Raindrop Dance 2021

As part of the programme of activities during the exhibition Food: The Utopia of Proximity at Bòlit Contemporary Art Centre and curated by Harold Berg, Eudald Camps & Carme Sais, Ocells al Cap were invited to recreate Carol Gooddens’s performance Raindrop Dance, first performed in 1971 at 112 Greene Street, New York. After almost exactly 50 years to the day, Ocells al Cap presented their version of the work on the 12 May 2021 at the Teatre Municpal in Girona, followed by a discussion with the audience.

Telepathic essence: As part of our ongoing investigation into extrasensory communication we asked for a volunteer member of the audience to write down a question on a piece of paper and to fold it up without showing it to us or the audience. We also asked for another volunteer to write down everything they saw during the performance on another sheet of paper. At the end of the performance the two volunteers read out what they had written; first the obvservations and lastly the question. A discussion with the audience ensued about whether or not the question had been answered by the performance.

Photos: Max Wyse

Between Us 2012

Between Us was performed just after lockdown in 2021. Only a few of the group could take part and the performance was made in a park in Celrà as part of the events to make International Women’s Day organised by Cultural Rizoma and the Ajuntament de Celrà.

The artists asked a volunteer in the audience to think of a question and to write it down on a paper that was kept secret until later. The group respond to each question with an improvised peformance using the objects they have previously brought with them. Another volunteer from the audience writes down everything they see during the improvised answer to the unseen question. Afterwards the volunteers read , first the witness and then the question. The group discusses what has happened with the audience

Video Duets 2020

During the residency at L’Animal a l’Esquena, Celrà, Ocells al Cap invited the artists who were unable to come in person because of the COVID19 pandemic, to take part in performance duets at a distance. The artists from afar were projected onto a large screen and the artists present at the residency stood with their back to the screen and with their eyes shut. The artists performed simultaneously and the works were observed for synchronicities.

The participating artists were: Lesley Yendell, Natàlia Espinet, Mireia Zantop, Nieves Correa, Pauline Cummings, Martine Viale, Marina Barsy, Denys Blacker, Juliette Murphy, Montse Seró, Isa Fontbona, Anna Subirana, Paloma Orts, Mar Ximenis.

Tentacular Thinking 2019

Tentacular Thinking was presented at La Casa de la Paraula in Santa Coloma de Farners on the 2nd February 2019. The participating artists were: Denys Blacker, Juliette Murphy, Mireia Zantop, Lesley Yendell, Paloma Orts, Melina Peña and Ada Vilaró.

The audience are asked to talk together and to decide on an important question. They are given 15 minutes to discuss this and the artists leave the gallery so as not to hear. The question is hidden from view and the artists return and make a group improvisation.

At the end, the question is read and a discussion takes place about what happened in the performance in relation to the question.

The Oracle 2017

The Oracle was presented at Al Jardí in Cadaquès on the 2nd July 2017. The participating artists were: Helen Collard, Marta Vergonyós, Denys Blacker, Nuria Iglesias, Montse Seró, Martine Viale, Sandra Johnston and Mar Serinyá. Photos by Jordi García Moriel.

In The Oracle, the audience were asked to write down a question that was important to them or that they were curious to have an answer for, and to hide the paper from the view of the artists. The artists then began to improvise with objects that they have brought with them. The person who has made the question takes notes and one of the group (who doesn’t know the question ) also takes notes. At the end of the improvisation the texts are read and the audience comment on the content. As usual, the only rule is that the artists can only move when moved by an inner conviction to move and otherwise to remain still.

Ocells al Cap in Cadaquès

We Were Waiting for You 2017

We Were Waiting for You is an experimentation with telepathic communication and was presented at FLARE 3 in Vane Gallery, Newcastle on 4th May 2017. The participating artists were: Denys Blacker, Mireia Zantop, Lesley Yendell, Sabina Vilagut, Marta Vergonyós, Natàlia Espinet, Victoria Gray, Helena Hunter. Photos by Arto Polus.

For the preparation of the performance, each participating artist (5 in Catalonia and 2 in the UK) selected six objects that were packed into cabin-size suitcases to take on the journey to Newcastle. What is in each suitcase is only known by the artist who packed it. The suitcases were later shown along side the photographic documentation at Bòlit Contemporary Art Centre (Girona) as part of the exhibition Denys Blacker – Mapes Efimers; a retrospective show.

We Were Waiting for You, presents the audience with the chance to become involved in a performance, in which relationships can unfold without coercion, by personal choice. Anyone who has a question to ask, may take their place as a silent supplicant or instigator within the process. Their question is written down, but not shown to the performance group. The performance then unfolds in response to this secret question, hidden from view until afterwards and only known to the person who asks it.

Artists without knowing the question, begin to respond through improvised movements and sounds and by taking out and using selected objects from their suitcases. The only rule is that they should not move at all unless they have a strong compulsion to move. It is not a choice, it is a sensation, an intuition. Sometimes all the artists interact, sometimes only a few. Only those who experience the need to participate, participate.

The questioning person sits at a table with a paper and pen to take notes and an artist from the group sits next to them. She will also write. They have to write down everything they observe, without thinking, responding only to what they see unfolding in the performance.

The role of the performance artist as protagonist is transformed by the fact that the content and meaningfulness is given to the work by another person’s vision, formed in the particular question chosen by that person. The questioner take notes, a circumstantial testimonial in a style of writing that, by nature of its immediacy comes close to automatic writing or a stream of consciousness response.  A witness from the performance group makes notes as well, in order to record only what they see. This is later shared with the audience. The question is also shared at the end of the performance if the person who asked it, so wishes. The two texts are read aloud, and a discussion takes place between audience and participants, sharing observations and interpretations of the actions that occurred.

A synchronicity (on the way to Newcastle):

The morning we travelled to Newcastle, we were to meet at the station in Girona to pick up Marta and Sabina. But we had to go early and Marta came late so we went back towards home to pick her up at Celrà where she could leave her car in a free parking space. She needed to swap her suitcase for the silver case we were all using, so we took out the suitcases and began to repack it on the road. When we had finished and had loaded the suitcases back into the car, we were ready to go when we saw that Natàlia and Sabina were crouched over something on the floor. Sabina was closing both her hands around a hopping bird. I went towards her with Marta and saw that it was a swift that had become tangled in a nylon fishing line. Tangled in the line and pressed aginst the back of the live swift was the desiccated body of another bird. Sabina and Natàlia were trying to free it but the bird was struggling and scratching. I picked it up from the floor, pressing down its wings and unexpectedly it dug its extremely sharp claws into my finger drawing blood. Marta too tried to hold on to its tiny body and it dug it claws even deeper into her hand making her shout. With her free hand she grabbed Natàlia’s lighter which was on the floor by her bag, and bunt through the line. It was almost free but the line was tight round its neck and a wing. We were able to free one of its wings wing but the bird struggled loose and flew away. The dessicated skepeton of a bird wrapped in fishing line was left on the pavement. Marta and I compared our puncture wounds and watch the beads of blood ooze out.

We wondered whether the birds were both alive when they were caught in the line? How long had it taken for the decomposition of the dead bird? In the car, Sabina showed us some drawings she had made that day while waiting for us in Girona station, of a bird whose wings are drawn as two hands.

The Sense of Being Stared at 2016

The Sense of Being Stared at was presented on the 19th April 2016 at the  international theatre festival Sismográf in Olot in 2016 as part of a durational collaborative work with the artist Ada Vilaró. In the work, four members of the group (Mireia Zantop, Lesley yendell, Paloma Orts and Denys Blacker), stood with their backs to Vilaró, who was seated at a short distance behind us.

During the two-hour durational work, Ada was instructed to fix her gaze on the back of one of the group at a time for a short duration. This was to be done in silence and with no visual contact with her and the artists. If and when they felt her gaze was fixed on them, they would raise a hand as a sign. She then marked down the times that this coincided with her actually looking at that person. The effect on the audience was mesmeric. The group appeared to be raising and lowering our hands in a choreographed way. From the audience’s point of view, the work was aesthetically pleasing but also hypnotically captivating. some of the people stayed for the full two hours to watch.

Interestingly, the majority of times that someone raised their hand they were in fact being watched by Ada. this came as a surprise, although they coincided in their experience of, at times, having had a physical sensation of being touched on the back while they were being looked at. There was also a particular moment during the piece when they all lost concentration to such a degree that they began to look at each other. Finally someone turned
to look at Ada, only to find that she had taken a break. They had felt her absence although they hadn’t seen her leave. They may have heard her leave unconsciously, but as the performance was on the street and there were many people walking by that would have been very difficult. Important qualities described by the artists after the performance were; mutual trust, knowing, agreement, confidence, open structure, non-conditional, unifying, political freedom, respect, empathy, determination and practice.

The Sense Of Being Stared At is taken from the title of a book and of an on-going investigation into telepathy, directed by the renowned british biologist Rupert Sheldrake that has been running since the 1980s. Sheldrake has been researching the apparent human ability to know when someone is looking at you even though you don’t have visual contact with that person. Many people have had the experience of feeling that someone is staring at them from behind, and on turning round to check, have been able to verify that indeed someone was looking directly at them. it is also common for the opposite to happen; a person reporting that they have the ability to make another person turn around by staring at them from behind. Sheldrake, in his paper The Sense Of Being Stared At, published in the Journal of Consciousness Studies (JCS), states that in Europe and North America, between 70% and 98% of the people questioned, admitted to having had this experience. This phenomenon now has a scientific name; “scopaesthesia” from the greek word skopein, to look at, and aesthesis, sensation. over the last 30 years or more, Sheldrake has carried out thousands of trials that consistently show significant results to support his claims about this strange human ability.

Even though these experiments have been conducted following rigorous scientific methodology, there is harsh criticism of his research. He has been called a heretic, his work dubbed paranormal and attempts have even been made to discredit the way his experiments are conducted. The American neuroscientist Christof Koch refused to comment on Sheldrake’s paper on the subject, answering the invitation to peer review it in a letter saying, ‘I think it is a waste of time’. Sheldrake’s work has been controversial for many years. In 1981, John Maddox, the editor of Nature magazine titled his review of Sheldrake’s book, ‘A New Science of Life, a book for burning?’.This is a field of research that inspires deep resistance and prejudice. Sheldrake has noted that his most vehement critics are also atheists.

Sceptisism is healthy when the facts are examined beforehand, but many of his critics refuse to even look at the evidence. Why is this so? What is it that makes for such extreme reactions?

Improvisation 2015

This group improvisation was presented at La_Carbonera, Bòlit Contemporary Art Centre in Girona on the 28th November 2015 during the International artists residency organised by FEM International Meeting of Women Performance Artists. The participating artists were: Anet Van de Elzen, Mireia Zantop, Denys Blacker, Harriet Plewis, Natàlia Espinet, Anita Ponton, Ada Vilaró, Mar Serinyá and Montse Seró. The performance was followed by a discussion with the audience.

Pomps of the Subsoil 2015

Performance presented at Festival Escena Poble Nou, Barcelona with Lesley Yendell, Juliette Murphy, Natàlia Espinet, Denys Blacker, Montse Seró y Mireia Zantop. Photos by Claudia Serrahima.

Ocells al Cap met in the hall where they would be performing in Poble Nou, Barcelona. They have each come prepared to make a ninety-minute performance with their own objects and props. The title Pomps of the Subsoil was taken from a painting by the painter Leonora Carrington, chosen because it portrays a group of bird-headed women, but they are not using it as a reference in the work. Each artist has prepared their own individual performance alone, but now we will present them together in the same space. They had no contact or communication between them beforehand about what each one was going to do.

They began working simultaneously, unpacking their bags, while watching each other as an array of objects began to appear in the space. There was an air of positive anticipation, a good feeling. Lesley had brought a tray of small beautifully tied white paper parcels, labelled with the royal names of vegetables. Juliette was covered by a dark blue cloak. Later during the performance when she took it off, we see she was covered in more than eighty small, white origami birds, a dark blue wimple tied to her head by a mass of black ribbon. Mireia took out a white cloth and lay out a row of pale wooden kitchen objects, then a ball of white raffia. She placed a stainless steel bowl full of coins onto a zebra-striped cushion. Montse had brought dried leaves and was wearing blue. She had blue bags full of blue feathers hanging round her neck. Denys had brought white objects and on the floor around her she placed two long, white cloth sleeves, a woven length of white porcelain strips, a white porcelain cone on a red velvet cushion, two planks of wood, a ball of white wool, one white cushion, scissors, a hammer, string and nails. Natalia opened her suitcase and revealed two red notebooks, some pens and a copy of The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard. She had several dresses, red and black. They couldn’t help noticing that the majority of the objects spaced around the room were white or pale. Marta was absent, but she had written an email beforehand. When they read it afterwards, they see that she was planning to bring ‘white offerings for each one; flour for Lesley, salt for Mireia, sugar for Denys, and talcum powder for Madame Juliette’.

One of the objectives of working together is to develop the intra-connections between us. We are hoping to increase the efficacy of nonverbal communication and looking for the possibility of the telepathic transferal of ideas and thoughts. We look for synchronicities in the material and the performances as signs of this happening. Of course it is possible that we will just become more and more familiar with the group aesthetic and end up making a particular kind of work, where we predict with accuracy what the others will do. In whichever case, we are interested to observe how the work of each individual might change over time. We are not trying to prove a pseud-scientific theory, rather to observe and to note the effects of working together as a group on the individual works and on our communication and interaction.

Birds in the Head 2014

The group Ocells al Cap came together for the first time in 2014 when Marta Vergonyós and Denys Blacker were invited by the Fundació Antoni Tàpies (Barcelona) and the Women’s Cultural Centre la Bonne (Barcelona) to make a performance for the exhibition about Allan Kaprow’s work called ‘Otras Maneras‘ curated by Soledad Gutiérrez. They invited a group of women artists to make a reinvention of Allan Kaprow’s work ‘The Birds’, renaming it ‘Birds in the Head’. The participating artists were: Denys Blacker, Mar Serinyá, Marta Vergonyós, Mireia Zantop, Ada Vilaró, Natàlia Espinet, Clara Garí, Paloma Orts, Montse Seró, Nuria Iglesias, Nina Orteu, Lesley Yendell and Sue Blacker.