Allow me to have an idealist post. A post that calls for the impossible, that calls to bring back the significance of any art project, that is higher than our ego, knowledge and ambition. In other words, I elevate the importance of collaboration towards one communal purpose. I’m going to question the importance of roles division in a creative process taking the ideal of “Total of The Art” (Gesamtkunstwerk), that was presented by Richard Wagner, and afterwards (with slight variations) by Jerzy Grotowski, Gordon Craig, Peter Brook, Vosoveld Meyerhold and others. I must say that even if this idea exists for a long time, it seems that it has yet to be embedded fully in the practice, if such insertion can be possible. It may be considered as a total devotion or letting the creation “lead” itself. But here I would like to bring forward how the intention of the artist is the steering wheel and the point with which the artist examines and practices the “Total of The Art”.
Looking at the definition of Gesamtkumstwerk simply refers to the usage of all kind of art forms, and I specifically refer to the crafts in performance making. It is important that all are equal in importance and significance when creating the final project. It is the collaboration among the different disciplines that makes the project what it is. It is combined with the understanding among the people and their work; it is developing a shared language on stage or at the event; and finally it is aiming for the same purpose. It also means that at times a particular art form leads and at other times, a combination of the other disciplines come forward. It is the “Total of The Art” as a whole that allows the artist to decide and bring the suitable relations and dynamics within the project.
Personally, I believe purpose means shared intention. More importantly I argue that in art that is aimed for an audience, this intention should include the intention towards the audience: the kind of experience they have; the expectations that are built and their role at the event. In other words, I suggest that the reference point of “total of the art” should be in relation to the intention of the artist/creator and the way audience experiences the event.
I would like to emphasize a little bit – in performance all art forms are being used in any case, and the audience experiences them. It is the way the artist highlights each discipline, and the way the different disciplines are mixed together, which, I believe, is necessary to overlook and have conscious decisions about it.
The idea of Steer, and the practice behind it came about because I feel that artists don’t necessarily understand the concept of “Total of The Art”. And even when artists understand it, agree with it and want to bring it into the making, they do not necessarily have the tools to create it. Steer aims to give tools and enable the artist to know how and when to give a stronger presence to a particular craft or a combination of crafts.
The division of the roles/disciplines, the leak among them and the intention of the artist are linked together. I can suggest that this leak is essential and may bring in a better collaboration process and a stronger experience for the audience. This is simply because all members work towards the same one goal, and the different point of views pushes forward ideas and creativity. This is possible only if all members understand each other and share the same performative language.
Defining the roles of: dramaturge, scenographer, director, stage design, sound design and light design, is a task for another post, article and a research. There are many debates and discussions regarding the creativity and the input of each discipline. These discussions clearly refer to the role and the scope of responsibilities. However, in this post I suggest that the purpose and the aim of the project should be more on the focus than the specialty that one has, with hope that the expert takes the suggested idea and develops it within his/her own field. This intention allows all members to point to the same direction. It is the “Total of The Art” as a whole, the scenography as a whole, which includes design, dramaturgy, staging, performative language etc.
I would like to remind briefly again the differences between the practice and the theory. And clearly, even if I would have defined the disciplines or a formula of work, in practice the character of the people and their profession changes the dynamic and the creation of a particular project. Therefore – I bring out the following question – what is the advantage with creating an absolute definition? If I may bring out a provocation I can argue that instead of defining roles, the definition should be for requirements of an event. And I would argue that these requirements are dependent on the artist intention and the way the audience experiences it. Which brings me back to Steer as a tool to help the collaboration process.
Putting Steer aside and calling back to the Idealism – The art has a cultural role and I just want to share and remind with this post, that it is important to put the project first, rather than the professions that the art is made of. Or in other words, I would like to remind us when we work to think what will serve the piece better, rather than what shows my skills more, what is more cool, or even what sells more.