Conversations 5

Frances Barrett

Frances Barrett, Conversations (4 July 2015), 2015, chalk on board. Image courtesy of the artist.

Frances Barrett, Conversations (4 July 2015), 2015, chalk on board. Image courtesy of the artist.


To somewhat resolve Marina’s expectations of wanting to see bodies moving about in the space, I decided to undertake a 12-hour experimentation of the performance I was developing titled Curator with Kaldor Residency Co-Curator, Emma Pike. Curator was intended to be performed in Melbourne over a 24-hour period within the context of a ‘sound’ program, however, I thought the context of the residency and Emma’s already extended role as Curator in this situation would be a safe way to present a draft form of the work. So I emailed Emma a proposition that included the rules and purpose of our engagement, and she accepted.

Between 7am until 7pm on Thursday 2 July 2015 I was blindfolded and under Emma’s care, who took me around with her as part of her ‘usual’ workday at the Pier. Then to conclude the performance at 7pm in front of a live audience, Emma performed and read out my emailed proposition and reflected on her own experience of the performance. Two days later we took some time to reflect on this work and drew up a conversation together that addressed the questions raised and the unresolved aspects of the work.

This experimentation was a direct answer to the request for visible processes, action, and outcomes that Marina and KPAP seemed to be asking for. It was a way to meet their expectations with my own. In the end, I consider this experiment was really beneficial to the work. It enabled me to become familiar with the physicality, reflect on the aesthetic, and develop rules of engagement that I hadn’t already anticipated. Opening up the space for people to engage with my process in an extremely public way was difficult, but Emma’s insights, experience and consideration became a crucial way to strengthen the piece and my practice at large.

Below, I have included the emailed proposition of Curator to Joel and Danni and included a link to the recording of their performance at West Space.


from: Frances Barrett <****>
to: Danni Zuvela <****>,
Joel Stern <****>
date: Wed, Aug 5, 2015 at 7:53 AM
subject: Curator


Dear Joel and Danni –

You both, as the two Artistic Directors of Liquid Architecture, have asked me to participate in a program titled What would a feminist methodology sound like? Your curatorial proposition.

This email, and in turn this conversational thread, is the beginning of my response to this proposition.

What I am proposing is a new work called Curator, and I am asking that both of you realise this work with me.

So let’s go from here to hear.

Here you both are as the Artistic Directors of Liquid Architecture, and you have curated me here*, as an artist into this project.

The word curator originates from the Latin word cūrāre which means to care for, to attend to. You as the two curators of this program have asked me to consider a feminist approach to the creation of a sound work and to the act of listening. So Joel and Danni, Curators, let’s undertake a project together of careful listening and care taking.

I consider a methodology is a process, and a sound to be the outcome of an action. So let’s focus on the processual, and the feminist strategies of collaboration, listening, intimacy, and embodied action to get us there.

I invite you to ‘care for me’ over a 24-hour period. I will cover my eyes so that I will be unable to see throughout this time, which is a form of embodiment that I am unfamiliar with. I propose to be with you between 9pm Thursday 17 September until 9pm Friday 18 September 2015. You will collect me from Melbourne airport on Thursday evening. As soon as we meet, the performance will begin.

I will not talk to you or look at you.
I will not ask you for anything.
I will not direct you towards anything.
I will not suggest anything.
I will be in your presence for a continuous 24-hour period.
I will not carry a phone, any identification, or any money.
I want to be able to touch you for the complete 24-hour period – unless you choose not to on the occasions of sleeping, shitting, showering or pissing.
When you are showering or using the bathroom, you can choose to put me temporarily in the care of another Curator or place my two hands on the wall outside of the room that you will be occupying.
You can choose to show me to the bathroom when you think I need to piss or shit or change my tampon.
You must determine before the performance begins whether I will be menstruating during this time (by email).
You must introduce me to everyone that you engage with over the 24-hour period with this statement:
This is Frances Barrett, she is an artist who is participating in my program, What Does a Feminist Methodology Sound Like? as part of Liquid Architecture. This is her 24-hour performance, Curator.
If there is an emergency then you can choose to explain to me what is going on. I will then determine if the performance ends or not.
If you think I have hurt myself then ask me, Have you hurt yourself? Do you want to end the performance? I will then determine if the performance ends or not.
You will provide a photographer throughout the 24-hour period to document parts of the process.
I will be in your complete care.

In the final hour of this performance I ask that you write an epistolary response to my proposition and to the experience of the work in the form of a reply all email. After which I want you, as Curator, to read both these emails in succession to a live audience in West Space on Friday 18 September 2015. For this reading, I want the photographer to compile a series of images taken of the performance to play in a slide show behind you. I want this final stage of the performance to be video and audio recorded.

In your letter I want you to address what we did across the 24-hour period, how you cared for me, and determine how, in your perspective and with your experience, I have addressed your original proposition. Perhaps it does. Perhaps it doesn’t.

On the conclusion of your reading, you can tell me to open my eyes and that the performance has finished.

From here to hear.
From here, as email. To hear, as script.
From here, as silent artist**. To hear, performing Curator***.

Any questions please do not hesitate to email me. Please note that I consider the negotiations of this performance crucial to keep via email thread.

This is an intimate contract that I hope you are interested in agreeing to.

Sincerely. Always.

Frances Barrett

*Directive for the live performance: Point to me.
**Point to me
*** Point to yourself

Frances Barrett is Runway’s guest blogger for #28 Movement. 

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