On May 30, 2015, Amy Bryzgel (Lecturer in History of Art, University of Aberdeen), Adrienne Janus (Lecturer in English, UoA), and Suk-Jun Kim (Lecturer in Music, UoA) organized “The Art of Performance” at the University of Aberdeen May Festival, in the Linklater Rooms, King’s College, University of Aberdeen. The aim of the annual Festival is to give the general public the opportunity to get to know the research that the academics at the university are working on, and for the researchers to have the chance to engage with and share their work with the wider community. In the “Art of Performance,” Amy, Adrienne and Jun wanted to create an event that would explore notions of performance, performativity, and participation, by creating events that encouraged the attendees to participate, and also by demonstrating performance and giving the audience a chance to ask questions and discuss what they experienced.
There were three performances presented at The Art of Performance. The first was Tanja Ostojic’s delegated performance Misplaced Women?, which was performed by Amy Bryzgel, Marta Barche and Lisa Collinson, all of whom had attended Ostojic’s workshop at the University of Aberdeen on April 1, 2015, and they were also joined by Adrienne Janus. During the course of the performance another attendee of the workshop, whom the organizers didn’t know would be attending, also joined in and unpacked her bag. Next, Suk-Jun Kim and three of his students, Bea Dawkins, Mark James Dunmore and Simon Hellewell did a live-coding performance (Untitled, 2015), where they used the following four phrases as material which they then manipulated in their piece: “Where did you come from? What did you do today? What will you do today? How did you get here?” Finally, after a group discussion on the role of performance art and participatory art in Aberdeen, the audience experienced a Situationist International-inspired dérive, led by Adrienne and Marta, on the Elphinstone Lawn of the University of Aberdeen campus.
Movement was the key concept that linked all three performance: movement, migration, how we move through space, how we occupy space, how we make space our own. Misplaced Women? raises questions not only about movement and migration, but also about where one’s private space ends and public space begins. The performance of the piece took place suddenly, unannounced, while the audience members were circulating the room, answering questions posed to them on posterboards, writing on post-it notes, eating candy (after Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s candy installations), so although it did not interrupted the flow of activity, it did form a disruption and attract the attention of those in the room. Perhaps at first the audience members may have thought that we were looking for something in our bags, but as each woman joined the activity, it became clear that something else was going on.
I, personally, became aware of the line between public and private that I had crossed when I began to empty out my wallet, and placed my identity cards and bank cards on the floor in front of me – all cards that contain important numbers that one is meant to keep secret, and the theft of which could cause significant problems for the owner of those cards. In the back of my mind I reassured myself that none of the people in the room would misuse that information, but whether or not this was true was not important. Rather, the fact that I experienced the feeling of exposing myself in the public space made the performance a poignant experience for me.
After the live-coding performance we all engaged in a discussion about the nature and role of performance art. One attendee said that she had actually wanted to join in the Misplaced Women? performance, but wasn’t sure if she could or should, and didn’t know if she had “permission.” In many ways, Misplaced Women? itself is about permission, and the role that permission plays in one’s ability to cross borders – who has permission to go where, and why.
Next, Marta Barche gave a sensitive and intelligent presentation about what Misplaced Women? means to her, especially in connection with her own personal migration story. And The Art of Performance ended with audience members following Adrienne and Marta outside into the world to experience it anew, through dérive.
About 35 people attended the Art of Performance, and all were thoroughly engaged and enthusiastic about witnessing and discussing performance, and even trying a bit of it themselves. Although Misplaced Women? was performed in the context of these other events, and not necessarily in a migration-sensitive space (although the University itself represents migration, with its diversity of faculty and students), I believe that viewing Misplaced Women? and hearing Marta’s discussion of it inspired others to think about their own migration stories, and the boundaries that they come across in their everyday lives, when they travel, and when they encounter individuals from other lands.
To view the live-tweets of the event, see #MayFestPerform on Twitter