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.