Part 0 : arrive, greetings, briefings, rehearsals. Getting used to the space, a classical revival church in what is now called Waterloo, i.e. over the road from the big station.
Part 1 : artists sit on chairs and on the floor. The London Drawing crowd are quite out there drawing wise (do chck out all their amazing flickr sets), so already there are odd things being done with coloured paper. There are 50 ish artists of all ages, plus 20 or so of us amateur models pretending to be artists also. We dispersed amongst them, which is a strange sensation. some eye contact goes on, but poker faces are on. Various welcomings and briefings take place, and instead of models entering and drawing starting, the verbiage dwindles to nothingness. Waiting. Sharpening of pencils. Fidgeting.
I ask the London drawing person next to me what the hashtag was. She mis-hears, and I get Hashtags 101, albeit from someone who didn't use twitter. (It's #ahumanorchestration, by the way.)
As arranged, Esther, the agent provocateuse of Spirited Bodies, grins and pads around (I'm pretty sure she has at least one cat in her ancestry), and whispers to someone. Who disrobes. And stands.
Ah, ok, him! Artists swivel to him, draw, scribble etc.
Esther has now made another secret signal, and again an artist becomes a model in situ. Oh, her as well! Draw draw draw. (I actually get a proper 10 minute drawing done at this stage). Each model gets a two minute head start on the next. Another whisper, oh my turn now. Clothes off. Stand up. Hands on hips.
This goes on until all the models are revealed. After about and hour of such simple standing and sitting poses, the process is reversed. One by one each model dresses and returns to normality.
It seems to me as if this community of artists are more exploratory than those I normally see (especially in my own work). Marks are made with more things, and on more things than simple graphite, ink, paper. Shapes are looser and less representative. There are tearings and cuttings!
Part 2: I'll try and be brief, but it's complicated.
We stand in a line in the middle of the hall, regarding the gallery. Christine, also nude, utters a powerful singing sound which penetrates the air and reverberates. Their choir now answers, less pure but with a greater number of voices. Christine attempts a different sound, not singing. We emulate it, falling over the syllables. There are noises given, considered, and replied. I think of these sounds, with the Doppler shifts. Are these aircraft overhead? Is the city under attack? We survive by fending off with our voices again and again. Christine tries to emit something like an explosion BOM! which is then defended. The sounds become lyrical again. the singer descends the stairs, and joins the line, which coils inward in a procession into itself. Now we are a circular unit of two ranks. Ursula stands at the centre and leads the singing, formed of utterances, murmurs gasps and hums, ocasional pats and slaps on the body. It's not call/response now but a river of sound. Sometimes there are wordlets or runs of words that float along. Mostly not, just abstractions. A baaaaa badda laaaa dum DMUMMMM very nice DAY! To be dadda Nice Body! Ahhh ummmm! We have no idea how, but somehow by listening and using something in our mouths and brains, a texture emerges. Not coherent or meaningful exactly but spiritually extremely human. From the middle of the group, down here on the carpet, it sounds fantastic. Out in the body of the hall, in the air of the high ceiling, it must sound even better.
Visually laid out, this might look like papier mâché, overlaid with a variety of doodles and half-recognisable shapes, jumbled and scrunched. But somehow looking warm and almost natural.
We just stand still for a while (poor artists having to work with that racket!) and then round off the piece with another 10 minute stanza of randomwork. And then exit, exultant.
Having re-robed, we can listen in to the artists' discourse. They are obviously warming up and responding to the performance. The leaders of the group attempt to draw some meaning together from the 200 or so small works now on the floor, but it obvious that another unconscious communication is taking place amongst the artists as well as it was in the choir. Most of the works have a unity in themselves and some echoes of each other, and people have been using marks and colours to show the sound images as well as the figures.
Finally, something more like a standard SB production. We are gatherered in a group on a stage at various levels, making a rough pyramidal arrangement of 20 (or 22?). The tableau exists for a hour, though we models may adjust ad lib. Music in 18 parts throbs in the background (You know, by Steve Reich, it goes dib-dib-dib-dib-dib for 96 bars then -dob-dob-dob-dob-shimmer-shimmer-dob-dob-dob- ... Ideal art production music if you ask me). I intently gaze at the light fitting opposite, trying to stop my foot from going to sleep. Artists scribble, measure, cut, scribble and sweep their arms around as if making bold marks. I count the bars dob dob dob dob while ignoring the painful foot. Artists glance, look down, glance, look down, scribble, up, think, scribble. dib dib dib dib. Foot goes numb num num num and finally must be moved.
I've tried drawing multiple figures (chiefly in SB workshops) and it's really hard. It's fascinating to see people work out the same process, and I can see some confident work developing. Here an artist has made a life sized outline of his own body, and is now filling it with drawings of each of the figures on display; he darts about making drawings from vantage points all around. Here a man works on a wide work made of variegated panels, carefully but boldly measuring each person's frame. Here a cutout portion is aimed and positioned and glued, and another cutout grouping brought alongside to support it.
And finally we end. Applause! A bow! More applause!! Final exit, accompanied by applause!
The work now is amazing, really together and bold. The floor is literally covered with work, and almost every other piece is a corker. I hope the LD do their usual flickr upload soon so that you can see it. These are mostly not academic figure studies but more chewy enjoyable figurescapes. Most of the models are fascinated. Those few modelling for the very first time are probably thinking oh my god there's me, my big chest, awful stomach, etc. Hopefully also thinking that might be me, or not, but we don't look too bad. Today, I'm more interested in the general appearance of things and spend hardly more than a second checking myself out in chalk or ink.
There's a final repeat of the lightweight crit/seminar thing and then dispersal. Some of the models yearn for alcohol to add to the natural highs of the event. I think a few escape though ... Note to self, check out location of decent pub in advance, and chalk it up somewhere obvious.
Most of us are amazed at the outcome. There were at least a couple of first time models in the group. I hope they don't think life drawing always goes off like that!