Hummingbirds and Hamburgers is a research-led performance project by Christine Ellison (IRE/UK) in collaboration with video designer, Erato Tzavara (UK/GR), and computer scientist, Nicholas Ward (IRE). We work with dancers, choreographers, musicians and different communities of performers to embody the actions embedded in screen-based interfaces and to think about how the symbols and signs of our devices are informing how we move through space and time: the user interface is re-imagined as a score, that instructs and records our actions.
The project is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, and has been further supported by the University of Reading, University of Limerick, University of the Arts, Zurich, Onassis Stegi (Athens) and The Elephant Trust (UK).
Below is a timeline of the work and summary of developments.
NOVEMBER 2022: RESIDENCY IN BASSANO DEL GRAPPA HOSTED BY FONDAZIONE BONOTTO AND OPERAESTATE FESTIVAL
In early November 2022, we led a residency in Bassano Del Grappa starting at the Luigi Bonotto Collection at Fondazione Bonotto. We joined forces with musician Vassalis Tzavaras (GR), dancers Maria Pisiou, Fer Gonzales-Morales (NL), and documentary film-maker Robbie McKane (UK), and invited 6 Italian students/recent graduates to participate in the development of a new performance work. We examined and played with a selection of scores from the collection and then discussed our research questions about the language of screen interfaces. How could the language play and typographical forms of Fluxus and the Happenings help us to generate new ideas about the user interface?
Using old tubes from the Bonotto Textile Factory, we considered the concept of Scroll. What does it mean to move scrollingly? How could we use the whole body to scroll? Individual bodies took on scrolling qualities, eventually the group became a unified scrolling mechanism.
HUMMINGBIRD: AN EVENT SCORE BY CHRISTINE ELLISON
This score contains a series of instructions based on menu commands and UX actions. These prompts become the basis of the performance during the residency at Bassano.
Christine Ellison, Hummingbird , Event Scores 2022.
Documenta 15 | July 2022
July 2022. Erato and Christine deliver a participatory workshop at Documenta 15. Participants are artists and curators from a international institutions. We invite them to move! First we warm up with somatic exercises. This leads into a series of prompts for action derived from the interface in the form of printed words and symbols. Participants work in small groups to interpret the signs and after some time start to generate (new) meaning from/with them.
Initial Research at the Luigi Bonotto Collection of Fluxus Scores and Concrete Poetry at Fondzione Veneto, Italy. May 2022.
May 2022: Christine and Nick visit the Bonotto Archive and start working more closely with Fluxus scores towards a participatory event with the Arts community of Bassano. Scores are selected for their interactive qualities, emphasis on physical action and wordplay. Of particular interest is The House of Dust by Alison Knowles because of its use of early computer technology in creating random sequences with phrases. The potential to connect the language of the user interface and Concrete Poetry becomes clear! George Brecht’s Water Yam shows us how a single word can prompt myriad responses and physically playing with the instruction cards engages new ways of thinking about spatio-temporal relations. Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit gets us thinking about how listing instructions numerically can make mundane tasks seem important.
R&D at Reading School of Art. Spring 2022.
January 2022: R&D at Reading School of Art by Christine and Nacheal Catnott 21/1/22.
A 7 metre long editing timeline made from a range fabrics and plastics becomes a performative environment. We can rearrange time in digital space in linear sequences that make it seem maluable (cropable, squeezable, extendable) but with ‘concrete’ materials there are different physical considerations. It becomes clear that the sections need somehow to be moveable, rearrangable.
2020-2021: Community outreach meetings to consider ways to expand the range of user experiences that we draw from and create a wider reach with the work.
– with Kimberley Harvey Candoco dance artist and leader of the Candoco youth dance group
+ Elaine from Sadler’s Wells Company of Elders.
February 2020: Movement R&D, Black Mountain Beach, Peleponese, Greece. Christine and Erato Scroll Across
Experimental Scores in the British Music Collection Archives, Huddersfield. October 2019.
October 2019: Christine and Nick travel to Huddersfield University to see the Experimental Scores in the British Music Collection Archives. They discover a set of scores called Music for Young Players published by Universal Edition in the 1970s and subsequently find a book called Projects in Sound by British Composer Brian Dennis. This book contains a selection of the scores for Young Players alongside notes and guidance for teachers with little or no musical training. Projects in Sound becomes a key reference for this project. The integration of avant-garde scores with accessible notes for educators is of core interest but also the way that the scores are all based on ordinary tools that helps us in our every day such as clocks and maps. We draw from this approach on the premise that today one of the most common tools we engage daily is the screen interface. It’s signs, symbols and mechanisms are increasingly ubiquitous and within 40 years have come to represent the ordinary.
Reading Fringe Festival, July 2019.
May 2019: Interdisciplinary R&D seminar Christine, Erato and Nick talk user interfaces with Mariana Marquez (choreographer and speech coach) and Robbie McKane (film director). Movement takes place in the Reading School of Art studios and The Harris Garden, Reading.
February 2019: Audio-visual R&D, Reading School of Art. Christine and Erato.
Workshop and Live Performance with graduates from RSA and local artists in Reading, 2018.
July-September 2018: Erato and Christine invite musician Graham Dunning to co-lead a workshop with Reading-based artists at Reading School of Art. We develop scores based on discussions and experiments with sound-making devices made with found objects. This culminates in Live performances at South Street Arts Centre and Iklectik Art Lab London.
December 2017: Erato and Christine work with Mariana, 3 performers at Minghella Studios.