Block 760: August 23, 2015


Sunday, and another week is about to begin!

Date: August 23, 2015

Crane: 760

Days Spent on Project: 915

Location: NW Portland, OR

Person I would have sent it to: TBD

Music I listened to while sewing: Guess who’s still listening to the Carly Rae Jepsen album? And has been all day?

Thoughts/Feelings behind the block: Do you all know about Banksy’s newest art experience… Dismaland?

The New York Time is calling it a satirical take on the amusement park, obviously a parody/satire of Disney World. It’s outside a small town in England, Weston-Super-Mare. The exhibition will run for six weeks, until late September.

Again this is another time when I’m kicking myself in the pants: why is it so hard for me to get to England and see the art I want to see?

I’m really intrigued by this because it’s just another example of “experience design,” of which immersive theater is a part. In fact, this is very definitely immersive theater: The audience/viewers don’t get the luxury of experiencing the art in a traditional gallery scenario where the art is displayed obviously to be seen and not influenced but, rather, the audience comes to the art and is slowly brought into another world/experience that exists outside the everyday. The audience plays a part: they are tourists. The world they are “touring” has been meticulously designed and thought out, subverting the traditional theme park experience which usually wants to produce feelings of excitement, happiness, pleasure, etc. (but to what end?).

There are actors: surly security guards and staff members who insult the tourists instead of catering to them.

It’s a kind of genius.

I don’t know as much about Banksy and the art world he/she/they lead to talk about how this artwork expands on his oeuvre. But, the detail and scope and aggression and intelligence behind this is brilliant.

I think this is proof that the work I want to do has a place in the world. I am convinced there has to be an opportunity here that I just need to tap into. This is more than creating haunted houses or murder mysteries or pretentious dance pieces or getting the audience to stand instead of sit. This is a genre that really could subvert theatrical story-telling, and I really want to be a part of it. Badly.

When I was in Los Angeles last spring, one of my acquaintances was looking for an apartment to buy with his boyfriend. My last Sunday, after a late brunch, I went with him and a few other people to visit some apartments that he was interested in. Of the three that I saw, two of them were of the usual, garden-variety experiences that I expected of an apartment-showing. The space had been cleaned, any item that pointed to the current owner’s life was removed, all the detritus that shows A Life Lives Here had been put away.

But the third apartment was completely different. While the apartment itself was quickly dismissed- the kitchen needed a complete renovation, a wall would have to go, and much of the features screamed mid-80s design; my friends weren’t interested at all for the asking price. But, the space had a story, which was simultaneously obvious and ambiguous, and it was so fascinating to me. On the kitchen counter, a bottle of red wine- that I easily recognized as something I could get back in New York for 7.99- sat; it’s screw top had been replaced with a decorative stopper. It was half empty. We were on the edge of Beverly Hills; people drink cheap wine like that here?

I walked to the guest bedroom, which was crowded with a full size bed, a generic office desk, and a filing cabinets. There was a calendar on the desk. Papers sat in a nearby printer. There were appointments and notes scribbled on post-it notes. An old desktop computer was perched on the desk, its edges covered with other notes to-do and reminders. In the closet, a handful of framed theater posters and playbills (shows that were in Broadway houses, but I had never heard of) were standing along the sides of the closet.

It was as if I was an intruder in someone else’s life. It was as if I was just entering into a space 10 minutes after the inhabitants had rushed out.

What were the clues in front of me? What were they telling me about the people who lived here? Were the clues telling me accurately who these people were?

I spent a lot of time in that bedroom, staring at everything around me.

What if a sound designer had created a soundscape to underscore my experience in that room? What if it were a recording of music taken from those long-forgotten Broadway shows?

What if a lighting designer had used the lights in the room to focus my attention? Maybe a subtle heightened light would be focused tightly on one particular post-it note that had a date and a time listed on it.

What if a props designer had taken one wine glass and broken it on the desk and let the wine that spilled dry in the air?

What if an actor, made a sound behind me in another room, capturing my attention and making me look outside the door?

What if they entered the room wherein I stood and I saw them wearing a suit of the mid-80s and there was huge stain that might have been blood on it?

What if they entered the room and ran to the closet and tore off those clothes and buried them in a garbage bag they carried with them?

What if they ran out of the room?

What if I followed them?

What if the music changed then?

I am so convinced Experience Design is the next Frontier to cross and I want to find a way to create it. I want that.

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