Body Cell Slip (2012)
Philip Lee writes: Recent performances have been with Cally Trench; Body Cell Slip was revisiting the loneliness of solo performances. The absent or small audience was determined by the length of the performance and the size of the cell and was particularly significant for this performance. There was a steady stream of people who were very brave to come into the small cell, at first to pour the clay over me and then squeeze into the room to watch as I paced around the room, marking the wall with charcoal during each circuit. Some of the comments made by visitors were particularly interesting and perceptive although most were silent and attentive. I now wonder what they were thinking.
During the performance I invited people to help me apply the clay. My anxieties that they would not do so, were unfounded. Eventually, there was only the odd bit of flesh showing through the clay showing the body beneath and making it visually more pleasing, less blank and sculptural.
I was very cold and cramped. The room was not hot enough, even with the two heaters, to dry out the clay as I had hoped. While the clay on my face dried out in places the rest dried out very little and it was not possible to peel the clay from my body in small armour plates as I had planned.
Pacing around the space made me think about how it must feel to be locked up in solitary confinement for many days, and how difficult it is to keep calm and together; how difficult it is to keep track of time and keep active in mind and spirit. I paced around the edge of the canvas for over three hours and I lost track of time. When Cally Trench came to 'release' me from the cell, I was surprised that it was time to leave.
I developed different ways to record what happened as I went along. This helped to punctuate the time and show my progress to me, and to returning visitors. I marked the wall when I felt that my face started to dry with an 'f' below the tally mark at that time. Also, when I started to shiver with a 'c'. Not sure what 'e' means; it will come to me! The other marks are the initials of people: S for Steve, M for Mary, I for Imogen, LH RD for Long Hair Red Dress, F4 for Family of Four, same Family of three FB (sic, should be 3) without the father, M for Mary again, GH BJ for Grey Hair Blue Jeans, 2 SP X for a bespectacled couple who I forced to come in against their will, offered them a postcard then pushed past them as they left as I continued my circuit and slipped over! Hence the X: I knocked the bucket of clay or put my hand in it and slopped clay up across the wall and the two heaters. I hurt myself on the leg and bum as I landed trying to control my fall unsuccessfully, BH BT for Brown Hair Brown Trousers.
Falling over as a young couple left the cell was an important part of the performance. I made a mistake because I was tired. I had been performing for two hours and rushed past them as they went out, pushing past the door and losing my footing. I knocked the bucket of clay and the slip splashed the wall. I was annoyed at my foolishness but otherwise not hurt. When things go wrong, or when I deviate from the performance plan, the work becomes more interesting for me. These events show that I am pushing the performance and myself to the edge and finding out my limits.
It was a particularly horrible experience. I felt lonely and cold. Body Cell Slip was about isolation, loneliness, confinement, abjection, death, decay and coldness.
There was a special postcard souvenir for everyone who entered the cell, as a reward for taking part in the performance. I interviewed some of the people who took part and noted their comments on their ideas and feelings in a little black Body Cell Slip book.