I contacted audio visual performance art duo Harmergeddon using a common internet messenger service and asked them some questions on the subject of livestream performance which they responded to. I then felt able to write this article with Harmergeddon lockdown livestream quotes interspersed with my thoughts after watching a live performance of theirs on the internet in my home.
“I love it, there are challenges but that’s part of what makes it interesting. The possibility of using it to change live performance really excites me.”
“I’m in favour of it for certain, it’s not a replacement … It levels the playing field in terms of location and reach … It’s quite fun watching everyone getting to grips with this added responsibility too and seeing how different artists and promoters approach it”
I been watching some of those lockdown live stream things lately. Some of them are pretty good. They’ve also made me realise that I have a tendency when I’m trying to describe something that I feel positive about, that I only use relatively plain words, like great or amazing. Or pretty good in that last sentence. Sometimes I’ll put a swearword in front for added effect, if I really really like it. I’ll say it or think it, I don’t talk out loud much while alone in lockdown. It doesn’t matter as no-one can hear you, and to me it doesn’t make much sense unless you’re recording yourself. So I think things, and descriptions of things that I am experiencing. So while I was watching and hearing a livestream of a Harmergeddon performance the other week I was sat on the sofa thinking this is f**king fantastic. I pronounced the u and the c, not the asterisks. I’d be censoring my own thoughts and I don’t know how to pronounce asterisks anyway.
“We can choose larger items at home for a live stream without having to think about how to transport them …. Same with a gig, it’s about choosing enough stuff that it isn’t overwhelming to work with and each thing has to pass several tests for inclusion … Live, we have to think about how long something is going to take to set up, at home for a live stream we’ve been using the days leading up to prepare the space and ensure everything is functional as much as we can.”
Watching the Harmergeddon livestream situation I found myself pondering on why I was especially drawn to it as an all-round audio and visual experience. I compared it to the times I’ve watched them live prior to the lockdown, when I have left my home and attended event spaces, venues and suchlike. I decided that there wasn’t any point in dwelling on what I was missing by not being at a live event in person as being at a live event in person doesn’t exist at the moment. I found it better to think of the advantages of watching the live Harmergeddon performance right there in my lounge in front of my face with my eyes.
“There’s quite a few additions because the appliances are already here. There’s also more time to ‘dress the stage’ given we don’t have to share the space with other performers and we’re here 24/7 so can spend several days on it if I choose.”
I felt questions in me about how they put it together while I was watching it and then I made some more questions when I got asked to write this article. They might have been the same questions but I didn’t write the first ones down so I’ll never know. Previously after a live performance I’ve approached them and said something like ‘yeah that was really good cheers’ and then on the way home I’ve thought ‘I wonder how they did that thing?’ I could have asked them then but it wasn’t in my head at the time. So there it is, a difference. For me the livestream allows me to ponder more and to more easily take the opportunity to write my queries down. And the evolving layout of this actual article meant that when their responses came back towards me, I could further dress it with chosen snippets throughout.
“Because we are more practised with gigs than streams, we know roughly what’s going to happen, what could go wrong, what we can deal with out if it stops working etc. Hoping the power stays up, the internet stays up and the cameras stay charged and connected, as well as switching camera angles, it’s a whole other thing. In terms of sounds, it’s a little more under the microscope, you can get away with stuff live because it’s transient, all the streams we’ve done have been archived so it suffers the same fate as any recording. I quite like the idea of sometimes not archiving things, making them more here and now, not about being exclusive and blocking people out but more about doing something that only exists in the moment plus whatever latency the technology adds.”
I found it particularly absorbing to see how Harmergeddon had engaged with the livestream home performance and made slight changes to their set due to this difference between home and venue.
“There’s no physical crowd to vibe off of which has always been a big thing for us. It is there to an extent, of course, playing at home without streaming and with streaming are two very different vibes, you get the comment stream too.”
“For me connecting with the audience has been the most significant shift. When performing in a room with people there is an energy from them that informs the performance and aspects of the improvisation. With Live stream I am experimenting with ‘playing to the camera’ looking right down the barrel of the lens when I would never usually make eye contact with the audience.”
After seeing and listening to the 40 minutes of their livestream I felt compelled to embark on some creativity. So I creatively looked around on the social media for some more live streams to watch, physical creativity could wait until tomorrow. I also acknowledged a new wish in my thoughts though, a desire that once this corona situation is over that I personally would like the livestream scene to remain as popular as it is now, alongside and complementing live performance in venues. With thanks to Harmergeddon, I now see it as a growing viable arena for artistic engagement.
Andy Rowe : www.slatepipe.co.uk