Monday, 30 May 2011

OXFORD SOLO, 29/05/2011

My first proper public solo performance (not strictly true: I did a short (15-minute) ambient laptop set in 2009, but for some reason that felt much more relaxed and private), this took place at an evening called ‘ACTS’, which I curated in the Oxford Brookes Drama Studio (a small, stand-alone building on the Headington Hill Campus). The solo came first, and was followed by an improvised duo between butoh dancer Macarena Ortuzar and cellist / bandoneonist Bruno Guastalla (with lighting by Dariusz Dziala), a performance of John Cage’s Four6 by The Set Ensemble (on this occasion, Guastalla, Patrick Farmer, Sarah Hughes & David Stent), and a final improvisation by all six performers. I found the solo set slightly unnerving, not only because it was the opening item of the evening, but because of its exposed nature – the fact that there is no one else to back you up or ‘cover up’ for you if something goes wrong. In the end, the performance itself contained something of a drama between machine / electronic elements (the inscrutability and physical stasis of laptop performance (one can see no physical connection between the sounds being produced and the actions of the mostly motionless performer) and small acoustic interventions (the use of a roll of gaffer tape and a small wooden stick, as well as the sampling of a spoken word recording). I guess such tension can be fruitful – it prevents things from stagnating, and introduces that important risk of failure. (I did feel that the piece could have been longer, and didn't really have as clear a trajectory as the private solo recordings or collaborations I've done.) One thing I wasn’t expecting, though, was the birdsong-filled ‘silence’ at the end: as if my contribution to the piece was done, and it was the members of the audience who were now creating this final coda, by choosing not to applaud, talk, or get up and move around.

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