gather GAIP (Generous Acknowledgement of Individual Process) 2016, 24 hour event at TESTING GROUNDS, 1-23 City Rd., Southbank. 6:00 pm. May 14 until 6:00 pm. May 15.
Today is Wednesday May 11 and I’ve been in bed since Sunday with virus, flu, etc.
I have been feeling bereft of creative vision and energy for some time. Now, being physically unwell enhances that feeling, a kind of drained emptiness, not an energized emptiness full of potential and possibility that I have spoken of before.
I had imagined entering gather with little or no equipment and no thoughts of what to do or what others may bring. Again, based on previous experiences and resolutions, satisfying myself that if no one else came that would be ok. Now I really do know that I will be attending gather in a state of 'emptiness' that I have not experienced previously.
For the ‘un·habited space’ event with Carmen Chan at Conduit, I had determined not to take in too much material, or plans, to keep myself as available and accessible as possible to whatever might incidentally happen over the three days. I found this strategy effective and rewarding, and so encouraged to continue this into gather.
As I am feeling at the moment, this strategy of turning up ‘empty’ for a performance has now an added dimension, as I feel physically incapable of ‘doing’ anything anyway. Still, if I am able to get there, it will be an experience I have not had before and undoubtedly will provide a new perspective on what ‘performance’ can be for me.
Post event, May 20
Tony Yap's trio helped create a sense of “occasion” – that there is indeed a ‘performance’ underway. Apparently their theme was stillness, which did not seem to last long, perhaps it was about coming out of stillness into activity. This event did have the effect of marking a beginning to the 24 hour performance, drawing in other participants. Jordan (White), Caitlin, David and Lisa (Dethridge) all joined in at times to add some spark and unpredictability. I spent the entire duration observing, as I felt not enough energy to participate.
My reflections are not accurate as I was unable to have a clear perspective. There may have been a break at which time Tony, Jonathan and Reuben departed and at some point, the remaining participants were joined by Clinton (Green) and Carmen (Chan) boosting the energy and continuing into the small hours of the morning. The fire helped keep us alive I remember feeling, perhaps that was just me!
At some stage late on Saturday night I had begun drawing on a paper scroll the phrase “attend(ing) to what is neglected” which suddenly appeared a few days before in a drawing I was working on. I suspended this from the container studio’s ceiling hanging to the floor, placed a candle underneath and a bell and other small candles around the perimeter of the room. It certainly created a welcoming and serene atmosphere.
The stream of traffic next to the block seemed like the ‘elephant in the room’, it was something that if anything I tended to ignore, a stream of relentless traffic seemd toxic and inaccessible. After Clinton’s comment about the passing car and public transport traffic at our Conduit event last month, where he pointed out that they were indeed an audience and the turn of a head at the right time could impart an unexpected experience for the commuter, I understood the traffic now as an opportunity. So I determined to erect a sign on the fence to at least in some way make use of that massive audience passing by so closely without ant knowledge of what they were passing. Jordan and David helped me erect the slapdash sign in three parts. Our activity drew shouted comments and questions from late night revellers in the stagnant traffic.
The few participants remaining eventually collapsed in the early morning, led by me, feeling particularly nauseas and needing to lie down. I think I may have slept for an hour before catching the beautiful early morning light, a sight not often beheld.
I recall some very engaging conversation with Joseph (Norster, Testing Grounds) on his new ventures at Siteworks and the old quarry in the Otways, and Melbourne parks and gardens planning for the next 150 years.
Jordan’s commitment to the 24 hours (he was the only other person to do so) and to consequently providing me with moral and practical support was extraordinary. He was troubled somewhat by the lack of participants and we had some useful conversation around the topic as this has been and still is an issue of importance to me also.
The morning and early afternoon was slow and somewhat of a struggle for me with tiredness and nausea taking hold. Juana (Beltrán) had made the comment over the phone that whoever comes will probably turn up at the end. Indeed, this was the case. By late afternoon, as I was setting up the empty chairs, Gary (Butler) arrived and began playing his guitar. Soon Candice (Boyd) and daughter joined in with cello and camera. The returning Clinton and Carmen, Marlène Habib, Adrian Sherriff all created quite a party, but I was finished. I considered I had arrived at 5:00 pm. the day before, so I could depart at 5:00 pm. today making it 24 hours, such a stickler I thought, yet somehow important for me to endure.
I overheard Adrian commenting on Jordan’s being asleep in performance; ‘that’s not performance because you were not conscious”. My immediate response is to defend Jordan by saying that the preamble for gather stated,
"gather participants are invited into a shared reality that every occurrence within the boundaries of Testing Grounds (and, if desired, beyond those boundaries) for the duration of the gather event functions as performance. In this sense, there will be no separate body called ‘an audience’, as all in attendance will be participating."
I read this as an understanding that whatever transpires within that time frame and space be understood as performance, the actions of person behind the bar, the families with young children who use this space as a Sunday playground, the odd pedestrian who takes a short cut through the grounds, the after work drinker needing a beer, the performing artist catching an hours sleep, etc.
As I was saying my goodbyes I came across Tony Hicks who had turned up and was playing flute amongst the gathered remains. It was encouraging that some performers considered it relevant enough to at least be present for a potion of the 24 hours.
For me, it simply became a matter of how best to survive the time. An endurance test, to be available and public, when what I wanted was to be unavailable and private. How fortunate I was to have the companionship of Jordan.