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28 October 2014

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You are in: Cambridgeshire > Entertainment > The Arts > Theatre and Dance > Out of the Box - or off her trolley?

Janice Perry

Power-house Perry!

Out of the Box - or off her trolley?

Confused by the very concept of conceptual and performance art? So were we, so we asked the doyenne of the subject, Janice Perry to put us straight...

Out of the Box

Sun 16th - Fri 21st Sept

Call The Junction box office on 01223 511 511 to find out what's happening each day

Final performance 7pm on Thurs 20th Sept, at The Junction

She's been described as 'a cross between Doris Day and a high-velocity rifle'  - and now, one of the world's most respected performance artists is coming to The Junction in Cambridge.

Janice Perry does it all - sings, dances, teaches, writes and performs - and sometimes she does it butt-naked! As part of the International Workshop Festival, she'll be working with performers over the course of a week, culminating in a show of work for the public.

And that's not all, during the week, the performers and Janice will be living together as well as working together, and again, if you want to go along and watch what they're up to - you'll be made very welcome.

So, what can we expect to see, and what exactly is performance and conceptual art? We asked Janice to enlighten us...

Janice Perry

Janice Perry

Performance art - that sounds a bit scary - what is it, and while you're at it, what's conceptual art all about?

There is some seminal work that “frames ideas, products, and acts as “Art”. This is a kind of classic definition of Conceptual Art. E.g. Yves Klein’s “leap” from a second-story window; Linda Montano tied to Tehching Hsieh for a year; Claude Cahun’s cross-gender photo portraits; Josef Beuys locked in a room with a coyote; Sophie Calle’s documentation of her failed relationship in text, photographs, ticket stubs, and other artifacts, Christo and Jeanne Claude’s work in France, Berlin, New York.

What will you be exploring during the week-long workshop?

We’ll try to figure out what Site-Specific Performance and Conceptual Art mean to us -  we’ll try to define it, and then push the boundaries of our own definitions. We’ll use texts, studio art, digital media, voice and movement, sociological theory, philosophy, religious laws - whatever we can access - to create new work that blurs boundaries between disciplines.

Sounds scary...

Conceptual and Performance Art does not have to be scary - or worse, boring. It can be intelligent, funny, serious, ridiculous, sublime. When the creative process is transparent (visible) it can be Very Big Fun. And furthermore - one goal is to encourage the audience to become more aware of their own creative impulses and to challenge them to follow those as far as they can! Not just in this week, but in “everyday life.”

What can the audience expect to see, then?

As with all art, you know… it’s in the eye of the beholder. Our job is to direct the eye to see what it is we want beheld.

Expect to see emerging and professional artists of varying ages, accomplishments, and disciplines (dance, video, theatre, etc.) taking risks as they attempt to create meaningful new work that pushes the boundaries of conventional definitions of Performance-- and most importantly, pushes them beyond the boundaries of their own disciplines.

You're not going to pounce on people and scare them?

Being scared? That’s up to them. No one can be “made” to do anything. The audience may be asked to do things, but since the work hasn’t begun yet, I can’t say what those things might be. The audience can choose to participate, if participation is requested. Or choose not to participate. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe in free will. There’s no trickery involved, it’s not “THEATRE!,’ or a magic act. Well, it is a magic act, but not that kind of magic act.

The main thing they will be asked to do is to be respectful of the artists - respectful of the risks that they are taking in showing work that is still in the process of being made.

You and the performers - living and working together 24/7? Sounds a bit like Big Brother!

If it’s like Big Brother, I’m leaving!

Janice Perry

I imagine that we will establish a very flexible schedule where we’ll meet for as long as it takes, probably mid-morning every day, to discuss what we’re working on, show each other what we’re doing, try out new things, take direction and criticism from each other (the good kind of criticism - the constructive kind)  and then we’ll go off - individually or in groups, or as one group - and work on whatever we’ve been talking about.

And then, later, maybe some of us are in the pub, or taking a walk, or one of us is sleeping, or sitting outside watching people go by, and we think, “WOW, what if we did it this way? Or that?” and then we go over and try it out and see if it works.

It’s not a marathon, or an endurance test, or 24 hour entertainment. It’s artists making the space and time to work intensively on individual and collective projects.

And everyone's welcome to watch?

What is unusual in this week is that we are inviting the public to witness our process.
Some of the pieces will probably be more “interactive” with the audience, although the audience might be just one person (and that person might be the artist), some pieces might be very small and personal, some pieces might be very public disruptions.

It depends on what happens when we are there and working, and what the artists want to make.

Any idea what the final performance will be like?

Well, it’s pretty much a blank canvas. I’ve seen the letters of application from the artists who’ll be attending and there is an amazing depth and breadth of interest, talent and experience. As I’ve said, I imagine that we will have regular “meetings” each day, and then will splinter off and maybe come together again at the end of the day, to see where we’re at.

William James said that there can be no freedom without responsibility. Since there is this preconceived notion of a “final performance,” we’ll see what we have on Thursday afternoon and try to make a coherent plan for the evening.

Much as I rail against it, this will actually be helpful for us. It will help us articulate what the heck it is we’ve been doing. A final performance is a kind of artifice that provides a structure - a framework that will help us synthesize and summarize the week of work.

I am pretty sure that there will be some last minute changes and adjustments - after all, the week is about flexibility, taking risks and making space to create new work, so why stop until it’s over.

last updated: 24/08/07

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