Click on the image to see footage of the Vessel 1 and 2 submawhales of Half Moon placed within the context of the live performance Electric Field (2009).

Resistant blending of the kind just discussed resides not only in individual sculptural pieces but also in the interaction of multiple images and layers of imagery, text, and sound in complex productions. The Vessel 1 and 2 submawhales of Half Moon are placed within the context of the live performance Electric Field (2009). They surface toward the end of the performance, in which 

a couple embark on a quest to transform matter. As they become enmeshed within the mechanics of the universe, they are shadowed by a cluster of ghost-like film technicians who manipulate their progress. IOUs base at Dean Clough has become an eerie film studio where our travellers are seen immersed in their journey[,] unconscious of the paraphernalia that surrounds them. (IOU 2009) 

(Click the numbered, coloured squares below this text below to see the relevant images; then click the image to return to this page.)

The woman drives her car at night after the death of her goldfish. The technicians pull a long thread from the man’s eye as he sleeps in a bed.1 Later, the couple are driving and encounter a road accident – a man has fallen off his bicycle. He is an inflatable man, deflated.2 Above him hangs a spinning bicycle wheel, suspended from two pieces of string. The couple take a pump and a pair of scissors from the boot of the car, reinflate the man, and place him safely against a tree and cut one of the pieces of string. Surprisingly, the spinning wheel remains vertical, suspended by the gyroscopic force of its motion. At a table, while eating, the man considers a single rose in a small vase. Time is suspended and one of the technicians plunges the rose into a bucket of liquid nitrogen, unseen by the couple.3 The woman crushes the rose petals and they fragment into powder. Nothing is working quite as it ordinarily does. Later, on foot after crashing the car in a blizzard,4 they encounter water covered in thin ice, in which swim hygroscopic cellophane fish, which tell the couple’s fortunes when placed on their palms; they find mechanical crabs that scamper away from them.5 Organic matter is rendered inorganic through interaction with natural processes. Inorganic matter comes to life through interaction with the couple. In this way, by the time the couple – and the audience – encounter the submawhales, reality has been reshaped. This internal reality of the performance world creates an imaginative ‘generic space’ for the audience, in which to cross-space-map all the available material.



It seems to me [Moss] as if the journey has conjured up the mythical submawhales who emerge half-formed, half-transformed from cold steel to semi-organic form in their ability to spout water from blowholes located on top of their cylindrical bodies. Audiences are now provided with the opportunity to process and blend them, in association with other temporally concurrent elements of the performance and with those elements and performance events that have occurred before the submawhales introduction. But the elements resist total blending. The objects are neither living nor dead but suspended somewhere in an incomplete blending process. They are both far away and spatially near for the couple who seem to be observing from a shore, or from the edge of a lake in a redundant coalmine, or from an island beach in the middle of a sea – all locations suggested by the interplay of scenic, aural, and other elements. The submawhales are near because they surface only a metre or two from the couple, but far in that they are separated in a different element – water – and can be viewed as large objects seen at a distance. Earlier events and encounters have set up the possibility for the blend-resistant reading of the submawhales.


Just as the submawhales that stood alone as Vessel 1 and 2 in the context of the installation Half Moon remain incomplete and resistant to blending, so too the multiple images, soundscapes, narratives, and other elements in Electric Field coexist in that shared space in a dissonant manner. It is the associative connections and disconnections between these incompletely blended materials, rather than any clearly extant logical narrative progression that they might embody, that provide the environment in which an audience can hold onto the paradoxical reading of the submawhales in their performance manifestation. This allows the submawhales to resist completion and exist both in a netherworld of the audience’s imagination and in material existence in front of their eyes.


In the final section of Electric Field, audiences are given small picnics and taken by bus to an outdoor location, Beacon Hill, overlooking Halifax. The fictional couple had ended their journey back in the Dean Clough studio, sitting on a park bench looking at a view projected on a screen and buying ice creams when an ice cream vendor came along. Now, as part of the audience I [Middleton] sit on the hillside with my picnic. Once again, the couple appears and sits on a bench to take in the view. The ice cream van arrives, and the man buys ice creams for the woman and himself. In the studio, we heard the couple’s conversation as they sat and looked at the scene. Now, in the open air, they can no longer be heard, but their conversation still echoes in my ears. It is a beautiful summer’s night, and there are people around: archers practising in a nearby field, cyclists and dog walkers coming through. It is not at all clear what has been stage-managed as part of the fiction and what is ‘real’ – it is not clear which elements in my experience are to be recruited into the blend.


The process by which we construct meaning – indeed, construct reality itself – is highlighted as we now place the blends from the fiction into the conceptual space of ‘real life’. The resistant, associative blends that we have experienced throughout the evening continue to shimmer in a mental space, or series of mental spaces – resonant and inconclusive.


What about when no one is sitting on the bench? Is the view still there?


It only actually came into being as a view when we looked at it, because that’s how the view gets made.


People’s memories mixed up with the angle of the sun on bits of stone …




For a 3 minute snapshot of the whole performance of Electric Field, click on the screen below. Double click again for full screen.