Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Set in concrete

It's interesting talking theatre people and hearing their approach to opening nights and, even more important, the day after opening night. In their world, when the audience yawns, speak with their feet or the actors fall over the furniture it means things need to change. The morning after is the traditional time for Notes. This is when the diretcor cuts lines, changes stage directions, amends sets and even rewrites parts of the play that aren’t working. How very different from art exhibitions which perhaps model themselves more after publications than experiences. Whatever the audience reaction, from stunned incomprehension through to a general dissatisfaction, art exhibitions go on… and often, on. You're lucky to get a label adjusted and the only way to get any real action would be to call in OSH. What is it about exhibitions that makes the first presentation the finite version? Here’s a thought. How about some responsiveness – some discussion even. If the consensus is that an exhibition doesn’t work visually, why hide behind curatorial infallibility? How about closing down for a couple of days and trying something else? As John Cage advised, when things aren't working, “Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it.” With the current rigid process, all audiences can do is grumble to themselves and wait around three months for the next effort. John Cage also said, “I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones.”