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LIVENESS WORKSHOP 3 - Performance-experiment

For Workshop 3, NEUROLIVE collaborated with choreographer and performer Jia-Yu Corti to create a new performance-experiment, titled Performing and Not Performing, performed by Jia-Yu Corti. It was presented in the George Wood Theatre at Goldsmiths University of London on 19-20 and 24-25 July, 2023.

This performance-experiment played with the spectrum of states between performing and not-performing – both in terms of how performers generate these different states, and how audiences perceive them. This playful experiment drew on acclaimed performer Jia-Yu Corti’s expertise in skilfully navigating her way through this range of states of intentionally ‘being yourself’ to greater and lesser degrees, while performing.

Audience members were invited to participate in this experiment by witnessing Corti’s performance, specially created for this experiment. Audience members were asked to wear glasses that record eye movements while they watched the performance, and to fill in some questionnaires before, during and after the event. The performance-experiment was designed for an audience of 10 people, and was presented 12 times with different audiences each time. Each performance was approximately 40 minutes in duration. Audience members were paid a participant fee of £15 for taking part in the experiment.

Just before the beginning of each performance, Corti was given two small stacks of cards, re-arranged in randomised orders, that would determine the nature and sequence of her activities for that performance. She placed these stacks of cards on a music stand at the side of the stage, then began each performance by welcoming the audience and introducing how the experiment would work, saying:

“This is an experiment.

I’ll be doing a series of activities that are written on these cards that my colleague Albane has just given me.

One pile indicates the activity, the other determines how I will approach each activity: either as performing or not performing.

I don’t know the order of these cards, so I don’t know what’s gonna happen.

And your task [as audience members and participants in the experiment] is to figure out if I am performing or not, for each activity, and note that on your questionnaire.

Every time I come back to this stand to flip the cards for myself, it marks the end of one activity and the beginning of a new one. I will also indicate the number of the activity we’re on, just to make sure that we are on the same page.

Please answer as truthfully and intuitively as possible.

And I’ll be doing the same.”

Each performance was made up of the same set of 10 activities (plus one repeated activity), but occurring in a different order each time and with variations in specifying a mode of performing or not performing for each activity. The activities spanned a range of different types of performative material, including: performing a set movement phrase (adapted from Matthias Sperling’s 2011 choreographic work This is it); playing the ukulele; performing remembered elements of Taiwanese ritual dance; hoovering; watering a plant using water pistols; doing nothing; and reading aloud a poem by Emily Dickinson.

Performance: Jia-Yu Corti
Concept and Creation: Jia-Yu Corti, Guido Orgs, Matthias Sperling
Experimental Design: Albane Arthuis, Jia-Yu Corti, Guido Orgs, Matthias Sperling
Costume Consultant: Annie Pender
Producer: Iris Chan
Wearable Sensing: Mirko Febbo, Jamie Ward
Research Assistants: Haeeun Lee, Chase Royer, Julia Stamm

With thanks to:
Molly McPhee, Emily Mead, Patrick Furness and Nikita de Martin from Goldsmiths Theatre and Performance department; Siobhan Davies Studios; and everyone for joining us as an audience member and research participant.

This performance includes movement material adapted from This Is It (2011), choreographed by Matthias Sperling in collaboration with performer Vicky Malin, commissioned by Candoco Dance Company, whom we thank for their support.

Video trailer and performance filming: Ana de Matos
Photos: Hugo Glendinning

About the artist:
Jia-Yu Corti is a Taiwan-born choreographer and performer based in London working at the intersections of choreography, dance, theatre, visual, live and performance art. She has created, performed and collaborated in diverse contexts and spaces for over three decades.

She is interested in the processes of transformation of consciousness ushered in by movement, the way that awareness of the body/mind connections generates new meanings. Through this NEUROLIVE experiment, she is keen to explore different states of being in the performance context, and how this process could in turn allow the choreographic potential to reveal and reverberate.

Jia-Yu trained in Taiwan (Dance Diploma, National Taiwan Academy of Arts, 1981-86); the USA (BFA Modern Dance, University of Utah, 1989-92); and UK ( MA Choreography, London Contemporary Dance School, 2015). She worked as a member of Harupin-Ha Butoh Dance Theatre (USA), La Compagnie Marie Chouinard (Canada) and Retina Dance Company (UK) throughout 1990s. As an independent dance maker, she has received grants from Arts Council England and commissions from Taiwan to create performance projects.

Since 2011, Jia-Yu has mainly worked as a freelance collaborative artist, contributing to and performing for other artists. She has performed nationally and internationally with artists/choreographers Alex Baczynski-Jenkins, Alexandra Bachzetsis, Anthea Hamilton, Colette Sadler, Grace Schwindt, Jeremy Shaw, Jo Fong, Pan Daijing, Tino Sehgal, Trajal Harrell, Zadie Xa, among others.

A European Research Council funded project