Thursday, 31 July 2008

David Harradine: Live pinhole performance

from suna imra's website


Haven't had a chance to blog about this performance as I have been madly immersed in dissertation world- alongside Paul Jeff in Polis, the most connected to my practice. Would love to interview David Harradine for the First hand study required for the MA, and also as i think we share a lot of common interests.

David Harradine’s Dancing Time: A Photographic Performance Marathon (2008) explores the act of pinhole photography as a live witnessed experience for the spectator. The collaboration between art and science is described as a “part performance, part installation, part experiment, and part process of making and taking photographs.” (Harradine: 2008.) In this performance, on 18th July at the Wellcome Trust, (Shifts in Perception) the London based centre for medical research, Harradine works in an interdisciplinary way bringing the theories of the science of X Ray Crystallography into representations of it through live sound, dance, lighting manipulation, with live pinhole photography recording the visual traces of the dancers’ movements. The pinhole element is as black rectangular boxes on stands round the edges of the stage, positioned as if they are the front row as spectators, the audience behind them: their prime viewing position records the unfolding action and becomes, as Barthes referred to cameras, “clocks for seeing.” (Barthes: 1980: 15.) The ‘visibility’ connection between X Ray Crystallography and photography is particularly noteworthy: the former concerned with a way of seeing things under the microscope aiding greater understanding of the molecular structure of living organisms, and the latter a visible record of part of the performance’s duration, through the science of photographic image-making “of persistence, of the temporal effort of becoming visible.” (Harradine: 2008) The performance painstakingly evolves over many hours: dancers appear to move slowly through space, creating elongated and curled forms with their bodies, using lifecycle themes of growth, decay and death, responding to gradually emerging and sometimes obscure sounds. Simultaneously Harradine allows the pinhole cameras, one at a time, to ‘perform’ by him reaching in and removing a taped shutter over the pinhole, exposing a latent image tracking the solid and gestural forms of the dancers bodies. This is clearly all orchestrated as a meticulous process for Harradine: he maps out the dancers and camera into a grid which has lights positioned over each one, and he uses a timer and notebook to record, it seems, the length of exposure time, with the completed exposures culminating in piling up the cameras. At several points I witnessed in this event, possibly to aid the sustainability for the durational nature of continuous body action, the white light that had been selectively controlled to expose the portraits, plunges to red light, the tradition of the darkroom, and the performers appear to sit and rest. Meanwhile, Harradine had disappeared to another room, to develop his pinhole images, emerging after a few minutes with the boxes refuelled with photographic paper, to exhibit through masking tape the resulting pinhole images, on the white walls around the room. The spectatorship is therefore two fold: the event of the act of photography of the images being recorded, and the viewing of the distorted, ghostly imagery as exhibited outcomes they have seen evolving, as well as to previously created ones. The spectator to this event is not party to the photographic processing, where there could have been a greater reality of the science theory behind the work. This results in the idea that the spectator is partially given a greater reality of the act of photography, alongside outcomes they both did and did not witness the creation of. The temporality of the performance and of photography remains quite separate as the photographs survive the event: the act of photography elongates the time the spectator witnesses the work, for Harradine, presents us with a combined process-driven, and outcome-based practice.

A collaboration between Suna Imra and David Harradine

David Harradine, 2008, Dancing with time leaflet from the Wellcome Trust event, Shifts in Perception.
Roland Barthes, 1980, Camera Lucida.

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