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Category: creative projects

  1. intimacy

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    I have been thinking about intimacy and performance lately. Often when you work with small scale or one to one performance, there is an expectation for the experience to ‘be intimate.’ I never quite know how to feel about this.

    I think this is partly because of what I think is implied when people say’ intimacy’ – something safe, cosy enjoyable, even comforting. And I would definitely never want to describe my performance work in that way. But maybe I am just not understanding what ‘intimacy’ means? In discussing his one-to-one performance Mystical Glory Hole, Dominic Johnson notes:

    The tendency, I think, would be to read this encounter in terms of intimacy. The encounter is partly boring, partly threatening, possibly embarrassing or uncomfortable, and then the difficulties resolve themselves into an experience of beauty or wonder, however slight. This sounds, to me, like a neat description of intimacy itself, as a situation that aims (to varying extents) at pleasure, but necessarily involves less pleasurable eventualities. (Zerihan, 2009, p. 


    Sonic Confessions  - one-to-one performance. Potography by Matthew Southward

    I really like this quote – of all the texts and descriptions I have read about performance art, this particular one stands out to me. It captures perfectly the complex and multi layered ‘thing’ a small scale performance can be.

    Both for me, as the performer, and the audience members, there is unpredictability – what will happen, who’s really in control? There is a slight social anxiety, a fear you are not doing the right thing. How do I act? How am I MEANT to act? And that is all before we get into the actual contents of the work – which are aften designed to highlight difficult or challenging topics.

    I like there to be a slight sense of danger within the pieces, and I like that fact we are free to explore these tensions, dangers and anxieties within the relative safely of a performance art piece.

    So, returning to the quote and Johnsons description of ‘intimacy’ - maybe it is not that I don’t think my performance works are ‘intimate’. It is maybe more about thinking about what intimacy actually is. As Johnson points out, it is a complex and fluid thing – and in that sense, yes, I would agree that my one-to-one performance works are ‘intimate’ – unpredictable, awkward, a little dangerous – and never really boring!     

    (Zerihan, R., 2009, One to One Performance, London, Live Art Development Agency)

  2. telesonic transmission

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    Last year, I did my first online, live performance – ‘Telesonic transmission’ as part of the amazing Online Performance Art festival. As many things, as I have been thinking about it afterwards, themes and ideas have emerged, which felt like they were floating around the periphery when the work was created. Now, with some time and reflection, they seem central to the work. As I am thinking about, he the future, developing these ideas and themes really excites me. I wanted to try and think through them in writing here.


    Birds on Zoom


    Early last year, as we were all getting use to Zoom and online meetings, I attended a (very lovely) writing workshop run by my university. The speaker, who often went silent to let us all write, had the sound of load and joyful birdsong in the background for the whole workshop. I remember how I thought, for a moment, the birds might be in my own garden. And even when I realised where the sound was coming from, I found it hard to accept that it was from someone else’s living room/garden. I realised how the medium of a Zoom call created little (sonic) intrusions into my world at home. And, I thought, the transfer or intrusion is the same the other way around - you are in my space, but I am also in yours.



    Still from performance video - the artist crawling very close to the camera, her face filling the screen


    Supernatural television

    Lisa Blackman writes in ‘Immaterial Bodies’ of the early associations of television and clairvoyance. As she points out, the prefix ‘tele’ (from Greek, mean ‘from far, afar)’ – which television shares with telepathy and telekinesis, for example, ties it to early20th century ideas and beliefs around physic phenomena. (Blackman; ‘Immaterial Bodies’, p 70)

    I thought again about that birdsong, and how it was beamed or transported into my house, outside of my control, along virtual pathways I knew nothing about. There was an interesting correlation there between my previous work on inner sounds, where I often played with the idea of getting into people’s heads, or people sharing inner experiences.

    I had an idea of an obsessed inner listener, reaching out, finding a way to crawl along the invisible virtual networks. She would not only intrude into your house, but all the way into your mind…


    Still from performance video - the artist holds up a white paperto the camera, with 'fear' written on it



    The work, which is a live streamed performance, plays on these ideas. The audience sees me, and a large part of the space I am in. As the performance go on, I get closer and closer to the camera, often way to close for what has become ‘acceptable’ in our new Zoom age. They also hear my voice speaking to them, but without me actually speaking (it has been pre-recorded and is broadcast as a separate soundtrack) - much like I am speaking in your head.

    Or maybe you are just imagining it?

    The work plays on the intrusion into my space by you, the audience – but also my intrusion into your space (and mind?) sonically and otherwise. I am hoping in the future I can develop this piece further, even though the world might go back to ‘normal’ and the need for digital connections will not be the same.