The Post Modern Hurdle

“In the end, postmodern art is obscene not because it is offensive, but because it is boring.”
Gregory Benford


The Post Modern Hurdle

I’ve often said that the television killed Art. People stayed home to watch Jack Benny instead of going to the local theater or club or exhibit. Today, when we go to the ballet, our expectation is to see it as a museum piece carefully unboxed and presented. As audience grew smaller, dance and theater lost its luster and energy for change.

The beginning of the Modern era, we saw quick and massive changes in the art world. Futurism, Dada, Surreal, Cubism, Minimalism were all ideas explored by all of the art forms. Absurdists came out with great plays like Waiting for Godot where nothing happens (well, hello Seinfeld).

In the 60s, the idea of Post Modern came along with its defining ideas of satire and improvisation. Artists tried to follow it in improv jazz, improv comedy and improv dance. I’m not sure it was meant to be performed in the definition, but I wasn’t there.

Still, some art forms have moved forward very well. Rock and Roll shows are very successful and fill arenas and clubs and even stadiums. This is because they have advanced the ideas of the visual using video screens and giving us what film gave us back in the 1910: the power of the close up.

I don’t understand why dance and theater have not embraced video technology. Sure, we see pre-made videos in the background sometimes or we see “dance for camera”, pieces made to be watched on a screen. But why can not we see pieces of drama, like Death of a Salesman, with a background screen showing us the close up of Willy Loman?

Any vet of the theater knows that when you put images on video together with a live stage event that the audience will watch the video (or film). This is because we think we know what the live figure is doing but we fear that we will miss something crucial in the moving video.

This is answered by making a video image that does not move or repeats itself so we can comfortably understand it and then look at the live performer. I’ve seen potatoes rolling down a tilted table but even ocean waves would work or projected scenery.

And how powerful it would be to see our fine actor alone, downstage right looking off on the diagonal doing some speech and the background fades into a close up of the actor. This does not have to be a special event, this should be in every event! It can be directed and performed and the audience will accept it; why has theater gotten so traditional that it must rely on its stale tradition?

Dance is the same thing. Trapped in the idea of a body moving through space when we have long accepted the idea of “dancer as performer” who emotes and feeds emotions to the audience. Doing choreography while keeping in mind places for a close-up would add to the power of the piece.

The decades of video experimentation are behind us. We learned how difficult the technology can be and it has been solved by advancing and much less expensive technology. We can easily leave the “experimental” stage behind and fold it into the common-place. Elune knows, the audience is ready for it.

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