Week two of our intense residency in Penaranda has just come to an end. Over this week we attempted to get to know the users of FGSR better. Through the casting we chose participants for 3 research groups- 2 made up of users of the centre, and 1 of non-users. While the methodology of this research was somewhat compromised- users met at the centre while we took non-users to a local cafe, the idea was less to find hard data and more to explore the ways the people of Penaranda thought and talked about some of the themes the project is concerned with.
We divided the workshops into 4 parts; community, collaboration, consumption, communication, using an icebreaker game at the beginning of each section. Luckily, the casting section proved useful in that everyone who participated had an opinion to share and it was quite hard to follow with everyone talking over each other! Again, thanks to our great translator for helping us to understand what the discussions were about.
This reasearch phase helped to illuminate a few things about how Penarandinos feel about emergent technologies. Pretty much everyone was online, using email and Facebook and Twenti to keep in touch. People had less experience in using digital technologies to explore their own creativity, making us realise further the value of the project and the desire of FGSR to engage with technologies, but to make sure they take their audiences along with them.
If we approach the discussions as another way of getting to know the people of Penaranda and the landscape in which we are working, then they were a success. The discusssions, the written and drawn material produced, and the diaries that the participants will be keeping will find their way into the final event. This research is an integral part of our practice, even if formalised by using a basic ‘focus group’ model.
Light travels differently in the fog, we are blinded, surrounded, waiting for the sun to come up.
The theme of the fog came to us from the Director of the centre Javier Valbuena, by way of a Spanish book by Miguel Unamuno (a basque writer who spent most of his life in Salamanca) it is about a fictional character Augusto, whose complicated love life leads him to wanting to kill himself. Before he does however he visits the home of the author to ask his expert opinion, in their conversation the author (Unamuno) reveals that Augusto is a fictional creation and that as his life is not real it is therefore not possible for him to end. In the book the character sees “his world as full of small and almost imperceptible occurrences, some of them good some of them bad, and all of them serve to obscure his vision.”La Niebla (Fog) is then a condition under which we live somewhere between reality and fiction.
While at the Edinburgh Festival for work, I’ve seen many different shows which have provided a lot of inspiration for Banana Asylum’s upcoming visit to Spain. Importantly, it is clear how many theatre makers/ live artists are embracing new technologies of various kinds in their work. Terms such as pervasive media, locative theatre, iterative and immersive have been ringing in my ears.
So far I’ve seen a few performances which have made me think and feel, it is only ever one or the other that I ask from an artwork.
I, Infinite by Tom Dale Company was a wholly immersive piece of choreography performed in a white dance studio. Audience members could view the solo dancer from all angles and get as close to her as they dared. The mode was a sombre look in the future as Dale created a work which looked at the ‘beauty of human movement through a digital perspective’. Of particular note was the moment in which the dancer moved underneath a haze of dry ice. The lighting was such that is felt as if she her body was brought alive by her breath allowing her to move in and out of visibility while lying under the haze. The use of ‘fog’ in such a beautiful way is something BA can explore further for this project.
At the end of June Banana Asylum returned to Penaranda de Bracamonte to begin phase one of our project. The week consisited of interviews with every staff member at the centre. Our motivation was to get to know each staff member better, not only in their roles as employees at FGSR, but as individuals. We were also interested in gauging interest and/ or barriers to the project, so we could understand obstacles that might present themselves along the way.
In spending a week in Penaranada we came to learn that, well, all streets lead to the centre. It really is a tiny town, something we are both unfamiliar with, adding to the intensity of the project. We located some beautful locations around town and became very excited about what me might be able to do with them!
By the end of the week we had consumed a huge amount of jamon y queso, began to understood the rhythm of Penaranda and identified some of the FGSR staffs main concerns. On the whole people were excited, but apprehensive about the project. There is a real sense of pride for all the staff that work there, something that makes doing this kind of project inspiring for us, but also understandable that they are concerned about what we will get them to do! Fog continues to be a theme as we asked each staff member a memory they have of fog. It is useful to use this as a guding principle and to realise how murky and threatening it is to most.
We’ve been reading a lot about ethnography as a research tool in both art and anthropology and debating the different methods and aims when using ethnography for such different endeavours.
Reading this article by Mark Westmoreland has provided much food for thought.
Banana Asylum is very lucky to be working in collaboration with the FGSR on a new project, In the Clouds, which will be developed over the next ten months.
We are in the first stages of mapping out the areas of the project and more information will appear here as the project develops.
At this stage we are looking at conversation, fog, walking, visibility, reading, being together and sounds. Our research phase begins on the 27th June and again in September and we are really looking forward to working with the exciting staff at the centre.