We run workshops and smaller projects quite a lot and I think they sometimes go unnoticed amongst Blast Theory’s bigger projects. So it’s really great to be running Apps for Art and Artists here in our studio in March – specially created, on our own terms, building out from our processes and projects such as Karen and Ivy4Evr. We have a few more up our sleeves but are starting with this one.
I love doing workshops – they challenge the way I work and often scare me because I don’t know quite where they are going. They are one-offs which generate and rigorously interrogate new ideas that could become projects or that are projects in themselves.
A few years ago I got to realise that one of the most beneficial things for us in running a workshop is to work from ideas that we are currently working on or ideas that we are trying to work out – this sounds obvious now as I write it I know, but it’s made an incredible difference to us, to what we can offer or explore in a workshop and what we can take away from them. So we work this way, and create bespoke workshops too and things in between.
It’s important to try to jump in feet first as best as you can as a participant and as a workshop leader, and even though we all bring our baggage, skills and experiences into the room, workshops work best for me when you can get caught up and when you can give into it – pretty much the same with experiencing work. They can be a microcosm; everything and anything can happen, and you can get spun around which can be scary. Often I end up staying up late into the night, eating, drinking, dancing and working with the group or alternatively worrying that it is off kilter and about to topple over. And maybe you don’t quite feel like the same person when you come out, as when you went in – this is my hope for myself and usually I don’t.
Mesa e Cadeira workshop methodology was new to me. This is how it goes: First Blast Theory were invited to run a workshop over 2 full days and 4 half days which had to result in a finished work by the end. The finished work, whatever that might be is launched to an invited audience of up to 200 professionally interested people. The work has to have social impact and you invite participants to take part in the workshop with very specific skills or experiences who are going to help you build the work.
One morning I was so tired, jetlagged and dehydrated that I woke up shaking and couldn’t go into the space – I had overdone it. And I don’t believe in the romantic notion of suffering for my work in the way I used to, but this work really mattered and still matters to me and all my body was committed to it, maybe too much and so I had to run it through texts. When I got in later that day the work was on rails, it was amazing.
Workshops or work-shopping processes are one of the best ways I know to stretch, lighten, embolden and make you feel both more powerful and more vulnerable.
We don’t normally take part in workshops, we run them, but last year Tony White the writer came in and ran a tailor made workshop for the artists in Blast Theory, where he pushed us hard for a whole day to generate a complete piece of writing – it was inspiring.
Inside Blast Theory we’ve started running workshops for ourselves – we have dark weeks and pilot weeks a couple of times a year. Dark weeks are where the whole team shuts up shop and explores ideas that are brought in by anyone. It can be about anything and our first one last year yielded – 3 lights being built, several films, exploration for an installation for screaming in, and lots of drawing and writing. Pilot weeks are where we follow the scent of one idea for a week with the creative team in Blast Theory – something that won’t go away, that keeps raising its head up in our midst and at the end we present the finished piece or slice to an invited audience and see where it goes from there.
In Buffalo at the University, Nick and I ran a four day workshop in 2014, which culminated in an experience where 2 cars headed to the same location – the famous Forest Lawn cemetery, and along the way each group of passengers was controlling what the other passengers and sometimes the drivers were doing, we started with live streaming and ended up in a strange 2 car, 12 audience member interactive, lo-tech car piece.
There are too many to list here but some other highlights for me in the last couple of years have been Falmouth Summer Schools where we have asked the following workshop to experience the results of the first workshop, West Yorkshire Theatre Network– where I came up with a new way to walk as a group or in pairs around the city, as a way to experience busy and disused streets. At Bliss Hill for the Ironbridge Heritage Sites, I devised a test where people listened in groups of 5 as they were taken back and forth in history, down the river and into shops, placing them central to the experience as citizens of the town. Here we met Martyn Ware, ex-The Human League and he created the score for Too Much Information, an intergenerational work made for the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester in 2014. The process was several weekends of workshops which involved interviews with each other about pre-conceptions of the “other” group and physically or sexually intimate encounters. What came out were the similarities and overlaps and differences, what was spoken about was deeply moving, upsetting, funny and familiar. The participants stared at themselves and each other, there was concern and there was a lot of surprising warmth.
There was something great unlocked and I am proud to have been a part of it, as I am with all of the workshops, especially if they go well. If you are ever curious to know more just let me know or if you want to try something out with us also let me know.
Blast Theory will be hosting an Apps for Art and Artists workshop on March 17th & 18th 2016.