A proposal for an Action at Picture This in response to The Sensible Stage : Staging and the Moving Image


Screenwork is a moving image work, an Action, that stages the audience’s experience, and the work that the audience does in relation to screens.

The piece consists of two elements, live and on-screen, that run parallel to each other, and refer to, and interact with each other.

During the Action the audience is engaged in several kinds of work– cultural administrative office work, formal and informal performative work, and the art/entertainment work of meaning-production and distracting oneself.
There are no rehearsed performers involved.

Screenwork is designed to be performed in and around Picture This – an agency that commissions and exhibits artists films.

Sketch - Picture This floorplan. The audience moves in a loose choreography through a series of de-territorialised affects, energies and forcefields.

Duration: 45 minutes.

Location: The Action takes place in 5 areas – the exhibition space, office, video shop, toilet, and McColls shop.

Participants: 8 self-selected participants.

The Action begins with an audience assembled in the exhibition space, where there is also a large free-standing screen.

A call is made over the PA speakers for eight participants to volunteer from the assembled audience. Would-be participants are told they will be asked to perform a series of simple tasks, and are reassured that they will not be asked to do anything difficult or dangerous.

Each participant is asked to put on a wifi headset.
Verbal instructions running from a timeline on a laptop are broadcast wirelessly to the participants.

The reactions of the participants and on-lookers to these instructions becomes the principal moving image work.


Four participants (group 2) spend the majority of the time in the exhibition space performing behavioural actions related to the large screen.

The other four of the participants (group 1) spend the majority of the Action in the office area performing administrative tasks, with each participant sat at a workstation computer screen.

The participants move back and forth between these areas, and incursions are occasionally made to the toilet, the video shop, and outside to McColl’s convenience store, located across the street from Picture This.

On-lookers (members of the audience who don’t have headsets) are free to follow the participants through the five different areas, or to stay in a particular space.
The on-lookers are intermittently addressed with instructions from the timeline via PA speakers in the exhibition space and the office.

Tasks: The tasks that the eight participants are asked to carry out are simple sequences of physical movements. Sometimes the same task is carried out by all the participants in unison; at other times every participant might be performing a different separate task.
In themselves the tasks are often banal, but the complexity of eight participants carrying them out at the same time generates a complex energy.

Examples of tasks that the participants are instructed to carry out

- Asking audience members for their email addresses.
- Making behaviourial gestures including head nodding, ear scratching,
- Serving drinks in the Video Shop.
- Arranging chairs for the audience in front of the main screen.
- Making movements including standing with arms stretched out, reaching up to the ceiling (which may or may not mirror events on-screen).
- Viewing the main screen.
- Visiting the toilet.
- Creating a facebook page for the event.
- Going to McColl’s shop to buy snacks for the office.

The duration of the Action (45 minutes) is important, as it allows both the participants and the on-lookers to move past the novelty of the situation to a point where it becomes relatively normalised.

Main Screen: There is a large screen in the exhibition space, and the pre-recorded images moving on it run parallel to the “live” events happening in the building.

Choreography between participants and screen – 1. No sync 2. Partial sync 3. Full sync

Back-projected on the screen are the events of another Action, that often appear extremely similar to those happening in the live situation.
This recorded Action appears to present a life size mirror image of the space in front of the screen.

The participants in the recorded Action are not the same participants as in the live event, but for long sequences the tasks they carry out and the positions they stand in mirror the positions and tasks that the live participants are being instructed to carry out.

Instructions: The instructions that the participants receive via their wifi headsets are simple, but require concentration to follow, as they take the participant step by step meticulously through each sequence.
This concentration results in the participants being held by the LTA voice (unless they make the decision to disobey the instructions).

As the Action progresses the instructions become less specific and there is more room for interpretation by the participants. In the later stages participants are left for periods of five minutes or more between instructions.

Voice: In past iterations of LTA a speech to text programme has been used to generate a British female voice – “Rachel” – to read the instructions to the participants.
For Screenwork I would like to record the voices of Picture This staff giving the instructions.

Ending: The Action finishes after 45 minutes without any sense of conclusion or closure being reached. Participants are instructed to return their headphones. The PA announces that the Action is over.


The presence of the screen:
A parallel organising principle in pro-filmic and screening events

One aspect of Screenwork is an investigation into the organising, or arranging, principle paralleled by the camera frame and the viewing screen.
This is not a reference to the framing of image by camera and screen, but to the ability of both the camera and the screen to arrange live bodies in space…

During the pro-filmic event (the event captured by the camera) - bodies, objects and space are arranged for and by the camera.
During the viewing situation - a viewer’s body is arranged in space by his or her orientation to a screen (whether phone, computer, tv, or cinema screen)

Screenwork aims to make explicit the parallel arranging principle occurring in the pro filmic event and the live viewing situation.
Screenwork does this by making the participants (who are also audience members) move in space, in a way that often exactly mirrors the way the participants are moving in the event recorded on the screen.

nb. The live participants are not copying the actions on the screen. They are receiving the same instructions via their headsets as the recorded participants were at the moment the image was made.