On Friday 16th April, at the Nightingale Theatre in Brighton, Jonny Liron and I performed a dance/theatre piece called World of Work as part of the first annual Sussex Poetry Festival.
The score for the piece comprised 62 cards, each measuring 6×4 in., which were created by a range of poets, theatre makers, musicians, visual artists and allied tradespersons, in response to a brief we sent out a couple of weeks earlier:
There are no formal restrictions on what a card might show, except that we do not want to deviate from the 6″x4″ dimensions and we would like the designed element on each card to be on one face only, with the reverse left blank. Cards might show, for example: text to be read, images to be interpreted or recreated, instructions to be followed, notation to be sung / played / performed, found materials to be responded to, any combination of these, or anything else you can think of along these sorts of lines. Any kind of text / graphic / score / stimulus, however proscriptive or indeterminate, is welcome. As well as textual instructions to be printed on a card and followed in performance, you could also send instructions for designing a card or otherwise securing a design — not a card but a meta-card, in other words: this might be useful if, for example, you wanted somehow to leave the precise content of your card partly to chance or a randomized procedure, or if you wanted it to be somehow responsive to the day or place or moment of performance.
As the title of the piece suggests, we are inspired particularly in this piece by the notion of the emphatic presentation of performance as a kind of work or labour (which is what we take it to be). Card designs engaging with themes to do with work, labour, occupation, industry, competence, proficiency, output, endurance, value, power relations, the ethics of work and organized labour, work as movement, iterability, ergonomics, time & motion, health & safety, regulation, etc., and the opposites of all of these, are welcome; this list is not exhaustive, and as the performance will itself in any case be signalling in relation to these ideas, we’re also very happy to receive card designs that don’t particularly touch on any of the topics suggested.
Jonny and I looked through the deck of cards the day before the performance, and briefly worked through any that contained instructions which might be too complex to process in media res. Other than that, the only thing we knew about the performance was this: that it would last exactly 43′20″ (the length of our pre-made soundtrack: an edit of Charlemagne Palestine’s Schlongo!!! daLUVdrone [tiny extract here] cumulatively overlaid with the sounds of heavy industry), plus a brief prologue during which Jonny and I would arm-wrestle to determine who would have the privilege of cutting and shuffling the deck of cards. (Jonny won.)
Following my previous post on the wider possibilities for theatre scripts, I thought it might be of interest if I posted here a few of the cards we received and, largely without preparation or rehearsal, performed during the course of the piece. The same question as before applies, I guess: how would you perform these?
Many thanks to all the contributors: not only the 14 represented here but the other 48 who are not (including Transductions contributors Thomas Moore and Kier Cooke Sandvik).