In the first week of the module, we began by looking at Matt Chewiwie’s Artist Statement which I have attached below:
When watching this video, I found that a few things jumped out at me. First of all, when referring to himself and his own work, Chewiwie states how he views himself as an ‘entertainer’, going on to explain how entertainers make people laugh and excited, possibly suggesting that this is something an artist can not do. He then goes on to contradict himself by repeatedly using the phrase ‘as an artist’, despite suggesting that he is more of an entertainer after defining the way he views each word. Chewiwie follows the phrase ‘as an artist’ by listing many desired reactions to his work including happiness, laughter and entertainment, among a list of many other positive emotions. Following this video we were asked the question ‘to what extent is Matthew Chewiwie an artist?’, personally I felt as though I was in no position to comment on whether he is an artist or not and that if he views the material he creates as art then who I am to say that he is not an artist? This question was difficult for me to answer as, in his Artist Statement, we don’t really get to see any of his art as it is more a video of him describing his art to us, as opposed to showing it to us. Despite this, focusing on the extent that Chewiwie is an artist was a question that I found easier to answer, expressing that as he only desires to make his audience feel something positive, he maybe isn’t as much of an artist as someone who creates art which has the ability to make an audience feel an array of feelings, not just positive emotions but also deeper ones such as sorrow, guilt and pain.
After discussing Matthew Chewiwie’s Artist Statement, we moved on to a writing exercise which would help us with coming up with ideas for a solo performance. We were asked to think of a series of elements that make up a performance and write those down, including space, what the audience see when they first enter, lighting, any sounds which may be playing as the audience enter, where I as the performer will be in relation to the audience, our first line of the piece and also a title for the performance. After we had written all of these down we had to use them to create a monologue which would ultimately be our solo performance.
I thought about doing a piece on homelessness in the summer, as the audience entered I wanted a bright light and the sound of birds chirping, something that would imitate a hot summers day. My first line would be something that completely contradicted the mood, for example a statistic on homelessness in the UK. I feel as though people tend to view homelessness as a huge issue during winter because of the cold weather and the aspect of danger, however for someone who is homeless, they are living on the street all year round, even on a hot summers day which tends to be viewed as peaceful and bliss, homelessness is still a huge epidemic.
I thought that this was idea I could take in a lot of different directions as there is definitely a stigma surrounding homelessness and I felt as though it could be an interesting topic to address for a solo performance. After the workshop I looked at various testimonies from the homeless and found that each one had a different reason or cause for ending up living on the streets. This is a topic that I definitely want to explore further and possibly consider doing for my final performance as I feel it could impact an audience in a way to inspire change and abolish the stigma that there is around homelessness.
Spalding Gray – Swimming to Cambodia:
We watched Spalding Gray’s performance of Swimming to Cambodia which seemed to be an autobiographical piece, I enjoyed this style of performance as it was fast paced and entertaining and I was engaged the whole way through. I hadn’t seen any performances done in this style before and it is a definitely a style that really interests me. Throughout Gray’s piece he uses a lot of repetition which works well with his fast speaking pace, which frequently changes and is always eased by a transition, either a drink of water or a lighting/sound change. Swimming to Cambodia appears to be almost split in to two halves, the first where he is telling us a story, creating a relationship with us as the audience before going in to more of a political monologue. His reasoning for this could be to create a positive relationship with the audience before expressing more political views which, whether personal to him or not, it is likely people will disagree with what he is saying. By creating a relationship with the audience first it allows him to express his political views in a way that means the audience are more likely to receive what he is saying with ease as opposed to getting defensive and taking his opinions personally. This style of performance is something that I would be interested in exploring further as I believe that it can create a very entertaining, engaging and powerful solo performance.