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The Arts Festival Revolution

I just listened to this Ted talk as a podcast, and I wanted to share some of David Binder’s words and the ideas they sparked in me. If you can’t watch it now, there’s some choice quotes after the jump…

Here’s a quote from the middle-ish part of the talk:

“Modern arts festivals were born in the rubble of WW2. Civic leaders created these annual events to celebrate culture as the highest expression of the human spirit… [and] the work they did was very very high art… But as the decades passed, these shows, these festivals, they really became the establishment and as the culture and capital accelerated, the internet brought us all together, high and low kind of disappeared. A new kind of festival emerged. The old festivals, they continued to thrive, but from Brighton to Rio to Perth, something new was emerging.

And these festivals were really different. They’re open, these festivals, because like [??] they understand that the dialogue between the local and the global is essential. They’re open because they ask the audience to be a player, a protagonist, a partner, rather than a passive spectator. And they’re open because they know that imagination cannot be contained in buildings, and so much of the work they do is site specific or outdoor work.

So the new festival, it asks the audience to play an essential role in shaping the performance.”

I couldn’t help but draw parallels between this idea of a new kind of arts festival, and what we and other organisers are trying to achieve with festivals of improvisation.

Improvisation as an artform is open, site specific, boundless in imagination, and I would argue rarely considered high art. Our players play in the moment, drawing on their life and experience and skills to create one-off pieces of work that so often requires the audience’s input to kick things off, to shape the narrative, to inspire the players. The audience are our partners because without them we are not performing, merely amusing ourselves.

What if we took our work outside? To site specific venues? What if our improvisation echoed, elaborated or even questioned the dialogue between our local mentality and the global picture? I have heard of work that does this and I would love to bring more of it to our audience.

We’re still in the midst of confirming dates for NZIF 2013 but I’m still getting so excited about the mere idea of it! New Zealand’s top improvisors in the one city, bringing ‘it’ and showing Wellington what can be done on a stage without a script. Watch this space for updates; as soon as we know, we’ll tell you!

Producer 2013

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