2020 Vision began life as a collaboration with artist Natasha Parker-Edwards. It was to be the soundtrack to her installation ‘Pelt & Roaring’, due for exhibition during the summer of 2020.
The soundscape centres around fragments of interviews with friends, family and associates of both artists. Due to Covid restrictions, these had to be self-taped. We invited participants to record their first reactions to a set of questions (below), wherever they were and using whatever means they had available.
Where are you now?
Where have you been?
Where are you heading?
Who do you think you are?
Who do others think you are?
Who is most important to you?
What has made you who you are?
What is your belief system?
What would you like to happen next?
When were you happiest?
When were you most afraid?
When will you feel you’ve arrived?
How do you express yourself?
How do you find peace?
How do you make a difference?
Why are you here?
Why do you matter?
Why don’t you leave?
Natasha, sadly, was never able to realise her exhibition. Although Covid restrictions were lifted by the planned date, she had needed to reach a decision earlier in the year. So, she and the gallery management agreed to suspend the work. In the event, Natasha returned to her home town of Southampton, before moving on to work in Glasgow.
The following year, I answered a call from arts curator Anna Novakov. She contacted me to see whether I would like to contribute to her audio installation ‘Tipping Point’ as part of Fringe Arts Bath. I told Anna about ‘2020 Vision’ and she agreed it was ideal for the exhibition. Except for one detail.
A Little Editing
That detail was the length. My soundscape ran to over 2 hours’ duration. Whereas, the limit for pieces within Tipping Point was 50 minutes. So I had a little editing to do.
I’d constructed the original soundscape using the previously-mentioned interview snippets, combined with synths and ambient sound. I’d arranged these through the application of certain ‘rules’. So, I decided to see what would happen to the composition, were I to cut it to 50 minutes’ duration and apply these rules to the resulting edit.
And what happened was rather wonderful. The composition was built in 14-minute sections. So, when I cut it down, there was space for three full sections and one of 8 minutes. When I applied the rules to this last section, it ended up finishing with one, lone voice. And the final words spoken are incredibly poignant within the context of the whole.
None of which was planned. But I’m familiar with such happenstance when composing using systems. Ironically, using rules or systems can be very liberating. Although I am controlling my output through their application, I simultaneously don’t know what they will produce. Until they do! And, often, this can be very rewarding.
So, 2020 Vision was ‘performed’ to a select audience during Fringe Arts Bath in 2022. But I knew it could reach a wider audience. And I was sure it would provide the perfect backdrop for a movement-based performance. So, the following year, I set about developing ideas for an improvised dance. This time, I would present 2020 Vision as a live show during Bath Fringe.
Dancers from various sections of the local creative community came together to take part in workshops on the day of the performance. They worked on improvised movement within a thoroughly planned structure, led by dancer and choreographer Kara Herbert. What emerged was a coherent, developed, yet spontaneous experience for both participants and audience.
Where ‘Audience’ Ends & ‘Performer’ Begins
As with my previous shows, I was keen to explore the dynamic between audience and performer. I would argue that, in any good show, each is equally important and all are participants. This doesn’t mean we need to put audiences in an uncomfortable situation. Rather, we should encourage them to be actively present and engaged.
In this instance, the piece allowed for a degree of active participation. However, this was by no means a requirement. None of us likes to be coerced or manipulated and I certainly wasn’t aiming for that with 2020 Vision.
And it appears to have worked. The performers quickly gelled as a group and understood the underlying aims of the performance. They interacted with the audience in a way that was inviting but not coercive. And the response from both performers and audience was overwhelmingly positive.