Archives for posts with tag: street performance


Short Ships by Faceless Arts

The Farrell Review – the Role of Artists and the Arts
Brief Presentation for a Meeting of Arts and Built Environment Practitioners
Beam / The Orangery, Wakefield 13 November, 2104

Outdoor Arts & Public Realm

In thinking about today’s meeting, I thought I might share some of the thoughts I had on the Farrell Review. I have three different perspectives by which to contribute to the discussion today.

Firstly, I am an Outdoor Arts Practitioner and Educator. As founder member of Faceless Arts, the majority of my outdoor and community arts practice for the past 25 years has been about bringing art and people together in the outdoors, using visual art and performance to creatively explore senses belonging, identity and place.

Secondly, I’m board member of ISAN, the London based national development organisation for Outdoor Arts in the UK. At ISAN we regularly deal with issues of policy in the public realm in order to support the work of our members which comprise artists, programmers, producers, festivals and local authorities.

Thirdly, I have just completed a post graduate research project at Leeds University about creative outdoor arts experiences as nurture rather than instrument. During the process of practically mapping creative arts experiences, I applied a few seminal socio-philosophical theories to contemporary outdoor arts practice, such as Rancière (the Emancipated Spectator), Bourriaud (Relational Aesthetics) and LeFebvre (The Production of Space).

Public Realm is of course social space, shared space, the space of our audiences and participants. Street artists animate the public realm by what Bourriaud calls a social interstice – an interruption in the everydayness of people, inviting them to look afresh at the environment of the public realm, its inhabitants and its functions.

However, LeFebvre argues that much of our urban and suburban public realm is produced to control. It is an increasingly privatised and homogenous space bogged down in a risk averse culture of consumerist economics. This iteration of the public realm, its design for perceived needed contemporary functions bring a host of challenges for the street performer, such as:

– A drink fuelled night time economy
– Impractically designed /misconceived public spaces leaving them underused and maligned– eg soul-less, overdesigned spaces, ubiquitous central sculpture, or “plop art”, as Andrew Knght calls it
– Public space as thoroughfare – places of transit rather than spaces to linger
– Traffic – noise, poor air, increased risk
– The desolation of the high street when the shops are closed

To subvert these difficulties, street artists are truly imaginative, they create ;
– Giant spectacle works that bring cities to a halt
– Visual non verbal poetic works that touch audiences emotionally and draw them into a narrative
– Community engaged and co-authored site specific works
– Intimate and immersive works using digital technology sound and light
– Family friendly works adding to the linger factor for people of all ages
– Naughty confrontative and subversive work, which sparks thought or simply interrupts the tedium

The report talks about place based planning and design. In my opinion, place based design to date has been the servant of destination marketing and I am not sure of its success. In a scramble to make place destinations to boost our flailing local economies through tourism, we have forgotten the people who use the space daily, the people who live in our villages towns and cities, who’s experiences in public realm are the making of place. These opportunities for co-authored shared experience are the nub of what Rancière analyses in The Emancipated Spectator as the Sensus Communis – or a sense of communal experience.

Cardiff Bay, Salford Quays and Newcastle Quayside are examples public realm design and urban regeneration that work for me both as street performer and visitor. Cardiff Bay is controversial and has its problems. See Jones the Planner. The positives include:
– Intensive mixed uses and traffic free.
– Spaces flanked by theatres and concert halls, restaurants and shops, places of work, leisure and policy making – the Welsh Parliament is in Cardiff Bay.
– Accommodation for artist studios and the creative industries
– People live there.
– Functional yet exceedingly flexible to host huge outdoor arena style events or small intimate quirky animations.
– Breathing, working, living, play spaces.
– Intriguing spaces for discovery and play.
– Alive night and day and frequented by people of all ages with people of means spending their cash in bars and restaurants whilst cash strapped young people and families walk, play or picnic.

They function similarly to the great civic spaces of the ancient Greeks – they’re our modern Agoras.

My final observation is about the report’s call for new levels of public engagement through “education and outreach in every village, town and city”. This is work that is close to my heart as I work in outdoor arts with communities, creating events on urban outskirts and rural borders. Faceless Arts recent use of strategic touring funds from the Arts Council has enabled us to work in with small isolated communities of West and East Yorkshire off the M62. Their public realm can be the cross roads, a park or Community Library Garden. Last year I directed The Empty Square and this year I made Follow the Diversion. Both these projects explore and celebrate stories of place as a means of encouraging communities to re-purpose their minimal public realm as spaces for community creativity and social gathering. These funds from ACE are welcomed by us as artists and by the communities with whom we work, who have limited access to high quality touring work. We also have to remember too, in this time of austerity and spending cuts, that street artists need access to funds and resources for continued innovation and that local authorities, town and parish councils need to be able to access a programming budget to continue to inspire people to use the public realm as a creative, playful social space of thus contributing their own memories of place to a democratisation of the public realm.

Bev Adams FRSA
Artistic Director Faceless Arts
Board Member ISAN (Independent Street Arts Network)


Maps & Tours Presentation

A phenomenology of Faceless Arts’ “Empty Square on the M62” project –
an example of Touring Outdoor Community Performance Practice

Academic Essay 

Rupture & Suture

Performative acts of ‘Dasein’ and constructed, moments of conviviality in outdoor walkabout performance

How do performative acts of ‘Dasein’ and constructed, moments of conviviality influence the actor/audience relationships in interactive outdoor arts practice, and what is the effect of a shared sense of ‘being present’ and ‘being there’ on people, space and place?

View full essay here → Rupture and Suture Performative acts of ‘Dasein’ and constructed, moments of conviviality in outdoor walkabout performance final

Outdoor Performers may wish to consider and develop skills in…

  1. Awareness (everything is material)
  2. Playfulness (the game of…, imagination & invention)
  3. Incongruity (what makes the performance stand out from the crowd)
  4. Audience Interaction/Involvement (it is their space)
  5. Space (within performance/between performers and audience)
  6. Sensitivity/Generosity/The invitation (to audience and performers)
  7. Place (responding to the place in which a performance takes place)
  8. Action (simplicity and clarity of, plus size, scale, focus and stillness)

“The Viewpoints are a philosophy of movement translated into technique for 1) training performers and 2) creating movement on stage

The Viewpoints are a set of names given to certain basic principles of movement; these names constitute a language for what happens or works on stage.

The Viewpoints are points of awareness that a performer or creator has while working.”  Dixon, Michael Bigelow with Joel A. Smith, Anne Bogart: Viewpoints, p21 (1995)

“Viewpoints” for puppetry (embodied practice with thanks to Andrew Kim and Natasha Holmes)

1.    Breath

To be animate the object must breathe

2.    Focus or Gaze

The object needs to see and react/respond to stimuli

3.    Gravity/Weight

To be believable, the object must comply with the laws of gravity

4.  Articulation

Of limbs/head aids the puppet’s ability to locomote and physically embody reactions to stimuli.

Biomechanics is a system of physical actor training developed by Vsevelod Meyerhold in Moscow, Russia in the 1920’s.

In a recent work demonstration at Stage@Leeds (05/12/12) I showed the four stages that make up any movement in Biomechanics: Otkaz, Posil, Tormos and Tochke (Tochke is also known as Stoika). This is embodied knowledge I learned directly from Gennadi Bogdanov at GITIS Academy ,  Moscow

Otkaz means refusal or the denial. It is a ‘set-up’ or preparation for the main movement of the sequence, enacted by a movement in the opposite direction, like dancer bending their knees in preparation for a jump. For me, in the unfocussed environment of the outdoors, the Otkaz is key.  It is a visual signal to the audience that an action is about to happen.  It is also a visual cue for the ensemble. Without such a visual clue an important action could be easily missed. By playing with the length of Otkaz, or strengthening its impact through ensemble, Otkaz, the refusal can help focus action in the outdoors in the same way that an indoor director may make use of lighting.

Posil means the sending out.  It is the main action of the sequence and the execution of the movement set up by the Otkaz. I often refer to this as “Play”.  Posil gives the actor freedom to play, improvise and build in the unexpected. In the street, car horns hoot, babies cry, people walk across the space, props blow away. By using play, all of this material can be incorporated into the Posil. I therefore encourage the actor to play with and for the audience.  In the street, the actors are literally “playing” in the audiences’ space and I encourage actors to be generous with and sensitive to this.

Tochke means the full stop, or, if Stoika is used, it means the stance.  It is the completion of the movement – a stop-motion pose that serves both as the closure of the Posil and as the starting point for the next stage of the action.  For the audience, this is a moment of realisation and assimilation of information or, in the Brechtian sense, a moment of alienation, of recognition of the act or actor. It can also be a moment of shared emotion – a gasp, a laugh – or a moment of applause.

Tormos means the brake or resistance.  It is the element underlying the other three parts of the movement sequence and the physical control which allows fluid, precise completion of the action.  I also teach this as a gathering in of focus and energy and encourage the actors to use it as thinking time for the next action, so that when the Tochke is complete, the actor knows precisely what their next intention or action will be.  Tormos for me is vital.  Without Tormos, the actors will become tired and pacing of the production will feel relentless. Tormos prepares the way for the completion of action whilst drawing the audience in for the moment of realization mentioned above.

I argue that a heightened understanding of these 4 basic stages of biomechanical movement can provide rhythm and phrasing of any action, piece of text, entire script or even production.  When working with them as actor’s training, I ask actors to exaggerate the stages at first to increase awareness and imbed them in their movement vocabulary, just like a biomechanical actor would do through the learning and execution of an etude.  In performance, the stages are still present, but less visible.

Functions of Biomechanics in Ensemble outdoor performance

  • Training: developing physical, playful expressiveness
  • Communication: an unspoken visual language of intention and non-verbal cues
  • Clarity of action: for the actor and audience
  • Improvisation: aiding opportunities to interact with the unexpected, then return with ease to the score/script/action
  • Phrasing, rhythm and musicality:  for a line, script, action or entire production

As an director of outdoor arts productions, Biomechanics provides for me  a technique for training actors, a means of creating movement for performance; and a non verbal signalling language for an ensemble.


FOLLOW THE DIVERSION takes inspiration from an Empty Square near Ousefleet, the only featureless square on an ordinance survey map. It is also based on the human geography of the area, with its A1 and M1 motorway arterials, canal routes, coal mines, glassworks and powerstations.

Whilst the large human interventions in the otherwise rural landscape, form a powerful backdrop to M62 communities and the M62 show, the real substance of the production are the personal stories and memories of younger and older people who live in the communities that flank the M62. These are beautifully unique places, that are often over-looked as people pass by, going about their busy lives. The production, literally diverts the audience from their maps and satnavs to a tour of local memories of time, space and place, taking in stories of pea-pulling, royal visits, WWII bomber squadrons and town lock-ups.

Young people aged 6-16 worked with Faceless Arts over three weeks during their summer holidays to collect stories from older people, and share their own stories, which, under the gentle direction of Faceless arts are transformed into a charming and poignant touring performance.

The style of the production is non-verbal, visual outdoor performance using the metaphor of children’s play to explore poignant memories, community identity and the importance of taking the time to stop and see what is around you.