‘Wet Leaves are Good for Snails’ - Video by Adam Wells & Ben Wells

Performers: Oliver MitchamMunesu Mukombe & Ben O'Brien

" Water Lettuce" - Documentation of Performance by Ben Wells & Adam Wells

 Performers: Adam Wells, Imogen Rough & Mattina Vena Hiwaizi


Performance art is often associated with censorship or public decency, and in many ways been a medium that challenges borders. In what way would you describe your performance and art work, does it challenge any borders?

Our work is centered around costumes, performance and film. The work often explores sensuality and care, as well as the negotiation of group activity.

Throughout the duration of the work the ‘borders’ between the performers and the audience shift. The way this shift occurs is dependent on at what point, or if at all the performers are present. Viewing live bodies in comparison to viewing bodies on screen is a very different experience, the live body is often more confrontational. Because of this, the audience may become less passive when the performers enter the work, they have to actively respond. In this way the borders between the audience and the bodies in the work shift and is therefore challenged.

Are there any particular subjects or elements that are essential in your performance?

The specific set of materials we use in our work is essential. The materials are usually wipeable, shiny, glossy or waterproof. They often wiggle between different spaces: clinical and sensual, natural and artificial. The specific materials we include and exclude are crucial in creating the alternate space in the work.

How do you create the space for your performance?

We usually start with the costumes, designing them with a specific set of materials in mind. Once we have designed the costumes we then create the space for the performance. It's quite instinctive but we think about where the costumes can exist and function most effectively.

You mentioned you use water and plants as elements. In what way do these elements represent or fit into the space you create?

In our work we think a lot about the different bodies that occupy the space we create. We often extend the way we think about the bodies in our work to think about the plants in our work - the plant bodies. The plants in our work are as much involved as

the human performers. The performers care for the plants like the performers care for each other, and the plants also care for the performers. For example, in the film the plant caresses one of the performer’s leg in a sensual act and the performer ‘repays’ the plant by caring for it and hydrating its body.

Water is an incredibly sensual material, especially because it is so related to the intimate acts of cleaning and caring for oneself and others. In this way, it fits perfectly into the sensual space we aim to create.

How is your process of making the costumes and performances, where do the ideas come from?

We start with designing and creating the costumes. To do this we create mood boards for the costumes, collecting references and materials we want to incorporate into them. Who knows whether the mood boards are just an ode to all the teen movies/series we used to be obsessed with, or whether it is an essential part of the process (shout out to: 13 Going on 30, Devil Wears Prada and Ugly Betty). Incorporating 'functional' elements into the costumes is important as these functional elements are often utilised in the performance (for example pouches which fill up).

After creating the costumes we devise the performance, combining the costumes and set and incorporating elements we want present in our work, such as: care, dependence, sensuality and tasks. A large section of this process is thinking about specific gestures and manipulating them to fit the desired effect.

In terms of the where the ideas come from it really varies, sometimes they will be inspired by a reference we happen upon, other times they come from our research. The ‘Wet Dreams’ embroidery on the silicon costume stemmed from when we saw the text ‘Sweet Dreams’ on our friends top, which at first we read as ‘Wet Dreams’. After, we thought a lot about how the idea of wet dreams seemed to fit into our work.

Wet dreams as: 1) dreaming of wet spaces and environments. 2) having a wet dream - where you are in this alternate sensual space, that you aren’t fully present in but are still highly affected.

We both had the experience of having queer wet dreams when we were younger which we tried to suppress. Wet dreams were an important part of realising our queer desires and we like that this experience is in the work, even though it's not explicit.

In what way does sensuality play a role in your work?

The costumes, the set and the performances are created with sensuality in mind. Although some moments of sensuality may not be noticeable, they accumulate: the clear balls glistening as they roll along the floor when they are accidentally dropped, the light bouncing off the reflective costumes, the dripping water which creates a delicate sound and the glossy shiny tiles. We feel these moments produce a sense of pleasure and care in the work, the actions become more meditative and rooted in care rather than labor.

You both mention that you like to take elements from other environments. Are there any specific environments or elements that are used that you bring into your performance?

A lot of elements in our work are from watery environments: swimming pools, ponds, swamps and bathrooms. So far we have found it crucial that the space we create is not a replicate of one of these existing spaces but an alternate space, a space that only ever takes certain elements from existing environments. Last year we did some filming in a swimming pool with the costumes and it felt really wrong for the work. We think this is because the work operates as an alternate, fictional version of the spaces we take elements from.

Do you think there is an under representation within the arts world on acknowledging performative art?

It depends on where you look and what you classify as the art world. There is definitely less performance based practices shown at larger gallery spaces. However, many artists now independently create spaces to showcase performance work. Generally, there is also a huge under representation of women, POC and queer people in the art world, many of whom have performance based practices.

How does your collaborations work, are your views on art interlinked or does it create a wider space of diversity to it?

It’s only since last year that we started collaborating, prior to this we had separate practices in which our interests often overlapped. Our collaborative work has become a product of our separate and overlapping interests which has expanded the work to include performance, film and costume. Collaborating has made the work more specific as the constant discussions and disagreements we have help us to be critical of what is and is not essential for the work. Working with friends and performers has also contributed to this discussion and decision making process.

In what way would you further like to use performative art? Do you have any projects in the making or have you found any art forms you would like to explore more now you have graduated?

We would definitely like to continue using film, costume and performance and exploring their relationship to each other. For example, experimenting with how we can use live performance with film to create gestures which continue on and off screen. Working more with sound and choreography in our performances is something we are also interested in exploring in the future.

This summer we are working with, and performing for artist and friend Amber Hahn. Throughout the period of a week she will be producing site-specific choreographies at the Link Gallery in Jersey for her show ‘The Minor Gesture’ (24th-29th of July). We’re really excited to work with her and working and collaborating with more people is something we wish to do in the future.

 

 

Text by: Hilde Thon, Ben Wells & Adam Wells


 ‘Wet Leaves are Good for Snails’ - Photo by:  Ben Wells  &  Adam Wells

‘Wet Leaves are Good for Snails’ - Photo by: Ben Wells & Adam Wells

 ‘Water Lettuce’ - Photo by:  Ben Wells  &  Adam Wells

‘Water Lettuce’ - Photo by: Ben Wells & Adam Wells

 ‘Water Lettuce’ - Photo by:  Ben Wells  &  Adam Wells   Performers:  Warudom Sombatkamra ,  Charlotte Oppenheim  &  Ben Wells    

‘Water Lettuce’ - Photo by: Ben Wells & Adam Wells

Performers: Warudom SombatkamraCharlotte Oppenheim & Ben Wells

 

 ‘Water Lettuce’ - Photo by:  Ben Wells  &  Adam Wells   Performers:  Ben Wells,   Warudom Sombatkamra  &  Charlotte Oppenheim    

‘Water Lettuce’ - Photo by: Ben Wells & Adam Wells

Performers: Ben Wells, Warudom Sombatkamra & Charlotte Oppenheim

 

 ‘Water Lettuce’ - Photo by:  Ben Wells  &  Adam Wells

‘Water Lettuce’ - Photo by: Ben Wells & Adam Wells

 ‘Water Lettuce’ - Photo by:  Adam wells  &  Ben Wells   Performer:  Mattina Vena Hiwaizi

‘Water Lettuce’ - Photo by: Adam wells & Ben Wells

Performer: Mattina Vena Hiwaizi

 ‘Water Lettuce’ - Photo by:  Ben Wells  &  Adam Wells    

‘Water Lettuce’ - Photo by: Ben Wells & Adam Wells