Timo Fredriksson | 15.8.2020
Bem, Bam, Bim and Bom have decided to try out Oblivias Do What You Saw method (from now on referred to as DWYS) using Oblivias DWYS manual as reference (currently out of print). Let’s see how they are going to go about it!
The purely material requirements for DWYS are not that many. First of all they need a working space. In this respect they have been unusually lucky since they have managed to hire a spacious studio in a reasonably quiet surrounding. The size of the studio is 8×10 meters which means that there is a very nice depth to the stage when they arrange four chairs on one short end. Stage? Yes, after all DWYS is about physicalizing abstract ideas on stage. Also, the back wall of the stage happens to be without windows, doors or other distracting elements. The stage area is completely empty of any kind of objects, otherwise our friends would have to clear it. The space being ready Bom now takes out a bunch of printing paper and four pens and places them on the floor. For time keeping they decide to use an egg clock. And that’s it!
Since they are about to start physicalizing an abstract idea they obviously need one, a theme both abstract and preferably of vast dimensions. In order to keep it simple they decide to use one from the list of Oblivias work (Appendix, p. 94); Nature and Technology.
The first stage of the process is to write lists freely associating on the theme. The collective decides to use ten minutes on the writing. Bam sets the timer and they start writing in silence everyone according to their temperament. On the paper appear single words, whole sentences, possibly a monologue or even some poetry, there are no restrictions. The alarm notes the end of writing time.
Stage two; one at the time they stand up and read their list for the others. At this moment one can clearly appreciate the differences in the approach to the theme and the task at hand between the individuals in the group; while one list is dry and concise the other one might be very long and poetic.
Time to swap the lists, going clockwise. As the manual states (p.4) “it is crucial that all the material be shared with no ties of ownership being formed”. From this list of a colleague each of them picks from one to three words, sentences, ideas that for some reason jump out, talk, appeal to them.
Bam, Bim and Bom take a seat on the chairs while Bem enters the stage ready for the first improvisation or as it is called in DWYS jargon; the prototype. The egg clock is set on three minutes (this could of course be anything between say half a minute and one hour but extensive testing has shown that from three to six minutes is an optimal length) and on basis of the chosen content from the list Bem starts a process of freeing the mind, that is to say he’s associating freely on whatever is emerging from his mind resulting in a three minute instant performance. The prototype can consist of an endlessly variable mix of components like movement, sound, text, song, silence, different speeds, stillness, atmospheres, emotions, just to name a few (no touching the walls or fiddling with the clothing. For a complete list of things forbidden in a prototype see DWYS Must Not, Prototype p. 11). Use of space, dynamics, rhythm, timing, structure, different modes of performing, introspection, direction of the gaze and type of contact or no contact with the spectators are also part of the prototype. While Bem is working hard on the floor the others are working equally hard memorizing what they see each one of them in their own way. Ringing of the egg clock signals the completion of the first prototype.
Slightly out of breath and feeling dizzy Bem sits down and after a moment of hesitation Bom gets up to do the first Copy. The task seems simple enough; to repeat as faithfully and honestly as possible what Bem just did and nothing more, relying on your memory of what you just saw. It starts well enough, for quite a while Bom is able to follow the path of his memory until suddenly there appears a gap and the copy almost comes to a standstill. The strain of trying to remember is clearly visible on his face causing a burst of laughter in the audience. After a moment of indefinable hand movements and some shuffling around Bom finds the red thread again and brings the first copy successfully to an end. Bim immediately gets up eager to make the next copy. “Remember, you make a copy of what you saw Bom do, not Bems prototype” Bam reminds Bim who has already started. When Bim arrives to the part where Bom got lost there now is a whole section consisting of bewildered looks, energetic waving of the arms while frantically running around in the space and soon after that Bim stops leaving the rest of the stuff out.
“ I didn’t do that!” Bom protests
“ But I saw it” Bim is defending himself.
“ I din’t look like that, you´re making up things there”
“ Calm down, let’s see what the Book says” Bam cuts in. “ When making the copy one does not copy obvious mistakes and most important of all; one does not make a parody. One is always responsible for one’s own choices and the consequences they may have.” (DWYS Must Not, Copy p. 36).
“ Okay, I admit I got carried away, but I couldn’t resist it. It looked so comical when you were completely at sea, Bom”, says Bim in a conciliatory tone.
“I can imagine i did” agrees Bom, now smiling.
“ It seems to me that there’s much more to DWYS than one thinks in the first instance. It really is not as simple as it might seem” Bam muses. “ There’s a lot more to explore and find out. We just have to keep on doing it.”
“ I completely agree” Bem cuts in “ but can we continue exploring after lunch?”
One our later…
After lunch the work continues. Taking turns making prototypes with the copies following in a steady flow Bem, Bam, Bim and Bom reach a state where they really keep the kettle boiling. The atmosphere gets more and more relaxed and concentrated. There is a lot of laughter. The theme Nature and Technology appears on stage in a seemingly never ending chain of unexpected and surprising variations. In front of their eyes something is starting to take form, some materials are being distilled to their essence while some other materials seem more elusive and harder to repeat or even to remember. They are surprised to observe how much the others are able to see and formulate in a prototype that felt as vague and undefined while one was making it. After a few full rounds and a couple of hours of uninterrupted concentration later the thing comes to an end in a natural way. With a feeling of satisfaction they decide that it is enough of DWYS for one day.
“We still have one hour before stopping for today. Does the manual have any suggestions for what to do now?” Bim asks.
Bam is leafing through the manual” There is something about ending the day with a Big Impro but the pages with the instructions are missing.”
“ We’ll just figure it out ourselves” Bom decides optimistically, still surfing the wawes after DWYS
“ That’s right” Bem joines in” Let’s just improvise for one hour with all the material we’ve seen and done today. Stepping out and watching for a while is ok. Then we’ll see what happens.”