Karen
Christopher

considering the audience

I’m trying to get people thinking, not about something specific, not about something I endorse, not in the way that I want them to, but thinking. In the act of thinking we stumble into more thinking and thinking makes more thinking possible and in the consideration that takes place along a train of thought, new possibilities open up and boundaries fall and bonds are strengthened and action becomes an option.

Some things have to be imagined before they can become real.

I’ve never been the blond bomb shell. I’ve never been the freaky outlier who takes you on a holiday to another side of life. I don’t have long legs. Now that I am 52, a full deck, I am in the least popular age category. Not new young emerging artist nor swaggering favourite nor ageing stalwart who has always been around. Not a misfit nor a member of a reviled or contested group. No one is afraid of me. Sometimes I am invisible. But I do have a voice. I do have something to show you. I feel an irresistible urge to share. I’ve slowed down to look closely and I can do the same for you—just for a night. There’s a richness I can layer into the ordinariness.  I can make it better.

It was always the case that for my success or inclusion I had to rely on the people I know or on people knowing me. People who knew me were willing to support me, to champion my work, to work alongside me. Had that not been the case I wouldn’t still be here.

I never got my best work through auditioning or interviewing. I was invited because someone already knew my work. I’m the kind of artist who has to be invited. I’m not loud in the competition. The work I do is somewhat unassuming. It doesn’t pull you off the street, it requires attention and a bit of time. It pays off. It speaks in a variety of ways. It’s not flash but it’s pearly. You don’t have to be a native speaker to follow the thread. It respects your own contribution to the moment. The unemployed bricklayer says “what’s all this then?” But after giving it some of his time he tells me his favourite part. The 20-something student of performance wonders if I know what I’m doing, if I know what I’ve done, because the thoughts he’s having seem to be all his own. He asks “did you do that on purpose?” She’s in her 80s and she tells me: “you just told the story of my life but of course you can’t have known that, thank you.” Many of the audience will say: “I could do that.” And then they do do that in their sitting rooms when they get back home for the night. There is something quite insistent in the focus on a moment, on a series of moments that seem so simple but build and build and, as with a collection of loose twigs somehow coaxed into a nest, suddenly a catastrophic shift occurs and there is a structure arising. It becomes a foundation on which audience members build their own thoughts. And this is done with others, in the company of others, and these thoughts are strengthening social cooperation as they are thoughts which hatch in collaboration with the whole room and in the presence of a community of people who come together and all look in their own ways in the same direction and ponder meanings without even trying. It is human nature kicking in, triggered by a chain reaction, triggered by the physical acts in front of them performed in their presence and taking place in real time.

So, who is my audience? my audience is the person who got lost on the way to somewhere else, the person who was dragged there by a friend and ended up feeling converted, the devoted returning follower of the development of thoughts fostered in my work and the works of others stirring the collective unconscious, the people who are out for the night and hoping that they will be pleasantly surprised, the woman who is trying to impress her date, the man who feels isolated, the casual passersby who don’t know they want anything, the unimpressed bigwig who realises much later she’s still thinking about it, the child who re-stages it the morning after. If collaboration is meant to include multi-vocality it is also engaging a multitude of reception methods and people from many walks of life. If I can appreciate the kind of work that is alien to me and find it interesting in its distance from my own experience then I can become more tolerant of and interested in the people I live in the world with. This makes life better. This makes me care more.

Tags: audience

Posted on Sunday, 19 July 2015 by Karen Christopher