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Update #6: Ai Wei Wei, Compare & Contrast of Performances and Robot Thinking

#6 is here, hope you're all doing fine and dandy, let's get stuck in. I'm going to talk about artist Ai Wei Wei, and Macbeth in different performance styles and my opinion on them.


So for this update I have been a little all over the shop, I've started a new job, which is pretty smooth, and with the Christmas holidays coming it is becoming more difficult to work in the faithful shed due to space and weather, hopefully in time I will be able to rent out a creative space to continue my work, that being when it becomes less of a winter wonderland. I have been thinking about different genres of performance and film, as well as the mediums on which they can be performed/ presented, this in which gave me the idea to study the same script in different mediums, through film, theatre and audio (Such as a radio play). The source I will be looking at is the 'is this a dagger before me' monologue in Shakespeare's' 'Macbeth'

I've been looking into other skills in arts and crafts currently as well, which hopefully in time, I may be able to shine some light on, depending on the outcome. As well I've been messing with the Celtic guitar tuning DADGAD, and hoping to share something I have been working up, hopefully after payday when I can purchase Logic Pro X for my MacBook, and be able to fine tune and tweak the audio. Do let me know if a music aspect interests you readers, I do have a few things I've been working on and considering sharing in the distant future.

Further onto the Minds and Machines Course, it's tough to follow the course at some points. There are moments which are incredible and thought provoking in the field of consciousness and machine consciousness. With these topics of discussions it is natural for it to go into the realm of complexity. A large portion of the course became more of a focus of trying to define key words in the work, and finding all the flaws in other peoples thought experiments by picking apart words and redefining them and proving them incorrect. It also adds a lot of room for math's, which is not my strongest skill, at all. However, it is sloping when it comes to difficulty, but as I continue I hope to see that everything will slowly start slotting together. I came to a few thoughts on this course. My main thought is through the course it seems that there's a general conclusion that we are the apex of intelligence, and that consciousness is something we aspire to replicate for computers. However, I see human consciousness as a by-product of our evolution. I would like to look into when we as a species adapted to be conscious, to see if it aimed more as a random mutation that we have kept, or when we became more intelligent, and it is a by-product, like fumes generated from a petrol generator powering a light.

Also, my pineapple plant did die. Gutted.

I also found myself looking into artist Ai Wei Wei, who I took an interest into his processes and pieces, which you will read about later in this update.

Creative performance comparison Study

I've been looking into different methods of performance, especially since that through the pandemic it is unable to determine the future of stage performance as the we continue heading into a digital age, where the only use for stage performance is profit. The interest in me is to see the contrast and how performance changes through their form even when they are from the same script. I set out with the intention to find Act 2 Scene 1 famous monologue: 'Is this a dagger a see before me', in which Macbeth envisions a ethereal dagger in front of him in which he believes is himself hallucinating leading him to the murdering king Duncan.

First of the bat I want to talk about the one I arguable enjoyed the most, which is from Justin Kurzel's Macbeth (2015), which portrays Macbeth in the idea of Macbeths mental state mostly affected by trauma, both being the death of his child, and the affects of war, which is something which is still unrepresented and focused on even now where the effects of war on people have lasting affects on those who are involved. It also has a heavy religious element to the scene, as accompanied with Lady Macbeth praying through the scene.

The scene starts with the clouds unraveling to reveal a full moon in the sky, the wind is calm. It cuts to lady Macbeth praying with a wall of candles illuminating a large Christian cross behind her. Macbeth can be seen in a different shot playing with wind chimes staring, as it cuts to the battle scene in the beginning seeing the young boy in his battlement be slain in a mix of slow motion and sped up footage. This implies Macbeths PTSD and guilt bleeding through into his character. As he turns to the increasing intensity of wind, he sees the slain boy from the battlefield, holding a dagger at the entrance of the tent. In which the monologue begins 'Is this a dagger I see before me' as the slain boy holds out the dagger handle first to Macbeth.

It is interesting to see the idea that Macbeth recites this monologue focusing more on the slain boy than the dagger, fleshing out Macbeth as a character as less of a fickle and superstitious soldier and more of a victim of warfare slowly becoming more deranged from his declining mental health. The use of weather is also a factor used in this clip as a method of both foreshadowing and building suspense, as Macbeth travels to Duncan's bedside and to his end, thunder and heavy rain increase in intensity and volume during Duncan's murder. I found this in particular effective as weather has often been faithful in foreshadowing events, and creating mood.

I feel with film it is easier to create tension in performance as you have more techniques and strategies at your disposal then theatre, and stage, as it encompasses both of them forms, whilst applying more such as the ability for special affects such as rain, cutting clips to transition to other places such as the rearing horse, and Lady Macbeth praying.

We see in the Audio play done by BBC in 2000, we see in this performance Lady Macbeth has a stronger presence in this version, seen more likely to follow commands than go with his hesitations to do deeds.

What we can hear in this performance is low drones and eerie tones in the background of the monologue, giving the ethereal and unnatural nature to the scene. In Macbeths inflections and such we can hear an internal battle of guilt, consciousness and superstition take place in Macbeths decision making process. It almost feels as such that he is deciding through this monologue to further set his fate and cement his decent into killing Duncan and begin. Vocal performance is crucial in this performance, as it is the form I have looked into in which has the littlest to rely on accompanying the performance for dramatic effect. A notable moment I felt was impactful was the reaction to the bell sound affect, the shuddered breathes give the implication of both fear and semitonically provide the listener with the emotions that Macbeth is feeling in that current moment. We also see compared to Kurzel's, that Lady Macbeth has a more sinister side and loving side, almost like a contest on which her feminine care and nature is fighting against her ambitions to achieving what she wants, which inevitably leads to her demise.

I felt it was effective in the idea that with the lack of stimulation, a lot of the performance plays in our imagination with the stimulus. A lot like Shakespeare, most of his deaths in plays happened off-stage, this lets the audience create the scenario in their head, which can be more effective than a on stage death. This performance managed to imitate that notion perfectly through the voice performance, and the musical accompaniment, that was both impactful and present, yet subtle and non-intrusive.

In the stage performance of Macbeth (2013) We see the use of the dagger as more prominent notion for Macbeths delivery of lines, much different to the other performances, Kenneth Branagh's performance feels more a hypnotised and mystically allured by the hallucinations. Those hallucinations are created through a large projection of the dagger on a thrust stage. Which leads him towards to the dagger, once followed and blinded by the light the dagger is created of, a dagger rises amongst rows of candles, he gestures towards the dagger, holding a dagger which has appeared in his hands, which began frantic bombardment of the lines "Thou marshall'st me the way that I was going; And such an instrument I was to use. Mine eyes are made the fools o' the other senses, Or else worth all the rest" This where a floating dagger takes his attention and drifts him into a allured and slow spin, increasing speed, as the others, this cements him into his fate of murdering Duncan.

The performance by Branagh is exceptional, he gives Macbeth a fickle nature, which provides his character more human, and a victim of witchcraft and fate. Along with the production quality and affects such as multiple daggers as visions that bounce about the stage, is just as enthralling and hypnotic as a real curse. I would say that in the audience for this performance, the atmosphere would of been strong on taking us in the same feelings of suspense.

To conclude my studies, as expected, performance is such must for effective play. However, providing the performances with other attributes can boost and become a catalyst for the performance. The main theme I saw throughout was musical accompaniment, in which aided to the suspenseful and mystical nature to the scene. From this study this is the main take, to further look into the more minimal effects that can be used to generate atmosphere and engage the audience to be mentally switched on, often generating some of the performance (such as Duncan's murder) in their head and keeping true to the playwrights intentions. It was interesting to see the similarity of musical choices, of unnatural drones and occasional tinkles of bells or chimes, which plays in our collective connections to drones being suspenseful and the tinkle of bells and wood chimes to magical/mystical tinkering.

Sources: Macbeth (2015)

BBC Radio 3 Macbeth (2000)

"Is this a Dagger"--Kenneth Branagh's Macbeth (2013)

Artist Focus: Ai Wei Wei

I discovered a Chinese artist called Ai Wei Wei. Ai Wei Wei is a Chinese contemporary artist from Beijing, whilst being known to critique and illuminate his take on the Chinese Government, mainly on the themes of democracy and human rights. From my perspective of Ai Wei Wei, I believe he is people orientated at his core. Focusing on the culture and politics as vices for his work and core values.

The work I first discovered from Ai Wei Wei is the piece Sunflower Seeds. In which is a room filled millions of works of art. That art being 1:1 scale crafted porcelain Sunflower seed husks. He Mentions to Tate about his piece Sunflower Seeds:

"I always think art as a tool to really set up new questions to create a basic structure which can be open to possibilities is the most interesting part of my work."

He creates his art through the idea of making it understandable for all, regardless how much you understand art. This is something in which I would like correlate with my own work, as in my life, all inclusive-ness has been a large factor in my upbringing. In his work he created the seeds in a Chinese town in which known culturally for porcelain. Through this performance he also brought work to the town where people were going bankrupt. The process of the piece is equally interesting through the creation process of so many seeds, it became more of a community project of the town, as well as keeping to the traditions instead of factory producing. He also mentions "sunflowers supported the whole revolution, spiritually and in material ways" when talking about the cultural significance of sunflowers in Chinese tradition. I write about this with increasing jealousy for this piece, its simplicity and devotion are mind boggling, whilst keeping true to himself and his roots as an artist and person.

Ai Wei Wei has many more pieces and performances under his belt, his latest Coronation in which on his website he states:

"China has assumed the status of superpower on the global stage, yet it remains poorly understood by other nations. Through the lens of the pandemic, “Coronation” clearly depicts the Chinese crisis management and social control machine—through surveillance, ideological brainwashing, and brute determination to control every aspect of society."

This in itself is a piece I am very much looking forward to watching. Hopefully I will update more on what I think of Coronation. In short, I found the work of Ai Wei Wei intriguing by its very nature, and a excellent artist to take inspiration from and to apply his methods and ideas towards my devising process for future pieces.

SOTW: The Dip- Slow Sipper

A little different to the usual picks, todays was selected because the vocals are incredible and with a smooth swing to boot, i'd highly recommend any time of the day. It is however, very very catchy.

AOTW: Tithe - Jon J Muth

As some of you close to me know, I quite like the fantasy card game Magic: The Gathering. One of the things that strike my attention is the artwork, I'm considering writing about the history of the art in MTG as the evolution of the cards artwork could be something of interest to write about.

This piece was commissioned for one of the earlier sets of magic, depicting two people on horseback, which look as if they passed on their travels and are conversing.

The colour palettes of this work are soft and pastel, giving the piece a warm, yet somewhat distant feel to the piece, it does brings questions to the conversation and the mood between the two travellers, and their stories.

A short one for today, but equally as sweet I hope, catch you all for #7. As always my forum is open on my contact page if you have any questions or just fancy a chat.

- SC (13/12/2020)

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