In the last three years, my practice has been focused on this, intimate one-on-one site-specific conversation-based autobiographical performances, primarily driven by the concept of audience as co-creators, investigating the thresholds of audience engagement. Yes, what a mouthful. And I don’t usually say all that in one unbroken sentence. The conversations usually go something like this:
X: What do you do?
Me: I am a performance maker.
X: Ah. So like theatre?
Me: Well, yes, sort of. I write conversations.
And then the descriptions of intimate one-on-one site-specific conversation-based autobiographical performances follow. In the last year, since the cooking works begun, I’ve started to add in Social Practice in the mix.
Words, words, and more words, I roll my eyes at myself.
I have also been very aware though, that this interest is current, and will change. So sometimes I cringe a little when I have to describe it, because I don’t want to feel beholden to it. And yet, I can only describe what I know, right?
And I do think I am at a beginning of a shift at the moment. There is something in writing Saltwater that I think is kind of a circular journey back into the theatre to affirm some things, before I forge a(nother) desire line for myself.
In the last three years though, in the making of these works, as well as in the witnessing of works that can be described similarly – I ask myself quite relentlessly, “where is the craft?”
I suppose it stems from a broader, wankier, rather existential question of “is this art?” And my answer to this question is to find the rigour behind the work. If there is craft and skill, honed and practiced, and carefully deliberated and delivered, then it can be art; discipline. Right?
I dare not say this as absolute truth. But it is a concept that I can live with, and subscribe to for my pursuits.
And I’ve often talked about the craft of facilitation. I must add, that this inquiry is ongoing. I have yet to find the vocabulary to articulate this mixture of listening, processing, responding, intuition, while remembering the score of the work, keeping check of time while allowing things to happen, a balance of confidence and vulnerability, etc…
That craft is in some of these people: a great counsellor, the beautician giving me a Brazilian wax, the rare General Practitioner…a good stallholder at the markets, a genuinely welcoming barista, a sincere taxi driver…
Not all of them are “trained” to be conversationalists, but it is inherently in the essence of their work. The quality of their work is important (being a knowledgeable doctor, a meticulous beautician, must actually make good coffee…), but what separates the good from the great is in the experience we have had with them. How did we feel as we walked away from them?
What then of the performance works that employ these frameworks in which to engage?
Where is the quality of the work in?
This is something that I am continually interrogating, and definitely still unpacking. Reflecting on my own processes as well, I am also looking at ways to keep training. How can I get better at facilitating a performative experience? Can I also arrive at a language to articulate this questions and findings, as well as hold discussions around this?
On my way.