Monday, 28 January 2013

Incomplete Musing On Live Art

In the same way that the young artists deliberately problematise certain issues (this year, gender identity, the nature of failure and childhood aspirations to be a superhero), Into the New makes criticism a challenge. A festival of "new work," it is essentially the graduating show for the Royal Conservatoire's Contemporary Performance undergraduates: the pieces on display are not the result of funded professionals. They are often the first public showings by young people, on the path to becoming full-time artists and part of an educational process. That they are not always successful is irrelevant. They sketch out the potential of a particular artist, and serve as a final examination of their studies.

The problem for the critic is how to approach the work. Like community theatre, the outcome is not necessarily aimed at presenting a polished work, and the value is in the process for the performers. Since they are performed in a public space, they are open to critiques in the same way as the National Theatre of Scotland or any other company that charges money to view: they are, in spirit, closer to works in progress. The star rating, which can be used to encourage or discourage potential audiences, is not entirely appropriate.

Into the New presents emerging artists, and it is not surprising that their talents are not fully evolved: nor is it shocking that their preoccupations are often naive. The subject matter is firmly in the camp of the young adult - nightclubs, childhood fantasies giving way to adult realities, the uncertain development of personality, fear of failure and simple political or social concerns. While these cannot be judged according to the same criteria as, say, The National Theatre, ignoring their voices doesn't help them reach wider audiences or see their work in a wider context.

And just because they are young, it does not mean they aren't worth hearing.

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