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JOSEPHINE MACHON

(Re)Presenting Flesh and Text - where flesh utters and words move -

Flesh and Text (document one) by Bodies in Flight is a CD-ROM which brings together photographs, video, play-text, soundtracks, interviews and analysis to mark, to celebrate, to retrace, the twelve years of the collaborative partnership of Sara Giddens and Simon Jones as Bodies in Flight. Based in Bristol and Nottingham, Bodies in Flight fuse physical and verbal texts with new technologies in an entirely (syn)aesthetic manner to create interdisciplinary performance that playfully disturbs relationships between audiences, performers and space. [1] Their work explores ‘the buzz of ideas’ that varied collaborative methods produce, fusing theory and practice, ‘philosophy and poetry’ words and image in the development of thought-provoking work. [2]

From the outset, Flesh and Text acknowledges the inherent ‘differences’ between notions of live and recorded event. Yet Bodies in Flight also reve(a)l in the distinctive performance mode that this document presents. This is made manifest in Flesh and Text (document two) - a video and sound installation that foreshadows the CD-ROM by revealing the developing aesthetic of Bodies in Flight through the ambient means that installation can provide. [3] This tantalises its audience via fragments and traces from the CD-ROM, themselves fragments and traces from Bodies in Flight’s performance history. It presents the collision and fusion of still images, videoed performances, aural recordings and textual analysis which resonate and dissolve around you as it takes you through the journey that marks the twelve years of collaboration between Giddens and Jones. Snippets of soundtracks resound in the air as the images from performances (and form performance) leave their traces on the walls of the installation space and in your mind. The installation provides a continuum of traces and memories of the performance history of the company - visual and aural recollections that establish an immediacy in the experience of the work, thus playing with notions of (re)presenting events past in the present.

This installation leads you to Flesh and Text, a self-reflexive CD-ROM document, which allows the participant to dip in and out of the 12 year journey travelled by Bodies in Flight. As we board the flight with the company, and embark on the (re)tracing of the journey, we can alight at any point to discover analysis from a variety of contributors - performers, composers, scholars, funders, audience members - and to those reflections proffered by Giddens and Jones. In this way the CD-ROM engages us as participants and manifests the interdisciplinary concerns that underpin and fuel the work of Bodies in Flight, encouraging a ‘multi-centred polyattentive attitude’. Like a labyrinth (exciting and revelatory rather than mysterious and frustrating), this document acts as both guide and puzzle. It entices you to take various paths and encounter different experiences of the live moment, the live event, which leaves different traces in your mind of what that experience was and is within this document as performance. You become a participant, not simply a reader, in this document. You choose the journey that you trace through it, to linger in certain places, remain with the performances, hold the still images, listen to the reflections and recollections of the ‘bodies’ that partook in the artistic journey of the company, and the aesthetic journey of the document. My experience of this document has been to explore certain areas intimately and to know that there are many areas which still remain to be uncovered, that still need returning to in order that I fully absorb them.

The form of the CD-ROM leads you through the changing aesthetic of the company, and always brings you back to their fundamental concern - written text that strikes corporeal poses and physical movement that speaks its own language. It foregrounds the pleasure that is taken in the symbiotic relationship between the two. It highlights the sense of exchange and connection, of traces and records, which fuse the experience of the artistic process with the experience of exploring their work through this document.

Flesh and Text provides an exciting exploration of what it is to document performance. A journey into how to analyse and record that which was once a live performance moment yet continues as a collaborative performance (with a diverse company of contributors) that ends/begins in a collaboration, in the most immediate fashion, with its audience. Crucially, Flesh and Text fuses practice and theory, embracing and interrogating the potential of such a fused, (syn)aesthetic approach within the field of performance. In particular, the reflections, or ‘flights’, of Giddens and Jones are a contemplative meditation on what it is to create performance, to work collaboratively and to do that process justice in the documentation that marks its, simultaneous, passing and presentness. Flesh and Text by Bodies in Flight, thus (re)presents a compelling participatory experience that highlights the performance possibilities integral to the medium of documentation itself.

Flesh & Text is available from bodiesinflight.com priced at £12 www.bodiesinflight.com

Click here for Sara Giddon's Perspective entitled Bodies in Flight - A Personalised Context

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Giddens, Sara & Jones, Simon. Flesh and Text – a document by bodies in flight. Nottingham: Far Ahead Publications, November 2001. CD ROM

- - - . Flesh and Text (document 2) and skinworks. Installation and performance by Bodies in Flight. Nottingham, The Bonington Gallery. Wednesday May 1, 2002.

Machon, Josephine. ‘(Syn)aesthetics and Disturbance – A Preliminary Overview’, Body, Space, & Technology Vol 1 (2) www.brunel.ac.uk/bst July 2001.

NOTES:


[1] (Syn)aesthetics (from the Greek syn, ‘together’ or ‘fusion’ ‘and, aisthesis, ‘sensation’ or ‘perception’) is a term that I have appropriated that defines, simultaneously, an impulse in performance, encompassing an interdisciplinary and sensate mode, and the accompanying strategy of appreciation which is concerned with the fusion of sense (cerebral ‘meaning making’ processes) and sense (sensate experience in appreciation) (see Machon, 2001).

[2] All quotes come from Giddens & Jones, 2001.

[3] At the Arnolfini, Bristol on Friday April 19th and The Bonington Gallery, Nottingham, Wednesday May 1st, 2002.

Josephine Machon is Sub-Editor for Body, Space & Technology. She lectures in Drama at St. Mary’s College, Strawberry Hill in London and is a doctoral researcher with the Performing Arts Department, Brunel University. Her current research explores ‘(syn)aesthetics’ as a mode of contemporary performance practice and analysis.