Long Time No See

So, it’s been a while since I’ve posted here, I blame Covid-19, finishing my PhD, writing a chapter for a new book on Rhythmanalysis and so much Zoom…But I’m back, with some links to the research I’ve published and news of new work in the offing.

Firstly my PhD, if you would like to read it you can find it here – abstract below

Abstract

Focusing on the period since 2007, this thesis aims to deepen understandings of how the contemporary professional UK outdoor arts sector operates, how audiences engage with outdoor arts and how they might contribute to the construction of public space. The research examines UK outdoor arts from two viewpoints: firstly, using [auto]ethnography to study the people who create and produce it; and secondly, adapting Lefebvre’s concept of rhythmanalysis to consider live outdoor arts events, how they are organised, experienced and perceived. The events studied all occurred in the summer of 2018 and the main analysis centres around three case studies which occurred in Greenwich (London), Luton and Doncaster.

In order to study ephemeral, outdoor arts events I developed a new, efficient and replicable methodology, which responds to their unique features and can evaluate their ability to intervene in everyday life and produce festivalized space. This uses multiple time-lapse cameras and an embedded, expert researcher to make detailed observations of the triad of core categories identified: space/time, performance and audience. This approach generated both quantitative and qualitative datasets: on the one hand delivering, for the first time, accurate numbers for audience engagements and empirical evidence of audience flows, stay-lengths and proxemics; and on the other hand, documenting atmospheres, connections and identity shifts.

The thesis contributes to knowledge about the inspirations, motivations and priorities of those who create and produce outdoor arts today and their relationships to public space. It develops theory around the tendency for outdoor arts events to become more homogenous and increasingly codified in recent years, questioning the validity of the strategies and structures driving this process. It identifies and analyses a range of behaviours and techniques exclusively used by organisers, artists and audiences of outdoor arts and in doing so makes a case for scholars, policy makers, and practitioners to consider them as a discrete artform.

Secondly, I have created a Figshare site where you can find the majority of my time-lapse films, presentations and experiments. Access is open and you can find it here .

Thirdly, my chapter in an edited collection on Rhythmanalysis is with the printers, the title is “Fête or Pseudo-Fête? A Time-Lapse Rhythmanalysis of Outdoor Arts in the UK” again, you can find the abstract below and details of how to access the full text will follow as soon as it is published.

ABSTRACT

Outdoor arts festivals have been proposed as a means of rehearsing democratic practices and of placemaking interventions in the space time of contemporary capitalism. I consider whether they are really able to repurpose civic and pseudo public space and challenge the production and reproduction of that space as a colonial and neoliberal territory, or are they merely examples of the ‘pseudo-fête’ prolonging such structures by other means?

This chapter uses case studies of two outdoor arts festivals in the UnitedKingdom, at which I have performed rhythmanalyses, to explore festivalised spaces and the extent to which they might empower people. Empowerment here relates not only to individual agency, autonomy and self-determination but also to the development of shared, social identity within crowds. The role of festival management, the arrangement of festival space/times and the codification of behaviour are of particular relevance to these effects. I use time-lapse videography to capture data around flows and accretions of audiences, combined with my embodied presence in the lived space of the festival, sensing its rhythms and atmospheres.

Using the concept of polyrhythmia to comprehend and unpick complex durational patterns, I focus on how public spaces are transformed when animated by performances and how public space can redefine both performance and audience dynamics. The adaptation and application of rhythmanalysis in this project has revealed patterns of behaviour and evidenced characteristic qualities of outdoor arts which were previously ignored or only assumed.

Lastly, I am getting on with more research and have been commissioned by Marsden Jazz Festival to perform a rhythmanalysis of their festival (9-10 October 2021). As a response to Covid restrictions the festival has been moved largely outdoors this year, but many of the advantages of increased access and exposure have been bubbling under the surface for some time. I am assisting the festival by analysing and assessing the effects of the decision on both audiences and public space. Watch this space for more!