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Soraya Fatha, Artist, Filmmaker and Researcher looks at live broadcasts and live film streams and the relationship between 'immediacy', the live, social media and the internet.
I was up in Leeds yesterday filming The Independent Cinema Office training 'Developing Audiences for Cultural Cinema'.
In the day leading up to 'Trashing Performance' a series of events discussing and activating performance set up by Performance Matters and The Live Art Development Agency I thought I'd do an entry talking a bit about the theatre and performance art.
The theatre and performance art; how do these two disciplines fight against and activate each other?
"The encounter between two disciplines doesn't take place when one begins to reflect on another, but when one discipline realizes that it has to resolve, for itself and by its own means, a problem similar to one confronted by the other"
Gilles Deleuze 'The Brain is the screen. An interview with Gilles Deleuze' from the book 'The Brain is the Screen: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Cinema' (1997, ed. Gregory Flaxman)
Deleuze may have been taking about the endless connection between the art of photography and the art of film here but I think it also applies to the strong interlinks between the art of theatre and the art of performance art. How one discipline borrows and uses techniques/ references more typical to the other. Performance art goes to conventions typical of the theatre- sets, stages, lighting and the theatre goes 'experimenta' creating 'pop up' performances in unconventional places.
Let's think about the drama school training verses the art school training, is there a divide in different modes of production?
This is definitely something that's been on my mind.
Fact V Fiction, Documentary V Fantasy
As part of the 55th BFI London Film Festival running between the 12th-27th October the British Film Institute are holding a selection of talks around questions of film, cinema and production. Tonight I attended a discussion hosted by Stuart Kemp between directors Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland, Touching the Void), Asif Kapadia (Senna, Far North), Carol Morley (Dreams of a Life, Edge) and Marc Evans (Hunky Dory)on Fact verses Fiction.
My question...Are there any rules that dictate fact from fiction?
Here are some thoughts...
Perhaps, more than than 'fact' its better to think of the word 'authenticity'.
Documentaries: the telling of real life 'stories' the recreation of real-life experience.
Is there a desire to fictionalise the truth for dramatic theatrical intention- to boost ticket sales?
Documentaries often work from scripts-scripts are rooted in drama. Are documentary story lines manipulated to make 'the subject' look good? e.g. 'the celebrity'. Or to make the sequence of events appear more dramatic?
When faced with an event or person why choose to create documentary over drama, or drama over documentary?
And what of fiction 'pretending' to be fact, with 'Mock-u-mentries'?
Fiction: the creation of a story. The job of the director is to work with the 'artificiality' of the script and make it seem real. But can fiction films be rooted in reality?-(life) experience?
What if we think of the fictional dramatisation of real life events- Does the filmmaker/director have a certain amount of responsibility to the real people, within the film and to the audience, watching the film?
Do documentaries have more power? Because they depict real life, real emotions, real experience. Is the paradox that documentaries can be more moving but fiction films are more popular?
So many questions cannot be answered generally by putting films into the different genres/categories of 'fact' and 'fiction'. Filmmakers work with form, they question ideas of representation embodied within cinema. All filmmaking is manipulation.
Lets think about the tonal difference between the real and the unreal- perhaps the most mysterious part of filmmaking is the interesting moment when you say 'cut', the moment when the 'acting' stops and 'the real' begins again.
And when is a film 'made', finished, completed? Hitchcock said his films were 'made' when he'd finished the story boards, before the film had even been shot. Others may say a film is completed after the last 'cut' is shouted on set or even when the last edit is made. But Perhaps a film isn't truly 'finished' until it's in the cinema being watched by an audience.
Television, Broadcast, Media and the Live
When television started it was imprinted with the idea of the ‘live’, the real. Like the video camera it had 'immediacy'.
There was a threat of disaster in live television- Liveness was defined by accident, unplanned happenings, rather than the presence of a body, a person.
There was and still is a strong relationship between television, representation and ‘the broadcast’- the news. There is a sense of accessibility with the television 'broadcast'.
Starting in the 1980’s there was a parody of liveness in television programmes- how much of the television is really live and really life?
When I think about television, when I sit down to watch a programme scheduled at a certain time, there is projection of a group of people in my mind- experiencing the same programme at the same time, in their isolated situations.
You don't get that with watching 'internet television',online, on 4od or itv player for example.
What is on the television nowadays? Tv consists of reality tv, soaps and the occasional decent period drama vs the news, documentaries and real life stories- but there is so little space in television for 'experiment' or 'strangeness'- more and more people turning to the cinema and 'cinema films'
But what of liveness in television? It's about a continuum, today the internet is a ‘live-er’ format of representation and communication.
Lets think about digital and social media.
Web-based and mobile technologies using communicative social interaction networks such as facebook and twitter -these are updated every second!
Now the language of analogue is ending- the switch from analogue to digital has begun.
Today, I start work on Theatre of the Lens' 'Reel Film' project. I have began to sort through the footage, the broken pieces ready to start the process of re-structuring, re-forming and manipulation. 'Reel Film' is a d.i.y film project initiated by Theatre of the Lens aimed to highlight aspects of the live and the recorded image crossing a fusion of time barriers combining a patchwork of new, discarded and manipulated footage.
Reel Film will be a celebration of its medium, projecting light through a moving strip of celluloid.
Original footage provided by Ester Urlus at Filmwerkplaats, Rotterdam, Holland.
The Lens Forms the Image
Dan Graham in his Essay on Video, Architecture, and Television differentiates works on video and film. 'Video is a present time medium. Its image can be simultaneous with its perception by/of its audience (it can be the image of its audience perceiving). The space/time it presents is continous, unbroken...' and '...Film is discontinuous...Film is contemplative and "distanced"; it detaches the viewer from present reality and makes him the spectator.'
The invention of video created real life time, 'liveness' and past time, 'recorded' in the same space. Through the video camera came about the possibility of the real. The video 'in the present' has the advantage of the 'immediacy' of the edit compared to film which has to go through more processes.
The power of the camera-
What the camera 'sees' is what the eye is 'directed' to see.
And what if we think of the dialogue between the material and the illusion?
In structural film, for example there is evidence of the material process serving as a constant reminder that what you are watching is film, breaking the moment of illusion for a second, obliging the viewer to return to reality.
A representation of material and apparatus reveals the method of the camera. The interaction of machine parts can be incorporated as part of the whole. The lens forms the image.
The Edinburgh Festival
Its a Monday morning and I'm heading up to Edinburgh for the festival. I've got a busy schedule planned and I'm excited to get stuck in!
Here is a low down of what I got up to...
Mon- @7pm Cycle One(60)by In-Transit Dance Company
@8.30pm Naqoyqatsi: Life as War, Philip Glass Ensemble.
As part of the Edinburgh International Festival, "'Naqoyqatsi' Life as War" is the third piece in a trilogy using Godfrey Reggio's recorded film as the 'image' with the live Philip Glass musical ensemble as the 'sound'.
I hope to catch the revival of Glass' opera Einstein On The Beach at the Barbican in 2012.
Tue- @2pm Bunk Puppets and Scamp Theatre Present 'Swamp Juice'. A puppet show created by acclaimed Canadian puppeteer Jeff Achtem- makes puppet characters from bits of rubbish-creative staging-used 3-D-playing with multi-media.
@4pm In the Dust by 2Faced Dance Company-break infused contemporary dance
@5.45pm The Paper Birds Present 'Thirsty'
@8.15pm Your Last Breath by Curious Directive. a muli-media experience for stage-video was used as a backdrop- with a live musical score.
Wed- @2pm Mah Hunt by DOT504
@6.55pm The Room of Unlimited Possibilities by Theatro Transcendental-theatrical venture based in Cyprus-work with theatre to explore psychological and spiritual truths.
@8.15pm Flynch, Looking by Clout
Its Thursday and with my seat booked on the 10.51am train back home I can't help thinking that this trip was too short lived- with far too many things to see and so little time, what a feast of live theatre. Can't wait till next year!
'The Trouble with Theatre'
Now back in London, I went to a discussion at the ICA. The talk was run by award winning theatre director and writer Neil Bartlett, writer Sally O'Reilly, theatre critic and co-editor of TheatreVoice Aleks Sierz and artists Roman Vasseur and Grace Schwindt and involved audiences from both sides of the artistic spectrum, artists and theatricals. The question: 'To what extent do the conventions of theatre constrain or facilitate inventiveness?'
On returning home I wrote down thoughts that had been triggered by the conversation:
The distinctions between performance,live art and experimental theatre are not always easy to draw as artists start to look at staging and lighting design whilst theatre makers experiment with form. There's a disruption, a moving of the structure of theatre into visual arts and visa versa, a redistribution of roles. Across contemporary performance genres 'inventiveness' is about being inventive with your money and being inventive with your audience.
British playwright Martin Crimp claimed that performance and theatre is less about inventiveness and more about constraint, perhaps, even 'there is no inventiveness without constraint'. Inventiveness is always looking for new rules.
The theatre is reflective of immersed experience, the role of the outsider is frequently crucial. There is a relationship of trust; trusting the viewer to engage with the work. The actor is both the image and the object and the subject as image holds power. It is the actor's role to 'let' themselves be watched. The true nature of the gap between 'the paying voyeur', the viewer 'watching' and what they are 'watching' might be one worthy of investigating. What is it to watch? What is it to see?
Perhaps the ideas of the conventions and constraint of theatre become problematised notions if we do not think of the different roles and types of theatre itself. Whether it is for example site specific, black box theatre, typically English text based theatre, physical theatre or the methods of different theatre practitioners such as Antonin Artaud, Augusto Boal, Jacques Lecoq and Berthold Brecht.
And what constitutes freedom of expression and inventiveness?
Perhaps it is theatre's aspiration towards cinema and theatre's influence on the early beginnings of Hollywood that really opens up interesting avenues to explore.
1 : Scene to Screen
The camera acts as a virtual performer, acting in the absence of the physical body. The Lens looks at the persona of the director and the actress discussing and working on Mark Walmsely's Script in a first rehearsal. The Story; dissection. A discourse between mentor and interpretor.
Is this situation in fact real or has this conversation been created for its audience
What is the reality and what is the illusion?
Theatre of the Lens presents
Scene to Screen