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Jonny Bussell and Nick Williams

Active Observation

Over the last 18 months we have been working together as a new collaborative relationship between a writer/performer and sound designer. The aim of our research originally was to see how an early collaboration between two distinct disciplines would grow in the hope this could inform curriculum. Subsequently, we created work using a range of collaborative interdisciplinary exercises.

As part of our research we conducted an informal sharing of our work and presented one of our exercises with students at The Northern School of Art. We aimed for students to learn from the exercises but also to develop them further for themselves. We also hoped to break down some of the fears of failure that often effect student’s process.

Whilst the students engaged with our work and used the exercises as a jumping off point, we observed that they seemingly didn't pursue and interrogate the exercise.) to discover new creative possibilities (i.e. they didn't modify the exercise in any way that would be more suitable to their own practice). A further observation was that the student's need to understand the purpose of the exercise and buy-into-it so that it may be effective/useful. The purpose, in this case, being to discover new creative possibilities that could be the starting point for devised work. Even when the students uncovered new insights, often they didn't see what they had discovered. We propose that taking part in an exercise also necessarily must include critical and creative observation - active observation.

Areas we hope to investigate are questions such as does formal training make students resistant to exploration in exercises? How can we help students see the worth in none end-oriented exercises? How can we encourage students to find their own exercises for developing work?

Jonny Bussell Jonny studied Philosophy at Newcastle University and then went on to study MA Acting at Arts Educational Schools London.  After graduating Jonny has worked as an actor and director predominately in the North East.  As a writer Jonny’s first full length play The Centre was produced at Arc in Stockton, his play The Bag toured the North East and Scotland with Northumberland Theatre Company and his short plays have been performed at venues such as Live Theatre, The Cockpit Theatre and Theatre 503. He was the writer of ‘Just Checking’ and ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ two plays looking at OCD in conjunction with Vivid Theatre Company and Newcastle University that were performed at Northern Stage and Arc. Jonny is currently Programme Leader at The Northern School of Art for the BA Hons Acting for Stage and Screen.

Dr. Nick Williams is a professional sound designer with a comprehensive technical knowledge of contemporary audio and performance technologies. He works primarily in theatre creating and implementing original sound designs for productions throughout the country; he has also worked in film, media, and multi-media and interactive exhibitions. Nick studied Music and the Creative Arts with Performance Technology at the University of Central Lancashire, graduating in 2001. In July 2013 he completed a PhD entitled Resistant Environments: Technologically mediated empowerment networks in extradisciplinary performance from Newcastle University. Nick is presently the Programme Leader for Cleveland College of Art and Design’s new BA Sound Design programme.