Monday, October 10, 2011

Expanding Writing Horizons

Every now and then it's good to try something new. A while ago, I volunteered to be part of an art "experience". I wasn't quite sure what it would be but I'd done other stuff - writers sports, poem writing at exhibitions, performance writing. This was a bit different. Power to the People is part of the Melbourne Arts Festival and "presents works from over 15 Australian and international artists who have revisited, revised and revitalized these art-making strategies. Works shown by artists including Dora Garcia, Fiona Macdonald, Jonathan Monk and Mario Garcia Torres, demonstrate a move away from the art ‘object’, into more performative, documentative, research and participatory modes of art making."
This is another work in the exhibition. People can try on the animal costumes if they want. Most didn't. But one big group of Asian students had a wonderful time. Nothing quite like a penguin wearing a gorilla's head!
Basically I, and about 20-30 others (we work in shifts), am part of the Dora Garcia artwork (installation?). While people visit the exhibition, we sit at the table with the laptop and write about what we observe - and we are observing the people. The idea is that whatever we write appears above us on the projected image, and that they should at some point realise that we are writing about them.
That's when it gets interesting ... or confronting. For both sides. As the writer, I am not allowed to use my point of view or say I or me. I can only be the "objective witness". As the words appearing on the wall above me are the only things that move in the room, most people notice and then realise what is going on. Then they watch you watching them and writing about them.

It takes the role of the lonely writer in the garret and blows it out of the water, although my understanding of the instructions we are given is that it's the audience who are important. The writer is just part of the installation. I did find it hard to keep a straight face some of the time. I am only doing two shifts - all I have time for - but next time I'm going to have a closer look at some of the other works so I can "interpret" some of the body language I'm seeing in response to what is around me!


Sharon Welgus said...

That sounds a very scary thing to do, Sherryl! Congratulations on 'Dying to tell you'. The cover looks great.
Sharon Welgus

Desiree Middleton said...

That sounds like it was an amazing experience. The chance to really dig deep into the character of a real person, while they are standing right in front of you and seeing the expression on their face when they realize you just wrote about them. Bet it helps with crafting imaginary characters--making them real.

Angela Sunde. said...

Fun and intimidating at the same time, I would've jumped at the chance to be involved in such an installation. However, it must've been difficult to keep focussed on observing and not let the muse wander. Touch typing would also be useful.

Sherryl said...

Angela, the first hour was interesting but after that, unless lots of people were coming through, it was a bit mind-numbing. I found a well-thumbed novel in the desk drawer so I think that was everyone's "time out"!