Family Performance

Over the next two years, MK Gallery will work with Townley and Bradby on Playing Out. As a collaborative artist practice involving two parents, and at times, their three children, Townley and Bradby incorporate mundane domestic routine and the emotional intensity of family life into their art. They will be artists-in-residence for two years in Conniburrow, and the neighbouring communities of Fishermead, Downs Barn and Springfield working alongside participatory artist Georgina Manly and a research student from the University of Northampton. Their work in Conniburrow will link up with Big Local Conniburrow, a groundbreaking project run by the local community.

The family describe their first encounter with the MK Gallery staff team:

We make work about the family, and sometimes we do this as a family. Vic* suggested that for our first encounter with the other MK Gallery staff we could do a presentation of some sort. The idea was to give staff an idea of our approach and our practice. In our experience the slides+speaking format doesn’t access the ways that children think or communicate. We wanted to use a format that all five of us could take part in.

This year we have been trying out ways of performing as a family. So far, the main features of our family performances seem to be:
– tension and arguments in the days beforehand
– minimal rehearsal (ideally no more than half an hour)
– a clear structure that we can improvise around
– some props

The performance took place in the Project Space and made use of the five large windows. As the gallery staff were coming in, we were in our places, on the window ledges, hidden from view by the blackout curtains. Once everyone was seated we began to sing long notes and to gently waft the curtains. After a few minutes we stepped down into the room. We kept hold of the hem of curtains so they dipped and climbed behind us like vampire capes. We then took turns at telling the other four to be quiet and to listen. Every so often we would dash to a table to grab one of the props to help us. The props included velvet dog ears, woolly leg warmers, a cock’s comb hat, various percussion, a Russian hat, a rain stick, a head scarf. Each dash to the table was a chance for the others to steal that person’s place. We ended by all trying to balance on the same small wooden stool.

*Victoria Mayes is Head of Learning at MK Gallery

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