Sunday, February 03, 2013

Longer, louder, faster: A manifesto of sorts | Superfluities Redux:

In terms of excessive length, the most recent example is the Nature Theatre of Oklahoma’s Life & Times. The first four parts of this very long work (which may, in the end, reach 24 hours) can be experienced either as a marathon or sequentially. This requires, obviously, a major investment of time (and in some cases money) for anyone who wishes to experience it as a whole. Because of this, it raises the question whether or not the audience for this experience is composed of a rather peculiar elite: an elite that can afford the time and the money to see it. After all, time spent with Life & Times is time not spent someplace else, at work, with family, or at even another play. Through its excessive vision and practice, is NTOK actually alienating and shutting out that portion of the audience that does not have the temporal or economic resources to attend?

And it is perhaps a question of resources. What I am left with, in the end, is a question about whether the theatre should concentrate on doing more with less once again, instead of more with more (or, in the worst cases, less with more). We are constantly reminded of the extent to which corporations and governments are co-opting swathes of land, of money, of natural resources that might be better left to the conservation of smaller groups. When theatre artists attempt to similarly exploit those resources — of sensual tolerance, of attention, of individual agency, of time, of money — is it not just as arrogant, just as authoritarian? Is it not yet another imposition of the collective or the dictatorial artist upon individual consciousness and the ability to make sense of the world? If we are encouraged to conserve our planet’s resources for the use of others, artists should consider conserving these resources for the use of other artists and their audiences as well.