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.