Does one draw a line?
The sequence of exercises that we performed at the market, fit in the order of a gradual progression, now that I examine them in retrospect. Hence, the ideas explored by us ascend in their levels of introspection, in the case of undercover (involving only one person), attempting a relationship with the audience in the case of the switchboard(involving more than one) and finally, invoking a response with a relationship developed (requiring a balance of introspection and outward understanding with a large number of people).
I see these experiences culminating in an understanding that Dr.Jyothi pointed out -we ‘perform’ ourselves. We perform our gender, identity, class or status.
Performance as a research methodology:
The three exercises sort of broke down the steps that we generally unconsciously undertake when we ‘perform’ a role in society. The undercover assignment asked us to prepare ourselves to fit into roles. The switchboard, was analogous to a rehearsal where things are tried and tested. The sculpting exercise, to me, was a sort of ‘final’ or a culmination of the entire process of observing and understanding due to tremendous effort that it required.
For me, the sculpting invoked the maximum amount of anxiety. An eager wait for approval. An activity that requires one to draw immensely from the previous, to understand the audience and to manipulate it. It was quite similar to my experience of a final performance on stage.
Hence, here fits in the question of the ethics of negotiating relationships. We all perform all our lives. At the crux of it, it is always for a selfish reason. To fit in, to extort, to please.
Now some of our performances that we intend to please, may shock some. Not all the people at the market were delighted with the idea of strangers using their bodies as a tool to communicate their ideas. Where does one really draw a line? Does one ever draw a line?
After the talk with Dr. Jyothi, it became clear that there are various dynamics to a performance that are seperate from it’s own dynamic nature.
Addressing the three aspects that she introduced, i would like to start by talking about the switchboard hybrid activity.
The activity started with simple projections of the pictures we had taken during our visits there. This relates to the third concept Dr. Jyothi talked about – the ethics of negotiating relationships. While ethics remain relative, it is important to respect certain universal ethics, which are not necessarily binding at all times but rather fulfilling ways to sometimes conclude (especially in our case). As we were at the recieving end of so much knowledege and information from the public space and its people, it was only natural (and circumstantially ethical) to want to share or learning. In the second half , we carried out an interactive activity. This was very performance and since it was more the performance of the audience, participation based. This therefor used the idea of body as site of discourse. The participants had to use their bodies to interact with the projections – creating a dialogue between themselves and the projection.
Finally the sculpting excecise with Deepak. This used all three concepts. The idea of performance as a fresearch metadology, as through the audience’s performance and their reactions to ours, we were able learn the point of view of the people. The idea of the body as a site for discourse also used as the audience had to interpret diffrent body gestures and actions in terms of a freeze frame photograph and hence again use the body to dialogue. The third concept about ethics was alos pulled in as using this particular medium with these people was appropriate as they share a certain comfort level with us. Also it gave them a forum to express themselves and was our way of giving back.
“The world’s a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed”
This is a quote i came across relating to our discussion in class with Dr.Jyoti. It was really interesting to know, how all of us are constantly performing unaware of the act. And she talks about performance in everything we do in our day to day lives and not just performance in the form of theatre. This particular quote helps me to further understand how theatre as a form is usually rehearsed or done out of practice whereas, our performance in day to day life is unrehearsed where we never know the end of the performance while we are at it. In all, providing us with a different perspective as to what performance is about.
The exercise of being a vendor and merging with the market space relates to the concept of performance as a research methodology as it helped me to learn how the market functions to a certain extent and provided me with a different perspective into the market space. It helped me to understand the people better than i would have otherwise understood and also get them to be more comfortable in having to converse with them and vice versa.
Clearly my body was acting as a site of discourse because it was body which helped me to come across to the other marketeers as one amongst them and helped me belong to the space whereas in my head there was still a distinction between then and me. It was important for me to change the behavior of my body rather than my mind in order to convince them of my belonging to their space as just thinking of being in their space in my head would not have convinced then that i belong there. This clearly brings about a difference between my body and my mind and how both can help communicate differently. It also comes to say how an ‘action without thought is barely anything’.
My relationship with the vendor was based on both trust and honesty. At the end of the day she was willing to give me fruits and also some cash so i could have lunch. But i still felt the need to either give her something in return or talk to her and share with as to what i gained regarding the exercise. Also, being a part of them in terms of dressing like them, sitting with them, behaving like them and being honest helped me to gain her trust.
This exercise was done by us mainly because we felt the need to give back something to the people from the market and from that we learnt that giving back could also be in the form of sharing something. By doing this it felt like we gave them belief as to how they were a part of our work and they could take back with them an experience of what we shared with them with us not always having to be the only ones at the receiving end. Personally, for me the need to give back arises from the previous exercise where one of the men in the market asks the lady i was working with, ” What are you going to gain by letting her sit next to you ?”.
After we shared the images with the people we had some silhouettes of the people from the market projected on the screen and the audience had to respond to these projections by forming a complete picture with the image on screen with the help of their body. Here we see the body acting as a site of discourse by completing the image with the help of the body and conveying something. Through this we could see how each individual responded to the image on screen relating to performance as a research methodology.
For this exercise, the audience were supposed to use body to create a photograph by sculpting people. The people were supposed to portray what they liked or disliked about the market. This helped us in knowing their view point regarding the space. Some of them portrayed events that had already occurred while the others clearly showed us their feelings through this. They used body to communicate feelings, whether it was to show someone who was drunk or another who was beating up a third person. They conveyed all this by using us like clay and by changing our posture and expression helping us know how each individual shows us the same thing through different actions. Hence, performance being a research methodology and body as a site of discourse.
The concept of ethics is negotiating relationships also comes into place with the help of this exercise as it helped the people in getting comfortable with us and also letting them share their thought about the space.
Piyush Kumar Kashyap:
I realised a whole new meaning of performance being their in the discussion. We reflected on very normal things like our gender, our age, our lingo on a really interesting level which was quite alien and interesting for me. We discussed about our bodies shaping our behaviours and activities and how we perform through it.
While being a part of the market, in the “being invisible exercise” , i explored a very unque level of the process of observation. It actually made me aware how people perform their parts in different spaces and with different people. Though i never realised it with myself, as myself performing my gender or anything. A lot of inputs for this activity came from my observation of my character and the space , but still their was considerable influence coming from my insight. This is what makes me think, our bodies respond very naturally to the space around us and change our behaviours. This happened with me ( i guess) because i took the character and space very personally . Our only presence, that is presence of our bodies speaks a lot of things, everything else we do is just further communication adding to it.
the switchboard exercise was strongly targetted at inducing participation among the people of K.R.Market with certain themes of ours. We wanted to get them involved in our so called artistic process and then get a response from them. In a way we made them connect to their own world of activities that they perfrom. In the process we wanted them to realise the activities of their fellow workers at the same market. We made them perform like their fellow workers, a way to ask them to look around their own world of performance. Most of the interaction we made was around bodies, identities and activities.
Sculpture exercise was profound use of bodies for talking. The exercise was to identify an aspect of K.R.Market and bring it to people by performance , and also involve them in the process. It was mutual interaction with them using body as a clear medium.
“We perform different selves with different people….” well this was a very thoughtful quote that struck me in the discussion that we were having. I would like to add one more thing to it that we do not just perform different selves with different people but we perform different selves with same person in different situations. I have a recent example to it. when we had gone to photograph the space i was behaving in an all together different way than when i had gone for undercover exercise. Like i was mentioning during the discussion also that when we perform differently we also change our postures and our language. I had spoken to the tailor that i had gone for undercover exercise before going for it, and i was very different to him both times and well he was very different too…When we first met , we had our conversations really short and we did not have any ownership over each other, but whe next time when we met we had spent quite a time with each other and that had bridged lots of gaps and so we were more comfortable while talking to each other than just talking with smile on our face. Well and the statement ” body being text” is also true as we were adjusting our spaces within that space by understanding the noyion of one’s private space. It was also translated through my way of sitting and walking.
when i was interacting with people i could see that they know about how open i am for interaction. Well and people were helping us without us telling them that means they could see from what we were doing that we needed help. The interactions become more interesting when other person is talking very briefly.
During sculptures with Deepaak our bodies were being manipulated by some one else, but our bodies were saying something else…like when that boy made Shrikar sleep on that pavement it was looking as if he was beaten up and dumped there and not as if he was drunk and lying there…..
Theatre in my mind has been a pre-choreographed array of interactions and always a medium to convey something may be a story, theme or a message for an audience than for self. it amazed me how they could perceive it totally in a new light.
After the exercise that we merged into public, Deepak asked me how i felt, i refused to call the exercise as a form of theatre, now after Jyoti‘s talk I realise what Deepak meant by “every interaction is a theatre practice”. It’s a completely new way to look at how we negotiate the self according to the receiver of information. i think i can relate to the idea of embodied knowledge or how we carry our history in our bodies when i look back to the sculpting exercise, when we had to forget at every other instant who we were and think of ourselves as characters
Another idea that appealed to me was the relation between awareness that you are performing and subconscious notion of your power. How power makes us realise of the self that we desire to project. And thus everyday performance may be termed as a survival tactic.
I do not agree completely with the idea of consuming experience. I think that even though if we “steal” an experience from the space, balancing it by “giving it back” is not possible. How do you make your “giving back” ENOUGH that it really matters to that space? During the switchboard exercise these questions were my prime concern.
Somehow the questions that were spinning in my head during the first week itself are making me dizzy again. I need to answer these before I can start my final project. if only i could frame them …………
Jyoti made me look at the world in a very different light- performance. Usually I associate performance with theatre and theatre with the conventional form of theatre or should I say the conventional notion of theatre since I have now realised that we can draw parallels between our daily life practices and theatre as a form. There’s a front stage, a centre stage, a back stage, there’s a rehearsal, an audience … It’s almost like Shakespeare’s words “all the world’s a stage” coming to life.
I think I have become a fan of performance as a research methodology since I find it so effective. When I did the invisibility exercise I gained a lot of insight and knowledge into the lives of the people at the market more than any other medium. It was a very conscious performance to be accepted as one of them and in the process I had to, through the discipline of the body and mind convince them of my act.
Through the same exercise I touched upon the idea of the body as a site of discourse. I was fascinated to know about “embodied knowledge”, that my actions and body movements, eye movements, talk about who I am because all these actions have come to be because of my upbringing. Hence if I had behaved the way I usually do at the market it would have clearly shown my alien identity. In fact that is what differs other activities that we have done in the market from this one.
Similarly the women vendors, their way of sitting, walking, making hand gestures, eye movements communicate the kind of society they are from, and them as individuals in that society. Hence one of the reasons why performance is such an effective medium is because it uses the body. It makes an individual aware of the thoughts of his body as opposed to only being guided by the mind. For me the plain and simple shift from calling everyday activities a performance makes me aware of my body and mind. I’m not saying that it takes away the “natural” response from me but
When I sat down with the vendor, our relationship was based on truth; we told her our intentions behind this act and who we were. When we were about to leave we decided to buy some vegetables from her as a sign of our gratitude for letting us carry out this activity with her. Hence although what we “took” from her wasn’t tangible but it did make us feel thankful.
I did feel the need to give back to an individual so why not to an entire society which led us to the Switchboard project.
The idea of switchboard came up as a form of sharing with the people what we had been doing there. While brainstorming about switchboard we touched upon the topic of ‘giving back’. This need to give back strengthened with time. If we had been there for a shorter period of time we wouldn’t have had such a strong feeling to give back. I think over time our relationship with the people and the space had grown or rather recognition had made it possible for me to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance. Sharing the pictures was a way to show them through a physical form that they had truly been a part of our work and life and that it is a 2 way process.
The other half of the switchboard project was an interaction between us and the people there. We had pictures of the market and the people had to respond to these pictures through their bodies by forming silhouettes. The nature of this project itself included the body and performance as a research tool. Through the forms that the people made we could see their reaction to the different elements in their market space.
What was interesting was the way they used their body to respond to silhouettes. Since with silhouettes it is the association they make with it and then your body responds to that association.
This activity as the name suggests was one that used the body completely. We had to form freeze frames that visualised what the director (of the freeze frame) liked or disliked about the market. We handed over the directorship to the people at the market for them to express their likes and dislikes. For some this ‘performance’ was the opportune moment to express themselves and their observations sans words. The way they positioned the bodies also spoke about the connections they made between body and communication. How they saw a drunk, an authoritative posture, the action of beating, subservient body posture… Again I come back to the fact that for me the reason why performance is a research methodology is because the body is an embodiment of knowledge and experience making the body a site of discourse.
This performance in a way broke the ice between ‘us’ and ‘them’ to such an extent that one lady felt comfortable enough to use this as a forum to narrate her story. It feels like a great deal of intimacy and compassion can be achieved through the body. Breaking this barrier of inhibition led to a smooth sharing of thought, knowledge and experience. This exercise was an informal give and take with no hierarchy there was no distinct feeling of being “the initiators”.
“We are performers and we perform differently with different audience” was quite a strong statement made by Dr. Jyothi that I at initial questioning denied and contradicted stating my personal experiences. In retrospect, a week hence, I still sometimes wonder if I indeed am performing as an existence or if my argument with Dr.Jyothi is valid and I am the same as a person. As the talk came right after our performances of varied styles at KR market, performance, as a tool of interaction or a mode of communication was very significant in my scope of vision. Having done assignments of contradicting nature like having to become completely invisible in one task and being as visible and loud as possible in the next, the whole concept of using body as tool for communication was rather new and fresh.
The parallel drawn between the veil article and the the question of us enduring lifestyle conditions that could be termed as veil was an interesting comparison. The topic made me think about the various boundaries that have been set for us breaking which would be unacceptable in a society.
The talk with Dr.Jyothi was a rather mixed in terms of what I took from it. I personally felt the some of her arguments or opinions were just reinstating existential opinions. Through the course of the discussion, I began to feel like I was in a discourse and her opinions were the central point of all arguments and discussions and all the other opinions were subject to debate.