Doors knocked on: 218
Doors not answered: 49
Doors opened: 169
Doors rejected: 154
Doors where we were welcomed: 15
People interviewed: 24
We set out to understand Lincoln as a society and community by using a ‘good old fashioned cuppa’. By using tea as a catalyst, we knocked on doors, we sat with Lincoln citizens in their own homes, and we had a chat about the ritualistic nature of making and then having a brew.
Everyone has their own custom of making tea; strong, weak, milky, dark, sweet, and we used a series of questions to find out everyone’s personal tea-making habits. All this being so, we all get to the end product of YOUR ideal cuppa.
We met twenty-four willing participants and collected all the information via photographs of them holding their mug, audio of the conversation, and clips of the tea making process. All this has been compiled into a short film and gives a taste of the people of Lincoln.
Rimini Protokoll’s 100% City was a large influence for us as it was conceived to represent the community of a capital city, based on age, gender, and ethnicity. We very much went off this concept as we wanted to bring people together through the British brew and get everyone we interviewed together and share a cup of tea with each other.
Two male, second year Drama students from the university of Lincoln, knocking on doors of houses we’ve never been in/seen before, and asking for the owner to let us in and share a cup of tea and a conversation with us was never going to be easy and its difficulty is reflected in the statistics. Out of the 218 doors we knocked on in total, 203 were unsuccessful but it’s because of the frequent rejection that it made it so much more interesting and rewarding when a man/woman opens the door and accepts.
Danny and I had similar thoughts in relation to the final site specific performance and met up to discuss certain aspects that we wanted to explore and present. We began very general before homing down our thoughts. The initial discussion leads us to the relevance of the art in the museum; why is it there, what is it doing? We spoke around the value of the spectators BEING art themselves and the essentiality within site specific performances and this brought us to class, the portrayal of the ‘middle class white man’ and oppression/repression characteristics. This is then something we felt we could run with.
For the final performance/instillation, we wanted to use the simplicity of Marina Abromovic’s work but then used Rimini Protokall as a stimulus in relation to their performance “100% City”. We were searching for something to represent everyone, not just in the museum, not just those who have been chosen to be represented; a sort of truth within the Usher and the collection. Taking Protokall’s version of “100% City” in London, they write ‘In a world bombarded with ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’ 100% London tells the truth of modern London life in a way graphs or pie-charts never can‘ (anon, n.d.) It was made to show London’s diversity and population in a physical, dramatically statistical style and it was this essence that we wanted to dig into.
We wanted to segregate the audience into white males in one group and everyone else who doesn’t fall in that category into another group. Each group would make a separate painting outside with the leadership of either me or Danny. The leader with the white males would be in a suit, looking sharp and crisp, with the other group leader being a bit scruffy in a tracksuit and a generally dirty. We’d then take the paintings inside into the collection and offer them both for the same price to depict the equality that wasn’t being shown in the museum. There were, however, complications with this. What if it rained? What if people were seriously offended about being segregated? What if no one turned up? It was clear we had to alter our performance idea, but we wanted to follow the same sort of path.
We re-evaluated our prior performance idea where we explored segregation as an irrational concept; however we were just performing a segregational act. We wanted to show that, as a community, everyone can exist and be from their differences rather than be separate because of their social and emotional standing. We looked into Tino Sehgal’s ‘This Success / This Failure’ (Seghal, 2007) and the ephemerality and how this works alongside a focus on audience. Seghal and Jens Hoffmann facilitated a group of twenty children with adult chaperones where the children were involved in ‘organised or anarchic play’ (Design, 2007) When a new member enters the space, a child has to leave and say whether they think their time in there was a success or a failure. This audience is essential for the performance to give any results and we believe this to be an engaging characteristic for a member of the audience and involving other civilians in the process of your creation will give organic and real outcomes.
We wanted a piece that brought the community of Lincoln together, rather than expose their differences. We thought about an act the most, if not all people “perform” on a day to day basis and we landed on a cup of tea. We followed from our influence of Rimini Protokall’s ‘100% City’ (2008-2014) as a stimulus or a guideline. We aim to meet 100 people within Lincoln and have a cup of tea with them within the confines of their own home, and a questionnaire in the form of a conversation. We are to record these conversations and take a picture of their hands around their own mug. We feel this picture will be able to explain a lot about the person, as hands can paint a metaphorical picture of what their life has entailed. Regardless of the superficial aspects of the hands, every pair will be from Lincoln or be living in Lincoln. Our aim is to then create an instillation in the Usher gallery in the room of fine china tea cups, where the pictures are displayed on a television via DVD with the audio of all the conversations layered over one another.
We chose our questions to explore the variation of people within Lincoln and the more extreme opposites the better: 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 and famous/not famous, to have a cup of tea with you, who and why? What’s the best cup of tea you’ve ever had? If you could only have three cups of tea for the rest of your life, when and where would you have them, who would you have them with and why?
All these questions will be answered differently, in different ways and will all have very different outcomes and this is what we’re aiming for. Although all this information will show a diverse city that ranges in their ritualistic tea making, they all end up with the end product of a cup of tea. No matter how varied the answers will be, they all conclude with the same answer.
We began our first ‘tea with strangers’ mission on the 16th of March with our camera and voice recorder. We created an intro for when someone opened the door that goes as follows;
‘Hi there, sorry to bother you, we are two second year Drama students exploring the idea of tea bringing people together. Our aim is to share one hundred cups of tea with one hundred strangers within Lincoln. Is there any chance you would like to partake?’ (We show our student cards to show proof of being students at Lincoln University)
We went to a total of thirty-five houses, with twenty-five of these doors being opened. This being so, twenty-two of these people gave an excuse and didn’t want to be a part of our performance. Some of the excuses were a little tenuous; however, it was their choice. The three people that allowed us into their home were varied and obviously from different walks of life. One man, Isaac, who gave us permission to use his name within the performance and documentation, was quite a calm barman. Four students from Courts were quite interesting but this being so, a man and woman from West Parade. They were very conversational, making jokes, and we felt very welcomed. Although we only have seven people in total at the minute, we’re already seeing differences in the Lincoln community. We acknowledge that people will be very reluctant to allow two students into their house but the more and more we try, the more varied and interesting our results will be – this is proving to be a complicated activity, but the instillation of all the archived pieces will be a great final product as a review of Lincoln.
Govan introduced the idea of the place being ‘known’ by the performer and posed questions like; how long until we know the site? How long until you can lie about a space? What happens when a site specific performance is moved? These questions delve into the actual reasoning of the site of a performance being specific. He wrote about Foucault and the performance by IOU that was based within a hospital. This was based around Foucault’s reasoning of seeing patients as their illness and not as individuals. IOU reacted to this to address its belonging to inequality. They used real experiences from patients in the hospital and turned headphones into drip bags. They considered the site as a contested space as a hospital, to them, is a place between health and death and where physical and emotion battles are fought, both for the patient and the doctors/staff. I read a book called Musicophilia written by Oliver Sacks that speaks about music is a static fragrance in the mind that ignores situations like dementia. In this, he spoke about Foucault’s ideas of identity being lost when diseases and illnesses are contracted. He slandered this idea as, if anything, neurotic and/or internal issues can allow you to show sections of your person that haven’t been seen before – out of the horror, there are still glimpses of beauty.
The reading also referenced Lonetwin and their ownership of space and aspects of negativity in the space. This is in relation to their piece Walk with Me, where they walked for paid employment but found local citizens walking with them in their own spare time. This posed an issue within a site-specific piece as they may be engaging in performance, but the site is familiar or relatable to them, giving the participation a sense of ownership.
The most relevant reading to my piece would be Rebecca Schneider’s Reperformance. She writes about archives being more valued than the actual event, and in relation my site performance, the archives ARE the performance. The performance itself, drinking tea with locals from Lincoln, will have finished and we only have the documentation as remembrance and proof. The archives are the Reperformance, as the performance will have been done one hundred times before the instillation can take place.
This week, Danny and I had quite an unsuccessful development in relation to the community of Lincoln. We went to a similar number of houses this week but out of the fourty doors we knocked on, thirty-one answered and only two people allowed us to chat with them over a cup of tea. These weren’t terribly interesting experiences, as both participants weren’t very engaged or interactive – either way, this is a result and a representation of a section of Lincoln’s community. After speaking to the group this week, we do feel it can be our gender that is letting us down, or that our reasoning for wanting to enter their houses can seem quite hollow and unbelievable. This speaks a lot about the community that we have brought ourselves into by coming to this university.
Trust. Trust is an essence that is lacking in this city, and presumably most cities. If two males in their late teens/early twenties approached your grandparents house, or any relatives house for that matter, and asked if we could share a cup of tea with them within their own home, most people of our age would hope they would decline this offer, but why? People seem to always jump to the worst case scenario, that drinking tea isn’t our real intention. This poses a number of questions about the people of Lincoln, which is considered to be one of the tame cities in the country. Why are people so cautious? Have they been given reason to not trust two male, second year Drama students? If they have had a bad experience with strangers, what makes myself and Danny the same as these people?
In a way, not being let in to someone’s home can tell you more about them than a cup of tea and a conversation could. Most of our experiences in relation to this task have been warming and we’re grateful of the volunteers who allowed us to record them and talk to us. This being so, the fact that sixty-eight percent of people opened their doors to us and only six-and-a-half percent of all doors knocked on were willing to do this ten minute task for us. I just wonder how close we can get to our target, or if we can reach it. It’s been very eye-opening so far.
Our performance was set up in Gallery Three, underneath the only display cabinet in the room that didn’t house any fine china or tea facilities. We had a table with a lovely tablecloth and four chairs and invited members of the public to come and sit with us to see our video compilation using all the audio clips and photographs collected on our travels around Lincoln. We also invited all the people we interviewed to come along and even booked and paid for a taxi for one woman to come along, Yvonne, as she had a little trouble walking. Most people complied and sat with us, asked us questions about the process and the experiences we had while preparing for the instillation and performance. After watching a section of the video, either I or Danny would take people upstairs where we had tea facilities that were prepared for us to recreate the process. We sat with miscellaneous museum goers and had a chat with them. Some of the conversations I had were very interesting and they were very interested in my future as a Drama student and what I was going on to do after my degree. It really felt that our idea of tea being the British way of coming together came through from the process of the performance, and the actual performance itself. Yvonne arrived at half past two, and we both sat with her as we watched the video for the final time. Yvonne was the most interesting and lovely participator in the experience we had going around Lincoln. She welcomed us, gave us a bag of tea, biscuits, and so many stories of her life. The timeline of our experience with Yvonne is a real life example of what we wanted to gain from this. Tea DOES bring people together, and if we hadn’t gone through this process then we would have probably left Lincoln at the end of our degree without a friend as kind and generous as she. Yvonne, personally, made the performance what it was. Everyone who participated and allowed us into their homes made the performance what it was. Although we only managed twenty four interviews and had two hundred and three rejections, it was all made worth from the people who dared to let us into their life. I’ve made friends through this site specific performance, and I’ve met people in my city who I would never think to speak to if I saw them in the street. We made friends the British way.
– Lord, B., 2006. Museum and society. University of Dundee. Available at: https://blackboard.lincoln.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/pid-928440-dt-content-rid-1720812_2/courses/DRA2035M-1415/DRA2035M-1415_ImportedContent_20141103010200/Foucault%20%26%20museum.pdf [Accessed 22nd March 2015)
– Govan – Revisioning Places. Available at: https://blackboard.lincoln.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/pid-928346-dt-content-rid-1720819_2/courses/DRA2035M-1415/DRA2035M-1415_ImportedContent_20141103010200/govan%20revisioning%20place.pdf?target=blank [Accessed 22nd March 2015]
– Govan – Routes and Roots. Available at: https://blackboard.lincoln.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/pid-928347-dt-content-rid-1720820_2/courses/DRA2035M-1415/DRA2035M-1415_ImportedContent_20141103010200/govan%20routes%20and%20roots.pdf?target=blank [Accessed 22nd March 2015]
– Seghal, T. (2007) This Success/ This Failure. [Performance art] London, England: Institute of Contemporary Arts.
– Rimini Protokoll. (2008-2014) 100% City. [Performance art] Various places and dates.
– Design, E., Frieze Magazine | Archive | Archive | Tino Seghal. Available at: http://www.frieze.com/issue/review/tino_sehgal/ [Accessed March 16, 2015].
– Anon, Available at: www.rimini-protokall.de/website/en/project_5653.html [Accessed March 16, 2015].