Studio and Performance

When I was working with improvisation performance artists there was a clear (though occassionaly challenged and questioned) distinction between studio and performance. The studio was a space for a very wide exploration. The performance was a space for being with an audience (the Hebrew root word for audience speaks to “coming together”). In the studio almost everything goes AS LONG AS it was in the context of performance art. Numerous times I witnessed participants fade into an emotional-therapeutic-seeking space in which case they were asked to either re-join the space or leave.

The studio has its own dynamics. When people arrived at the studio we would first lie down on the floor for an hour (some people crawling around like babies) taking time to completely arrive and connect to ourselves and to each other. There was plenty of space and time, plenty of grazing, plenty of experimentation and occassionaly something magical happened (a magic that always seemed harder to tap into in the performance space). The studio was dedicated to the creators and the creative process. The performance was a tighter event, though mostly unknown it had more specifity. It had a clearer framework which usually felt limiting going in but liberating once inside. The performance had an audience. People who were not in on the subtle agreements of those participating in the creative space. A performance brought with it a simple social obligation - to be graceful hosts to the people we invited to partake in our creation.

I offer this metaphor as a reflection on the EdgeRyders online presence. My impression is that right now we have a studio where everything goes. However our studio is also constantly open to an audience and we are actively inviting an audience to it. Yet it seems that we have not yet paid attention to the fact that we are in performance and there is an audience. I would go so far as to say we have been rude towards our audience. We have not addressed their presence and I believe that instead of telling beautiful stories we have been evoking confusion.

I believe that EdgeRyders is, very much like my studio experience, dedicated to delivering performances. We have the liberty to explore inside as much as we want not forgetting we are here to produce performances. The Edge, regardless of EdgeRyders, is a unique place. It is at the same time the most liberated from and the most obligated to society. It is far enough from social gravity to feel free, but close enough to be connected and meaningful.

Though we may all have our reasons (purposes) for being here, I believe we are here first and foremost for those who are not here with us. This is what I mean when I speak of an over-reaching purpose. It isn’t a purpose that overrides other purposes but rather gives them context.

If the initial experience of the EdgeRyders website was a login screen, I would be fine with it as is. We are only accountable to ourselves when it comes the studio we come to create in. However the initial experience of the EdgeRyders website is a public affair in which we make claim to “cutting edge social innovation” yet we do not present a cutting edge but a messy studio in which we create. Our promise seems to me, as an outsider, not just empty but even false. Not because of what is inside, but because of what is not outside.

I believe there needs to be a clear discernment between the studio and the performance. It is required of us if we are seriously going to step up to the challenge of bettering our societies by reaching out to the edge into unchartered solutions on their behalf. If we were content in our social lives we would not be here having this conversation. Our reaching out to the edge is because of, on behalf of and for the betterment of that with which we are not content. If we forget that and lose touch with that then we are floating around purposelessly.

The beneficiaries of our work are not here with us, they are most probably not even aware of our existence. Our connection with them is through our performances. The unMonastery is a performance dedicated to the people of Matera. The public facing website is also a performance (and it would be useful to figure out who is in the audience).

The public facing website cannot be stuff that leaks from inside the platform. The public facing website should be a conscious performance recognizing our audience and appreciating the fact that they have taken time out of their life to be with us. We have gotten together to perform, we have aroused an interest in our audience, now lets respect their attention and give them a memorable and moving performance.