20 July 2011

Scratching the itch only makes it worse.

There is something apologetic about the word 'scratch.' It often sounds to me that it's addressed to the middle class and elitist theatre crowd who are struggling to understand the whole deal with live art so we gave them the word 'Scratch.' But is this really helping us? Doesn't an overuse of the word 'scratch' end up making live art sounds like an unfinished theatre?

Besides, why do we always have to invent new words? Performance Art, Live Art, Scratch, Work in Progress, One on One, Intimate performances, Autotheatre... We already have so many obstacles working in this industry such as the form being relatively new with limited audience and limited funding so maybe it's not very clever if we add a linguistic obstacle between us and our audience.
It's a show! Come see it, you will get it. Or not. Me theorizing it beforehand will only alienate you even more.

There is definitely a question of pretension here probably borrowed from visual arts. Contemporary visual artists often use big words, flashy terms, long complicated texts accompanying simplistic objects such as a whistle attached to the wall that gets sold for thousands of pounds.


The scratch nights that the BAC do are fantastic in many ways and lots of good pieces came out of there but it seems to me that with the new conservative government policies and its effects on the arts in general and on performance in particular, 'scratch' became the main thing that the BAC and other venues (the very few left) are now able to offer live artists.

So what do we do after we scratch and scratch again and again? when are we going to finish those pieces? and most importantly who is willing to produce them? I get so often emails from venues wanting me to "try new ideas in front of a supportive audience and get precious feedback" which is absolutely great but sadly it doesn't pay my bills and it's quickly descending from artistically satisfying to psychologically depressing.

As a solo (and lonely) artist, I am up for showing 'work in progress' from time to time when it's really a piece I'm struggling with. I'll probably call it a 'work in progress' because there is something promising in the word progress. Deborah Pearson and I often invite each other to our studios (our bedrooms) and talk each other through ideas or show a bit of work. We do not call this process anything except maybe 'Help! I'm stuck. And now what? Does this sound epically stupid?'
If we do that in front of an audience, this will become the actual show.

Coming from the idea that everything presented to an audience is actually a performance, my worry is that Scratch becomes another form of live art and constantly presenting this to an audience who is new to live art, does not only break the spell of the work but will also end up in forming an audience who assume that live art shows are simply unfinished pieces of theatre therefore those crazy artists kids are just playing around and don't really need funding as much as the polished and process-mysterious traditional theatre does.

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