As part of the Corners East Xpedition we were set a challenge by the Artistic Director Chris Torch: devise and perform an intervention for a ‘piazza’ session in Kaliningrad, Russia.

Rita and Ivana first set up a methodology for the devising process: a bus correspondence.

This resulted in a performed intervention…

Image: Phil Wood

The performance now has another life as an online work which you can view here.


Vehicles, transport and protocols of behaviour

In thinking about making a work ‘about’ transport vehicles, I was interested in the idea that protocols of behaviour around vehicles are simple and relatively culturally similar, therefore offering us as (artists and our audiences) a platform for shared understanding from within which to communicate.  However, the crossing of the border between Ukraine and Poland was to disprove this assumption.

Just after the border crossing I woke up only to find the bus has made a stop and everyone was outside. Well, everyone but the three locals frantically extracting cigarettes from the fabric of the bus. The cigarettes kept coming and coming, out of places such as:

the covers providing access to the machinery below the bus floor

the luggage rack above our heads

This did not belong to my ‘shared understanding’ prior to this trip, and proves how valuable these ‘in the field’ research Xpeditions are.

Second idea sent to Ivana

Original concept

A mechanically modified car. People engage with it by pressing some buttons on the outside of the car and stuff happens like some fumes come out or a film plays on the headlights. Then maybe there is a day time version of the performance and a night time. During day time at some point some performers start dancing inside the car and then move to dancing outside and around it. The car’s stereo system is the sound system. A night time version could be the same dancing with the car’s headlights serving as lighting for the performance. Or it could be something simpler like leaving the car parked somewhere over night, with the inside car light on, and with giant sunflowers inside, so it turns into an art installation that people look in on…

Things I like about it

  • Quite like the mechanical nature of it and the DIY aspect of the mechanical features that it might have, and the effect that it will have on people to play with those features.
  • Very physical in both a mechanical sense and a performance sense because there will be live performers.
  • Like that we would be using the car as a mini-stage: using the car’s sound and lighting features instead of stage lighting and stage sound.

Problems with original concept that need consideration

  • All this dancing in and around the car could be a bit like ‘Fame’ and I wouldn’t want to do it like that.
  • Do we actually need live performers/dancers? Or is the ‘performance’ about the audience interacting with the mechanics of the car enough?
  • Am I using the car as an installation piece, or am I drawing on audience’s knowledge of ‘Herbie’ and playing with that knowledge?
  • How many modifications can we make to the car and it still be road-driven? The last thing I want to do is to create a car piece that then needs to be transported in a van…
  • Budget: expensive to create and potentially expensive to tour if it involves live performers.


New concept

 But just then when I was trying to go to sleep a second concept began to emerge, and it has to do with the choreography and smart phones research I have been doing. I have sent you both links to the thing I did in Bournemouth haven’t I? If not do say and I re-send.

But most recently the idea developed further as Ian Bowden (Art Director for Rockstar Leeds, a multinational computer games company that created games such as LA Noire and Grand Theft Auto: http://www.rockstargames.com/) has come on board. Ian and I are talking about developing the research beyond film and into graphics and augmented reality. What this means is two things:

  • We can have a mixture of media with film which then goes into fantasy and animation graphics. See an example here: http://vimeo.com/5716181.
  • And/or we can have a film of a performer doing something and have the audience member actually choosing from which point of view they view them. Ian is preparing a quick example and I will send it you soon.


How is it experienced by the audience?

As an audience member you use you smart phone to scan a QR code that is found on the outside of the car. The QR code then takes you to an app which you download.

You realise that the first frame of the film matches a particular perspective on the car and instructions appear on the screen asking you to pointing your phone at that perspective and aligning the first frame of the film with it.

The instructions also explain that you are about to start a journey where the only rule is that you must always align the reality of the environment that you see in front of you to the exact image and perspective of that reality in the film, and that you must mimic the actions of the hand in the film with your own hand.

You press play and the film starts moving towards another perspective on the car. You realise that for you to fulfil the rule (aligning reality to the film) you too need to shift with it. Very quickly you realise that the filmmaker went through a journey around the car and that your task of overlapping the ‘real car’ and the ‘virtual filmed car’ means that you are going to be taken on that same journey in a way that you will need to position your body in the same relationship to the car that the filmmaker had hers.

For an example click here and here!

What is the new concept?

  • As an audience member you continue to align the film with the reality of the car and are taken to different parts of it.
  • At one point maybe the phone points at the windows and through your phone you view some performers inside doing a dance, whereas in real life they are not there.
  • At another point maybe the phone points at the whole car and you see it (though the phone) turning into an animation of a car, so that maybe it has eyes instead of headlights and it smiles at you, like a cartoon.
  • Or maybe you actually open the door of the car (in real life) and sit in the car (in real life) and point your phone at the front windows. And then you see the car driving somewhere. And maybe we can still use mechanics to get the car to shake a little so you feel like you are driving somewhere… Like those kids’ cars outside Tesco that you put a coin in… Humm, or maybe that is a stupid idea…
  • Or maybe you point the phone at the whole car and it falls apart and it reconstructs itself. This could easily be done by taking the car apart and then using stop animation to put it back together.

What I like about it

  • Potentially cheaper to make (very few or no mechanical changes needed because we can do most of those through graphics).
  • Cheaper to tour because if the performers are on the film all we need is for one person to tour with it to install it and maybe help the audience to access it.
  • Love the potential for creating amazing imaginary things that can’t be done in reality: the car could fly, it could talk, you could sit in it with a virtual dancer in the passenger seat… Pretty much what we could imagine we could create…

Potential problems with concept 2

  • Is this mobile phone technology available throughout Europe as it is in the UK? The last thing I want to do is create a piece that Intercult will then take on tour to small villages in Europe and people there not being able to see it.
  • In terms of the mobile phone devices maybe this could be overcome by us having our own devices and lending them to people, although of course this will be a street piece and we might not get them back…
  • In terms of wireless access this could also be a problem. But Ian has suggested that instead of developing a film that you need to download (like we did in Bournemouth) we can develop an app instead. This means that you get the app from your phone and you are not relying on wireless access to play it, so we can have it working on remote areas. Not completely sure how it works technically but he is sure of it…
  • No live, ‘real’ physicality. But maybe that is not a problem if we use the physicality of the people watching it.
  • And although the possibilities are many but, like with concept 1, if we went with this one I would really appreciate your help Ivana in helping find a dramaturgy for the concept, as at the moment it is just a mix of different ideas:
  • Are we playing on the audience’s pre-knowledge of Disney’s Herbie?
  • Or is it about choreographing the audience in relation to the car?
  • Or is it about them watching performers doing a performance around/inside the car?
  • Or a combination?

HERBIE (working title) – the initial idea Rita sent Ivana

What is it?

This is a piece for outdoor festivals which take place in, through and around a car. The performative element is delivered by performers but also by the car itself which will be modified to perform a number of surreal actions. An interdisciplinary work combining elements of street performance and automotive science.

For whom is it?

Children and adult children: anyone who enjoys ‘play’.


Current producers

Dance4, Intercult and ACE East Midlands.

Proposed additional co-producers

Point Blank (http://www.pointblank.org.uk/54_page.html)

A new production company wanting to develop new work in Sheffield and the North of England. Point Blank have expressed an interest in producing future Instant Dissidence work. They felt that their track record in socially engaged practice could bring a new angle to this project: they have connections with an automotive workshop for ex-offenders and would be interested in brokering some of the initial experimentation in car modification in this context.

Theatre in the Mill (http://www.brad.ac.uk/theatre/)

A theatre based at the University of Bradford (National Portfolio status). The Theatre is interested in co-producing the work and this could potentially involve some or all of the following:

  • Free rehearsal space.
  • Brokering relationships with the automotive engineering department of the University for technical consultancy and design.
  • Financial support.
  • I am also in discussions with the University about becoming a Research Fellow in Art & Science at the university, with a brief to develop connections between the University’s strong engineering and new technologies courses, and the artistic work of the Theatre in the Mill. The idea is that this will lead to an AHRC bid in the future and this could represent an extra funding stream for Herbie.



Andy Plant – mechanical artist (http://www.andyplant.co.uk/)

Andy designs and builds mechanical sculptures civic clocks for public arts, also transforming theatrical sets, vehicles props.

 Thom Shaw – performer/conceptual collaborator

A long-term member of Instant Dissidence Thom has performed in the latest 3 company’s productions. Alongside his work for the company Thom is editor of Dance Theatre Journal (Laban), creates and performs post-punk cabaret work at Duckie (London), and has a practice as a solo live artist.

Lucy Barker – filmmaker/visual artist/conceptual collaborator

Lucy has worked with Instant Dissidence since 2006 in various capacities: as a filmmaker, set and costume designer, photographer, and conceptual collaborator. Alongside this work Lucy continues to develop her own practice as a visual artist, and she manages Beacons, and alternative music festival in Yorkshire.

Ivana Ivković (BADco.) – dramaturg

Member of Croatian performance collective BADco., Ivana is a trained dramaturg and develops her work in this capacity.

Stewart Gibblodge – performer

Based in Manchester Stewart previously performed in Instant Dissidence’s White Out Conditions (2007-2009). He had previously appeared in the work of Point Blank and Vincent Dance Theatre. He continues to develop his practice in cabaret performance, clowning and outdoor performance.

Sabrina Ribes-Bonet – performer

Originally from Spain Sabrina graduated from the NSCD and has since been attending professional class with me at Yorkshire Dance. She currently performs with Poor Man’s Dance and appeared as host in the recent Leeds performance of New York’s cabaret duo The Wau Wau Sisters.

Matt Sykes-Hooban – technical manager

Matt has worked as Instant Dissidence’s technical manager since 2006, having created lighting and set designs for all company productions ever since, and technically managed those tours.

James Harrison – audio-visual designer

Has worked as lighting designer for Instant Dissidence since 2010, and had previously designed for Forced Entertainment and Vincent Dance Theatre.


Proposed R&D plan

Participation in Corners Xpedition Balkans (April 2012)

Ivana Ivković took part in the expedition and we started the joint blog.

Participation in Corners Xpedition East (August 2012)

Purpose: to develop audio-visual materials for the prototype.

Ivana Ivković and Rita Marcalo will travel and further develop the work.

Post-trip rehearsals

Purpose: to develop a prototype, to install some of the audio-visual elements, to develop movement material.

Artists involved: Thom Shaw, Lucy Barker, Sabrina Ribes-Bonet, Matt Sykes-Hooban, James Harrison, Stewart Gibblodge and I.

Artists/mechanics involved: Andy Plant, Point Blank (Steve Jackson and ex-offenders automotive workshop group) and Bradford University’s automotive engineering department.

Place: either Andy Plant’s workshop or young offenders workshop (all in the North of England).

Timescales: 1 week

Outcome: presentation of prototype and performance sharing to partners.