, club or a festival. What’s the difference between a good gig crowd and a horrible one? I started by reading a bit of theory. So, hold on to your hats, here goes…..

Sigmund Freud describes how, when people group together, in a crowd they behave differently to people acting individually. In theory, in a crowd, our minds merge together, our enthusiasm is amplified, we’re swept along absolutely immersed in the moment. This experience can be extremely positive, for example dancing in a club or at a gig. Here the crowd make the experience amazing. They are the main component of the atmosphere. But importantly, we have to be a part of this crowd, this clique, this group, this movement, this school of thought for the amazing experience to happen. If the music, or people, or space are horrible, or we don’t really get it, the night can be a disaster. In particular, if people are unfriendly, aggressive and make it clear that we are not part of the crowd, the experience can be traumatic. What I’m interested in is why we sometimes feel excluded, or what happens if we don’t want to part of the crowd?

Le Bon (not Simon!) discussed the idea that a crowd always has a kind of leader. The coolest, most powerful, most interesting character. The one that knows the DJs, the rockstars, the beautiful people. The jist of Le Bon’s argument is that individuals in any crowd space identify themselves with this leader. This person becomes an ideal ego, something to aspire to. These “leaders” are also performers. We watch their performance, perform our enthusiasm and thus participate in the crowd. I’d describe this kind of arrangement as a clique. As far as I’m concerned this is an unhealthy situation, and probably unsustainable.

I’m much more interested in convergence theory. In convergence theory a crowd is considered to be a group of like minded individuals. So, people who want to do similar stuff come together to form crowds and the enthusiasm is contagious.

These two theories create an unhealthy versus a healthy crowd. Le Bon’s is a spiky crowd. These “leaders” produce spikes, disruptions and discomfort. This type of crowd can also exclude other people in an aggressive and spiky way. On the other hand, the converged crowd is a soft crowd, like a cloud, in this crowd we can be playful, we can be part of it but this is about our own individual, and shared, priorities not about “leaders”. We could call these cumulonimbus crowds. They are big and fluffy. They grow quickly. They are beautiful and they can reach stratospheric heights.

Sometimes, though, a crowd needs spikes, in certain political situations we need a leader (Gandhi for example), in others an artist, or writer, or musician and their ideas form the catalyst for the crowd in the first place. But in a club, a gig, a festival, we need a cumulonimbus crowd. Inclusive, growing, not defined by peer pressure or by “leaders”. In this type of crowd, any degree of conformity should at least feel like a choice, not a requirement. This cloud of people is made up of smaller social groups that float around each other. Sometimes forming a bond. Sometimes not. In Social Network theory these groups look like molecules. They have atoms (individuals) connected by stronger or weaker bonds. Within the crowd/cloud these are like the water molecules floating around in the air.

A Social Network diagram

So, when you arrive at Nastyfest with your molecular mates, what do you see? A lovely fluffy floating crowd, that includes you – you can float around, be absorbed if you want to be, reformulate, mutate or evolve your molecule. Or are you confronted by cliquey spikes, posers, would be “leaders”, namedroppers and fashionistas. This is a serious environmental issue. As we know, too much pollution causes acid rain. All I can say, in this unfortunate situation is be a little cloud, float around, ignore the spikes, clouds can cope with a bit of pollution and still achieve great altitudes.

My current research project – Environments for Encounter

Posted in General on December 13, 2010 by djtheduchess