Sunday, May 31, 2009

Storytelling and the storytellers...

Yesterday we went and saw the matinee of Bangarra's 'True Stories' at HMT.

I became aware whilst watching the various dances that the communication of stories is very much dependent on people - with all their universal fallibilities - as well as art-objects that they might create.

Without these catalysts, the stories either die or are potentially twisted later by anthropological enquiry and the associated assumptions that come from those processes.

How the art-objects are 'phrased' twists emphasis either to a narrative based on factual representation or to one more focussed on emotional connection. Both extremes have failings and benefits with a 'centrist' approach producing often dull work.

We personally enjoyed (if that's the correct term here) the performance and it raised some interesting points for us creatively. The most significant for me was signs and the balance between 'information' and 'expression'.

Do you force feed the masses with easily understandable 'sound/visual bites' - by creating dull, simple work - or rather create and place the onus of knowledge on the audience?

In some regards, the lack of information at the performance hampered the works interpretation but at the same time the disconnection to 'this movement means x and this movement means y' meant that the universality of experience was communicated more effectively.

We 'understood' sorrow, love, grief and joy without needing to be told exactly - word for word - why and how the performers were experiencing them. It was easy to decode the messages through the very effective staging and the work didn't really 'need' 'subtitles' - again, for want of a better term.

As with other such visitations to narrative-based art-objects, I became aware of my personal lack of an overarching cultural narrative and - importantly - an audience for my art-objects. It comes back again to a sympathy for similar stories that are stagnant or lost... ultimately this disconnect is getting more and more disturbing to me... what/who am I making this for?

A final note from Christopher Allen (The Weekend Australian) in his lampooning of John Brack:
Brack's widow recalls the artist was frustrated that no one had any idea the image was meant to be deeply sinister, let alone that it has a more specific sense. It is implied that the viewers and even art academics who missed his point here and elsewhere were rather dense; but that will not do. If an artist's personal intentions are not embodied successfully in the work, this is his fault, not the viewer's.

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