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.
Once the show is over, the audience usually claps and the performers bow. This ritual is the end of the end. The audience thanks the performers with their ovation. The performers receive this gratitude with their bow, which is showing their humbleness to the audience. Both sides mutually recognize their importance in making the event possible. A little ritual in which we give recognition and gratitude for what was can be a good way of closing. Thanks to all the people that have inspired me and continue to inspire me. Thanks to all the people that have read and continue to read. Thanks to all the people who have responded to this series in a variety of ways. Thanks for the gift of existence and experience. Life is a live art. Let’s continue!
An end is the conclusion of a cycle. In visual arts, when the work is finished the piece is born. In live arts, after the end, the piece ceases to exist. A recording is documentation, but not the piece itself, which is only experience. Once the cycle is closed, a new one can begin, and this new cycle can be everyday life until the next performance or a new project. The way we end something relates to the way we begin the next thing, because nothing is completely separate from what surrounds it. Just like the exhalation is caused by the inhalation reaching its end and viceversa. Sometimes we linger over ends and cling instead of letting go. Sometimes we skip the end by diving into the next thing. Fully ending invites fully beginning.
Both light and sound can be faded in or out. This provides a softer change than going from something not being there to being totally there all at once. A sharp change rekindles the attention. A progressive change gives us time to adapt to it and can even become an event in itself. There are things in life that we simply have to wait for. Waiting for a long time might make it seem like there’s no movement at all. Perhaps the “technician” is doing a very subtle fade-out of the old and fade-in of the new conditions. Perhaps this moment of change is an event in itself.
How do live artists express themselves with their work? One thing is what is expressed by the piece and another thing is what is expressed by the artist within the piece. Actors often express views which are not their own while playing a role so that the piece can express something that they may resonate with. There is a surrendering of one’s self-image, of the wish to air one’s feelings and be identified with the values one holds, in favour of playing a necessary role so that the expression can happen on a different level. For example: we can express our concern for the environment by going to a demonstration. Or we can not demonstrate and instead be consequent with our actions, even if nobody knows.
Traditional theatre and ballets are based on stories in which the action progresses logically, each event giving rise to the next. It’s comforting to think that things develop according to a logic that we can understand. It gives us the impression that we can foresee how events will unfold and that we can think backwards from a desired outcome to determine the behaviour that will influence things in the way we want. The problem with narrative dramaturgy is that it focusses in on a story and leaves out everything else out, as if creating experimental conditions, in which all other variables are kept constant. Life is not like this. Things are changing all the time and affecting each other all the time and it’s not easy to isolate the causes of an event. Thinking that, if I do this, that will happen is overlooking all the other factors that come into the equation. Knowing that the dramaturgy we live in is not linear takes away the idea that a certain outcome depends solely on what I do. We are not in control of what happens. We are not completely responsible for what happens.
Recognition can mean praise and affirmation of merit. If this is what the live artist is pursuing with their work, they can end up going crazy, because what some like will for sure not be liked by others. The safest way is to please one’s own sense of what the work should be, listening inside and turning down the volume of others’ reactions. Recognition can also mean perception of the existence of something. This is absolutely essential for live art. Without an audience that is present, with senses open to perceive what is unfolding before them, the performance cannot really stand. We are social beings, we need to feel that we belong and that we are seen by others, simply because we are, without having to do anything. However, when we start pining for others to confirm that we are valuable because of what we do, the ground can become shaky.
Imagine you’re acting in a theatre play. You’re having a conversation with another actor and you’re standing facing each other, both of you giving your profile to the audience. If you start to walk towards the back of the stage (upstage), your colleague will be forced to turn upstage in order to continue facing you. With this manoeuvre you would be upstaging them, which means forcing them to turn away from the audience while you become more frontal. This can happen in real life: A manipulates an interaction with B or what B said in order to delegitimize or weaken their position. One way to break out of being upstaged would be to do the same move; this could just spiral endlessly until there is no more upstage room to go to. Perhaps the easiest way to cut the game short would be to simply break eye contact and continue the conversation while looking somewhere else. Perhaps a good way of avoiding manipulation is not responding to it.
Acting techniques can be divided into those which work from the inside out (understand the situation, use your sensorial memory, feel the emotion and then let it be expressed outwardly) and those which work from the outside in (move, breathe and speak in a certain way and then let this affect the way we feel inside). Where do our experiences originate? A lot of the time it’s easy to think that it is the things happening outside that disturb our inner harmony. However, in a silent retreat in which the stimuli that usually trigger us are removed we can experience how our emotions move on their account. What is happening outside can be affecting me. What is happening inside me can be affecting the outside. In fact there is no beginning and no end, only ongoing feedbak.
In music, dance and language, a phrase is the smallest unit which is complete in itself and has its own sense. Phrases build a step-by-step progression which makes the development of an idea or a sequence of events more accessble to the receiver. There is also music, dance and poetry without phrases. This is actually more similar to the way things actually are, because reality doesn’t use phrases in expressing itself. We are the ones who divide experience into separate units in our minds so that we can deal with the infinitude and uninterrupted continuity in which we exist. When this is challenging we can consciously try to find the commas and the full stops that make sense for us. Or we can try to yield to the constant stream of consciousness that we ourselves are also part of.
This well-known phrase means that, regardless of problems, on or off stage, the event must continue till the end. This implies that the performance is impermeable to real life and its difficulties and that the performers are responsible for sustaining this illusion. It might not always be possible or even advisable to go on with the show, if circumstances are demanding a change of plans. We might want to carry on and deny what is really happening, but the thing is that life does go on, whatever happens, with or without us. Getting left behind entangled in our own script only means catching up later. Thus, if keeping our show going is becoming increasingly difficult, perhaps it’s time to yield to the bigger event, the one that goes on and on effortlessly.