Got Crackin’ – jotting down some notes on where I’m at with my latest art project

New year, new projects. Culture Days is, for the most part, behind me — at least in the fulltime (read: overtime) capacity of yesteryear… I had drinks with a friend/colleague a few nights ago. She asked me what I would be up to now; with the shift into 2011, it was really lovely to realize that the future is now here.

To keep me honest, I am going to blog weekly about the progress of some of my new projects. It’s always nice to look back and trace the development of those curving lines of thought.

Right now, I’ve been working on the Gulliver’s Travels project. My earliest motivation for this piece was to explore ways of creating an intimate live theatrical experience using a mix of traditional physical elements of theatre-making and digital moving images.

I opted to not work with an actor. Partly to avoid all the additional complications of finding and working with a second collaborator: I don’t know anyone with similar motivations, interested in the same kind of creative process that I prefer. And partly because of my background in scenic design and love of object theatre; I like working with scenic elements – lighting, sound, set, costumes, props, object characters. 

So, the mission is to combine object theatre and digital animation to create one experience. I want the experience to all hang together. Neither form should take precedence over the other… I want the tactile and cinematic to work together.

Those are the principal forms I want to incorporate.

In terms of story or experience, it took months and months to find my mystery. Whenever I start a project, I can’t really start without finding a premise to work from. Whether it’s essay-writing, story-writing, or theatre-making, I need a thought-feeling-image to use as point of departure. The thought-feeling-image is a mystery to me. On the one hand it clarifies or focuses my intentions. On the other hand, it is enigmatic; the creation process becomes a process of unpacking the outcomes of that thought-feeling-image.

I went through many many images before I could find one that contained intellectual and emotional mysteries lean enough to sustain me (feed my work) without overwhelming the work (me).

If you haven’t guessed by now, the thought-feeling-image is from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels: the image of him lying on the ground, strapped down by a thousand tiny pegs, awake, struggling to comprehend what is happening to him. “What is this?” is his reaction and ours to the situation. It’s even how the Liliputans feel. Everyone in that moment wonders “what is this?”. The thoughts and feelings are a mix of fear, anxiety, amazement, uncertainty, incredulity… and curiosity about “what happens next?”.

I’m not sure yet how much I will use of Swift’s original text but the point is that my Gulliver’s Travels will work in that psycho-social space of that particular blend of “what is this?” and “what happens next?”.

Next, it’s back to the formal elements. I’m studying digital and traditional puppetry, and trying to figure out how much I can operate on my own. I suspect I will only be able to operate the marionette and digital character while creating the story. Lighting and audio might have to be run by someone else. Will blog next about some of my findings.



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