Thursday 14 October 2010

Active Audiences

I've been on panels and in talks within the land of theatre to talk about active audiences, interactivity or participation. All these words aim to describe an audience within work that is responsive to them and gives them a role to play within the story. Often these panels draw an artificial battle line between my work and more traditional theatre. The 'traditional' director often starts of by arguing that their audience is by no means passive. I fully agree. Great theatre brings you not only to the front of your seat in excitement during the play but also afterwards in the pub.

The pub conversation is where you test your initial responses and reflections. The tube home should give you time to contextualise your responses in the myriad of your friends. Maybe thoughts, images provoked by the play come back over the next few days, even months or completely unexpectedly after a few years when contemplating something else. Great theatre or film does that. It makes you an active spectator, fully mentally engaged, reflecting over a long period of time.

When we transform spectators into active audience-participants we are not somehow opposing spectatorship. I also don't think that mere physical active engagement necessarily corresponds to emancipation. An active audience engage differently with the piece at hand. Work which casts the audience in a leading role allows them to actively make choices, consciously and subconsciously, and see the consequences of their actions played out. In their response to the audience co-authors the narrative and their experience. Sometimes making use of the piece in ways that we as authors might never have dreamed possible.

This co-authorship and and the ever-changing and evolving nature of the work is what is so exciting to me. Active audience-participants take real ownership of the work and often deeply invest both in the narrative and the themes. They bring their own personalities, cultural references, dreams, memories and ideas to the piece and engage with the content on a very personal basis. The actions of the audience in response to the piece, the ideas an themes are the basis of the reflection during and in the pub afterwards. Both for them and for me.

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Constructed Situations

Guy Debord is someone I have wanted to investigate further for some time now. In the late sixties he outlined his theory of 'constructed situations'. I'm lightly going to step over his political motivations (his work aimed to 'break the bind of capitalism') and just engage with his terminology.

Dubord talks about 'constructed situations' for 'viveurs' (livers) rather than audience members. I'm attracted by both these terms. They embody a big part of what excites me about our work.

Constructed situations indicates towards the co-authorship I find so important in this work. The artist authors but they only other an outline – a framework in which the audience has freedom to act, to make choices and bring their own unique references and responses to. Each audience member thus re-creates or contributes to the piece creating a co-authorship between the artist(s) and the audience. Neither fully responsible for the end result but both essential to the creation of the finished piece.

I also love the word 'viveurs' instead of audience members or participants. It's too pretentious to actually use, of course, but it has the right thinking behind it. Viveurs live through the piece, they are active participants responding and shaping actively. The piece is not separate from their life but a space of heightened narrative & theatricality. They don't become other people when acting in this piece, they remain themselves. The become the narrative cliché of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. I have found that making this work hugely feeds my belief in the good of other people. I'm amazed by the amount of sacrifice, intelligence, ingenuity and warmth 'viveurs' display when given the chance. Stories create a space for ordinary people to be heroes. The 'living through' these stories, the 'viver', creates an intimacy between the piece and the 'viveurs' and a collective ownership around the ideas which emerged during the piece.

More tomorrow.

Daily blog

I'm a commuter now. Three or four days a week I'll be on a 50min train to London and back. I've been told that it can be anything from soul destroying to invigorating. I'm hoping it will be the second. I think the key is to use this time to do something I've always felt didn't have time for.

I've never been a blogger. Maybe because I never fully got confident writing in my second language or maybe because I've never found something to write about. I think both those still exist but I now have this this rather specific time to fill. I have aways enjoyed talking about the work Coney makes. When I'm on a panel, teaching, consulting or working with others & I explain what we do or why we approach things the way we do I always gain new insights. The conversational exploration of ideas is what I enjoy most.

Unfortunately I will be commuting on my own. So I've decided to have a little dialogue with an idea, concept or thinker a day. And to only have a small thought exchange with them or explain to myself how they relate to our work an thinking. No essays, just tiny moments of instant reflection.

I hope it will be interesting to myself, hopefully even to others and if nothing else I hope it will make my commute a joy, full of new ideas.

Sunday 10 January 2010

Extraordinary circumstances

Plays most often deal with heightened circumstances – we encounter a normal person in extraordinary circumstances. We see their journey, that particular slice of their life because it is full of action and obstacles and there are choices to be made by the character. The meaning is derived from how the characters act and how we, the audience, respond to their actions.

In interactive work we aim to put the audience in the position of the character. In my work I create narrative frameworks for audiences to move within, to propel them through exciting circumstances and experience the story. They co-author the narrative through their actions. The meaning is derived from the choices they, as themselves, make in these extraordinary situations.

It is a scary vulnerable place to make from. As a maker you have to relinquish some control but in return the audience provides a rich ever changing tapestry of co-authors who can and will surprise and delight with what they bring to the piece. Meaning is derived through their actions within a carefully crafted framework.