Investigating a personalised site-specific approach to performance : selected origins, possible influences and practical implications

Bishop, Gabriella Simone (2014-04)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Central to a site-specific approach to performance is the concern for the potential of unconventional spaces. Appearing in multiple mediums, there seems to be little clarity on the parameters of this approach and it appears to have become a flexible term under which a plethora of manifestations have begun to collect. The aim of this thesis is to investigate a personalised site-specific approach to performance in order to provide insight into the role of the director in this approach, as well as to identify possible characteristics that might differentiate a site-specific approach to performance from other outdoor performance genres. Selected visual arts movements of the 1960s and 1970s which contributed towards the gradual development of a site-specific approach are Dadaism, abstract expressionism, minimalism, performance art, happenings, and land art. Artists involved in these movements challenged the traditional idealisation of aesthetic art works by placing importance on the physical experience and creation of art works. Eventually involved artists abandoned the galleries all together, exploring the potential of unconventional spaces through installations and performances. Theatre practitioners such as Artaud, Grotowski, Schechner, Malina and Beck contributed, amongst other things, on the breaking down of the theatre space, removing the stage and seating in order for the performance to engulf the audience in the action. Site-based performance was influenced by the above mentioned practitioners. Possible categories collected under this umbrella term are site-sympathetic, site-adjusted, site-specific and site-generic. Practitioners currently exploring these individual approaches in the Western Cape are amongst others Samantha Prigge- Pienaar, Louise Coetzer and Nicola Hanekom. A practical investigation of a personalised site-specific approach to performance, led to the following conclusions. Firstly, a site-specific approach to creating a performance requires the director to step into the role of facilitator, making decisions in response to the site rather than controlling the site. Secondly, the term site-specific is not fixed, as it expands and develops with the unique needs of every site. Thirdly, it is restrictive to say that elements like music and/or props cannot be brought into the site; however this depends on the nature of the site. Fourthly, while a complete set of characteristics cannot be made absolute for a sitespecific approach to performance two key features of this approach are the centrality of the site and the interactive relationships. Lastly, a site-specific approach to performance asks for a paradigm shift, whereby everything that is considered part of the traditional theatre should be reviewed.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die potensiaal van onkonvensionele ruimtes is sentraal tot ’n plek-spesifieke benadering tot performance. Daar blyk egter nie duidelikheid te wees oor die begrensing van hierdie benadering nie en dit lyk asof dit ’n buigsame term is waaronder ’n hele aantal moontlikehede kan voorkom. Hierdie tesis stel dit ten doel om ’n persoonlike plek-spesifieke benadering tot performance te ondersoek ten einde groter insig te verkry ten opsigte van die rol van die regisseur binne hierdie benadering, sowel as moontlike eienskappe te identifiseer wat hierdie benadering tot performance van ander buitelug performance genres onderskei. Gekose visuele kunste bewegings van die 1960s en 1970s wat bygedra het tot die geleidelike ontwikkeling van ’n plek-spesifieke benadering was Dadaïsme, abstrakte ekspressionisme, minimalisme, performance art, happenings en landskap kuns. Kunstenaars wat by hierdie bewegings betrokke was, het die tradisionele idealisering van estetiese kunswerke uitgedaag deur eerder klem te plaas op die skep van en die fisieke belewenis van kunswerke. Op die ou einde is daar wegbeweeg van gallerye en is die potensiaal van onkonvensionele ruimtes deur middel van instellasies en performances ondersoek. Teaterpraktisyns soos Artuad, Grotowski, Schechner, Malina en Beck het onder andere bygedra tot die herkonstruering van die teaterruimte, deur die skeidslyn tussen die verhoog en ouditorium weg te neem en die gehoor in die aksie te dompel. Plek-gebaseerde performance is onder deur bogenoemde praktisyns be nvloed. Moontlike kategorieë wat by hierdie sambreelterm ingesluit word, is plek-simpatiek, plek-aangepas, plek-spesifiek en plek-generies. Praksityns wat tans van hierdie benaderings in die Wes-Kaap ondersoek sluit onder ander in Samantha Prigge-Pienaar, Louise Coetzer en Nicola Hanekom. ’n Praktiese ondersoek van ’n persoonlike plek-spesifieke benadering tot performance het tot die volgende gevolgtrekkings gelei. Eerstens vereis ’n plek-spesifieke benadering tot die skep van ’n performance dat die regisseur die rol van fasiliteerder moet vervul, wat besluite neem in antwoord en reaksie op die ruimte, eerder as iemand wat die ruimte probeer beheer. Die term plek-spesifiek is tweedens buigsaam deurdat dit na aanleiding van die unieke behoeftes van elke ruimte ontwikkel of uitgebrei word. Derdens is dit beperkend om van die veronderstelling uit te gaan dat elemente soos musiek en/of rekwisiete nie in die ruimte ingebring kan word nie, die aard van die ruimte sal dit bepaal. Vierdens, alhoewel daar nie ’n volledige stel eienskappe vasgestel kan word vir ’n plek-spesifieke benadering tot performance nie, is twee hoof kenmerke van hierdie benadering die sentraliteit van die ruimte en die interaktiewe verhoudings. Laastens vereis ’n plek-spesifieke benadering tot performance ’n paradigmaskuif, wat alle elemente wat deel uitmaak van die tradisionele teater in heroorweging neem.

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