Posts Tagged ‘Notes’
In a letter to the St. Ives Times & Echo, local genuine artist Tony Shiels writes of ‘the plight of the thirsty St. Ives artists and their ‘beat’ comrades in the cause’. In order to ‘clarify one or two points raised and clouded in the press recently’ he reiterates the point that the ‘St. Ives landlords have stated that they would never refuse to serve a drink to a genuine artist, and the trouble has been caused by bearded strangers whose occupation cannot, instantly, be “pinned down”. This of course could be solved by asking these landlords to sponsor a scheme whereby any artist, after a stiff examination, could purchase a large badge or license, to produce, if at any time, he felt like a quick quencher.’
“It doesn’t matter about the rest, they’re not artists do they have no right to dress like them, or drink with them!”
The fact is that people who have lived and drunk in this town for years are now being insulted and ejected by landlords who recognise them, but don’t want to know them any more!
To say that it is only strangers that are banned is completely untrue. I am a painter with a wife and family. I own a house here and pay rates, but during the past three or four weeks I have been turned away from more than half the “public” houses, with no reason given. Of course there is no reason; the whole affair is unreasonable!
I was more than a little annoyed the other day to read in two newspapers that Mr. Couch as chairman of the Penwith Society of Arts in Cornwall said that he fully sympathised with these landlords. He should rather sympathise with those members, like myself, who have had to suffer the annoyance…worst “beatnik,” so let us, please, have no more of it.’ [St. Ives Times & Echo, 21st April 1961]
And from Michael McCafferty, just below the Shiel’s letter, and under the header quote ‘The Gestapo didn’t like beards’:
‘Dear Sir, – I have always thought rather lightly of the occasional conflicts between those who regard the arts as an expression of their existence, and those to whom a conventional way of life appeals. Until now this conflict has always taken the form of little manifestations of differing temperaments, other than anything serious. When an individual objects to one because of dress or any other aspect of behaviour, it is quite easy, although the objection might be irritating, to take the broad view and allow them their personal predilection.
It is quite a different matter when a group of landlords, or any other group, take it upon themselves to object indiscriminately to any section of the community. It then becomes a question of conform or else.’ [St. Ives Times & Echo, 21st April 1961]
This is an interesting discussion from this morning’s Today programme on Radio 4. Following the announcement yesterday that poet Wendy Cope‘s personal archive, including 40, 000 emails, has been sold to the British Library for £32, 000.
Are emails ‘damned unromantic’? I love a letter, but surely the medium isn’t the message, and content is more useful to a researcher than its aesthetics?
John Sutherland, professor of literature at University College London, and Richard Ovenden, of the Bodleian Library, consider whether emails really denote a digital form of art, and what impact the email will have for future literary research.
I’m fascinated by the use of emulators or original machines to access digital archives. Not only does this reproduce the idea of rummaging around looking for scraps of memory on paper, it reproduces, in a small way, the working environment of the author. Perhaps reading wordprocessed documents on a green and black screen appears to lack the romanticism of haptic engagement with actual paper, but in years to come I think this will hold as much fascination for researchers as an old diary. It’s tech-nostalgia. Just as an old typewritten document connects the reader to the typewriter, and to imaginings of a memory in a particular time, so will the sensuality of chunky click-clacking on the keys of a BBC Micro, or old Apple Macintosh. Paper and its ephemeral nature bestows a certain aura on the object, yet there is also a fragile ephemerality to these kinds of technology and their digital archives, and if they are not preserved then the loss is as great. In a century from now, researchers and archivists will encounter digital archives with as much of the excitement of discovery, and the magical quality of the object, that paper engenders today.
I was going to go for a walk around St. Ives today, and take pictures of things. However, it looked like this, and although I don’t mind getting wet, don’t think the new device would like it much.
Janet and Alban made another video on Friday. I’ll post about that as soon as it’s available. It’s an incredibly touching story from the archive.
This afternoon, Janet was kind enough to talk me on a tour of St. Ives. We wandered along Fore Street to the St. Ives Society of Artists in the old Mariner’s Church, then to Porthmeor Studios. We visited John Emmanuel’s studio at Number Two, which is a really incredible space. Built of stone and wood, its large windows look out over Porthmeor beach in the late afternoon December sun. The St. Ives School of Painting at the other end is currently being renovated, and when that’s finished, work will begin on the other studios. The higgledy piggledy studios used to be fish cellars and net lofts, bits built here and there, as required, at different times, making dating the building extremely complicated, although building along Porthmeor beach began around 1840. Ben Nicholson and Patrick Heron worked at Studio Number Five.
We continued along Back Road East, then Back Road West, down smaller lanes, surprising some cats and wandering into the nooks and crannies of the town to have a peek. These spaces are not quite public, but at the same time not private. Liminal spaces, the spaces in between.
We also met Alban, a film maker. He makes brilliant short films about the town, which you can find at here, at St. Ives TV.
As we carried on, I mentioned a video I’d seen of St. Ives following a fire in July 1970, and asked Janet where it was. She told me that it destroyed four restaurants and twelve flats on Fore Street, and showed me the newspaper clippings back at the archive, as well as a copy of the Fire Service’s report about the incident. The aerial photo showing the devastation was fascinating. As was the Daily Mirror’s take on the fire, Inferno at St Ives: Hippies raise alarm as fire sweeps resort.
As we walked back to the archive, Janet pointed out the Salvation Army building that was rebuilt in 1916 following a fire. At this point, Fore Street was still the main street through the town. Wharf Road was built in 1922; until then, the town ran down to the beach.
So, I’m a little late in posting this as there has been so much to take in in my first couple of weeks at the St. Ives Archive. Janet Axten and the archive’s volunteers have been really brilliant and helpful in introducing me to the archive, and I’ve even got my own badge, which I’m really pleased about.
The archive was set up in 1996 and has been developing steadily ever since. Currently based in the Upper Chapel Room in St. Andrew’s Street, there are plans for further development, and therefore it’s a very exciting time to get involved.
I’ve been introduced to so many interesting people, I’m creating new networks and connections and becoming part of the community here at the archive, as at the same time I begin to explore the historical connections of the creative community in St. Ives. I’m really starting to understand better what I’m trying to do, here, and how by extending my research networks I can extend my research. I’ve also been considering what John Hall has said about the autobiographical nature of research. Previously, I was aware that this research allows me to explore and combine my interests in education,cultural heritage and technology, but I think I realise now that my research is autobiographical on so many levels.
The town has got its own internet TV channel, St. Ives TV and the archive is hoping to produce one film a month on something from the town’s history, so I’m hoping to be able to get involved in that.
Mary has kindly invited me to the 91st anniversary meeting of the Old Cornwall Society in January. This will not only give me a chance to hear her speak in Cornish dialect, which she’s written several books on, but also hear some other talks.
Janet has suggested that I attend the meetings for the planning of the St. Ives Festival, which happens every September. This will be a great way of meeting people involved, and I hope to have a project to launch at the festival. I’m excited.
I am developing an obsession with guidebooks. I’m particularly fond of the little fold out maps. They contain opinions and advice on the nature of place and encounters with place.
The idea of sites for painting becoming sights for people to come and look at through the circulation and distribution of images is interesting. A site is somewhere artists come to paint, the site becomes a scene, tourists come to see the site of the scene, the scene becomes a picture postcard, more tourists come to see the sights/sites. This is something pointed out by Lubbren, that the art colony is a precursor to the holiday resort, where artists make a place known for its particular beauty, then the images of that place become known, which attracts people to visit. In turn also, the presence of the artists mean the development of facilities to meet their needs, which are developed further to accommodate the needs of tourists.
Thus that one scene, perhaps one moment, of local life, might be translated into a series of other moments, many of which would later be sent out into the world, to be hung in galleries, reproduced in books, and so on. And because of seeing those results, all kinds of people might be tempted to visit the place that inspired them.
Denys Val Baker, Britain’s Art Colony by the Sea 1959 p.22
So, back to the guidebooks. The images of Cornwall and St. Ives produced by artists which in turn attract other visitors are interesting, but a textual version of these images come in the form of the guidebook. The earliest one that I have stumbled across in a second-hand bookshop in London is Black’s Guide to Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. Published in 1877, its tenth edition, it pre-dates the first ideas of art colony in the county. The theory that it is indeed the artists which establish place as tourist site/sight, endowing a place beauty, making it attractive/attraction, is perhaps best illustrated by the short piece on St. Ives from Black’s:
The position of St. Ives, [...] is one of picturesque and uncommon beauty,; and it is to be regretted that the favourable impression which at first the tourist necessarily forms should be dissipated on his entrance into the town by its accumulation of nastiness. The streets are narrow and crooked; the shops mean and squalid; and everywhere pervades a fishy smell, “most tolerable, and not to be endured”.
Black’s Guide to Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, 1877
As David Tovey points out in his survey of early guides in St Ives Art Pre-1890: The Dawn of the Colony, visitor accounts refer to St. Ives as being disorderly and putrid-smelling, and some even recommend avoiding the town completely. 1877 is the year that the branch line is completed, during a decade which sees the beginning of a decline in the fishing and mining industries.
Why do artists come to Cornwall?
It is a mixture of material and mystical, facts and fantasies, all equally important. The climate, the brilliant light, the almost Mediterranean blue of the sea, the fascinating formations of rocks and cliffs, hills and valleys, sand and pebble shores – these are some of the more obvious attractions. So, too, is the comparitive freedom and easiness of life in a small but cosmopolitan town such as St. Ives, as compared to most of the provincial towns and industrial areas; the congenial atmosphere of working and living among large groups of fellow artists; the facilities of numerous art galleries and show-rooms, several art societies, clubs and other meeting places; and last but by no means least, a sympathetic local population and press, conditioned by several decades of growing-up alongside the art colony, so that what might seem an oddity if dumped in some other part of Britain has come to be taken for granted in Cornwall.
The bones of this land are not speechless
And first you should learn their language
This is a hideous and wicked country,
Sloping to hateful sunsets at the end of time,
Hollow with mine shafts, naked with granite, fanatic
With sorrow. Abortions of the past
Hop through these bogs; black-faced, the villagers
Remember burnings by the hewn stones.
Heath-Stubbs makes Zennor sound like the vision of the countryside/Cornwall portrayed in Straw Dogs or An American Werewolf in London. It’s a strange, alien and terrifying place. Part of England, but not of it. It’s a truly hellish vision.
Val Baker goes on to recount Walter de la Mare‘s reaction to his first visit to Corwall, who wrote that he didn’t feel safe until he’d crossed the River Tamar and was safely back in Devonshire. He also mentions that Aleister Crowley was rumoured to visit West Penwith regularly to conduct black masses.
It’s not really surprising that the freedom felt by artists engendered by landscape also attracted those in search of other kinds of freedoms. The ancient wildness of Cornwall’s landscape , along with its Iron Age dwelling places and standing stones has the suggestion of the pre-Christian, and perhaps could be described as godless.
It is then that the drowned sailors of the past can be heard hailing their names above the moaning of the waters. It is then that the sense of the primordial, the strange and the savage, the unknown, the very long ago, fills the dusk with something that is akin to dread. It is then that the place becomes haunted; a giant heaves grey limbs from his granite bed; a witch sits in that stone chair on a cliff…
Past and present, moments and centuries, all are entangled and interwoven in Cornwall. Eternity is contained in a hundred years. And this is not only reflected in the landscape but in the people.
The past of their lives has lost neither face nor voice behind the shroud, nor are the passions of the flesh, not is the animate soul, wanting to it. Other races forfeit infancy, forfeit youth and manhood, with their progression to the wisdom age may bestow. These have each stage always alive, quick at a word, a scent, a sound, to conjure up scenes in spirit and in flame.
The Cornish people themselves are like their land, an old and knowing race, withdrawn to strangers, living as much in the past as the present; without, as has been said, much creative inspiration, yet with a quick response to all things of that nature.
reaction to a sensitized soil
The thing about the Cornish is that they are not nice: exciting and attractive, but not nice. They have colour enough to turn the spectacles of most onlookers pink but it is not fast to light. The impulsiveness that goes as far as magnanimity does not sustain generosity; the devotion, loyal to fanaticism, has no fidelity; the forthcomingness keeps much more back than reticence – like an iceberg, two-thirds under the water, if there were not anything less like an iceberg than any Celt… Where does it go, then, all the colour? The warm tones of manner, the light and shade of speech? the colour goes into the personality. Almost one might say it is enough for the Cornish to be Cornish; btu not quite for they have a full measure of Celtic discontent. The energy that makes for colourfulness goes into the business of living – always a hard one in Cornwall – the fervour into congregational worship, into a personal relationship with omnipotence, not into embellishing its dwelling-place; the enterprise into seeking fortunes afield.
R. Glyn Grylls Cornish Review
A somewhat dark and damning description of the Cornish, really, although R. Glyn Grylls is herself Cornish, that I dare say would be unpublishable now. At least you’d hope so. But that idea of both the landscape and the people, its/their fundamental alienness, persists in popular culture as the aforementioned films demonstrate just one example. The English middle-classes love to holiday in cottages across the county, but will still make jokes about its ‘primitive’ nature unthinkingly.
The open coliseum of each little cove of sand or rock may be the theatre for any natural, supernatural or unnatural event. The unending presence of the sea breathing ceaselessly over the shoulder of each hill, the the rock charged with a thousand sunsets or carved by a hundred years of rain, the little trees loaded with berries growing away from the prevailing wind, offering crimson to green, the mind’s incessant vertigo at the cliff edge, and the slow constructional flight of the seagull – these things in some way act as the charming of magicians and open up the deeper rooms of experience in man, making him aware of his being part of the natural universe, at the head of a great unseen procession of gods, and devils, spectres and dragons; of being a channel for unknown and undefined forces; of facing the mystery of life, awakening powers of perception which search beyond the frontiers of normal events.
There is a good reason, of course, for the fascination which the streets and buildings of St. Ives have for artist. It is simply a lack of change.
Atmosphere! Yes, that its the important ingredient of St. Ives as an art colony: an atmosphere that gives as well as takes, to and from the artists. Did St. Ives have atmosphere before the artists came and settled? Of course. But is that atmosphere stronger because of their presence? Again, of course. We are on subtle ground here, but then the atmosphere of an art colony is a subtle thing. [...] Thus that one scene, perhaps one moment, of local life, might be translated into a series of other moments, many of which would later be sent out into the world, to be hung in galleries, reproduced in books, and so on. And because of seeing those results, all kinds of people might be tempted to visit the place that inspired them. And once they had seen St. Ives at first hand – the cobbled streets, the fairy-like harbour, the Mediterranean-blue sea, the artists at work before their easels, pictures hanging everywhere, studios tucked away down almost every little by-way – what would be the general reaction? Wonderment, delight, fascination, ‘there’s nowhere else like it in Britain’. How many thousands of people are there who come back to St. Ives year after year for this very reason; how many indeed, as I know myself, who have come for a visit and stayed a lifetime?
Finally then, how are we to define what it is that draws them? The place? The paintings? The fishermen? The artists? Or perhaps everything curiously mixed up?
It is on these lines, I fancy, that St. Ives has become what it is today. It remains, underneath, what it has always been, a Cornish fishing port; but it has had imposed on it the everyday life of an artists community – an imposition at first resented and resisted, but later accepted and even assimilated so that today ‘them artists’, as the fishermen used to refer to them, with a wealth of disparagement, are as familiar to the locals as the postman, the butcher and the baker. If you stop and consider those last words, perhaps you may experience their full impact.
Premieres at Inbetween Time 2010 on the 2nd December. Preview/test in London 13th November, 2pm.
Is likely to be quite different to As if it were the last time, described as more J.G. Ballard. It would perhaps be interesting to participate in both the test and the finished event, to see how much changes and how different it is.
Mobile Participatory Theatre?
Multimodal Partipatory Performance?
So, what exactly is this medium of performance? How do I describe it? Is it possible to come up with a term that describes its specificity, yet at the same time conveys the multiplicity of modes and levels of performance? To fall back on the term of ‘happening’ is vague and rather describes a historical moment in performance, and although this kind of participatory performance owes something to what has gone before, it is far removed from the somewhat chaotic and haphazard nature that the word suggests. ‘Participatory Theatre’ encompasses something of what is expected of the audience, placing an emphasis on the active mode of the ‘participant’ rather than passive role of the ‘spectator’.
I don’t think the title of mobile participatory theatre is really adequate. I think it is something more specific. ‘Subtlemob’ is a great term, but refers specifically to the mode in which Duncan Speakman/subtlemob works, a term belongs really only to them.
Interestingly, when you type ‘mobile participatory theatre’ into Google, subtlemob.com is the second link, after a somewhat dry article about the ethics of participatory theatre in higher education. Participatory theatre is just too blunt and simplistic a term, and is often used to describe performances in which the audience have little real involvement or impact, and is instead describing theatre events or performances simply where the mode of spectating is unusual rather than actually requiring the audience to actually interact.
I dislike the use of mobile, as I feel it is misleading, and the definition has to be qualified: is it mobile as in movement, or mobile as in device? Both are relevant, and it could mean either or both of those. As such, I think this is a problematic term, at least as far as specificity is concerned, and for the adequate communication of a set of ideas associated with that term. Perhaps that is part of the issue. Is it the format, the medium itself which is difficult to define? Perhaps it would be useful to establish a list of positive or negative attributes by which we might then attempt to better describe (in order to communicate, explain and share, rather than to define, exclude, confine) what this artform/medium is and isn’t.
There are members of the public.
There are performers.
Most or all of the performance is in real-time.
There is some kind of choreography or orchestration, game plan or controlling element that co-ordinates the movements of the participants.
There is a narrative.
Participatory defines the ‘player’s’ role as active, not passive, and suggests that they have agency and can influence outcomes.
Mixed reality suggests that there are virtual as well as real worlds.
Augmented reality is seeing the world through a virtual lens.
Mobile suggests both a device and a mode of performance.
Player is a better term than audience, participant etc. as it underlines their active role, and emphasises the ludic nature of the experience.
Participatory theatre/sound performance using headphones is a new language of performance that people are unfamiliar with, requiring more than a brief explanation to really get across how it works and what it feels like. This is also problematic when advertising a performance, to let people know what they’re letting themselves in for, without at the same time giving too much away.
We’re not sure if we know yet, but this is what we think it might be . . .
Imagine walking through a film, but it’s happening on the streets you live in
Subtlemobs usually happen in public spaces
This is music composed for those spaces
This is about trying to make films without cameras
It’s about integrating with a social or physical space, not taking it over
The audience listen on headphones, a mix of music, story and instructions
Sometimes they just watch, sometimes they perform scenes for each other
A subtlemob is not a flashmob
try to remain invisible . . .
I think the idea of the cinematic that suggested here is interesting. Watching and participating at the same time. It’s an immersive experience, and by being on headphones, separates the participant from their immediate surroundings. And yet, it also creates a hyper-awareness of present reality. It’s phenomenological, a stepping outside of reality whilst at the same time creating a more profound experience of that reality. Perhaps cineastic is a term that also describes the partipatory nature of making a performative experience.
The creation of narrative around the reality of immediate experience sets up a duality of time and space. The Player is immersed in two different realities, the ‘game’ or ‘narrative’ space, and real space, as well as the different time ‘zones’ of it being both now and ‘in the moment’. Guy Debord suggests that technology distances and separates, and people wearing headphones and replacing the dull drone of banality with a soundtrack is something that can be seen everyday on streets and trains and buses, people walking to the soundtracks of their own lives. but if as Debord suggests, ‘the spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images’, then Speakman’s subtlemobs create a social relation between people mediated by sound and narrative
To continue to examine this kind of performance in relation to Situationism,the Australia-based pvi collective describe themselves as a:
tactical media arts group who produce interdisciplinary artworks that are intent on the creative disruption of everyday life. every artwork aims to affect audiences on a personal and political level and is geared towards instigating tiny revolutions.
This is more of a detournement, an intervention in the everyday with an explicitly political intention. Their work is still scripted and choreographed, and necessarily organised, however, but as the particpants haven’t necessarily actively chosen to be involved it requires flexibility to react to the way in which people respond to the work.
Multimodal Mixed Reality performance?
Immersive Mixed Reality Experience
- Click for curtain-up: technology and theatre (guardian.co.uk)
- How can smaller companies do a Punchdrunk with their experimental theatre? (guardian.co.uk)
- Networked and participatory education (smlxtralarge.com)
- Learning, Teaching, and Scholarship in a Digital Age – EDUCATIONAL RESEARCHER (edr.sagepub.com)