Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Magic and modes of representation

Thanks, James for contextualizing the Bio Boxes. The conjunction between Theatre Replacement's interview-based project and Mammalian's Q&A is interesting. In a previous post, we were talking about the creative coming into the design of the audience experience, more than or instead of into a virtuosic performance. So the whole design of the interviews, of the boxes themselves, and the parallel with the video is already taking the experience away from the well-made play we are all so bored of.

There's a book called From acting to Performance, by Philip Auslander, that investigates the political nature of presence, and how it is invoked or refused in different modes of performance. It's the non-contextualized charismatic performance that feeds into hook, line and sinker acceptance of the ideology being promoted by the performer. Interaction with the audience is one of the primary modes for disrupting the accepted norms of representation, and I think it's this level of interaction that's toughest when we're creating something that includes metaphorical language, poetical flights of fancy, or sustained development of a physical image. The contract with audience member is, don't interrupt me, I've got something you should listen to. Signing on for that contract is a bit different if there's a potential for the audience to have more agency (they can move where they want to, they get a turn, they help create the content or the circumstances). And I think it's that modelling of agency that begins to bring political change in a real way into our theatrical games.

I think perhaps the audience is able to read more layers of pretend than we are trained to represent. Audience members like to play roles too (reality TV trains them to be confessional, but also that they're creating a sound bite).

Is Darren's question abut poetry and metaphor? Or the contract that asks the audience to follow rules that limit their agency more than the piece requires?


Darren O'Donnell said...

Hey Heidi,

You say: "we were talking about the creative coming into the design of the audience the whole design of the interviews, of the boxes already taking the experience away from the well made play."

you start talking about the audience experience but then shift quickly into talking about the process. I think that BB simply shrinks the experience down. We're still in a black box and we're still sitting and staring. The experience may be a little different but only quantitatively (small theatre, one audience member, one actor) but not qualitatively. Thankfully they were not well-made plays but other than a bit of content, the form of the experience was like most theatre.

I think those two questions are related and I'm trying to address both, looking for ways to bring some interesting conceptual pizzaz into the relational/participatory stuff. If i understand what you're saying, I think you're suggesting - and I agree - that there is more and more the potential to give the audience agency in a way where they happily become complicit in our games. So that we can have our reality and eat some fantasy too.

Neil Cadger said...

So when Paul drilled through the styrofoam straight at your face was that reality or fantasy? I'm trying to figure out if conceptual pizazz equates with fantasy and relational stuff with reality. Seems to me the agency we want to give to the audience has to do with playing unfamiliar games of pretend. The framework game of mini-theatre is familiar enough and I like it. I like what good actors can do. It also feels like something that could go even further inside the box and reach the outside.

Darren said...

i don't think conceptual pizazz equals fantasy. another intersting box piece and one that has plenty o' pizzaz is Santiago Sierra's Laborers Who Cannot be Paid Remunerated to Sit inside Boxes where he paid illegal immigrants to sit inside boxes in a gallery. the concept is concise and devastating and and it is undeniably real.