Curious machines overheard from the flat above disharmony mall

Saturday 18th October

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Greetings from Mumbai. We’re jetlagged, hungover and dying of heat. Hello.

  1. Jojo is asleep on the sofa, which is the most fortified position in the house being both under the ceiling fan, next to the plug-in mosquito repeller, and with a rotating fan by her feet.
  2. Tom is next door, laying out various complicated looking bits of machinery on the bed – home-made microphones, mixing desk, loop pedals and the new sampler, which has a lot of buttons and lights up in satisfying colours.
  3. I’ve just cut a lot of my hair off and had my second cold shower of the day and applied deodorant for the 4th time. I’m pretty sure I’m smelly again already. It’s 1pm.

It feels difficult in this heat – I think it’s about 40 degrees – and this newness and this cultureshock and this meeting-again of friends here, to ‘get started’. Other than a couple of meetings (which felt wonderfully sociable too – we’re back! hello!) writing this is the first bit of ‘work’ I’ve done. This may or may not be a problem. Hopefully/probably it’s not, in the grand scheme of things, but we do also have a script deadline at the start of next week…

For now, we’ve been planning, napping, trying to get our lives set up. It’s very different to think about being here for three months rather than three weeks. For one, it’s worth nesting a bit, which definitely didn’t feel like something we needed to do in the madness of last December where we more or less jumped off the aeroplane and into our first workshop (do not pass go, do not collect two hundred rupees, etc). The flat is nice – light and clean and on the seventh floor, and we haven’t had to kill any cockroaches. We’re the first people to live in the house EVER – apart from Saskia, our housemate, who arrived here from the US 15 days prior to us – it’s part of a brand new and long delayed development above ‘Harmony Mall’, referred to as ‘Disharmony mall’ due to it’s equally long delayed building. Just another big, blocky empty shell on the side of the road. I can’t imagine this city needing more malls, but apparently there is demand. Bombay likes to shop.

(The big supermarket here is called Star Bazaar, and is a joint venture between TATA and Tesco – does this make it the most evil shop ever?)

From the balcony you look out over a dusty earth sports field, which they painted a football pitch onto yesterday and which has almost already rubbed off, a busy road with a market down one side, the aforementioned back-of-disharmony-mall, and – construction. Everywhere, people are building, scaling car-park like prefab concrete structures on bamboo scaffolding; hammering, welding, drilling. The noise, mixed with the constant car horns/engines/shouts/hum of fans is overwhelming, and the soundtrack to this city is coming back to me.

This show will have a machine at its centre – a Rube Goldberg/chain reaction/Heath Robinson type device that will be constructed over the course of the performance, and set off at the end. I think we’ve come to the right city for building such a machine.

Below/above you can see some of the drawings from our prototype version (videos to follow soon) that we designed and built in perhaps a less obvious place – Falmouth. (I suppose they construct boats there… so maybe it is obvious after all?) As part of our UK R&D we spent six days working in Falmouth University’s Woodlane workshop with Andy Currie and the rest of the technicians there who let us take over their courtyard with ladders, suitcases strung to the canopies and crudely drilled bits of wood. We had a lot of fun, got very frustrated and ended up making something that semi-worked with the aid of a lot of clamps and bits of string.

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The challenge with this is that we need to make something that will work. Something that we can put together in an hour, and set off, and know that it will manage to complete its action without getting stuck, or falling apart. We’ve been watching a lot of these devices on youtube for a long time now, and gradually it occurred to us that for every single-shot video of a perfect machine, there are probably 20-50-100 other times that the machine didn’t work, and the artists had to painstakingly reset it all, make adjustments, set up the cameras and try again. That’s not really a risk we can take, which is why theatre is exciting, but is also very daunting from our perspective. We aren’t OKGO, or Fischli and Weiss, or Honda. We don’t really know what we’re doing, and we need it to be perfect (double conundrum) so we’ve been trying to balance out precision with impressiveness with simplicity. It’s exciting to do something that feels impossible though, right? Right??

Off to take another cold shower. I’ve never enjoyed washing this much.

R x

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R x

ps. this is the view from our balcony!

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Twenty-two thousand, four hundred and forty-three words

For the last two weeks we’ve been calling Bristol Old Vic’s Copper’s Loft our home. It’s a beautiful, big, light space on the roof with plenty of room for dancing and plenty of room for making. But we’ve been sitting in the corner, writing.

Because we are making this show in a different order than usual (we’re writing it and then ‘making’ it in India) we’ve needed to concentrate on getting words out. We need lots of them to play with, so that we can edit lots of them out and be left with only the good ones – that’s the idea at least.

It takes a bit of time to feel okay with being in a big space and not ‘using’ it, but over the course of our residency we began to realise that the words we write in this large room are very different from the words we write in an office, or in our bedrooms. These words that we write here do more, somehow.

We’ve been using timed writing directives to dig into the crevices of our brain and try to find words that we didn’t consider pulling out previously…

A list of thirty ways to fall, and the potential consequences of each

30 minutes, and then 10 minutes, and then 1 minute on tumbling

Write about falling cats, without saying the word ‘cat’

Three short poems or lists (as shit as you like) about the inevitability of falling

8 minutes of writing about when I fell from grace

A physical fall, that occurs whilst falling in love, during the fall of a government

We’ve also been collecting falling stories through our call-out, which you can still contribute to (but not for much longer), and researching, reading and digging through our memories for material. We have 22,443 words at the moment; about 6000 of these will make the show we think.

 

Fall #38

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We’ve been thinking about falling. Months ago a friend posted a link on facebook to a short wikipedia page about William Rankin, the only person to ever survive falling through a storm cloud (he fell for forty minutes and had to hold his breath for bits of it so that he didn’t drown in unfallen rain) and it caught our imagination, making us wonder what our pre-occupation with the sky is all about. Over the following months across texts, emails, conversations and late-night internet meanderings we’ve become more and more interested in this act; the free-fall of the body through space and the emotional parallels and all the other things that this four-letter, one syllable word means. Fall.

So this is what our new show is going to be about, or at least where it’s starting, or at least where it’s so far got to, via India, machines, cities, women and weather, we’ve arrived at falling and we think we’re going to play in this subject for a while.

With this mammoth task (it’s always a mammoth task) ahead of us: make a show – write it, get the people we need, work out what needs to happen and when, all that – we decided to go away to write some things. We wanted to have a word document with thousands of words and thoughts and bits of research about falling. Last week we went to Darlington, away from our normal spaces – habitats – to do this.

Falling is massive. At the moment it’s too big, but it’s also endlessly interesting and you see it everywhere. In Darlington we read and we wrote and we listened and we looked. Some of that:

We drove round North Yorkshire with Tom, Jojo’s cousin, and went to high up places. Malham Cove. A quarry. The top a hill. And we looked down.
We listened to this radiolab episode about falling.
We read about the inner ear and the sensation that lets us know we are falling.
We revisited this article, and this film about suicides from the Golden Gate bridge – one of the first pieces of research we ever shared with each other when we were at Dartington and making Isabella. Maybe it’s finally relevant.
We danced around the sitting room and fell over, again and again.
We started to collect people’s falling stories. We’re looking for as many as possible and you can contribute here.
We wrote thousands of words and read them to each other.
We thought about the fall of the British Empire, and about doing the show in India.
We listened to Laurie Anderson.

And now we embark on two weeks in the Bristol Old Vic’s Coopers Loft to write some more, research some more, fall some more, and try to make a bit of sense of it all. We’re thinking about it like a book or a catalogue; a collection of falls. We’re thinking about it being called Falls #16-781. But we don’t know what the numbers will be yet. It’s exciting to start.