The Life and Death of Objects and Puppets: Immanence, Intervention, Presence and Absence

Lead Research Organisation: Royal Central Sch of Speech and Drama
Department Name: Faculty


Some objects, including puppets, possess an inherent energy. Within the context of performance this can work with and against human presence. The proposed project is an investigation into the dynamics of the object/puppet which, when animated, is given the illusion of life.

I shall start by attempting to remove the human intervention/animation of the object/puppet to look solely at ephemeral animation, meaning animation of the object/puppet via natural forces (for example, a bag blowing in the wind). Does the absence of human presence, and therefore ego, allow the object autonomy of presence? Does it appear more alive because of the random 'free' nature of its animation?

The second stage of research will explore the idea of the past life of puppets through work with an existing set of Punch and Judy figures that belonged to the late Punch Professor Joe Beeby. This will form a case study of the relationship between tradition and contemporary practice, with particular focus on a feminist perspective of the character of Punch. When puppets have such an evocative history, how will their past life influence the creation of a new performance piece? The life and work of Joe Beeby will provide me with a context, history and persona from which to begin to engage with Joe's absence and a discovery of my own presence within the character of Punch.

The third stage will focus on public inclusion and exclusion, and the complicity of the audience in creating the illusion of life in the object/puppet, especially in relation to 'ritual' puppetry. This will engage with the 'private' world of personal ritual which touches on animism and a deep-rooted relationship with environment and objects within it to suggest life--as opposed to the public world of performance and the intervention of the audience in puppet/object performance.

Finally, I will look at the confrontation of the dead object/puppet, focusing on the concept of the archive via the exhibited object/puppet. Should puppets be re-used after their creators are gone? How do lifeless, dead figures hanging static within the context of a museum display honour memory differently than reconstructed performance? Does the memory of performance linger in the mind to imbue the lifeless with a trace of life drawn from memory?

Feedback from academic specialists and peers will be sought throughout the project, which will then culminate in a final stage of evaluation and dissemination through publications and international conference presentations.


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Title 'Concertina for the Gods 
Description This work was created especially for the festival The First International Festival of Puppetry Schools St Petersburg, with two BATP students Isabel Lyster and Jemima Yong. Using Ephemeral Animation & Functionality of The Object. It was inspired by writer Dennis Silk. 26th August 2010 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2010 
Impact another provocative performance piece which challenged notions of 'what is a puppet//' 
Title 'Conversation with an Umbrella' 
Description This was a performance piece of research created with sound artist Kaffe Matthews, director of Audrey Audio Reseach , it was generated via Ephemeral Animation research. Presented at the International Student Puppet Festival Royal Central School of Speech & Drama 2010 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2010 
Impact This was a challenging piece of work in that it was semi improvised and non narrative. It provoked debate about 'what is a puppet'? 
Title 2 day Master Class 'Ephemeral Animation' 
Description Two day masterclass 'ephermeral animation' as part of suspense festival , little angel theatre 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2009 
Impact Concentrated public engagement with my concept of Ephemeral Animation provoked valuable insights, particularly on anthropomorphic qualities of random animation. 
Title Choreography of Opening and Closing 
Description It is drawn from Ephemeral Animation research which within a studio setting has developed into an investigation into the Functionality of the object. Presented at The Accidental Festival BAC London May 29th 2010. 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2010 
Impact In collaboration with the London School of Puppetry. Simply working with the opening and closing of umbrellas. 
Title Ephemeral Animation & Conversation with an Umbrella 
Description Originally Kaffe Matthews was to present with me but due to ill health did not. I presented a performative lecture with Ephemeral Animation Films and excerpts of ?Conversation with an Umbrella?. The 14th World Festival Of Puppet Art - The work was nominated for The Best Original Performance Award June 3rd 2010 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2010 
Impact This was a wonderful challenge to the jury of the festival who nominated it for an award - credit to them as it was certainly provocative. 
Title Labyrinth 
Description Performance at Festival Of.... at Central School of speech & Drama creation of a labyrinth out of used plastic shopping bags documented by video and disseminated through you tube 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2009 
Impact 300 plastic carrier bags placed to form a labyrinth 
Description Ephemeral Animation is original to my research and is a way of framing debris animated by the elements, i.e. a plastic bag blowing in the wind. Framing these chance and random fragments has given insight into the nature of puppet animation via observation of four key elements:
· Quality and dynamic of the movement of the object.
· Subsequent variation on the quality and voracity of the element.
· Referencing the quality of 'tension' in determining the 'readability' of life.
· Evaluating random free movement with authenticity of animation.
Exploitation Route Cariad Astels has utilised Ephemeral Animation within her puppetry tutoring at Exeter University.

Caroline Astal Burt has also used the concept within her teaching with The London School of Puppetry.

Professor Joan Seigrist West Virgina University has been an advocate of Ephemeral Animation within her teaching.

Sean Herman Myatt, Nottingham Trent University and Daniel Watt, Loughborough University promoted Ephemeral Animation within their Object Theatre Network project.

Ephemeral Animation was sighted within Karrie Marshall's 'Puppetry in Dementia Care: connecting through creativity and joy'.
Sectors Education,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism

Description Ephemeral Animation was sighted within Karrie Marshall's 'Puppetry in Dementia Care: connecting through creativity and joy'.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Healthcare
Impact Types Policy & public services

Description Talk with Gavin Glover (Faulty Optik) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact facilitated a talk with Gavin Glover (Faulty Optik) as part of the International Mime Festival held at Central School of speech and Drama in January 2010
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010