Hello, my name is Violet, and I’m a third year student in the Theatre and Performance Department here at Bristol. One of the final year units is ‘Professional Development in Theatre and Performance’, for which students work in partnership with a professional or community organisation to develop their professional skills on a specific project. I chose to work with the Theatre Collection, as an Artist-in-Residence, to create a performance piece based on archives and archival research.
As a third-year Theatre & English student, I’ve been lucky enough to take several units that utilised the archives and knowledge of the Theatre Collections staff. During my degree course, I have looked into the set design for productions of Chekhov’s The Seagull and The Cherry Orchard in ‘Performance Histories’, statoscopes in ‘Immersive and Site-Specific Theatre’ and even a clown costume, believed to be worn by Harry Payne, in ‘Clowning through History’. I was mesmerised by the physical fragments from the past, and the exciting process of research-informed investigation into the greater context of the item and its relation to theatre. These items preserved the liveness and creativity of performance, which is inextricably linked to the theatre makers and the projects they were produced for. This sparked my interest in contacting the Theatre Collection to ask if I could have my placement with the team to learn about archiving, freelancing as an artist and exploring what creative and performative ideas could be inspired by materials in the Collection.
My own interest in theatre is rooted in design. I have experimented with designing set, costume, prop and makeup in theatre units, student productions and my own performance as a drag artist. Most of my previous work revolves around creating dynamic and intriguing performance spaces, experimenting with the bounds of absurdity and authenticity in costume and makeup artistry, and exploring the tension between exaggerated scale and practicality in props.
Before I pursue a postgraduate degree in performance design, I’m taking time to explore various avenues of artistry. As my interest was piqued by my previous encounters with the Collection’s archival materials, so I was intrigued to develop my own artistic practice, informed by researching designers and live art practitioners.
During the first month of my placement, I have taken my time to grasp the historical and contemporary works of live art, such as the work of Ian Smith, Nan Hoover and Crystal Theatre of the Saint. By investigating their creative process, promotional material, and recordings of their performances – with the support of the Theatre Collection team – I have built a foundation of archive research skills to begin my own process of producing a live art performance in early May. Please do look out for updates, as I will be posting regular blogs to show what archive items and artist influences have inspired me, the progression of my creative process and reflections on my placement with the Theatre Collection.