Student work: Sarah-Jane Field
Earlier this year as I prepared my Digital Image & Culture (DI&C) work for July assessment, I sent some examples to a friend for feedback. She suggested sending it to pic.london who were running an open call. I was interested in the workshops which promised encounters with improvisation, role-play, mask work and collaboration. This was exactly what I’d been searching for as I’ve been trying to get to grips with a developing practice, one that is moving away from straight photography; and I’ve been on the lookout for opportunities to synthesise previous experience as an actor with what I have been learning while studying with the OCA.
I submitted two projects I’d created for DI&C and was thrilled when they were accepted. However, I wasn’t sure what was expected of me, and was a little nervous when I arrived on the first day. Perhaps I, along with five others who would end up working together, were even more in the dark than the rest of the successful applicants (there are 18 of us in total). Our workshop leader, Hal Silver, came across as a mysterious and enigmatic figure, and we wondered if he/she/they would turn up at all!
pic.london provided us with a rich and varied programme. We had talks from the workshop leaders mentioned on the open call page as well as from Anthony Luvera, David Morris and Grace Samboh, all focused on various ways of collaborating. Each talk was followed by practical afternoons where ideas and techniques were introduced to us and we played several games, which reminded me of my drama-school training. I was pleased and perhaps a little over excited to discover that the skills I’d learned in early ‘90s were still very much embedded inside of me. It gave me the confidence to transfer something from that experience to an OCA collaboration run by music course leader Carla Rees and Caroline Wright who leads the MA and Fine Art programme.
Making A rumour reached the village
Two games became key for our project; one based on a game called Mafia, where we each had to invent a character and then accuse and blame each other about disasters that had taken place in our imaginary world. When denunciations were believed players were ‘executed’ or ‘banished’, until the next game began when we would all be revived to start again. The other was an exercise I did at drama school where we used bamboo sticks to make connections between individuals, or the lack of them, visible.
As part of my on-going research into language, culture and reality, I’d been reading Richard Wrangham’s The Goodness Paradox (2019) and books by Nicholas Christakis who wrote Connected (2009) which is about social networks (in general, not just digital ones.)
Wrangham’s book centres around the idea that human beings evolved with an ability to temper their immediate aggression, while simultaneously developing a propensity for calm, rationally-considered, pre-planned violence. Humans also became hyper-co-operative; and today collaboration is part of our DNA. Wrangham suggests these trends are underwritten by our ability to talk to and about each other, and that we have an ever-present unconscious fear someone might be watching, gossiping, and planning to do away with us if we don’t conform. Gossip allows us to conjure up stories, deny and blame others, and plan punishment for anyone deemed a deviant. Wrangham’s theory along with Christakis’ ideas about connection sit at the centre of my contribution to the project.
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It’s a few seconds long but this took me most of the afternoon! (In between walking the dog, visiting my mother, eating too much cheese, cooking kids – FOR kids etc, etc etc … ) A clip from a short film called ‘Gossip’ which is part of a collaborative project titled ‘A rumour reached the village’ – a group exhibition with @rowanlear @evalouisaj @joshuaphillipsstudio @mlahat @christelpilkaerthomsen for @pic.london – check out Pic London’s feed for full details and watch this space for further info
Once the workshops were over, we had to work together which was challenging, as over the summer, we were scattered around the globe. So, we had to rely on technology to stay in contact. Since my work is all about exploring how the continuing digital revolution is affecting reality, this proved useful and the resulting work seems to comment, whether individuals intended it or not, on what community means for people today, given the changes to society in recent decades.
I’m grateful to my friend for encouraging me to apply. Do come along and see the exhibition – you can find out more about it here.
Links to artists who created A rumour reached the village
Workshop leaders for Hal Silver: