Performance Re-enactment Society II

Done any good books lately? As part of the show The Cover of a Book is the Beginning of a Journey, the Performance Re-enactment Society (PRS) invited visitors to take part in a series of enactments in response to the book works in the exhibition. Over five occasions they carried out a selection of instruction-based works, realising other people’s art and creating original versions.

The Performance Re-enactment Society is an occasional collective of artists, archivists and researchers, who use documents and memories to revive past art experiences and create them anew. Their collaborative performance re-enactments are acts of conservation and transform past works into new events.

In its current constellation the PRS are Paul Clarke, Clare Thornton, Tom Marshman (all Arnolfini We Live Here Associate Artists), with participants and guests.

Douglas Gordon’s Three Steps to Heaven (1996)

Unfurl (Alison Knowles, 1979)

Question Marks (Julius Koller, 1996).

do it! (Hans Ulrich Obrist, 1993 - 2005).

Minor Breast

Isabel Carvalho and Clare Thornton (ed.)
Various authors

Minor Breast is a collaboration between artists Isabel Carvalho and Clare Thornton. The project developed through their shared interests in community, collective production and a desire to get to the very heart of the matter. Minor Breast is a collection of contemporary reflections and strategies for surviving lost love, heartbreak and getting through moments of crisis. Gathered through an international female network of friends, family and contacts, Minor Breast focuses on asymmetries, relationships, sharing of intimacy and feminism. It seeks to be a creative and honest public platform. Participants were invited to share with us the advice that got them through. Whether passed on by another or learned through direct experience we sought creative and poetic contributions to surviving the hardest of times and navigating the interwoven highs and lows of life/love/work.

2008 / 11.5 x 16.5 cm / 48 p. / b/w

Pleats & Folds - Residency at Arnolfini, Bristol

In September 2008 I undertook a residency at the Arnolfini through their 'We Live Here' Live Art programme.

During the residency I held a series of public Open Studio and workshop sessions that fed into the R&D for my project 'Pleats & Folds'. I was joined by Norwegian artist (and regular collaborator) Jan Steinum and a small local group of participants who I met and worked with on Tom Marshman's The Invitation project.

In Pleats & Folds I explore hidden narratives and layers of memory through a process of unwrapping stories associated with 'soft objects', working towards a new mixed media installation piece inspired by the personal stories gathered during this research period.

My practice revolves around narrative, site, history and the making of meaning and I+ use the costumed/adorned body as a possible site/tool for exploring these concerns. I experiment with objects, photography, text, textile & performance for video.

Using the Ruff/Collar in Baroque Northern European portraiture as a starting point to my investigations into status, symbolism, control and the individual in society I was curious to construct a Ruff piece that might carry markings/motifs within it reflecting the contemporary personal narratives I captured during the residency.

Wilderness Ranch

Developed in collaboration with Jan Steinum during a TOAH Residency at TOU Scene Stavanger, Norway.

Wilderness Ranch explored landscapes of the body and environment.
The conceptual spine of the work concerns border crossings and the territories of culture, gender, geography and space.

Performance, video and sculptural works explored moments of tension, resistance, and release, investigating site, emotional landscapes and the thrill of ‘in-between’ positions.

TOU Scene invited us to present the outcomes of our residency process in August 2007 & we used the venue’s 1000sqm beer halls space to show the new works.

Steinum and I have collaborated together since 2003, supporting each other to produce solo yet complimentary installation pieces.

Looking for the Black Redstart

Platforms Commission, The Public, West Midlands (2005)

The Story of the Artist…Looking for the Black Redstart

In Spring 2005 I was invited by curator Trevor Pitt at community arts agency The Public, to consider the Birmingham to Wolverhampton Metro tramline for the “Platforms” public art programme. The question: “What did this public transport route mean to me and how would I creatively respond to it?”

One morning as I travelled on the Metro from Birmingham to The Public’s office – going against the main flow of passengers/commuters at that time of day, I began to consider the land either side of the tracks. This was a nature ‘corridor’ cutting through the industrial conurbation of North Birmingham and the Black Country. The tram was quiet and I was the only person to get off at Trinity Way station. I stepped onto the platform and was struck by the sound of birdsong. Here was thriving nature in the midst of an urban & industrial area.

Given that birds/wildlife was to be a thread running through this project located in the Black Country area of the West Midlands, a trip to the local Nature Reserve (run by RSPB -Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) seemed the logical next step. This is when things gained focus and momentum. I learned about one of Britain’s rarest birds - the Black Redstart. I liked the name immediately. I was attracted to it’s nicknames: the “bombsite bird” and “power station” bird. This was a bird that thrived in urban industrial landscapes nesting in disused factories, building sites, areas under regeneration and change. The Black Redstart was a curiously appropriate mascot for the Black Country - a post-industrial area undergoing considerable change economically and in terms of urban regeneration.

A sighting of this rare bird is highly prized. The quest to find the Black Redstart had begun – a conceptual journey as much as a physical one. This project was to become an urban adventure. I began to go out along the metro line with binoculars, maps and recording equipment and began to document this performance/ research with photographer Cath Tarbuck.

The idea then grew that as sightings of the Black Redstart had been recorded along the metro line (aswell as the local canal network) a visual record of my search for this bird could also be publicly presented along the route. We approached Viacom who supported our proposal to use a number of the poster/advertising boards at Metro stations. These large photographs were a kind of visual ‘hook’ to the transitory, passing audience/metro tram passengers.

I was also keen to make public performance actions during the project, and for two days during Birmingham’s Fierce! Festival 2005 ( I ‘performed’ my adventure along the Metro route - hopping on and off the trams at peak commuter times, chatting with fellow passengers and metro staff who asked me what I was doing and sharing with me what they had seen on their own journey’s…

Through my discussions with curator/producer Trevor Pitt we arranged free picnics and ‘rambles’/nature walks. To create social events and engage with more people, drawing in local bird/wildlife experts to share their knowledge and enthusiasm. These activities complimented the performance interventions and were intended to offer a relaxed social space in which people could meet and take an active part in the project.

Thus I was joined by local ‘adventurers’ who also armed with binoculars, accompanied myself, Morgan (Wildlife Trust) and Peter (RSPB) along the path running alongside the metro tracks.

A ‘Looking for the Black Redstart’ photo album creatively documenting these performances, nature walks and picnics has been produced, capturing the participation by local people and documenting the surprising wildlife secrets to be discovered amidst this urban sprawl.

An invitation to exhibit the outcomes of the project was made by Bilston Craft Gallery – situated near the Metro route. For this small-scale exhibition in January 2006 I created new textile and print works to compliment the billboard posters, photo album and a contextualizing video interview produced by Fierce!. I was interested in trying to translate into the ‘soft’ medium of fabric and stitch my journey and my passion/curiosity for research (for example cartography, wildlife books, geological data – hardcopy and digital archives). I am particularly interested in how artists and scientists communicate their ideas and findings about the world they live in.

The Bilston exhibition pulled together the project elements. In ‘Looking for the Black Redstart’ I wanted to investigate ideas about journeys, physical/geographic, mental and urban landscapes and sparking a curiosity for the everyday. I wanted to look at local public transport networks in a different way and invite local people to join me on this journey.

Following the Bilston Craft Gallery exhibition, in April 2006 I was invited to present the project in an entirely new context at the Dorchester Festival (south west England). The theme for that year’s festival was art and ecology. The Dorset region is rural rather than urban/industrial. Whilst the exhibition in the Dorchester Town Hall presented the works as they were shown at Bilston, naturally the rambling/nature walks element was re-designed to respond to this new location. Having made contact with the local Wildlife Trust Roadside Verges project worker and the local RSPB representative we researched several possible walking routes leading us out of the town centre. Rambling is usually associated with rural environments (that’s why the first Black Country urban rambles had been so surprising and novel intervention in that industrial locality). In order to surprise and creatively disrupt the rambles in the Dorchester area we stuck to roads rather than paths cutting through fields and woods and our surprise destination was infact the local sewerage works – not a conventional area of local natural beauty or obvious wildlife hot spot.

These gentle disruptions were all part of the process of inviting participants to look differently at their local environment and neighbourhood. Key to ‘Looking for the Black Redstart’ participatory public art project is the desire to inspire curiosity in the everyday and an active engagement in local issues and concerns by the artist and participants.

Performance Re-enactment Society

Darkside Live Art event, Arnolfini, Bristol
December 2007

Developed with Tom Marshman, in collaboration with live art archivists Bex Carrington and Julian Warren, costume designer Pam Tait and director/research fellow Paul Clarke.

Tom Marshman and Clare Thornton had a mission - to breathe new life into performance archives through an evening of re-enactment and ‘tableau vivant’. They invited ticket rippers, ushers, back-stage crew, box office staff - all those who help to create the magic on stage (and that included the audience)! 
Saluting the unsung heroes
Stepping out from the darkness 
Joining in the fun of recreating a memorable performance moment and recreating it for a photograph. These images were collated and are now held in the Arnolfini Archive.

 Other links:

2012 See our latest commission

2011 'Salad Dressing' a cover-version commission of Ed Ruscha's Crackers  

2011 'UNTITLED PERFORMANCE STILLS' commissioned for
The Pigs of Today are the Hams of Tomorrow

Hardcore Soft

Curator: Clare Thornton
Norwegian National Museum for Art, Architecture & Design

An interdisciplinary exhibition presenting works by artists who employ their “soft” craft as a sharp edged tool with which to make public their investigations into cultural politics and social consciousness – addressing attitudes towards community, conflict, class and the political body.

The exhibition opened in Union Scene, Drammen in 2006 and toured throughout Norway to art and culture spaces.

Artists: Brett Alexander (AU), Rachel Dagnell (N/UK), Bjorn Kjelltoft (S), Anita Hillestad (N), Trevor Pitt (UK), Meave Willey (UK), Fine Cell Work (UK), War Rugs Inc. (US)

Home & Away

In Spring 2006 artists Thornton, Storm & Dagnell started open/free creative workshops at the International Kultursenter & Museum, Oslo (also a satellite group at Masala Textilverksted, Drammen). These creative meetings continued over a six month period and resulted in a group exhibition - opening at IKM Gallery in September 2006. The exhibition platformed the work of all participants: a mixed media installation of personal and collective creative responses to the project theme 'home' - incorporating video, photography, sculpture, textile and text.

The exhibition toured to Union Scene, Drammen in November 2006

Hjemme og Borte Project Participants:

IKM, Oslo
Lena Sinika Aas, Rachel Dagnall, Aida Dukic, Hilde Erdal, Elisabeth FahlstrØm, Zahra Sayyad Far, Hansine Finvik, Tone Gronneberg, Linda Sofie Harnes, Jorunn Huser, Tanja Karlsen, Camilla Storm, Siri Eriksen Sveen

Masala Tekstilverksted, Drammen
Fatemeh, Masroora Iqbali, Haiyan Liu Jonsrud, Aishei Salih Khorshid, Monica Koroma, Haifa Al Kuzai, Maassoumeh, Meryem, Hilde Vistnæs

Further participants joined us for the ‘Cook-in-Zine/Cook-in-Tunes' workshop. This open drop-in meeting was held at IKM Kulturverksted in June 2006.

Corset Cut

“Corset Cut” 2003 (UK/Norway)
4mins/silent/single play or loop/4:3

Corset Cut is a performance for video, shot in one take.
This short film features the artist being cut out of a corset by her mother.
The corset is an exact copy of a British Edwardian design worn around 1915, a period of heightened activity for the Suffrage Movement. Thornton was at this time also engaged in a series of works exploring women’s history and pioneering women figures in the later 19th early 20th centuries from fields of science/technology, espionage and aviation.

The film was originally shown in a gallery environment as part of a solo mixed media installation entitled 'Somewear in Particular', Galleri G.U.N. Oslo June 2003.
In this context the film was projected as a loop onto the inside of the corset piece which was suspended at chest height from the gallery ceiling.

Other screenings of this work:
Anagram of Ideas, Atelier Nord, Oslo, Norway
'tv-tv', Chamber of Public Secrets, Copenhagen, Denmark
Filmmor Womens International Festival, Instanbul
PSi # 12 ‘Performing Rights’ Queen Mary, University of London.