We Are Here (2017)

We Are Here was developed from a residency in Cape Town, as a series of performances made in collaboration with artist, Sara Spies; A South African national born to activist parents. 

We went to Cape Town with a view to developing connections with artists working in the city, to experience a different social, political and artistic landscape and to respond creatively to those experiences. We started with conversations, which we planned to use as a route to delve further into the project. We worked primarily at A4 Arts Foundation, which was – in July 2017 – a new exhibition and project space in the city.

Our first conversation began sitting around a table on the ground floor with Pamella Dlungwana and Francis Burger. When we reviewed our notes one sentence in particular stood out: 'who brings and doesn’t bring themselves to the table?' We liked the question because of the ambiguity of what the table might represent in this discussion and who else might be sat there. We liked the idea that there are people who will not sit at the table, or who cannot. We recognised in the question a similar concern to ours when considering the myriad of things to have discussions about. Namely, who is heard? Who can contribute? Who is present? And who is not?

The table comment also spoke to us because of a book that had been on our minds for the past few years: Sara Ahmed’s Queer Phenomenology (2006). In the first chapter Ahmed introduces her discussion of the politics and poetics of embodied orientation and subjectivity through the image of the philosopher’s table. The many ideas Ahmed articulates in this book seemed to relate to the conversations we were having together and with others about this place (Cape Town), about equality, safety and about being ‘dis-orientated’, amongst other things. 

The two of us have a shared interest in creating artwork through a process of writing and responding to performance scores. Scores or instructions for art making, movement and everyday life was a central strategy adopted by artists (and non-artists) who were part of the Fluxus movement. Concerned with the commodification of art, Fluxus members would create ephemeral performance moments from simple (but usually oblique or interpretive) text instructions. These events and performances often took place in non-performance venues and private places, and/or were very subtle in their presentation such that they may be happening in secret or indistinguishably from the events of everyday life. We decided to use the conversations we were having as a basis for writing a series of scores that we could experiment with further. It was our initial conversation with Pam and Francis (and that intersection with Sara Ahmed) that lead to the scores we decided to follow further into the process.

We wrote four scores, which were altered slightly over the course of the project and ended up as follows:

Cape Town (1) - Person A sits at a table. Person B witnesses and describes what they see and hear. The event ends when it comes to a natural close.

Cape Town (2) Two people are sat at a table with writing material. They write silently and independently from each other for 20 minutes. After the time has expired they take it in turns to read to each other what they have written

Cape Town (3) Bring yourself to the table

Cape Town (4) Orient yourself in relation to a table. Find some way of recording, and articulating your orientation in some way

During our residency we produced a magazine documenting our performing of these scores, a copy of which is available at the A4 Arts Foundation in Cape Town (23 Buitenkant Street, District Six, Cape Town, SA, 8001). We felt our experiences there demonstrated the possibilities for knowledge and development that can come from the simple process of being somewhere and meeting with others, in an open, fluid way.