Be Like Theatre round-up by Kate Martin

Competing with the sunshine and the imminent bank holiday weekend is no mean feat, but Thursday the 31st May presented another compelling talk…

Competing with the sunshine and the imminent bank holiday weekend is no mean feat, but Thursday the 31st May presented another compelling talk. Drawing inspiration from Hetain Patel’s work ‘Be like Water’, Michael Pinchbeck’s ‘Be like Theatre’ discussed the relationships between performance, performer, artwork and artist. In a witty way the talk parodied a theatrical recital split into five composing acts (resourcefully named by myself!)

Act 1- ‘The outside eye’

Pinchbeck opened by reciting a letter written to his close friend Hetain Patel, which embraced sentiments of their friendship from past to present. The reading drew strong parallels between repetition, popular culture and domestic life in both Pinchbeck’s and Patel’s work. Symbolically, the letter became a narrator for the content to follow and introduced the artist being the artwork and audience simultaneously, juxtaposition Pinchbeck termed the ‘outside eye’.

Act 2 –’Wing space- the bare aesthetics’

Pinchbeck explained how the artist as object had initiated a move away from the tools of production in dramaturgy; opening up the ‘weave of performance and the process of weaving’ or the ‘wing space’ an area not usually seen but reserved for the invisible processes. This paradigm was a true questioning of what art is and a strengthening of interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches. Artists began define the perimeters of their work through performance and as described by Pinchbeck these ‘happenings’ became real life ‘action paintings’. John Cage 4’33 –Bruce Naumen- Walking in an exaggerated manner

Act 3- ‘The artist becomes me’

Pinchbeck discussed how art became a lifestyle choice for many artists and their bodies became an instrument for their practice. As such, the artist could embody the art work through using their body as the canvas. What was fascinating these developments was their ability to play with the power relations between binary opposites; composition vs decomposition, construction vs deconstruction, the self vs the other. Extreme examples of performative art incorporated self destruction, objectification and duration. A few of which can be sampled below if you desire! The second in particular may not be for the weak stomached!

PLEASE NOTE: These videos contain graphic images which some people may find disturbing. – Teching Hsieh- One Year Performance 1980-1981 – Martin Creed Work no. 503- Sick Video – Chris Burden Shot

Act 4- ‘Theatre and the Theatre Space’

This act focused more upon how the deconstructions of these traditional frameworks are being used within the theatre space. Artists, writers and directors are working collaboratively to produce experimental theatre drawing from aesthetics, choreography and performance. The narratives and the characters are a constructed showcasing the transition from non performer to performer. Indicative of the characters we can embody and the roles we assume. – Akrham Khan and Anthony Gormley- Zero Degrees Gob Squad- Kitchen (you never had it so good)

Act 5- ‘A Family Outing’

The final act by Pinchbeck focused on the roles of family and the domestic in the works of Kate Rowles ‘My Wonderland’ and Hetain Patel’s ‘To dance like your dad’. Michael drew on how these works become an exchange of stories; yours & mine to equal ours, which forms a ‘performative reality’. – Kate Rowles- My wonderland – Hetain Patel- To dance like your dad

It is exciting to see how interdisciplinary approaches continue to feed into the art scene. The work of Hetain Pate and Akrham Khan often employs the tradition of culturally specific performance and expresses a dialogue through the body. The strong correlations between video and theatre, acting and portraying make for some compelling aesthetics, which have a vast capacity to engage multiple senses through the use of sound, image and movement.


If you thought the ideas covered in the ‘Be like Theatre’ talk were interesting don’t forget that the New Art Exchange hosts a number or performative workshops and events alongside its current exhibition programme…

YARD Youth Theatre-#FaceMe
Saturday 30 June, 7pm – 8pm
Admission: £5 (£3 concession)
Age Range: All are welcome

Also showing on Thursday 12 July, 7:30pm
Contact Theatre, Manchester.

Please visit the website below for further information.

YARD Youth Theatre meet every Tuesday at 5 – 7pm (15yrs – 25 yrs) and Wednesday at 5 – 7pm(11yrs – 14 yrs) and are always looking for new members, so why not come along and give it a try its free! If you’re interested contact [email protected] or call 0115 924 8630

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