After three years of intense focus on therapy and personal growth, I'm finally hitting the keys again and will be jumping into NaNoWriMo on November 1st, 2016. Stay tuned for updates!

Monday 15 April 2013

DANCERS - Jiri Ladocha

This week, most of my writing has been focused on producing material for Homestead Theatre Project’s website (which will be up and running shortly); mandates, founding member bios, etc.  The goal we have for Homestead is to develop material that is exciting a relevant to the 20-30 somethings that would rather watch TV or go to the movies than the theatre.  I have spent a lot of time thinking about why theatre is still important: what relevance does it have to the young adults of today?  Why still make it?  Pretty scary questions when your only source of income is from this industry, but in order to gain insight into the ways to keep it alive for coming generations, these questions must be asked and answered.

For weeks I’ve been walking past the Julie M. Gallery in the Distillery District in Toronto and hanging in the windows off Mill St. were two wall sculptures that are among some of the most magical pieces of art I have ever seen.  Each time I passed, I would stop to admire the beauty of the pieces (if I had the money, I would have purchased them, but alas, they were $8000 each).  The pieces were called Dancers and were created by Jiri Ladocha.  They were sculpted from bent plywood and aluminum leaf and light danced off them like the Auroras.  They are no longer in the window, but their effect on me still lingers.
Wave by Jiri Ladocha

It was my continual viewing of these pieces that brought to the forefront of my mind the necessity for live art.  It is the connection between the viewer and the medium that cannot be replicated on a screen.  It is the visceral experience of being present with the art that makes it live.  The art is not alive without the audience.  The engagement of the viewer is necessary to bring it to life.  This is true with all art forms.  It is the exchange of energies.  This is something that can’t be experienced when watching a screen (TV, movie, computer or otherwise).  The visceral exchange is lost in these mediums.  Recorded music or video remains the same no matter who views it or where.  It is unchanging; that is its nature.  With live performance or art, there is a need for the audience to interact with the art. 

Dancers by Jiri Ladocha
This argument is easier to make for live theatre or music because there is a more direct interaction with the artist; one can say that sculpture or painting is similar to video or recorded music because it is unchanging.  True.  Rarely does the actual piece of art change, but each person that views it has the opportunity to interact with it in a new way.  Each time I stopped to view the Dancers, my experience was different.  I made a point of going at various times of day because the light was different and was reflected in new ways each time I looked at it.  The actual sculpture didn’t change but what I saw did.  I took a picture to include with this post, specifically to illustrate how inadequate the picture is in reflecting the life and motion in the piece; which was what entranced me.  Even taking a video would not have fully represented what was available while in the presence of the art.

There is a need; a need for connection that has always been what draws people to art.  As technology absorbs more and more of our daily lives, the human connection is waning.  The days where cell phones are not present on the table while out with friends are long gone.  I was sitting in a cafe while writing the outline for this post and took a look around.  There were 30 people in the cafe and 5 of us were not on laptops (let alone any other electronic device).  Some people were sitting in a large group and they were all talking to each other over the tops of their screens.  Talk about putting up barriers.  Technology is a wonderful thing.  It has allowed connections to be made and maintained that never would have been possible in ages past, but it is also removing us from the live contact that is so necessary to our well being.

It has been proven that babies thrive better when they have physical skin-to-skin contact with their mothers and other people.  It is the same as we get older.  We are a species that lives in tribes.  We cannot function on our own.  We need the help and contact of others to thrive.  It is our nature.  The disconnect that occurs when our main contact to our fellow man is through email, text and Facebook leaves a void within us.  This is my theory as to why the “cafe culture” has become so prevalent: everyone sits in their mutual solitude while still feeling like they are out and interacting with society.  It is a trick to believe that we are connecting while maintaining our distance. 

After much brainstorming and discussion, the heart of the mandate that we settled on for Homestead was creating a shared human experience.  A place where you come to be engaged and connect with the art.  I know, what’s new, isn’t that what most companies are trying to do?!  But, it is something more than that.  It is looking at the audience and saying: what do you want to see?  How do we get you to connect with this medium?  What will bring you out of your home, detach you from your electronics and make you sit with other people in a room and connect with the artists in front of you? 

I find it slightly ironic that as technology increases, movies are striving to become more and more lifelike when the entire beauty of the medium is that it can achieve effects that are beyond that which is possible in real life.  I’ve heard many a complaint about The Hobbit; the picture is so clear, you can now see wig lines and the make-up that was previously disguised with lesser technological capacity.  It seems strange that we invest so much into making this medium truer to life when we have live art forms readily available.  There is a need to feel that what you’re watching is real.  A desire to believe what you are seeing, but the more true to life movies become, the more the facade of it becomes exposed.  There is a magic in seeing something live.  A wonder that comes from seeing things shift and transform before your eyes.  I talked in a previous post about watching the chorus move and morph into other people in the production of Oedipus Rex I saw in Greece; there was a spell-binding magic to that performance that would not have been possible if it were not live.  I would never have seen the messenger melt away into the group of chorus; the camera would have moved on to the central action by that point. 

Film and TV have their place.  I still indulge in a few of my favourite series, but as time moves on the need for the live experience will increase; a forum for ideas to be shared and discussed face-to-face.  It was Dancers which really brought this to light for me.  There is no comparison to experiencing something first hand and there is something to be cherished about the fact that live performance is temporal.  So many times I have wished that I could see that play or performance just one more time, but it is gone.  It is a unique occurrence that is only shared with the other people who were present.  There is something special in that knowledge.  As we look back through time, it is the art that survives.  It is the art that speaks to the lives and culture of a civilization.  It is our voice.  It is how we communicate who we are.  Art is an expression of the things we cannot convey in any other way.  It tells stories and evokes emotion.  These are things that we need.  We need to know that what we feel is being felt by others.  We are not alone.  That’s what live art is for me.  That is what I want to make.  That is why I do this.

For more information about the things discussed in this post, please follow these links:

Julie M. Gallery -
Jiri Ladocha -

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