This term (Verfremdungseffekt) was introduced by Bertolt Brecht to refer to the aim of preventing the audience from reacting to the characters in a play without being aware of it. The fictional nature of stage action is highlighted and the audience is invited to question their emotional reaction to it. In this way the audience becomes witness not only to what is happening in the play, but also to themselves. We can become very involved in our stories, to the point that we are driven by the role we play in them and lose the bigger picture. Can we look at them as an outside witness to gain greater awareness and freedom?
Without an audience there can simply be no performance. Do we sometimes feel the same about our lives? Does every moment count even if there’s nobody to witness it? An intense use of social media to make our lives public might suggest that we’re depending a lot on an outside eye. In his poem Leap before you Look, W. H. Auden says that “to rejoice when no one else is there is even harder than it is to weep”. Judging by the kind of experiences that are shared most online, he would be right. Can we be our own audience and make every moment of our lives relevant, regardless of being alone, by being present?