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Thursday, September 18, 2003

Fast Cheap and Out of Control - Media In Performance Panel Talk 

“Media” is a sticky issue in performance these days. I am often uncertain about what qualifies as media anyway. But in the context of Monday’s panel discussion, I assume that media refered to electronic technologies, both new and old. Media is here to stay in performance and it is becoming easier for performing artists to take advantage of it in their work. Unfortunately, the way these technologies are used is still quite limited. Most performances use media as a tool to elaborate on the content of their performance, which is frequently narrative or character based. Monday’s panel discussion about media in performance was somewhat disappointing because the group largely focused on recorded media and its role as a supporter of the content of a performance. This narrow focus overlooked the myriad other ways that media may become an active participant in live events and have a direct impact on their structure. It is rare to hear about artists who have challenged media to engage the more daunting task of making live performances seem, well, more live.

The panel did briefly discuss one example of how media effects “liveness” in a performance when the topic of mistakes came up. All agreed that unexpected power outages and missed video or sound cues can seriously effect a performance, but this was primarily viewed as an undesirable circumstance to be avoided. My own work with Liminal Performance Group has revealed that these “accidents” are actually quite interesting and can be used as a source of creative discovery in the live moment. We frequently shape live action around media that is activated according to arbitrary rules, that is allowed to make mistakes and that provides live response to the images and sounds created by the human performers.

So I posed a question to the panel, “What would you do if the media gave you the wrong cue or if it happened at the wrong time?” The first answer was, “I don’t know how to respond to the question.” Other answers were more creative, but never really grasped the meaning of my question, even upon further elucidation. But that’s okay. Obviously the questions I have as an artist are going to differ from the questions of other artists. But I still felt as though some serious issues were missed at this discussion, which left me wanting more. Apparently the Hall Pass discussion about new media later in the week addressed some of these issues in greater depth, so perhaps I just attended the wrong discussion. Regardless, cheers to PICA for making these discussions part of the festival. I am sure that they will grow and mature along with the festival in future years.

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