Designing a Performance Costume

Originally, within the Pole Performance, I did not have a particular plan for a costume, as I had prepared a lot with the videos in the background. However, during the performance, and when having feedback, my costume choice was in the limelight as it was obviously not as prepared as everything else. I wanted to bring the elements of the Suffragettes and the simple design of the top and shorts together for my practice and final performance.


I first looked at the full Suffragette dress and what women would have been wearing 100 years ago when they got the vote. I also viewed Halloween costumes that were simplistic versions of these dresses in order to gain aspect of the full design first. Although correct, this would be unrealistic for the pole as I need my legs, side and arms to be free.

This led me onto having a shortened design of the Feminist Pole Mat and the Suffragette dress. These, admittedly, looked awful and I did not enjoy them as a concept. I feel as though people would not get the ideas that I was bringing across, as they would be trying to decipher what the costume was. I also wanted to bring the skirt element back, as this is very feminine and would look lovely while on the pole, along with the shadows of myself in the skirt. The skirt did not sit well with the Feminist Pole Mat design, and I found that there was too much happening at once.

Adding the skirt to a modified Suffragette dress, I was able to create a modern, pole friendly costume, that can easily show myself as part of the Suffragette movement, but can be further modified during the performance in order for the audience to look at me. I plan to test this design out in the next couple of weeks with a practice performance and a new display of projectors.
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Paul Purgas

Paul Purgas likes to make massive noises in obscure locations. Through his work he managed to create records in historic places, such as an anonymous Gothic architecture, much of which was pushed together in a way that didn’t make much sense. Within this house, you would clap your hands in one room, and the sound would ring into the other rooms of the house. By playing with the audio, he was able to find out what he needed to come into a record.
With this building, he improvised a three hour performance by using very basic sonic amps, classic base tones and sine waves. Through this, he would try and put the sound waves onto the building itself. Purgas would also use the technique of analogue distortion to carry this out. The distortion would be to put the sound through an aggravator, which adds to and distorts the wave. In this project and sound production, he picks out the ideas of distortion and gives it a physical space, and decided to put it in this house because of its history with these types of noises.
Prior to this, Purgas was making music in a traditional and conventional approach. The project in the Gothic house was the first step out of the traditional music studio.
From here, he got invited to the Tate and got given a small budget to record somewhere. Out of everywhere in the world, Purgas chose a nuclear power station in Snowdonia, which was designed by the architect Basil Spence. This space is constantly being dismantled and is a space that had completed its life cycle. Purgas took over this nuclear power station with massive PA systems to improvise sounds into a solid composition. Through his work in this building, he ended up creating a dark record that doesn’t particularly sell nuclear energy.
Though working in such unique buildings, Purgas was approached by the architecture foundation in order to create a project or installation as part of their exhibition. For this, Purgas found that he was very much inspired by the 70’s TV show with Nigel Neil, The Stone Tapes, in which researchers go into a Gothic mansion where they believe that the stones have captured the supernatural sounds of the house. These elements of sound, space and the sense of supernatural otherness inspired Purgas for this piece. It has the method to overwhelm the sense and has a powerful method of other perceptual possibility. These themes were always in the background of the architecture project. The main question here was; how do they define the building through these supernatural noises? This exhibition took place in London, near Baker Street, and created physical sound.
Purgas always tries to find the fundamental frequency and pure tone in physical spaces. This ensures that when these tones and frequencies are played, the sound itself is able to become physical. This also ensures that a maximum effect outcome is created through minimal parts.
After this work, Purgas carried on with architecture investigations and was asked for a commission with a radio broadcasting project in Germany. This made him rethink of active listening and the frame work of music, and how putting brackets around it is enough to make it a composition of work, or a performance. Within this work, they set up a radio receiver for the fluctuations of the atmosphere. This was partially inspired by the book ‘Earth Sound Earth Signal’, that which they talk about the Earths’ sounds and electromagnetism and art. [Purgas likes to pick up historical ideas, and taking the ideas, concepts and knowledge that we have now, and imagine how we can remix this knowledge.] Radio waves bounce off the ionosphere and picks up some of the noise of the ionosphere as it does so. For a trans-medial art performance, they did this in real time, outputting what was on their mixing desk, which bounced across the atmosphere and relayed back into the concert hall. What was sent up was clean, but what came back was almost pulsating, just like the atmosphere and the ionosphere does.
Purgas then moved on to the David Roberts Art Foundation in London, where which he got a commission. He found that especially here the landscape is different and that the public money is not available especially with private collectors and museums, that are cropping up more frequently. Purgas moved back into acoustic modelling, and using a frequency sweep in a room, giving them enough information about the room to work with it. From here, he looked into the qualities and latent sonic qualities of the space, in order to get the maximum output that he was able to in the space. For this piece, he also uniquely collaborated with vocalists and mimicking what they were doing electronically, but the putting it through as a voice. By using large and rigid objects within the space, he was able to create a base and foundation of the improvised performance. This performance ended up sound very new age.
Purgas is currently working on an entirely new project in which neural networks that allow AI systems to work, and manipulating the AI, or the neural networks to create music. There are multiple networks that are working at the same time, fighting and completing to arrive at decision and conclusions. One of the aspects that Purgas is interested in is how we can extrapolate this into a composition system. Through this, he is looking to work with a super computer in Cambridge to build the sound and sonic processing.
Another project that Purgas has looked into in the endless theatre which was adaptable for everything. This theatre was never actually built because no one realised the potential, however Purgas managed to get his hands on a 3D model of this. Transferring it into an acoustic model software and playing around with the position of PA systems and microphones, Purgas was able to make a piece of music from the brain of a building on a computerised system.
He is also working on research projects in Finland, with electronic instruments that no one knows how to play. He is going over to try and decode the instruments and create a composition. The original artist was interested in the biological part of the electronics. There is also a project in India that he is currently looking into, in which the first electronic music was set up along with a large archive of music and artists unbeknown to anyone.
Purgas also worked with other artists to curate programmes. He found it to be one of the most useful and enjoyable things that he has done outside of his normal ‘studio’ works and has helped him to build relationships and connect art back to the outside world.


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Pole Performance

I have to admit, I’d never imagined myself being a performer, let alone using projections, videos and performance on a pole. Setting up this room was a little annoying, as the pole itself took two weeks, and then there were difficulties with equipment. I did, however, enjoy performing to the studio group, and receiving their feedback for the presentation of the performance.
It was said that the set up of the performance worked well, in that you are always looking at something. This included the projections, myself performing and also the shadows that were created. There was also a drawback of this; even when it said ‘look at me’, some people found that they were too busy watching the videos to watch me, even if they wanted to.
The use of the blacked out room also made the performance more powerful, along with the spoken word. I did find, however that the black blackout material did not work as powerfully as the white walls, and thus people did not often see that there was a video on this wall. For my next performance, I may try out some of the different techniques of projecting that I tried in Untitled Collection Projections, in order to determine the consensus and the power of this.
My costume choice was also mentioned, as this was something that was rushed and a last minute decision. In my next performance, I would like to explore more my costume choice and how this may affect the power and speech of the performance itself. The power of the speech will also be improved through louder and more empowering speakers.
Overall, I really enjoyed this performance and the ideas and points of view that I was able to present within this performance. Below is two versions of the performance; one that I showed to my studio group and another that I created afterwards, in order to get a full edit from different angles. Below is also several film stills from the performance, used as documentation.


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Pole Performance Preparation

For the pole performance I had to go through several steps. Originally, when I made the pole it was to make the move from performance and video into sculpture. I realise now that this would almost be a bad move to make as my videos and performances are relatively strong. Because of this sudden change, I was unsure as to what my next move was until someone pointed out that pole can be very feminist (also see: Women’s Vote: 100 Years), and somewhat returns the gaze (depending on the situation).
I decided to concentrate on feminism as pole is often associated with the themes of seduction and sexuality, however the fitness that goes behind it brings across the themes of power and control. I have been asked many times if I do any stripping simply because I mention pole fitness. I want to return the stereotypical male gaze that is involved with pole and highlight the power and control that I have while on the pole, and also over the audience. Jana Sterbak also brings in these themes in an ‘unconventional’ way.
Untitled Collection allowed the connection between the fitness studio and the art department, and also allowed me to capture videos from new perspectives. This included from a camera near the floor, a GoPro and a camera at the top of the pole.
Through the performance, however, I wanted to return the male gaze, such that Valie Export does, but perhaps not in such an extreme manner. Although I did not want extreme, I still wanted the unexpected and something that steps outside expectation, much like Laylah Ali‘s performances and Oreet Ashery‘s Work.
The privacy of the room with the blackout covers allowed the performance to be almost an immersive experience, which is something I have wanted to bring into my work since The Start Project and exploring Pepón Osorio‘s environments. The use of this environment will hopefully produce something uncomfortable, making people question whether they should be there and allowing them to reflect upon themselves.
I decided on a very quick and rushed costume; wrapping found pieces of white fabric around my sports bra and shorts. This was partly to cover up marks, but also make the view different from each side; you would not be able to see the white from some directions but you could from others.
I initially wanted to cover the floor and part of the walls in feminist posters, however I didn’t want to detract from the videos that would be displayed on the walls. I decided to keep it as the plain mat, the videos and the pole in order to get the most impact. It did make me worry that I wouldn’t be able to properly control where the audience would be in the room. I decided to leave it for this performance in order for me to see what they naturally do. Rebecca Horn and Matthew Barney also look at how movement alters the relationship of the performer and the space, and I want to see how this plays out within the performance.


I also decided to leave the mat, pole and videos within the room to leave a part of the performance there, almost like leaving a sculpture, such like Eva RothschildHeather Cassils and Superflex. The use of three inspired by John Akomfrah, allows the audiences eyes to always be moving. For more about the set up and projection choice see Untitled Collection Projections. I have planned a routine for the performance, however sometimes it is day-dependent for whether I will be able to do the moves. My hope is that the videos will not be too distracting, that the audience do not look at me, and thus I cannot return the gaze.

Untitled [Pole Projections]

I bought together the idea of Untitled Collection and the audio of Spoken Poem in order to create a more directed video to display during the performance of my thoughts and ideas of The Male Gaze and Voyeurism, and also Feminism. I recorded myself saying the Spoken Poem with red lipstick on in order to highlight the speech when it come up on screen. I mixed these with black and white clips of Suffragettes marching that were filmed in the 1900’s, and have recently been speed corrected and put onto YouTube. I also placed small clips of myself doing pole with sports gear on, to highlight the sports aspect of the performance, not just the stripper aspect.
I ensured that at some point, one of the videos would be playing, to ensure that not all the attention is on me, and that the audience are viewing other aspects and seeing different reasons for why I am there. These three projections, for the performance, are projected onto two walls and a blacked out window.


Untitled Collection Projections

Following on from Untitled Collection I decided to project in various ways while doing a small performance on the pole. This was recorded from two different angles in order to see three videos that were projected onto three out of the four walls in the room.
Initially I tried to fit two projections next to each other on the same wall. This caused several problems including that of the projectors at my eye level while I was on the pole. The blinded me a couple of times, and I felt like I stuttered. Because being on the pole takes a lot of concentration, this was very distracting. I also found that the projections overlap each other on the wall. Although this was annoying, the effect that it created ended up being very interesting; the new videos of pole and red lips, and then the old videos of the Suffragettes.

I then decided to play with the two projectors on opposite walls. I found this to be much nicer on my eyes, as the projectors were at a level that they were not shining into them. It also allowed those viewing the performance to see the videos no matter where they stood. The projections were centred more onto the wall than myself, which also meant that you could see more of the video, and myself performing separately.

When projecting three videos onto three of these walls, there was a large emphasis of movement, especially between the videos and myself, the movement I was making and also the movement of the shadows that were being cast. I preferred this out of the three different projection types as I felt that it was able to get across my message in the best way. I also liked this set up as the viewer was able to see videos and shadows no matter where they stood.

Untitled [Mixed Pole]

I decided to bring together Untitled [Body Pole]Untitled [Top Pole] and Untitled [Floor Pole] in one video, such like I previously have done in Untitled [Pole]. The elements that were bought together created a visually striking video, allowing you to see all parts at once. Sometimes, it was a small overload of visual information as the videos cut between one and the next, and switching dramatically.
There were not many parts in which there was a full blackout, such as in the individual videos, however it also allowed me to see where I was missing clips when all the videos were displayed together. The combination of all these things allowed to show strength and the beauty of pole rather than it being provocative.

Untitled Collection

Untitled [Floor Pole], Untitled [Top Pole], Untitled [Body Pole], Untitled [Mixed Pole] bought together the elements of pole in a fitness studio, as captured in Pole GoPro Experiments, and the element of my pole in the studio.
When finding an appropriate place to film from the floor, I found this challenging as I had to try and find a place where the sun wouldn’t glare, the door and the window could not be seen and maximum amount of the pole could be covered. The final positioning of the camera I was not 100% happy with, however I accepted it to be the best of the worst.


I found capturing the timings of these to be more difficult than when I was working with just two. During the editing, I often had the same audio on the clips in order to gain the same timings, and to bring them together as one video at the end. To display this, I would either display it on three separate screens, display the ‘mash up’ on one screen, or a performance with three projectors crossing over onto three walls. This is something that I look to experiment with.
I collected 22 different clips to edit with, all on the Go Pro, a camera near the floor, and a phone at the top of the pole. During editing, I will ensure that they are made into the same quality. This is so when showing the videos, there isn’t one that is of lower quality than the other two.

Designing a Feminist Pole Mat

When looking at the performance space, I found the black mat at the bottom of the pole to be too hidden in the background. I also wanted to have a stronger link to feminism in the performance and that could be left as a reminder of the performance.
Through looking at the posters of the past 100+ years in Women’s Vote: 100 Years, I picked out some key elements to work with. This included the fist, wording and the two hands reaching towards each other.


Although these two designs encompassed very feminist ideas, I did not find the fist something enjoyable to work with. The power behind it works, however I could not find a composition that I found suitable. Even with the wording, the composition still felt off as though it was missing something.

I also singled out the words that were commonly used throughout posters in the feminist movements. Putting these on their own design allowed me to see that they had a smaller impact that originally thought, and that I wanted an image with it. I also noticed on the posters the two hands reaching to each other. I found this design much better as it was softer and more caring (like women are supposedly more like compared to men), however still had the impact of the scale. The reaching out together I found to be more symbolic that women have each other, and the closeness that we are to perhaps reaching the feminist goals. I still, however, wasn’t completely happy with this.
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The fifth design encompassed the two symbols that I found. This, again, was very powerful, however I found that I wanted the words to be there, in order to highlight to people the subject that I was breaching. With this, it can be dismissed because some may not know the history of the symbols. With words, however, you are almost forced to read it and take in what is being said. This led me to the final design:
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This involved all the parts that I preferred in the other designs, while still keeping soft but powerful. People often underestimate women, and this is what I want people to think of the mat cover. It will only be when they see it closer that they realise the full impact of what it is saying, take it in and also reflect upon it. The mat cover also allows a more immersive experience where you are able to reflect, much like in the works of Pepón Osorio.


I began making the mat along with appropriate size hole for the pole, and a overhang for the size. I did, however, change my idea for what I wanted to do, and so I did not use this mate cover in the end. If I did use it, I would have been happy with the design I chose and the materials of wool and thin cream fabric.

Untitled [Body Pole]

Once again, I captured some of the footage on a Go Pro. This was more difficult than I originally thought, and more difficult that when capturing footage for Untitled [Close Pole] & Untitled [Head Pole]. This is because I did not have the door blocked off with a curtain or any blackout material, which meant that the light from the corridor and the room opposite could be seen. There were also lots of occasions and deleted footage because someone was walking past, or you could see into the next room. Something that will nag at me as well is the view into the dark room next door, where a painting that is on the wall is obviously seen.

Within this edit, I once again used the breathing from Pole GoPro Experiments that was also used in Untitled [Floor Pole] and Untitled [Top Pole] to ensure synchronisation when playing. It was also to ensure that when editing, I had certain happenings at certain occasions, which would play out fully when all three videos were running on projectors. I wanted this to be longer in order to use it for the performance that I am planning.

Within this edit, I did find that there were extremely long gaps, however I felt like I had to accept this, as I did not want an overload of video when all three were playing at once. I did like some of the unique shots, especially when it seemed like my knees were coming towards the camera. I did believe that I could have done more editing to this in order for it to be more different, rather than just videos of pole that have been slightly altered with speed. I finally added Spoken Poem in the background in order to show it within my performance.