Hayley Newman is a performance artist interested in humour, fiction and documentary practices.
She creates works in various media including sound, text and photography, often in collaboration with other artists to produce immersive performances, one-off pieces and stand-alone art positioned in its environment. There is a thread running through her art which questions objectivity and subverts notions of empirical experience and received fact. Another recurring idea is turning one form of energy into another.
Newman explores the vagaries of experience and how it is mediated through communication. Art, to Newman, is dependent to a large degree on its documentation: if we have not experienced the work directly through our own senses then our experience is necessarily filtered through someone else’s.
As Newman commented on her work(1): The problem of not seeing work in its primary form but instead considering secondary published material, such as a photograph with its supporting text, creates a vacuum that is often filled by anecdote and mythology.
Newman developed this notion by addressing how to represent the work outwith the experience - is representation possible or is imagery antithetical to the real event?(2) To explore this question, she produced a series of documentation consisting of documentary images and accompanying text of performances which never took place.
I found Newman’s ideas intriguing, particularly when considering my recent work with sugar. I had been experimenting with using candy floss intending in creating a work where it was hung or suspended from dental floss in a way that would allow the viewer to walk around it. However, I found it difficult to work with because it degenerated quickly, losing its shape before collapsing, meaning that it would be difficult to create the sort of work I intended.
The documentation through photographs and film become the only way for others to have any kind of experience with it. The screen/viewfinder brings a level of detachment. However, it may be possible to get around this by making work that is large and immersive.
Thinking about this further, I worked with Elizabeth to photograph what was seemingly a ritualistic circle and symbols as if created in performance art piece.
(1) Newman, H. (2003) ‘Self interview’
(2) Newman, H. (1998) ‘Connotations-Performance Images’: