Techniques for Live Stimulation...
Back in the days of VHS, when video first began to find its way cheaply and easily into the black boxes of theater, scholars killed many trees debating the merits of and limits to what constituted “live” art. The question here, “Why does live matter?”, is not why does analog performance matter?, or why should audiences leave their TVs at home and come sit in the dark of a theater? Everything we do as human beings is inherently live; whether or not the experience is mediated by technology is irrelevant because all experience is mediated by some technology - biological, synthetic or otherwise. Instead, for us, what is at stake in “live” is a matter of perspective. Are you engaging in the experience from a position of commodified estrangement or from a position of unfettered conscious inquiry and social collaboration?
In this particular context Prelude 10’s question ‘Why does live matter?” becomes: “Why does performance that asks us to be inquisitive and socially engaged human beings matter?”
And perhaps more specifically, what techniques are the artists showcased in Prelude 10 using to stimulate us back to “live”, to help us experience the present nowness of the non-collectible ephemeral, to bring us into this community in its full diversity, to set our beliefs off kilter, to provoke us to change our world, to create fissures in our grasp on reality, and to give us the tools to - as the “Godfather” of the avant-garde Richard Foreman once phrased it - Wake up?
The first day, Communication: where exchange becomes communitas, starts from the magical ability performance has to break us out of our isolation, to teach us to interrogate shared language and beliefs, and to bring us together, if only temporarily, into a communal spirit. Interrogating the various aspects of performance as communication - i.e. exchange, communitas, community etc, seemed like a logical place to begin this year’s festival. We’ve invited the Prelude Live Writers to create a virtual space for curated and audience response. Joyce Cho are going teach us how to write in ways we’ve never considered before. Robert Quillen Camp, Hoi Polloi, Trajal Harrall and the TEAM are going to share excerpts from their latest projects. “Community theater” might not be a term used to describe any of these artists, however their work often does trigger throughts about how we relate to each other as humans, how we speak to each other, how we treat each other, and how we process events in our collective experience, and therefore also the entire cloud of issues at stake in our broader notion here of Communication.
Prelude 10’s second day, Provocation: attempts to activate overstimulated city dwellers, focuses our attention to the potential in live art for creating work that generates immediate or post facto participatory movement in its witnesses. Someone once said somewhere “the role of performance is to reflect back the world to us so that we can better understand our place in it.” However, in our post-avant-garde world, live performance has proven it is truly powerful when makes us want to change our place in it. There is a long history of activism in performance, but it seems that much contemporary work achieves its provocation, not by being overtly political in its message, but rather by subtly transgressing lines we hold collectively sacrosanct. These transgressions reveal not just overt Red state vs Blue state divisions in our society, but more often metaphysical, ontological, or visceral habits we don’t even realize are part of our everyday. The artists joining us on day 2 - the Field and their ERPA artists, HERE, Aaron Landsman, Julie Atlas Muz, Jim Findlay, Penny Arcade, and Ishmael Houston-Jones - demonstrate the diversity of provocation techniques at play in contemporary performance. Their works provoke some kind of shift in our sensibilities and encourage us in directions that are perhaps are a little more sustainable and a little more humane.
Our third day, Simulation: living the simulacra, opens up the shifting definition of “human” to explore performance in the context of the proliferation of digital prosthetics. From midi to video to social media, live has become something we put through digital processing machines as we live it. Human fully embedded in the machinery of language, machinery of reproduction, machinery of war, and increasingly machinery of life. The performances and activity sessions curated for this 3rd day are made by artists who have a knack for breaking machines, rules and our expectations in order to achieve something most of us can’t even begin to imagine. Joe Silovsky, Kimon Keramidas, Reid Farrington, Andrew Schneider, Reggie Watts and DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid, like magicians and their backstage engineers - these artists use technology of all kinds to bend the boundaries between simulation and reality, to create worlds for us that trigger visceral fissures in our perceptive appartuses and teach us new ways of seeing, hearing, and engaging each other and our world.
Three days of live performance,
three techniques for live stimulation,
three different calls to Wake Up.
Enjoy the ride.
Morgan von Prelle PecelliFestival Co-Curator