The Aesthetics of Participation, T Prentki

Tags: experience, Tim Prentki, imagination, community, community theatre, interdisciplinary exchange, Jerry Mander, Monticchiello, the community, philosophical aesthetics, participation, emotions, David Kerr, Diane Conrad, formal education system, Robert Leonard, Dave Pammenter, everyday experiences, Michael Etherton, social process, Tim Prentki Mander, lived experiences, social interaction, Ann Kilkelly, African theatre, Paul Moclair, labour market, Disney production, British Airways, Disney theme parks, Philip Taylor, Dario Fo, commercial service, emotional labour, theatre for children, James Currey, Professor Conrad, Musa Wo, Bertolt Brecht, theatre for development, Carpetbag Theater Company, children's participation, Richard Andrews, Margaret-Catherine PerivoliotisChryssovergis, Thomas Zawadzki Author, Doug Sandle, John Lindley, Patrick Carr, Mark Wynn, Alexandra Mouriki, Neil Campbell, Marjatta Kalliala, Mark Titmarsh, Peter Lamarque, David Torevell Contributions, Liverpool Hope University, David Clayton, Peter Jordan, Leila Hojjati, Cordula Hansen, Matthew Thombs, Stephan Wassong, Steve Brie, external demands, Val Sellers, Graham McFee, Keith Owens, References Andrews, Clive Palmer, international conference, Karl Lennartz, Joel Rookwood, Avril Loveless, Donna Lazenby, Heather H�pfl, Nikolaos Gkogkas, University of Winchester, Lynn Hilditch, lived experience
Content: Book Title: The turn to aesthetics: An interdisciplinary exchange of ideas in applied and philosophical aesthetics
Edited by: Clive Palmer and David Torevell
Contributions from:
Peter Lamarque, Heather Hцpfl, Keith Owens, Steve Brie, Lynn Hilditch, Mark Wynn, Donna Lazenby, David Clayton, Tim Prentki, Margaret-Catherine PerivoliotisChryssovergis, Leila Hojjati, Patrick Carr, Graham McFee, Doug Sandle, Alexandra Mouriki, Mark Titmarsh, Nikolaos Gkogkas, Avril Loveless, Cordula Hansen, Peter Jordan, John Lindley, Neil Campbell, Joel Rookwood, Matthew Thombs, Clive Palmer, Val Sellers, Stephan Wassong, Karl Lennartz, Thomas Zawadzki
Author(s) and Tim Prentki Chapter: The Aesthetics of participation
Publisher: Liverpool Hope University Press, Liverpool, Merseyside, UK.
ISBN: 978-0-9515874-3-6
Date: September, 2008
Reporting on an international conference held at Liverpool Hope University 5th ­ 8th June 2007. This was a wideranging inter-disciplinary conference which encouraged submissions from three general strands of study including; those subjects which have enjoyed a substantial history of involvement in the field such as Theology and Philosophy, those relatively new to the study such as Sports Studies and Management, and those which focus upon such applied dimensions as the Arts and Education. The overall aim of the conference was to learn from interdisciplinary debate and to encourage an exchange of ideas on research of the highest quality. To reference this chapter: Prentki, T. (2008) The Aesthetics of participation (Chapter 9: pp. 92-102). In Palmer, C. and Torevell, D. (Eds.) The turn to aesthetics: An interdisciplinary exchange of ideas in applied and philosophical aesthetics. Liverpool Hope University Press, UK. ISBN: 978-0-9515874-3-6 Other research web host: nary_Exchange_of_Ideas_in_Applied_and_Philosophical_Aesthetics
Paper 9 The Aesthetics of Participation Tim Prentki (University of Winchester, UK) Playing with aesthetics This paper will propose that Theatre for Development (TfD) needs a radical overhaul of its aesthetics of participation if it is to make an effective, resistant response to the world of neoliberal instrumentalism in which it currently operates. It is further contended that the required change of direction must be guided by a playful spirit that defies the external demands of mission statement, learning outcome, creative industry or knowledge economy. The dominant contemporary paradigm reduces imagination, creativity and play to commodities to be traded in the search for increased profit. But a transactional, business model of artistic practice is incapable of being used in the exploration of the utopian possible without which our survival is severely compromised. Lost playgrounds There has been a marked decline in communal, public spaces for play in the Western world over the last fifty years and with this decline has come a profound change to the way in which human beings participate in the cultural life of their societies. Aesthetic forms associated with collective, at times subversive, identities appear to have had their turn. Increasingly the experience of childhood is isolated and fragmented, characterised for many by the passivity of gazing or interacting with electronic images from television, computer or video game. The visual replaces the aural and programmed responses occupy the space once held by the imagination. The television and computer in the bedroom are the contemporary tools with which the `developed' world's children respond in passivity and isolation to the external, social sphere; now virtual where once it was real. The claim that the increasing trend towards interactivity is an antidote to the notion of passive consumption of images needs to be treated cautiously for the terms on which interactive responses are permitted are predetermined by the creators of the images: programmed participation rather than a stimulus to free-flowing imagination. In her study of play among pre-school children attending a day-care centre in Finland, Marjatta Kalliala notes that `children's play culture does not just happen naturally. Play needs time and space. It needs mental and material stimulation to be offered in abundance'. She adds the further important distinction between space organised on behalf of children by institutions and those which children create for themselves as part of the process of their self-actualisation: 92
The Turn to Aesthetics For these children, the playground at the day-care centre is the only place where they can learn and play competitive games of their own making. Despite offering enough space, time and friends to play with, the institutional playground does not compensate for the lack of playing in the backyard at home (Kalliala, 2006: 139). Patterns of contemporary living have conspired to shrink these spaces almost to extinction. Homes lack backyards; working parents use organisations to arrange activities; outdoors is all too often synonymous with danger, violence and the environment of children who are not properly cared for. Even when the opportunity for safe play may be presented the modern child may eschew it as Kalliala notes: `... commercial and stereotypical television programmes with supplementary products have driven children out of the garden, so that children's play culture pulsates with rhythms defined by television' (Kalliala, 2006: 133). There is another vital element missing from child's play that is organised on their behalf: the licence to lose control, to experience a moment of madness without social consequence. Kalliala has noted this propensity for wildness in the children she studied, relating it to a primal instinct for seeing the world from different angles: Children all over the world seem to enjoy swivelling and the feeling of dizziness that comes with it. A momentary need to turn the world upside down and fool about together seems a universal phenomenon (Kalliala, 2006: 94). This function of turning the world upside down used to be performed by carnival; those days set aside for time off from normal behaviour; the excesses of Mardi Gras and Midsummer madness. Now we have only the diluted vestiges in commercial fun fair rides and Bank Holidays ­ the appropriate way to experience freedom in a society dominated by neoliberal economics. Carnival, the playground of the trickster, offered collective, public spaces for the performance of disguise and madness. Whether subversive or domesticating in its effect, at least the carnival allowed for moments and places where other modes of experiencing, other ways of being were tried out. Ever since the rise of capitalism, we have become used to the way that human relations in the economic sphere are defined in terms of markets; buyers and sellers. Business is predicated upon a transactional model; an extended marketplace that might be any place where a business transaction can be accomplished. However, what we are seeing today, fuelled by globalisation and accelerated by satellite and digital technologies, is the progressive penetration of the neoliberal economic model into every aspect of human relations and all the activities conducted by human beings. Those areas where elements of play formerly existed are now in thrall to this model: education, the arts, the emotions and the imagination. Where once there was learning and understanding, there is now something called a knowledge economy. Where once there was theatre, music, dance and art, there is now something called the creative industries. Once creativity is subjected to an industrial model, what hope is there for the arts to be experienced as joy and liberation? In writing of the influence of the Disney phenomenon upon the service industries throughout developed economies, Alan Bryman highlights the role of emotional labour in promoting the experience and thereby increasing the profits: 93
Tim Prentki What could be described as new in relation to the Disney theme parks and to the other modern examples of the diffusion of emotional labour is the prominence it is given, particularly in relation to Commercial Service delivery. Therefore, it is the formally prescriptive nature of the experience of emotions as part of the work role that is novel, even though emotional labour itself is not new (Bryman, 2004: 110). The sphere of the emotions was formally experienced as part of the personal, intimate domain that marked out each person with an individual identity; but now it is only an aspect of the wider labour market: emotions at the service of business, and one particular model of business at that. Bryman goes on to demonstrate in an example drawn from airlines, how deeply this ethos of emotional labour has permeated the discourses of commercial rivalry: Some airlines feel a need to enhance the emotional labour component of their service delivery. It was announced in 1998 that British Airways cabin crews were to be trained so that they were less reserved, less inclined to exhibit the British stiff upper lip. They were to become more tactile and less aloof. According to a Times reporter: `Cabin staff will be encouraged to crouch alongside passengers, offer the occasional consoling pat on the arm and maintain plenty of eye contact'. The article also hints that the pressure to exhibit such behaviour was in large part motivated by the fact that the cabin crews on one of its main competitors on trans-Atlantic routes ­ Virgin -- are much more inclined to employ the kinds of behaviour that BA is described as being keen to encourage (Bryman, 2004: 112-13). The crew are actors in a corporate scenario, trained in performance to elicit a specific response in its audience. The theatre has been turned into a transaction between employees and customers where once it was a communication between actors and audience. In the Disney theme parks the process is explicit in the terms of their training manuals where employees are referred to as the cast of this Disney production and the customers are guests. One such paying `guest', Jerry Mander, describes his visit to the EPCOT Centre, having reminded readers that the initials stand for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow: And so it went throughout EPCOT. The corporations and the new technologies are there to make our lives better. The future will be a lot better than the present. We don't need to maintain our charming but hindering bonds to such anomalies as land, family farms (or any farms), or community, or the natural world. All we need do now is relax, float in our little cars, and be awed with the skill, thoughtfulness, imagination, and devotion of these can-do visionary corporations and their astounding new tools. We can all look forward to a future of very little work, total comfort, and complete technological control of the environment, the weather, nature, and us. Our role? To trust their leadership and vision. To enjoy it, to live in it, and to watch it like a movie (Mander, 1992: 154-55). Mander wrote these impressions over fifteen years ago, since when the spread of the theme park phenomenon has been exponential. The experience economy now sells complete worlds as visions of the future or as living museums where our history is transformed through the alchemy of heritage into an experience devoid of pain, lack, contradiction. The corporation offers us past, present and future in its image so long 94
The Turn to Aesthetics as we have the price of the entrance ticket. Mander's description of EPCOT has since been replicated or imitated the world over: The whole place is a visionary, futuristic projection of a utopian, computerized, technologized police state, where human behaviour is as predefined as the perfect grass lawns. It is a logical extension of the corporate vision that has been steadily evolving for decades. We were shown a future where every blade of grass was in place, and the bird population is idealized to pink flamingos, all as part of an ideal future that includes every human being's emotions, genes, and experience. Brave New World. You either follow the lines or you are shipped out. The purpose? Efficiency, production, expansion, and a kind, measured, commodity-oriented, mesmerized, programmed, fictional, Disneyesque "happiness" (Mander, 1992: 156). Unlike story-telling or radio, the medium of television deprives the viewers of the possibility of making their own pictures. Without that autonomy they are placed in a position of passivity, absorbing what the screen gives out rather than employing their own visual experience to contest the global satellite discourse. Dario Fo is one who has vigorously refuted the claim that television has dispensed with the need for theatre: In other words, ever since the advent of television, civil theatre can be consigned to the rubbish bin. Allow me to state that in my view this mode of thought coincides perfectly with the interests of established authorities and achieves the great ambitions of those who hold power, be it of the economic, political, institutional, multinational or religious variety. Power bends over backwards to ensure that people's native imagination atrophies, that they eschew the effort involved in developing alternative ideas on what is occurring around them from those purveyed by the mass media, that they cease to experience the thrill of opposition, abandon the vicious habit of searching a reasoned detachment from immediate things, foreswear the tendency to sum them up, reconsider them and above all to portray the essence of them in styles that are different (Fo, 1991: 118). Unlike play, television exacerbates the gap between knowledge and information by swamping the receiver with the latter in quantities and at speeds which do not allow the brain to process the new input in ways that can extend the mind's capacity. The result is a kind of cultural indigestion, where alien gobbets offer random stereotypes and caricatures of understanding, misleading us into thinking we have a part in someone else's world. Jerry Mander has explored the consequences of the invasion of television into a previously virgin, oral culture: that of the Dene Indians of the Canadian northwest: The stories also embodied a teaching system. The old transmit to the young their knowledge of how things are, in such a loving way that the children absorb it whole and request more. The death of the storytelling process will leave an absence of knowledge of Indian ways and thought, and a sense of worth in Indian culture. Another important factor is that the images woven by the storyteller are actually realized in the listeners' minds. The children create pictures in their heads, pictures that go far beyond the words of the storyteller, into the more elaborate, more fabulous world of the imagination. So the child is in some ways as creative as the teller of the 95
Tim Prentki tale, or put another way, the storyteller is only a stimulus for the imagination of the child. If the stories were conveyed by video, not only would the intimacy, love, and respect between young and old be lost, but the child's creative contributions would be lost as well. Finally, I said, video versions of the stories would be necessarily limited by the abilities and budget of the video makers. Even the most talented video makers would find it impossible to equal what the imagination does with a story told orally. So the net result of translating stories to television would be to confine, and actually lessen, their power, meaning, and beauty. Audio tape or radio would be far better (Mander, 1992: 112-13). What the residential schools managed only partially, in their attempts to eradicate native cultures, satellite television is highly likely to complete and with it, radically reduce the once myriad ways of being human. The subsequent cultural impoverishment of the species has as many implications for survival as the loss of biodiversity. The play's the thing Applied theatre will struggle to rediscover the intimate connection between `play' and `the play' if it sees itself as part of a mission to save society; to apply a bandage to the wounds of dysfunctional lives. The theatre of doing good, consciously or unconsciously, usually finds itself co-opted to a definition of goodness supplied by the powers that be; social inclusion on terms provided by those who have already generated the exclusion of those they now seek to save. By adopting the missionary position applied theatre aligns itself with all the other colonial interventions that presume to speak on behalf of others; to know what is best for them. On offer is a participatory aesthetic whose subtext is `participate or else'. But moral zeal is far from the spirit of play, the carnivalesque `jouissance' that unlocks new worlds where fact and fiction merge and mingle in ever-changing, promiscuous configurations. This is the element that Philip Taylor's definition of applied theatre entirely misses: The applied theatre operates from a central transformative principle; to raise awareness on a particular issue (safe-sex practices), to teach a particular concept (literacy and numeracy), to interrogate human actions (hate crimes, race relations), to prevent life-threatening behaviours (domestic violence, Youth suicide), to heal fractured identities (sexual abuse, body image), to change states of oppression (personal victimization, political disenfranchisement) (Taylor, 2003: 1). Such a list emphasises the instrumental nature of applied theatre and, whilst I would not wish to deny that, in certain circumstances, an applied theatre process might help in addressing all the issues in this list, it does not envisage its primary purpose as the creation of community itself; as the re-establishment of long-severed patterns of social relations; as playful interactions that remind us what we might hold in common. These agendas are about how the `unfortunate', the `disadvantaged' can be helped to stop doing bad things to themselves and, in the current jargon, adopt `prosocial behaviour'. They are not about an historical analysis of what has caused these behaviours; still less a defiant assertion of identity in a world structurally adjusted to disadvantage them. Furthermore these agendas are typically set from outside the group, accompanied by the lure of participation; that is, participation in the agenda of another. If the facilitator approaches a community and asks what its issues are, she 96
The Turn to Aesthetics will get a list of issues where the community tries to second guess the agency's agenda in order to secure whatever benefit may be on offer. David Kerr has articulated the problem in terms of the role of the NGO: The main sponsors for Theater for Development projects are NGOs with specific missions of their own. They are part of a global aid industry, which is subject to some of the same disciplines of accountability as global corporations. The project directors can only guarantee continued budgets from their donors if they provide fairly concrete indicators of success, normally within a system of annual audits. In such a system, success can only be easily audited through concrete achievements ­ wells surrounded by cement protective guards, or condoms distributed, and so on. Attitudes are notoriously difficult to measure, and there is no managerial incentive to engage with complex, global relationships underlying the development problems of different sectors. Nor is there any incentive to analyze historical causes of problems; the "developmentalist present" proves just as restrictive as the rightly maligned "ethnographic present" (Kerr, 2002: 254). However, applying theatre to human situations is an unpredictable, volatile process which can produce profound effects that reach far beyond the remit of any prescribed agenda. Notwithstanding the instrumentalist prescription of Taylor, and Kerr's warnings about NGO priorities, at times and in places applied theatre or theatre for development has achieved genuinely transformative outcomes. Writing of his experience of facilitating rights-based theatre for children in Sierra Leone, Paul Moclair draws attention to the importance of the playful element in the local culture that paved the way for children to acquire the confidence to find their own voices in an adult world: Not all adult story-telling is unhelpful. In our attempts to increase children's participation at Ben Hirsch we found an apt cultural totem within Mende folklore, in the figure of Musa Wo. Musa Wo is a classic West African trickster in the tradition of Ananse the spider. A mischievous boy constantly getting into trouble, his adventures form a sort of oral tradition soap opera. Any temporary victory that Musa Wo accomplishes only results in a fresh quandary. The stories have no proper ending, they are never fully resolved (Moclair, 2006: 133). By reconnecting the young people with play elements rooted deeply in the cultural soil of West Africa, Moclair was able to instigate a transformative movement that could not have occurred within the declared orthodoxies of an NGO agenda. This is the kind of experience recorded by Diane Conrad of the Department of secondary education, University of Alberta when working with young people who have been labelled `at risk' by the formal education system. By engaging with the youthful defectors from the constraints of `banking' education, Professor Conrad discovered that the term `at risk' needed to be stood on its head. Although from the institutional perspective the young people were at risk of falling out of the school system, from their own perspective they constituted a risk to the system itself by highlighting its irrelevance, rigidity and absence of creativity. Once again the dominant decrees that people fail the system rather than the system failing people. However, when the pedagogic transaction is grounded in the lived experience of the 97
Tim Prentki learners, they respond with imagination, wit and energy. Because the agenda for participation is controlled by the previously powerless, the process is indeed `risky' in the sense that all worthwhile art runs the risk of challenging preconceptions and causing disturbance to both participants and audience. Professor Conrad concludes: Ultimately then, whether risky or resistant youth behaviour proves detrimental to the school experiences and lives of youth, whether it presents a risk or not has as much to do with how we view youth behaviour as the behaviour itself. Popular theatre offers a means for youth to express, explore and evaluate their own and each other's perceptions and understandings of the world. In such performance there is the potential for change. By actively creating drama, youth learn that like drama our social reality is constructed and can be reconstructed. By creating roles for themselves through drama, youth can create new roles for themselves in life, beyond those prescribed by society, such as the roles defined by the label `at-risk' (Conrad, 2005: 38-39). This refusal to wear the designated label and accept the category in this instance offers an example in practice of Freire's notion of `naming the world'. Much popular or community theatre is concerned with this function: to enable communities that do not normally have access to the organs of power to express their reality in their own languages, unmediated by the usual gatekeepers from the corporations, the government, the churches or the school boards. In Performing Communities Robert Leonard and Ann Kilkelly present eight case studies of grassroots, ensemble theatres across the U.S.A. The title announces the simultaneous process of putting the experience of a community on stage and of creating a community through the process of performance. This is the double action that is always present in this art form and which accounts for the way in which the process brings art, community and education together, crossing the boundaries between fact and fiction in order that a new, changed social reality can emerge which may, in turn, enable participants and audience to cross the boundaries of selfcensorship or social fragmentation. One of the groups presented in the book, Carpetbag Theater Company from Knoxville, Tennessee, provide the following company statement: To give artistic voice to the undeserved ­ address the issues and dreams of people who have historically been silenced by racism, classism, sexism and ageism; tell the stories of empowerment; celebrate our culture; and reveal hidden stories (Leonard & Kilkelly, 2006: 51). The emphasis upon story is significant for in reshaping our daily experience as a story we declare ourselves as artists, ordering the chaos of that experience artfully to strengthen the impact of the communication. This accords closely with Bertolt Brecht's notion of Epic Theatre, the form which he evolved in order to show social reality as capable of transformation through the actions of people. The dialectical relationship between performers and community that Carpetbag's artistic director, Linda Parris-Bailey articulates echoes Brecht's own praxis in his Lehrstьcke: 98
The Turn to Aesthetics There is a difference between a storyteller and a liar. So, we're trying to be storytellers, not liars. The importance of that relationship is key. It reshapes the story. If we are not getting the truth, ...there is feedback from the community. Now, the community sometimes is challenged and needs to be challenged, and sometimes they don't like that. But that's all a part of how we all grow. So, it's not that we have to constantly please, what we constantly are working for is to strike the familiar in terms of what the community has told us and return it to the community (Leonard and Kilkelly, 2006: 60). This confrontation with truth, with the contradictions which the consumerist massage of the dominant strives constantly to elide but which the art of the community constantly sharpens, is closely allied to the action of Verfremdung, the counterhegemonic process of rendering the familiar strange in order that it may be subjected to a curious and critical analysis from which change may grow. The native company, WagonBurner Theater Troop operates in this way as their very name indicates; at once an ironic reference back to the Hollywood savages and a very present reminder of the company's potential for starting a fire in the comfort zones of their audiences, both native and white. As Kilkelly suggests, there is plenty of scope for risk in this work: They do court the edge, deliberately. As hilarious as the image of the Bingo Lady handing out Salvation Army clothes as "prizes" actually is, it is a painful reiteration of experience for reservation audiences. White audiences may recognize the insult in their own "charity." Indians may laugh in recognition of a behaviour that has demeaned them. The hilarity of satire, in time-honoured fashion, exposes, in an ostensibly "palatable" way (thinking of Jonathan Swift) the viciousness of human behaviour. Laughter, in this case, at Princess Wannabuck or the Bingo Lady, involves an acknowledgement of what satire reveals. Such edgy comedy has a feeling of payback and analysis. The act of acknowledgement, of saying, or feeling "Yes, I understand," while splitting a gut laughing, seems like an incredible balancing act, or, a trickster's magic that has power to sustain curiosity and satisfy anger (Leonard and Kilkelly, 2006: 202-203). The analogy with the trickster gives a valuable insight into the function of community theatre today. The performers, like tricksters of olden times, invite the audience to inhabit two worlds simultaneously: their own daily existence, grained to greyness by habit and another which, though almost familiar, shape changes into a fictional world of possibility and transformation. It is a reminder to audiences that our material world is in a continual state of flux and that `the whirligig of Time brings in his revenges'. At its best community theatre, popular theatre, theatre for development ­ call it what you will ­ closes the gap between the participants' and audiences' lived experience and the aesthetic processes involved in the recasting of that experience in a fictional form which reveals its possibilities for change. Writing of contemporary township theatre in South Africa, Gay Morris captures the essence of this symbiosis: Township living contributes not only to the content but also to the method of playmaking. Winding alleyways, tiny homes, bursting at the seams with extended families and dependents, hair cuts, puncture repairs and furniture retailing happening on the same roadside verge in close proximity, cooking and washing undertaken 99
Tim Prentki outdoors: these everyday experiences, along with communal dance, song and storytelling, validate and reinforce communicative sociality and the notion that perceptions and lived experiences are not as much individually, as jointly, owned. Possibilities and problems of daily living ­ the essential stuff of theatre ­ can be digested and refashioned in a discursive, collective social process rather than cogitated upon in isolation from everyday social interaction (Morris, 2007). This emphasis upon the collective nature of experience draws attention, by contrast, to the challenge involved in trying to create theatre in `developed' societies characterised by isolation, fragmentation and the increasing erosion of public space. In such societies the very act of making theatre, a fundamentally collective process, can result in the (re)creating of the participants as a community. The process itself reawakens our social instincts as humans, reminds us of what we have been missing and directs that species memory towards a creative analysis of our predicament. This is the type of application of a community theatre making process to the underlying Social Movements that destroy and remake that same community which Richard Andrews describes in his case study of Teatro Povero in Monticchiello, Tuscany, Italy: The message was that the generation of ex-mezzadri might soon be coming to an end, but that in Monticchiello at least they had used the theatre to come to terms with their lives, past and present, and were not going to abandon their identity or their selfknowledge. The other Tuscans who formed the majority of their audience had clearly seen their own history articulated by this one small village over the years, and had experienced indeed a level of empowerment. The danger of sterile nostalgia always threatens, perhaps; but communities, like individuals, must ultimately be allowed to use their own past for whatever purpose they choose. It is, after all, the only one they have. To dramatise it, ruefully and ironically as well as nostalgically, is more productive than to forget it (Andrews, 2004: 54). What these varied examples express in common is the desire of the community to use a theatre process to articulate a history and to offer a social analysis which runs counter to the master-narrative of neoliberalism. The collective energy emanating from the concentration upon an agreed goal results in a crossing and recrossing of epistemological boundaries that prove, in the event, to be no more than the redundant guard-posts of the dominant. In another example, Dave Pammenter discovered that the transformation could extend from participants to audiences as a result of embarking upon a play-based process designed to enable sex workers in Zambia to explore and express all dimensions of their humanity beyond the categories into which they were customarily set. Again it was the playful application of their lived experience of HIV/AIDS within the form of a theatrical communication, that set up the moment where their lives transcended the material hopelessness of existence: When, after the performance of the play in a public space, which was in effect the final product of their devising, they became indistinguishable from their audience, this reflected not only changes in themselves but also a transformation in their 100
The Turn to Aesthetics audience who had come to patronize them as types of sex workers but stayed to recognize them as fellow human beings (Pammenter, 2006: 196). The innate creativity and imagination of despised groups on the margins of the margin demonstrate once more the possibilities for real social transformation when spaces are opened up for playful interventions on terms of their own making. Perhaps the habitual agenda setters who have brought the planet to its present state, could acquire the humility to listen to these voices and to act upon what they hear. This is the conclusion that Michael Etherton draws to his own experiences of adopting the process in a range of African contexts: What constantly amazes us adults is the quality of the drama the young people create in the process of defining the infringement of their rights. In country after country, in culture after culture, children and young people have a beautiful sense of dramatic improvisation. Young people's art in all kinds of creative media, coupled with their struggle for their rights in an unfair world, stands a good chance of changing the future in ways we adults cannot now imagine (Etherton, 2006: 118). Close of play There is an urgent need that we change our relationships to each other and to the environment in which we exist from the ground up. At present the cruise ship Mankind is set firmly on its course for its appointment with the ice-berg, released by human-induced climate change. The deck-chair attendants of neoliberalism will still be shuffling the reformist pack as `abandon ship' is sounded. Our aesthetic choices will be confined to selecting the colour of the life-jacket, complete with sponsor's logo, and to confirming that we have paid for the life-boat supplement that comes as part of a private health care package. An alternative course is to set sail in another direction, arrived at via consensus through the agenda-setting of those who operate by a different set of priorities. That would be a turn to the aesthetic. References Andrews, R. (2004) The poor theatre of Monticchiello, Italy. In Boon, R. and Plastow, J. (eds.) Theatre and empowerment. CUP, Cambridge. Bryman, A. (2004) The Disneyization of society. Sage, London. Conrad, D. (2005) Rethinking `at-risk' in drama education: beyond prescribed roles. Research in Drama Education, 10, 1, 27-41. Etherton, M. (2006) West African child rights theatre for development. In Etherton, M. (ed.) African theatre: youth. James Currey, Oxford. Fo, D. (1991) The tricks of the trade. Methuen, London. Kalliala, M. (2006) Play culture in a changing world. Open University Press, Maidenhead. Kerr, D. (2002) The challenge of global perspectives on community- theatre in Malawi and Botswana. In Adams, D. and Goldbard, A. (eds.) Community, culture and globalization. Rockefeller Foundation, New York. Leonard, R. and Kilkelly, A. (2006) Performing communities. New Village Press, Oakland. 101
Tim Prentki Mander, J. (1992) In the absence of the sacred. Sierra Club Books, San Francisco. Moclair, P. (2006) The impact of child rights theatre in Sierra Leone. In Etherton, M. (ed.) African theatre: youth. James Currey, Oxford. Morris, G. (2007) Townships, identity and collective theatre making by young South Africans. Unpublished Paper. Taylor, P. (2003) Applied theatre. Heinemann, Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Pammenter, D. (2006) Young people's theatre in Zambia. In Etherton, M. (ed.) African theatre: youth. James Currey, Oxford. 102

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