Art is feeling the pinch during the current lockdown, but Phala Ookeditse of The Centre for the Less Good Idea and renowned artist William Kentridge have a plan: a website to showcase artists’ works.
This is an innovative venture into uncharted territory using a streaming platform on lessgoodidea.com
Streaming art is a new way of bringing pieces to art lovers and, as Ookeditse says, even though social distancing is the order of the day due to the coronavirus pandemic and the national lockdown in South Africa, it is still important for people to be able to explore art.
“We already have an online presence of the works incubated and produced at the centre through our website and Vimeo channel. These works exist as recordings of processes or performances shared with a live audience,” says Ookeditse.
Performing artistic works in a theatre setting is often seen as an old-fashioned interaction in which the audience turn off their mobile phones and concentrate on what is happening on stage. The conclusion is often that performance in the theatre setting is non-technological or disinterested in technological tools.
But Ookeditse says: “On the contrary, the theatre has always embraced different technological solutions: electricity, light technology, video usage, digital stage machinery and sound technology. The centre understands that only by getting past the baffling newness of digital technology can we produce art with it.
“Our experiment with technology and art forms has produced 360 virtual reality films and augmented reality artworks created using google tilt brush in our seasons 2 and 5.”
The ultimate goal of the livestreams is to invent a suitable work methodology and a language for communicating utilising the internet.
“We believe that we must make art through technology and explore how technology tells the stories and how can technology itself become a theatre. We are convinced that the answer lies in how artists can breathe soul into machines and technology platforms and how artistic projects can develop their aura and character in the digital space.”
Curated by Ookeditse and Kentridge, the online premiere will present samples and not the whole repertoire of season seven works.
“The work is delivered over six nights, 1 to 6 April, with each night exhibiting between two and five works not exceeding 45 minutes.
“The works range from a performance poem, expressive movement as a vehicle for narrative, the trauma of the Marikana massacre on the wives of slain husbands to works that employ physicality, dance, music and cinematography in the Pepper’s Ghost illusion technique.”
The works will premiere on the centre’s Facebook and Instagram pages. They will be available on the website and Vimeo channel after the premiere.
The difficulties in exhibiting online for Ookeditse are two-fold. The first is that in the current economic climate it is important to understand that this becomes a mission-related activity more than a commercial one. It also means understanding that people have data issues and sometimes limited streaming capabilities.
The second is that during this time there is a large volume of competing digital content. For Ookeditse, committing resources to improved quality and strategically targeted marketing is a critical requirement.
He hopes that working with and through digital technologies and its challenges will bring new audiences to arts and cultural organisations, create new sources of cultural and economic value, and in some cases take the art form in new directions. Perhaps a new direction will emerge for curators and artists alike.
The broadcasts would not all be live because of the current national state of disaster.
“We, therefore, sought to film the works and share them as digital broadcasts. By producing the broadcasts in-house, the centre integrated the broadcast elements into the theatre production process, establishing close collaboration between the curators, stage directors and the cinematographer as well as the wider theatre creative team,” says Ookeditse.
“The production process was geared to making a high-quality screened product that gives a theatre experience.”