Day 4 Morning – Why Measure?

Posted on September 19th, 2014

we the audience

‘We, the Audience…”  Photo: Jack Bawden

Day Four has been somewhat chaotic even though, or maybe because, the subject of our morning talk was ‘measuring’.  The conversation swirled around Orlan’s early work, the work of Jin me Yoon, the topographical, the grid, menstruating as a way that the body measures, the difficulty of finding time for studio practice if you have children, work etc., creating in small measurements of time, time and its pressures on women, measuring one’s own visibility as one ages as a woman (Pam Patterson, Nayeon Tang, Ester Scott MacKay, Irene Loughlin).  Gavin talked about some bizarre historical practices of measuring race in South Africa, and that measurement has been used as a tool for fixing supremacy.  He observed that fixed measurements cut away the bleeding, the mess, the questioning and the provocations in life and art.  Money and acquisitions have long been used as a methodology to measure worth.  In performance, Todd mentioned measuring durational works as a necessity to give an indication of ‘where you are’ in the performance, and a less metered approach to measuring that includes assessing the impact of a work while you are in it and taking the temperature of the room. In Todd’s ‘furtive’ (under-discovered) practice, a qualitative reading is often located in his journal writing after the fact, as there is often a great degree of subtlety during the work, and no physical documentation is taken as fixed evidence. For Todd, there must be a measure of interchange in the work between performance artist and viewer, although the viewer may not always be aware that they are implicated in the piece.  Soufia mentioned measuring time organically, particularly in the preparatory period before a performance, where it takes approximately 20 minutes for her mind to settle in solitude apart from the audience/viewer.  Gavin related the strategy of measuring through breathe which allows for a greater diversity of measurement (as 20 breathes can mean many things to many people).  The opposite might be found in a strictly metered approach to measuring by counting, a method which is often used in dance training.  Very interesting conversations, which I’m sure will play out over the next few days.