This series shows the usefulness of live-arts concepts and practices for everyday life. This view is not original and can already be found in notions like “All the world’s a stage” (Shakespeare) and Shiva’s cosmic dance that cyclically creates and destroys the universe. These 90 daily posts are based on these metaphors and offer practical inspirations to interact with life. You can find them all together under the category with the same title in the top right-hand corner of any blog page.
Whatever a performer wears is saying something, either about their role in the piece, or about the relationship between the performance and everyday life,or about the aesthetic and/or ideological references that inform the work. Nothing is neutral, whatever we wear is saying something about us, so we might as well be aware of whether our costume is doing what we would like it to do for us. What is important to me today as I get dressed before leaving the house? Simplicity? Functionality? Balancing a mood? Expressing something? Feeling part of something? Making a statement? Having a laugh? If this is quite intuitive for us, it might be interesting to notice what we are wearing to get a glimpse of what is important to us at a moment in time.
Concentration is not particular to live arts, but is useful in any activity in which one needs focus. The particular thing is perhaps the type of concentration. For actions and responses to be coherent with the whole within the performance, the attention needs to spread over what one has to do and what is happening, while remaining concentrated on where the action is going. It is not being adrift without direction, at the mercy of circumstance. and neither is it having tunnel vision and pressing on with a fixed agenda no matter what. In fact, lunging ahead single-mindedly is rarely a useful strategy. An open concentration is what allows us to find alternative ways to avoid obstacles or even see out of the corner of our eye how an opportunity that we hadn’t even envisaged opens up..
What defines a climax can be drama, difficulty, volume, pitch, a sudden release of energy… whichever the case, a climax is a highest point of intensity. After reaching a peak, things by nature come down and there is a resolution. This return to a neutral state is what allows for something new to emerge. Intensity makes us feel alive, and it can become an addiction. Are we allowing ourselves to come down when an experience is over? Or are we trying to keep the intensity going by not letting go or by springing on to the next thing to avoid ever coming down?
Responding is not the same as reacting. Reacting is a reflex action, which addresses the general nature of the situation. Responding implies choice and specificity. This is a relevant difference for real-time composition. Spontaneity is often understood as following the first impulse, something that is generally valued in improvisation. However, if there is the intention of composing something, following the first impulse reduces the possibilities. Allowing the space to really receive the stimulus generates the conditions for a response rather than a reaction. This might at first take noticeably longer, but the more we practice being porous to receiving, the faster we get and the nimbler we become at responding and exercising choice.
It’s important not to be late responding to a cue. It’s just as important not to be too quick. When we allow an action to be received before the next impulse is set in motion, the string of events becomes readable, regardless of whether they are linear or not. Are we allowing the necessary receiving time in our interactions, for them to be meaningful? Or are we so focussed on what we’re going to say or do next that we don’t actually receive what’s coming from the other side?
The image of a painter taking a couple of steps back to see the painting in perspective is familiar. The bigger the work is, the easier it is to lose the capacity to perceive it as a whole. It’s easy to become absorbed in the working process and not to stop until it’s finished. However, pauses are part of the work. They allow us to go away and get in touch with what we’ve done with a bit more distance, from a different angle. Taking a step back in order to carry on going forward.
In collaborative work, the whole group is the author of the piece. When devising something together it’s impossible to say who made what, because everything is the output of something and the input for something else. Many things in life are created like this: the logistics in a shared flat, the frame of a relationship, the atmosphere in a party, the structure of a forest, the destiny of humanity…
Live arts can involve as much thinking as one wants. However, this thinking belongs mostly before, and not during, a performance. This is not to say that the mind goes blank. On the contrary, many things are noticed and processed about how the performance is going and lots of decisions are made instantly. However, they are not the product of thinking as such. The situation is not analysed or dissected or compared or logically examined in order to arrive at a solution. The brain is not functioning linearly, but in a holistic and integrative fashion. It happens in the blink of an eye. It must. There are many situations in life, in which there is also not enough time to think. Even if there is, it’s worth taking into account what the first impression and the first reaction were. Logic is practical, but it doesn’t know what you like!
Within artistic practice, feedback is an important tool. Giving feedback is not the same as sharing one’s opinion or saying what one missed. Feedback, like the word itself says, is about returning what we received, like a mirror. It’s saying what we perceived, what we noticed. Its equivalent in a conversation would be active listening. After listening to someone we repeat in our own words the essence of what the other said. If it’s not right, they can clarify it for us. Once it’s clear, the conversation can go on. In this way the conversation is a process of building common knowledge and getting to know one another. Every step is confirmed and therefore stable to continue building upon it. It’s amazing to discover what different meanings different people can give to the same words.