Our idea of portraying Lincoln’s community through art seemed like a simple idea, but we required a medium through which to show it. We discussed our troubles of finding this medium with our tutor, Aylwyn, and reached the conclusion that drinking tea is a common-place ritualistic custom that typifies the English way. Tea-drinking is a stereotype of England that most households conform to; a way of connecting individuals and a form of collaboration over a common interest. This idea of congregating via a mutual appreciation is one that we thought critical to our practise, as this assembly is almost synonymous with participatory performance, a typical characteristic of the module.
My performance partner Tom and I researched this area of site-specific performance and saw that Quarantine’s work was exemplary of what we wanted to achieve. Their performances Eat Eat, Coming and Going – In The Neighbourhood, and The Slightest Movement all revolved around seeing communities as collections of individuals, a field of study in which we wished to explore (Quarantine, 2003; Quarantine, 2008; Quarantine, 2008 & 2012). The medium through which this was performed was often through food, a concept of which our performance is closely tied to. The director of Eat, Eat, Renny O’Shea believes that “everyone has food to celebrate something – a birth, a death, a marriage. We have powerful memories of exquisite food, sacred food, hunger, the taste of something we didn’t want to eat, the smell of the kitchen we grew up in. We all have to eat” (O’Shea, Undated, Online). Tom and I saw this and believed it to be pertinent to our performance. We believe that drinking tea is an experience that brings people together, it is a break from the stresses of modern-day life, it serves as a moment of calm, stillness, and tranquillity, separating one from the intensities and tensions that we experience on a daily basis. These moments of serenity are therefore “sacred” to individuals in today’s culture, binding our performance with the practises of Quarantine.
Our plan has been formed and seems simple. We drink tea with 100 strangers in Lincoln. We audio record the conversations we have with them, and we ask them a list of six questions:
- What order do you make your tea?
- How do you take your tea?
- What brand of tea do you buy?
- Invite three people alive/ dead, famous or not to drink tea with you. Who and why?
- Best cup of tea you have ever had?
- If you could only have three cups of tea for the rest of your life, when/ where would you have them, who with, and why?
After this, we take a picture of their hands around their cup. The audio and visuals we collect will then be installed in the Usher gallery on 5 May 2015. We invite the participants to see the installation on that date, and to potentially join us for “a cup of tea and a chat”.
This performance has purity to it, as our intentions are clear. We aim to create an ephemeral experience for the participants, a sense of community, a coming together, an informal happening that highlights the conventional act of “having a cuppa”. This project will underline Lincoln’s community, accentuating its different cultures, characters, and lifestyles. The work will frame our findings as an artwork, likening the people of Lincoln to the pieces seen in the galleries, creating a sense of importance of the city’s culture, showcasing the exploration as a celebration of Lincoln’s differences and similarities alike.
O’Shea, R. (2004) Eat, Eat. [online] Quarantine. Available from: http://qtine.com/work/eat-eat/ [Accessed 4 March 2015].
Quarantine. (2003) Eat Eat. [performance art] Leicester, England: Leicester Haymarket Theatre, June.
Quarantine. (2008) Coming And Going: In The Neighbourhood. [performance art] Liverpool, England, November.
Quarantine. (2008 & 2012) The Slightest Movement. [performance art] Manchester, Aberystwyth, London, Dublin, Falmouth: UK.
Picture from: https://simonjohnsonofclowne.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/lincoln_cathedral_-_geograph-org-uk_-_1473090.jpg