What’s different about the development of International Community Artists? Flowing towards international community arts practice in Norway

To re-write Peter Brook in his 1987 book, The Shifting Point:

What do we need from performance? What do we bring to the event? What in the artisti process needs to be prepared, what needs to be left free? What is narrative? What is character? Does the event tell something or does it work through a sort of intoxication? What belongs to physical energy, what belongs to emotion, what belongs to thought? What can be taken from an audience, what must be given? What responsibilities must we take for what we leave behind? What change can a performance bring about? What can be transformed?

Big questions from a big man and exactly the questions emergent community artists should always be asking of themselves.

What are we looking for from those young artists? And how does their training differ from an actor’s, or dancer’s or visual artist’s training? What are the differences between an ‘actor’ and a ‘performer’ in a community based context? Whilst arts skills are clearly essential for fledgling artists, are they the be-all and end-all?

Artists working a community contexts may well find themselves working in a number of different contexts which require them to play very different roles:
* actors in a Theatre in Education (TiE) shows
* Master of Ceremonies (MC) in a club or community centre,
* teachers in class,
* preachers in funding meetings
* actors in a ‘straightforward’ show in a theatre,
* facilitators with a group of young people,
* interactive performers in a museum or gallery,
* as a TV, video or radio presenter.

The relationship of the performer to ‘text’ is an interesting issue to start exploring. A lot of performance work may be in devised / improvised productions in which ‘text’ will not necessarily be language based, and is often unlikely to be the first impulse to a production. ‘Text’ as we know it may not even appear until after the production has ‘finished’.

Our relationship with ‘The Author of the Text’ who is somehow above or separate to our process will be radically different from a context which is designed to honour and respect the word of the author above everything else. One consequence of this could be, for example, that we have to reconsider whether and when the notion of us developing in-depth character psychological profiles, performed in naturalistic, ‘4th Wall’ settings which require little in the way of audience participation are of relevance to us.

Flowing towards contemporary community arts practice continues to exercise the youngest and oldest of practitioners and the advent of social networking in recent years means that old assumptions about the identity of individuals and groups has to be completely re-thought.

Further work on Flow: the Norwegian International Autumn School in Community Arts in Sigdal, Norway, here:

Author: drnicko

Awarded an MBE for services to arts-based businesses, I am passionate about generating inspiring, socially engaging, creative practice within educational contexts both nationally and internationally.

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