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public speaking, speaking publicly


Over the last 12 months, Boni Cairncross and I have been developing a work called Relay. It's about a bit of all these things: oration -  the act of speaking publicly and the nature of written political speech, manifesto or manifestation, listening publicly, unison or unity, the nature of political performance and nonsense or garble*.

Boni has documented the process a whole lot better than I have, but I wanted to write a bit about it, especially as this weekend, we'll be doing the 5th cycle in our second iteration of the work to date.

The work is a relay of politicised speech, working from a script and speaking simultaneously for 30 minutes, then listening simultaneously for 30 minutes, twice over. The whole performance goes for 2 hours.

The second (and current) iteration has had four previous cycles - face to face, between levels, across a major road, across the country (between Sydney and Perth) using the network and in each of the first three cycles, we listened to recordings of each others speeches. The fourth hit some technical glitches.

The Script

The script is a glitched/cut-up/remixed mash-up of political and spoken-work speeches from the likes of Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Paul Keating, Fidel Castro, Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth I, Aung San Suu Kyi and Maggie Thatcher.

And combined with words on silence, performance and power by Scherezade, Audre Lorde, Marina Abramovic, Hilary Clinton, John Cage, Steve Jobs, Ophelia and Urashi Vaid, with the highly-charged lyrics from Strange Fruit and Sie Gedanken Sind Frei.

It's a mixed set of words that forces us to appropriate political emphasis out of context.
We're wondering what the essence is of political speech - is there one?
We've discovered points in the performance that we replicate the original rhythm and pitch, especially from the Gillard smack-down:
'I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man, I will not. And this government will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man, not now, now ever.

It's not a perfect score and recently we've been wondering if, in the act of remixing the powerful words we're using, we're not actually disempowering them.

It's good for us to ask ourselves that.

It's also a work in which we, as two young white women, begin to think about the act of women speaking out, using our voices (if not our own words), to take time to speak through the duration, to 'raise' issues. And to listen to ourselves and each other in political speech and manifesto. Through it we acknowledge both our immense privilege and our depressing lack of power.

It is an ongoing work for us and we're learning about the balance between speaking for ourselves, with others, against others and instead of them. Perhaps this is the nature of parrhesia.

We're making this work within a time in which Wendy Davis and Letitia Van De Putte used their bodies and words to speak out on behalf of others, where Femen used their bodies and word to speak out on behalf of others* and when PM Julia Gillard spoke out on behalf of others.

The Fifth Cycle

The cycle of this current version is appearing as part of exist-ence 5 performance festival at Pact Theatre, Sydney on Saturday. We are back between London and Sydney, but without the network - raw.

We'll be yelling our script at each other - Boni in Sydney, me in London and relying on others to document/hashtag the work so that the documentation is as ephemeral and conceptual as the work itself.

You can follow #LaurenShoutingAtSydney or #BoniShoutingAtLondon on instagram and twitter and if you're in East London or Erskineville in Sydney, come past and listen (and feel free to post stuff).

UPDATE: Details for those in London - I'll be outside performance space between 10:30 and 12:30 BST on Saturday 20th July.

*which I personally found abhorently disrespectful and not political, nor the kind of feminism i wish to subscribe to AT ALL.


At 18 July, 2013 20:45, Blogger uair01 said...

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At 18 July, 2013 20:48, Blogger uair01 said...

Great to hear from you again. And I like the project. Will you put some recordings or video online?

Your method of script creation reminded me of this interesting type of literature. But I bet you know it already:


At 19 July, 2013 15:08, Blogger lauren said...

Hi Petr, nice to see you again - it's quite nice to write again, too. I'm hoping to do more of it.

This cycle won't have video or official documentation, but we're encouraging people (especially in Sydney or London) to take photos and post with those hashtags, so if you follow them, you'll probably see something.

I think this is an ongoing work for us, so stay tuned.

At 24 July, 2013 05:27, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was a great link - I think Goldsmith makes some great points about the responsiveness of literature to current methods, although I'm not sure that mash-ups aren't that unusual, it seems to be pretty frequent with dramaturgy.

When we re-performed this score again yesterday the words certainly seemed emptied, certainly out of context. Its difficult to say such words with conviction when I don't necessarily agree with some of the positions expressed, along with the monotony of saying these words over and over again.

I think when we began this project 12months ago, there was an interest in the shift of political speeches over the last century or so. From long durational speeches that functioned to communicate ideological positions, policies (etc), as well as functioning to demonstrate to the public the speaker's eduction and qualification - to the current mode of political speeches which is manifest in soundbites and snippets. The function has kind of shifted right? And with it so has the role of the listener. But what is that now? What was it then?

I've also been doing some reading lately on past avant-garde movements such as Dada and Italian Futurism, IS - thanks Claire Bishop. Bishop makes a comment that Italian Futurism and Soviet Constructivism were intwined with political positions (Futurism directly leading to Fascism). Dada on the other hand negated a single political position and worked on negating all. Bishop directly links the participation debate with political action - for Marinetti for example active participation was seen as a total commitment to a cause (Is the oversimplification of the active/passive spectator debate mirrored by an oversimplification of political debate - symptomatic of this age of absolute access, absolute excess? What is the link between this neo-liberal world, performance and politics?). I think our aim with not selecting a political position to argue from, but rather choosing to negate them, is a strategy to remove a didactic and dogmatic edge... we could continue this, or determine our position and go for it. For me there is a fear of making overtly political work and I'm not sure why this is - perhaps because I don't want to tell people how it is, because I think I don't know what I'm talking about. But perhaps there is a way of determining a position and communicating the uncertainty and questioning... actually why can't we just start asking questions - thats what I'm always doing and whats wrong with verbalising them? Its also another way of engaging the audience - challenging them to listening and think... (or own voices?... see below)

Active and passive spectatorship. This is a live work - we know its got to be live. But what exactly is the role of the audience. Currently we, the performers, are in a self-contained process, the audience exist as onlookers. Is this oddly replicating the reality of a democratic system? Also there is a power in the locations we're using - and yet we're also not being clear with this. What are the actual sites? Why is there no direct reference between these and the score (when we performed yesterday, Lauren became aware that the references are very Australian based)

However, as it stands the score doesn't commit to one thing or another. Its flakey and shifts all over the place. We've got lots of questions, but haven't quite gotten to the bottom of what this thing is.

Active/passive specatatorship – there is a link back here to Bishop.

At 24 July, 2013 05:28, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is this about the futility of political activism? The futility of performance as a political action? (we're making a performance, there is something important in the choice of this medium - the live and the duration, I think there are lots of links between politics and performance and spectatorship, lets pull them out, or make the questioning clear and conflation of these things clear throughout the score)

Contrary to what we decided with this iteration – I think this performance actually has to commit to the radicalism of the words being spoken – we will go on, we will fight, we will not be deterred, we will persevere… this is a political statement that we need to speak up, that people need to listen, that listening is active and engaging – that listening is the first step of participation in a democracy… but as a political action, a revolt against the disinterested and disengaged, this performance has to commit to the necessity of the need to speak and listen all the time – it must go on for as long as possible – until it becomes physically impossible to continue.

Otherwise what is the point?

To take a tea break between speaking and listening to the loaded and weighted subjects we are dealing with, is almost like saying – that’s okay, take a break now, watch that youtube clip of that kitten over there and forget about this for a minute – for many people in the situations we are dealing with, forgetting about it, taking a break isn’t an option.

We are in a position of privilege that we can walk away, stop listening, stop speaking.

At the moment – this score, with its mash-up, glitching, slightly nonsensical sweep of a variety of positions (from multiple contexts, which frankly I have no position to speak of) is one without conviction. Taking something that could be a powerful and moving speech and transforming it into a succession of babble. How is what we are performing any different that turning on the television and listening to a consistent stream of nonsense – effectively switching off? I don't want to babble and I don't want to drone. I want to move the audience, provoke them to listen, to think, to engage them and make them stop this disinterested disconnect for at least a moment or two. Why have we stopped caring? Why is it daggy to give a fuck about other people and to express that?

At 24 July, 2013 05:29, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few things that we need to work on for the next iteration:

1. a much longer score, clearing up what the aims are of this score – if it is about speaking and listening, then why isn’t it focusing on this – others’ words mixed in with our own. Why are our own voices missing?

I don’t actually think it should repeat. How long would an audience engage for if there was no repetition? When I performed at Exist-ence the audience seemed to stay around for one cycle of the script – as soon as it repeated it left.

2. I don’t think the listening/speaking needs to be so clearly demarcated in the action. If we perform this live and work through the cycles – there is no reason that the dual-performance can’t intersect with each other. Why can’t I stop to listening to you speak - then reinforce those words by performing them shortly afterwards and vice-versa? As we begin to move away through the cycles, the devices and network come in to facilitate (as well as disseminate) the speaking, allowing the listening to function.

I also think its really important to shift away from a clear division of speaking/listening (active/passive) and start blurring these. Isn’t it possible to listen while speaking? Responsive listening, responsive speaking… if that makes sense.

Reading the score – yes but I tend to just focus on the screen then (hide behind it) – I think that’s been okay when I’m not using my own words – but there needs to be a connection to the audience. It has to be live, there has to be a committed, enduring live audience (the changes to the script will probably help), but there needs to be contact with them – eye contact, gestures that engage them. Politicians use gestures all the time – they’re conventional but stamped with individual personality, lets start doing this.

The costumes – ? I like the circles, I like the all black – I reckon it needs to be more formal though – I’m still hanging onto power suits.

Duration – performance for as long as possible.

Site: what’s the significance between London and Sydney? Potentially, this could be performed moving through the cycles with both of us in Sydney, again with both of us in London, a third time completely mediated between the two sites. Alternatively, we perform it once completely mediated.

... My brain just exploded onto the page. I hope it makes sense.



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