You Can Haz Documented Performances?

25 Jul

Our interest was piqued recently when we heard about a new initiative to better document live performances in this country.  Meet The Emergency Index. Odd name, cool project.

Essentially, the idea is (quoting Emergency Index) that “since a defining feature of performance is live-ness, documenting performance is a doomed endeavor. This has made it difficult for the emergent discipline of performance to look at itself, to take stock of its achievements and acknowledge its failures, quite simply, to assess the state of the field.” And that the current documentation processes are problematic because “the most widely distributed documents are often put forward not by the creators of the performances, but by institutions with various agendas.” The big questions to emerge are (1) “how are practicing artists and scholars to assess the state of the field?” And (2) “Can we document a performance in terms of its internal logic, not in terms of its consumer appeal?”

What does this mean to you, theatre artist? Well, Emergency Index wants YOU. They’re practicing “a policy of radical inclusion; therefore, included works will not be restricted by genre, quality, popularity, politics, or venue. However, creators of performance works will be asked to describe the primary problems driving the work, and the tactics developed in the performance to address them. The goal is to highlight not the experience of the performance, but to document achievements, innovations, and developments in the field.” (Boldface theirs.)

To me, one of the most aspects of the project can be found in point three of the submission guidelines: “Authors are asked to focus on the problem or issue the work was made to address, and on the aspects of the performance which addressed those issues, rather than describing the experience of watching the performance.”  In other words, for the purposes of this yearly publication, they want “an articulation of the theoretical, formal, political, aesthetic, historical or other problem your performance was made to address, or is most related to.”

This seems like an exciting and important development for the contemporary theatre. …Will you participate?

You can find their guidelines for participation HERE. Submissions must be received by January 12, 2012.

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