This post is just to share some of the outcomes of the Motor Vehicle Sundown Event Workshop that I ran whilst accompanying Shift/Work (Professor Neil Mulholland and Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop Curator of Research Dan Brown) in delivering a workshop programme at Iceland Academy of the Arts.
This is the second time I have been able to playtest the MVSE workshop model, with the prior version being run with members of the graduate residency program at MANY Studios in Glasgow. This time I was able to refine the model to its bare essentials, which is now a set of instruction cards and some dice.
MVSE:R was promoted as somewhere in between a workshop and a performance and was open to students and faculty of the academy as well as artists in the local community. The workshop poster detailing this is below. Discussion surrounding whether it was a performance or a workshop prior to it occurring made me consider how I had been communicating MVSE. Whilst it is a performance of a George Brecht work there is a distinct workshop component that requires participants to work together to negotiate a score for the performance within a time frame dictated by the setting sun, whilst also deciding upon a location and means through which to document the event. In its earlier iteration this component had been more directly built into the workshop format (which is much longer and focused on individuals directed individual iterations). But I will bear this in mind going forward.
An interesting point that Neil brought up in discussion is how the re-purposing of existing artworks could be a rich vein of workshop models. I feel this astute and an area that presents a ready relationship to aleatory modes of learning would be Fluxus or Situationist works from the 60’s (of which Brecht’s work is one of many). I will need to do some more research to see if this is a path I pursue or whether I pursue another less to-hand route.
The workshop involves the distribution of performance instructions (via cards) to each workshop grouping (designated by the amount of cars available for the event). The groups are then given dice to roll that determine the quantity of each performance instruction. They must then score how they intend to interpret and execute these actions as a group before heading to an agreed location and performing their score as at sundown.
I don’t consider the way I designed the workshop model to be a form of ‘gamification’, instead I understand it as a ‘serious game’, one composed of an abstract game in which the original Motor Vehicle Sundown (Event) score by Brecht offers components to be distributed through chance and responded to and interpreted by participants, as well as constituting a concrete game that grounds(through metaphor) the actions in an art historical context.
The Reykjavik participants grasped the concept of the workshop quickly after a little exposition from me. It was encouraging to observe that the paring down of context and instruction from my initial iteration if anything simulated dialogue and ecstatic mutuality within the groups with more immediacy than in the Glasgow version. With that said there are some components I need to tweak – from a functional viewpoint the range of performance notation being directly related to the numbers of two dice. The second point being that to make the game fully distributive I will need to create a command card that puts the workshop model in its simplest form so it can be run without a facilitator. We were lucky enough to have two full car loads of participants but the workshop could be scaled to a much larger scale (as with the original work).
I am still collating documentation from the workshop from both groups but there were some lateral engagements with the constraints of the workshop. Including one group creating a cairn at the site of their performance as a form of documentation. Both groups ended up at in the vicinity of one another but without knowing they were in proximity to one another. Although one group had attempted to perform the work in the car park of a fast food restaurant with a view to recording the cctv capture of their performance but due to being unable to see the sunset had to reassess.
I think that the model is one of the strongest I currently have in my portfolio and with the additional tweaks it should soon be submission ready. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the workshop is how its reproducible nature doesn’t stimulate a homogeneity of experience (yet). Despite being dependent on the conditions thus far both iterations have happened accompanied by dramatic (somewhat sublime) sunsets. It has produced enough documentary material in the form of dashboard and exterior videos and from images and other means to have have begun stimulating ideas about how to exhibit the work in a generative way within a gallery context, this is the first time in a long time I have felt this way which is encouraging entering the final furlong of the PhD.