Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fulfilling our foray (or not)

Although it's one of the best-received posts I've published in these pages, I kind of wish I'd never written that thing a few weeks ago about sadness. It feels almost impossible now to use this space to explore that kind of mood without everything tipping into some sort of ghastly self-parody -- what used to be called, in relation to Morrissey in particular, miserablism. (A little Googling indicates that the coinage is Neil Tennant's, which could surely be the straw to break the back of feebler camelids than me...) A painful post mortem discussion of Hey Mathew indicated clearly how insidiously, inadvertently, the present closeness to my skin and language of sadness and vulnerability became sort of tyrannical (my word, nobody else's) in the rehearsal room, or kind of hectoring, and unassailable, in something like the way that some critics took exception to the apparently impervious 'victim art' of Bill T. Jones's memorably beautiful Still / Here. How can one speak against it? Wouldn't it feel like scolding a frightened dog?

There's a built-in imbalance to this space, too. I still don't know who impressed in my mind the notion that the ideal relationship to have with one's writing (or creative work of whatever kind) is that you take everything to it -- your sadness, your happiness, your inspirations, your frustrations; perhaps most importantly, your doubt in relation to your work, and your inability to write what you want to write: but, at any rate, it feels more and more that Thompson's is functioning lopsidedly in that respect. That I turn to it only with doubt and unhappiness; that when things are full-on Tony-the-Tiger grrrreat -- as they sometimes are, I promise you -- I'm much too busy playing on the swings and generally pretending to be in an early Housemartins video to come here and tell you all about it. Maybe I come here to say the things I can't say to anyone: which, given that these words consistently reach the biggest audience I have, is manifestly bizarre, practically psychotic. But, oh, whatever, it's a thing to do, isn't it. Whereas sitting scrolling through the names on my phone and discovering all the reasons why I can't call that person or that person or that person and be sad while they listen feels like a thing to not do, or not even a thing really. Anyway, you get the picture. Skip it if you want. It's not like I don't apprehend the tendency towards monotonousness. I feel like very early Philip Glass, sitting in an abandoned downtown loft sounding the same E minor chord for nine days without a break.

Notwithstanding a truly bleak Monday morning rush hour experience -- over two torturous hours in the rain (falling mainly on the train) to get from home to Sidcup, which is hardly a kneetrembler of a destination at the best of times -- I'm mostly gloomy tonight because Jonny's gone, and that basically sucks. We've been together for most of every day for the past seven weeks and it's been an extraordinarily intense friendship, as well as an exceptionally intrepid and challenging working relationship; I'm sure the work and the friendship will persist but to not be around him for the next few weeks will be painful in itself from day to day, but also compounded by a miserable suspicion that, despite our mutual reassurances to the contrary, we won't ever quite recover the space we've been in, at least not its emotional charge. And, no, ok, something else will replace it, and that will be good too. But, fuck, I've felt more alive in the past two months than in the last ten years put together, and all my very real (and completely exhausted) gratitude for that is inevitably shaded by the desire to live always like that. Which would kill me: and I dare say that's partly what I mean -- that unhinged but not meaningless desire to actually be the carcrash I feel like I'm endlessly implying.

This is not just the [Edward] Lear-ish turn towards (specifically, and quite carefully) self-defeating nostalgia -- in the very midst of what's brilliant and beautiful, the anguish that nothing else can ever possibly be so brilliant and beautiful again. Though I am a bit susceptible to that. Nor is it [Walter] Pater's boggle-eyed anti-entropic fantasy about (is this right?) "burn[ing] always with a hard, gem-like flame". I think mostly what this speaks to is the incredible loneliness of theatre-making, a loneliness that has almost entirely consumed me many times, and which feels wretchedly, and rather abusively, paradoxical, given the insistence of theatre -- and my quite militant endorsement of that insistence, in the face of certain (previously?) entrenched models of playwriting etc. as dependent on or powered by seclusion and individuality -- on its social aspect as the most profound element in its various contracts.

What is that loneliness? It's the signal, I suppose: which will always be broken in transit, and the sacrifice of which is itself ineluctably and bountifully theatrical. But the impulse that begins within me, as a vision -- often tremblingly indistinct or inchoate or literally impossible to hold: but a vision, if we can say that, if that's not too histrionic. A vision of the work. In the early days, that really was about stage pictures, and it still quite often is. Now more often though it's a vision to do with the social, the civic and political contexts of theatre-making: talking about which, even (or perhaps especially) among fellow practitioners, is sometimes like describing a dream: elusive in the mind, banal on the lips, boring as it arrives in the other's ears. Even among my closest peers, those I most admire for their work and their sense of their work, when I talk about the specifically anticapitalist basis for my conception -- my vision -- of my own practice, I feel like a Scientologist or something: that if I'm lucky there will be polite nodding... Well, I don't need to be agreed with, but don't I crave to be argued with? Will someone please reject the premises of the question? Something?

Well, no; and, fine, except -- and perhaps this indicates how little I actually want to be argued with -- as people have started coming through with more developed, or at least more confidently stated, responses to Hey Mathew, I become more and more aware of how the piece may have failed in some of its objectives, and of how among even pretty sophisticated audiences there is still deep hostility to certain kinds of display or behaviour or apparent challenges to propriety -- that perhaps we took too much on, or set it up in a way that indicated a profound and in some ways terrible underestimation of the amount of travel that the piece would require an audience to be willing to undertake. I mean it's all right for me, I sit with these ideas all day and most of the night.

So what's devastating about this is not so much having been (perhaps) wrong in some important ways about what the piece could do, or aspire to do, but that by misjudging the level of noise around spectators' perceptual and phenomenological relation to the piece, we, I, seriously misrepresented our argument for it, our sense not only of the necessity of the work and the importance of its scope, but of the distance between those things and an audience coming cold to the room, which seems in some cases to have produced not merely a caricature of our intention but actually its direct antithesis. So that some people in talking about the work have used words like shock, and pornography, and self-indulgence, all of which are categories of experience that the work was seeking quite concertedly to eliminate. Add to this the harm that I seem to have done by managing the project badly -- and how excruciating, to be given (by Alan Lane and Theatre in the Mill) this incredible opportunity to "make the work you want to make, that you can't make anywhere else", and to set about doing so, only to find that in making that work one has still failed to make the work one wants to make, exactly because it has, however inadvertently, caused harm and distress, even (and/or albeit) at the most basic administrative level.

So this obviously terminates in a question like what the fuck am I doing?, and what makes that spiky right now is that, miraculously, I've found in Jonny someone with whom, at worst, the gap is very small, so the noise is very small, and the visions seem to arrive intact and shareably and in open-source formats; at best, we dream the same things, period. Not least because of the public performances of Hey Mathew, our relationship seems to be quite misunderstood and even mistrusted, which is a shame, because it only overheats our tendencies to Whitmanesque self-involvement. (I'm thinking, not least, of "We two boys together clinging", which we can now chalk up on the already uncontainable list of things that are exciting when I think them but turn out to be fucking creepy when I say them out loud.) But it has been incredibly reassuring to feel, sounded in the various proximities of Jonny, that there's something true and dependable and shareable in what I envision, which is, after all, the greater and by far the more decent and potentially worthwhile part of who I am.

Well, screw it, what's all this for. I wasn't lonely for a while, in my work, and now I am again, tonight at 00.34, and what do I expect to do about that. Go to bed, presumably.

This will all be OK. There's lots of stuff to be excited about. I have my new batch of MA students at Rose Bruford -- met them for the first time today -- only three, this year, but all smart and capable; I'm going to take them to the (really thrilling, I thought) Warhol show at the Hayward on Wednesday and see if I can't spoil their minds. There's a new home show starting to come together, with Lucy Ellinson, which I think will be beautiful. I'm still reeling from a design meeting at the weekend on King Pelican -- my eyes literally fell out of my head like wilted deely-boppers and I had to put them back in with a warm teaspoon. It turns out that ...Sisters won't, after all, tour in the summer, which is a shame; but Wound Man and Shirley continues to murmur at the edge of my field of vision: the other night, feeling seriously wibbly, almost Mahlerianly so, I stupidly -- the kind of stupidity that's actually weirdly optimistic in its effects -- sank a bottle of wine and performed the script to myself, with some carelessly selected hand movements, and loudly pronounced myself a genius, before tumbling into the kind of sleep that I really ought to be delivering myself unto at this precise moment.

So that's all good. Right? ...Except my fear is that what I'm describing is partly about sustaining a way of life (at least through until next summer) that seems also to require levels of self-examination and engagement that make me, or reveal me to be, unhappy and self-doubting to a degree that seems unsustainable. And, no, it wouldn't be any better chucking all this in and becoming, er, something else. (The careers aptitude test at school suggested 'road haulage manager' -- for which, perhaps, it really is never too late; but, no.)

Well. Enough, no more. It may be -- I begin to wonder -- that my therapy over the summer left me unable, or unwilling at least (or not bothered enough), to lie; well, OK; but perhaps I've also wound up too compelled to speak, or not knowing when to shut up. This is all really, really self-defeating, isn't it? I mean I make these jokes about shooting myself in the foot and other organs but, Xt, my career trajectory, such as it is, has taken me from 'promising' to 'maverick' (yeah, me & McCain) to 'underused' in about five years. We know how that arc ends, don't we? 'Embarrassing', next (or now, maybe); then 'troubled'; then 'who?' ...Dot dot dot... Then finally 'Ding, fries are done', and, as the sainted Gore taught us to say, meretricious and a happy new year.

Apple pie, anyone?


Jonny Liron said...

dude, being described as 'who?' would be wicked

simon said...

The blog you dread this being is certainly not the one I've been reading, Chris, which has often communicated joy jolly well (although it's stopped being a dialogue). And I have no idea if you "failed" or not but, dude, HOW WONDERFUL TO HAVE AT LEAST FAILED.

Now's time to get to work on that musical, you.
Be well.


Alison Croggon said...

Just one question, Chris - how on earth can you predict "the level of noise around spectators' perceptual and phenomenological relation to the piece"? Each person is going to bring an entirely different noise, surely - or am I just being teeth-achingly literal? Not the first time, if so...

Chris said...

Simon: thanks a lot for that, old stick, I appreciate it.

This thing about the blog having stopped being a dialogue: I'm not quite sure whether you mean (a) that I've stopped responding to your (& other people's) comments -- which is true, certes, though mostly a sign of how much I'm struggling to find the time and energy to be hereabouts at all, rather than a willed uncoupling from the dialogic functions of the space; or (b) that something has changed in the tone or presentation of my own writing here (on the front pages), such that I seem no longer to be inviting or trying to initiate dialogue. If it's (b), I'd be grateful if you could say more, as it's not a change I'm seeking and I wonder if there's something I can be more aware of when I'm "crafting" (ha!) these posts.

If it's (a), I can at least have the good grace to respond to your query regarding my recent remarks on Shunt. Can I point you to this post, from March 07: and in particular to the conversation, in the comments beneath, with Tassos? I don't know that my current feelings are so advanced from where they were at that point that there's much need for me to say more at this stage than that, and perhaps you'll want to restart the dialogue, or start a new thread, in response. Or not. In which case, be, or don't be, my guest, according to taste.

Alison: Hi. Well, yes, this post was a bit of a clot of blind panic and despair, and I wouldn't want you to try and engage with it as if it were something other than that. But, while your point about noise and the atomisation in that respect of the idea of "the" audience (see my previous posts on that topic passim) is of course well taken, what I was thinking about here was our arguable mismanagement of the process, something very close to which happened in ...Sisters for example, by which the piece itself tries to indicate to you (as an individual audience member) how to watch it: what, in particular, of the baggage and apparatus and weapons you came in with can be safely, gently, laid down. On the whole I thought ...Sisters did this relatively well. There's a big thing for me about wanting to indicate that the intention of the piece is not to shock, or to vandalise, but simply to attend and to invite reciprocal or collaboratory attention. The conception and structuring of Hey Mathew depended on exactly such a manoeuvre, particularly in relation to the experience that we wanted "the audience" to have as they entered the space: that because the material might in other contexts, or out of context, have seemed shocking, or violent, or exploitative, it was crucial to find a way of asking an audience to meet us in the place that we were actually seeking to create. Not to suspend those judgements or reservations, exactly, but to feel safe in opening up to other possibilities. Again, this is no more than wanting to create a space that in your early encounters with it feels concertedly nonviolent, and able to contain a genuine kind of intimacy. My assessment of our success in doing that was, last night, unfairly distorted by having had no more than two or three conversations or instances of correspondence that made me feel suddenly rather doubtful that we'd done a good enough job on that. In fact a less partial consideration of the anecdotal evidence we've amassed since the performances suggests that we did pretty well, considering the scale of the task. But that wasn't how I was feeling it last night.

I'm the first to speak up, pretty positively, for the accurate acceptance of the unknowability (especially in advance) of individual responses within an audience to the work that they're confronting, above all when the work is attempting to challenge or alleviate certain imported concerns that have more to do with social organization under late capitalism than with the fuller tendencies of social relations that theatre might (be well placed to) imply. But I don't feel OK about entirely discarding my programmatic intentions as an artist, and part of the task is obviously therefore to find a way of trying to shape, as uninvasively as possible, an audience's sense of its own availability to the encounter I'd like to create. My hunch has always been that structure is much less susceptible to noise than content -- like, for example, we don't interpret rhythm in the same way that we interpret spoken utterance -- but I'm still feeling my way with it, and it feels like a pressing question: how does a piece tell you what it needs from you? In a way, Hey Mathew got awfully close to just asking. I thought that might work. It didn't, not totally. But interesting things happened. So, OK.

Does that help? Maybe it makes everything worse ;)


Jonny Liron said...

nah I wasn't being facetious dude, because if some one has just said 'who?' then It means the thing said before that response was your name, as will it be the thing said after it, but it works how you took it as well man

simon said...

Hello, Chris, I totally meant a), not b)... this stuff is as approachable as ever. It wasn't even really a complaint. Just a prod. And thanks for looking out the link... okay, eyes down.


simon said...

Thank you, I’ve read it again now. Listen I don't know if this is restarting the dialogue as such (what anyway, in the nicest sense, is the point in restarting a dialogue about a project in which you confess to have lost interest, in a medium in which I find it so very difficult to manoeuvre and recruiting to my argument work you haven't seen?) but it's something I've been thinking about so here it is:
Am I sort of right in saying then that the ideological problem for you was the space's remoteness from the surrounding reality... the very fact that people upon entering might go "Fantastic"? A theatre company should have a "quizzical" relationship with a space this patently... non-domestic, this ostentatiously alien in your view, and "Shunt are the benevolent dictators" presumably because people are unable to make themselves at home here, is that it? If this is the gist, fair enough, I think I've written elsewhere on Thompson's my ideas about the "night out" (although I've no recollection now what they might be, other than that it's a phrase I think worth bearing in mind) and we've probably established pretty clearly by now that we totally disagree in theory about what an audience wants, or at least how an audience wants what it wants, or anyway what it should get, and I'm cool wid dat... But here, re: works of art and paying attention, what is it you pay attention to? It is never going to be, and therefore should not be, just the piece. You pay attention to each other as well. And, while not really "my scene" whatever that is, the Shunt Lounge matches and probably surpasses any venue, show or indoor event I can remember in the opportunities it gives its artists (and frankly in the pressures it puts upon them) to pay attention to their audience and allow their audience to pay attention to each other as part of the work. I'm talking about “audience participation” I suppose, but not Jonah Non Grata's picking-on-people-for-five-minutes type, or the controlled milling of lost souls from Shunt’s own shows in this space, I mean really joining in. Audience then becomes the wrong word. "Crowd" is fitter. The Shunt Lunge is very much about the Crowd. I can see why this wouldn't interest you, but it thrills the hell out of me. (And on the crowdless evenings I find the space's vaulting otherness and the art installed no more oppressive or tyrannical than the inside of a church.)
Your current work appears to be teaching-people-how-to-watch-the-work, that in itself IS the work (this is definitely not a gripe. It's fascinating and excellent and I sort of wish I'd seen Hey Mathew in all its uninsidiousness). But are you really "teaching" an audience to see here, or training them? I mean it's a one-way street, where's all the "I learn more from them than they do from me" kick stroke schtick? The Shunt Lounge will never train its crowd, but for a number of nights over this last year I have been incredibly proud and happy to see some education going on.
That's all really.

That's the captcha. I poo you not. Fonds.

simon said...

That sentence "I can see why this wouldn't interest you, but it thrills the hell out of me." could be read as some weird scoffing insinuation. It is not meant to be. Please do not mentally italicize the pronouns - God I hate this. Sorry, not this blog. Oh anyway... night x

Alison Croggon said...

No, totally clear Chris - I guess it's about finding the balance between manipulativeness and invitation, given that an invitation is, after all, a manipulation... I think you're right about structure, btw, although that can be even more programmatic in effect than plain dictation. Isn't it about finding trust? Which is like all mutualities fraught with uncertainties and possible dishonesties, especially in what you seem to be seeking. Anyway, I like the edges you're scraping here, and I deeply wish I had seen Hey Matthew myself.

simon said...

And you never used the word "teaching" did you, so I don't know why I appear here to be picking you up on it. Sorry I am very bad at this.


Chris said...

Simon: On the contrary, you're very good at this; your willingness to re-read (and re-describe accordingly) is what makes this conversation so worthwhile -- from my point of view, at least -- even though you may be right that we embark from different premises and might very likely not quite meet. We wave, though, which is nice, each from our promontory. Hello. I'm waggling my hand, that's what we do on the planet.

I think you describe my ideological fret pretty well, though I suppose I would say that my problem isn't the remoteness or seclusion of the Shunt sanctum per se, but with how that seclusion pressurizes the internal economy (as it were) of attentiveness and group-sense. The attentiveness that circulates within the Shunt experience is potentially of huge value -- my concern is with the reconciliation of that microeconomy with the larger economy within which it creates a promising-looking kind of hiatus.

I think I have slightly refined my sense of what (I consider) the problem or the challenge to be, since those earlier remarks. I'd previously have said that, more or less exactly as you play back to me, the Shunt space (I mean the psychological / participatory space created largely within the venue itself), by dint of its structural / syntactical isolation, cannot create meaning -- or meaningful change -- in its users, in their sense of themselves, because that meaning cannot survive beyond the perimeter of the space. It is precisely a fantasy space, I would have said, a theme park, unable to ramify in a wider social context precisely because that capacity is traded off against the ability to create a fundamentally different space, a fictional space in which the long dark entry corridor is a deliberately obscure spatial (and photic) translation of the phrase "Once upon a time..."

There is, though, admittedly, plenty of anecdotal evidence against this being so, or against only this being so. The educative element, if that's what we're going to call it, is not wholly self-stymying. But still there is a problem with the sense of agency, which backs on to my 'teaching' thing. (Paradoxically, it may temporarily seem.)

I think the best way to describe it is in relation to recreational drug use -- so I immediately have to slap a huge Arial Black disclaimer all over the ass of what follows: I'm not saying anything other than precisely what I'm saying. I'm not saying that Shunt provides or somehow mimics a narcotic experience (though I suspect it may do from time to time in a limited way, but that's a different topic). I'm saying this. One of the things I regret about the recreational use of, for example, ecstasy, which generally seems to have a positive effect in making people happier and calmer and more open and more readily available to genuine experiences of love and intimacy in relation to others, is that on the whole users seem to tend to ascribe these positive effects to the drug alone. It's the same thing as that far more infuriating and harmful deduction that cannabis, say, makes people more creative. It bugs me that these effects are taken to be properties wholly of the drug itself. What's usually massively underestimated is the extent to which the action of these drugs is not only stimulating but also disinhibiting. Creatively inclined people may become more creatively productive or imaginative on the far side of a spliff or two at least in part because the mental and emotional blocks to their creativity -- obstacles whose origins are self-evidently social and to some extent political -- are temporarily alleviated. People to whom MDMA appeals are presumably self-selectingly people who sense that their capacity for love and intimacy is normally constrained by fear and conditioning, and they'd like to be, whatever, absolved of that constraint. But they too quickly, and perhaps so as to distance themselves from the genuine (and potentially revolutionary) social and political challenge that these recreational states-of-mind pose to their normal patterns of activity and behaviour, ascribe the impulse towards unconstrained love and intimacy to the tab, not to themselves. That the desire belongs to the drug, not to the person who takes it. (When you say it like that it sounds idiotic, innit.)

This is a roundabout way of asking how the effects of Shunt on audiences resolve, or do not resolve, in the wider environment. I'm prepared to believe that the half-life of a night at Shunt may linger into the following days, and may even persist as an ongoing perceptual prompt, rather than only as a memory. Even so, I would suspect that, because of the strong (and heavily branded) seclusion that Shunt requires in order to deliver its distinctive offering, the message that comes bundled with the Shunt experience -- albeit inadvertently, though I don't think I can say it's entirely inadvertent or, actually, entirely blameless -- is that the shift in attention, in perception, in social intelligence, in the sense of communal identity, that is at best produced in that psychological environment, is a property of that environment. So, your mind is blown by Shunt? What do you do with that? You look forward to going back to Shunt again another night.

Which is exactly the loop that my, hmm, pedagogical-sounding current tip is trying to break. What I want you to be excited by in encountering some of these current & recent works of mine is how you're watching, how you're present, how you yourself are capable of changing the level at which you engage with images, with ideas, with the people around you and the images and ideas that they too embody. This is not a property of the piece, but a property of your relations with it.

There is a certain amount of ars est celare artem to this, I suppose, given that it depends on you not realising, or not fully realising, that this too is something that the work is doing, is giving you. Actually I don't know why I think it's necessary to conceal it, though I suppose it's something to do with the distinction you make between teaching and education.

At any rate, no, I don't think this is entirely the work itself, the process of teaching you how to watch the work: there's a built-in redundancy to that which alarms me. But yeah, it's a big and important element, in the structuring not least. I mean, pretty much everything in the first up-to-26 minutes of Hey Mathew (depending on how soon you enter the room after the doors open) is trying to put you in a place -- a frame of mind, and body -- where you can then follow the argument of the remaining 54 minutes without rejecting entirely the premises on which that argument unfolds. This we seem not to have reliably achieved, but that was the idea...

Of course one might immediately counter that those up-to-26 minutes are exactly equivalent to the "Once upon a time" tunnel -- the movement of separation that delivers you into the liminal space of the performance. Certainly structurally there appears to be a similarity. But I'd say that where the Shunt tunnel invites you to distance yourself from the outside world, and yield to the seductive dominion of Shunt, the sliproad into Hey Mathew (or ...Sisters, for that matter) is asking you all the time to examine critically the assumptions that you've come in with, and what you're using those assumptions to support or defend. So there is a similar feeling of immersion, of escapism even, but the idea we kept returning to with Hey Mathew was of an escape into reality, not from it. This is partly why the journey into Shunt (as headspace as well as real space) feels bogus to me: because the critical currency and the permissiveness by which that space is characterised is actually not very much distinct from the space around it, the late capitalist liminoid malaise into which Shunt introduces provocation and piquancy and a sensation of not-in-Kansasness but nothing actually consequentially dissident or oppositional. Which is what I think must be behind the assertion -- not that you make it, but others do -- that Shunt as a space is not secluded, but merely dramatised. That much is probably true, and explains the essential conservatism of the set-up much more neatly than I (evidently) can.

Actually I find, in response to your discussion of it, that I don't mind the idea of "teaching" an audience as much as I thought I might, especially if the alternative is "educating" them. I mean this only in relation to the "how to watch this" training bit. The educating is in drawing out the capacity for deep attentiveness and authentic desire. But for what precedes that (s)educing process, I like the quite radical implications of "teaching". The fact of the matter is, at the point that the audience starts to enter our space, we know a lot more than they do about what's to come -- even in a structure like Hey Mathew which had plenty of variability and improvisation and response, etc., going on in it. Teaching here suggests to me quite a concerted effort of power-sharing. This is what we know that you don't, you can't yet, know. Here you go. Use it. Use it to help us make the work with.

But yeah: how you actually do that, particularly with such a freighted piece as Hey Mathew, I've no idea. I think Jonny & I are interested now not least in a structure (for the further development of that piece) in which we can actually talk with the audience, like a proper conversation, and the piece could grow out of that conversation, uniquely on each occasion. I think I took in to the Hey Mathew process a real appetite to make something beautifully crafted. Again I think in lots of ways it was, but perhaps there's more thinking to do about the relationship between liveness (or responsiveness) and craft.

simon said...

Many thanks. I like the drug analogy a lot. However I think... hmm, different people have different relationships with their own altered states, don't they. A crowd in a loud room on a Friday night will hold a number of people getting-drunk-to-have-fun because they completely lost track of how much fun they had before they ever drank, and this section will probably relate to the Vaults exactly as you describe, as an environment in which they do not have to live their lives for a bit (this might not be what you mean but you know what I mean). And while I confess I am quite seduced by the idea of this festive function, and all the Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday kudos that comes with, no you're right wouldn't it be great to learn how to feel like this all the time. However, would this section ever go to the theatre? I mean more than once?
I don't know if this allays your fears or not, but... Okay firstly to be clear I am not arguing that the Vaults is the perfect model of a theatrical space. I'm not sure one single place can ever fulfill that Function. What I do believe is that it is a useful and beautiful mutation, rather than a dangerous placebo. You see the response I hear more often than any other from people entering the Vaults for the first time is - and it's why I love the place - "How did they get hold of this?"
Why don't you ever hear that asked in, say, a space like the Tate? Is it because the Tate is immediately baffling? Because it is. But this question, to me, sounds like a person having their idea of what is possible suddenly enlarged a little, and it's in this purely practical consideration at least that a punter's experience of the space is related to what's going on outside. I don't mean people have asked me this knowing I'm "in". I mean that I constantly witness people enter and yes go "wow", but then also go "how did they do this?" and the excellent and important thing is that this isn't a magic trick, because it isn't a secret! Which is why this isn't a dictatorship. It might be a compound, yes, or a haven - not my idea of one - but I'm fine with that because everyone's invited and we're around to show our working if anyone's interested. You see, I genuinely do not believe anything in the space discourages its questioning. On the contrary, I think the make-up of Shunt's crowd seems far less riddled with the kind of slightly-not-getting-what-you're-saying-but-nodding-friendlily/up-in-flailing-arms-because-your-stuff-is-perceived-as-contradicting-their-stuff dichotomy of reaction I keep experiencing from yer more traditionally theatre-going crowd. Shunt's crowd are fresh and know - or at least learn pretty quickly - that nothing is expected of them since there is no precedent for them, and they have every right to be here. "We are monarchs of all we survey" is the inherent message of the place, for me, while the subtext is "Go and do likewise". And in six months time it will all be handed over to the sandwich barons anyway and Shunt will have to build somewhere else.
None of which is to detract from your assertion that this build is a project which should not have been embarked upon in the first place, and all of which boils down to my love of theatre almost solely as a medium for amateurs. And builders.


simon said...

That "dichotomy of reaction" bit above: sorry for leaving out completely-loving-something... that of course is also an option. I don't know why i missed it out. Maybe I just didn't know the word for a dichotomy with three bits (although I can guess). No, I just appear to have assumed the hypothetical piece being reacted to isn't much cop. How odd.

Susmita said...