At the end of Before Nightfall, the musicians left the Substation’s vast chamber but the audience remained. We looked across the space, we looked at one another and we remained in our seats. Slowly, one by one, we rose and moved not towards the doors but towards the centre, where a tantalising array of instruments known and unknown lay scattered in curiously ordered and numbered places across benches, stands and massive turntables. We connected object to sound, we continued to feel its resonance in our bodies, and nobody wanted to leave.
After Between 8 and 9, eight artists rose from eight round tables and eight groups of us applauded and applauded and then stayed to understand the work. We looked at unfamiliar instruments up close; we handled Fibonacci sticks and wooden blocks and steel circles; we felt those tiny moments of delight when magnetic couplings snap into place. We reflected, we talked, and nobody wanted to leave. Finally, well-meaning Recital Centre staff had to interrupt the scene to suggest most politely that it was time to disperse.
When Mass: Site is Set was over, hot drinks were served at the Calder Park Raceway and we stopped to wonder what had just happened. We gazed up the hill and all the way back down across the vast distance marked by the towering electricity lines that had powered the work. We remembered what it had felt like to stand beneath them, to rush at one another atop the hill and to come back down. We remembered our cars lined up in ritualistic circle, and the precise moment that our headlights had flashed on. Nobody wanted to leave a space that we had so magnificently made our own.
Experimental art creates a space that nobody wants to leave.
Once set into play, its rules continue to apply. Its constrains remain productive – not only for the artists, but for every body. The body continues to work it through, to respond to the work, to constitute its field.
Experimentation is the discovery of what can be made possible when productive constraints are introduced to a field of objects and bodies. It hypothesises; it takes risks; it tests performance; it makes rules and it breaks rules; it plays. Experimentation is the discovery of what can be made possible.
The body is the resonating agent of this work, both performing and testing its parameters across its defined field, but it is the field that resonates most with me.
The work of art creates a space using the focus of the body. The experimental work generates a field to be inhabited by the body.
The field is both a speculative concept and a tangible reality. A space is proposed within which a set of relations activate a work.
The field might overlay an existing space or landscape, as in The Megaphone Project. Or it might be precision crafted across a mathematical grid, as in A Wave and Waves.
We speak of force fields, energy fields, electromagnetic fields. Fields of interest, fields of study, fields of knowledge. Playing fields, agricultural fields, database fields. Visual fields and depth of field.
The field might exhaust itself once its rules have played out. Or it might present endless potential for generation, differentiation, integration, signification.
Is the work the field? Is the field the work?
And why leave?