-It’s a spiel and interview about Lone Twin, which was put together by the wonderful Christopher Hewitt for the 2004 Brussels KunstenFESTIVALdesArts. I’m pasting it here because it’s really interesting, and because there’s not much of this depth available on the web about Lone Twin.
Lone Twin, impractically optimistic
The performance events of Lone Twin are essentially quixotic. They are involved in great journeys and playfully heroic endurance. Working within specific locations, their performances create maps of social and spatial engagement, suggesting imaginative territories that audiences might physically inhabit and traverse.
Their first piece On Everest made in 1997 set the tone for much subsequent work. During the performance, Gary Winters attempts to scale the greatest mountain on earth by walking and running back and forth along a straight 30 metre line drawn horizontally across the performance space. By traversing the line 300 times, a difficult task in 1 hour, he covers a distance equivalent to the height of the mountain. During his journey Gary Winters is accompanied by Gregg Whelan reading a text evoking the mountain as both a physical reality and an imaginative location. The end of the performance signals the beginning of a descent to sea level by those present. Audiences are asked to think of each other in 3 days’ time when they’ll have completed their downward, homeward journey.
The work has continued to revolve around these issues of location, travel and endurance with, importantly, an open and playful humour. Totem (1998) attempted to pass a fallen telegraph pole along a straight line drawn through Colchester’s town centre, through shops and homes, with the artists carving into the pole the initials of those who helped complete the journey. In TwentyFour Four (1998) they spent 96 nocturnal hours walking through Nottingham’s city centre, making public declamations where they and equally mobilised audiences verbally sent parts of the city and the dreams of its inhabitants â€˜into the night’. In the ongoing series Ghost Dance (1998-) they dress as cowboys (a recurring quasi-heroic image in their work) and undertake a 12 hour line dance marathon while blindfolded. Throughout the piece the audience spontaneously joins in, often staying dancing with the deteriorating cowboys until the end.
In these works they activate social events through personal trials. They create and define the location through physical activity drawing an audience into the possible commonality of the task. It is their commitment to carrying things out, to finding an end to the journey that engenders equal acts of engagement, energising notions of community against often difficult odds.
Head of Interdisciplinary Studies
Turku Art Academy
Let’s talk to Gregg:
Now we’re going to talk to Gregg. Gregg lives on the edge of a river in south Devon. Gregg enjoys most kinds of river activities. He especially enjoys fishing and then cooking the fish, making it into a meal. Sometimes he drinks from the river believing its water is good for him. He lives downstream from his immediate family, but upstream from his less immediate family: “That’s OK,” says Gregg, “as we’re all very close and we all love each other very much.” The river is a great source of comfort for Gregg. His treasure is buried beside it, his love arrives by a boat that sails on it and at night, if the sky is clear, the moon appears in it.
Now we’re going to talk to Gary. Gary, how are you feeling?
I feel fine, I feel good, I feel of use, I feel I could do some good here, that I can help, that I can be a part of things, I feel things I’ve previously thought impossible could actually happen, I feel it might take a little time but eventually I feel I’ll sort everything out, I feel fantastic, I’ve never felt better.
Anything to add Gary?
Yes I feel different, I feel I am becoming something else altogether
I am becoming a new field, a new forest and a new town
I am becoming a way to cope with change
I am becoming an old joke
I am becoming an old idea
I am becoming community
I am becoming this place
I am becoming my favourite Bruce Springsteen
I am becoming tectonic
I am becoming hard work
I am becoming happy and sad
I am becoming the way home
I am becoming a part of Saturday night
I am becoming a local person
I am becoming he
I am becoming Francis Lambert aged 25
I am becoming Snowflake, the albino gorilla
I am becoming Departures
I am becoming Arrivals
Let’s talk now about your journey in Brussels…
For 24 days, riding two folding bicycles, we will circumnavigate the Brussels 1000 postal-code district. On completing our daily journey through the city and through all weathers, we will file a nightly five-minute report to the KunstenFESTIVALdesArts. These nocturnal notices, small informative performances retelling the day’s events on their route around the city, will accumulate and repeat, night by night over the weeks; five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes and so on. As the festival continues the reports will build into hours of story, song and dance taken from 24 long days of Brussels 1000.
Why did you call this journey To The Dogs?
To The Dogs initially sounds like a toast, a drink raised to dogs. We were shown how public fountains in Brussels have a smaller version, below â€˜human height’, for the dogs that used to carry cargo from the ships to drink from. It seemed like the bikes that will carry us are our dogs, and when we arrived in Brussels, because of the many beers we sampled, we also joined many toasts, so To The Dogs felt appropriate. But it also has a spatial suggestion, one of a journey, and will suggest other journeys – to the river, to the hills, to the King of Spain, to the centre, to the edge, to the forest, to the dogs! Later we were given the Baudelaire passage written after witnessing dogs in Brussels working as horses would in other ports at the time, carrying cargos and goods on their backs, through the narrow streets, perhaps streets too narrow for a horse:
Where are the dogs going, you say, inattentive men? They are taking care of their business. Business meetings, love trysts. Through the mist, through the snow, through the filth, in the dog days of summer, under the pouring rain, they come, they go, they trot, they run under carriages, excited by fleas, passion, need, or duty. Like us, they got up early, and they are trying to feed themselves or pursuing their pleasures. […] Do you know the lazy Belgian shepherd, and have you admired, like me, all of those vigorous dogs harnessed to the butcher’s, milkmaid’s, or baker’s cart and who testify, through their triumphant barking, to the proud pleasure they take in rivalling horses?
Do you want to dedicate your physical journey to the dogs?
How are you going to prepare yourself for it?
We will prepare, train and slowly build our strength. Our fitness, both physical and mental, will be a priority. And as Eddy Merckx said: I was never afraid to have a beer or a cigarette…
How will you cope with the short five-minute format? Your performances usually last a long time, but will the fact that you’ve already worked for TV on projects that are of a shorter duration be of any help to you? What advantages are there to short duration formats and how will you make use of them?
We’ve worked for some time now in TV, writing and developing programme ideas for pre-school children, 2-5 year-olds. Here the audience needs to experience events quickly and in short time spans, narratives tend to begin and end within 2 or 3 minutes. This, after making performance works over many hours, many days, is a challenge, but the goals of the work remain the same, to entertain, so it’s a case of collapsing our usual treatment of time into smaller pockets of time but working, in narrative terms, in much the same way – begin at the beginning and end at the end. To The Dogs marries both approaches – small performances, containing small, perhaps isolated moments, gradually build into a longer, perhaps â€˜coherent’ whole. The interest is in how those small moments, each 5 minutes long, will change over time as they become situated in the growing, differing contexts of each other.
What does this displacement in the city mean for you?
Often as tourists – and we often feel like tourists in a very everyday, western sense – we feel displaced, and initially the work we’re undertaking feels this way too, sitting oddly in the city. Our daily route/routine around Brussels 1000 at first may appear odd, out of sorts, new; but over the weeks we hope it will find its place, become established, become everyday – for us and maybe for others. There is displacement and placement in how, and from what, the performances are constructed. In To The Dogs we’ll use historic, â€˜authentic’ tourist information alongside lived, witnessed and imagined information. The re-telling, remembering and performing of these moments each day begin to build a sense of the experience of our time in the city. Through the weeks, the repeated 5 minute performances are pushed backwards into the ‘time’ of the street, the theatre, and their displacement has the opportunity of being experienced on the street as one might experience anything on the street – an argument, a fight, two young people kissing, two dogs barking.
I heard you have bought some very special cycling clothing for Brussels…
We’ve bought some highly reflective and highly breathable Goretex layers…
Active since 1997 Lone Twin have shown performance works across Europe, North America and Australia. A collaborative project between Gregg Whelan and Gary Winters, they deal specifically with ideas of place, travel and orientation. Often working in public spaces as well as producing theatre and studio based pieces Lone Twin are committed to creating entertaining and accessible works.
â€˜Leading artists in the new generation of British performers’ (Turku Academy for The Arts)