#Edgelands: Three


Courtesy Hannah Nicklin.

The essential Andy Field and Hannah Nicklin curated, directed, facilitated some outstanding conversations yesterday, in which I felt massively privileged to be a part. Though modestly described as an ‘experiment’, I think the format of the day was impressively considered and very effective: we began with some beautifully constructed text responses to the core provocations in a newspaper reader, which jump-started people’s minds into a position of complexity and openness; there was loads of art mixed in which kept things alive and poetic; conversations cut straight to the guts of the thing via good, light facilitation; a diversity of voices were heard. Thinking ahead to the upcoming theatre conversations being held in Australia (Totipotent and the Australian Theatre Forum amongst others), I do hope that there’s not too many long, didactic panels… let the people speak! They are so interesting!

Given the plurality of discussions I can only offer one slice of what took place, and you’re advised to check out Rachel Coldicutt’s excellent take which looks in particular at art and technology discussions. I’ll update this post as more people’s blog posts come through.

Here’s some summary dot points:

  • Ken Robinson’s suggestions that “aesthetic is the opposite to anesthetic” was noted, as an articulation (and provocation) to us all to not put people to sleep, rather have them storm the stage in response to our brave generosity
  • What’s an audience? Tassos Stevens (Coney) defines it as: from the first moment they heard about it, to the moment they forget. John McGrath, Artistic Director of National Theatre Wales, urged us to claim back the definition as strictly those interested and present with what we’re doing… they’re the people in the room. “Audience development” / “audience engagement” / anything related to those who you wish to be involved but currently aren’t – they are not your audience. You can call them your network or whatever, but audience should be reserved for those who actually care.
  • People agreed that ‘gathering’ has become a potent and charged force with which the arts are uniquely familiar. A distinction was offered between protest marches, in which people attend believing they is an answer, and an audience, who come to consider new questions and alternatives.
  • The ethical considerations of work in public space, which forces art upon those who may not be willing; when they respond with anger, are we brave enough to accept and navigate this?
  • When discussing the heavy limitations placed on spontaneity in public space, and the tiny acts that can constitute a disruption or intervention, I was struck by the regularity of the authority’s response of “we can’t condone this but there’s nothing we can do to stop it”… and wondered if there’s another, deeper meaning in this empty position statement?
  • Unlike the arts, sports doesn’t have audiences – they have fans. Sports are very good amplifying such qualities as community, heritage, loyalty and identity. What qualities do the arts amplify? Are we unconsciously amplifying value for money, gratification or spectacle? Because if so, they’re not particularly convincing nor are they what we’re really interested in, I’d suggest…
  • There’s a tendency in the arts to think that using digital technologies is automatically innovative… this is very untrue, and funding bodies are particularly bad at rewarding this tendency.
  • Have we spent too much time trying to convince people to buy the arts, rather than convincing them the arts matter?
  • Festivals are about marking time. Tom Creed (Festival Director, Midsummer Cork Festival) noted that his festival most definitely marks a seasonal transition; you could apply the same articulation to Next Wave in terms of a period of your life, practice, youth, growth.
  • Is it possible (please, please, please make it so) that we might just lose our faith in money before we lose all the water?

There’s more, so much more… but there are shows to see, places to go, hills to climb, new thoughts to know! (Sorry Dr Seuss).


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