A Background to the Project: Lines and Circles

Some Months Ago

We started thinking about what a performance would be like if it physically moved between different audiences for the duration of a day, for that fundamental measure of time – 24 hours. The opportunity to present a work-in-progress as part of the Forest Fringe Festival in Edinburgh provided us with a suitable fulcrum point to make such a journey. And so, we allowed our performance to be contained in a round-trip there and back – approximately 800 miles of road network to negotiate in line with a number of audience meetings, scheduled in various locations over the 24 hour duration. This would be a circular trip or circuit – a journey that consciously promotes the idea of journey, as opposed to arrival. This journey begins and ends in the same place and just as time returns every 24 hours, so shall we, changed by what has happened. Time and experience understood as a cycle or spiral, which organises our everyday by returning to the same point.

Weeks into The Project

We were drawn to the idea of interconnectivity, being here and simultaneously being there. How could we be in Edinburgh and London at the same time? We saw a documentary on BBC2 about Network Theory, a new branch of science that emerged in the late 1990s. One of the most well known theories is the ‘Six Degrees of Separation’ or ‘Small World Problem’, a notion which dates back to late sixties and proposes that despite our societies’ enormous size and complexity, that it can be navigated relatively easily by following the social links from one person to another – a network of six billion people in which any pair of people are on average six links from each other. And so, motivated by our concerns with liveness, with a certain demand in our work to attempt to ‘be here’, we found ourselves drawn to the idea of physically embodying and following a chain of social links spread out over this island. We began to conduct ‘field research’, we started to journey.

The Way Around

As we began undertaking this ‘field research’ out on the road, across various types of networks, we journeyed in a circle to and from Axminster, Warwick, Hastings…etc. We never arrived at these places despite having been there. We spent very little time in each place; our priority instead was always to keep moving, to try keep up with time. As we met people along the way we allowed them to dictate our path by way of their social network. And so, there has been this tie to a route, a way through the road network to find people and a recognition of the architectures that (dis)allow us to move around. The motorway and road network are our playing space – a vast expansive network spread out over this whole island. We are interested in exploring our human-sized smallness in relation to the apparent vastness of the country and its road networks. You feel this if you have ever had to get out on the hard shoulder – one of those times when you come close, a danger point, realising that cars are in fact machines and we are in fact alive.

The Way of People

In tandem with our experience of the physical journeys has been our experience of ‘journey planning tools’. If we wanted to meet people along the way, we needed to be able to give people a meeting time. Our chosen tool was Google Maps, a web-mapping program that can provide exact journey times based on the precise distance between any two geographical points. However all journey times have to be calculated based on an average speed, and Google maps uses 52mph as its average. An exact journey time which relies upon an average speed? As we travelled in our vehicle along the way we found ourselves inhabiting a gap, a degree of uncertainty between the theory of the journey and the practice of it. We accepted that the success or failure of our journeys could not be understood as a result of (not) adhering to a theoretical timed schedule. In fact we began to accept that, when exploring the grey area between theory and practice, the best result we could hope for was to cope. To cope with unforeseen delays and with the movement of others around us, to cope with the task of communicating what we were happening upon with a remote audience.

Thinking how we might communicate this ‘performance journey’ to our audiences we were drawn to the Internet and making live broadcasts on a site called Ustream.com. The World Wide Web and its ability to make instant, virtual connections with people over any distance is in opposition to the travelling messenger, who physically journeys from one place to the next; on the web distance is compressed and time is quickened. So, this opposition has been emerging between real and virtual space in this project, provoking some fundamental questions for us about how we connect to each other – about how we are with each other?

3rd August 2009

Inspired by Stanley Mailgram’s ‘six degrees of separation’ experiment of 1967, we sent out 50 letters to friends colleagues and family asking them if they wanted to involved in the project by making a chain of links that we would follow. Similarly to the 1967 experiment, the fall out rate has been high, only two chains have begun to emerge and it is one of these that we will be following during the performance. We aim to make six links – to be able to move through a six degree separation between the person we start with and the person we end with. However, it is also possible that the trail will run into a dead end – that we will not be able to continue to make links and meet people. We wonder where we can meet people late at night and if we will be left alone in the dark, we wonder about this?

For the future

The 24 hour journey starts on Thursday 20th August 2009 at 13:00 and finishes on Friday 21st August 2009 at 13:00 where it started, in London. You can find details of the performance on this page, and we welcome you to watch, follow and make contact with us as the time unfolds. This is a work in progress, and we hope to hear your thoughts and comments, as they would help us towards making journeys across networks in the future.


Present Attempt

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