Drawn Together Residency
Centre for Drawing (Wimbledon, University of the Arts) London
11–22 January 2010
by Drawn Together: Maryclare Foá, Jane Grisewood, Birgitta Hosea, Carli McCall.
At the Centre for Drawing (Wimbledon) London, Drawn Together recently completed a collaborative residency, entitled ARC: I Draw for You, bringing together their diverse practices. The methodology for ARC (Action Relay Collaboration) follows Drawn Together’s project for Joined Up, a contemporary collaborative drawing exhibition in 2009, where they combined different material surfaces and marking tools following a series of rules in the Surrealist's tradition of 'Exquisite Corpse'.
As a development of her Drift Drawing series, Maryclare Foá devised ARC, a method to include artists from different locations in collaborative works during this residency. The concept of ARC grew from the visualisation of communication technology, the image of a signal beaming from its source (in one location) and arcing over to its receiver in another place. These instructions would action relayed collaboration, hence the acronym ARC.
Drawn Together required a democratic methodology that allowed each participant to come together in the making of the work. In writing the ARC project they referenced the written directives of Fluxus (John Cage, Yoko Ono, Alison Knowles and George Brecht), in particular Brecht's 'Event Scores'. These were performances comprising written proposals and/or instructions for actions, invented in Cage’s Experimental Composition class, New School for Social Research NYC, 1958. Drawn Together looked to Knowles, who stated in her 1965 'Great Bear' pamphlet, Event Scores can be realised by artists other than the original creator and are open to variation and interpretation. Other artists were also referenced, including Robert Morris, who use instructions and rules in the making of their work.
The variable and unfixed interpretation that keeps the work developing and alive became evident during Drawn Together's I Draw for You performance and their interactions throughout the residency. The ARCs were transmitted by hand-written or typed notes, telephone, SMS messages, email and Skype. The transcribed instructions were laid face down on the floor for the performers to pick up and action. In the live performance, one ARC invited a member of the audience to participate; this fell to artist Avis Newman. Instructed to use ‘the light tool’ (an instrument technically known as a 'Tagtool' through which a drawing in light is temporarily projected onto the wall), Newman's interpretation was to draw very lightly, and with the lightest material available.
The ARCs explored vision, touch, light and dark, time and duration, sound and mapping. Some rules denoted particular duration and material while others were open to interpretation. The instructions in the 50 performance ARCs included:
• Draw 40 circles in light
• Take two sticks and make a rhythm. Mark that rhythm on the wall. Duration: 2 Minutes
• With eyes closed and kneeling on the floor draw a continuous line on the wall to the silent count of 100
• Holding your breath draw a line around someone else's drawing for as long as you can hold your breath
The materials used to action these scores ranged from basic mark-making mediums of charcoal and graphite, through sound, to virtual marks generated from digital light. The ‘Tagtool’, an instrument for performance drawing with light, projects ephemeral marks that weave back and forth within the physical marks on the wall. The tool was developed as an Open Source project in which programmers collaborated to develop the software. (Instructions for making it are freely available on the internet.)
To enable a broader and more interactive collaboration, Drawn Together invited national and international artists to participate in the ARC project, by completing an instruction or suggesting one. These external contributions produced further variation and layering in the project and enhanced the communication processes. The mobile phone, in particular, became a key tool to deliver ARC instructions irrespective of location, providing an intimate and immediate connection.
Each member of Drawn Together contributed specific processes to performance actions, and in this way built onto the already variable and multi-interpretational process.
Maryclare Foá is interested in breaking down the barrier between the performer and the observer, by including audience members as possible participants in ARC actions. The interaction of sound and space are central to her practice, this has influenced her to write ARCs revealing sonic and spatial dimensions. Foá sounds within a given space as a mapping material to draw with, vocalizes as a method of actioning a mark, and echoes, repeating noises of physical marks in the moment of their production.
Jane Grisewood explores drawing as a performative tool for negotiation and transformation, where the process of drawing is predicated on touch and derives from thought rather than observation. Her work addresses the relationship between time, memory and place using line and repetition. In ARC: I Draw for You, Grisewood focused on the interplay between sight and touch, structure and randomness, duration and ephemerality, alongside the doubling and layering that occurred through the repetitive and diverse actions of the collaborative process.
Birgitta Hosea's practice examines the tensions between the live and the animated, exploring different technological processes for creating moving marks. She regards the performances of Drawn Together as an animation; a layered moving drawing that emerges over time. Partially drawn in graphite, partially drawn in light, it echoes the media of traditional drawn animation and is recorded in sequential photographs and video documentation. For Hosea the ARC instructions animate Drawn Together members. Her interest in white light was inspired by Carali McCall drawing with white chalk on a white wall.
Carali McCall investigates the relationship between drawing and performance, and how the body relates to the world. A fundamental aim in her practice is to explore phenomenological methods to experience the limits of her body. Through drawing processes the work uses graphite, still photographs, sound recordings, and descriptive writings to communicate underlying themes such as expenditure, duration, and transmission. ARC: I Draw for You, enabled McCall’s practice to expand the notion of how the body experiences space and time through the layers of instructions and interpretations, drawings and performances.
Technological innovation has enabled new tools and models for collaboration through Web 2.0 and Open Source methods. Drawn Together has been using a combination of Web 2.0 technologies in their collaborative process, such as conference calls and video conferencing with Skype, documenting their work in progress through blogging and YouTube, writing collaboratively with Google docs and publicising their events through Facebook.
During this residency, Drawn Together attempted to explore further the nature of the collaborative process. Building on the notion of making and receiving an instruction to produce drawings, they shared ideas and opened up questions in their individual practices. They are continuing to develop a framework for collaboration that produces a creative way to communicate and exercise the use of being in different places and different time zones.