ArtsLab Shopfront's artists in residence

Two Breathing Bodies, a Drowning Mobile Phone and a Very Big Hello!

This last month has been an attempt to find our feet as a collective. Verity and I have longer histories of doing work independently from one another than together, so finding a voice/language that accurately represents us as a collective is key to us moving forward. This has pushed us to explore new terrain with each other and ourselves.

I think it has become clear to both of us that the opportunity to be in residence at Shopfront, experimenting and developing for six months, is so valuable because of the chance to discover through process. From the outset we both felt that only through process would we be able to carve out a means of expressing ourselves that represents our partnership, and would give us leverage to trace our line of enquiry. Over the last month of experimenting we’ve gradually come closer to understanding this idea of a collective voice. I feel that after a bit of trial and error, we are letting go of habits and comforts that we’ve each held onto in our own work, and are more willing to find something new, together.

One of our first ideas was to create tactile environments to interact with – hoping to stimulate reactions in the body. I set up three mini environments: 1. In the corner of the room, each wall was lined with sheets of text, and a triangular plinth holding two slices of lemon stood neatly underneath it. 2. A handkerchief of stones was placed on the floor, and next to it was an ipod and headphones playing music. 3. A mobile phone floated in a container of water next to a piece of paper towel. Independently, we played with each environment. We payed attention to the rhythms and sensory reactions each environment provoked in our bodies. We then took these visceral reactions and each devised a short movement piece based on how one particular artificial environment affected us. We spent the following week following the same formula. Verity created two environments: 1. A cardboard box, lined with bubble paper, a warm light from a desk lamp and a hot water bottle. 2. An industrial fan pointed at a pile of wooden boxes, covered in a plastic coverall jacket. Again, we devised movement pieces based on our reactions to each environment.


These exercises definitely helped warm up the space, and initiated sharing. But this formula maintained our autonomy as artists. It felt more as though we were two people, with separate experiences and ideas, in the same room. It didn’t feel as though we were open to finding new processes, nor that we were working from that place where two individuals meet. Also, it felt that we had jumped ahead. We began by exploring the body interacting with environments, rather than bringing attention to our bodies as they were, in space. All of this left us a little ungrounded.

So, last Tuesday we spent a whole afternoon and evening in the studio committing to some really simple physical exercises. The most helpful of which was when we sat back to back, moving only when propelled by breath, and communicating through movement rather than through eye contact/speech. Because we were communicating in an unfamiliar way, we really had to focus in order to negotiate space carefully with one another. In essence, the back-to-back exercise allows two people to play with tension – something almost dangerous if either member isn’t generous and focused. This allowed us to be present with each other, and unburdened us from ‘devising’ or ‘creating’. Such a relief! For the first time we began to see how we may want to introduce film further on down the track. It’s funny that by letting go of that tendency to devise something, we actually had clearer ideas of how we may be able to capture that experience of negotiating tension on video.

This has been a colossal first post to account for so much time, so expect shorter snippets weekly/fortnightly!


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