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Background to Gesture Piece

Artist Vicki Bennett on where Gesture Piece came from:

"The title of Gesture Piece is partly self-explanatory, referencing the fact that it is very natural, even primordial for one to creatively respond to visual stimulus in an 'improvised' (natural) way rather than all responses being directed, set in stone.  Within human communication it is part of our hard circuitry that for instance we use hand gestures to articulate our speech, which is essentially graphically describing/enforcing audio or spoken discourse.  Even when spoken language is not present, a whole series of hand and facial gestures are available to us to communicate expressions.  By making a film that both contains human gestures (hands, facial, movement) as well as gestures made by natural and mechanical occurrences we are setting up the conditions for a dialogue between the graphical elements on the films and the improvisers, both with the film as well as with each other.

There is a tradition in experimental music of musicians responding to graphic scores and non-conductor-led direction.  John Cage wrote scores that both directed the performer on what elements/structures needed to be used/responded to, but at the same time introduced chance elements based around personal interpretation and the use of random prediction techniques like the iChing.  In the past 25 years some contemporary artist-composers have used prompts as guidelines for musical interpretations, following John Cage’s tradition.  Examples of alternative methods of conducting:

  • John Oswald 'Rien Ne Va Plus' uses a roulette and coloured cards to prompt an orchestra to play certain tunes.
  • Christian Marclay’s 'Shuffle' uses a pack of cards containing his own photographs of various depictions of musical scores which improvising musicians then respond to live.  In Marclay’s 'Zoom Zoom', the performer interprets his projected images of everyday objects with graphics contained within them.
  • John Zorn index card/file-card composition pieces include 'Cobra' and 'The Big Gundown': combining composition and improvisation in which Zorn would write down a description of what he wanted on file-cards and arrange them to form the piece.  Zorn compiled his various thoughts regarding his subject on index cards, and then arranged those into a working roadmap for his band of improvisers.  He described the process in 2003: 'I write in moments, in disparate sound blocks, so I find it convenient to store these events on filing cards so they can be sorted and ordered with minimum effort. Pacing is essential. If you move too fast, people tend to stop hearing the individual moments as complete in themselves and more as elements of a sort of cloud effect…'."

Welcome to the website for Pixel Palace, Tyneside Cinema’s digital art programme, which ran from 2008-2014. Here you can explore our archive of exciting art commissions and exhibitions, as well as the artists we worked with over that time. You can find out more about what is happening with the current Tyneside Cinema Arts Programme at www.tynesidecinema.co.uk/art.