Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Conceptually, the jam...

Just thought I'd post something about the jam that I wrote- since we keep writing concept notes, it makes sense to have some of that conceptualising leak over for dialogue :) and this blog doesn't seem to have much on evolving conceptualisations...
Short Summary
Theatre jam, an initiative began more than a year back to address concerns of art and media practice within the city. It has turned into an open space not only for theatre, but music, art installations, canvass art, photography, media art- all of these to co-exist. It also forms an interesting interface for dialogue on "amateur and professional" art practice and content of exploration. We are hoping that the forum eventually will lead to skill building through sharing and artists to practice their art for communities.

Theatre jam rose out as a counter response to the general caging of art and art practice within confines of entertainment and commercialization. Through theatre jam, Maraa hoped to bring artists of all sorts together in public spaces, so they would meet, connect and collaborate more creatively. Theatre jam wanted to bring artists and communities together instead so that the distance and the mysticism that existed between the artist the audience could diminish. This way, diverse content and forms could reach people directly, and this could directly enrich and enliven urban spaces- which we also hoped would lead to renewed public sense of community and dialogue.

Theatre in Bangalore currently seems to exist on a culture-space pedestal for the practitioner and (more recently) in minds of the audiences. Rangashankara as a theatre space has managed to create a facelift for theatre as a legitimate, mainstream and popular cultural commodity to engage with. If one were to understand this as an artists’ movement that brought visibility to the form, the general hope was that other movements addressing content, form and practice would emerge. What seems to have followed is a series of unresolved debates on quality of performances, availability of performance spaces, infrastructural accessibility and a further branching off & politicization of space and resources.   
Working with our artist selves and needs
To be able to conceive and contextualize content & form is, in our opinion an essential need for artists to develop their work. As a practitioner in the city one has various entry points into the “form” of theatre. Being called amateur artists is quite acceptable; with one often being subject to observations and critique: for example, theatre with unique content, refined in form could only be created as one worked towards acquiring a certain professional tag. And to acquire this function of being professional, one needed to shed and transcend through elaborate processes of a theatre education. As most worked within this paradigm, theatre activities started stemming around initiating this contact between expert facilitators and the amateur. Some of us artists observed that two factors stared us in the face (excuse us for being subjective and generalizing for all amateur practitioners here):
-Access to these collaborations weren’t happening often enough
-Content and form that stemmed from the “amateur-professional” collaborations didn’t seem to exhibit much of a shift.
Thus we concluded that the expectation from this process (of imparting learning) was to be able to create sustained and NEW art content and experiment with different art forms. The flaw inherent was that, quite often than not, a space that was required to capitalize on existent creativity wasn’t being created. Young performers with an imagination were unable to express themselves and create work with new content and context due to a lack of conceptual space that allowed expression and provided encouragement and motivation to follow those ideas up.
So we asked ourselves, what would be some realistic factors which could help implement this thought,- that of creating a safe, nurturing, non hierarchal space?  
Some ideas we had…
-Create a context for short performances; and for varying “time-sizes” to co-exist (ranging from a minute to half hour).
- Create a (physical) space (and audience) context for all stages of a performance to co-exist: readings, sharing of an idea and inspiration, solos, work-in-progress and completely crafted performances.
-Explore the possibility of one art complementing the other and collaborative expressions across different art and media forms  
New Frontiers
It is increasingly a challenge to create and sustain ever growing, dynamic art and media practitioner groups that stays together to draw from each other in terms of resources and practices. Work also needs to be done for newer artists and audiences to join in the process.
Since the jam began, in October 2008, artists have met, engaged with each others work and collaborated. And yet, a lot of contexts that were rich, ideas, performances, pieces, still remain in the realm of the undocumented and untraced. Keeping this in mind, we decided to channelise some of the experimental content to a wider range of audience perhaps through a medium like Television. A local cable network is keen on loaning us some of its air time and Maraa hopes to build newer audiences through these media presentations of content and form that rose in the jam space. Would be an exciting hybrid media space and a unique interface with newer kinds of audiences…
Deepak Srinivasan

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