Sunday, September 19, 2010

One of the most interesting provocations of recent times was Marina Abramovic’s insistence at her curated live art show at last year’s Manchester International Festival that the audience should undergo a period of ‘initiation’ (her word) before they were admitted to the gallery. One might well feel anxious about the liminoid insularity this could bestow on the work, but it’s certainly true that we arrive for most theatrical encounters underequipped for their fullest demands: and when I say ‘we’ I mean makers and actors as well as audiences. I want theatre to promote attentiveness, because nothing else currently does, and the quality of political thought and cultural analysis that we’re capable of is enfeebled as a consequence. Tim Allen and Andrew Duncan, in the introduction to their collection of interviews with poets, Don’t Start Me Talking, say this, which I love: “Attention is a pure good. What brings states of high attention, is successful as art without further ado.” I’d rather compel people’s attentiveness through irresistible seduction than through bootcamp crash-course workshops in meditation or whatever, but it’s all good.

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