Over the last ten years my practice has been influenced
and shaped by the theoretical problems of constructing and deconstructing
meaning in performance. Although
I suspect all artists dwell on these issues, what interests me is how ideas
and concepts can best be revealed or presented to an audience in terms of meaning
and understanding. This focus on audience is central to my perception of artist
and his role in society – one who constructs, deconstructs or communicates
My practice is integrally co-dependent with audience and one that allows the
concept to reveal how the audience experiences it: Will the audience understand
the concept of choice if I give them choice? Will the audience remember childhood
fun if I place a swing on stage and ask them to play? Will an audience understand
loss if I seperate them from their loved ones? Will an audience understand that
they are voyeurs of grief by watching someone crying through a peephole?
I am interested in how we experience and deconstruct the world. As an art maker
I am specifically interested in how we do so via the experience of art, and in
particular, live art.
With the focus in Australia on diminishing audiences and a move by audiences
away from contemporary dance, questions of relevance, experience and re-defining
form become even more vital and urgent. Many suggest that taking an interest
in audience and their experiences of contemporary art is pandering and produces
popularist and commercial art. However I want to question the preconception that
audiences are not interested in challenging or meaningful work and that conceptual
art has no scope to speak or communicate widely. Without experience we inhabit
a secondhand world, and although living vicariously has become the norm in the
21st Century, this research is focused on deconstructing reality via our own
experiences, using performance as a catalyst or liminal provocateur.
Contemporary dance in Australia is rarely concerned with how it is perceived
as an experience. This art form has removed itself from the viewer, from the
experience, and has developed a self consciousness that, although attributable
to a number of sources, can be seen as a by-product of living in the early 21st
Century: currently it is not fashionable to feel, to experience, to be out of
control or willingly step in the unknown unless those experiences are connected
via the distancing tools of technology. Interactivity has replaced lived experiences,
multiple options within strict paradigms have replaced actual choice. Whether
these new frameworks are absolute, permanent or irreversible remains to be seen.
This research however, is looking at the starting points of connections and re-connections
and the place they had once and may have again in society.
Currently there are researchers and artists looking generally at these
ideas in theatre. There are, however very few dance researchers challenging
and place of this genre in our society. Australia has several recognised researchers
focusing on ‘audience experience’ - these processes, however, look
at ways of modifying an audience’s experience of an existing work. What
I am interested in is challenging and re-visioning the construction, process
and development of the creative work from inception.
The latter is of prime interest to me as both researcher and as artist. It is
the starting point of my current work and will focus on audience experience as
the central aesthetic in the creative process.
There are several questions that need to be asked if we as art makers are to
begin to re-connect to audience: What are the conventional demarcations between
daily life and artistic practice? Can a blurring of these boundaries - a blurring
of the objects of art and the objects of the everyday - re-engage the audience’s
experience of performance and make them an active participant in the creation
of meaning? Can we disengage the proscenium arch as a mechanism of passive viewing
and re-define the theatre as a place where art is produced via the interaction
of audience and performance? Can engaging in liminal and transitory events change
our perceptions of ourselves and our place in the world?
Performance is, by rights, an experiential event. This work challenges
the notion of the passive audience and a passive experience via the tools
variations of site and in working with phenomenological theories and processes.
Liminality is a state of indeterminacy: a period of transition and can describe
a place, a person or an experience. it is a time of ‘inbetween’ and
so often codes and conventions between stages or phases can be ambiguous thus
creating opportunities for the unexpected or something new. How, then, can the
creator construct an environment of liminality to allow space for the audience
to expand their ‘experience’ – to find a lived experience within
the art construct?
To continue this play between the known and expected, and the liminal
and experienced, this practice-led research is looking at creating new
works that focus on issues of experience as a pathway to understanding and relevance.
The first work created in this program was created at WAAPA and involved a row
of swings hung along the back wall of the theatre with the audience onstage with
the dancers – moving around and interacting with the dancers in close proximity.
It was created in promenade form to heighten the audience’s experience
and immersion in the performance. The next work looks at site as a provocateur
and moves audiences to disused buildings throughout the city for a performance
about absences and disappearances. The format of these works is not new – I
myself have been constructing site, promenade and installation works for over
ten years all with the intention of exploring various ways of revealing concepts
to audiences. The research into how we experience the world via performance that
is constructed to involve and immerse audience is hopefully where the novation
and new ideas will be developed over the next three years.