Performing Invisibly; Invisible Performance
Updated: Aug 7
I write within the hour of completing the third of my 12 Shows goal for 2023.
Now I have attempted Sit In Silence, See What Happens.
Very little, as it turns out. The location was the Quiet Busking Pitch outside the Tate Modern (near the site of The Common Crown, another uneventful event), between 09:56 and 09:59, before relocating to a nearby bench until 10:16.
I will explain why later.
Starting off: I was actively observed by three dogs, a swarm of flies, and the owner of one of the dogs, which I had observed and he observed my observing with the same look of horror as the Distracted Boyfriend meme’s girlfriend. Which means, for reasons I will get into below, I’m not sure this counts as performance.
I was almost actively unobserved by one person who walked confidently through the busking pitch (only a metre diameter circle, so it was what promoters call an intimate experience), and one person who reversed a flatbed truck into the circle as I was standing there. His dog, on the back of the truck, was one of those who observed me.
But the truck’s unexpected entry was the reason for my moving to the bench.
Looking back, I think this raises a somewhat interesting question about whether or not this counts as a performance. I was certainly performing; I allowed myself that quality of focus as much as I was able. But I do not think this counts a performance in the strictest sense.
Even though I’d want to doubt Peter Brook’s assertion that a performance is space-actor-audience (he himself frequently notes Grotowski viewing the third as unnecessary), there is something to it.
Everyone who has been to London knows of London invisibility. I did not expect much attention. Though I was more interested in whether a performer could hold any attention in a show composed only of silence, by doing it in this way I got to explore something I found rather intriguing.
Leo observes Leo performing. Cogito ergo sum, as others might say. This does not feel satisfactory as a sense of ‘performance’.
Because we want something to signify that there is a performance happening. An audience is often present, but it might be laying out a rope, a ceremonial (i.e. pre-written) text, putting on a costume, or even advertising the show (even if nobody turned up, possibly).
In my mind, standing by the Tate Modern and trying to perform, without clearly demarcating that as a performance, seems closer to my sense of the term ‘technical exercise’ than ‘performance’.
Somehow, there was a step missing. I still enjoyed it, and came to a perhaps inevitable conclusion that a performer skilled in the art of projecting energy and so on would probably be better at it (notably, Noh performers are very good at this).
It was hollow without that step. I want to reflect more on it, but there was something missing. A piece of ceremony.
Very possibly, this was at least in part because I was pushed off my designated ‘stage’ by a truck. While I am all in favour of onstage danger, this is something I would generally want to organise a little more than in fact happened.
Never mind. While in London, I’m going to try and do a few more of the 12 Shows planned. Possibly inviting more people along. Possibly not.
Invisibility is everywhere, if you look at the edges of things.