[End of April. Beginnng of May] Performance is a dangerous business

As I approach the start of End of April Beginning of May, Moe Chee’s 7 day performance project, I am both excited and nervous.

Last year, Chun-liang and I did two public space performances. The last was in November (SLV-Wake), so it has been a while. We have done two performances so far in 2015, but both have been ‘with permission’ and inside traditional venues (well, on one occasion we actually ended up outside on the footpath). I think the feelings of uncertainty and insecurity that come with these unauthorised, guerrilla public space performances have faded a little from my memory, but they are returning now!

Performing live is often a dangerous business, no matter what the environment. The performer is vulnerable before an audience, emotionally and even physically. When you decide to perform in a public space, before an “audience” that has no intention of being an audience, who are not sympathetic or informed at all of your art practice, the risks increase exponentially. We found this last year during the Library Dreams performance, where we had a confrontation with some of our “audience”. An “actual audience” (those of you who have deliberately come to see us) also becomes really important for us as a form of moral support, just through their presence. There are also the added uncertainties of “authorities” intervening, construction work, buskers and weather (it has been freezing cold these last few nights). As performers, we rely a lot on each other in these circumstances, for support artistically, and for safety as well. Chun-liang and I have both committed to looking out for each other and our guest performers during the week; this is really important. To do such a performance solo would require tremendous courage in my opinion, I don’t know if I would be up to it.

So why are we putting ourselves through all this if the risks and uncertainties are so high? For myself, it is to invite these unknowns that bring whole new levels of indeterminacy to our performances. Performing in a small venue to an audience that is knowledgeable about experimental music/art is a great environment, but also pretty predictable. I love the idea of taking experimental performance to people in the street; their reactions vary enormously and can be inspiring. For me, experimental performance is about deliberately seeking/constructing problems and then attempting to solve them; unauthorised public performance presents a whole range of new problems for us!

The idea of performing at the same public space, at different times of the day/night, for a whole week, will also give Chun-liang and I the opportunity to really connect with this site, to get to know it in an intimate way on a variety of levels. The site (announced soon) is one we both have a connection to in different ways.

Workshopping, parklands on St Kilda Road.
Workshopping, parklands on St Kilda Road.

In the lead-up to the start of the project on 3 May, Chun-liang and I have been workshopping with the guest artists who will be joining us on various days of the project (see the schedule here). Workshopping has ranged from an informal chat or site visit, to a full improvised rehearsal, or “jam”. Some of these rehearsals have been wonderful experiences in themselves. We had a long session with Gabriela Green at night in my backyard, trying to imagine what our 3am performance will be like, and with Ren Walters in the parklands on St Kilda Road. Our workshops continue through the next week.

The excitement and anxiety about doing End of April Beginning of May steadily builds. I hope some of you will join Chun-liang and I as part of an “actual audience” at one or more of the performances, no matter what the danger.

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