Is This Live? Is a project that exists in 2 forms at the same time:
On the one hand it is an inventive and high energy comedic video piece about authenticity in online spaces that riffs on the tropes and trends of instagram, TicTok and Youtube. During which the performers continually state the importance of them being unfiltered and honest, and how they are creating everything that their online audience sees live and in the moment.
On the other hand it is a live theatre experience in which the methodology of creating that work is seen including “off camera” moments, revealing the points where they have “cheated” in order to deceive the online audience about certain things in order to seem ‘more authentic’. There is also potential to recruit the audience to deepen this deception by doing things that might seem spontaneous to their online counterparts.
It’s a game where we collude with our audience to try and seem both as “authentic” as possible, whilst trying to be ‘cool’.
The initial idea for this came from the weirdness of 2020; I was in the slightly strange position of being an artist whose work is totally dependant on getting groups of people in a room together; which couldn’t happen… but also having a background in photography and IT meaning that I have a much higher technical knowledge around live streaming than many of my peers. So this meant that I accidentally spent a surprisingly large proportion of April 2020 – February 2021 not making art at all but consulting arts organisations, artists, religious groups, amateur organisations etc. on the equipment, software and techniques required to live stream an event.
My first questions were always “Does it need to be live?” and “what does your project gain from being a live broadcast over being a video that you post online?”.
I was always reassured by the people I was talking to that their work NEEDED to be live. So it was very frustrating to see projects that did not use their liveness as part of the project, but might have been better served as a video.
So I started to consider what a show that depended on live streaming might look like, and I jokingly suggested that opening by saying “Everything that you see and hear during this stream has been created absolutely live” then cut to an obviously pre-recorded piece of footage where I say “except the bits that aren’t”.
It started as a silly joke but the more I thought about it, the more I enjoyed the idea of playing a game with the audience where they were never 100% sure what is real and what isn’t. This seemed to map nicely onto the parasocial relationships that people form with online personalities online who sell themselves with an illusion of authenticity
I’ve always had a soft spot DIY aesthetics and visual ingenuity so the key reference points that I will be bringing with me into this project are:
THE FILMS OF MICHEL GONDRY
Specifically certain sequences from the feature film “Be Kind
Rewind” and some of his music videos that specifically play with the way that cameras move through space and frame certain events.
His approach to filmmaking has a lot of the same playfulness that I’m aiming for with this project
Shazam by Philippe Decoufle
Decoufle is a choreographer who has worked extensively with video, and specifically live video s part of a theatre event. He has an interest in the camera as observer and how lenses provide an ability to choreograph both the dancer and the viewer.
I think his approach to framing will be very interesting for this project.
Over the last year I’ve been looking at ways to refine my creative practice in ways that both ensure outcomes but provide the flexibility and creative freedom for ideas to emerge organically from the room.
So I looked to the ways that other creative industries that have to balance inspiration against corporate pressure manage these competing needs. Through this thought process I discovered a 6 stage creative model that I could adapt to my practice
This is my interpretation of that model:
Stage 1: Exploration
Without tying down too much of what the project could be this is a period of playing with ideas that we enjoy. This is where the collaborators and lead artist have the most parity in terms of their contributions to what happens in the space. During this time, we as a group follow our passions and inspirations to see what emerges.
During this research project, this phase will last 2 weeks.
Stage 2: Prototype
The creation of a small proof of concept constructed from the very best ideas that emerged from the exploration phase.
In terms of this project, this will be a 5-10 minute proof of concept performance that will be shown to an invited audience to stand as culmination of all of the exploration work that we have done so far. We will spend 2 days on this
Stage 3: Minimum viable Product (MVP)
This is what I have historically called “the hot mess version” where we say to ourselves “If we HAD TO do a full performance of this show by X DATE, what would we put on” then we make it. This is by no means what the final show will be but it is an important learning stage in the development of the project.
This is what we will spend the remaining 2 weeks of our research time doing. Building up to a performance of “The Hot Mess Version” (or MVP from now on) which will be our first public test of the project.
Stage 4: Alpha version
This is where a future development phase of the project begins.
Using the MVP as a basis, the Alpha is where the structure of the piece is refined and mostly set, building on what worked from the previous version and clarifying the dramaturgy of the work.
Stage 5: Beta Version
This is where we are getting to a near complete version of the work; we polish every element of the Alpha to as close to a production ready state as we can and correct any structural/dramaturgical problems that remain in the Alpha version.
Stage 6: Final Version
This is where everything is polished and perfected making it ready for the general public