Projectraisetheroof's Blog


MIND THE GAP: SPATIAL DYNAMICS, EVENT PRODUCTION AND THE PARTICIPATION OF FESTIVAL AUDIENCES

The following abstract is a work in progress. I will hopefully have a draft of this done by the end of the month. Hopefully this will contain an exploration of the following..

– How are different event spaces revealing of the way artists become distinguished and separate from their audiences?
– How do festival layouts reveal assumptions about a hierarchy of performance?
– Do Boutique festivals alter this hierarchy through a shift in event design, use of space and an increased prioritising of installation art?
– Does this shift contribute to a ‘democratisation of performance’?

Boutique festivals are becoming complex systems of entertainment. Though many adopt a conventional list of features (the main stage, the dance tent, the acoustic tent, etc); the number of ancillary activities and participative installations has proliferated, and the nature of festival experience changed. With the aim of investigating this change, this chapter will explore the connection between the spatial construction of convivial space and the performativity of festival audiences. The shift in style and approach to festival production that is observable (to different extents) at England’s Secret Garden Party, Glade, Standon Calling and Ireland’s Electric Picnic, I will argue lends itself to a mode of experience that is increasingly performative. Spatial geography is one dimension of festival production that is deterministic not only of the physical movement of audiences but, more subtly, of the horizons of expectation that govern participative behaviour. The increased complexity of the British festival has changed audience interaction with the (prescribed) artists on stage, with the contextual space, and with each other. This change is both subtle and discerning of the ‘cultural performativity’ described in Lee Gilmore’s analysis of Nevada’s Burning Man festival, and Vicky-Ann Cremona’s exploration of Carnival in Malta. Employing their theoretical framework, I explore how event design and use of space can both alienate and empower the festival audience.


Audiences

Raisetheroof Research Blog – Roxanne Yeganegy
Here we go. My first proper attempt at blogging… I have questioned whether anyone actually reads these so if you have please leave a comment!

raisetheroof is now ‘officially’ part of a research project, I’m too scared to refer to it as a ‘phd’ research project in case I curse it: I am still only a provisional phd student until I upgrade (upgrading involves horrid things such as handing in a proper piece of writing, printed out and bound and everything).

But the good news is; planning raisetheroof no longer feels like naughty sciving off from the loftier goals of a phd. Its ‘action research’! Annoyingly, though, organising raisetheroof doesn’t actually constitute assessed work. My peers at the school of music can write a fraction of what I have I do, submitted along with the composition of a piece of music that is assessed together as theory and practice.

Well, why can’t raisetheroof be the practical work?! It fulfils the same function doesn’t it? It’s sort of like a composition, manifesting the theoretical ideas of the thesis. Not fair. This is the problem with academia, narrow ideas of what constitutes acceptable work, always having to stuff things into conventional boxes so that you can weigh it and measure it and work out its value according to institutional criteria. Its impossible to stuff raisetheroof into ‘the box’ that the university requires for practical work. This necessitates the production of a book-length thesis whilst simultaneously organising some hardcore entertainment.

POOR ME. MOAN MOAN MOAN! Oh dear, my first blog has descended into a rant already! I seriously need to sort my ungrateful, cynical winging head out.

Because doing all of this is a privilege.

Apologies for a long and rather negative introduction to my first research blog. If you are reading this and wondering what I am on about let me be explicit: I am a phd student split over PCI (Performing Arts and Cultural Industries) and the School of Music at the University of Leeds, I also organise raisetheroof with the help of some great friends, and now…. its all rolling into one expanding ball of ideas and practice.

I can’t give you the official title to my research, because it changes month on month as more literature is incorporated and all of the ideas I thought were originally mine are blown out of the water (this the disconcerting, yet unavoidable situation I am told).

So lets just call it “raisetheroof”.

Social activism, re-enchantment, audience participation, neo-tribalism, producer/consumer proxemics, the evolution and fragmentation of audiences…

These are all ideas that are of interest to me, which are being explored via the ‘Boutique’ event, which I classify as small-scale, multi-arts platforms with a rhetoric of authenticity and social activism.

Recently, its all about the audience. The audience, the audience. Last night, as I painted flourescent blue onto a fake giant sweet for the upcoming ‘Wonka’ event, I watched footage of the Monterey Jazz festival – mid seventies I think it was, but the festival itself is one of the original festivals of jazz, in fact an original festival of popular music, as jazz was the popular style of the time when the event began, which I believe was in the 1950’s. Anyway, I digress.

The point is that the footage was exclusively of the performers, the acts playing on a rather shabby looking stage with a bizarre 2D wimpish looking lion in the background. There were no shots of the audience, though at times they could be heard clapping and shrieking. Without paying attention to the audience you only got half of the picture of what this festival was truly like. Anyone that has ever had to support their friends band playing a gig to three people in an empty room will know what an enormous difference the crowd makes – there’s power in numbers, so they say.

The fact that the filming of an important festival in that era totally neglected the audience is testament to the old view that saw the stage as exclusively ‘where the party’s at’. Footage of the contemporary event is radically different in that almost equal attention is paid to the audience – even when filming massive acts on massive stages; the reaction of the crowd is a crucial element of representing the true atmosphere and experience of the event.

Does this show an increasing realisation that the audience, as well as the bands and the musicians, are performing at the event? Perhaps the word ‘audience’ in no longer relevant in this context, as it suggests passivity. How can festival-goers, in their fancy-dressing, dancing, revelling, riotous raucousness be described with the same word that is used for describing the attendants of a conference or theatre production?

PARTICIPANTS is the word in vogue at the Burning Man Festival, an event I attended a month ago that, quite literally, blew my mind – it blew away old ideas leaving a batch of nice fresh ones! And they are definitely, connected to the audience.

Will go into some more detail on that another time. For now, check out the amazingness – have I linked this right?

And this is me on the wooden pyre, a couple of days before the burn…. the ‘participants’ left messages scrawled all over the wood.