Bristol-based You & Your Work is busily putting together their ninth free participatory performance festival in collaboration with Arnolfini, Wellspring Healthy Living Centre and The Walled Garden Project (Barton Hill), in time for June 15th and 16th this year. Y&YW9 – Here and There will be showcasing work from three new commissions, including Sue Palmer, Joff Winterhart and Simon Roberts’ 100 Year Old Band with participants aged 0 – 100, Lucy Cassidy’s food-based performance work Our Daily Bread and Dane Watkin’s Iconikit, an online performative survey commissioned specifically for the festival.
Y&YW producer Rhiannon Chaloner and Martha King, Y&YW’s current marketing intern, talked to Dane about the interactive Iconikit, which, you’ve guessed it, needs your participation! Read on and find out more how to take part...
Dane: So… do you want to do Iconikit?
Rhiannon eagerly steps up and begins to move through a series of onscreen options, first selecting a featureless head from a choice of six. She decides to choose the one that she says in her own words ‘looks like a burglar’. Rhiannon then moves through a series of screens picking from different multiple-choice options to answer questions such as: how old are you, where are you and what kind of a performer are you? Finally she is asked to input her postcode.
With each answer another feature is attached to her head. Finally she has an eccentrically cluttered head, complete with satellite dish eye, porch for a mouth and a ticket dispenser mounted to the forehead, which represents her.
Martha: And what will you do with all this data?
Dane: Well at both festival venues, I will be showing a live map of everyone who takes the survey, either projected onto a wall or via a monitor so that you can see the options that people have selected. Their location is pinpointed on the map when they enter their postcode.
Dane then zooms in and out of the map showing someone in Norway who also recently took the survey.
Dane: It would be interesting to see for example how many ‘drama queens’ are there amongst the audience for example? Another important part of the survey is that we are taking postcodes, so it will be really nice to create a visual map of which areas of Bristol, the UK or beyond most people have come from. This will be really interesting seeing as the festival takes place at two venues in very different parts of the city and the theme of the festival is ‘Here and There”.
Martha: So what happens after you’ve answered all the questions?
Dane: Well after you’ve done the survey online you make a note of your individual number (based on your selections) and bring it along to the festival. And then at the Wellspring Healthy Living Centre and Arnolfini you’ll be able to print, colour in if you want and make a badge of your personalised head.
Rhiannon: Yeah for Y&YW, it will be a fantastic way of finding out more about our audience members. We are always trying to link back to organisations and participants whom we’ve worked with before and Iconikit will be a great way of doing this. Iconikit is also a brilliant way for people to be actively but quietly involved in Y&YW9. Not everyone is into being part of a live performance. I also love it that the survey encourages audience members to see the performer in themselves and emphasises the participation aspect of the festival. I think it relates to our ethos, which is that participation should be as non-hierarchical and open ended as possible.
Martha: So, Dane, have you used surveys in your work before and why are you interested in them?
Dane: Yeah, I’ve been exploring surveys for years, with Dodo lab, eatmydata and now with the Whose Data? a project based at Knowle West Media Centre which is an artistic investigation into how local communities can make the most of their data streams.
Rhiannon: Would you tell us a little about your background?
Dane: I trained as an animator and got interested in the idea of non-linear narratives, inspired by new media theorist Lev Manovich. Computers and the Internet changed everything because hypertext is non-linear narrative. Stories can be difficult if they are non linear, as people generally prefer to easily understand a narrative. So I got interested in the simple structure of quizzes and multiple-choice narratives, as people understand and enjoy these structures.
Martha: As well as being beautiful and lots of fun to interact with the project is also very practical; is this important
Dane: Yeah very much so. I am interested in making art that is useful. As an artist I believe you should be creative with everything. Just like Marcel Bruer from the Bauhaus who made chairs out of bike tubes! When I realised the Arts Council make surveys a central part of their remit in funding projects, I set out to see how I could be creative with these restraints, by playing with the medium itself. I think it is important that we use the materials around us that best describe our world. Rather than rejecting or ignoring the constraints we are under, I think we should see how we can push them and be creative with them. Surveys and evaluation forms, for example, are something you have do as an artist and producer and they are often the most boring bit so why shouldn’t we explore ways to make the form more interesting?
If you'd like to take part in Dane's project, click here.
About You & Your Work
Y&YW was initiated in 2007, by performance artists Sylvia Rimat and Birgit Binder, as an artist-led performance platform. It soon developed a reputation for producing and showcasing risk-taking and high-quality performance works that engage diverse communities and in heterogeneous settings such as The Cube Microplex, on the Bristol-Bath cycle path, Easton Community Centre, currently Wellspring Healthy Living Centre in Barton Hill, and Arnolfini. In 2008, Rhiannon Chaloner joined the production team and in 2011 Y&YW became a Community Interest Company.
At this year's festival...
Audience members are invited to participate in Malcolm Whittaker and Georgie Meagher’s mapping performanceKansas; bring their prized records along to Bill Aitchison’s Vinyl; test their resolve whilst making a Spanish tortilla under pressure in Rebecca Louise Collins’ Tortilla or no Tortilla; take a walk around central Bristol holding hands with unlikely strangers in Rosana Cade’s Walking : Holding and see Mamoru Iriguchi’s brilliantly humorous multimedia dance piece Projector/Conjector and join in with our open panel discussion on participatory performance practices with speakers Joshua Sofaer, Theron Schmidt, Ilana Mitchell and Y&YW9 artist Sue Palmer.
To find out more about Y&YW and this year’s festival click here.
Y&YW9 artists Malcolm Whittaker and Georgie Meagher's work 'Kansas' (image by Pekka Maklnen)