The research emerges from an existing body of work titled Song Archive Project. The archive consists of 900 song video recordings by amateur singers who perform a song of their choice unprepared and from memory only. A small selection of songs have been made available on the Song Archive website and further interactive access to the archive is planned for the future. Building upon the extensive experience of performing and capturing the Song Archive, Yvonne Buchheim has developed a trajectory of research concerning the emotions and psychology of public singing and in particular the phenomenon of stagefright. Through inivative work with pyschology researchers at the University of Bath, Yvonne has developed a performance-based (practice-led) research programme to investigate stagefright.
The Psychology of Public Singing
During the summer of 2012 Yvonne started a residency at the Psychology Department of the University of Bath to further research the phenonmena of stage fright and the psychology of public singing. The resulting artwork is currently exhibited at the Institute of Interdisciplinary Arts (ICIA) at the University of Bath (until the 14th December). The exhibition entitled False Starts is a collection of work in progress and reflects the first phase of a longer residency within the Psychology Department.
The residency evolved through a series of meetings with selected researchers within the Psychology Department that have a specific interest in this research area. The process has enabled a shift in Yvonne's understanding of stage fright and performance anxiety. In order to translate verbal information into visual art works Yvonne has posed some questions as a starting point:
- How do I read the signals of my own emotions?
- How do I know if I am excited or scared?
- What the boundaries of my comfort zone end and how can I expand it?
Exploring the gap between fear and excitement is where the art work in progress is located. The exhibition at ICIA consists of three drawings and four video works, which should be viewed as 'new lines of thought' whereby Yvonne has become her own subject of study and has moved from behind the camera, to in front of it (Study no 1, 2 and 3).
Another video titled How Singing in Public Boosts Your Sex Life was developed in collaboration with Kevin Burch, a sex confidence coach, based in Bath. The piece draws on the genre of life coaching and advice videos to encourage the viewer to expand their personal comfort zone and experience life to the full.
Mind Control is a series of drawings that refer to the psychology of stage performance and aim to disclose an inner emotional landscape of stage fright. Although devoid of any visible acts of performance the black spaces create an atmosphere where the viewer is invited to imagine oneself within; confronted by the choice to be a potential performer or an audience member.
The next stage of the residency will build on initial research in collaboration with Dr Ed Keogh and Professor Bas Verplanken at the Psychology Department of the University if Bath. Forthcoming research aims to explore the Fremdbild (our capacity to be aware of how we are seen by others) and how interactive technology might encourage self-expression and self-reflection. This potential development direction will be undertaken with the help of software programmer Tarim. External funding is being sought to further this research.
The project initially intended to explore the potential for the digital archive to act as a tool for participatory art strategies. The aim is to test how audiences can be involved in live events and how the Song Archive Project can facilitate the temporary creation of social relations.
The key questions for this research project centres on audience and performer roles:
- How can the performative potential of the Song Archive project be utilised for audience interaction within a live performance lecture setting?
- Can the human voice and the active role of singing create equality between audience and performer?
- How could the use of technology facilitate and encourage audience participation?
- How could the technology be used to invite a process of learning, transformation and self-reflection?
The research was planned in two phases, firstly the preparation of the performance lecture and secondly the delivery of the event. During the first phase interactive strategies were to be explored through the use of song and music in order to develop suitable digital technology in collaboration with DCRC software programmers. Furthermore, archive video footage of interactive art and theatre events would be drawn upon to review documentation of previous Stagefright performances at the Lakeside theatre (Essex) and Chapter theatre (Cardiff). The second phase of the research project intended to employ new participatory strategies within a live setting. The aim was to test the use of technology to stimulate the audience, for example through the use of voice and listening techniques as well as video footage from the extensive SAP collection.
The original research questions centered on audience participation through the use of interactive technology. This might alter in different venue spaces, depending on its acoustic properties and the changing composition of the audience. This process was considered a formative phase in the progression of the SAP. This initial planning work and experiments with live performance and exhibition have influenced the trajectory of the research and opened up the opportunities outlined above.