Solo Projects: Timepoints


Walt worked with different artists on a number of seperate performances at different venues. These included the late Lol Coxhill. The subject of exploration was the arbitrary significance of points in personal time, the 'now' and its elusiveness. The performances were within an installation, involving towers of running water, clocks, a giant pendulum, melting ice, shifting lights, objects and field recordings.

'Timepoints' was an Arts Council England award, a project led by Walt Shaw. Walt did six performances in total, five of these working with a different artist. In the final one, he worked with all the artists in the project. In this way 'Timepoints' operated as a live experiment, with Shaw as a constant, with venues and collaborators in flux.

The work looked at the idea of paradoxes when addressing a point in time. Human consciousness is fluid and dynamic in nature and yet we have an overwhelming urge to arrest time. Photographs try to do this, so do those indelible bytes of memory that are so significant (birth and death) or even arbitrary and absurd. The piece examines the importance of 'the NOW'. In Eastern thought there is an emphasis on 'the now' and attempts at enlightenment through intensified experience at a point in time, as exemplified by Gurdjieff. The notion was considered that we are too concerned with what has gone and what is to come, that we miss the importance of 'the NOW'. In addition the work considered if there is such a thing as a point in time. The nearest we get to one is at the big bang, but even that was occurring in a period of time, albeit fractions of a nanosecond.

Much of our consciousness of time is subjective, relying as it does on our brain processing and storing perceived information. Changes in brain physiology by drugs or physical damage can profoundly disturb this personal understanding of time. The piece set out to deliberately fragment a planned chronological sequence in a random way. Events within the work had premonitions, echoes and collisions.

'Timepoints' moved rapidly between approaches, from very objective to extremely personal and subjective. There was a lot of emotional intensity in the piece, which communicated with audience. Sound and music, all prepared or created live by Shaw, was an important aspect of the piece. It gave an opportunity to fragment, reverse and randomize predicted sequences. Allied to powerful visual and performative elements, 'Timepoints' explored its subject matter with something of a perceptual onslaught for an audience. This varied considerably from one performance to the next for two reasons. Firstly it depended on the discipline and skills of the collaborator with Shaw, which was sometimes contemporary dance, music or performance art. Each performer at each performance brought new and unique features to the work. Each brought their own individual timepoints. Secondly, it varied in any event from one performance to the next, around a basic underlying structure. Improvisation and experimentation within a live performance was key to my methodology. However, there was always a fine balance between this aspect and form with structure.

In terms of the spectrum of objectivity/subjectivity described in the introduction, 'Timepoints' tended to explore the extremities of such.