When reading becomes live
This connection explores the difference between reading a play script, and a live performance where the reading out loud *is* the event - where people's efforts and the risks involved in getting involved are the point of the event: these may be referenced within the content (eg OK OK) or not (Your Words in my Mouth), but the fact is that the gap between the reader and that of the person whose words they are incorporating is never fully closed. The unrehearsed participant can never be a fully transparent 'servant' of the text.
Ant Hampton / Gert-Jan Stam
For 4 at a time. The seated participants simply read, out loud, the words hi-lighted on the scripts they hold. By 'just saying the lines' all four readers find meaning and intention falling into place (despite no pressure to 'act' or correctly voice anything). What's said is an expression of the same doubt, curiosity and anxiety that can be expected of anyone asked to read out loud, in a group, without preparation.
The text seems to anticipate the readers’ thoughts at any given moment. The result is a sense of the script acting as an uncannily 'live' object; a text being written at the same time as being read.
As the first Autoteatro piece to function without audio or headphones, OK OK can be seen to treat printed text as a comparable if far older 'technology' (a pre-recordable, reproducible guide). Unlike the work with headphones however, the strategy is completely transparent. Everyone can read what everyone is saying.
To create a physical or virtual space where people meet to share any text, usually reading aloud. Sometimes the reading has a 'moderator' who assigns who reads what and when, and maintains other basic rules. The creator of the written text, if known, may or may not be present.
Ant Hampton / Silvia Mercuriali / Rotozaza & collaborators...
Autoteatro is a term coined by the artists above in 2007 for Rotozaza's 'Etiquette' to distinguish it from other audio-led performance at the time which was often for single participants.
In Autoteatro, audience members perform the piece themselves, for each other. Participants are given instruction via audio, visual cues or text for what to do or say. By simply following these instructions an event begins to unfold. One moment you may be watching or witnessing the other(s) performing, not unlike a normal audience experience. The next you may be doing or saying something which in turn creates a moment of performance to be witnessed by the other(s). Not to be confused with gaming (or ‘game show’-like improvisation), Autoteatro does not require audience members to be clever or inventive, neither does it necessarily set up instances of competition.
It’s also possible to define it as:
- functioning automatically: once started, there are no actors or other human involvment or labour during the work other than the participants engagement. An Autoteatro work exists as a fixed, often pre-recorded 'trigger' for a performance embodied only by those taking part. As well as sometimes allowing for Showing Without Going, being automated means it's usually possible to run the work on loop for large audiences over longer periods, and to multiply the number of simultaneous performances in different places.
- having no 'audience' beyond the participants themselves. This creates a levelling of what would otherwise be unequal power dynamics giving rise to the usual horror of theatrical participation. There's no director or rehearsed actor who knows how things 'should be going'; no-one sitting in the dark making judgements about those performing. You know that the other person or people are discovering everything with you. Sharing risk often allows us to take more risk.
Conventionally, a script is written by one or more authors before the performance but it is also possible to be co-written by authors or artists in different places before the performance, or generated collectively during the performance.
It contains text or descriptions of actions to be performed but also for specifics of location or set, props, sound, light, movement, costume, etc.
Making a deliberate decision to present only the voice may assist the ‘making present’ of those who cannot be physically present (for example, those who can’t show their face).
The term ‘acousmatic sound’ means an invisible sound source, and can be relevant to voice. The term comes from ‘the Acousmatics’, pupils of the philosopher Pythagoras who listened to him deliver his lectures from behind a curtain (it was thought that visual distraction would impinge on the purity of his teachings.) In acousmatic art, one hears sound from behind a "veil" of loudspeakers, the source invisible.
Your Word in my Mouth is a 're-performed' group discussion, read aloud by the audience from scripts. The piece immerses us in the private lives of several residents of [city changes depending on where its shown]. Brussels example: the residents include a polyamorist, a football-mad teenage girl, a notary specialised in matrimonial contracts, a sex assistant for people with disabilities... This unlikely encounter is 're-staged' in a series of venues usually reserved for an in-crowd: a hairdresser’s, a radio studio, the lounge of a brothel, a parliament… Members of the audience are invited to lend their voices to other people’s words and play them. How do these “alien” words sound in our own mouths? A conversation based on profound citizenship in which love might just open up new political perspectives.
Use of instructional material in the form of text, audio or visual guides to create a performance event where unrehearsed people perform the work. This can be done through various constellations of participation, eg. involving a solo audience creating a performance for itself, two audience members creating a performance for each other, a group involving collective participation, etc.
The unrehearsed performers can also be specifically invited or 'cast' individuals who perform in front of a conventional audience (the audience may or may not know the performers are unrehearsed.)
It can also be combined with rehearsed, predictable, or fixed elements (actors, the sunset, hungry birds, recorded material, etc).