What can the theories of Postdigital and the New Aesthetic reveal about contemporary performance?

Living in the 21st century it is hard to ignore the presence of technology, but some argue that we are starting to do just that. Mobile phones, laptops, online shopping and on demand television services are all becoming (if not already a part of) everyday life. The mere presence of technology is arguably no longer as fascinating as it once was. As humans, we are more accustomed to using, seeing and being around technology. Our relationship with digital technology is changing, what was once fascinating could now be considered banal. When emails first became mobile it was exciting, convenient and extremely efficient. However mobile emails have quickly become annoying, interfering and inconvenient, even though we do still find them useful.

 

Postdigital and New Aesthetic theories offer us a way to look at our relationship with technology. They are not concerned with the fascinating spectacle of technology, but rather how we are behaving and reacting to the digital technology that exists in our lives. In this response I want to start to identify what these theories can offer us in relation to performance. Has ‘thinking digitally’ changed the way performance is constructed, and does our awareness of the digital network change our behaviour or perception? I will look at some of the overarching theories and debates that surround this topic, and then apply these theories to an analysis of a Blast Theory performance and finally look at it in relation to my own work.

 

Florian Cramer (2015) helps us define the term postdigital and starts his chapter by stating that the term “can be used to describe either a contemporary disenchantment with digital information systems and media gadgets, or a period in which our fascination with these systems and gadgets has become historical”. It is important to note the distinction here, this is not an outright rejection of technology, but rather a observation that we are less captivated with technology then we previously were. Cramer (2015) goes on to argue that this increases the popularity of older technologies such as vinyl records, typewriters, analogue synthesisers etc. Another important distinction to note is that the prefix ‘post’ should be read in the same way as in ‘post punk’ as Cramer (2015) explains ‘a continuation of punk culture in ways which are somehow still punk, yet also beyond punk’. We must then understand that postdigital in no way marks an end to digital culture, but rather a continuation of digital culture, evolving from our previous relationship with digital technology.

 

Cramer goes on to argue that the very distinction on ‘old media’ vs ‘new media’ is in fact no longer relevant in a postdigital age. The breakdown of this binary, along with the breakdown of ‘analogue vs. digital’ are at the heart of his argument. For Cramer the postdigital world is one where these forms coexist and no longer need distinction. For example, when I use my mobile phone to message a friend, I do not proclaim ‘I am going to digitally message my friend’ I would just say ‘I’m going to message’. I find this particularly relevant when talking about performance, which in its simplistic, raw sate (bodies in a space) could be described as analogue. The use of technology within performance for some can be considered as ‘digital performance’ or ‘digital theatre’. However, this distinction may be outdated, as we are starting to see technology appear in a variety of performances from experimental/contemporary work (e.g. Blast Theory) all the way into commercially popular and successful theatre (The National Theatre’s 2012 production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime). The mere presence of technology no longer qualifies a performance to be ‘digital performance’. However, the fact that technology has a presence in performance, along with the performers and scenography is what Cramer describes as postdigital. The marrying up of analogue/digital and new/old media that is so evident in many examples of performance and is where I want to focus.

Alongside the breaking down of these binaries, another strong aspect of the postdigital is that, regardless of whether we are fascinated with technology, we all have an increased awareness of it, and an increased awareness of the networks which exist around us. Cramer (2015) argues that Edward Snowden’s “disclosures of the NSA’s all-pervasive digital surveillance systems” increased our awareness of the extent of these technologies. This increased awareness will no doubt begin to affect the way we behave as humans, particularly our relationship with technology, and Cramer uses the Snowden scandal as the reasoning for a resistance to some new technologies and the way we use them.

 

James Bridle’s theories of the New Aesthetic also look at our relationship and behaviour with technology and how this affects the way we are making and viewing different forms of art. Similar to Cramer, Bridle also believes we have an increased knowledge of the network, but decreased ‘fascination’ with technology. Bridle himself states ‘We live in a world shaped and defined by computation, and it is one of the jobs of the critic and the artist to draw attention to the world as it truly is’ (Bridle, J. 2013). In his 2011 video talk, Bridle identifies a trend showing the effect of digital technology on visual art. Many examples include the physical representation of pixels (a soley digital object), how our perception has changed thanks to the use of satellites and google maps, and how human behaviour has changed (e.g. the way our fingers now move to accommodate a touch screen, is vastly different from our finger movements 20 years ago). Bruce Sterling perhaps best summarises Bridle’s New Aesthetic by describing it as ‘an eruption of the digital into the physical’ (2012)

 

While Bridle makes a compelling argument, he only uses examples from visual and internet generated art. Using his philosophies of the New Aesthetic can teach us a lot about performance, as the trends that Bridle identifies are not just happening in visual art, they are happening in performance and in the theatre as well. Alongside the changes in human behaviour which Bridle explores, an understanding of the network seems to be at the heart of his argument: “Where many seem to read only incoherence and illegibility, the New Aesthetic articulates the deep coherence and multiplicity of connections and influences of the network itself.” (2013). The rise in popularity of old media forms (vinyl, cassette etc.) is where the New Aesthetic differs to Cramer’s arguments. Bridle argues that the rise in older media stems from a place of technical illiteracy: “This wilful anti-technicalism, which is a form of anti-intellectualism, mirrors the present cultural obsession with nostalgia, retro and vintage” (Bridle, 2013) He goes on to argue that this technical illiteracy is particularly prevalent in the arts. Indeed Cramer (2015) does note that almost all digital design courses have moved from art academies over to engineering schools. Perhaps then we have to see another binary broken down, that of the artist vs. scientist. The marrying up of these two positions can be found in Blast Theory who often use artists, computer scientists and engineers to create their work.

 

Matthew Causey’s 2016 article ‘Postdigital Performance’ has some obvious resonance with this topic and will be used along with the previous two theories to underpin my performance analysis. Causey’s exploration of postdigital culture is done so with explicit reference to performance. Similar to Cramer, Causey looks to break down the binaries surrounding digital technology, particularly in the theatre. He states “ it is unimportant to worry over what technology is used onstage […] the question resides not in the type or aesthetic use of technology, but in learning to think like a machine, digitally, or risk obsolescence’ (2016, p.440)

 

As we’ve seen in the other two theories, the presence of technology is not what is being interrogated here. The awareness of the network, the ability to think digitally and create art ‘in the language and discourse of the digital’ (Causey, 2016 p.433) is what the postdigital addresses. What Causey offers us, which the other two theories do not, in a set of structural elements, and significant components of postdigital performance. I will be drawing on these elements throughout this paper to see how they adhere to two examples of performance.

We can use these theories to analyse Can You See Me Now? (2005) a performance and game by Blast Theory. In CYSMN? Blast Theory performers (or ‘runners’) ran around the streets of a city, armed with a handheld computer, a GPS tracker and a walkie talkie. Online players would log in via a PC and control an avatar of themselves through a digital map of the same city.  Using their technology, the runners would chase and locate the online players. Once located the game would end for the player. Players could view the runners on the virtual map, listen in to their walkie talkie feed, and talk to other players via instant message. Runners could see a birds eye view of all other players and runners. It’s obvious that the piece can only exist with use of the network and advances in technologies, but looking at this with a postdigitial mindset helps us to discover the intricacies of the relationship of the physical and digital.

 

When looking at this piece I was immediately reminded of the New Aesthetic notion of “an eruption of the digital into the physical” (Sterling, 2012). Most notably because when we consider the ‘place’ where this performance takes place, we immediately have to consider both the digital city, and the physical one – this piece was simultaneously physical and digital. To ignore one aspect of this performance, or even to look at the physical and digital elements separately would not do justice to the work. Just like Cramer (2015) suggests, the binary of analogue vs. digital does not help us here. The relationship between these two coexisting is what makes this an interesting performance. Blast Theory themselves describe this collision of the digital and physical:

 

The experience was perhaps most successful when online players realized that their actions in the online world could affect events in the physical world, for example that the simple act of crossing a virtual line could cause someone to dodge real traffic. (Benford et al. 2006, p.108)

 

To be confronted with the physical consequences of our digital actions so immediately is unusual. I’m reminded of services like Amazon Prime where we can get next-day or even same-day delivery, but in CYSM? the players actions had immediate consequences for the runners. If nothing else, this allows us to reflect on the reality of our online actions and even allows us to have a glimpse of a converged world where our the response to our digital actions is much faster than we are used to.

 

Similarly to Cramer, Causey states that one aspect of postdigital performance is ‘the reality of the virtual’ (2016 p.434) this concept also subscribes to the fact that a binary of virtual vs. real is no longer useful in conceptualizing and performing within the postdigital age. The convergent space where the virtual and real coexist can be described as a ‘cellspace’ (Manovic in Barker, 2011, p.102) which is a “type of convergent space that exists when an invisible layer of information space, and what we traditionally think of as physical space, augment one another”. (Barker 2011, p.102) In this space, which we see in CYSMN? information is exchanged between the virtual and physical, and what we do in one space has an effect in the other space. This is not just the immediate consequence that I described above, but can have an effect anywhere in the global network. This is particularly true of CYSMN? as players logged on, not just from the location the game was being played, but from all over the world. It’s not just the place and space that become important in the cellspace, but also time. Causey (2016) suggests that asynchronous time registers were a notable aspect of postdigital performance, but in CYSMN? It’s arguably the synchronicity of time which makes it so compelling. There’s no recorded information here, the focus is on the present and the ‘now’ and the fact that our decisions can have immediate ramifications (whether in front of us, or further afield) is precisely what makes this particular peace thrilling. Although I will revisit asynchronous time registers later on in this paper.

 

Digital maps and GPS are discussed by James Bridle (2011c) as a reason for our change in perception. Thanks to google maps, we can now all see the world via satellite, something which was only previously available to a collection of scientists. Bridle argues that we never allowed ourselves to be fascinated with this privilege, and immediately used it for banal things such as driving directions. CYSMN? Directly challenges this banality, by allowing us to explore the possibilities of space and time, and illustrate how we can use maps creatively, engagingly and in a way that has a real, physical effect, not just a virtual one. What is perhaps most commendable, is that Blast Theory first performed this in 2001 – 4 years prior to the launch of google maps.

 

No world is perfect, and even digital worlds are subject to bugs, glitches, errors. Causey (2016) mentions ‘bugs and glitches’ as another aspect of postdigital performance. Throughout CYMN? runners were subject to inaccuracies in GPS,  network blackspots, batteries running out and equipment malfunctions. From reading the players message exchanges in Benford et al. (2006 pp. 113-114) these glitches actually appeared to enhance the overall experience. As runners would lose signal, and disappear from the map, players became more suspicious as to the location of the runner. Some players even took advantage of GPS blackspots for themselves, making it harder for the runners to catch them. Some players even thought the runners could control the GPS signal to their advantage, which wasn’t actually true. The bugs and glitches in this piece increased the uncertainty, risk and chance of the experience. The glitches actually enhanced the notion of the ‘present’ and accentuated the temporality of the piece which I discussed above. The glitches seemed to enhance tension and excitement for the players whilst at the same time reminding them that they were playing in real time, with real consequences and really exploited a notion of liveness. Not just being live in the ‘here and now’ but being live in a synchronised real and digital world, being live in the network, this is where this piece really flaunts its postdigital nature.

 

Alongside the work of Blast Theory, I want to look at these theories in relation to my own practice, specifically a recent scratch performance called ‘Subscribe’. In this piece, audience were invited in to a bizarre post-show discussion for a performance piece they had not seen. As the piece progressed, the audience discovered more about the show from the performer, who described a highly technical piece of theatre. Audience were show rehearsal footage via YouTube and found out that the content of the piece (which they never saw) was inspired by the new famous personalities rising from instagram, YouTube and other social media sites.

 

In stark contrast to CYSMN? this piece did not involve state-of-the art technology. In fact there was barely any set at all, only a projector, screen, computer, and a circle of seats for the audience and performer. Even without the technology associated with groups like Blast Theory, we can still look at ‘Subscribe’ in relation to postdigital ideas. As previously discussed, postdigital does not mean flaunting technological advances. Cramer (2015 p.16) actually describes how the simplest definition of postdigital actually “describes a media aesthetics which opposes such digital high-tech and high-fidelity cleanness”. The ‘cleaness’ described here comes from an association of digital perfection, which (as Cramer describes) can be illustrated by the sleek, neat blue tones which arise from a google image search of the word ‘digital’. Subscribe works against this stereotype of digital perfection on many levels, the performer comes on in untidy clothes, wiping his brow with a towel. The technology used is clunky and unprepared, the performer scrolls through pages, carries out YouTube searches and plays videos without going full screen in full view of the audience. As Carmer points out this isn’t necessarily to serve in opposition to the idea that digital technology can improve our life. It serves as an alternative reaction, digital doesn’t always relate to high-calibre, ultra-sleek technologies, and shouldn’t only be used to describe such things.

 

When making Subscribe I wanted to create a dematerialised peace of theatre, similar to the works of Tim Crouch, who best describes this dematerialised practice by stating “I minimize what’s happening on stage so I can maximise what’s happening in the audience” (Crouch,cited in Bottoms, 2009: 69). The idea here is that by reducing whats on stage, you can create a more active spectator by allowing them to imagine events for themselves. This is where we begin to see the ideas of the New Aesthetic and postdigital surface in a much more subtle way than before. In order for the audience to imagine the social networking sites described in subscribe, they need to have an awareness of the network and how it operates. 15/20 years ago, this performance would have been incomprehensible as people could not have imagined such sites or sharing video so quickly. I even tried to challenge the audience, at one point the performer says ‘in that section of the show I was trying to stage instagram’. Trying to stage instagram is a interesting notion, but is also completely subjective. Even this challenging notion wasn’t completely inconceivable, and at this point the audience could imagine for themselves what this would look like. It also was a nod to the New Aesthetic as staging instagram would be a physical representation of a digital form. When describing this moment, the performer mentions that he used polaroids to help stage instagram. This reference to old media is once again not intended as an opposition to digital media, but is suggesting that even the newest technologies are a continuation, an evolution of older technologies. Perhaps when referencing the old media (polaroid) alongside the fairly new medium of instagram, it works to illustrate the relationship between old and new media, and how we can use old media in new way.  Hence again the ‘post’ in postdigital does not signify the end of a digital era, and the relevance of the binary of old vs. new media is brought into question once more.

Unlike CYSMN? which seem hinged on a synchronised time register, Subscribe played much more with the idea of asynchronous time. Causey (2016) cites asynchronous time registers as another structural element of postdigital performance. Subscribe didn’t seek to synchronise the time registers of the physical and digital, but much rather exploit its asynchronicity. Digital technology has allowed us to record and reorder events and allows us to present, or re-simulate these events in any way we choose. Just like the stars of YouTube carefully order their videos into a seamless sequence, my piece was ordered into a reckless sequence. The audience attended the post show discussion, before they saw the show. The audience were then shown pre-show rehearsal footage, which had already been uploaded to YouTube in the middle of the post-show discussion. The screening of rehearsal footage did serve a purpose in this piece. It served as a semiotic sign, to suggest that a show had actually been made, and the audience were indeed at a post show discussion of an actual performance piece. The video (and many other signs) were built in to Subscribe to play with Baudrillard’s (1994) notion of the hyperreal, which I argue is extremely present in many YouTube vlogs. The YouTube video in Subscribe did not exist to flaunt technology, but it is only because of advances in technology that it was able to happen. As Causey states the flexibility of digital technologies allows us to ‘reorder various virtual modes and inhabit and perform our identities and “lived experiences” within those spaces” (2016 p.434). This postdigital rhetoric is not informing us of wider world of possibilities here, but actually giving an explanation and reasoning into the structural elements of a performance, it argues that the very way an artist chooses to communicate with their audience is effected in a postdigital age.

 

In closing this paper I want to reflect on what we have revealed about contemporary performance by using ideas from the New Aesthetic and postgitial theories. The initial theories surrounding this topic all point to the breaking down of binaries. No longer are digital/analogue, old media/new media or real/virtual useful ways of looking at performance. While these binaries may have some logical use, they also look to separate the human relationship with technology, which seems such an established relationship in 2018.

Looking at CYSMN? Was a perfect example of breaking down these binaries, instead of creating a digital city or a real city, the performance created a convergent cellspace where our digital and virtual actions were married up and had genuine consequences. Blast Theory also break down the binary of artist vs. scientist, by having a team of technicians, computer scientists and performance graduates working on any given project. The bugs and glitches throughout CSYMN? Did not appear to hinder the performance, but instead accentuate it’s temporality, uncertainty and liveness.

 

Applying these theories to my own work revealed that even with the absence of high calibre technology, a piece could still be considered postdigital. This resonates with all three of the theories which speak not of a spectacle of technology, but of an awareness of the network having an effect on art  and even human nature. Looking at my own work illustrated that postdigital does not align with the sleek neatness once associated with ‘digital’ and the rise of older technologies, and the DIY movement are just as much a part of postdigital as any state-of-the-art technology.

 

Causey (2016) offered us a set of structural elements which could be applied to both performance examples, and revealed some reasoning as to how the postdigital is affecting the artist’s mode of communication. Alongside Causey who draws similarities between postdigital, and posthuman theories., both Cramer (2012) and Bridle (2013) mention something that it is perhaps the biggest reveal of these theories. It is not just art, or performance that is changing in the postdigital age, human nature itself is changing. As our relationship with technology changes, so does our behaviour. Humans may have designed the digital world, but now we are changing our behaviour to accommodate it. As Bridle (2012) states “we now live in a world that we share with the technology, to some extent that we’re building, but to a huge extent is also shaping the way we behave”.

 

Bibliography

 

Barker, Timothy. 2011. Re-Composing the Digital Present. Contemporaneity: Historical Presence in Visual Culture, 1, pp.88–104.

 

Baudrillard, J., 1994. Simulacra and simulation, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press.

 

Benford, S. et al., 2006. Can you see me now? ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), 13(1), pp.100–133.

 

Bottoms, S. 2009. Authorising the Audience. Performance Research, 14(1), pp.65-76

 

Bridle, J. 2011. Waving at the Machines. [Online Video]. 5 December 2011. Available from: http://booktwo.org/notebook/waving-at-machines/. [Accessed: 4 January 2018].

 

Bridle, J. 2013. The New Aesthetic and it’s Politics. [ONLINE] Available at: http://booktwo.org/notebook/new-aesthetic-politics/. [Accessed 4 January 2018].

 

Causey, M, 2016. Postdigital Performance. Theatre Journal, 68 (3), 427 – 441

 

Cramer, F. (2015). What is Post-digital? in D. Berry and M. Dieter. (eds.) Postdigital Aesthetics (p.12-26). London/New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

 

Sterling, B., 2012. An Essay on the New Aesthetic. Wired.  Available at: https://www.wired.com/2012/04/an-essay-on-the-new-aesthetic/. [Accessed 3 January 2018]

 

University of Nottingham, 2005. Can you see me now?,[DVD] London: Blast Theory.

 

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In the YouTube Loop

To be or not to be: A day in the life

To be or not to be: Unboxing/haul

To be or not to be: Make-up tutorial

To be or not to be: Top 10 facts

To be or not to be: ASMR

To be or not to be: Tweets

To be or not to be: Impressions

To be or not to be: QandA

To be or not to be: Prank

To be or not to be: Floss

To be or not to be: Review

To be or not to be: Tutorial

To be or not to be: Ice Bucket Challenge

To be or not to be: Draw My Life

To be or not to be: Trying Foreign Candy

To be or not to be: Googling myself (Hamlet)

To be or not to be: Music Video

To be or not to be: Minecraft mission

Abstract

IMG_0513

 

Abstract

This Practice-as-Research project aims to analyse YouTube vlogs from a performance perspective and use the findings to inform the creation of live performance. YouTube is filled with examples of performance, but vlogs are specifically of interest as they are a direct product of the internet, and only exist in the digital world. Postdigital theory proposes that the binaries of digital vs. physical are no longer useful in analysing or conceptualising performance (Cramer 2015 and Causey 2016), whereas the manifestation of a digital from (vlogging), in the physical world would has the potential to be more practically and theoretically productive. Andy Lavender (2016) has made a start by looking at the persona adopted by YouTubers, but there is a gap of scholarship and practice in this area. YouTube is the second most visited website in the world (Alexa, 2017) and it seems imperative that we explore vlogging forms more closely as a mode of performance and in the context of live performance. The intersection of these two forms could result in new techniques for creating live performance and also allow space for critical reflection on vlogging as a form.

This project will use Hamlet as a conduit for exploring the vlogging form. Hamlet has been hailed by many as the ‘birth of human subject’ (Quick, 2011) recent technologies, converging media and a drastically different politically climate are more than enough to suggest that the notion of ‘being human’ has changed. So I aim to revisit the Human Subject of Hamlet, to explore what being human looks like in a postdigital world.

Using the postdigital structural elements identified by Causey (2016), along with new techniques identified from vlogs; this project will use studio based experimentation and sharing of practice to test how live performance can productively play with vlogging as a form.

Blog 1 – Programmer Pitch

For this post, I thought I’d try a trial pitch to a programmer. The advice from Claire Symonds at the Lowry informed us that there is not hard and fast rule for pitching to programmer, although we were given examples of ‘best practice’. This post would likely be the covering letter to a ‘tour pack’ which would be sent to potential programmers. I’ve annotated this letter in red, to explain my reasoning – these annotations would not be included in the actual covering letter.

Dear James, (whilst a tour pack can be generic, the covering letter should be personalised to the venue. Claire at Lowry said it was crucial to address the programmer by name.)

Please find attached the tour pack for my latest work SUBSCRIBE. Which I think would make a great addition to Spring 2019 programme at Camden People’s Theatre. (The tour pack would likely include photos, press reviews, technical specifications as well as links to videos of the show.)

My name is Josh Cannon, and I’m one third of Popbox Theatre, we performed Love Letters to Asia at CPT last summer (I have a slight advantage as I’ve performed at this venue before. Hopefully they’ll remember me, but given the volume of work they see, it’s possible they may have forgotten. I just wanted to reaffirm that relationship, and remind them that they have seen and programmed my work previously). SUBSCRIBE marks my first piece of solo work, a contemporary, devised piece which explores vlogging in the live theatre space (Claire said it was good to start with a one sentence summary of the show, it allows programmers to read and understand quickly):

SUBSCRIBE: A show about YouTube and my very arrogant alter-ego, a self-confessed ‘famous’ vlogger. Join him as he talks to you about what it’s like to be vlogger, he may even show you examples of his work, but be careful, as with anything on YouTube not everything is as it seems.

SUBSCRIBE  lets us see the live side of vlogging. Taking the person we usually see through a screen and putting them right there in front of us.  This experimental performance explores vlogging and gives us chance to question whether we should actually believe everything we see. Expect screens, videos and larger-than-life personalities as SUBSCRIBE explores one of the world’s newest and most popular media forms.
(Although it sounds simple, I had to include a brief summary/ copy for the piece, programmers want know whether the work would be appropriate for their venue, so they need to know as much about it, in as little time, as possible)

 

CPT has great reputation for supporting emerging artists particularly in the contemporary sphere, I admire your varied programme and it would be a pleasure to perform at the venue again. This work is in part inspired by Louise Orwin’s Pretty/Ugly which premiered at CPT back in 2013. Given the success of Orwin’s piece, I’d really like to share my work with the CPT audience. (These are two of the main reasons I’ve chosen this venue. They support artists in the early stage of their careers, just like myself. They have also programmed similar work, including Orwin’s piece, which has been a big inspiration on my work)


Since Pretty/Ugly , there haven’t been many examples of theatremakers exploring YouTube in this depth. This makes SUBSCRIBE a pretty unusual piece, which engages with an extremely popular media form. London was graced with a state of the art ‘YouTube’ space back in 2016, marking it on the map as one the world’s biggest youtube cities. There’s a real potential to get some new audiences into the theatre here, as you’ll be able to see in my audience development strategy. (I wanted to let the programmer know what made this show unique. I also wanted to illustrate that alongside the existing audience, I have a strategy for bringing new audiences into the show. Ultimately, theatres and programmers need to sell tickets, so it’s good to show that you have a plan to address this)

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions. Thanks for reading, and look forward to hearing from you soon

Best

Josh Cannon
Theatre Maker

(Overall the covering letter may seem short, but programmers get sent hundreds of email. Claire’s advice was keep it short, and succinct)

 

Blog 2 – Audience Development (People)

PEOPLE

What audiences will this work naturally reach?


From my last visit to Camden People’s theatre it was clear that they have a dedicated and regular audience of theatre-goers. This comes as no surprise, given the theatre’s location in the capital. According to the Audience Agency there is a high concentration of ‘metro-culturals’ in the area. This demographic are often engaged with the arts, are often educated to degree level, and have enough disposable income to buy theatre tickets. Given my own network in the area, it should be easy to target this group of people.

 

 

Who do you want it to reach?

It would like to target people who do no often come to the theatre, but do watch YouTube. This is a difficult demographic to target. YouTube has an extremely wide reach, and while I don’t want to disregard the older population, it seems the groups who spend the most time on YouTube are aged between 18-34 (Digiday, 2015). Given the content of my piece (A Student vlogger) it’s likely that these ages will relate more to the material.

 

Are you working with any partners/funders – if so, who might they want

or need the work to reach & who might they be able to help you reach?
Currently the only partner for the work is The University of Salford. Having not discussed the touring of this piece with them, I am unsure of their involvement. After a review of the university strategy, the key priority for the university is to establish and utilise ‘Industry Collaboration Zones’. I’m hoping if the work gets programmed at CPT (a professional theatre), the university will support this engagement with industry, and help to promote the show via their own social media. Another key strategy for the university is to expand student recruitment, meaning the university may want me to target prospective students. This could be achieved by approaching local colleges and perhaps offering post show discussion about studying at Salford.

 

What pre-engagement activity might help you reach your target

audiences?
Alongside contacting potential education institutes (with some help from the University of Salford), I will be contacting YouTube Space in London. YouTube space schedule events and offer classes and facilities for YouTube creators. YouTubers are increasingly looking to perform live, and many of the popular creators are already embarking on national tours. I plan to offer a workshop/seminar talking about the project and my own experience of major differences between live and recorded performance.

Alongside this workshop, I will be promoting the event via social media. I plan to create a short vlog video (in character) to promote the show and generate interest. I’ll then be using facebook to target this video around the North/Central London area. Facebook targeted advertising can be as expensive or inexpensive as required. Generally the more money given to Facebook, the more they will promote your advert – funds will need to be raised for this to be an effective activity.

Blog – 3 Documentation/Louise Orwin

For this post I’d like to look at the documentation of Louise Orwin’s Pretty/Ugly. Interestingly, I have only been able to view this show via the documentation which is available. The first thing I came across when looking for information on the show was this trailer:

 

The trailers gives a good a sense of what the themes and content of the show may be and the intertiles provide us plenty of context. They directly inform us that this is a show about teenage girls who ask the internet to rate their appearance. The artist is shown speaking lines, and dancing in various outfits. This direct approach may seem simple, but is really useful. It’s gives us a sense of the form, content and themes of the work. It’s something I plan to adopt myself to promote (and document my own work). I’m not always a fan of trailers in theatre, but it seems appropriate for Orwin (and maybe even myself) to make a trailer in the very medium which our projects explore and critique (YouTube videos).

Most of the (public facing) documentation for the show is kept online at a wordpress site: https://prettyorugly.wordpress.com/

Again, documenting online seems appropriate as the show addresses issues and themes which are a direct result of internet culture. The main focus of the site is concerned with the motivations/ influences for making the piece. These motivations informed the practice, the research and a number of engagement activities that resulted as part of Pretty/Ugly.

Photos and videos of the rehearsal process are not included on the site. This may be a decision from the artist. Personally, I aim to include videos, photos and even draft scripts as I feel it provides insight into the decisions which formed my work. Here, Orwin has provided us here initial research and experiment: posing as teenagers on YouTube, and asking the public to rate her appearance. The results of this experiment were alarming, and it was clear that teenagers were putting themselves in potential danger. Orwin then took it upon herself to inform educate people on these dangers, in the form of her live show and the accompanying workshops on cyberbullying for teenage women.

It seems unusual to document a project without photos and videos, however this is not necessarily a bad thing. By leaving these out, Orwin has managed to keep her documentation focused on her objectives – to educate us on the potential dangers to young people. Indeed, Orwin has included in her documentation a number of resources to help those who may be affected by the project’s issues. In his book on documentation, Reason (2006) discusses the need for ‘pragmatic’ documentation – information about the length of the show, pictures of what it looked like, running times, venues performed etc. And while some of this information appears in Orwin’s wordpress, the aim of this documentation seems much greater. Orwin has managed to capture the principles of her project. As Reason (2006) states, this sort of documentation is just as important as pragmatic information, as it ‘becomes not merely the accident of documentary limitations, nor only the methodology, but the ideology’ (p.60).
Managing to document an ‘ideology’ or even just a fragment of an ideology is no easy task. Going forward I aim to communicate some of my project ideologies in my own documentation (alongside the pragmatic information), and thanks to Orwin, I’ll be using my own initial research, and experiments to communicate this. I’ve realised just how important these can be, and that documentation is much more powerful than just capturing the process of making.

 

Blog 4 – Liz Lerman

Perhaps one of the most useful tools I’ve been introduced to on this course in Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process. It’s been a big part of shaping SUBSCRIBE. I could spend time describing the method, but Liz Lerman does a better job, so feel free to read about it here.

To briefly summarise the artist shows some work (usually work-in-progress). The audience are asked to give some statements of ‘meaning’, then the artist asks some specific questions. The audience then have a turn to ask questions (although they should be neutral, as not too express an opinion). Finally the audience are allowed to express an opinion, but only if the artist allows. The whole process is chaired by a facilitator, who keeps things neutral, keeps everyone and on task, and tries to fill in those awkward silences.

 

It sounds like quite a formal process, and in all honesty, the first time I tried it, everything felt very tense and unnatural. However, after trying it a couple of times I really warmed to the process. While all the rules and ‘process’ appear to hinder creative expression and can feel a little limiting, the opposite is actually true. The formalised process enabled me to really focus on specific aspects of my performance which I needed help with. It was also great because everyone else in the room was a maker/artist – I felt like even though I was struggling, everyone else had been there before. The advice I got was really useful.

After a few practices, we has 2 sessions where we employed Lerman’s process. I’ll only speak about the first session for now, but the second session will get a mention in my process documentation. I showed a 5 minute scratch in this first session – I played a vlog I had made earlier in the week, and deconstructed it live (basically I critiqued it, and expanding on what I was doing). I was struggling between my digital self, and my physical self, and my first question really helped address this, I asked the audience: ‘Should I perform the blog material live, and pre-record the critique?  I got a resounding sea of “No” from everyone who raised their hand. People said it was much clearer to see what I was doing this way round, and to swap it may add confusion.

As clear as my work felt in my own head, it was obvious that the audience were still struggling. When it came to their questions, most people asked something along the lines of ‘What is the relationship between the physical you, and the digital you?’ As I was unable to answer this question, I knew I had to firm up the idea, and make it clearer. From this point on, I kept to this format: my digital self would always perform, and my physical self who expand/critique on the video. I hope the evidence of this can been seen in my final work.

 

Finally, the Lerman method was great as it gave quite a lot of control to the artist. At this point in my process I hadn’t thought about costume, lighting/sound design or even what videos I was actually going to use. The Lerman process allowed me to (politely) decline people’s opinions on such things, I knew I had reshoot videos, and think about scenography and design, and I was happy that we didn’t get carried away (as artists often do) focusing on these points, as it would not have been useful for me at that time.