MAstars 2010: Rachel Dobbs (LOW PROFILE), MA Contemporary Arts Practice & Dissemination

MAstars 2010: Rachel Dobbs (LOW PROFILE), MA Contemporary Arts Practice & Dissemination Rachel Dobbs (LOW PROFILE), HAVE YOU SEEN OUR WORK?, 2010. New media. Credit: LOW PROFILE

Martha Crean selects Rachel Dobbs (LOW PROFILE) from Dartington College of Arts for MAstars

Rachel Dobbs and Hannah Jones are LOW PROFILE, a performance collective who have been working together in collaboration since 2003.

As part of her final show for the MA in Contemporary Art & Dissemination at Dartington, Rachel Dobbs presented the LOW PROFILE performance piece 'DRY RUN Part 2: How to Save Your Skin When Disaster Strikes Without Warning' (2010). Over a 12 hour period the two artists read from The Book of Survival by Anthony Greenbank. During the performance the 'reader' is relentlessly interrupted by questions from the 'tester' to ensure that they are learning from and remembering what they are reading.

Sitting in a shed at Dartington listening to the team effort of the two artists struggling, persevering and generally failing to keep up the momentum of questioning and answering was entertaining. But it was the warm, human way that LOW PROFILE communicate with each other and interact with their audience in the moment that made it stand out.

The question of how to capture this, the 'liveness' of live art and the space between artist and audience, is what led to Dobbs's web-based research project 'HAVE YOU SEEN OUR WORK?' (2010). For the MA - which explored issues of dissemination, publication, editing, documentation and cultural context - Dobbs (in conversation with her collaborator) created a website that invites people who have seen LOW PROFILE in action to share their responses to the work.

Faithfully documenting and evaluating process-based art is always a challenge. In conversation Dobbs tells me she has been troubled by the pressure to neatly 'commodify' a practice that is not naturally slick, nor consistent. LOW PROFILE's performances are unpredictable, untidy and sometimes unphotogenic. 'HAVE YOU SEEN OUR WORK?' is a documentation strategy that attempts to embrace those 'un-words' as inherently valuable qualities of the work.

The website has activated a chain of creative responses: from video and audio explanations of the work, to animations and essays. This archive of voices attempts to capture some of the immediacy of being at the performance and the all-important audience perspective, all part of what Dobbs calls 'the stuff that is impossible to photograph and difficult to describe'.

For me, 'HAVE YOU SEEN OUR WORK?' is a great example of artists aspiring to engage audiences on new levels. It is clear that the concept is there, but that the website design has some way to go. As it is, the design lacks finesse and the main drawback is that users cannot yet upload independently. As Dobbs said to me, to be successful the site needs to be like her performance spaces: approachable and intuitive, with no explanation needed. The whole thing is a work in progress and a very promising model.

Selected by Martha Crean
Published August, 2010


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