What’s the opposite of real? Fiction, virtual? Can something or someone be more real; really real? Or doubly real; real real. On June 15, 2018 at 1.30pm a real performance will occur at Campbelltown Arts Centre and will be simultaneously broadcast via Facebook live. At once real and virtual, spatially specific and untethered, the performance and the nature of its dissemination encourages a rethinking of our understanding of the real.
The second instalment in the series, this iteration of Real Real brings together artists Anna McMahon and Brooke Stamp, who prior to the performance conducted a two-week residency at Campbelltown Arts Centre. Over the course of the development of this project, not only has the barriers between the real and the virtual become less fixed but the artistic silos that McMahon and Stamp sit in have become increasingly less solid. As McMahon, who works across site specific sculptural installations, noted the process that both McMahon and Stamp work with are similar. In describing her process McMahon focused on a series of returns to a space during the installation process until she found what she was looking for, and “in a similar way working through choreography — returning to things that are working and going away and coming back and going away — this process of finding the work through the work” was how she saw the collaboration between her and Stamp’s processes unfolding.
Indeed, both these modes of practice refer to the ideas of bodies in a space, and in relation to objects, Whether that be dancers and props on stage or gallery patrons and artworks within an exhibition. In a recent work by Stamp, Pulling Down From The Ephemeral, dancers were positioned within Bombo Headland Quarry, on the NSW South Coast. Audiences were then able to perceive the dancers within the context of the monumental objectivity of the geological site. In McMahon’s recent practice large leaves were placed within a gallery setting for the exhibition On the Turning Point of Becoming and Returning presented at MOP Projects, Chippendale and Peacock Gallery, Auburn. The liveness of the leaves highlighted the otherwise static nature of the gallery space that becomes real through the presence of the viewer.
Bringing these approaches to the medium of Facebook live video has extended the notions contained within the practices. As Stamp highlighted, the question animating the move to live video is “how do we produce a network of relations between the physical body and these mediums and then try to look at producing similar qualities of sensation for an audience but through this more image based orientation?”
Changing the mode of connection between performer and audience also impacted upon notions of time for Stamp, “I often work in a very kind of slow and subtle energised space which I'm all about creating tension in the room through a particular kind of stretched time. That particular way of dealing with time does not transmit or transfer through the screen.”
As McMahon noted, “one second of silence in on like a live stream is like five minutes in real life.”
Curator of Performance at Campbelltown Art Centre Jessica Olivieri has been grappling with this very question of extending qualities of performance through an online platform which both enables and limits. Noting that social media, just like any platform, can be a space for artists, Olivieri highlighted that until now, “that hasn't necessarily been fully tapped into by artists.” As communication becomes increasingly mediatised through platforms including Facebook, the physical location of where people are is less relevant than their virtual location and this can be a site of attention and interest.
As with the first instalment of Real Real which involved artists Ivan Cheng, Hyun Lee and Eugene Choi, the performance will unfold over the course of half an hour, with a Q&A to follow. Within this period, a conversation will progress between McMahon and Stamp, in a way referencing virtual chatrooms as well as viral live videos, as McMahon described, “we wanted to reference the medium of conversation that often is mediated through these channels of text overlay, particularly I find Facebook videos that are made by Buzzfeed are always are captioned in a way that has to grab people's attention through the text.”
By staging the performance live, rather than pre-recorded, Real Real incorporates notions of failure and indeterminability, something that Olivieri summarised as, “the idea that making the documentation the thing” which can be particularly important for regional art centres such as Campbelltown, which work both in relation to the rest of the city of Sydney and audiences globally. Avoiding the structure of a short works night in which a series of performances are programmed together, Olivieri looked to “where were the spaces that people already were.”
Allowing for the unknowns of live video also permitted chance and coincidence to enter into the work, something that Olivieri found in the first performance through the development of a community of watchers who communicated through the comment stream. This played into where Olivieri saw the work as positioned, “the world of the open question.”
The idea of breaking down the dichotomies of real and virtual also has a significance beyond the metaphysical; the physical nature of communication is unavoidable, and using platforms such as Facebook could overcome these tyrannies of distance.
“This idea that the community of voices is spread across a large geographical expanse is something that you don't often feel is possible making work in Australia,” noted Olivieri. “As we move forward in the world and travel becomes less accessible because of climate change and because of the expense using things that exist like social media platforms to have those communities will become more and more valuable.”
You can watch the stream of the performance here: https://www.facebook.com/events/2149660501980743/?active_tab=discussion and find out more about the performance here http://c-a-c.com.au/real-real-2/