Friday, 13 December 2013

To conclude...

This process has definitely opened my eyes to a form of theatre that I had never been involved in before. It showed that, contrary to my first impression, postdramatic performance is not meaningless. It does question what we think of as meaning, and has a point to make, though not everyone will always get the point. Earlier in the process I asked myself a question when I thought this unit was unnecessary and I will finish with it now.

Is there a problem with this type of theatre…or perhaps just a problem my understanding of what theatre really is?

Thursday, 12 December 2013


Some reflections after the event:
It was interesting to see that people who were given a tissue were unwilling to rub out another person’s work. They all (bar one) stood unsure of themselves for a minute before either leaving or getting themselves a pen. A few people tried to talk to me (this may be because a lot of people were interacting with the audience in their installations). But as mine was about removing the identity of a person I felt it was important that I didn’t chat away to people. Everyone who was given a pen got involved in some way, to varying degrees. Most people attempted their own type of concrete poetry, though some people’s response was just to write ‘I woz ere’.

The finished pieces of 'art':

It was a challenge getting the sticky backed plastic to stick to the walls, even though it had worked when I had practised in the weeks running up to the event. This was overcome by taping the corners down, which actually gave an interesting effect, as artists often tape their paper down onto their easels.

It was interesting to see who came up, and who was willing to get involved.

Final pre-show thoughts

After a preview of what we would be doing for the installations, and getting some feedback, I decided that it would be a good idea to include one extra thing in my piece. Rather than the 'audience' merely standing and watching my 'performance', I want them to join in. Whenever an audience member arrives at my installation, I will make a decision and hand them either a tissue or a pen; they then have a choice as to what to do next. They could choose to rub out my artwork (it will be interesting to see if anyone is actually willing to do this!), leave without doing anything, or even blow their noses on the tissue. If given a pen they could draw their own pieces of concrete poetry, or merely place the pen straight in the box provided. I plan to have no other interaction with the audience after giving them these items. I won't ignore them, but just appear engrossed in my work. I will have a box clearly marked: “Please place the pen back in the box” on the floor near the audience.

My ‘costume’ will involve wearing an over-mouth mask and rubbergloves. The reason for the gloves is to get rid of my fingerprints which is like losing one’s identity. This is to continue with the idea of questioning the authenticity of art. Everyone who is an artist has an individual style, as mentioned before, it is like their own fingerprint on their work. When people commit a crime people often wear gloves to cover up their identity, and so I will do the same. (This could also link with the fact that copying someone else's work without permission is plagiarism, and thus a crime in of itself!) My installation is all about identity and inverting what we think of as a person’s identity. I will also wear a mask (just like a graffiti artist) because as it covers half of my face it means people can’t read facial expressions and it almost makes me faceless in a crowd. I also hope that the mask will help to show that I'm not going to/am unable to talk.

My installation

In my piece I wish to use a play on words with 'concrete poetry', using it to show our views of the city of Portsmouth. It could be in the shape of the Portsmouth skyline or perhaps a more abstract version of some of the tourist spots in Portsmouth like the spinnaker tower or the dockyards. As part of my installation I will take all of the pieces of concrete poetry that people created earlier in the process and draw them onto the walls (concrete) of the city. Because I will obviously not be allowed to draw directly onto the walls of the Round Tower, we decided that sticky backed plastic on the walls would create a similar effect.

Some examples of this a created in the weeks running up to the event:

I want my installation to play with the ‘audience’s’ perception of performance. I won’t interact with them, in fact, I might not even speak. I won’t be putting on a show for their enjoyment. I am just there in the space, drawing my concrete poetry; almost oblivious to people's stares. I also want to experiment with the idea of individuality, authenticity and identity. When an artist paints a picture, they have a distinctive style which is recognisable. I want to play with that idea by being an artist that takes on other people’s styles. In one of the sessions I got everyone to write their own piece of concrete poetry and in my installation I hope to try and recreate as many of these pieces as possible, copying them as best I can. I will appear to be just drawing the landscape or things that are around like a normal artist but when the audience look closer they will see that I’m actually creating artwork with varying styles.

Another area I need to consider is what costume I should wear. To work out whether my piece will be more effective if I am just in normal clothes or whether I should dress as a 'French artist' or perhaps 'graffiti artist'. This would be to look at people's view of an artist. I will be drawing on the 'wall' in quite a delicate way with pens, so to be dressed as a 'graffiti artist', for example, would invert what you would expect to see.

Fluxus Poems

A lot of postdramatic concrete poetry is quite interesting, but hard to understand as it is very often in different languages. Not all concrete poem has to create an image, as I found out after looking through many examples. The pieces I am creating often will, but some of these pictures will be unrecognisable to anyone but the artist themselves. And often the meaning is hidden from the passerby.  

One artist affiliated with Fluxus who created concrete poetry was Jackson Mac Low. His work was definitely more abstract than the work we created in class and often didn’t create a picture as such. His work focused more on the words than the shape that those words created and was very experimental. He was inspired by John Cage’s chance-generated poems and “[…] subsequently wrote and performed Fluxus poetry. (One) of his concrete poems, called Gathas [...], can be read in any direction.” (Higgins, 2002, p. 21)


Higgins, H. (2002). Fluxux Experience. Retrieved from

Dada and Poetry

The idea of concrete poetry links to the Dada concept of breaking from the constraints of the typeface. An example of this is an invitation to a ‘Dada Soiree’, which is almost a type of concrete poetry. They used stock images, different fonts types and sizes to create a very unusual poster. 
As I am experimenting with replicating other people’s work, I had a go at recreating this poster! It was quite a challenge, and didn’t feel as free as a lot of the other concrete poetry I had previously created. 
(Also, as some of the small words weren’t very clear, I was unable to create an exact copy.)

This type of concrete poetry was very often less about creating a picture, and more about shapes and breaking from moulds. Concrete poetry is about creating art out of words, it is thus giving art a message.

Personal Poems

One week in our rehearsal session we all set about creating our own pieces of concrete poetry. I laid out a few guidelines:

-          The poems didn’t need to rhyme
-          They needed to be about your own view of Portsmouth
-          You could either use the poem to fill in the picture or use the poem to create the outline
-          There is no right or wrong way to do it
-          Just think about a shape that’s iconic to Portsmouth.

Each person in class came up with a concrete poem. It was interesting to see how each person saw the task differently. There were a few about the sea, three or four about ships or the navy in general, and a few about iconic buildings in the area. Some easily wrote a poem to do with Portsmouth and then struggled to think of a picture to go with it. Others thought of a picture easily then couldn’t write a poem so ended up just filling their picture with words. 

 They were all very different.

Some examples:

Concrete Poetry

Some of the things we wanted to explore were:

   Flux scores
                                                                  Stopping and staring

                 Window shopping

                                                                                                    Snatched pieces of conversation

                                           Concrete poetry...

I was assigned concrete poetry to work with and began to look at how it relates to the postdramatic.

Concrete poetry, otherwise known as shape poetry has many forms. One is where the content of the poem is replicated by the shape of that poem. So if you were to write a poem about a fish, for example, then the shape of the poem would somehow symbolise a fish, whether physically or slightly more abstractly.

                                                       fffffffffffffffffffffff                           f
                                                    iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii                iiii
                                              ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss        sssss
                                             ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss         sssss
                                                    iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii                iiii
                                                       fffffffffffffffffffffff                           f


"Fluxus works are simple. The art is small, the texts are short, and the performances are brief." 
("About Fluxus", n.d.)

We decided to create a ‘Flux Festival’ with lots of different installations around the very historic setting of the Round Tower, in Old Portsmouth. This area has a great view of the spinnaker tower, the sea and other landmarks. As Portsmouth as a city is known for being by the sea, and also it’s naval links, this is the perfect setting for our piece.
Our marketing scheme was to create a twitter account and use one word to embody our piece. We chose #konform, and our plan was to create posters around with just that word on it and see if people would find out about our piece using social media!

The word ‘konform’ is thought-provoking as conforming is about joining with others, and going with the flow in order to fit in. Yet we have spelt it with a ‘k’, thus breaking from the normal way of spelling. This is still problematic though because everyone is trying to be different and cutting edge these days, and so by changing the spelling, are we still conforming?

The whole idea of conforming is intriguing in our piece as so many of the installations are interactive in some way. We want to see if people will get involved, and if they are more likely to join in if they see other people doing it! It is quite normal that if you see someone else doing something you are more likely to do it yourself. This is because as a society we are often trying to avoid embarrassment.


 About Fluxus. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Sounds and patterns

As part of one of our lectures we went out and sat on the steps of Guildhall and looked out across the square. It was an interesting experience because things that are just ‘everyday’ can be fascinating and create patterns when watched. Some of the things that I noticed were that people walk with a different rhythm when listening to music. Also people always walk more slowly when they are with someone, in contrast to the hurried pace they take when alone. 
Sounds I could hear were: 
the train… 
                small talk… 
                                                                                                                                     bells ringing...

Our City

The stimulus for our postdramatic piece is the book 'Communion Town' by Sam Thompson. It is an interesting book split up into ten chapters. Each chapter appears at first to be completely disconnected from the others, but as you continue to read you begin to understand that they are all about the same city, just from different people’s perspectives. The way this can inspire us is because even if I live in the same city as my friend it will be a different city to both of us. When I think of Portsmouth I think of it as home, where my friends are, where I grew up…but someone else who just moved to study here would think of university, partying, studying. A tourist would think of the sea and the arcade, or the hotels along the seafront.  
We are all thinking about the same city but as our point of view is personal, it is a different city to each of us.