Thursday, January 26

Feedback Report

Here is the feedback report I got on my work in progress show from my tutor:

It was apparent from the end of term showing that this was unequivocally a work-in-progress, and all the better for being so. The presentation was assured but did not shirk from acknowledging that ideas were in flux and that many more questions were being asked than it would be possible to address.

I was intrigued to note how tightly the performance seemed to embody discussions and blog entries - both of which had been wide-ranging - and, as much through the way in which a performance invites the imposition of a structure, took on a greater degree of coherency. I came away feeling that yes, the area of investigation does touch on so many areas - presence, identity, honesty, conviction, performing - but that also what is most pertinent and appropriate is that which concerns the voice - its production and reception. This was alluded to at the opening of the presentation and, not having the tapes to reflect on the actual wording, I can nevertheless recall that it caused me to consider both how indivisibly linked the voice is to the air we need to sustain ourselves and yet, contrastingly, the degree of intention required in order to produce something recognised as song. More clearly than any other means of bodily expression (and forgive me if I'm paraphrasing the opening quotation), the voice bears witness to the rewards and abuses our bodies have been subject to, reveals our gender, perhaps our geographical roots (and, in certain intimate circumstances our dietary predilections and the thoroughness of our personal hygiene regime) and other traits, some or all of which can be manipulated by the performer and/or the intervening audio engineer. Without such manipulation and sometimes even in spite of it, the voice conveys much of who the singer is and I noted at the time I think that your choice of practitioners shown on video, at least in the instances of Mitchell and Holiday, was intriguing because their identity is filtered as much through the biographical information in circulation as it discernible in their voices.

Against this, the final performance of the song you wrote for the occasion was uncomfortable to watch because it refused to transport the audience outside of the immediacy of the situation, calling to mind Craig Owens' comments in relation to Robert Wilson:

Theatrical representation establishes itself in that rift which it alone creates between the tangible physical presence of the performer and that absence which is necessarily implicated in any concept of imitation or signification. The imitated action (the theatrical signified) is situated outside of the closed circuit established by the copresence of performer and spectator. Thus what is represented is always an "elsewhere". As a result, while the performer is in fact both a presence and a signifier (for an absence), we always regard him as the latter, as a representative for something else - the actor as perpetual stand-in.

[Owens, Craig "'Einstein on the Beach': The Primacy of Metaphor", October no.4 Fall 1977 p21] 

In the first half of the song it seemed as if you were forcing together the undeniable facts of our shared presence in the room (referring to this with your lyrics) with an equally undeniable heightened form of communication (singing). The performance became considerably less awkward to watch once you embraced an overtly performative style that I could equate with 'the singer' rather than the individual. 

Although the feedback session was more reflective than critical it raised a number of issues that it would be useful to discuss at the beginning of this term as you move toward the presentation in week seven.