Cara Tolmie works across several media, including performance art, installation, sound and video, to explore theatrical conventions, language and human interaction. Using her own voice and body, as well as those of other performers, she investigates the meaning of actions and their interpretation through theatrical techniques including monologue and narration. Working with handmade self-designed sets and relying on many of her own abilities to realise her works, she constructs unique and personal narratives and scenarios.
Her 2011 performance Myriad Mouth Line sees the artist act alone for the audience. Using nothing but her voice, she crosses the stage calling out in a variety of styles from operatic singing to high-pitched screeching, before delivering an enigmatic monologue. She then goes on to describe the scenario as it has just happened, unravelling what has gone before. She makes connections with the critical framework for performance that questions the medium itself.
Similar approaches are seen in the recent film Pley (2013), shown within an installation of artist-designed furniture, which recalls that of the Italian designers and architects Memphis Group. The film features two distinct strands of content. One sequence captures a lone actress as she occupies a mysterious purpose-built room, speaking on the telephone to an unknown caller. As she speaks she meticulously makes combinations of objects found scattered throughout the construction. The second strand consists of interviews with three performers, which take place in what appears to be a backstage area. They recount exercises Tolmie has requested they perform. Yet all we are party to are their descriptions; their actual performances are absent from the film. The work highlights a divide between what is described, and what has taken place, and exposes the many ways performance can be read. Tolmie unpicks conventional narrative structures in order to create new possibilities through ambiguity.