Manipulation vs Adaptation

I've finished my first week and Sentidos in the show Echo of the Shadow and it's tough. I mean real tough. The work itself is beautiful and I've never been even close to a performance of this standard before. But I as a performer am being crushed under the weight of the work. My scene lasts 4 minutes and requires me to do so much. The director and cast have been helping me with it but I am still struggling. 

Enrico the director has talked at length about the importance in the work of listening to the audience. During the workshop we were introduced to the idea of manipulation vs adaptation in immersive and sensorial work. A basic overview of the two concepts is that manipulation is when an artist forces an audience to feel, act, recognize or places the audience in a set space, time, context. Whereas adaption is the artist only suggesting various things, asking questions of the audience and allowing the audience to guide themselves into and through symbols. Sentidos believe that we should as artist avoid the manipulation of our audiences. So what does that mean for I AM GOOD in reflection?

Well the problem is that I look back at I AM GOOD and see both sides. Certainly my work was manipulative at points, especially at the end. I asked certain questions of audiences that required them to answer in certain ways. I mean my work had an intent, so by that very definition I think it was fundamentally manipulative. The end questions were the worst, as they asked audiences to validate my artistic desire. Audiences knew their roles and suddenly were aware that they had to say things to me that I wanted to hear. 


What little adaptation I did I felt was important and certainly the most interesting parts of the work. Audiences when they were given the freedom to ask their own questions of each other and myself, they created an environment for real ethical reflection. No longer was it just the artist and the audience but it was a mixture of all. If I were to remake I AM GOOD I would certainly attempt to create more spaces for adaptation.

But is manipulation so bad? I don't think so. I think it's important for audiences to feel manipulated, it's important that this manipulation is found outside of the theatre space. We NEED audiences to see this manipulation happening out in the world so that they can make informed and understood decisions, rather than ones that they have been manipulated to have. If I go back to the start of the year with the PVI Collective I can see my favourite scene was pure manipulation, but that's what's important about the scene. Only in times of true coercion or manipulation can audiences make true ethical decisions. 

Remember, manipulation is only manipulation when you are caught doing it. Otherwise, it's persuasion.

How Far is Too Far?

So I've come to a problem part of my show. How far is too far? As I've created the show I was hoping that I would develop a series of burning questions, questions that would pierce the souls and ethical minds of my audiences. The whole experience would make people question the very extent of their own goodness. They would leave in a flutter going, "Did I do that? Why did I do that? How did I allow myself to do that?"

That isn't happening.

What I am finding though, is that the work is acting as a semi-therapy and I think that's wrong. People are coming to the work and being asked sometimes some hard and revealing questions. I had set up some guidelines so that if anyone doesn't wish to answer they don't have to. Surprisingly no one has in the play tests asked to pass on a question. Instead they all seem eager to please the artist and themselves. Audiences are coming in and giving over theses stories of unethical behavior in a form of neo-flagellant. They whip themselves with their own sins in front of each other, daring, or goading each other audience member into revealing more. What does this do though? 

Whatever it is, I believe it is temporary. I think we air our dirty laundry only to pop it back into the shelf thinking it is clean once more. I fear the problem is that we are too ready to move on, and that by coming to the work we are entering into an artistic baptism in which we can cleanse ourselves of our unethical behavior but not held responsible for our future actions.

Artists need to hold their audiences to account. We cannot let them just walk away.

PVI Collective and Interactivity.

So recently I was given the opportunity to look at the PVI Collective's tts: Australia and it just blew my mind.

There is something amazing with the PVI's work. They managed to put people or coerce people into operating outside their ethical boundaries. I speak about the scene where an audience member is taken off the bus and put in a public toilet and placed a black bag over their head. Quickly following, several other audiences join them to reenact the infamous photos taken in Iraqi prisons by the U.S Army. The pictures of Abu Ghraib were shocking to see, a civilized western army degrading and humiliating, even torturing prisoners under their care. Of course we as individuals sit aloft in our secluded spaces saying, "How despicable, those reprehensible people, I'm not like them! I have standards! I would have said no!"

But we just might.

Audiences are guided by the ever creepy and friendly host to pose and take pictures with the 'prisoner' who only moments ago was one of them, another audience member. Nobody said no, nobody stopped or protested, but there were a lot of nervous laughs and smiles. Why do they smile? Why do we smile? Shouldn't we be questioning why we are continuing to be coerced by people and things to behaving unethically. 

While I'm not sure what the answer might be, I certainly believe that by accessing this unethical space and engaging with it, it certainly allows the question, "What have I done?"