Artist Statement V0.1

(The following is my current thinking about the intersection of theatre, performance and technology.  It is the beginning of a grad school application.)

Throughout history, live performance has been a means for communal sharing and challenging of cultural memes.  In it’s earliest incarnations, the telling of stories was a means for recording and recounting that culture’s events.  As society has evolved, so did the role of the performing arts into entertainment, political commentary, lessons in morality, challenging the status quo, etc.  At the same time, the evolution of technology has fundamentally changed the way in which we disseminate and receive these memes: film and video have become the popular accessible standard for the conveyance of linear narratives, and dwindling modern theatre-going audiences seem to have become disenchanted with theatre’s basic underlying simplicity.  Perhaps this disillusionment is because so many theatrical narratives attempt to behave like a popular cinematic experience – in the script, in the stage action, even in the aesthetic design – which is a hopeless endeavor that will, by definition, fail.  The theatre has historically reigned supreme – uncontested, even – in the linear narrative space, but for more than half a century now it has been unable to compete with the immersive glitz, polish and epic, non-linear possibilities of cinema.  As a result, theatre’s objectives must evolve with the times and thereby re-establish it’s own unique raison d’etre.

At the same time, in a vast global culture made smaller and more accessible by the internet, we are simultaneously closer to the farthest reaches of the world and more physically isolated than ever before.  While we expand our definition of self with co-location and tele-presence, our physical bodies and social skills atrophy and yearn for stimulation.  The same technology that allows us to interact in unprecedented ways with the world at large also hampers our understanding of the world right at the ends of our fingertips.   

Re-enter the theatre: The one attribute that theatre can not be bested at is the undeniable immediacy of a shared communal experience.  What theatre alone can excel at is not the traditional passive, linear experience, but rather one that involves everyone present, making the spectator a participant, dissolving the audience / performer boundaries.  People today yearn for more than an immersive experience: they want to be the experience.  They expect multi-disciplinary interactivity, multi-threading and multi-tasking.  It has to be a chat room, a video game, and a spiritual experience rolled into one.  Reality television, American Idol, MySpace and Guitar Hero have “pulled back the curtain” and made everyone a star in their own sitcom.  The underground dance culture is now mainstream.  But still most of these mediums still lack visceral spontaneous interaction, improvisation and communal creativity.  Interactive theatrical spectacles are the next logical step.

Although many of the interceding boundaries are social in nature, some are technological as well.  So much “high technology” has become ubiquitous in our daily lives: people edit movies on the bus to work; the notion of making music on a laptop is nearly as commonplace as typing up a proposal or spreadsheet; and interacting in real time with a group of people spread across the globe is business as usual.  So creating interactive technological tools that are appealing, inviting, that anyone can use and many will use well is a baseline objective.  Then, it is up to the participants to make it transcendent.

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