'My site/In Space is an ongoing series of site-specific performances. For each edition Switch hunt out an inspiring space and convene a group of artists. Their goal is to create performances in response to the space within two weeks of first encountering it. The result is an ephemeral moment, made in a flash and never performed again.'
On the night of the 'art and the internet' talk, during Live Week, I met a rather charming man, who told me how he was opening up his flat to a bunch of artists to do as they would for 2 weeks before then opening it up to the public for a weekend of performances... I was intrigued. Both by Justin, who I'd just met and by the performance or whatever it was! So I got myself a ticket for a tenner. Blimey to let people into your home like that must be exhausting and invasive, I dont think I could!
The evening began on broadway market in Hackney where we were asked to convene in the pub 'Off Broadway' and meet with a woman who would be wearing a flower in her hair. It was very relaxed, despite being sent a message saying 'time waits for no-one', and rushing to the pub, we had plenty of time to enjoy a cold beer before setting off on our adventure. Justin was no-where to be seen, I figured he'd be at home awaiting our arrival. We were welcomed to the flat with a cube of soda bread and asked to remove our shoes. About 15 of us crammed into the living room and awaited our next instruction, unsure of what we should be doing and feeling far removed from our comfort zones, particularly when 1 person was invited into a slim cupboard with a young woman, the rest of us shuffled about nervously avoiding eye contact, as we watched the throw on the sofa seductively but rather pathetically slink its way off and onto the floor. Others were shown to the cupboard, while the rest of us giggled and squidged. Gratefully, I was taken outside into the fresh air onto a balcony and given a massage, left to wonder what was going on inside and slightly worried about my friend who had come along for the ride. I was reluctant to get off the lounger and rejoin the others, surprisingly enjoying and relaxed by the tactile communication. "Where were they? What had become of my friend, hold on that's his voice reading a poem, oh no is he being told off? He does have quite a distinctive voice!" A slide show made from curled up strips of negatives, poetic and inspirational to the photographer, nostalgic.
Upstairs more sensory communication, in front of a bathroom mirror, the artist who had massaged me, now took us one by one and posed with us, as if in a photo booth, trying us on for size. A voyeuristic view from the bedroom of stockinged legs and a camisole, then back down in single file to put on our shoes and depart. All rather formal. Across red carpet, past grass cutting with scissors and a picnic for one on a traffic island, we were led to the park. Toilet humorous stop. Lost. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm! "Ah there's Justin and he has biscuits! Starting to make sense now - 2 groups, 2 homes! So this is where he lives!" Ah the 'performance art' - physical, predictable. Many snapshots of this strange man who I met once and was intrigued to know better. Lots of leopard skin and eastern delights! The bed was prominent as we all sat round it like a vigil. Later a Skype piece that was beautiful, sensual, funny and futuristic. Err, a kitchen symphony, annoying, banal. 'Shower scene', a momentary glimpse of the nude, 'traveling water' led through walls as taps ran.
The evening was a concoction of mini performance pieces that responded to the flats and the people who lived in them, some were very sensual and inspiring for me, others were predictable and felt disjointed. I was more into the first flat as it was less directed (the artists decided to direct more in the 2nd half as they felt the audience required it). For me it was less about the individual interventions, but more about a general feeling of unease and intrigue, pushing my own boundaries. I think that the idea of letting people work so site specifically is amazing and worth exploring further than this. I think that it may work better with less artists though; it might become more fluid, or more artists, making it properly hectic and destabilising.
How far can you go in someone-else's home?
Check out other interesting stuff by Switch Performance.
And look out for The Art of Engagement, the new programme starts in august with residencies from Justin Allen, Clare Adams and others... John Jordan is part of the current programme by the way!