Model and mode of being: notes on the Antony Gormley OpenLab session

February 12, 2013

On 7th Feb, OPENLAB went to the White Cube Gallery in Bermondsey where Antony Gormley’s exhibition Model was in place. In particular, we explored the installation piece Model which the show was named after.

Inside the exhibition, our brief –  or at least, the one that I am most interested to explore  –  was this:  ” […] to see the differences/similarities between real life and performance mode”.

Some questions come up for me. They are as follows:

What do we mean by ‘performance’ mode?

What do we mean by ‘real life’ mode?

Being a lazy kind of person at the moment, I googled Wikipedia’s definition of performance.  It says “A performance, in performing arts, generally comprises an event in which a performer or group of performers behave in a particular way for another group of people, the audience.”

I like this description because it makes me think.

Behave in a particular way…?  I guess this means that performers are recognisably acting, singing or dancing or whatever for an audience (and this ‘behaviour’ is rated according to the skill they are judged to have brought to it).

But what about when the performer’s behaviour is concerned with ways to be present in the moment of performance?  Would this always be a discernible quality? Is it a ‘rateable’ quality? And how important is it for an audience to know that the performer is behaving in a particular way for them? The words, or rather the accusative call to ‘make an effort’ spring to mind as something an audience might say if it felt excluded from proceedings.

Under what circumstances might an audience be ‘won over’ if the performer performed all the while behaving primarily in a particular way for themselves? And do we ever do that even when we think that is what we are doing? Would there be extra work to be done to translate this process into a recognisibly performative state? What is a ‘recognisibly performative state’ ? Is it something akin to a state that will satisfy an audience that they are not being cheated out of a ‘performance’? Would we have to step outside of what we thought of as our own level of in-touch-ness with ourselves and what we think we are doing in order to better think we were achieving this?

However, if I aim to ‘perform’ in this state, in this particular way, then it’s because I think it has worth or merit in itself, as a thing to see, as a spectacle. Thinking it’s enough is maybe asking an audience to expect something different. Because the ‘product’, the spectacle, might be discernibly different. On the other hand, it might not. It is concerned though, with the process; with the process as being the product. The ongoing ongoing product.

Is thinking something’s ‘enough’ in this context comparable to offering something closer to a ‘real life’ mode as a performative aesthetic? As in declaring of something that ‘it is what it is’ …

Does that mean that when we think something’s ‘enough’, its more closely related to authenticity than when we believe that what are doing is not enough and strive towards an idea of ‘performance’?

What, generally, if there are ‘general’ notions about it – which of course there must be – are our ideas about ‘performance’ comprised of?

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Square Roundness… Thoughts on Anthony Gormley’s ‘Model’

I am changed. Blocks are human are square are round and need my roundness to balance out their unevenness, which is present in my square smaller me.

Excited like a child I was to go in there. Now, writing this, I don’t want to hear the chatter yet. I don’t care. This is me here. My experience. I don’t want it to dissipate so soon, I don’t want to hear other bodies’ thoughts. Sometimes they can peel away from me, from my experience, chameleon that I might be, so susceptible to other people’s opinions thoughts feelings ideas.

The outer exhibition did not prepare me for this inner experience but of course it is all the same, just smaller or bigger. Building blocks that make up humans. Like atoms. Particles. Square = round. How lovely!

Loved it. An urge to push and experience these walls and corners and lines… A faint smell of iron. And the darkness… The darkness! So scary at first when I slid back on that first dark block, I thought I might fall into an abyss there, a hole in the ground. No ceiling above me, no wall behind me and yet I would slide on my butt farther away until there was a wall, there was a ceiling. All was just dark. When I found my space my eyes got used to the dark and actually I could discern vague shimmers of people. I think. Shadows. It was an eerie feeling, like a voyeur I sat in my little corner, quiet, observing shimmers passing me, feeling their way through the dark. No one knew I was there, it was as if I was hidden away, someone else. Other bodies that could have been illusions, vague spots until other bodies were touching me suddenly. Something grey crawling near me but when I lightly brush my foot over the area there is nothing there after all. I wanted to be sucked up by this darkness somehow, I wanted to be shadow. To be nothing for a little while.

Going further into the maze I want to be upside down all around exploring these corners. Some people there were scared, weird, awkward, talking about laundry and careers, not really observing. A few were. I was too self-absorbed to pay much attention to the attention of others, but I was startled a few times when I found someone, an unknown outsider, watching me. It changed the experience, which became suddenly about showing some sort of relationship between myself and this iron dark or semi-light squareness rather than about me exploring the darkness for me. The difference is subtle yet massive.

Performance presence, supposedly something we can ‘tune into’, a state we can reach for ourselves in individual practice or within a group of trusted openlabbers, and yet as soon as I sense I’m being watched the experience is changed. Almost a longing to go back to the darkness to be alone and move for me, a place where no one can see what I’m doing but it still exists for me. And sometimes wanting to be in the light, wanting to be seen. I am not weird? Am I weird? Are we all? Does it matter?

Not right now, not today, not for me. This is or was more a self-indulgent yearning to explore and then ‘sketch’ through movement than to scream out LOOK AT ME!!! Which is not to say you cannot look at me. You are welcome to be a witness to my experience. But what if I had wanted my being present to pull you in as an audience? Is that not what performance is about? To pull an audience’s eye?

Model and mode of being: notes on the Antony Gormley OPENLAB session

On 7th Feb, OPENLAB went to the White Cube Gallery in Bermondsey where Antony Gormley’s exhibition Model was in place. In particular, we explored the installation piece Model which the show was named after.

Inside the exhibition, our brief –  or at least, the one that I am most interested to explore  –  was this:  ” […] to see the differences/similarities between real life and performance mode”.

Some questions come up for me. They are as follows:

What do we mean by ‘performance’ mode?

What do we mean by ‘real life’ mode?

Being a lazy kind of person at the moment, I googled Wikipedia’s definition of performance.  It says “A performance, in performing arts, generally comprises an event in which a performer or group of performers behave in a particular way for another group of people, the audience.”

I like this description because it makes me think.

Behave in a particular way…?  I guess this means that performers are recognisably acting, singing or dancing or whatever for an audience (and this ‘behaviour’ is rated according to the skill they are judged to have brought to it).

But what about when the performer’s behaviour is concerned with ways to be present in the moment of performance?  Would this always be a discernible quality? Is it a ‘rateable’ quality? And how important is it for an audience to know that the performer is behaving in a particular way for them? The words, or rather the accusative call to ‘make an effort’ spring to mind as something an audience might say if it felt excluded from proceedings.

Under what circumstances might an audience be ‘won over’ if the performer performed all the while behaving primarily in a particular way for themselves? And do we ever do that even when we think that is what we are doing? Would there be extra work to be done to translate this process into a recognisibly performative state? What is a ‘recognisibly performative state’ ? Is it something akin to a state that will satisfy an audience that they are not being cheated out of a ‘performance’? Would we have to step outside of what we thought of as our own level of in-touch-ness with ourselves and what we think we are doing in order to better think we were achieving this?

However, if I aim to ‘perform’ in this state, in this particular way, then it’s because I think it has worth or merit in itself, as a thing to see, as a spectacle. Thinking it’s enough is maybe asking an audience to expect something different. Because the ‘product’, the spectacle, might be discernibly different. On the other hand, it might not. It is concerned though, with the process; with the process as being the product. The ongoing ongoing product.

Is thinking something’s ‘enough’ in this context comparable to offering something closer to a ‘real life’ mode as a performative aesthetic? As in declaring of something that ‘it is what it is’ …

Does that mean that when we think something’s ‘enough’, its more closely related to authenticity than when we believe that what are doing is not enough and strive towards an idea of ‘performance’?

What, generally, if there are ‘general’ notions about it – which of course there must be – are our ideas about ‘performance’ comprised of?

Session on Thursday 7 February 2013: A visit to Antony Gormley’s “Model” exhibition.

 

Whitecube

 

 

Last Thursday OPENLAB’s session happened during a visit to Antony Gormley’s exhibition: Model, at the White Cube Gallery in Bermondsey.

In this occasion we were Lavinia Cascone, Evangelia Kolyra, Manou Koreman, Jan Lee, Martine Painter, Thelma Sharma, Natasha Swingler, Mafê Toledo as well as myself.

I used February as an excuse to explain the reasons behind this special session at the gallery; February being the odd month of the year. Therefore it sounded anecdotical my decision of organising, for this reason, an odd (or special, as I usually called it) OPENLAB session outside the dance studio.

In reality, I used the figure of speech because I did not wanted to spoiled the experience. The truth is that an OPENLAB visit to the exhibition was a must. It seemed to me as though it was a tailor-made exhibition to the lab’s purposes.

I felt that, if I pointed out how relevant this exhibition was for the oppenlabbers, it would have probably affected, and very likely dampened, the experience. I wanted it to be like a surprise!

Considering the comments and responses I had from everybody, I think I was right making an understated call to this session.

 

Let me explain you a little bit from the exhibition so you may understand better why it was meant for OPENLAB.

On the leaflet about the exhibition the gallery explain us that “this ambitious exhibition investigates our experience of architecture through the body and the body through architecture.”

In fact, in this exhibition, humanoid sculptures made out parallelepiped-like body sections abound. There was specially one piece, which can be described under parallelepiped humanoid category, that served as playground for the OPENLAB experience. This piece, whose name gives the title of the exhibition, is a gigantic version of this Gormley’s humanoids.

The gallery tells us:

Fabricated from 100 tonnes of weathering sheet steel, the work is both sculpture and building, human in form but at no point visible as a total figure. Visitors [are] able to enter the work through a ‘foot’ and journey through its inter-connected internal chambers, the sculpture demanding that we adjust our pace and bend our bodies to its awkward yet absolute geometry. The experience of this analogy for the ‘dark interior of the body’ is guided by anticipation and memory and the direct and indirect light which leads us on as if through a labyrinth.

I couldn’t describe it better so I hope you will forgive me for such a long quote.

 

So, what were the instructions of the session? Considering that we were visiting a public space and that our visit wasn’t officially organised with the gallery, for me was important to give the instructions before the session and allowed everybody to use these instructions the best they could and as they would please them the most.

As I was late due to underground problems that morning I was forced to share the instruction by text and in a short time. That actually helped me to be basic.

Some of this instructions were:

“The aim is … to see the differences/similarities between real life and performance mode.”

“When you go [in]to the gallery all you have to do is … to be mindful.”

“No need to behave differently to anyone else but just stay in a state of expanded awareness in which [to] avoid [the] inner ‘chatter’.”

Said that I also added just before we enter to the gallery that by any means I was asking them to pretend to behave in a pedestrian way.

“Don’t talk to other openlabbers, stay in the experience. Of course you can acknowledge them and if a non openlabber talks to you be polite and human, you are allowed to answer them back and then [continue with the] task.”

About Model: “The piece will invite you to explore it. Do it mindfully and without talking. Maybe here living and performing become [clearer] for you, or maybe less clear… we’ll see!”

 

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