David Overend, A Work on Progress, 2010
This video was filmed by visitors to the studio using camera equipment positioned around the space
A Work on Progress
Documentation and Exegesis
A Work on Progress was a three-hour durational installation presented at the Arches arts centre in Glasgow on 16 and 17 April 2010 as part of the Forest Fringe Micro-Festival . Programmed alongside ‘a carnival of intimate encounters, audio walks, installations, works-in-progress, secret adventures and interactive experiences, including Tim Etchells’ poster installation and the Forest Fringe Travelling Sounds Library, A Work on Progress took place in the studio theatre, separated from the rest of the festival in the Arches’ only designated theatre space.
Visitors to the space encountered an ‘Aladdin’s cave of resources’ , centred around six interactive stations (light, sound, titles, text, costume and computer). Musical instruments, effects machines, projections, sound and light equipment, and various texts filled the space, and these were all available for visitors to use in a variety of undetermined ways. This set up intended to present an open space with the potential for a range of different modes of engagement and relationships with the artwork, the space and its users.
The chronology of the event functioned on various levels as some visitors came and went in minutes, some stayed for hours, while others repeatedly returned for short periods throughout the festival. This chronological complexity makes it difficult to describe the event in temporal terms. It will be more useful here to provide a detailed description of each station. Each section begins with the text that was written on A5 size gallery-style signs on the wall beside each station.
Station #1 Lights 
these are the lights that we already rigged
control them with the faders on the lighting desk
lamps, torches, an overhead projector, and plug sockets around the room
blind us with light
play with the shadows
There were two types of lighting in the studio: lights that had already been rigged and lights that could be moved around the room. The Arches’ own theatre lights are usually controlled from a desk in the control booth above the seating bank, which is only accessible by Arches staff and visiting crew. In A Work on Progress, this computerised lighting desk was replaced with an older version, easily controllable by simple faders. It was also set up in the middle of the room in an area devoted to technical tools, which included the majority of the sound equipment. This lighting was focussed on the different stations beforehand by Davey Thompson, one of the Arches technicians. However, the levels of lighting in the space could be controlled by anyone who felt comfortable using the desk. Our team were on hand to provide assistance where required, but it was evident that many visitors to the space were put off by unfamiliar technical equipment. As one visitor commented, these were ‘quite intimidating [...] things I don’t know how to work with’, which may explain why the lighting desk and the mixer amplifier were not used as much as simpler forms of technology such as lamps and practice amps .
As well as the professional theatre lighting, a number of torches and lamps were available to be moved around the space. The lamps could be plugged into points around the room, and had adjustable heads with their own dimmers attached, so that light could be arranged in various directions and levels of intensity. A range of different lighting states was used, and often when a tangible theatrical performance occurred (if somebody spoke into the microphone or played a guitar for example) others would direct lights towards them, creating temporary ‘stages’ around the room. The lighting also worked with other elements of the space; a torch shone through smoke or a moment of darkness while solemn music was played. This was one of the key areas where visitors to the space worked together to create the overall aesthetic. The simple operation of lighting using the lamps had the potential to significantly affect the atmosphere in the room, yet afforded the anonymity of an operating position removed from the areas where theatrical performances were occurring. Perhaps for this reason moving and controlling the lamps was one of the most popular uses of the space, even though few visitors operated lighting from the desk.
Station #2 Sound 
every sound can be channelled through the mixer amp,
or the smaller amps, which can be moved around the room
don’t worry - it’s very difficult to break them
records, tapes, MP3s, guitars, dictaphones, your own voice...
music players, instruments, microphones, and amps
a cacophony of media, karaoke, instrumentals, soundscapes, songs, speeches, sermons...
The sound equipment consisted of a large mixer amp with two large speakers that could be wheeled around the space in trolleys and three practice amps that could be plugged in around the room. Available inputs included two record players, two radios and several microphones, two electric guitars and three dictaphones / cassette players. There was also a slightly broken, out of tune piano and a selection of percussion instruments. A collection of LPs and cassettes with a variety of musical styles was also provided.
Music played almost all the time and was a significant factor in determining the atmosphere in the room. At times it was played very loudly and had a tendency to dominate the space. Frequently a number of sound outputs existed simultaneously, sometimes complementing each other and at other times in conflict. Poetry spoken through the microphone, a talk show on the radio, a Shirley Bassey record, piano scales and an electric guitar riff, filling the space discordantly.
Station #3 Titles 
the key pad controls the projection of a number from the list...
a slogan choose one at random?
an instruction if you write your own it will soon be added
a call to arms
type the number and press ‘enter’
On the back wall of the studio was a list of titles, numbered from one to two hundred, including blank spaces for visitors to add their own. These titles were entered into a computer programme, which was connected to a projector. By typing a number from the list into a numeric keypad and pressing ‘enter’, the title was projected on the wall above the space. The titles included quotes, ‘#1 Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation’; slogans, ‘#67 Just do it’; and instructions, ‘#130 Please make sure all props and set are returned in a radically altered state’. Visitors also added their own, which were added to the projection before each evening. For example, ‘#140 Get rid of your TV. Burn it. While you’re at it delete facebook’, and ‘#148 Nick for PM’.
These titles were used in several different ways: As framing text, such as ‘#63 This is your brain at the theatre’, projected above the space at one of its messiest, loudest and least coordinated moments; as performance script, scrolled through by one visitor and read out through the microphone by another; or as a sort of textual juke box when someone would sit browsing the list and choosing their favourites, projecting them for short periods before moving on to the next one.
Station #4 Text 
on the table: paper, acetates, cameras, dictaphones
a poem, a story, an essay, a list, a letter, a script, an instruction, a confession, a manifesto, a prediction...
record it, capture it, play it back, leave it behind for somebody else to play with
don’t forget, tomorrow this may be all we have left
In the middle of the space an eight by eight foot area, one foot deep, was used as a repository for texts written on A4 paper, using the pens provided. On a table above this pit were piles of paper, acetates and labels, and a selection of disposable cameras and dictaphones for the event to be recorded. A small monitor and video camera were also available, for past footage of the set up or the previous evening’s action to be screened, or recorded over.
This proved a particularly popular section and prompted a variety of uses. Over the course of the event more and more text was generated, covering a variety of types: lists, stories, confessions, etc. A common use of the space was for visitors to sit on the edge of the pit area and read through what others had written. Occasionally these texts would be read out over the microphone or recorded onto the dictaphones. At the end of the second evening, Kieran Hurley, a previous collaborator, instigated a reading of everything that had been written, one text after the other. This lasted for around half an hour until the end of the event.
Station #5 Costume 
wigs, hats, dresses, trousers, suit jackets, fabric, pens, scissors, a sewing machine...
put them on, take them off, sew them up, cut them to bits, hang them from the ceiling, contribute something to the dressing-up box...
dress more like yourself than you usually do
This station consisted of a rail of costumes from past Arches shows, including ‘madly glam frou-frou costumes’ , alongside wigs and clown suits, a sewing machine and various fabrics, and blank t-shirts with fabric pens for do-it-yourself design. The rail was situated inside an alcove in the wall and a fabric screen was positioned in front of it, creating a dressing room. A mannequin body and separate head displayed costumes and wigs, which were re-dressed several times over the two nights.
For health and safety reasons only our costume designer Christine Halsall was permitted to operate the sewing machine, but on one occasion this rule was broken when a textiles student created a t-shirt, which was subsequently displayed on the mannequin for most of the event. The costume station was not used extensively, but there were several occasions when people dressed up and made costumes. Home made t-shirts were also added to the rail, with various pictures and slogans.
Station #6 Computer 
an internet browser, word processors, a selection of videos on the desktop...
all connected to a projector
press ‘escape’ and project something else
find the words to a song, write a monologue, tweet, stream a video, check your email...
We are all connected. Anything is possible!
A laptop was connected to a large ten by seven foot projected image, so that users could interact with the word programme, DVD player and Internet. Having met several times with the technical department, purchased an Internet cable and persuaded the technicians to spend a considerable amount of time installing an internet point in the studio, it was disappointing that in the end technical difficulties meant that this was not possible. Our solution was to provide a selection of films on DVD, which played for the majority of the event.
During the development of A Work on Progress I had set up a test version in the university’s theatre studio. The internet that was in operation for this development work proved particularly popular, with visitors selecting videos on YouTube and finding images and lyrics to songs. In the Arches, without the interactive possibilities of the web, the computer remained an underused station and film was played for long periods without changing. However, the film often prompted activity in other areas of the space. For example, in response to Breakfast at Tiffany’s, one visitor added to the collection of texts by writing ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a shockingly misogynistic film. Fuck off Paul Varjak!’ 
Outside the studio
Between the studio and the main space of the festival, which centred round the Middle Bar, the dance arch was used as an extension of A Work on Progress. Using the video set up for the club night that followed, we screened a live feed from the studio across six monitors. Before or after spending time in the studio, visitors could therefore watch the event as it happened.
Also in this space, beside the entrance to the studio I provided a leather armchair and a table with reading materials including a number of books that I had read in the development of the project such as Nicolas Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics , as well as the programme and a document explaining the research context. A comments book and questionnaire were also available.
Alongside the six stations were snow, bubble and smoke machines, which could be operated by control pads hanging down from the rig. These proved very popular as the various effects could be controlled at the push of a button. As with my earlier project, Midland Street, filling the space with snow and bubbles seemed to immediately instigate a childish playfulness and many visitors danced under the snow, gathering handfuls of foam and catching the bubbles as they drifted.
The snow, bubbles and smoke also worked alongside the other elements in the space in a number of unexpected ways and often seemed to draw everything together. At one point a visitor shone a torch light through the smoke and whenever the bubbles drifted behind the projection screen they cast a shadow onto the projection of the films that were playing. On the second night the smoke machine broke, so only snow and bubbles were available.
A key feature of the event was the tiered staging configuration. Starting at floor level by the entrance to the space we positioned the majority of the technical equipment and an area of turf to stop the snow causing a slipping hazard. This raised a few inches onto flat section of steel decking, which led up to a foot high platform with trolleys containing the speakers and various amps, radios and records. Above this, against the back wall, the staging was two feet high including the drop from the text table down into the floor level ‘pit’ where the paper accumulated. The costume area was at ground level at the back of the space. Raising the majority of the stations above floor level meant that to interact with the space visitors were required to step up onto a sort of stage, framing everything that happened as a performance and discouraging a passive spectator position.
 Forest Fringe, www.forestfringe.co.uk [accessed 20 April 2011].
 Mary Brennan, ‘Forest Fringe Microfestival, Arches, Glasgow’, The Herald, Review, 20 April 2010, www.heraldscotland.com/arts-ents/stage-visual-arts/forest-fringe-microfestival-arches-glasgow-1.1021782 [accessed 23 April 2010].
 Experimenting with lighting sources
All photographs either by Sophie Malleson or James Baster (www.doubtlesshouse.org.uk)
 All quotations from research assistants or members of the creative team are taken from the transcripts of two group discussions with three research assistants who were appointed to attend the event and reflect on the experience, or Chris Hall (Creative Assistant) and Christine Halsall (Costume Designer), April 2010.
As I developed A Work on Progress, I collaborated with several artists who had regularly presented work at the Arches, and the in-house technical team that had worked with me on my previous practice-as-research projects. A small amount of funding was available from the visual art budget to employ the musician and sound artist Iain Campbell, who was not present at the event, but contributed significantly to the music and sound set up, supplying the majority of the equipment. Due to the complicated technical requirements, I worked very closely with technician and performer Chris Hall, who worked as Creative Assistant on this project. Hall’s thorough understanding of my research and practice was invaluable to the development process as we developed the concept and sourced equipment. I was also supported by several student volunteers from the Theatre, Film and Television Studies Department at the University of Glasgow.
At all times during the event there were members of this small creative team on hand to ensure health and safety regulations were maintained and to provide assistance in using the equipment. However, the aim was that our own involvement would support visitors’ interactions with the stations, rather than imposing any sort of pre-rehearsed performance on the space. Over the course of the two nights of the festival, there was a gradual accumulation of user-generated material. Traces of previous interactions remained: in texts thrown down into a pit in the middle of the room, in a series of titles written on the back wall and in the increasingly entangled wires and rearranged equipment.
A Work on Progress aspired to the condition of ‘interdisciplinary experimentation’, which finds its precedent in the work of artists such as John Cage and Merce Cunningham at the Black Mountain College.  Cage’s untitled event in 1952 operated through a ‘radical interdisciplinary juxtaposition of dance, visual arts, music/sound, and poetry and text readings’. However, while Cage brought together a group of artists from various disciplines, A Work on Progress explored the possibility of removing the professional artist from the space altogether. The environment that we created in the studio was intended to provide an open and relational performance text, with the potential for a range of different modes of engagement, possibilities for interaction and relationships with the event.
The project is informed by Nicolas Bourriaud’s concept of ‘relational aesthetics’; a model in which the role of artworks is ‘no longer to form imaginary and utopian realities, but to actually be ways of living and models of action within the existing real’.  Relational artworks operate through meetings, encounters and events, as opposed to the object-based art of paintings and sculptures.  The application of a relational aesthetic model to the development of performance practice arises from Bourriaud’s rejection of theatre as a suitable relational artform. For Bourriaud, unlike the performance of exhibition-based relational art, theatre brings together ‘small groups’ of people ʻbefore specific, unmistakable imagesʼ and offers no opportunity for live discussion during the event.  Relational theatre events such as A Work on Progress challenge this position, exploring ways in which theatre can operate through a relational performance aesthetic in which discussion, interactivity and participation replace the ‘specific, unmistakable imagesʼ of the theatre rejected by Bourriaud.
A Work on Progress was part of a larger research project conducted at the Arches between 2007 and 2010, with the aim of developing a ‘relational theatre practice’ (hereafter, RTP) in response to a specific cultural site. Using practice-as-research, the project suggests ways in which artists working in residence at an arts venue can make work that uses, makes evident and contributes to what Bourriaud describes as the ‘space of relations’ that exists within every site.  In previous projects, I worked with guided tours of the site (Underneath the Arches, 2009) and developed a performance for the Arches’ night club (Midland Street, 2009). In all of my previous work, my research findings were dependent on the ways in which the audience took an active role in determining the outcome of the event. As Bourriaud asks, ‘why wouldn’t the meaning of a work have as much to do with the use one makes of it as with the artist’s intentions for it?’  Focussing on the practices and relationships of the audience as opposed to the structures and content of a performance text is an important analytical approach for RTP.
In this final practice-as-research project, one of the key aims was to explore the possibility of developing an analytical model for RTP based on observation of the various strategies of use that operated during the event. Several methods were therefore employed to observe and record data. For example, in addition to the creative team, I employed three research assistants who observed the variety of ways that visitors to the studio engaged with the stations and each other. This was invaluable in identifying the different types of relationship that emerged during the event, which I discuss later in this exegesis, including individual interactions with the equipment, collective creative practice through impromptu performances, disengagement from the event and antagonistic relations with the performance aesthetic such as disruption of others’ performances. The performance aesthetic was therefore produced by users of the stations through their engagement with the space.
In the following exegesis, I identify the individual and collective uses of the stations, relating the relational aesthetic of the performance to the wider production processes of RTP. The aim of the project is to recognise the tensions and contradictions involved in presenting this work within the wider institutional structures of a commercial arts venue. Ultimately, RTP is intended to operate through an aesthetic that is determined by the input of its users.
For Bourriaud, daily life is constituted by a ‘chaotic mass of objects, names, and references’, and the challenge for artists is to find a way of producing ‘meaning’ from this ‘precarious’ social realm.  Bourriaud’s concept of ‘postproduction’ introduces a particular formal strategy in which artists refuse to accept the cultural products offered by capitalist society and, like Michel de Certeau’s ‘users’ of everyday life, resist power systems from within. These artists, like DJs, web surfers and film editors, are ‘semionauts’, producing original pathways through signs. By employing this model, A Work on Progress aimed to use the shift that informs ‘postproduction’ from an aesthetic based on representation to an aesthetic that incorporates the material conditions of cultural production. In this way, the ‘supplier/client relations’ of theatre were challenged and an alternative practice was suggested, which aspires to operate through alternative modes of currency to those of the commercial market. 
In a similar way to de Certeau’s ‘users’ of everyday life, this approach offers a way for participants to ‘inhabit’ various cultural forms, making them their own.  This relates strategies of use to modes of production and reception, as the work of art operates as a context for the creative practices of ‘users’, who engage with performance as an act of ‘everyday creativity’.  The aim of relational aesthetics lies in ‘art's capabilities of resistance within the overall social arena’, rather than through the direct criticism of society from the basis of illusory marginality.  However, Bourriaud reformulates postmodern understandings of resistance by introducing a particular strategy based on use rather than representation.
Rejecting the assumption that seated, silent audiences are necessarily ‘passive’, Jacques Rancière posits an active role comprised of observation, selection, comparison and interpretation.  The Emancipated Spectator poses a significant challenge to Bourriaud’s conception of theatre.  Rather than precluding the possibility of ‘see(ing)’, ‘perceiv(ing)’, ‘comment(ing)’ and ‘evolv(ing)’, the ‘specific sociability’ called for by Bourriaud is revealed to be a constant possibility during theatre performances.  For Rancière, theatre audiences are ‘emancipated’ as they are re-conceived as ‘active participants in a collective performance instead of being passive viewers’.  Theatre audiences, then, are already engaging in a relational artistic experience. However, despite recent shifts in understanding of the role of the spectator in contemporary theatre (see also Dan Rebellato) , in many ways, questions of representation and illusion have dominated contemporary theatre practices, many of which have their roots in postmodern cultural strategies. While the insights of Rancière have made a significant impact on the way that traditional theatre is understood, RTP aims to extend the interpretative role of the audience identified by Rancière, to develop a theatre that operates through a hands-on engagement with the space of relations. 
For Hans-Thies Lehmann, because theatre is not easily commodified, because it does not produce a ‘tangible object’, its mass media potential is limited in a world that is defined by the ‘primarily passive consumption of images and data’.  For Lehmann, theatre relies on ‘active energies of imagination’ and as the cultural sector becomes increasingly driven by marketability and profitability, theatre has only managed to co-exist alongside more technically advanced media through ‘postdramatic’ tactics of self-reflexivity.  However, there is a real danger that practices that move away from the traditional audience-performer separation are assumed to be automatically progressive. There is an unacknowledged paradox in Lehmann’s theory: On the one hand theatre is conceived as inherently resistant to commodification, due to its liveness and ephemerality, while on the other the tactics of the postdramatic theatre are explicitly identified as prompted by the demands of the cultural market.
In any attempt to provide an alternative to the relationships of the commercial market, there is always a risk of simply reinforcing the structures of capitalist society that such work is trying to distance itself from. Philip Auslander highlights this problem by referring to Jacques Derrida’s argument that in attempting to ‘change terrain’ and place oneself outside the systems that are being critiqued, there is a great danger of ‘inhabiting more naively and more strictly than ever the inside one declares one has deserted’.  Stewart Martin criticises relational aesthetics on similar grounds as the commercial context of relational art is not addressed by Bourriaud, who fails to explain ‘how the form of relational art relates to or opposes the commodity form or the value form’.  As a result, relational aesthetics risks becoming ‘a naive mimesis or aestheticisation of novel forms of capitalist exploitation’, which fails to interrogate the relationship between relational art and the systems of capitalist exchange that it is presented within. 
Bourriaud makes an assumption that the value systems of the ‘general economy’ remain separate from those of the relational artwork’s ‘own economy’.  Martin problematises this position, arguing that ‘the social exchange of relational art [is] subjected to the dominant social relations of capitalist exchange’.  The implication of this is that the ‘micro-utopias’ proposed by Bourriaud should be reinterpreted in terms of a ‘dialectical theory of commodification and art’.  Martin therefore suggests that much of the work discussed by Bourriaud might be better understood ‘as an immanent critique of capitalist exchange relations’ as opposed to an autonomous artistic space. 
For Ric Knowles, in many contemporary theatre productions ‘radical, experimental, or political content, at the conscious thematic level, is undercut or constrained by the delivery system itself, which packages any content as a product for consumption, and which thereby reinscribes and naturalises ideologies of consumer society’.  ‘Postdramatic’ theatrical forms often fall into this trap. Liz Tomlin argues that presenting a self-reflexive, subjective, poetics is not in itself enough to escape the forces of controlling systems and authorial hierarchies. There is a seductive quality to postmodern discourses that we should guard against in order to avoid the authority of the narrative freedom that they offer, lest they should ‘represent, by default, the new “grand”, or dominant, narrative, due to the millions of voices left without the resources, or the cultural credibility, to answer back’.  Postmodernism creates its own totalising narratives and often runs the risk of strengthening the controlling systems that it attempts to distance itself from.
A Work on Progress therefore aims to move beyond the conception of resistant cultural practice developed through postmodernism and postdramatic theatre. Knowles argues that ‘whatever the nature, content, or conscious theme of the production, as product, and as the record of a particular ideologically coded process, its central and essentially capitalist message is inscribed virtually by necessity, within the system itself, and as such it tends to be overwhelmingly culturally affirmative’.  The implication of this is that if an alternative cultural model can be located in RTP, it has to go further than simply mapping its position within the systems of commerce that contain and determine it; it has to go further than simply using commerce as its subject.
Currency and Production
The Forest Fringe Micro-Festival was a ticketed event. For ten pounds, or a concession rate of five pounds, visitors gained access to three of the main arches and several basement rooms as well as the studio where A Work on Progress took place. Although a series of development workshops had indicated a range of ‘currencies’ operating in theatre- including applause, time and labour - money is the hard, tangible currency that pays for theatre production.  Processes of capitalist production therefore determine the entire experience.  As David Greig points out, money functions dramaturgically in this sense as ‘the theatrical experience becomes shaped [...] so as to best get our money from us’.  Despite the relatively small returns on an event that would have cost the Arches a great deal more in associated costs such as technical support and marketing, the commercially orientated business structures of the Arches necessitated an entry fee.
However, the purchase of a ticket for a theatre performance is about more than an abstracted financial transaction. The purchase of a ticket for the festival has implications for the emotional and artistic investment in the event as well as setting the financial value for access to the programme. Knowles’ materialist semiotic analysis of the conditions of theatre reception pays little attention to this important initial transaction, which is arguably the most significant material condition determining theatrical experience in modern times.
The Forest Fringe was started in 2006 by Debbie Pearson and Andy Field as an Edinburgh Festival venue presenting low-budget theatre for free as an alternative to the increasing ‘McDonaldisation’ of the Edinburgh Fringe.  An anti-commercial politics has always been at the heart of the company and this remains the case as the micro-festivals toured the UK throughout 2010. However, significantly, the company now receives funding from various sources including the Arts Council of England. Although the Forest Fringe continues to redefine itself and to question its place within the wider context of funding structures and commercial demands, the nominal entry fee to the event at the Arches perhaps suggests a contradictory system, in which a conventional supplier/client relationship remains in place despite the politics of the company. 
However, despite the commercial framework for this event, rather than the capitalist labour division between performers and audience members that Nicholas Ridout identifies in traditional Western theatre, this project required a reassessment of these roles.  As Creative Assistant, Chris Hall, commented during focus group discussions after the event, with A Work on Progress, ‘as much as you put in you’ll get out; if you don’t want to put anything in that’s fine, but you’re just going to get a room full of stuff’.  The event demanded an effort from its audience in order to make anything happen and in so doing, the role of audience was merged with that of producer of the performance aesthetic.
This dynamic created a sort of tension which, as observed by one of the research assistants, made some visitors feel ‘a scary self-conscious embarrassment [due to] the responsibility you have for yourself’. The rules of what was required of visitors to the space were not immediately clear and this resulted in ‘a sense of people skirting round the edges and gathering by the door’. This uneasiness was expressed by one of the research assistants who described her own reaction to the event:
I thought it was fun in a tentative sort of way. It almost felt like the room represented fun with all the crazy, amazing things that you had in it. But that somehow it wasn’t .. Am I actually allowed to have fun? And feeling a little bit scared, and how much I can and can’t do.
For many participants, this feeling seemed to be the initial position on entering the space. This was largely due to my decision to raise the floor so that the majority of the room became a sort of stage, and the absence of a seating bank or any sort of safe zone from which a separated spectator position could be adopted, apart from that outside the studio.
A Work on Progress took place alongside a variety of simultaneous performance events, including Tim Etchells’ poster installation, a ‘research map’ for Third Angel’s What I Heard About the World, and the Forest Fringe Travelling Sounds Library. These events continued throughout the event and provided an additional mode of access to A Work on Progress, which positioned the activities taking place within the studio within a wider field of performances, many of which had a relational dimension.  Visitors to the studio therefore had the option of encountering several performances, and A Work on Progress offered an experience that could be continually returned to throughout the night as the aesthetic of the studio shifted and developed. The experience of alternating between different audience experiences and contributing to the aesthetic of the performances was integral to the festival.
Inside the studio the set up created a barrier for some visitors, who did not feel able, or did not wish, to participate when faced with ‘quite intimidating... things I don’t know how to work with’. However, the event began to work as visitors gradually moved beyond this barrier and made an effort to engage with the stations. As one of the research assistants observed, ‘when people first come in they do just want to stand back and watch and then they get involved when they see what’s going on’. The performance aesthetic was therefore created by the labour of those visitors who were willing to give to the project in ways that moved far beyond the initial financial transaction at the box office. This dynamic manifested itself in a number of different performance modes, from karaoke songs and guitar solos to disco dancing and costume displays.
It is important to recognise that the modes of performance available to users were limited by the decisions that I had already made with the creative team and by the equipment that we had made available. For example, there were usually a number of performances with various musical accompaniment taking place simultaneously. This was due to the large number of amplifiers, microphones and instruments, and the provision of staging all over the studio rather than in just one location. If the stage area had been smaller and the equipment limited, it is likely that a very different performance style would have developed. Furthermore, as Claire Bishop points out, ‘every artwork - even the most “open-ended” - determines in advance the type of participation that the viewer may have within it’.  Apart from the occasional occurrence of rehearsed performance, such as the recital of poems or the performance of songs, the majority of uses of the stage and microphones was for impromptu, improvised performance.
Strategies of Use in A Work on Progress
Following A Work on Progress, I arranged two focus group discussions. The first was with two members of the creative team, who had been closely involved with the project in the weeks leading up to the event. The second was with the three research assistants who were familiar with the research context but who were not directly involved with the development of the practice. These discussions were key to identifying the different types of relationships that emerged over the two nights of the festival. Another important means of researching the outcomes of the event was the gathering of feedback from participants. This involved a number of forms including a questionnaire and comments book. These were used by a small number of visitors, which provided some valuable comments but by no means a comprehensive account. A far more useful method of gathering responses was through analysis of the hundreds of texts generated by users throughout the event. The writing and pictures contributed to the text area and the titles added to the list of the back wall, as well as texts on t-shirts, acetates and labels, all provided a wealth of textual input. We also recorded hours of footage using two video cameras, and this provided film from different stages of the event. Two short newspaper reviews were also useful in providing a critical overview of the event within the wider context of the festival. 
Using all of these sources, I have built up a picture of the different types of relationship that emerged during A Work on Progress. The discussion that follows is not intended to provide a definitive, exclusive or exhaustive typology of relationships, but rather to indicate the variety of ways in which visitors engaged with the stations. Visitors to the studio theatre were observed moving between various modes of engagement. The methodology employed to gather data on the use of the space during the event was intentionally interpretative and does not use statistical analysis. The implication of this is that my own subjective account of the event is the primary means by which this exegesis is conducted. This has resulted in a post event reflection rather than an ‘in progress’ account of the generation of data during the event. Practice-as-research might benefit from a more rigorous empirical methodology. However, it is assumed in this case that the insights of the artist as researcher will provide valuable research findings. In this way the event prompts theoretical reflection, which is in itself considered an important function of the use of artistic practice in a research context.
Many visitors interacted with the stations on an individual level as users, and would spend time exploring each station, perhaps playing an LP or contributing to the text area. On one occasion, a visitor entered the space and immediately picked up one of the guitars, which he played for several minutes before engaging with the rest of the stations.  Similarly, the text area was used on an individual basis by visitors who sat on the edge of the pit reading what others had written, before adding their own texts to the growing pile of paper.
Frequently this individual engagement became part of a communal aesthetic, as it was prompted by other activity. For example, several times when one person was playing a guitar or speaking into the microphone, someone else rearranged the lighting to illuminate the performance. On these occasions the event began to operate through the formation of temporary communities, which were either self-contained or permeable. Self-contained communities occurred whenever visitors entered the studio in groups of two or more, and engaged with the stations exclusively within these previously formed groups. One of the research assistants observed a lot of this type of relationship:
The way that I saw people was often people sticking together in their little groups of friends and doing things with their little group of friends. But it did feel as though when one person would go and do something they would look for reassurance to their friends and it was like that little group were having their moment of performance. But it never felt to me that they were engaging with the other group in the other corner having their own little moment.
Despite this observation, there was also evidence of more permeable communities, which formed on those occasions when interaction occurred between previously unconnected individuals or groups in order to work together to produce something. For example, half way through the second night, someone had put a 1980s disco track on the record player and a small group, myself included, took the opportunity to dance together. Responding to this, someone adjusted the lighting state and someone else projected the title ‘House party, 4.52am. Keep it going, keep it up’, thus framing the activity as a performance as well as aligning themselves with this temporary community.
These moments, of which there were many, could be understood as examples of Félix Guattari’s ‘eco-logic’, which resembles the way in which ‘an artist may be led to alter his work after the intrusion of some accidental detail, an event-incident that suddenly makes his initial project bifurcate, making it drift [dérivier] far from its previous path, however certain it had once appeared to be’.  A Work on Progress operated through a whole series of event-incidents, as common objectives emerged from a multiplicity of individual and collective creative expressions and experimentations. 
However, it is problematic to portray RTP as a utopian vision of communal experience. Alongside the successful relationships of the work, a common reaction was an unwillingness or refusal to participate. Several visitors were observed entering the space, briefly looking around and then leaving again. One commented ‘I don’t feel comfortable with this sort of thing’. I had anticipated this reaction and made a great deal of effort to create an environment in which participation was not compulsory, setting up several performance areas in the space that could be entered into by choice. However, disengagement from the artwork was a common reaction, which is difficult to measure and problematic to any work that claims a democratic concern to ‘give everyone their chance’. 
An important distinction should be made here: choosing not to take part in the performance is a different thing to not being able to take part it in. One represents agency; the other exclusion. The Arches’ audience are selected by geographical location, programming decisions, ticketing and marketing strategies, etc. and as a result there will always be an ‘outside’ to the different groups that use the venue.  As Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe point out, exclusions are an inevitable part of any social group, but this should not prevent the pursuit of utopian ideals of democracy or transgression. The artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, whose work is discussed by Bourriaud as operating through a relational aesthetic, supports this pursuit of ideals:
Even if it is illusory and utopian, what matters is introducing a sort of equality, assuming the same capacities, the possibility of an equal relationship, between me - at the origins of an arrangement, a system - and others, allowing them to organise their own story in response to what they have just seen, with their own references. 
The key word here is ‘possibility’. Within the previously selected community of Forest Fringe and Arches audiences, the possibility was always there for festival-goers to engage with the work in a variety of ways, including a reactionary or antagonistic relationship with the performance.
For example, in response to the projection of the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s above the space, one visitor added to the collection of texts by writing ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a shockingly misogynistic film. Fuck off Paul Varjak!’. In this case, an individual statement was made in relation to another element of the event. Elsewhere, when group activity materialised, there was evidence of playful subversion of the communal aesthetic. This frequently took the form of music being turned up to drown out spoken text, or lights being turned off on impromptu performances. Hal Foster urges the political artist to resist the ‘processes and apparatuses’ of their context, and not to simply represent them, and here this resistant practice extended beyond the artist to the participation of ‘users’ of the artwork. 
However, the establishment of any constant or fixed form performance aesthetic in the context of a relational artwork has connotations of fixing and controlling the space, because it can potentially be extremely difficult for any individual to react against any dominant group aesthetic. At the end of the second night my regular collaborator, Kieran Hurley, began a reading into a microphone of all the texts that had been written during the event. This prompted Chris Hall into taking another microphone and joining in. As one of my colleagues played a piano accompaniment and another, dancing to the music, shouted out titles as they were projected onto the back wall I joined in myself, plugging another microphone into a practice amp and reading texts at the same time as Hurley and Hall. At this stage in the event almost everyone engaging with the work had prior involvement with it and their own agendas for its success, however that might be measured.
In some ways, this group performance could be considered inimical to the aims of RTP. A clear hegemonic relational system established itself, in which the performance aesthetic was dominated by a group of people who were familiar with the project, the Arches and each other. For Laclau and Mouffe, a hegemony forms when ‘a particular social force assumes the representation of a totality that is radically incommensurable with it’, and at this moment in the event, the performing group did exercise a certain hegemonic dominance over the space.  However, even if the studio can be considered a ‘totality’, there is no evidence to suggest that the performance instigated by Hurley was ‘radically incommensurable’ with the practices of the other people in the room at that time.
 Jacques Derrida, ‘The Ends of Man’, Margins of Philosophy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982) p.135; Cited in Philip Auslander, ‘Toward a Concept of the Political in Postmodern Theatre’, Theatre Journal 39(1) (The John Hopkins University Press, 1987) pp.20-34, p.24.
 Stewart Martin, ‘Critique of Relational Aesthetics’, Third Text 21(4) (July 2007) pp.369-386, p.371.
 Liz Tomlin, ‘Transgressing Boundaries: Postmodern Performance and the Tourist Trap’, The Drama Review 43(2) (1999) pp.136-149, p.147.
 The performances that were devised during this workshop can be viewed at web.me.com/davidoverend/David_Overend/commerce.html [accessed 23 April 2011]
 Many critics have articulated a sense that theatre has a very problematic position within the structures of capitalism: Caridad Svich discusses how limitations are imposed before creative work can begin; (‘Theatre in Crisis? Living memory in an unstable time’, in Theatre in Crisis?: Performance manifestos for a new century, ed. by Meria M. Delgado and Caridad Svich (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002) pp.15-19, p.15); and Roberta Levitow observes how ‘the corporate model has demeaned the making of theatre from art form to consumer product’ (Meria M. Delgado and Caridad Svich, ‘Some Words About Theatre Today’ (2002) pp.25-31, p.29). As the reviewer Michael Billington points out, ‘if you start to play the numbers game, theatre is vulnerable: it cannot easily compete with the mass-audiences commanded by film, television, popular music’ (Meria M. Delgado and Caridad Svich, ‘The State of Reviewing Today’ (2002) pp.54-57, p.55)
 David Greig, ‘The Actress and the Bishop’, paper presented at the Tramway, Glasgow, November 2004, as part of Suspect Culture’s Strange Behaviour symposium on ‘Theatre and the World of Money’, www.suspectculture.com/content/microsites/strangebehaviour/money_greig.html [accessed 23/04/11].
 Nicholas Ridout, Stage Fright, Animals and Other Theatrical Problems (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006) p.64.
 All quotations from research assistants or members of the creative team are taken from the transcripts of two group discussions with three research assistants who were appointed to attend the event and reflect on the experience, or Chris Hall (Creative Assistant) and Christine Halsall (Costume Designer), April 2010.
 For example, in Stadium Rock’s First Up Best Dressed, visitors were invited to participate in an ‘interactive-clothes-swap-party-installation’, in which items of clothing could be exchanged throughout the night, complete with a tag telling ‘its story’ (Xana Marwick, ‘Stadium Rock’, www.mynameisxana.co.uk/page2.htm (accessed 22/03/11))
 See Brennan, 2010; and Jay Richardson, ‘Theatre Review: Forest Fringe, The Arches, Glasgow’, The Scotsman, 18/04/10, thescotsman.scotsman.com/features/Theatre-review-Forest-Fringe-The.6235542.jp (accessed 07/05/10)
 Ernesto Laclau & Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics 2nd edition, London: Verso, 2001 , p.xviii
 Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, ‘Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno in Conversation with Jean-Christophe Royoux’, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno Exhibition Catalogue, Paris: Musée d’art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1998, p.82; Cited in Bourriaud, 2001, p.19
 Hal Foster, ‘For a Concept of the Political in Contemporary Art’, Recodings: Art, Spectacle, Cultural Politics, Port Townsend, WA: Bay Press, 1985, p.153
 Nicolas Bourriaud, Postproduction: Culture as Screenplay: How Art Reprograms the World (New York: Lukas & Sternberg, 2001) p.17; Nicolas Bourriaud, The Radicant (New York: Lukas & Sternberg, 2009) p.87.
 Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, (London: University of California Press, 1984) p.xiv.
 Jacques Rancière, ‘The Emancipated Spectator’, Artforum International 45(7) (2007) pp.271-80, p.277.
 Dan Rebellato rejects the assumption that illusion defines the experience of ‘representational theatre’ (theatre in which ‘people and things on stage represent other people and things’). See ‘When We Talk of Horses: Or, what do we see when we see a play?’, Performance Research 14(1) (2009) pp.17-28, p.18.
 Scott deLahunta, ‘Virtual Reality and Performance’, PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 24(1)(2002) pp.105-114, p.106.
Power and Resistance
For Bourriaud, the important question to ask of contemporary art is no longer ‘what can we make that is new?’, but rather ‘how can we make do with what we have?’  A Work on Progress adopted this approach as the ways in which users engaged with the stations were determined by the context that we had already established. This reflects the wider structures in which my practice-as-research took place in the Arches as various material conditions, including the allocation of space, funding criteria and programming decisions all determined the nature of my practice.
For Bourriaud, following Guattari, any attempt to directly ‘transform’ the conditions of capitalist production is bound to fail.  However, the ‘molecular’ strategies of Guattari, which inform the aesthetic models proposed by Bourriaud, are predicated on the gradual change that is possible through multiple relational processes operating within systems of control. There is a strong connection here to de Certeau, who argues for critical attention on ‘the thousands of people who buy a health magazine, the consumers of newspaper stories and of legends’, to shift to questions of how these systems are used, not just what they are, or how often they are experienced. De Certeau asks ‘what do they make of what they ‘absorb’, receive, and pay for? What do they do with it?’  The distinction that de Certeau makes between ‘strategies’ as fixed power-systems, and ‘tactics’ as everyday resistant practices, is framed within rigorous institutional frameworks and systems, such as those of urban planning. De Certeau presents these systems as solid but endows their users with a high degree of agency in gradually ‘eroding’ and ‘displacing’ them. 
A comparison could be made here with the strategies of the Arches institutional systems and the tactics of RTP. However, the relationship between power and resistance is now widely understood to be far more complex than de Certeau’s theory suggests. As Doreen Massey argues, de Certeau presents a problematic dichotomy between ‘power in society as monolithic order on the one hand and the tactics of the weak on the other’.  Massey’s primary objection is to de Certeau’s equation of power as spatial and resistance as temporal, a dichotomy that is significantly problematised by a theory of space as constantly in process. 
There is also a danger, as Phil Smith points out, that the tactics of the weak are assumed to be resistant tout court. Smith argues that a number of influential theorists of the everyday make an assumption ‘that the qualities of the everyday are by their very nature resistant to power, automatically subversive’.  Smith includes Guattari in this warning, and this is worth bearing in mind; the wide range of ‘expressions and experimentations’ that Guattari calls forward to ‘eat into the semiology of the dominant order’ should not be simply assumed to constitute a revolutionary politics.  RTP, then, can not assume a progressive politics through its stratagem of use. Ultimately, its value can only be derived through exegesis of the individual and collective uses that visitors made of the artwork.
Bourriaud also falls into the trap identified by Massey and Smith, as Bishop points out. Bishop criticises relational aesthetics for its assumption that the relationships that it operates through are democratic by their very nature. The criteria of aesthetic judgement proposed by Bishop is therefore concerned with a thorough analysis of the individual circumstances of the relationships that are created through artistic practice:
The tasks facing us today are to analyse how contemporary art addresses the viewer and to assess the quality of the audience relations it produces: the subject position that any work presupposes and the democratic notions it upholds, and how these are manifested in our experience of the work. 
With this criteria in mind, this exegesis has focussed on the relationships that have been produced at an individual level. It is important to avoid assumptions about inherent democratic qualities.
The variety of ways in which visitors to the studio engaged with the space is indicative of a performance aesthetic that is determined by the individual and communal creative practice of its users. In this way, A Work on Progress focusses on the relationships of theatre production in order to suggest an alternative to the supplier/client relations of the commercial market.  Employing Bourriaud’s stratagem of use, this project develops the representational strategies of postmodernism and postdramatic theatre, incorporating the material conditions of its own production process into the aesthetic of the performance.
Discussing ‘postproduction’ artists such as Rirkrit Tiravanija, Bourriaud observes that the chaos of a constantly changing social environment ‘is preexisting, and they operate from the midst of it’.  This notion of form emerging from the surrounding chaos is encapsulated in Loveless, an album by the Irish band My Bloody Valentine. As Bourriaud explains, ‘within an undifferentiated aural chaos of electric guitars, the melody of each piece seemed to emerge by a series of subtractions, by emptying out, as if carved from some dense, preexisting magma’.  Perhaps this is the model by which relationships are able to form in contemporary urban life: for a brief moment, from the chaos of a precarious urban milieu, relational elements align. While the chaos of A Work on Progress, and indeed all of my practice-as-research projects at the Arches, was contained within the predetermined context of the artwork and the preexisting site of the Arches, this work suggests the possibility of a performance aesthetic developing from this relational dynamic. This model of relationship formation echoes Guattari’s description of the way that social movements should be conceived; as temporary alignments of autonomous individuals. In an urban environment that closes down relationships and breaks down signs and ideologies into a ‘precarious chaos’, relationships can be understood as ‘singular, exceptional and rare’ expressions of ‘sensibility, intelligence and desire’. 
However, these ‘singular’ expressions are understood by Guattari as operating within the systems of Integrated World Capitalism.  My practice has therefore aimed to address the tension between the democratic, utopian aspirations of RTP, and the commercial context that such work takes place within. Incorporating the production process into the ‘here and now’ of performance, A Work on Progress aimed to establish a dialectical relationship with the organisational structures of the Arches, and their place within the ‘general economy’.  Rather than attempting to create an autonomous social realm that resists the commercial relationships of capitalist society, as with Bourriaud’s ‘micro-utopias’, the aim has been to find ways of incorporating the commercial context of the site into the relational performance aesthetic. 
Philip Auslander, ‘Toward a Concept of the Political in Postmodern Theatre’, Theatre Journal 39(1) (The John Hopkins University Press, 1987) pp.20-34.
Michael Billington, ‘The State of Reviewing Today’ in Theatre in Crisis?: Performance Manifestos for a New Century, ed. by Meria M. Delgado and Caridad Svich (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002) pp.54-57.
Claire Bishop, ‘Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics’, October 110 (Fall) (2004) pp.51-79.
Claire Bishop, Installation Art: A Critical History (New York: Routledge, 2005).
Nicolas Bourriaud, Postproduction: Culture as Screenplay: How Art Reprogrammes the World (New York: Lukas & Sternberg, 2001).
Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics (Dijon: Les Presses du Réel, 2002).
Nicolas Bourriaud, The Radicant (New York: Lukas & Sternberg, 2009).
Mary Brennan, ‘Forest Fringe Microfestival, Arches, Glasgow’, The Herald, Review, 20 April 2010, www.heraldscotland.com/arts-ents/stage-visual-arts/forest-fringe-microfestival-arches-glasgow-1.1021782 [accessed 23 April 2010]
Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life (London: University of California Press, 1984).
Scott deLahunta, ‘Virtual Reality and Performance’, PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 24(1) (2002) pp.105-114.
Jacques Derrida, ‘The Ends of Man’, Margins of Philosophy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982).
Hal Foster, ‘For a Concept of the Political in Contemporary Art’, Recodings: Art, Spectacle, Cultural Politics (Port Townsend, WA: Bay Press, 1985).
Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, ‘Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno in Conversation with Jean-Christophe Royoux’, in Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno: Exhibition Catalogue (Paris: Musée d’art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1998).
David Greig, ‘The Actress and the Bishop’, paper presented at the Tramway, Glasgow, November 2004, as part of Suspect Culture’s Strange Behaviour symposium on ‘Theatre and the World of Money’, www.suspectculture.com/content/microsites/strangebehaviour/money_greig.html [accessed 23/04/11]
Félix Guattari, The Three Ecologies (London: Athlone Press, 2008).
Jen Harvie, Staging the UK (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005)
Ric Knowles, Reading the Material Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).
Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics, 2nd edition (London: Verso, 2001).
Hans-Thies Lehmann, Postdramatic Theatre, (London: Routledge, 2006).
Roberta Levitow, ‘Some words about theatre today’ in Theatre in Crisis?: Performance Manifestos for a New Century, ed. by Meria M. Delgado and Caridad Svich (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002) pp.25-31.
Stewart Martin, ‘Critique of Relational Aesthetics’, Third Text 21(4) (July 2007) pp.369-386.
Xana Marwick, ‘Stadium Rock’, www.mynameisxana.co.uk/page2.htm [accessed 22/03/11].
Doreen Massey, For Space (London: SAGE Publications, 2005).
Jacques Rancière, ‘The Emancipated Spectator’, Artforum International 45(7) (2007) pp.271-80.
Jacques Rancière, The Emancipated Spectator (London: Verso, 2009).
Dan Rebellato, ‘When We Talk of Horses: Or, What Do We See When We See a Play?’, Performance Research 14(1) (2009) pp.17-28.
Jay Richardson, ‘Theatre Review: Forest Fringe, The Arches, Glasgow’, The Scotsman, 18 April 2010, thescotsman.scotsman.com/features/Theatre-review-Forest-Fringe-The.6235542.jp [accessed 07 May 2010].
Nicholas Ridout, Stage Fright, Animals and Other Theatrical Problems (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
Phil Smith, Mythogeography: A Guide to Walking Sideways (Axminster: Triarchy Press, 2010).
Caridad Svich, ‘Theatre in Crisis? Living memory in an unstable time’, in Theatre in Crisis?: Performance Manifestos for a New Century, ed. by Meria M. Delgado and Caridad Svich (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002) pp.15-19.
Liz Tomlin, ‘Transgressing Boundaries: Postmodern Performance and the Tourist Trap’, The Drama Review 43(2) (1999) pp.136-149.
 Doreen Massey, For Space (London: SAGE Publications, 2005) p.45; see also Phil Smith, Mythogeography: A Guide to Walking Sideways (Axminster: Triarchy Press, 2010) p.35.
 Claire Bishop, ‘Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics’, October 110 (Fall) (2004) pp.51-79, p.78.