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 Post subject: what we suspected is true
PostPosted: Mon Jan 12, 2004 6:42 pm 
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This topic has been selected as the "Dance Europe" discussion topic for March and we hope that CriticalDance posters and readers of the magazine will exchange views here.

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Fiona M's original message:

Ok, I gotta weigh in on this one. check this out

Oh, no, it's true then...artists are required to retreat from and revise their visions in order to be palatable to an audience. Um, this doesn't feel like being an artist really - sacrificing what makes your work original and expressive - even when - and maybe especially when it's problematic...those rejected pieces of Ben's sound fascinating and potent. What, the audience has to be protected from them?

And I reject the 'downtown dance snobs' label. I'm like, 'Bring it all on. Bring on the noble failures, the challenging statements, the journeys into deeply poetic even if kinda crazy visions.' The audience that is so 'sedate' that it has be carefully catered to - well, if the word snob is going to be used, I would more readily apply it to those fragile sensibilities.

I'm interested in people's authentic artwork, the more intensely felt, the better. What happened to 'Altogether Different'? Sounds like 'Altogether Adhere-to-a-Formula'. Was anyone else creeped out by this article?

<small>[ 03 March 2004, 03:52 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: what we suspected is true
PostPosted: Mon Jan 12, 2004 11:21 pm 
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Yes, it did creep me out. It seems that censorship and "self-censorship" will become the order of the day. Maybe we should all just sit around and eat mayonnaise on white bread (I'm speaking metaphorically here folks, please no cards and letters about how you like mayo on white bread :( I like DP but pulleeeze. Can't we all just be ourselves? :eek:

<small>[ 13 January 2004, 12:24 AM: Message edited by: trina ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: what we suspected is true
PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2004 5:02 am 
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I am afraid I haven't read the article, so I am only going on previous posts.

It seems to me that in the contemporary dance scene artists strain to express themselves in all sorts of new ways that haven't been done before, so as to keep their artform fresh and exciting.

All well and good.

However, often what I find is that there is a competition as to who can put on the weirdest performance with the weirdest costumes and settings in the weirdest venue, etc.

I question whether all this "newness" is really genuine artistic expression, or just a more-artistic-than-thou mentality.

Furthermore, does dance, and for that matter, all art, not exist to be enjoyed? A dance company that only puts on performances that no-one comes to see, no matter how artistic, does not benefit anyone except itself. Financial pressures aside, art's benefit on society is limited to the amount of people exposed to it. The company may just as well only do class and rehearse, and never perform at all.

Even if part of the artistic vision is to make the audience feel uncomfortable, it seems foolish to do so to such a degree that the audience does not return.

I can't remember who, but someone important (possibly Baryshnikov) said that the essence of all art is to have pleasure in giving pleasure.

You can't really expect audiences to pay to see something they won't enjoy.


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 Post subject: Re: what we suspected is true
PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2004 6:16 am 
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I guess we're back to the classic 'low art-high art' argument. No, I don't think the value of art is expressed by how large the audience is. And some of the art that has developed and moved our understanding of the form forward the most has been unpopular and embattled. Weren't there riots, virtually, when the ballet of Rite of Spring first opened with Nijinsky, because people couldn't handle it? But thank god that ballet existed.

Just placating the lowest common denominator doesn't seem to be the most valuable contribution to me. I think the most generous work is that which gives the most complete artistic vision. That really gives me something, even though I may not be sure how to take it when I first see it. When I first saw Eiko and Koma, I thought "that's not dance." (and when I saw them at the Joyce, many 'sedate' audience members were cantering up the aisles trying to get out of the theater...) But I thought about their piece for the next eight years, and it completely changed my idea of the possibilities for dance. Now their piece is one of my most cherished memories. Thank god some producer actually had the courage to figuratively take me by the hand and show me their work.

<small>[ 13 January 2004, 07:20 AM: Message edited by: FionaM ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: what we suspected is true
PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2004 9:06 am 
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Quote:
Originally posted by FionaM:
I don't think the value of art is expressed by how large the audience is.
I agree. However, it's effect on society can be.

What if, after painting the Mona Lisa, Leonardo Da Vinci burned it and buried the ashes. Whilst still being a valuable piece of art, the only people who could have enjoyed it, or indeed known of its existence, would be those very close to the artist, and its effect on art and on society would have been comparatively negligible.


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 Post subject: Re: what we suspected is true
PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2004 9:26 am 
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Ok, but now we're talking about getting people to see art work, rather than changing one's work so that people will see it. That's different.

That said, truth is there are many times when I've selected some of my repertory to be performed on a given occasion rather than others because certain pieces may be more appropriate or appreciated at different venues.

BUT, the thing that got to me about the article was the complete lack of awareness of its own irony, the use of the word snob to describe people who appreciate adventurous work rather than those who can't, and the overall tone which says that to become more visible, one has to sanitize one's work somehow without any recognition of the cynicism underlying that assumption.

<small>[ 13 January 2004, 10:47 AM: Message edited by: FionaM ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: what we suspected is true
PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2004 9:45 am 
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I think that we should bear in mind that the work of Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham and indeed many the Diaghilev Ballet Russes were considered extremely avante garde when they first premiered. In fact, a riot broke out in the Parisian audience during Nijinsky's "Rite of Spring" between supporters and detractors of said work. Now these works are considered "classics" and are performed and reviewed with great care and reverence. Books and doctoral dissertations have been done on them. Obviously the works have not changed (perhaps a little?), but rather our perceptions have indeed changed. Only time will tell, could be the answer here, I'm not sure. ;) Maybe we as the audience need time to "catch up" with the visions of the choreographer.

<small>[ 13 January 2004, 10:48 AM: Message edited by: trina ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: what we suspected is true
PostPosted: Sat Jan 17, 2004 8:25 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Thanks for raising an interesting topic FionaM:

“Oh, no, it's true then...artists are required to retreat from and revise their visions in order to be palatable to an audience. Um, this doesn't feel like being an artist really.”

The interest lies in the friction interface between artistic endeavour and audience’s desires or venue management’s perceptions of audience desires.

Venue managements are continually making choices about the work they show – obviously whether to show a particular company or choreographer. Where a small company has a particular work the decision is a Yes/No. But when a repertory Company visits a venue in London such as Sadler’s Wells, my understanding is there will often be a discussion about the pieces to be shown. For instance, if it is the first visit of a cutting-edge company like Ballett Frankfurt, management may wish to select more accessible work from the available rep, so that an audience for the Company can be developed. On a second visit, more demanding work can be shown.

Does this undermine artistic integrity? My inclination is: no. The Ben Munisteri Dance Projects example seems similar, although the cutting of one work to accord with perceived audience desires is near the edge. The 472-seat Joyce needs to have a decent audience to meet ends meet, so the programme selected does need to attract and maintain an audience, otherwise the venue will have a short life.

Jonathan Burrows is an important and much-admired UK dance Artist. He makes avant-garde work with no compromises and typically plays in small venues in London and continental Europe. There simply wouldn’t be an audience for him in a 472-seat venue in London. That’s his choice and a perfectly valid one, but it’s not the only one. If you want to create pieces with say 8 or 10 dancers and give them good conditions, you have to create an audience. The trick is doing that while preserving the essence of your work.

<small>[ 17 January 2004, 09:28 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: what we suspected is true
PostPosted: Sun Jan 18, 2004 8:14 am 
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Quote:
The trick is doing that while preserving the essence of your work.

Yes, that is the trick, isn't it? Merce Cunngingham has certainly managed to do it, but I think it's kind of rare, unless one makes very accessible work - which is not necessarily bad. Some work is genuinely accessible and has great integrity.

God knows, I probably wouldn't want a producer's job. But they are in a unique position to affect and guide audiences and take them by the hand a little. And just capitulating to an audience's perceived tastes...well, admittedly I say that without having the job of having to balance the Joyce Theater's books.

But as an audience member, I mainly don't go to places like the Joyce, because I find most of the work programmed there is so formulaic and unexpressive. My main thing about that article though again, is the complete lack of awareness of the implicit irony of the situation. After all, the Altogether Different series is advertised this year as "bold new companies exploring new territory" or words similar to that effect, and then the article is all about how to make the work unbold and make sure it treads only on known and already accepted ground.

<small>[ 18 January 2004, 09:16 AM: Message edited by: FionaM ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: what we suspected is true
PostPosted: Tue Mar 02, 2004 6:47 pm 
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hello everyone.

thank you FionaM for bringing up this subject. i am so glad this discussion is going on. and after reading all the responses, i have a few questions for anyone.

is an artist really responsible for creating their audience? from what we know about certain performance venues, isn't this another way of obliging an artist to self-censorship - different than the self-selection - process?

having awareness of and/or sensitivity to an audience, venue, or performance space (size, etc.) is a different responsibility than creating an audience, or even the practical matter of generating an audience. putting it another way, and taking it a step further, creating work that is accessable (whether one intends to or not) is different than creating work that is popular (i.e. many people will attend the performance). i believe a responsible artist will be responsible for their work - and that is it - because the concern here (i think) is regarding the artist who modifies or changes their work to secure its production - not the artist whose work naturally lends itself to accessability or popularity.

my other question or concern is about venues. i agree w/FionaM about a series that calls itself "Altogether Different" yet urges altogether something other than that. but the Joyce aside, where - does anyone know - can one perform in New York where there is no danger of self-censorship or actual censorship/political selectiveness going on (again, different than self-selection)? if all spaces are currently in existance to keep themselves in existance than what kind of work is out there? what kind of work are we really seeing? why would an artist want to knowingly put themselves through that?

and, i sincerely ask, why would any artist, or, what kind of artist would strive for a season at a "middlebrow" venue (to quote the NY Times) such as The Joyce, knowing it may require some "self-selection" of the censoring kind, to say the least? if i were Ben, i would have pulled out. but since i am not, i can only urge artists to consider their careers second - and their art first. even if that means performing somewhere less "middlebrow." lol

yours in this struggle,
marilyn

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 Post subject: Re: what we suspected is true
PostPosted: Wed Mar 03, 2004 11:02 am 
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Welcome, Marilyn. Survival, i.e. some form of mass appeal leading to some puny form of compensation, is a hard factor to put second.


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 Post subject: Re: what we suspected is true
PostPosted: Thu Mar 04, 2004 11:08 am 
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Hey marilynmonroe - thanks, baby, for joining up!! Very interesting points - I love the thing of an artist not necessarily being responsible to create an audience. I hadn't thought of it that way before. Louis Horst supposedly commented that the audience "is only dirty, stupid people that got in by paying," or words similar. That's a little extreme, but it outlines a perspective that the artist's first responsibility is to ensure the realization of his/her artistic vision as best possible...and trust that the audience can take care of themselves.

Quote:
why would any artist, or, what kind of artist would strive for a season at a "middlebrow" venue (to quote the NY Times) such as The Joyce, knowing it may require some "self-selection" of the censoring kind, to say the least?
Well, truth is that many, if not most, funding agencies take a season at the Joyce pretty seriously, so that would definitely affect an artist's fundability.

How about you people from the Dance Europe link? We've been going on about a venue and a situation specific to NYC - what are the differences in other parts of the world?


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 Post subject: Re: what we suspected is true
PostPosted: Thu Mar 04, 2004 11:56 pm 
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Here are some past discussions that may be related:

<a href=http://forum.criticaldance.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=3;t=000174>Line Between High Art and Commerce</a>

<a href=http://forum.criticaldance.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=3;t=000433>Why Do We Go To Performing-Arts Events?</a>

<a href=http://forum.criticaldance.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=3;t=000506>Dance - Art or Propaganda?</a>

<a href=http://forum.criticaldance.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=3;t=000633>Making Art for Its Own Sake</a>


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 Post subject: Re: what we suspected is true
PostPosted: Fri Mar 05, 2004 8:56 am 
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hello. thank you for the welcome. Azlan, do you mean survival of... of...one's soul? because i just can't imagine anyone entering or remaining in this field for the financial compensation, let alone surviving on their art... i do not personally know a choreographer in New York who does not have at least one other job...

>Survival, i.e. some form of mass appeal leading to some puny form of compensation, is a hard factor to put second.<

_________________
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That space within oneself where resistance is possible.

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 Post subject: Re: what we suspected is true
PostPosted: Fri Mar 05, 2004 12:51 pm 
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Well, actually, I was referring to collecting enough of a revenue to offset costs. However, I also do know artists who have "failed" to survive because they faded into obscurity with no one wanting to see their works. In one case, people actually went out of their way to stay away. That hurts.


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