Funding: CePRA Revealing Practice bursary
Project Leader: Xristina Penna, PCI
Date and location: 26th Feb 2015, Stage@leeds
Margarita is a pile of constantly changing drafts ready to be revised, retold, forgotten, erased… Can we keep Margarita going? This performance installation asks for the audiences’ participation in constructing a collective consciousness: Margarita. It is created as part of Xristina’s Practice Research on performance design, and cognition at PCI using recordings, live performance and ‘scenographic contraptions’.
The project contributed to the collection of qualitative data (images, post-show interviews, and participant questionnaires) for the analysis of the interaction between audience-participants, and the scenographic environment. Xristina is testing here a methodological tool brought into her research from her performance design and practice background: the contraption. She situates the metaphorical notion of consciousness as ‘multiple drafts’ following Dennett, who, when trying to explain how consciousness works ‘avoids supposing that there must be a single narrative (the “final” or “published” draft, you might say)’ (Dennett 1991: 113), but rather that there are multiple drafts or ‘narrative fragments’ at various stages of editing in various places in the brain (Dennett 1991: 113). This metaphor is used as a critical design-practice tool (contraption) for generating dynamic and reflective exchange between the audience-participants, the artists-collaborators, the environment and the practitioner-researcher. The audiences’ engagement and experience with this environment is further analysed using embodiment, the socially collaborative and ecological nature of human cognition.
The composition of the work consists of pre-recorded voices of friends/colleagues/acquaintances of the practitioner-researcher and of live-streamed voices of random passers-by, answering the same set of questions regarding themselves or a female person they know well. The show is divided in 11 chapters, which correspond to the above questions and form a sonic collage, heard through a surround sound system controlled live by the sound designer, and the lighting designer. Container-structures invite the audience to literally immerse in them and listen to the more intimate audio recordings (i.e. the secret pleasures of Margarita). A folk English song talking about an apple and a head is performed live every 15 minutes, while multiple transcripts of the recordings are printed out ad hoc and placed on the floor for the audience to read; a button box waits to be explored and the lighting designer intervenes live corresponding with different lighting atmospheres. The audience-participants visiting the installation are invited to freely explore this sonic, performed and material environment and piece together the experience of Margarita.
A video of the performance is available:
Credits: by Xristina Penna with: Ben Eyes (sound design), Katherine Graham (lighting design), Jennifer Carlsberg (project associate), Lucy Steggals (art intervention), Olivia Bradbury (song & performance), Maria Kapsali & PCI students (performance intervention), Alaena Turner and Esther Collins.