Friday, December 07, 2007

Corrected - and I think I like it.

So, as you may have noticed, I am in labor with the first show of my very own company, to be delivered at Salvage Vanguard the 1st day of February.

It will surprise none of you that in starting a company (or in my case realizing I already had one in all but name) we need a reason for being, and rules to live by.

Below is what I came up with:

Why Cambiare? Why now?
It seems to me there is a choice. Sit around at Austin Java and talk about the kinds of theatre people should be making or get out and make it yourself. Our answer is Cambiare Productions. A laboratory to create and develop the theatre we wish people were making. Not a repertory company (not yet), not a group of indie artists pretending that they are A.C.T., Berkeley Rep, or Steppenwolf, just a group of people trying to tell stories the way they wish people would tell stories unto them.

Why now? Why not? Can you think of a time in history that didn't need its story tellers? Jesters or Cassandras (or Tiresias' I suppose) we need the voices of our creators to be added to the hue and cry of the marketplace.
In that spirit, I propose the following standards:

  1. 1. Do not make a production solely for the sake of making a production.
  2. Always be open to collaboration and co-production with other groups.
  3. Theatre is not greater than dance is not greater than music is not greater than film is not greater than visual art. All are tools for telling stories. None should be ignored.
  4. Technology is a tool, not the art itself.
  5. Lack of money is not an excuse; it's an opportunity for innovation.
  6. Always ask, "What's in it for an audience?"
  7. Creating theatre is art. Producing theatre is a business; the two should mix as little as possible.
  8. Let them say no, don't do it for them. Always ask.
  9. Reach > Grasp. Take the risk.
  10. Singular Voices. Open Minds.

I thought it was pretty good, and nailed us down to pretty well where we are at as a Triad.
In discussion with David Nunez of 4th Wall ticketing (A+ service by the way if you happen to be producing an event in Austin) for handling ticket sales for us we sent him to the site to check it out. He responded to Will with:

Your site looks awesome and it sounds like an incredible project! One point in your manifesto made me think a bit: "Technology is a tool, not the art itself."
Counter-example: I'm building a robotic marionette (see The couple times I've shown it off in public, it is fascinating to watch reactions -- first, people notice this creepy puppet moving around... then inevitably, their eyes travel up the strings and see this machine with spinning pulleys and wires.
They stare at this device, mesmerized by the motion and peering all around it to see how it fits together. THEN, after a few minutes,they notice I'm standing off to the side, pushing buttons and working sensors to make the puppet move... that's when the conversation begins, "OH! you're controlling it by that computer! How does it work?" or "What does this mean for puppetry?" or "Who's controlling whom?" So maybe "Technology is just another art medium through which emotion can be expressed?" Indeed, I think that's becoming my own unresolved question: can we coax expressiveness out of technology, itself?

Well Then.
I responded:

Hi, I'm Travis... I wrote the manifesto on the site, and may I just say... you had me at robot marionette. You had me at robot marionette. To clarify the technology line: It was an outgrowth of my thinking here, not a condemnation of technology in general... and a remonstrance, specifically to Will and I who have been known to engage in technolust, to keep our eyes on the prize.
It will require a re-write because you're absolutely right.

See? Sometime I don't totally implode about being wrong...

I read your post about the projections at the magic flute performance. You have a really good point -- I think the world of "interactive art" (ex. kinetic sculptures, video that responds to user interaction, robots that spout political messages) is starting to get really saturated with would-be "artists" since the technology is getting easier and easier to use.
The incentive is there too: People get lots of validation and extra credit for their work solely on the novelty factor of using "technology"... but if you take a step back and critically review the artwork, most of it is really bad. Hacker artists tend to be more infatuated with their technical wizardry than the meaning and emotion they wish to express. I think a big part of that is people engaged in hacking/tinkering art aren't generating the equivalent of sketches easily or cheaply (spending a couple weeks engineering a circuit board kind of gets you "stuck" in the project's path... A painter can work out tons of ideas really quickly, in a couple hours, in her sketchbook before she "commits")
It's like the point you bring up about art groups investing in really expensive technology and then feeling the need to justify their expenditures. You don't throw away technology the same way you'd throw away a pencil sketch. (and recent attempts to make technology more accessible also allow people to use it without _truly_ understanding it... so you get lots of derivative works that don't really inspire new thinking or even breaking technology boundaries.
Can a painter be a master artist w/o knowing how to mix paint colors? Can I create a worthwhile video projection w/o knowing about resolutions and video formats?

So I think that, given David's inherent correctness, that the Fourth Commandment of Cambiare does in fact need a rewrite to be more specific. It needs to be worded in a way that doesn't marginalize the possibility that the technology can be the art and not simply a medium, while still reminding us to not get lost in the process of technology.

I'm still mulling it. But I would like your input. Maybe technology is a pitfall for you too, or maybe it's graphic design, or scenic art...

How do you keep yourself moving towards the prize and not stuck in the fens and eddy's of process?

What is YOUR proposed revision of Commandment 4?

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