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... mads floor andersen harold offeh katy baird marcel sparmann nando messias poppy jackson fay stevens


VIBRATIONS Issue III VIBRATIONS is an open access art journal for creative writing. The Vibrations 3 journal features written work from the presenting artists as well as a selection of photographic documentation taken by Stu Allsop. Contributors include: Nando Messias, Poppy Jackson, Katy Baird, Marcel Sparmann, Harold Offeh, Mads Floor Andersen and Fay Stevens. The pieces of writing are published under the terms of the Creative Commons License CC-BY-NC-ND Image credits: Š Stu Allsopp. Designed & edited by Emma Williams. ISSN 2056-6719 The publication was supported by the School of Arts at Oxford Brookes University. Special thanks to Dr Paul Whitty for his encouragement of the LAPER Group. Please email vibrationsartjournal@gmail.com for more information.


Seven performance artists representing a broad spectrum of practice were invited as guests to the School of Arts at Oxford Brookes University by the Live Art and Performance Group, set up by Peta Lloyd and Veronica Cordova de la Rosa in 2015. Our aim was to initiate a dialogue within an academic context between guest performers, art students and the local arts community. The diverse performances and subsequent discussions and workshops provided an opportunity to experience the emotional power of the performances as well as giving insight into the individual artists’ ideas and working methods. We uphold the principles formulated by The Association for Performance Art in Berlin and hope to inspire others to engage with the following precepts:


1.

Perform

2.

Engage with performance art personally

3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

Promote

openness

Feed the artist Be a care gifted Foster responsibility Take

care

of

yourself

Be aware of the community and invest in its

development 9. Create a space that allows for vulnerability 10. 11. 12.

Generate

discourse

Make a difference and Transform.


Mads Floor Andersen


Celebrate the moment mixed in an aftermath


before it is gone, of wine and confetti.

transformed


#3 Oxford My breath is exhaled into a wine glass, which is tight against my cheeks. Moisture and residue are culminating on the inside of the glass. Opposite is another wine glass facing outwards, away from me, filled to the rim with the surrounding air. Breathe in exhale Breathe out inhale A selfish act – a personal moment – broken as I begin to greet everyone with a handshake. A moment of contact and exchange before I lead them into the room one by one. I keep moving people, changing formations, breaking constellations, making two people hold hands or touch others’ shoulders. Wine. Soap bubbles, streamers, balloons, disposable camera, confetti –all served in wine glasses. People


begin blowing bubbles, balloons and streamers. Drinking wine and taking photos. It becomes playful, festive – we are all performing. Confetti is everywhere in-between, giving colour to the invisible. I take a red string of yarn and connect everyone. Red line, the main thread, life line perhaps or a social one even. When everyone is connected, I retrieve the line. I twine it around my head, ‘til the whole string, glasses and a balloon are dangling from my face and neck, creating an identity of smear residue of fingerprints, lips and breath. I cheer, by cracking the wine bottle against the glass. Against my face again and again, transforming my appearance, as pieces of glass fall to the ground like water drops after a bursting soap bubble...


Breath/Break is an ongoing performance series exploring the relationship between body and environment – seeing breath as a bridge between the two. When we inhale, we inhale our environment, we inhale what is other to us. When air, ideas and organisms enter our body we are transformed. Thus: breath breaks the body.


Having a break – a breathing place. To To have time to breathe and just to be – eyes closed. I drink vodka and pass it a long mirror I found in a Nitra Street stretched pushOn the written the demanding take a pen “Tell me what Tell me what me anything. understand anyhow.” Some in in English. till I had no flip the mirror and start smashing broken, like fragmented poetry. I take them in my mouth. Close my eyes and


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breathe in air – to break the place. interrupting a place with my breathing, around. I ask two people to take a and place it on my back (I am in a up position). mirror I have following text people to and respond: you think. you want. Tell I don’t S l o v a k Some did. Slovak. Some People wrote strength left. I it with a hammer. Leaving the writing pieces of the mirror and place breath in this new broken language.


Harold Offeh


Covers: A Critical Reflection Origins and Originals

Covers was a series initiated in 2008 with a series of photographs that sought to address an image by the model, singer and actress Grace Jones. Graceful (Arabesque 1) 2008, took as its starting point Jones’ album cover image for the 1985 release. The image like many from the period of the late 70s and 80s came from a close artistic and personal relationship between Jones and the French photographer and art director, Jean-Paul Goude. The image was originally shot and published in New York Magazine in 1978. It was subsequently used as the cover art for Grace Jones’ Island Life album, released in 1985. Island life was in fact a compilation of many of Jones’ previous hits. My encounter with the artwork was through this album cover. I clearly remember as a child my uncle bringing a copy of the album with the image of Jones on the front. The image itself sees Jones in a striking and arabesque pose. All nude, apart from strategically placed red bands across her breasts and knee. Against a blue background interior, she’s perfectly poised on one leg, arms splayed out. She holds a microphone in one hand, she seems primed to perform. What struck me then, as now is the extraordinary athleticism of Jones’ body. She has become deified, an object of worship, a statue or figurine, a picture of imperfect black beauty. It wasn’t until I came to revisit the image of Jones and through some initial research I discovered that the image that I had taken to be a simple straightforward studio portrait, was in fact a highly 1 2

manipulated airbrushed composite. I was surprised by my naivete, many advertising and media images are manipulated. But there is something about the myth of Jones’ persona that allows you to believe she could perform this near impossible image in reality (Jones’ body was shot from different angles and then reconfigured). Grace Jones’ reputation was developed in the 70s. Originally born in Spanish Town, Jamaica in 1948 she moved to Syracuse, New York, with her religiously conservative family in her teens. After a brief period studying theatre in upstate New York she began a modelling career that led her to Paris. Embraced by Parisian fashion designers she began to perform in bars and clubs; upon her return to the US becoming a staple feature in New York’s emerging queer club scene and eventually fated by Andy Warhol the Studio 54 clique. Jones’ tall sleek androgynous look was in stark contrast to the overtly feminine singers of the time such as Donna Summer and Diana Ross. But it was Jones’ image that would quickly fix what was becoming the Grace Jones myth1 Grace has a geometric face, a bit like an African mask. Her outrageously prominent cheekbones form two triangles. Together with her hair that I cut in the shape of a square to dramatise the volumes of her morphology, she did somewhat look like an African-inspired cubist sculpture.2

pg 138 Goude, Jean-Paul, As Goude As it Gets, Thames and Hudson, London 2005 pg 138 Goude, Jean-Paul, As Goude As it Gets, Thames and Hudson, London 2005


Jean Paul Goude’s description reflects his attempts to shape Jones’ image. Playing up what he describes as her African androgynous features. His statement however, does highlight both the commercial success and cultural problem of the construction of Jones’ image. There is a clear correlation between the presentation of Jones as an African figurine in the Island Life cover and the historical modernist legacies of movements like cubism with its appropriation of African and Pacific Islander imagery. The romanticized notion of the socalled primitivist cultures becomes embedded within the modernist narrative. Picasso’s Demoiselle D’avignon is a testament to this idea. This places Jones within a familiar troupe of the black woman: daring, avaricious, sexual and objectified. One might think of Jones as a latter-day Josephine Baker, a black Venus. Many of the images created by Jones and Goude tread a thin line. There is a danger in looking at some of the images including the Island life image, it’s possible to think of these images as re-enscribing clichés and stereotypes of the exotic, athletic, fetishised female black body. But I think it’s important not to look at the image in isolation. It is one of a number of images that should be seen in the wider context of her highly developed strategy communication

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and brand identity. These images are not created as artworks for the gallery they are advertising. With a clear function that seeks to promote and communicate a clear brand and identity, a function that seeks to bring commercial and cultural capital to Jones. Goude’s background as an illustrator and commercial photographer really informed his approach in making Jones a visible presence within the pop cultural landscape of the 1970s. In essence, Jones’ persona is a confluence of post-60s identity politics; there is an assertion of Black power in the figuration of the black body, celebrated in its shiny slickness. There is a gender fluidity in her androgynous presentation, the short angular masculine haircut and slick business suits, lipstick and hi heels. This perception of gender and sexual confusion was something she played on in the lyrical context of her music, ‘Feeling like a woman, looking like a man’ - a particularly striking lyric from the song Walking in the Rain 1981. Jones’ androgyny could also been in the context of the glamourzon Nude Bodies series by fashion photographer Helmut Newton in the 1980s. Newton’s series itself is a strange mix of 80s feminist body politics, power dressing/ undressing and high glamour.

Lyric from Grace Jones cover version of the 1981 track walking in the rain


Black Futures and Sonic Fictions It’s important to acknowledge the wider social cultural and political context through which Jones’ performance emerges. My interest in Grace Jones’ visual persona is part of a wider exploration in to the formulation and presentation of black identities and representations in the period of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. A period also framed by the social and political activism of the 50s and 60s, with the burgeoning civil rights movement in the United States and Europe and ongoing processes of decolonialisation in Africa and Asia. The need for structural economic change and political representation is mirrored in the cultural practices of music, art and film. In the immediate aftermath of post-civil rights and race relations legislation there is an assertion of identity particularly within the African diasporia. A key figure and the development of alternative personas and identities is the American jazz musician Sun Ra. In 2013 I was invited to take part in the Studio Museum in Harlem’s major survey exhibition of Afrofuturism, The Shadows Took Shape. The exhibition looks at the legacy of Sun Ra (aka Herman P Blount), the influential Jazz musician who developed a complex sci-fi myth. Sun Ra’s stated narrative was that Black people were descended from the advanced ancient Egyptians, after all, an African civilisation. A civilisation so advanced it was in fact

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extraterrestrial, from Saturn. A greater exploration of the man and the myth is revealed in Kodwo Eshun’s book, More Brilliant the Sun, Adventures in Sonic Fiction, calls Sun Ra music and mythopoesis4. Sun Ra was a living Gesamtkunstwerk, a total work of art, and the pure embodiment of music, image, text, pseudoscience, philosophy and spirituality. From his early explorations in free jazz in the 50s to the full-on realisation of Sun Ra and his Arkestra in the 60s and 70s, he didn’t just play the myth – he lived it. It’s this conviction that I find totally seductive and provides a model for my practice. Sun Ra’s grand myth cycle is formulated against the tumultuous backdrop of upheaval and change in 60s and 70s American politics, culture and science. The civil-rights movement, Vietnam, social unrest, moon landings, youth culture, identity politics and hyper capitalism are the meat and bones of this period. Somehow Sun Ra manages to encapsulate all of these issues. In 1972 he made a film, the extraordinary Space is the Place, directed by John Coney. The film is set in 1970s Oakland, California. Ra and the Arkestra land with a mission to spread the word that urban blacks unwelcome in America should seek refuge and emancipation beyond the stars. The film itself is a hybrid of lo-fi sci-fi meets Blaxploitation meets

Eshuns Kodwo, More Brilliant the Sun, Adventures in Sonic Fiction


political broadcast meets extended proto-music video. The central moment of the film for me is when Sun Ra appears – or apparates – in a youth club. Surrounded by Oakland’s black ghetto youth they question him on whether he is for ‘real.’ His reply is poignant and insightful:

I’m not real. I’m just like you. You don’t exist, in this society. If you did your people wouldn’t be seeking equal rights. You’re not real... we’re both myths. I do not come to you as reality. I come to you as a myth because that’s what black people are: myths.5 In this instance Sun Ra’s fantastical narrative takes on a bitter truth. Underneath the shiny capes and kitsch Egyptian get-up is a sophisticated articulation of the black American narrative: social and political disenfranchisement. It’s this reading of myth making and identity reformation that in part informs my exploration of the Covers series. Through the project I want to examine how this social history has been captured in the visual culture of popular music.

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Sun Ra, taken from Space is the Place film, directed by John Coney, 1972


Katy Baird


Duties from 1995-2016 (in alphabetical order) Artist, London, Glasgow, Manchester, Dublin, Vienna, Leeds, Oxford, Helsinki, Bristol, Ipswich, Suffolk and Birmingham Duties include greeting customers and making them feel at ease whilst maintaining an outgoing personable attitude. Punctuality and reliability are essential. Bar 38, Canal Street, Manchester Duties included having a natural gift for hospitality and being able to motivate and lead a team through passion, example and commitment. Burger King, Glasgow and Manchester Duties included complying in a consistent manner with company cooking methods, quality standards, policies and procedure including standard portion sizes and recipe specifications. Butlins, Wonderwest World, Ayrshire, Scotland Duties included preparing and frying fish, pies, chicken, black pudding, haggis, pizza and chipping potatoes whilst ensuring all products are fried to the highest standard and precise temperature. CafĂŠ Clear, Glasgow Duties included following safety procedures while using a sharp knife, microwaves, toaster and other food preparation tools and appliances. Cam4, Online, the world Duties included displaying exceptional communication and marketing skills as well as superior customer service abilities in order to ensure a high level of customer satisfaction and repeat custom. Generation X, Manchester Duties included resolving issues in a timely, friendly and efficient manner. The ability to work nights, weekends, and holidays was essential. Eat Fresh, Glasgow Duties included following correct sandwich assembly and preparation procedures whist maintaining optimum output with minimum waste. J D Wetherspoons, Glasgow Duties included ensuring a clean and sanitary work station area including tables, shelves, grills, microwaves, fryers, cookers, burners and refrigeration equipment. Job Centre Plus/Department of Work and Pensions, Glasgow, London, Manchester, Ayr and Blackpool Duties included demonstrating an impressive desire and commitment to seeking employment whilst being able to demonstrate continuously the aspiration to learn and grow on professional basis. Lauries Bar, Glasgow Duties included making the customer feel at ease and ensuring a clean and comfortable environment whilst making a point to learn the faces and names of their regular customers. Live Art Development Agency, London Duties include working closely with colleagues to scope, develop and contextualise customer trade within the desired budget and timings. London International Festival of Theatre Duties included written and oral communication and assisting with miscellaneous administrative tasks related to company development.


O’Neil’s, Glasgow Duties included welcoming and serving guests in a courteous, efficient and friendly manner plus displaying in-depth knowledge of restaurant cleanliness and sanitation procedures. Orient Expresso, London Duties included advising customers on nutritional content of smoothies and shop items whist participating in creating a strong team sprit amongst co-workers. Rowan Arts, London Duties included displaying the ability to lead projects independently from start to finish and working with internal and external teams to make decisions and maintain forward momentum. The Black Cap, London Duties included being instrumental in providing a truly memorable experience for all customers each and every evening. The Champion, London Duties included greeting customers, explaining menus and specials, taking and serving food and drink orders, and operating tills. The Frisco Hotel, Sydney, Australia Duties included the ability to work under challenging ergonomic conditions, including work that required frequent crouching, bending and kneeling. V2 Records Private Bar, London Duties included maintaining personal grooming and uniform standards and a no-room-forerror approach to health standards. Various parties and raves, London Duties included measuring, packaging and dispensing a variety of products. Legal knowledge, productivity, quality focus and attention to detail were crucial in this position as was a friendly and welcoming manner due to high level of face to face customer engagement.


Marcel Sparmann


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Recently I was asked, what makes a Performance Art piece special? What is this magic which hits us in the heart or in the face, what drives the images to stay far longer than the Performance itself? What makes us remember? There are many things to mention, but in the end it all arrives at one point: THE MOMENT. If we talk about bodies, visuals, or even the audience, we speak about moments magical, intense, timeless moments.

still stands. Measurement requires a reference point and an action which is oscillating around this point in order to create patterns. So it becomes possible to establish a rhythm and with it, the picture of a linear movement generated by Dzondz and Dzoffdz. A simple process based on the concept of repetition in order to count one moment after the other. But to be honest, we all know time isn’t a series of points which are following each other, our experiences tell us it’s rather like a big stretched chewing gum bubble. Sticky, slushy and always ready to swish back in your face.

This is the essence of Performance Art for me. Here it all begins and ends, with a timeless moment. But let’s start with the notion of time. Thinking about a daily life description of time or duration, we often picture time as a line which is created by one moment after the other. Since humans have started to measure time with the very first machine operated clock, the human being seeks to shape their activities by creating a certain order. It has become certainly important to find the right moment, for example to take the bread from the dinner table on the plate, to greet the desired woman next door, to seed vegetables and at the end to synchronize and conduct our activities in daily life and work

And how about following these pictures for a little while. We are surrounded by icons, commercials, street signs; nearly every indication or news contains an image. We think and feel in pictures, in remembrance and imagination. But we quickly reach a border if we try to grasp just one single moment in every aspect, full size. A specific smell, a tiny sound, an unexpected movement or a spatial feeling, everything that creates our perception is hardly to shape in an image. But these moments of transience like losing a friend, sitting under the Christmas tree, the first step in an unknown country, follow us our entire life as a notion of knowledge.

Interestingly, the technical breakthrough in time measurement came with the idea of interruption and

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The attempt to catch ‘the’ moment seems already an adventure, but to find a suitable name for it, challenges us even more. We could call it a jiffy, the twinkling of an eye, an instant or we use the German word DzAugenblickdz which probably matches the best. It is a metaphor for something we perceive (we look on it, visually) and ‘understand’ (we implant it) at the same time. Understanding is here not necessarily an intellectual process, but more an emotional realisation that Dzsomething is going ondz. Something that jumps out of the line, out of our pattern and construction of reality. And often, it doesn’t last long, like a collision of two billiard balls, created by forced movement and still stand. One of the strongest examples for an Augenblickes is still 9/11. Here we all witnessed a collision which lasted no longer than a few seconds, but the time to connect the two ‘billiard balls’ (airplane and skyscraper) and to realise the consequence of their crash is still uncountable. This collision moment is a profound interruption and blasting out of our reality. Something happens which is not imaginable, not possible to be foreseen. And even we don’t understand directly the extent of consequences; we immediately understand that our image of the world will change forever. At the same time, we face a still stand of “time” and the desperate search for the next

point on the timeline to continue. We are part of a moment which shows the past and the future in the same picture. So obviously, here is a strong relation between time and image. A “shock” or “mega” image like 9/11 is a strong example based on the special relationship between action, image and the audience. This all together can create a situation which embodies an interruption of time and space. We don’t understand, but we feel. We create already a new imprint on the way we look at our life. Thereby we are also able to recall moments like these, which could appear as a really strong re-awakening of emotional states. What Performance Art considers as live art is the direct connection between the performer and the audience, or, between the image created by the Performance and the emotional response by the audience. There is nothing inbetween this dialogue. It is pure and direct. Answering the question about the essence of a Performance Art piece, I would point to the moment of standstill as a condensed point in space, body and time which contains not only one image, but a wide range of imaginable imprints on our perception of life. The creation “eines Augenbickes” shakes our world a little bit and that’s what we are looking for, as artists and human beings.


Nando Messias


An explosive movement piece where Nando Messias lipsyncs to an account of a homophobic attack. Initially curated by the Live Art Development Agency as part of their programme ‘Just Like a Woman’ it has been performed in various venues across the country.


Poppy Jackson


Last week I was lucky enough to see a brief performance, at Brookes University, by artist Poppy Jackson, and to hear her talk about her work and influences. Poppy works with the female body and cites artists such as Frida Kahlo, Tracy Emin and Carolee Schneemann as women artists who have a strong bearing on her practice. It was a truly thought provoking experience as Poppy’s work is extremely challenging, in many ways compelling, but not without problematic elements I felt. How to use the female body in radical, and even violent ways (albeit with a reinterpretation of the meaning of violence as a natural force for creation) without unwittingly fetishising or objectifying? How to tread the line between critiquing and mimicking aspects of the very cultural norms you seek to challenge? The interesting thing about art performance is that it occupies a neutral zone, where conventions of taste are pushed beyond usual boundaries, but nonetheless it exists alongside commercial image making and is tied to the art industry. This performance zone, which exists at one remove from mainstream culture cannot ultimately exist in splendid isolation. For example, the internet provides a space where images of women can be accessed indiscriminately and viewed out of context. This is not wholly unproblematic. That it is a female artist manipulating her own body, and controlling where the viewer’s gaze may fall and on what selected acts, however, carries an important bearing on the difficulties outlined above, separating this privileged zone from commercial representations of the female body. Subversion is indisputably taking place. The artist seeks to enact, transform and provoke. I think that she succeeds. There is much to learn from the powerful engagement in Poppy’s practice and the commitment to self exposure and personal challenge. Another vital way in which to understand performance is not only as an act for the viewer but also as an act for the artist. Performance has the power to transform us, not only during the act but in the longer term. These are moments of heightened awareness, with the potential to bring lasting insight. Performance, like any other art form is the development of language. It is also the wresting of power. Through it, we speak and are untouchable (in the zone), conventional form is powerless against us. This growing realisation on my part makes performance possible as both gentle protest and a more vigorous subversion. It is the artist’s choice. Catching up with Poppy’s website I realised that the work shared on the day was carefully selected, and that some of her more challenging work goes beyond my own personal comfort zone. My subject is not the female body – but rather displacement, more specifically exile, rooted in a history and now also in neurological difference. Nonetheless, she inspires me to focus and evolve. Commitment to performance can never be half-hearted, I always prepare meticulously – but there’s always room for more and more thought, and the potential to take it just a little bit further. My thanks go to performance artist Veronica Cordova and her colleague Peta Lloyd, for the opportunity to view this work.

Comments by artist Sonia Boue.


Fay Stevens


“Visible and mobile, my body is a thing among things; it’s caught in the fabric of the world, and its cohesion is that of a thing. But, because it moves itself and sees, it holds things in a circle around itself.� Maurice Merleau Ponty


Fay Stevens is an archaeologist, artist, curator and academic who specialises in the philosophical school of phenomenology as a critical and creative lens through which she works. She is currently collaborating with artists on projects, ‘The Space Between,’ ‘The Unearthing of Jacquetta Hawkes,’ and ‘Vade Mecum.’ Her current interdisciplinary project ‘Malathyros’ is an ongoing exploration of place, time and memory.


My archaeological work, performance and art practice is a process of excavation – an unravelling of layers of time, memory and substance. It is a phenomenological enquiry and experience, concerned with trace, elements, the senses, inscription and corporeal interplay. I work with charcoal. Its materiality makes reference to the distant past (archaeologists use charcoal to date ancient archaeological sites), acknowledges its source and is used as a mark making device. Etched within its fibrous fabric is held the memory of land, time, climate and place. Combined with this is the practice of walking, a ritualised pilgrimage of journeys and pathways which interweave, intermesh and texture the world with a palimpsest of choreographed memories that create visual and sculptural installations and drawings. For the Oxford Brookes Live Art and Performance Group, I performed the fifth installation of an ongoing project ‘Malathyros,’ a ritualised, ethicallysituated inscription and recall of event, history and remembrance. Performance for me is about engagement with audience rather than purely observed by audience. In that respect, I see audience as participant and in this case, those present became embodied in to the event. As such, my performances are a narrative interplay between myself, the materials I am working with, the space/ place I perform in, those present and the events and experiences I inscribe.


Profile for Veronica Cordova De La Rosa

VIBRATIONS III  

Vibrations 3, an artist publication produced by the Live Art and Performance Group, based at Oxford Brookes University. Set up in 2015 by V...

VIBRATIONS III  

Vibrations 3, an artist publication produced by the Live Art and Performance Group, based at Oxford Brookes University. Set up in 2015 by V...

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