The Mead Awards have been generously supported by Scott Mead and The Mead Family Foundation since 2013. The UAL Mead Rome Residency extends the Mead Awards programme to PhD students, providing them with a 4-week residency in a studio at the British School at Rome (BSR).
Here Irene reports back on her experience.
My doctoral project takes as its starting point the multi-disciplinary collection of performance scores, Womens Work (1975-78), co-edited and self-published by Alison Knowles and Annea Lockwood, to explore the speculative notion of the feminist performance score. In my preliminary research on artist and choreographer Simone Forti, one of the more widely-know contributors to the collection, I had been fascinated to read that Forti had spent extensive time in the zoo in Rome, 1968-691. There she engaged in motion studies of the captive animals that were influential to her work. With this vivid history in mind, I wondered whether or how this time in the zoo had also influenced Forti’s approach to listening and sound, both significant aspects of her practice.
Although most of my research travel would be in the USA, I was excited to learn about the Mead residency as it not least offered an otherwise impossible opportunity to pursue research into this aspect of Forti’s work. Secondly, the contemplative atmosphere of the British School with one’s
own studio to work in (something I cannot afford in London) also allowed me the space and time to shift the focus of my research towards a more concerted listening to the sonic material associated with my project.
Hence I divided my three weeks in Rome between specific research on Forti (who I would then go on to interview in Los Angeles a few weeks later), and a more general focus on listening. In terms of the former, I was able to visit L’Attico gallery twice: on the first occasion to look at their archives, which included the works Forti had presented there, as well as documentation from the extraordinary two-part festival that she had co-presented in 1969 (Danza Volo Musica Dinamite) and 1972 (Music Dance USA); and on the second occasion to interview gallerist Fabio Sargentini, on his experience of the fore mentioned works and festivals, as well as his wider vision for the gallery that, from its 1968 move into a former car garage, presented a paradigm—shifting space for live intermedia works. And from the perspective of my research, an opportunity to think in more detail about a non-US context.
As a corollary to this specific historical work, I also brought speakers with me which I set up in the studio, and used the time and space afforded to listen not only to recordings of Forti’s audio works but also more wide-rangingly, many of the other figures in my research. Furthermore I conducted an extensive sound-walk in the zoo, structured around a spontaneous ongoing conversation between myself and fellow BSR-resident artist Josephine Baker. These were invaluable experiences just prior to my research travel to the US where I would interview eight of the contributors including Forti, and visit six major archives: both in practical terms of refamiliarising myself with recording techniques but also delving deeper into each of their works
prior to these meetings.
Hence the time in Rome provided both a specific starting point for thinking through Simone Forti’s work in the context of my research; and more generally, the focused time and space provided an invaluable jumping-off point for the lengthier research travel in the US that would follow.