Repetition and minimalism are two of the approaches with which postmodern music and dance in the 1960s questioned traditional forms. Attention is challenged by not feeding it with the contrast that it naturally gravitates towards. Instead, the same pattern or element is looped ad infinitum, with or without slight variation or developments. When we hold ourselves in there long enough, our perception will sooner or later switch into a different perception paradigm. John Cage said, “If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.” A bit like meditating. At first it may seem like nothing is happening, but at some point there is a shift in the mind and we start noticing the subtleties that usually pass us by unnoticed.
A pattern is a recognizable combination. In the case of live arts, a recognizable combination of events like rhythm, a movement leitmotif or a refrain. Perceiving patterns, saves our cognitive system a lot of time. When we come across something that has already been stored in our memory, we just need to retrieve this information to know what it is, as opposed to having to explore every single phenomenon we come across. The use of patterns in live arts can help connect with the audience, in as far as it gives them a feeling of being in the know, either based on their own experience or on what’s happened earlier on in the performance. On the other hand, if all we are required to do as audience is recognize, the experience becomes pretty passive. For us to engage actively we need a task; there need to be some missing links that we can try to fill in ourselves. Too many patterns make things predictable, which can be both safe and boring. Too few patterns make things unpredictable, which can be both exciting and overwhelming. What is the sweet spot for me at the moment? How do I play in the different areas of my life in order to find this position?