Monday, 21 April 2008

Theatre Materials/Materials Theatre conference- Central School, 17/4/08

this conference at central school of speech and drama was excellent- apart from the horrific scheduling which meant you could hardly see that much of it :( starting with an opening address by anne bogart examining her ideas about the theme of the conference. i have made copious notes about the whole day but am just extracting (she says) key thoughts that i found interesting;
anne bogart said that you mustn't over technolgize theatre as it makes it in danger of losing its spirit, and that its the materiality of theatre that wants to kill it. (temporality- as in my practice i sit between the fine art ethos of 'object' and the theatre ethos of ephemerality...)

the object presence absence panel discussions looking at rich allen's case- at the performing bio-object- objects embodying emotion. good to meet rich and kasia :) there was also a speaker, nesreen hussein who was talking about a piece called body parts, 2001 that i can't find any images or references to online. interesting idea like the headless pier family you can put yourself into at the seaside- except this was in a gallery with bodies pushed through sections of a wall making an apparent unified whole on the otherside. raised issue of interaction- don't touch when bodies become sculptures in a gallery but people think they can as its a live body.

the part most related to my practice (and to help me as i'm currently writing my research paper) was the audience members body as theatre material panel discussion, described as being about participation, non-proscenium arch theatre, and how this is a big feature of my work i popped find rebecca and andrew (french mottershead (their own site is down?) we did the group project with last term) on the panel, nice surprise to see them, and to be honest much needed as the camp was very centred on theatre practioners dissolving the 'arch' whereas rebecca and andrew have an art practice in which it never existed.

there were questions the chair posed; (its was very difficult to work out who was who in this discussion so these notes will have to be rough and are only what i understood from the discussion-disclaimer! and purely written here for my research)
  1. why collapse the distance between the audience and performer- why not have the proscenium arch?
answers ranged from rebecca saying they don't collapse it, the only performers are participants transforming social rituals, added by andrew that the work is democratic.
a dance-theatre practioner talked about using participation as a form of theatre which embarks on a thematic exploration of body language, bored with audiences sat on chairs, and allowing for a more direct gaze with each audience member through collapsing the physical boundaries with strangers. thinking about what happens when the performer now does the watching.this was more at the softer end of participation they said, absorbing the audience member into the work, manipulating their body?
qs came up about why its happening, now. political and cultural climate of social networking, asking for feedback, cultural resonance of widening participation. we are being, and getting more involved in culture generally and arts practice is showing this trend?

participatory work is becoming both physically and mentally participatory. one person talked about the notion of performance over workshop- people pay more for a workshop than a show- should we do more workshops?!

2. What skills do performers who work in this field need that is different to normal performances?
punchdrunk- one-to one- intimate performances. this is a different quality of performance-perfomers need to be open and inviting and be physically close than projecting.performer is more vulnerable. performers needing to be clear with touch and what its means, be able to respond to confrontation.
others- why do it? its fun. it doesn't feel like theatre but a really special workshop, or maybe its the space in between a workshop and a performance.
andrew- often work with epople with no performance skills, so using skills from the everyday- people are already experts. exaggerating, subverting the everyday making people more aware.
others- have to be able to read people well, handle the unexpected, accidental, proposed, making it true to the dramaturgy.have to place a mental proscenium arch bach sometimes. you have to be able get people to trust you.manipulating the audience member, reversing the process, bodies entering a landscape (dancers)

3. How do you work with space? Where's the theatre?

the space dictates the text- audience takes same journey as actors in the text. difficult to go back into a black box once gone out to site.
rebecca- work in daily life, meeting places.
punchdrunk- site becomes a set as real as possible like BAC, theatrical, entering a world on a giant scale.heightened space. people stop paying attention to each other- masks, eliminate audience on mass as social presence- don't notice self but the space and performers- (unless unmasked in an individual performance where you become yourself again.)

andrew+rebecca- difference between interaction and being led down a corridor participatory- isnt this still like a seated audience? participation involves subjective engagement, collaboration, chance to re-invent.

[my note- is punchdrunk participatory? one way v two way street= with me it felt like a one way street- i wholeheartedly agree with rebecca and andrew on this interaction v participation debate]

much of this discussion seemed more about manipulation interaction, and a mis-use of the term participation. isn't this theatre puppetry?? also-sensory rather than mental alert. participation is about the individual.

my thoughts;
this panel discussion seemed to me, lack a balanced view across the subject and seemed to vastly mis-understand what the term participation actually means.but the focus of the panel discussion was about theatre..i would very much like to find out if there truly is practice that is participatory within theatre or its more about art practice (tim crouch- although actors read their script in oak tree , do they have input to change it?)

need to think about this issues discussed here. about finalising ideas about site of my MA show, level of participation and why. am in blog overload today!

1 comment:

Douglas said...

Sorry I missed it. Anne Bogart would of been worth the price of admission. But sounds typical Central --lots of resources thrown at with out any real grounding or debate.