The work is the performance

The final bits and pieces—preparing postcards, posters, bicycle blankets, reading room signage. This is where it feels like choreography, because the parts have been fully formed. Now, to set it in motion.

I’ve been saying all along that the Weymouths project is really a site-specific performance (30 July – 10 August, Weymouth, England). I don’t feel that my photographs, or the Stetson font or the twelve books are particular instances of the work; rather, these are the players (the parts) and I’m preparing to engage them with the public. The work is the performance.

Public book encounters

Last fall, when working on 273 Relics for John Cage, I asked myself the question—how does one perform a book? In the end, that project was an installation. A performance of sorts, but a static one, when compared with, say, dance.

Weymouths will be more like a dance. Each morning, I’ll be out on a bicycle for an hour or two. I’ll ride alongside the beach up and down the Weymouth esplanade, and stop to set up the bike wherever it feels right. I’ll park it on one of the bicycle blankets I’m producing (see fabric shots below) and lay out the day’s edition, flea-market style. I’ll engage anyone with an interest and give away single copies of the book. Each book will be wrapped with a belly-band and two postcards.

30 July—Volume 1: River / The Interviews
31 July—Volume 2: Sense / Weymouth can refer to
1 August—Volume 3: Image / Weymouth is
2 August—Volume 4: Migration / Bound for New England.
3 August—Volume 5: Observation / The New English Canaan of Thomas Morton. The first book.
4 August—Volume 6: Burial / Extinguished by Purchase.
5 August—Volume 7: Preservation / The Canoe Room
6 August—Volume 8: Remains / The birds were the raven, crow, buzzard, and starling.
7 August—Volume 9: Errare / Forty Views of House Rock
8 August—Volume 10: Formation / Whence is this mass of shingle derived?
9 August—Volume 11: Memory / Who enjoyed this view
10 August—Volume 12: Light / 1,485 Colors

After I release each day’s edition of books to the public (20 x each volume; 240 total) I’ll head over to the Phoenix Bakery, where I’m setting up a reading room on the second floor. All twelve volumes will be there for the entire duration of the project, free and open to the public. I’m working on a very basic installation for the room now, and some way for visitors to respond (a blank book, perhaps).

I’ll be giving a couple of artist talks in the reading room, as well.

So for the next few weeks, until I leave for England, I’ll be choreographing the work, arranging the parts into a schema. Of course, I don’t know what will really happen once I’m there. I’ve scored the piece but this is a project about serendipity and chance, and I’m about to give up (some) control and set it in motion.

Flow chart

How can this work be represented on a postcard or poster? Weymouths contains a massive amount of imagery, and it’s been difficult to single-out any one or two summary images. Instead, I decided to create a landscape of symbols from various parts of the work. Inspired by dance notation, the symbols are loosely collected with volume numbers and some idea about chance movement, relationship and flow. It’s a diagram of forces, both highly specific and not. As an image, it describes my methodology for the project better than any verbal explanation I can think of.

Notational symbols

  • Ship (symbol of Weymouth, Dorset), modified from a souvenir sticker
  • House Rock (Weymouth, Massachusetts)
  • Man pointing, from a late-19th century postcard of House Rock
  • English Heritage symbol for “ancient structure”
  • River Wey (from Open Street Maps)
  • The marks of Wampetuc, Webcowett, Nateaunte and Nahauton, the four Native Americans who signed over the land that was to become Weymouth, Massachusetts, to the English settlers
  • Native American canoe, c. 1450 (at the Weymouth Public Library)
  • Chesil Beach stone
  • King George III on his white horse (carved into the hill at Osmington)
  • Sea-side bench
  • A pixel

PS Check out Spoonflower. They create custom print-on-demand fabrics and I’m using them for the bicycle blankets. Excellent service.