Friday, December 18, 2009

Live wins

I am extremely satisfied with the outcome of two weeks of hard work for my performance 'What you see is what you get?'. I presented it yesterday at the observatory of the college. It was designed for a limited number of people, so I did it twice, which was a good way of testing my audience.

My interest was in involving the audience in a non intrusive manner, and yet make them question their way of seeing and looking at things, putting under careful examintation their vision and other senses, such as smell, touch and taste. That is why I decided on using no lighting whatsoever, handing everyone a small torch in the beginning of the performance, when everyone was sitting in stark darkness (it did take a while to make sure there were not streaming lights from outside or all the equipment used for the piece) not really sure of what was to happen next.

It was great doing the performance twice, because audiences responded differently, changing slightly the timing of what is seen and when, which was a clear demonstration of the autopoietic feedback loop (the exchange that happens between performer and audience). Also, audiences varied slightly in number, which changed the amount of lighting avilable:less people equals less torches.

It was clear to me that I was taking a risk giving around all these torches and letting people play with them, but it is also true that I had a very sensible audience. It was interesting to be influenced by the light from the flashlights they used and yet maintain the rhythm I had previously worked on and calculated also keeping to the soundtrack that was created especially for this performance.

What I find most stunning about working with the dark, as opposed to light, is that the other senses are induced to work more, and the audience is put in a position of finding out what the best way to 'see' is. In my effort of putting together some video clips of the documentation of the performance, I find that it is extremely hard to understand what the piece was about. If one was not there, it is almost impossible to understand what happened on stage and how it evolved. Although I am sorry not to have a good recording of it, I realise that the impossibility to document it properly means that it is a piece that makes sense when performed live, and since live comes before mediatized for me, both as the performer and director of the piece, I am very happy with the final result. I got some very valuable feedback from spectators and would definitely like to present the piece again, and why not in another venue.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

My role plus your role equals our role minus...

It had been a while since I read so much academically. I am reading a lot of material that will inform both my practice and theoretical writing for this year. Although I am always very critical to my work and how I carry out a certain project, which can sometimes become a major cause for procrastinating the realisation of ideas, I feel that in studying certain aspects of performance I am becoming more conscious of not only the aesthetics of performance but also the complex relationship spectator-audience.

I have been reading the Emancipated Spectator, by French philosopher Jacques Ranciere, which explores the changing role of the contemporary specatator. The active spectator, as opposed to the more traditional, passive one, is not new to us, but Ranciere's approach, I believe, also examines the parameters of passivity and activity in the spectator. My interest in this topic is 'fed' by the fact that a lot of performance works nowadays involve the spectator in a such a way, that he becomes not only part of the performance itself, but sometimes the protagonist. In this role reversal it is not only unclear who is who, but in my opinion, it is unfair that a performance is directed by so an and so. If the spectator is in the centre of attention, then we have an event that has been created following someboby's idea, it is not directed. And why do we have to pay to see a performance if we are just going to be conducted through a workshop? I find workshops an amazing source of ideas, information and self-formation. But I do believe that sometimes the terms attributed to performance may be misleading for spectators. And for the time being, I am very far from the notion that spectators are necessarily passive if they do not do something, but rather watch a performance from their seats, be it in theatre or in a less conventional space.

This is why I feel it's necessary to explore these issues further. It will surely help me understand better how I can keep my audience active and at the same time maintain the distance that separates audience from performer, which is what actually differs performance from real life.

And talking about the stage and real life, I recommend the book Mimesis, by Matthew Potolsky, a wonderful overall account of how the term mimesis has applied to fields as literature, performance and cultural studies throughout time, exploring theories that range from Plato to contemporary thinkers.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Physical Work

This week some of us spent a day at the wood workshop to construct some furniture for the rooms of the three hour piece we are doing on the 18th. It was indeed a very productive session and I think we did a great job.

Although I studied and practised Fine Art for so many years, at some point I realised it didn't fit my personality and was merely a tool for my work, rather than a final product that communicates my ideas. But what I most miss from painting and sculpture is the manuality that there is to it. Getting into theatre-dance and performance allows me to work within spaces, in different aspects, and although I do a lot of physical exercise for dance, I always miss the physical work that's involved in crafting. 

Last weekend I visited the Open Studios Art Show at Wimbledon: two warehouses turned into artis's studios, more than a hundred painters, sculptors and ceramicist.  It was nice to see so many artists together, exhibiting their work in their tiny studios that had turned into small galleries for the event. In a way, I wished I was like one of those artists, with my little studio, painting away for as long as i wish. But I also perfectly know that this just doesn't suit me, so I figured out that what I miss is the manuality of making something, even if the product is not the piece that would communicate with the audience.

So what better way to fix this dilemma by making my own props? 

We had fun and obtained good results. Can't wait till next time! (I don't mean 'Come to me if you need some fixtures and fittings')

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Time Piece

Here is the video of the performance we created in occasion of David Gale's workshop in October.

You can find further info on the workshop here and here.

Monday, November 30, 2009

I am the director!

For our second joint project (The Weighting Frame), I was to work with a colleague of mine for one of the four rooms,precisely the one that has Insignificance as a main theme. Well the collaboration didn't really take place at all,as she dropped off the course. So I was left on my own. Now I am directing the piece myself, which is even more challenging. I will be the only performer in the space, and with the help of our talented lighting team the Insignificance room will be quite minimal and yet some actions are going to take place. The duration is three hours, quite a while we have at our disposal. I imagine the whole piece to be some sort of an installation-happening,where the line between theatre and performance art is almost inexistent.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

One out of four is good

Firsts is an amazingly versatile festival for young and emerging artists that takes place annually at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Beautiful place, smart initiative and last but not least, great prices for poor students. It is a tough job choosing what to see in London: no doubt there is always the embarassment of choice, but you know there is also a high risk of ending up in a naff show, with a touch of obvious, unvoluntary amateurism and bad taste. Well the risk is worth taking anyhow.

On Tuesday night there were four performances presented, and for me one of them definitely stood out by far from the rest for professionally carried out work and attention to detail.

Finnish Ilona J√§ntti, aerialist, presented Elsewhere, a short performance that combined aerial dance with video animation. Although simple in structure, the piece was visually very interesting and complete, the body language of the dancer and the video became the protagonists of the story. It showed that the animator (Tuula Jeker) had closely worked with Ilona during the creation of the work, so that the two elements fused perfectly together. Probably this is very often taken for granted in performance, but it's seldom that you see a performance where elements of different nature (for example 3D and 2D) are combined in a smart way, where they make sense together, even though different media is used in different ways.

The attention of the relationship between video and body reminded me of the work I did with Collettivo Almagesto in the past year, and it's definitely something to continue researching on.

Firsts was on for several nights, and each one offered a few short performances. Quarter to half hour really seems the best duration for a performance. You are sure to have the audiences' attention. If you go over that you really need to have something extraordinary to show to keep spectators satisfied (if you wish).

I would love to participate in Firsts 2010 and as this year we are embarking on a number of different projects at Wimbledon, who knows, maybe the VLP group could be on stage at the Royal Opera House next year...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gift 1 - Dinner for a fox

Here is the video I created for Tim Jeeves' workshop that looked at different points of view on what gifts represent.
Turn up the volume since youtube's compression has reduced it somehow.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dance, blindness and a change of roles

Although I have been fascinated with blindeness lately, as I think of my small project to present in December, together with my project proposal and critical practice paper I have started asking myself how I actually want to incorporate blindness into my work. I am not interested into representing a story or a fairytale about blindeness. I guess that the subject itself is a complex one to touch upon in performance and visual arts, where meaning is brought about by the spectator's interpretation of visual and verbal language.

However I am determined to find a way in which to propose blindness within the performative space, where the audiences' eye sight might be challanged. In the meantime I came across an experimental dance performance choreographed and conducted by Berlin based dancer and choreographer Felix Ruckert in 2002. 

Secret Service invited the audience to become the centre of a performance piece where dancers blindfolded the audience from the very beginning and led them through a long journey of exploring their body language. The piece consisted of two parts. The audience was introduced to the rules of the piece, blindfolded and led into the performance space by the dancers. From there on, they were to trust their 'guide', their senses, their body impulses. The second part involved taking off clothing and pushing the body to other limits, which doesn't particularly interest me at that point.

What I find interesting about this piece is that it put the audience at the centre of the performance (although credits are given to the dancers that conducted the 'spectator-performer' into the space) and the total privation of seeing, which put the spectators in a position to entirely trust people they don't know.

The originality of the concept of Secret Service lies in the fact that spectators were basically treated as amature dancers. So I imagine this piece very much as a workshop, a trait that I find is becoming more common in performance nowadays. Is this a way of bringing the spectator closer to the performer, making the work more widely accessible and responding to the ever growing needs of spectators to be on equal terms with the performer? Where does  a performance stop being one and becomes an open workshop?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Lines line up space (Tate Britain)

Last Saturday I went to see the Tate Britain. Of course Tate Modern is the 'coolest' one, and I love dropping by any chance I get. But fortunately, living in London obliges you to visit all the galleries possible. It was great seeing the original 'Ophelia', which was an obvious inspiration to Nick Cave in the nineties for the video of the song 'Where the wild roses grow'. Also I enjoyed some pieces by James Abbott McNeill Whistler, whose work I had only seen in books and on the net. Of course some of the symbology of 16th century British painting seemed quite curious to me as opposed to Italian Renaissance, with which I am much more familiar.


At the moment the Duveen Galleries house a massive site specific installation by Eva Rothschild, called Cold Corners. Twenty-six  black triangles of various sizes, made of light black aluminium tube, stretch out the whole length of the gallery. Almost looking like a refined scaffolding, the piece contrasts with the architecture of the space, creating a new space that can be explored from different points of view. The space seems 'outlined' by the black tube triangles, giving the gallery a system for measuring and perceiving chunks of space. The spectator's gaze is directed by these lines and when a 'cold corner' comes along, it seems that we change the direction we are looking in.

Eva Rothschild's work  reminded me of a set design technique that Richard Foreman describes in his book 'Unbalancing Acts'. In order to decentralise the spectator's look in one point, which is often the presence of a protagonist, he used pieces of string that accompanied the spectator's gaze to different directions on stage. I found this little detail of great interest as very often playrights tend to concentrate the spectator's attention in one centre point, where the drama takes place. Foreman escapes from this conventional idea by offering the audience to explore the actors' space in different light.

Many artists nowadays use string, plastic, metal and all kinds of materials to draw physical lines in galleries. Some works may be stunning (also due to their dimensions), I saw a huge installation of that kind at the Venice Biennale this year. It has become some sort of 'string fashion', or 'string style art' that may be a little over the top. But if there is a reason behind it, and it works within an exhibition space or a performative venue why not?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Show and Go

Our brief shows last Wednesday with David Gale went quite well. It was a great challenge to set up everything in a couple of hours, with the anxiety of taking it all down on time to return all the equipment we had borrowed.

I think all pieces had more or less the same duration, about five minutes. It's amazing how different all four performances were, and yet David really found that we had all worked very well as a team, and that all pieces had something in common.

What we could not have and so did not make use of is lighting. I am sure that our pieces would have been better with a more careful choice of lighting, but in that case we did not have the equipment required, as we were not using the theatre space and also had too little time to try things out. That of course made it easier to make up some creative, low cost techniques. I was happy to use the overhead projector once more, a great device that can be transformed into a very versatile light source. I had the pleasure of learning how to use those with  theatre director and visual artist Fabrizio Crisafulli, whose innovative work is   appreciated both in Italy and worldwide.

Another technical question in our piece was the video, and as in every performance, things started going wrong minutes before the presentation. But this is a must in theatre, so I guess it brings good luck. It all went smoothly in the end. David's remark about blindness regarding my part of the video (the moving images seen from a train window) reminded me of a patient described in Oliver Sacks' 'The man who mistook his wife for a hat'. A great book by the renowed neurologyst I read some years ago, it is a collection of some amazing short stories that deal with the complexity of our perceptions. The patient I recalled is Ingrid (and I remember the name because this is what I called my bicycle at the time), whose brain perceived images as frames, and although her eye sight was not damaged, she was unable to see continuous, moving images, but rather scattered fragments, like thousands of photograhs recording a singular movement.

Our performances were all recorded, and as soon as I get the chance to edit the videos I will put them up.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A One Week Project

Last Wednesday we had a workshop with Dave Gale in the filming studio space, and after a brief talk we were aked to individually write three different parts of three different stories. It was something I hadn't done before, but it was a challenge. I had two hours to create a beginning, a middle and an end for three different stories.

Mr. Gale talked about Jean Luc Goddard's idea of cinema: according to him, all stories had to have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order. I accidentaly saw a short film by Goddard the other day, and noticed that although the story was very simple and it didn't really lead anywhere, it was broken roughly into three parts. 

Before lunchtime we were split into groups by a random draw of names (which actually appeared  to be the most confusing part of the whole meeting) and we were asked to create a small play for next Wednesday (that is the day after tomorrow).

I happened to be working with Ilka and Marouso, and we have a beginning, a middle and an end. Any combination of the three could have come up (for example, two middles and an end, or a beginning and two ends). Our stories somehow conneceted, and although we seem to have quite a cinematic feeling for the whole thing, we hope to make a good multimedia performance.

We've been working on some video pieces and have the final storyboard for the whole performance. 

This is my middle of the story, it's about two men playing cards on a train. It took me the least time to construct and it's quite senseless. Well, it's only part of the story... If put in the right context it will work!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Showing not in Little Britain

It's been an intense Friday at Wimbledon College today, happily concluded by a nice get together at the nearby pub. Got to say that British pubs can be quite dull and sad, but if you are with the right company they start looking almost cosy and inviting. 

Today we had the lecture theatre booked for the afternoon to use as a performance and exhibiting space, where to show our work to anybody who is around and willing to walk in and have a chat. I found that a great idea and was looking forward to it. It got most of us working really hard to be able to put something up on time, and it was great seeing everybody experimenting and bringing things in.

As regards to my piece I was quite unsure what type of work I should propose. So far I have been reading and writing a lot, accompanied by some sketches and photographs. Exhibiting these would be really lame, as they are just some elements that support my research, but are not quite right to present as a 'sample' of my work. As my interest has shifted from the 'visual' to the 'non visual' or more pricisely to the 'not seen', I asked myself which direction do i take next? Is blindness a theme that I want to use in my work, or is it that certain condition which obliges individuals to use their other senses to the fullest that I want to suggest to the audience? This is why I first thought of a slide show storyboard for a small part of Orhan Pamuk's 'My name is red'. But while sketching I realised it was not the right thing. So if I was to take my 'blind' ideas further, i need to put it into practice. I decided to blindfold myself for an hour or two and 'explore' the works of my colleagues using my other senses, considering essential dialogue. I spent a while to find a simple ribbon to use for the blindfold, so as not to look like a performer who's on about showing something off. It was really to be part of my research. 

While everyone was preparing their work to be taken upsatairs, in my effort of not looking around too much before my 'perception exploring', I was doing some experiments with a small torch, trying to create only a small dot of light. I tryed putting on 'blinds' on the glass bit of it, with tiny holes, but the effect was still that of the diffusing light that a torch normally has. That's until I got Esteban to have a look and he suggested I make a long cone, attach it to the torch and then block it with a 'blind'. Great, it worked! But the torch didn't look like a flashlight anymore, it was half a meter long and looked like a small kalashnikov. Looking through the small hole on the blind with the light on, it created a really nice tunnel effect, so I made a black paper container for it, through which people can look. It wasn't gonna take long, and it was something I could show as well. While finishing it off, I was surprised by my colleagues who announced that we don't have the space which had been booked for us. Quite literally we had been kicked out, and for this kind of school and standards that is unacceptable.

Where things went from there is something I will go back to in another post. Good thing was we had a new group meeting to discuss our priorities and needs as students who are part of Wimbledon College. For as much as this country has hit us with a culture shock, it's good to know where we stand.

This is where the magic happens! And it's a miracle as well, just picture nearly 16 of us there making performance in that space...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


While writing 'insignificant' for the picture of the previous post, while not having space to fit it the whole word on one line I had to take a second one for 'ant' and just realised that an ant does have to do with insignificance. Not that ants are insignificant to our world, but for their size, they are (and probably would feel, if they could feel like us) quite insignificant, as opposed to the sizes and dimensions of our (in/human) world.

Insignificant timing

These days things are happening faster than what I can realise, let alone write about. But in the effort of keeping the blog updated according to 'VLP regulations' I might as well start by intruducing the new project we are working on.

There is already a new joint project our group is working on, and it's been less than a week that we finished the climate change projection. This obviously doesn't leavs us with much time for our individual research, but it's a great way of training not only your flow of ideas and technical possibilities, but also your way of coping with so many things at the same time. It is not easy working on a few projects altogether and running after tight deadlines without mixing concepts and at the same time keeping a high level of professionalism.

'Insignificance' is one of the four themes we are to develop on a performative level for a show taking place in December. It is only two of us working on that one, so it's another kind of collaboration, probably a more complicated one. When you work with many people you know you are bound to give up on some ideas and embrace others, while if you only got one partner then it's harder to hold back  what you might not agree on.
Probably 'Insignificance'  is the most difficult of all four themes not becasue of what it means (or doesn't mean) but of the context we are to put it in: performance. The whole act of performing is about communicationg an idea, however simple it may be, but when you are to communicate something that is insignificant itself that becomes a challenging task. Maybe also due to the fact that insignificance is a realtive term: what is significant to me might be totally insignificant to somebody else, and things assume their 'insignificance' in relation to place, time and taste.

The first thing that came to mind, considering we are to perform, was the repetition of a simple routine movement. Not particularly complex movements, if repeated over and over again tend to lose their meaning and purpose somehow. They say that 'practice makes perfect', or that 'repetition is the mother of knowledge', and that would completely prove me wrong, but in theatre, where  timing is to be taken into consideration (say a show has a duration of thirty minutes for example) I, as part of an audience, would expect some kind of development or plot to unfold. If a performer raises their hand and then drops it, for half and hour, repeating always the same exact movement, doing nothing else, I would have no doubt that the only thing that he is trying to say is that he doesn't care. And that goes quite close to insignificance. 
Another idea was to try and make a list of insignificant things we do every day. But I guess we make the best of our time, isn't it? We do insignifiact things, but that's only becasue the others notice them, they are not insignificant to us.
My work partner suggested we take a picture every day, at the same time, and then look at them later on together. That seemed like an interesting idea, but I thought that setting a certain time for taking a photo would actually give us time to think about what we photograph and so give a mening to it. I suggested  that we carry our cameras with us and call each other randomly, just saying 'Take a pic!'. This would definitely be taking pictures of unexpected things and it's also fun. It surprised me that this seemed probably a bit invasive to her, however we exchanged numbers and will give it a shot. 

Let's see where it takes us.


Few days ago I came across an excerpt from an eighty's Japanese tv show by, although still not at the time, great film director and versatile artist Takeshi Kitano. He had the idea of playing with people's vision in relation to their body movements and reactions. Even though we must bear in mind that it was originally created for tv entertainment, the video shows the artist's interest in the deformation of human vision. 

What he did was organise a football game, where players simply had to wear a pair of binoculars. Over twnty years after its release, this video is great fun!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

An essay on blindness

As I have been currently interested in blindness, more precisely by its different interpretation by non blind authors, I remembered another novel I'd come across a few years ago- Blindness, by Portugese author Jose Saramago.

It tells the story of an imaginary city hit by a blindness pandemic, progressively afflicting all its inhabitants and leading to a major social breakdown. Although I found Saramago's style too descriptive and explicit, the story really put me in a position to imagine what life would be like if we all started losing our eye sight one by one. Consequences would be way beyond simply not seeing the outside world. 

Saturday, October 31, 2009

So happy together!

Performance is also about working as a team, and that is what we had been doing for the last two weeks, in collaboration with Douglas (our course leader). He had decided to involve us in his project for the Gradute School Festival, and that was really a great 'beginning of the year' opportunity for us to get to know each other better and work together.

As we all come form different backgorunds it has been interesting to see how everyone approaches a certain issue, be it a cenceptual or a techinical one. I feel that communication between us has become more effective, considering that we are a very international group, where a lot of languages mingle together, which is a great thing, but it may get in the way when one is trying to make a statement. I guess throughout this petite experience we have developed our unique language, after all the final piece came out quite well, considering the amount of time we had for preparation, the technical devices available, and the space we share with a lot of colleagues, who had other projects to work on. 

Of course we have had our moments of misunderstanding, disagreement and simply ignoring a situation when it all got too much. But at the end of the day you feel closer to someone if you had the courage to tell them off about something. We all know that when the clock is ticking and things need to be done one has to simply act.

The theme for the piece, which was mainly a video projection on the outside of the MA building of our college, with some shadow theatre play projected from teh inside, was climate change. That seems to be currently a very popular theme, however we believe that despite its exagerrated use we managed to put together some ideas that went beyond the main theme and so the piece was accessible to a wide audience. 

So thank you VLPs for the wonderful experience, and looking forward to working with you again... that shouldn't be long, so on second thought, let's concentrate on our projects for now!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Some like it blind

Last Friday Amanda Beech gave a lecture on neutrality at Wimbledon College of Art. She discussed on different theories and philosophers, such as Theodor Adorno and Maurice Blanchot. Amanda started off by talking about the tragic story of Oedipus, arguing that in this case knowledge and innocence are closely associated with power and violence.  Of course hadn't Oedipus come to learn the truth about his parents and what he had done without knowing, he wouldn't have blinded himself. 

The image that was before us for quite a while was the figure (of Oedipus) with its hands tense and eyes bleeding, obviously just as he blinded himself. 

What struck me most about Oedipus was his choice of punishing himself. One would generally expect that the worst punishment that one chooses, after realising the terrible things they have done is to end their life.  But Oedipus chooses to continue living, and suffering for his past actions, living in eternal darkness, unable to see the external world.

This reminded me, although in different perspective, of Orhan Pamuk's great masterpiece 'My name is Red', which tells the story of a misterious murder in a  circle of Ottoman miniaturists of the 16th century. Apart from the fact that the novel is written in a an elaborate manner, keeping the reader always in suspence, it contains a great deal of insight on the philosophy of life of those artists. In their attention for the mastery of minute details, their excellent vision was of vital importance, especially as young apprentices. As they grew older and therefore more experienced in their specific field of drawing or colouring it was expected that with time, they would slowly become blind due to the 'exhaustion' of the eye. Not only was that a sign of great mastery, but it was considered a blessing from God (Allah) who granted those who had served him faithfully all their life the gift of seeing the world through His eyes, far from the earthly  beauties we see with our eyes, but in the eternal world of darkness.

I found it amazing that artists, whose eye sight was so vital, embarked on a  journey that was to take it away form them, and that was considered the most precious reward. Some would deliberately blind themsleves  after a long career as miniaturists, and they would still continue drawing and painting, as by that time they had mastered the art so well they could do it without even looking.  To produce visual Art they no longer need to be able to see the outside world, but the darkness that not many are entitled to in the world of the living.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

See- Saw -Seen

Any performance, for as much as it can be based on verbal interaction, or any work af Art, whether we are perofrming or watching, it requires first and foremost our ability to see. As simple as it may seem, we need our eyesight.  I have been terrified at the thought of losing my sight; what would happen then?  Would I still be able to create something which is meant to be seen and experienced as visual?  Everything around us is visual.  And yet the lastest film by Spanish director Pedro Almadovar, 'Los Abrazos rotos' (Broken embraces) tells the tragic story of a film director who kept on writing scripts, despite the loss of his eyesight in a car accident.  Not to ruin you a night at the cinema, but the most striking thing about it is that he edits his best film ever as a blind man.  Yes, his visual masterpiece of cinema is something he would never see.  But would it have been his masterpiece if the shooting hadn't taken place when he could still see?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Live vs Mediatized

Which one was to be my fist book from the 'essential' list this term? Got quite a few of them at home, they are all brand new, with beautiful covers and almost all of them have the word 'performance' in their title, so it's really my perfect reading. My eye fell on Paul Auslander's 'LIVENESS Performance in a mediatized culture'. 'Liveness' suggested something playful and yet the cover of the book is almost austere: a dark theatre, with its traditional red seats, all empty. Impossible to say if that is before or after a performance, but it was certainly a great book to examine some aspects of the mechanism and development of performance in the contemporary world.

As performance artists, although we perennially co-exist with the digital reality, of today, when it comes to creating a piece we use digital technology as a tool to get the desired effects, rather than recognising it as an integrated element of the whole. The audience is mainly made up of people who grew up watching tv programs, go regularly to the cinema, or at least if they don't, they download movies and all kinds of software form the internet. They look at a medium of three hundred ads a day, according to recent statistics, they meet friends and relatives online every day and many of them skype their partner on the other end of the world before going to sleep; then wake up with a morning tv program, the radio, jogging with their ipod and checking emails. Well we are certainly going beyond this with technology nowadays, but that is not the point. It is simply clear that we are all part of a complex mediatized network that has kept on developing since the arrival of television. Our everyday use of technology is no longer simply a tool for our jobs, it's not even just a necessity. It's part of our existence and I would dare to consider that we are loving it, despite complaining of this 'digital world that's going faster and faster'.  Undoubtedly, we very well know we cannot survive without it.

So if this is our audience, how can we expect it to understand the 'magic' of theatre? I always thought that was the difference between any mediatized event (from tv recorded programs to global live events being transmitted online) and live performance. The presence of an actor and his direct and physical relationship to the audience is still considered by many the principle characteristic of live performance, that makes it so unique. But can we accept this view, given the mediatized world which we live in? Can we really expect the audience to 'feel' the magic of theatre or live performance, without taking into consideration their visual, psychological and structural surroundings, their broad perception of relationships and comunication?
It can be argued that the physical presence of the audience as a whole, as a collective group that is present at one single event, is another trait that renders live performance such a unique experience. And I would gladly agree to that, but it is also true that we have in mediatized performances we have the same audiences as in live performance.  Auslander is right in saying that 'mediatized performance makes just as effective a focal point for the gathering of a social group as live performance'. There is certainly a difference between the two, but not necessarily one of quality or originality. Further, we are able to discuss a mediatized piece in real time while generally at the theatre comments and thoughts are shared after the performance is over, which obviously takes away of the authenticity of the performance as comments are based on something that has already vanished and referring to what is already gone would mean reframing it in some way, paraphrasing it.
Going back to the relationship spectator- performer, we must recognise that theatre or any other kind of performance is made up of two elements: the actor and the spectator. If we go to see a live performance don't we expect to get more than seeing it on television for example?  Blau argues, very reasonably in my opinion, that the very experience of live performance creates a desire for community, which can be hardly satisfied given that performance is founded on difference and separation. For as much as the barrier between spectator and performer is narrowing in contemporary experimental theatre and performance, as long as we are talking about performance, there will always be those two 'opposites': the one who performs and the one who watches. Auslander takes Blau's argument further, stating that while we are unable to satisfy our longing for community between actor and audience in live performance, we tend to feel more comfortable and socially integrated within the audience in the case of mediatized performance.

Nothing is going to substitute going to the theatre, just as nothing will replace the commodity of enjoying a recorded performance at home in the company of friends or watching a live transmission of an event on a massive screen in a crowded city square. But we'd better get used to considering those two different options, both of which offer unique possibilities of perception, only in different ways. 

Sunday, October 11, 2009

If you choose so (First time at the Royal Court Theatre)

After a tiring day of tube orienteering, city trekking and visiting exhibitions around London, our MA group went to see 'The Author', directed by Tim Crouch at the Royal Court theatre last week. I didn't know him till then and think this was a good piece for me to be introduced to his work. The structure of the performance and its presentation didn't quite give me a clear idea of what Crouch's work is all about, which is a good sign; meaning I might go back to see his next play.

Climbing up the stairs to get to the top floor, where the Jerwood Theatre is situated, quite gave the impression that the place we would have arrived at was some sort of a big attic transformed into a theatre space. As we entered I was not surprised that it was so, only when we had to take a seat I realised I mustn't be having any further expectations of what was about to happen. The seats were arranged in such a way so that one half of the audience was facing the other, while in the middle was a very narrow passage, which could hardly be called a stage. So there we were, inevitably staring at each other, chatting away, laughing and waiting for the performance to start.
Well at this point that could already be called a performance, since we were put in a pre-defined space and therefore forced to create some form of interaction different to the one created in a more traditional theatre. As we already had an object in front of our eyes, that might as well have been the subject of the show.

An expansive voice attracted our attention so there goes the first performer. He was not visible, or at least not to the whole audience, although one could sense he was certainly amongst us. An informal conversation was rapidly wound up as the actor threw compliments at us and picked a few people to share something about themselves. So was that a discussion group now? I still hadn't seen his face when another one cut in, and there he was, sitting amongst the audience just infront of me. And then again a third one spoke, behind the second, and then a lady, just behind me, had her story to tell.
What I found interesting was the fact that you were not expected to look at the actors, as some of them were behind you. Soon, it was a matter of choice looking at the ones in front of you as well, you could easily just look around the audience, take notes or even read a book, as during most of the performance there was a uniform light spreading in the whole space.

Four actors, engaged in a conversation, telling a story of scattered pieces, discussing their experience with handling the performance of and relation to violence, hope, choice. They were clearly acting, but as they searched every now and then for the audiences' approval it became more natural that we were all gathred together; so much that after a while it felt like being in a theatre workshop rather than a formally announced performance.

It was natural to leave the stage, shortly after the actors did. It had indeed been an interesting encounter, a hybrid between theatre, performance and a discussion group that could have engaged you emotionally, only if you chose so of course.

Me? A Blogger? Why?

I guess most people open a blog when they feel a certain urge to broaden even further their ways of sharing information, exchanging ideas, meeting new people, showing off with something, pretending to be someone else. I once followed, for a short while, a couple of blogs, enjoyed the daily newsfeed, but as I wasn't a blogger and couldn't comment on the articles published, my acquintance with them ended very quickly. I didn't have a good enough reason to start my own blog at the time, and I certainly didn't feel comfortable writing something that everyone could see.
Well, today I have a good reason to 'open' this blog: I am back to school and I need my journal. Yes, we all had journals at school, only this time the journey I am embarking on is MA VLP, and times have no doubt changed since I went to high school and wrote little notes in paper journals. Well with this blog not only will I save lots of paper but put my ideas forward to be shared, critiqued and commented on.
VLP stands for Visual Language of Performance.