Saturday, June 14, 2008

Chair

MEET YOURSELF SITTING IN A CHAIR AT AN OLD FOLKS HOME:


2 comments:

Yrjö Junttila said...

Art, Age, and the Art of Ageing...

Hei Kristina,
olen kiinnostuneena seurannut tapahtumien kehitystä, etenkin hoksattuani olevani todella vanha kun kummityttönikin on jo vanhainkodissa!! Haa...
Allaoleva pitkähkö proosa yrittää olla eräänlainen yhteenveto asian vaiheilta. Lukaise jos ehdit ja käytä hyväksesi jos löydät jonkin ajatuksenpoikasen
tv. yrjö
- - -
Art, Age, and the Art of Ageing; an Outside View

Of the many astute observations Kristina has noted on her blog, I think there are two especially thought-provoking issues: the feeling of guilt and the loss of track of time. Is guilt an inevitable factor in the process of growing old? Is there anything art, dramatic art in particular, has to offer to an audience of guilt-ridden seniors leading a life of monotone in an institution?

There is one highly suggestive fact about ageing. You are not old when you have reached a certain number of years. Instead, you are old when you look back and realise that of all the people, ideas, objects, events, and encounters in your life, there are very few, if any, left that have any real meaning to you. Even in a crowd or among your own family, you don’t belong; you feel isolated, detached, alone. And it´s not any ordinary loneliness you´ll then experience but the real, icy-fingers-gripping-your-heart loneliness. When you get this far, it´s very easy to close the nihilistic circle and conclude that your own person is perhaps not the centre of universe, either. You are not an asset; you have ended up as a liability. The outcome: indifference, inactivity, guilt, depression, and worse.
In order to cope with this situation, many seek solace in religion, some in their grandchildren. Others become the proverbial nagging hags and grumpy old men.
However, if our audience consists of ageing people trapped in the worst scenario described above, does our esteemed art make any difference at all? Yes it does, but only if we recognize art as what it is: communication. Performing on stage is not playing a role but communicating via playing a role, here and now. In the acting profession where inflated egos are more often the rule than the exception, this simple truth is quite hard to swallow. Many a performer is praised as being “ahead of the times”, while it just means that he/she has lost the power of communication and thus has deplorably failed as an artist.

But what is there to communicate? The solution lies right in the definition of dramatic arts: the power to dramatize - to intensify, specify, aggaravate, contradict, even provoke in an inventive way that will (gently) grip the viewers by their hairs and wake them from their Weltschmerz stupor. In one phrase, we communicate the idea of response. In the world of advertising there’s a handy old formula for just that: AIDA (Attraction, Interest, Desire, Action). Only if we are prepared to go the whole way, can we foster any hope that the performance will have some meaning. An overwhelming amount of time and intellectual effort is wasted just by concentrating to the first, attention-seeking stage. Anyone can do that and, sadly, too many have done so (and end up flinging human excrement at the audience).

To conclude, here’s my try at a recipe:
1. Get a good idea of who you’ll be communicating with. It might be the one that
- always tries to escape through the front door,
- is always seated at the table twenty minutes before the food is served,
- gives candies to all the workers,
or perhaps it is the one that is expected to die any moment.
2. Prepare yourself for the most challenging task of your career: registering, analysing and instantly responding to even the weakest signals and responses you get from the audience. (If you need a larger term for the task, apply COP for “Cybernetic On-stage Process”.)
3. Keep the process going, eventually trying out different approaches until you get the members of your audience safely escorted to the second A of AIDA.

June 14, 2008
YJ

Edwin said...

Ciao Uncle Yrjö

Wow - what a philosophical thesis. You could have written my thesis! :-) What you say is so true, guilt and time are very thought-provoking issues. But I probably would like to say that these two things are issues even for the younger ones and since they are not solved while we are young (I still would like to think I'm young :-) they become a huge problem later on. Like you say, today, everything is done to catch the eye and attention in a moment of the public. From this moment we are caught on - and the mind stops to think. It has taught us to not appreciate time - but rather has taught us the quick fix. Time has become the moment - but without possibility or growth, nor possibility of learning of the past. Therefore we have many 30 year olds who are old....but not mature.

The Little Prince teaches us a lesson when he says that it is the time that we waste on someone that makes the other valuable and he further says that many people don't have friends because many people expect to find friends at the supermarket - ready made.

Art is certainly a good tool for all. Communication? What is that? We hardly know what communication is? Most of us just do it one way and it doesn't matter who our audience is. We communicate to the young as if they are old and to the old as if they are young - thus resulting in what you say - we begin to feel that no one understands, all ideas are different to ours. The problem is that we don't have an identity of ourselves and thus of the other. Finally, life becomes indifferent.

Another issue I saw when I worked in an old people's home (you see it's not just your niece that goes in old people's homes) is that we are afraid of silence. A stare can say many words, holding the hand can tell someone that there is still hope and so on.

Further, I saw that many of these residents of the old people's home became so frustrated when they saw themselves as part of a 'project' - as if the one animating them, the artist, the visitor, the priest, is making the visit part of duty. The other must be accepted at the stage they are and need to be taken individually.

Will stop here, but your (Kristina's) questions are important for moving forward. When one stops asking questions, one stops thinking, and this is no different to being without life.

Ciao

Edwin