26 Mar

“Hierarchies of participation are being reconfigured and traditional authorial claims are under stress, new articulations of spectator/performer reciprocity can no longer be disregarded.”

The venerable ART-ALL academic mailing list is nowadays mostly a silent void. And Darkness and Decay and fifty thousand pointless conference papers about art hold illimitable dominion over all. Very rarely a small, absurd item still scuttles across ART-ALL’s dead face, like this recent call for participation associated with the University of Glasgow and The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, specifically two entities that in all seriousness call themselves respectively the “Performance and the Body Working Group” and the “Performance and New Technologies Working Group”. “Working groups”, as if they’re engaged in vital research or something, as if the fate of the world hangs upon their deliberations.

Behold the sheer bollocks that these people write:

Title: Embodied Engagement: Participatory And Immersive Performance
The Performance and the Body and Performance and New Technologies Working Groups are joining forces this year to explore different bodily, aesthetic, political, ethical and economical aspects of participation in the current performance milieu. In a performance context where hierarchies of participation are being reconfigured and traditional authorial claims are under stress, new articulations of spectator/performer reciprocity can no longer be disregarded. Focusing on audience experience, we intend to examine possibilities of participant (spectators and performers) agency and empowerment within different modes of performance transaction.

HEY, STOP DISREGARDING THE NEW ARTICULATIONS OF SPECTATOR/PERFORMER RECIPROCITY, OK? Does this Scrabble board of a paragraph really mean to suggest that it’s in any way a new thing for live art and performances to involve or incorporate the audience as something other than passive spectators? If so, they’re talking absolute crap. And if they don’t mean to suggest this, then I’m still pretty sure they’re talking absolute crap. If you’re focusing on audience experience, don’t you think you should be able to express yourself to that audience in plain English?

According to Adrian Heathfield, contemporary performance has shifted aesthetically from ‘the optic to the haptic, from the distant to the immersive, from the static relation to the interactive’. The dialogue between the two Working Groups aims to explore the productive tensions between bodies and technologies in the development of this shift. The contested term ‘immersive’ is a rich, under-theorized concept which pulls in and works across distinct constituencies of performance. It calls upon diverse technologies to create its performance environments and promote active bodily engagement. Immersion both as an artistic intention and a perceived process is identified with concepts of viscerality, authenticity and immediacy. Yet the question remains as to how effective immersion can be in engaging audiences mentally, emotionally and corporeally.

You know Adrian Heathfield. Of course you do. He’s, er… the man who said contemporary performance has shifted from the optic to the haptic. Which is a shame, really, because I’d much rather see a performance than have to wait in a long queue to feel the performer. I’d like somebody to explain to me how one engages an audience corporeally; does this just mean grabbing or groping them? Having a fight with them? Because I’m also available to perform in shows like this.

What utter balls.

Anyway, let’s wish both of these working groups the best of luck in their research. Millions of lives depend upon it.

2 Responses to “ART F-ALL”

  1. Jean McEwan 27/03/2013 at 9:02 AM #

    Thanks for this Alistair. You’ve brought and a smile to my face and a (mirthful) tear to my eye this morning. The next time I read or hear anyone getting po-faced about participation, I shall refer them to your post. Keep up the good work!

  2. Alistair 31/03/2013 at 3:46 PM #

    Reblogged this on Alistair Gentry.

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