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Oral / response

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  • W100 Fine Art
  • W310 Musicianship/Performance Studies
  • W110 Drawing


A woman crushes a stick of black chalk with a pestle and mortar, pinches the ground dust into a pile on the floor, leans down, inhales, exhales and blows the dust across the floor. The process is repeated through a grading spectrum of black to white. A second woman kneels facing the other and writes on the floor in matching tones a record of that taking place before her. They work in synch and in rhythm: one creates a physical action that the other interprets in words. Once the charcoal set is crushed to exhaustion the woman with the now blackened face stands up and walks away. Her documenter follows. The documentation of ‘Oral / Response’ is as live as the performance itself. Each mode informs the other and benefits from the particular requirement imposed by a ‘site’. The site here is not just the physical location, but includes the artist's body, the anticipated audience, the environment, and the atmosphere. Rather than prioritising one form over another, each manifestation is seen as having generative potential for further creative responses. This reflexivity relies on the observation of each other’s movements and decisions throughout, and it is this construct that allows the problem of documentation to be analyzed. With no time to reflect, to square up a shot or rephrase a sentence after the event, the integral nature of the work’s document is exposed to complication and chance; it becomes as influential as the action it is intended to record. 'Oral / Response' is a collaborative artwork made by Angela Bartram & Mary O'Neill.

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