Cathy Turner – Reflections on the first weekend

Porous Dramaturgies – reflections on the first meeting

 In Duška’s book (p.238), Katarina Pejovic speaks about the second part of Shadow Casters’ Explicit Contents: ‘the basic idea remained that the show didn’t exist and that people were coming together in order to create it with us.’ On p.232, Boris Bakal comments of their earlier work, ‘As with all our projects, I think it’s evident that we are dealing with the notion of personal intervention into the real space-time structure of meaning.’ I’m picking out these two quotations because they combine, on the one hand, a sense of how the dramaturgical structure opens up, and on the other, why. This creation of space for that personal intervention: a brave and fragile dramaturgy. This is what excites me about Shadow Casters work and makes me call it porous, although I have never witnessed these processes myself.

This, and the fact that they have brought buildings back to life. (I’m remembering what Boris told me about the Le Corbusier building – the Esprit Nouveau pavilion in Bologna – as well as the Vitic towerblock.)

Some other examples.

In Chapter Arts, in 2001, I attended a performance of Pearson/Brookes Polis, in which groups of us went out into different parts of Cardiff, filmed and photographed encounters and returned to the studio to watch footage brought back by others. Gradually watching, listening and sharing, a kind of story emerged – a Cardiff Ulysses, a portrait of a city and a gradual convergence of ways.  Our ways, as well as the ways of three fictional characters. This was another example of what I mean by ‘porous’.

In 2008, I wrote a letter to a stranger with Rajni Shah, and we left our letters in a public place. This, and the other projects that surrounded that one, were porous, in the sense I mean.

In 2013, in Kaleider’s You with Me, in Exeter, I was one of a number of audience members who ran around the city, or loitered somewhere quiet, speaking on the phone to a stranger who could often see us, but who we never saw. The conversation was gentle, significant, and imbued with its surroundings. I think this was porous, although I am not exactly sure how to read its politics of surveillance, intimacy, distance, location and virtual space.

Over many years I’ve been on various walks with Wrights & Sites and others, where I no longer know what is art and what is not, but where the world becomes radiant with possibility in a way that informs everything else (even though I am not always, indeed not often, so euphoric during the actual process – it can also be hard).

All these works are invitations, not just to follow instructions, or even to disobey instructions, but to bring our own creativity and our intelligence directly into the work, in a way which can be shared and affects the ‘real space-time structure of meaning’.

One can argue that any piece of theatre is potentially porous, and that may be right, but perhaps there are different kinds and degrees of porosity. Any piece of theatre is implicitly an invitation to a creative response. But to share that within the work? To make that part of its fabric, temporarily at least? That is a less frequent thing, and more difficult for the piece itself.

It is possible to involve an audience without making this invitation, and it’s possible to make a really great piece of work that doesn’t make this invitation. What I was trying to say about Shunt was just that they were doing something else. Also, it’s possible to make this invitation at some points and not at others.

How possible was it to create a workshop presentation that met or satisfied all our understandings or expectations of porosity? Not possible, I would say. I feel culpable for positioning (framing) the work so that it appeared it should do so. And yet, even so, here are some moments in the workshop that I felt were indeed porous:

(1)  Porous moment in the workshop: Alan Lyddiard starts to persuade Kerrie Schaefer to take action in burning down the theatre. It’s absurd and we all know it is. In my questions, I wondered why it couldn’t be a conversation we could take seriously, but on the other hand, it could have become so… it was interesting how this beginning began to ignite little flames of conversation. Moments of decision, how to participate; what kind of conversation is this; is Danny ok with this?

(2)  Porous moment in the workshop: I find Simone’s hands again, having searched for them in a crowd. A moment of feeling solidarity with Simone, a task completed. I haven’t contributed creatively, exactly, but I almost feel as though I have. Later, reading Peter’s comments, I can place this in relation to dance, which I really know too little about. (Should have asked Simone). Perhaps I have been dancing, in a non-technical, expanded sense.

(3)  Porous moment in the workshop: Jason whispers to me that he is going to disobey and react to my story, and he says ‘Wow, is that really true?’

(4)  Porous moment in the workshop: Phelim speaks as one who is dead, and he mixes up truth and fiction and stages a half-true walk-out (or so it appears)

Where do they go, these moments? What do they do with us?

The angry, political side of me wants these moments to get on and do something in the world – ‘change the world; it needs it’ (Bert Brecht). ‘Art into Life!’ I’m crying to myself, citing Meyerhold and the Constructivists. But their example shows some of the difficulties… as the work comes out of the theatre (which it must, conceptually, if not literally), it gets mixed up in the heavy machinery and military training of ‘real life’ (metaphorically, if not literally). And it is then in danger of losing its carnivalesque qualities, its enigmas, its perceptual oddities, its lightness of touch, its invitation to create. And yet, ironically, if Meyerhold is anything to go by, eventually these seem to be the only things that ever lasted, even so. But are they then just a side-show, having lost their political challenge? Do they only revitalize and replenish the artworld? Where do they go?

Am I asking what the point is of shared dreaming? I think I am wondering where it becomes something closer to activism.

As I mentioned earlier, Shadow Casters work has brought buildings back to life. That’s really something. That is pretty amazing, I think. I would be glad to feel that my art had done that much.