Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Making Do and Getting By, or Ode to All Who Embrace the By-Play

I spoke with Paul Warne recently, an artist who works in 3d animation for his bread and butter, and has amazing immersive installations that straddle the line between ultra-slick and plain ole' fashioned awesome. We chewed the fat about his dad and painting christmas tree signs a la main when he was a young thing and how the eminent approach of fatherhood for his own-self has produced a desire to go back to pen, brush and cardboard. That and the fact that his printer just broke down and gave up.

Which got us to talking about the suspension of disbelief and the ability or desire that folks going to see art (whether it be film, theatre, animation, visual art, dance) have to actually hand over the reality-reins to the people imagining something for their senses to take in.

We so often assume, especially in this uber-techno-me-logical age, that this means a seamless show has to be mounted, complete with nothing that would get in the way of tearing down that universe especially created for the viewing audience.

Yet I think something both Paul and I bounced around, ball-of-a-notion, is that people don't actually care, or in fact sometimes want the fray and stray-ness of extra bits and rips woven amidst the technocratic achievements of whatever it is you're doing. Which is why I am all the more excited for him to get back to brush and plank and crack away at the making-do-and-getting-by aesthetic.

And as always, thoughts and sentiments rushing in parallel tag-teams, however dissonant the members making said groups up might at first seem, the introduction of a book I began reading today, Venetian Life by W.D.Howells (yeah, I don't know, just picked it up at the library) perfectly echoes the seedlings of discussion Paul and I shared about all this to-be-or-not-to-be-slick-or-transparent stuff:

One night at the little theatre in Padua, the ticket-seller gave us the stage-box (of which he made great merit), and so we saw the play and the by-play. The prompter, as noted from our point of view, bore a chief part in the drama (as indeed the prompter always does in the Italian theatre), and the scene-shifters appeared as prominent characters. We could not help seeing the virtuous wife, when hotly pursued by the villain of the piece, pause calmly in the wings, before rushing, all tears and desperation, upon the stage; and we were dismayed to behold the injured husband and his abandoned foe playfully scuffling behind the scenes. All the shabbiness of the theatre was perfectly apparent to us; we saw the grossness of the painting and the unreality of the properties.

And yet I cannot say that the play lost one whit of its charm for me, or that the working of the machinery and its inevitable clumsiness disturbed my enjoyment in the least. There was so much truth and beauty in the playing that I did not care for the sham of the ropes and gilding, and presently ceased to take any note of them. The illusion which I had thought an essential in the dramatic spectacle turned out to be a condition of small importance.

That we as creators can boldy behave as such an Italian theatre might, and not worry about showing our inevitably clumsy beauty to the world.

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