• About

    Mary Oliver is a Performance Artist and Reader in Performance at the University of Salford. Her work often explores the simple human activities of family gatherings, eating and banal conversations, but the certainty of such events is put into question as Mary tells these stories with the aid of digital performers. Her shows include Mother Tongue where she performs as all the members of her family simultaneously, Wednesday, Wednesday in which she argues with herself for the right to perform, Almost features the world's smallest 'human' performer, viewed with the aid of opera glasses and Blue is a poetic duet between a woman and a phenomenal animation, that can do anything but leave the screen.

    Mary also creates work for gallery spaces, using sensing technologies to activate the spectator's engagement with the work. In Push (2012) the audience pushes the seat of a playground swing, activating a random set of perverse incidents filmed in public parks. In the Screaming Head (2009) the spectator triggers an increasingly abusive range of responses from a disembodied head that responds according to how hard it is hit. Her current project Talk to me is using sensing technologies to create conversational interfaces with inanimate objects.

    She has collaborated with a range of artists and engineers in the making of her work. They include animator Rozi Fuller, artists Niki Woods and Steve Gumbley, computer programmers Joe Brindle and Kenny Lozowski, musicians Christian Weaver and Matthew Wood, video editors Sara Robinson and Michael Clements. Mary has been directed by Mem Morrison, Mark Whitelaw, Teresa Brayshaw and Rob Thirtle. She has presented her work throughout Europe, Canada, USA and Australia and has been funded by Arts Council England, the British Council, the AHRC and the Canadian Cultural Council, to create and tour her work.

  • Collaborative

    Mary collaborates with an international network of organisations and artists. She leads the As Yet Impossible research project which is exploring the application of performance methods in unusual industrial and experimental applications. As part of this development she organizes the As Yet Impossible Public Lecture Series, at the University of Salford MediaCityUK campus. The aim is to bring Artists and Scientists to present on ideas that are pushing at the edges of current knowledge. The speakers have included Kevin Warwick - Cyberneticist, Mike Joroff - Media City expert MIT, Steve Benford - Computational Scientist, Daniel Glaser - Wellcome Trust and the Artists: Ali Hosaini, Gibson and Martelli. She is an experienced consultant and event organisor.

    Mary Oliver’s collaborative partners include:

  • Activities

    • Fly Me to the Moon
      Set in outer-space two lonely and lost astronauts are trying to keep their ageing spaceship and their bodies alive. The dialogue reveals the truth about being in space and its disgusting impact on the body. Before thinking of becoming a space tourist, it might be wise to find out what the lack of gravity will do to your interior. It took two years to make this performance in which I perform with my cartoon self.

    • Blue
      A woman performs with a phenomenal animation, which can do anything except leave the screen. A lone actor sits patiently waiting. Beside her, lines and shapes form into a woman, her double. Then just as their eyes meet the woman on screen is transformed into a grotesque monster, then an elephant, a bat, an anthropomorphic chair. And so the transformations continue, becoming more surreal until finally the line shrinks to a spec and disappears.

    • Mother Tongue
      Controlled by computer in this work Mary performs as her mother and three sisters in an exploration of why we speak as we do.Reliving moments from her family's past and bringing her mother’s voice back to life as the five women laughed, cried and sang in harmony one more time.

    • Nanna's New Pet
      Nana has bought a 'puppy' from a man in the High Street. It has a strange appetite for gourmet foods and other unusual tasty morsels. The little boy next door who used to come and play with the new pet has mysteriously disappeared and now Nana is on her way to visit her Grandchildren. Her pet says she "likes Grandchildren". This is an interactive dark comedy in the vein of Not Now Bernard. It's scary, but safe as Nana keeps her pet locked inside a pet carrier at all times. Nana's New Pet is a mobile performance that can take place anywhere, with the aid of wireless technology.

    • Offit
      Offit (Salford colloquial term for 'not quite right') was the result of a residency at HubM3 a gallery on the cusp of Salford and Manchester, at a time when Salford was on the cusp of regeneration, just prior to the opening of Media City UK. I collaborated with Canadian Artist Lois Klassen in a working period that began in Toronto and transferred to the UK. We asked what happens to local industry, people, house prices, the cost of coffee, and how artists collude with property developers.

    • Babble
      A sonic tea party for large numbers of participants, created as part of Rules and Regs at Southill Park Art Gallery, Bracknell – 2009.

      The Rules: Love the extraordinaire, React, Develop a dialogue, Vox populi, vox dei. I asked the people "If you were God, what would you say to the people?" They said "be kind". I asked the people that "As God what would they say to me the artist?" and they said "do what feels right.

      read more...

    • Talk to Me
      It's a well know fact that when we touch through human handshake we reveal all sorts of information about ourselves, what is less known is that this is a result of a literal exchange of bio-signs. This one-to-one performance is part involuntary confessional and part magic trick. Using a combination of cold reading techniques and storytelling, Talk to Me is the first step towards the making of a new kind of haptic interface. Made with the assistance of the University of Salford Biosensor lab, and therein lies the clue towards solving this never to be revealed trick.

    • The Screaming Head
      This installation was devised during the International Residency Programme the Liminal Screen, at Banff New Media Institute, Alberta, Canada. A movement sensitive grotesque head sits inside a small box. When left alone it pleads pitifully for help, when touched it pushes the audience away with varying degrees of abuse depending on how harshly it is treated.

    • Wednesday Wednesday
      In this duet, Mary argues with herself for the right to perform. In life, Mary is obsessed with food, sex and singing, on TV, she’s perfect, well spoken, has conversations with God, and able to move her hair in slow motion.

    • Never work with Animals, Children and Digital Characters
      This performance reveals how and why I make this kind of work. In tandem, Mary Oliver and Mary Oliver (digi-self,) discuss the underlying theoretical themes that run under ideas about the self when performing in virtual spaces. It demonstrates clearly the reality of the presence of the digital performer whose central argument for this claim, lies in the fact that she has a soul. She is also highly manipulative, controlling and a much better performer than her on-stage double, making her an excellent example of Baudrillard's diabolical double.

    • Swimmers
      On-stage a swimmer sunbathes, beside her on a table is sunscreen, popcorn, a cocktail glass, swimming goggles. Onscreen a scene number is projected, it could be any number from 1-9. This is followed by the appearance of the double of the on-stage performer, in a mirrored pose. In each scene a different choreography of movements, actions and ridiculous tasks is performed by the onscreen performer that her on-stage twin must match: drinking a whole glass of coke, covering her body with sunscreen, eating a whole apple in one go.

    • Push
      Created for At Play 3 Southill Park Art Gallery, Push develops the interactive screenwork developed for the Screaming Head and Offit and places the screen within an object, in this case, a child's swing. The monitor is positioned at the height of a swing seat and by pushing it, random video clips are triggered that reveal the darker side of public parks when inhabited by adults: the man who didn't make it home after a heavy night of drinking; the dog excrement; signs of sex in the bushes; a fighting couple. When motionless a slow moving image of a swing seat cycles continuously.

  • Contact

    Mary Oliver
    E-mail: info.maryoliver@googlemail.com

     

  • Babble

      A sonic tea party for large numbers of participants, created as part of Rules and Regs at Southill Park Art Gallery, Bracknell – 2009.

      The Rules: Love the extraordinaire, React, Develop a dialogue, Vox populi, vox dei. I asked the people "If you were God, what would you say to the people?" They said "be kind". I asked the people that "As God what would they say to me the artist?" and they said "do what feels right.

      So I sat a food hygiene exam, passed it, and in the restaurant kitchen of the Arts Centre I made provocative cakes: mosques, churches, missiles, twin-towers and chocolate oil barrels. I devised a tea party, a quintessentially English event, with its performed conversation and politeness, whilst surreptitiously recording the participants voices and "feeding" them back slowly and insidiously. Finally after enjoying their tea and cakes they were rendered silent by the 'Babble' of their own chatter. Performed with the assistance of professional waiter Andrew Buchannan, sound Recordist Sam Weaver and gallery interns. Curated by Outi Remes, Series Producer Seth Kriebel Funded by Arts Council England http://www.rulesandregs.org/moliver.html

  • Recent Activities

    • 2013 - 2014 Guest editor of a special issue of the International Journal of Performing Arts and Digital Media on Hybridity: the intersections of Performance and Science.
    • 2012 Push ‘At Play’ Exhibition, Southill Park Art Gallery.
    • 2009 Selected Artist Liminal Screen International Artists Fellowship, Banff New Media Institute, Alberta Canada.
    • 2009 Selected Artist ‘Rules and Regs’ Artist’s Residency, Southill Park.
    • 2008 Editorial boards of the ‘International Journal of Performing Arts and Digital Media’ (Intellect Press) and ‘Performing Magic Journal’, (Huddersfield University Press.
    • 2008 - 2012 Co-convenor TaPRA’s (Theatre and Performance Research Association) Performance and New Technologies Working Group.
    • 2007 Best Paper award Re-actor: Women in digital live art conference Leeds University.

     

    2001-2002 Mother Tongue

    Controlled by computer in this work Mary performs as her mother and three sisters in an exploration of why we speak as we do. The five characters performed in synchrony, with Mary reliving moments from her families past and bringing her mother’s voice back to life as the five women laughed, cried and sang in harmony one more time.

    This performance premiered at the Sensitive Skin Festival in Nottingham before touring to venues including the ICA, BAC, Royal Exchange Studio and Alsager Arts Centre.

    "A well performed, gentle examination of her own identity"
    Performance Magazine

    2006 Never Work with Animals, Children or Digital Performers

    Another conflict based double act, where the two Mary’s banter away with on stage Mary trying not to be upstaged by her irascible onscreen self.

    "I had come to believe that such performances were inevitably doomed to failure. Mary Oliver proved me wrong. Her auto-performance is tremendously effective theatre: funny, deeply thought provoking and surprisingly moving."
    David Saltz, Editor, Theatre Journal.

    2005 Wednesday, Wednesday

    In this duet, Mary argues with herself for the right to perform. In life, Mary is obsessed with food, sex and singing, on TV, she’s perfect, well spoken, has conversations with God, and able to move her hair in slow motion. Playing partly ideas of liveness and mediation but mostly just being daft, this show plays with the very different performance styles of the TV personality and the painfully embarrassing musical performer.

    "Mary Oliver is one of the sharpest and funniest performers working today."
    Philip Auslander, author of Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Society, on, Rhode Island USA

    2007 Almost

    In a real house, nine inch high Doris is fastidiously decorating, cleaning and hoping that there will be a reprieve from the council order to demolish the street and with it her beloved home. Her giant of a husband takes matters into his own hands and finds a way to save Doris from the nightmare that will inevitably come. Almost is a modern fairytale with a sad ending, of the family who live in the last house on the street. It’s an allegorical tale – she is too small to notice and he’s too big to fit in.

    "Doris can be seen with the aid of opera glasses moving from room to room with the aid of composite hi definition video in a beautifully crafted house"
    Artist Steve Gumbley.

    "Mary Oliver's razor-sharp observations of the everyday are brought to life in her stunning and touching theatre performances that oscillate between rationale and reverie, humour and melancholy."
    Andrea Zapp, curator of Story Rooms, on Almost, Manchester."

    2009 Swimmers

    "One of the highlights of Liminal Screen."
    Susan Kennard, Director of Banff New Media Institute, on Swimmers, Alberta, Canada.

    "Nothing unoriginal comes out of her mouth!"
    Comedian Jenny Éclair, Comedy Writing Workshop, Lancaster University