Friday, 12 October 2007

intimacy / empathy

This year, during my MA at Dartington College of Arts I began to explore the one-to-one performance interaction through writing. Although I have practiced this particular format for a while, and felt that I understood the physical/psychical mechanics of it through process - through research I had not found many written references, and could have predicted - that really not much has been written about this strand of performance specifically. Which could be seen as an advantage when starting a dissertation!

Eventually, my focus (after some trial and error) became to center on the shifts of power or initiative, between the 'audience of one' and performer within the one-to-one encounter. I used the well documented everyday interaction of the doctor-patient engagement to compare and contrast the different instances, drawing upon some of my own experiences as a performer, and a participant of one-to-one works. The doctor-patient sociological model is asymmetrical in terms of power-shifts - which allowed quite a clear comparison, and to a point a 'demystification' of the Live Art interaction - simply through the overlaying of terms of a known and developed interaction discourse. However, I am aware that this is quite a dry mechanism for interpreting one-to-one - which relies on our own subjectivity, and choice of level of engagement (of both performer and collaborator) to allow it to be 'successful' as an artwork.

Here are a couple of links about one-to-one:
Lyn Gardener, 'I didn't know where to look' - http://arts.guardian.co.uk/critic/feature/0,,1432995,00.html

Rachel Zerihan, Intimate Inter-actions: Returning to the Body in One to One Performance - http://people.brunel.ac.uk/bst/vol06/rachelzerihan/

Because of the nature of one-to-one performance, the word 'intimacy' tends to continually crop up. I personally have real problems with the use of this word. Yes - the nature of one-to-one, the 'alone time' needs to be acknowledged - but within the performance interaction itself, empathy makes more sense to me. Speaking as a performer - there is a constructed sense of intimacy, not the intimacy that you experience with your family, lovers and friends - people that you know and know you back. For me, during performance it becomes more about empathising with one and other - connecting on a negotiated level, understanding similarities and differences, making a memory. I am quite possibly talking about a very marginal difference here - but if the intention of the work was to perform intimacy, to be intimate (where I committed to give all of myself ) - I don't think I could. The word is far too easily used as a blanket statement. And this, is a pet hang-up of mine!!

This is too literal, but here is another of my favourite things! - a couple of dictionary definitions!

intimacy |ˈintəmə| noun ( pl. -cies) close familiarity or friendship; closeness : the intimacy between a husband and wife. • a private cozy atmosphere : the room had a peaceful sense of intimacy about it. • an intimate act, esp. sexual intercourse. • an intimate remark : here she was sitting swapping intimacies with a stranger. • [in sing. ] closeness of observation or knowledge of a subject : he acquired an intimacy with Swahili literature.

empathy |ˈempəθē| noun the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.


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