In the course of studying this module, as well as producing the performance piece Read Me, I have been continually challenged by the differences between Site Specific Theatre and ‘Traditional Theatre’ From the need to be aware of the audience at all times, while also not allowing their interactions with your piece to distract you from your performance, to the limitations being influenced by a site in contrast to an idea, an event or a play, every difference whether small or large has been a strain on the performance, while at the same time enhancing it and allowing it to grow as a piece.
As the differences between our work and the usual pieces of theatre we perform grew, I found it interesting to note the growing similarities between our work and an installation of art work, albeit with a greater focus on performance art as the medium. This presents new issues, however, as with any installation piece we must be aware that the audience, in entering the piece expecting a performance, ‘categories and expectations… often hamper our encounters with contemporary art’ (Aldarondo 2009). The audience were entering the space expecting a piece of drama and would instead experience a piece of drama/art as a hybrid. This would throw all expectations they have out of focus, and while this does allow for the audience to approach the work with a more open mind, it also leads to a feeling of disconnect, of discomfort.
This feeling of disconnection, however, was not cultivated unknowingly, and was not put to waste. Our performance hinged on the audience viewing we as the performers as objects, similar to the walls of graffiti upon which our performance was based. This dehumanising process commented on in earlier posts, was key to our piece, and was emphasised by the disconnection that art affords an audience from their subject. In this the greater freedom of site specific performance served us well. That the performance was still a drama, and so encouraged the stronger connection between a dramatic performer and their audience, lead directly to both the intimacy needed for our message on the process by which graffiti comes to dominate a site to exist, while also bringing that disconnection.
Site specific theatre as a medium was also of interest due to the interconnection between the many smaller performances of the day that came to create the ‘Invisible Cities’ performance overall. With the addition of guides between the varies pieces and the clear linking of these shows, all of which were distinctive, the overall image of the city of Lincoln could be created with a variety of performances, ranging from durational pieces to simple repeated acts and performances. This variety, then, captures the many facets of the city as a whole, the original aim of the performance.
The process of site specific drama has been a challenge. It has required me to learn new skills and polish old ones, as well as sacrifices in time to invest the needed practise to create a performance that can capture even one face of the city of Lincoln. While our performance did not deal with the people of Lincoln directly, in commenting on the effect they can have on a city through the art they leave behind I feel that we have ourselves created an art piece in a similar vein. While the Read Me performance may not be permanently etched into the studio space in which it was performed, it was as permanent as any art piece, that, through some narrow minded act by a well meaning council or simply another artist could be overwritten at any time. No piece of art, performance, paint or otherwise, lasts forever. And so it is the process we should remember, and simply for remembering that I feel that our Site Specific Performance was a success.
Aldarondo, Cecilia (2009) Hidden In Plain Sight: Iris Häussler’s “He Named Her Amber” Art Papers V.33 July/August 2009, pp32-39