“A book is
bounded. It has a beginning and an ending and a discoverable way of knowing
that you’ve read the whole thing, you finish a book. Websites, like space, can go on forever.” Theo Gray, the author of The Elements
After all the preparation, filming, interviews, imaginings, conversations (in Spanish) we are in the last week and preparing for the showings on Thursday. In the last two and half weeks we have found experts in a range of topics and are ready to make a human library, we have invented and played a game on twitter (the rules need tweaking), we have begun work on a map that plots favorite texts against the city of penaranda, we have worked out what the centre for the future might be like, with open spaces, light and radical reinventions of our relationships to culture and now we have a plan and it looks a little something like this:
bits and pieces
How this will all fit together no one knows…. Its like fog, little molecules all strung together in a three dimensional curtain, pieces of material that move in and out of focus as the viewer scans it with their gaze.
In September we returned again to the centre, ready for three busy weeks of research, work, Spanish and sunshine. The work had been carefully split into three sections, during the first week we would gather people and resources, the second week would consist of workshops and observations with users and non users of the centre and the last week we would try out interventions and test possible structures for the final events.
We are super aware of the need within this project to have the staff of the centre see practical results of the works and to see the effects of new kinds of creative practice. So with the centres help we invited the users of the centre to participate in various ways over the three weeks to give feedback and insight from a new set of perspectives.
We are looking for dreamers
In the first week we carried out a sort of “casting” process to find people willing to help us with the research and share stories about their online habits. A flyer advertising the project was posted around the town (the flyer above was made by Olga Sánchez y Florencia Corrionero, staff of the Fundación Germán Sánchez Ruipérez). We met each person individually and we sat on a stage, like hollywood directors, with lights and cameras while each person shared a one minute story about fog. It could have been something that they remembered, heard, saw in a film, read in a book or were told as a child. Fog memories are interesting as there is a metaphorical likeness between fog and memory (this is not the first time this has been observed) and it was a lovely to have these Spanish memories float across the stage into the darkness as we selected our researchers.
One of the purposes of this blog is to put markers along the way or to highlight points in the process that are problematic… the dead ends, detours or distractions. I’m sure its been said before but our limited knowledge of Spanish culture and language is a big one, especially with understanding the nuances of peoples reactions and responses to all these processes of engagement. In this week we were surprised by the formality of this “casting” process, but in the end it worked really well and we noticed that the librarians and staff really know their audience as people didn’t seem put out by this process. There are reams and reams to be written about cultural differences, and the relational difficulties that this might pose, but if there is anything we have learnt it is that a little goes a long way and with a lovely translator some of these problems can be overcome.
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.
The relationship between art and anthropology is not at all new and has had a diverse range of implications for arts practices, including ethnographic film making, study of culture through performance, research as practice and all sorts of reverberations and after effects. We banana’s are interested in the way the two fields can support and formally effect each other without either form being dominant.
Its a slightly different approach to the ideas explored here in this 1987 text by victor turner… however it gives some context to the terrain. Antrophology of performance
And it all starts with some long conversations about art, fog and expertise.
Our first research trip to Penaranda took place at the end of June and was quite intense! We met with almost all of the staff of the centre, (all those that were available and on our busy schedule) and we interviewed each of them with some questions that covered their working days, home life, usage of technology, artworks that they remember, foggy days and subjects of interest or expertise.
Above all it was lovely to meet everyone and through the interviews we learnt a lot about the town, the centre and the people that we will be collaborating with on this project.
a tour around the town
It was very interesting to hear about peoples foggy memories, as part of the initial thinking about the project we have been talking a lot about the idea of Fog. We are thinking about it as a metaphor for connectivity, as a lower version of a cloud that exists between us and connects more closely to the space we are in together. Fog or “Neibla” will form a sort of structural map and metaphor for the project. It was very interesting to hear that in Spain, the Fog, has very specific cultural associations of death, sadness and loss. Some of the memories were lovely to hear but it is something to be aware to when structuring and making our project…. As we don’t want to make the audiences of the future sad!
Here is a lovely article about a knitting group that takes place in a library in canada, the researchers observe that the intersection between the social activity of knitting and the library as a public place of stories and story telling allows for a rich exchange beween the knitters. Purls_of_wisdom
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.
On Friday 3rd June, as part of our cloud research, banana asylum attended a symposium on artists in the library. Here is a list of some projects undertaken by artists with a fascination for libraries, archives and books.
Library of Secrets
The Quiet Volume
Banana Asylum are also inspired by the work of the human library movement.
The human library
and the inspirational city project