Saturday, July 12, 2008

Netart in the theater

Dear Ursula,

it has been a while since we have last posted an entry in our blog.
I want to take this opportunity to write a bit about the experiences of our latest collaboration "How much taboo does art need?" - an internet theater project for the Theater am Neumarkt in Zurich / May 2008:

We have been working on this project for more than a year. Due to the fact, that Anke, you and myself live in different parts of the world, we managed all the preparation work during regular skype conferences. This was really a unique experience, and I am suprised how productive this has been.

Our main idea was to transform a blog and its contents into a theater space - both in spatial structure and contentwise. We have launched the taboo blog by the end of 2007 and started to collect materials, comments and questions related to the topic "how much taboo does art need?"
By the beginning of May, we came together in Zurich at the Theater am Neumarkt and worked on the transformation of the theater space and the technology which we needed for the project.

May 19 was the beginning of two workshop sequences, during which the contents of this blog got staged in the real (theatre) space. We have invited different acteurs from the international theatre and art scene to work on the blog material with us: artists, theorists, dramatists, directors, stage designers, performers or curators.

On Saturday, the 24th, we have presented the various artistic approaches, which resulted from the workshops, in the form of a walkable installation and a live-performance. International artists and art professionals participated via skype, commented on the events and talked about their own experiences about art and taboo.

We have been particularly interested in the individual approaches towards the blog material.
And of course we wanted to find answers to the question: To what extend does the internet affect or alter the way we communicate? How does this influence the contemporary theatre?

So, what are the results of this experiment?
First of all, I have to say that it was just great to really experience the representation of the blog in the real theater space. Thanks to your wonderful space design concept (and the creativity of the stage designer Barbara Pulli) we have managed to give people an idea of how a blog actually works and what its dramaturgical structures are. I especially loved the shoutbox, a megaphon which automatically transformed the blog's shoutbox entries into speech - like that, people from all over the world could state their comments, audible for everybody in the theater space.

Most of our workshop participants took full advantage of the possibilities we have prepared in the space: the revolving stage for live acts, the video workstation, the text station, the shoutbox and the audio editing suite. For me it was extremely interesting to see the individual approaches towards the topic taboo, but also towards the space and the blog itself. The workshop groups have been heterogenous, some people who hardly ever use the internet, and others who have based their work on digital media.
As you can imagine, this led to a broad range of results - from audio files, to movies, objects, web conferences, theoretical work and live acts. However, I must say that we haven't focused so much on the results, but rather on the process itself. The involvement of different professions and backgrounds into a theatrical process, the way how technology challenged ways of communication and collaboration.

And there was this constant question of how to best mediate this process to the outside world (which is an all-time favourite question in this blog, by the way ;-)
And here, you and I had to experiment on a day-to-day basis. I think in the end we have found the right balance between involving ourselves without acting too much as a guide or director. But this took some time, I have to admit. In the beginning, I was kind of overwhelmed by the dynamics of the workshops and the presentation. But, that's the risk (and the beauty!) of a laboratory situation.

"Mediating this process to the outside world" - this does not only mean to the visitors in the actual space, but also to our online audience. This was to me one of the biggest challenges - to be present both in the real and the digital space. (And this led to strange and funny situations, especially when I think of our live streaming experiments or the skype interviews ;-)
Here it would be interesting if you could talk a bit about the live / online performance that you have organised together with Antoinette LaFarge and students from the University of California. This was an experiment on artistic collaborations over the net and I thought it would be worthwhile to follow up on these kinds of outputs, as they open new spaces for thoughts.

What I also think is important: despite the fact that the internet as a mass medium has been around for more than 10 years now, there is still a huge gap between online art and the classical notion of theater. And in a way I see that both concepts contradict each other: the internet as a "spaceless space" with a "timeless time" (Manuel Castells) and the theater, which is all rooted in the presence in time and space. Nevertheless, I believe that it is extremely interesting to place both art forms next to each other to see what their specific qualities are and to what extend they can inspire each other.
Ursula, it would be great to hear your thoughts on that.

Best regards from Berlin,


At 8:09 PM, Anonymous Palma said...

Keep up the good work.

At 2:15 PM, Anonymous Parker Ito said...

Where are you two now? Do you two have a tumblr?


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