Features Published 3 May 2015

Transform: Come and See

James Varney on the first day of Transform at West Yorkshire Playhouse.
James Varney

Transform this year is not a festival,

Transform is an exposed skeleton, still under construction

Transform is the pre-festival, where on display are pre-pieces

where we see works in progress

where we see makers as makers

where the supremacy of The Finished Piece is gone

the supremacy of The End Of The Timeline is abandoned

the timeline is not The Work but the timeline is what we see here

we see the journey here

here we see the process

not so much On A Platform but through a window

not so much On Display but in view

like an extended, open rehearsal

this is not a festival,

this is a conversation –

Come and see the results of four days of cross-cultural exchange in this rough and ready sharing by the group.

we are invited

how do you show the result of four days | spent together | spent sharing | spent not creating work?

The INTERNATIONAL RESIDENCY SHARING was revelatory. Which is a character of creating work, isn’t it? And a character of building relationships, or anything. I don’t mean it was life-changing, but in a very literal sense it demonstrated to us how the nine artists present had inhabited the space.

We played a game:

as each member of the audience entered, we were handed a piece of paper and asked to write down something which we believe in;

I Believe The Death Penalty Should Be Reinstated

I Believe In Aliens

Women Should Be Equal To Men

Education Should Not Be Privatised

The Wrong Generation Is In Charge Of The Country

we were asked to join the artists in the space, when the collected statements were each read out, we stood on one side of the room if we agreed, the other side if we disagreed.

I’ve had a few conversations recently regarding audience participation and the need for audiences to feel safe. Immediately we left our seats and entered the space together, we became united, no longer an audience, but a community. Connected by a shared amount of bewilderment, yes, but connected. And totally safe within that. And as we moved back and forth, we wrote our own group autobiography, inhabited a sort of story together, constructed of binary yeses and nos. Shared things with people who, on other terms, we were diametrically opposed to.

And, after, we questioned and were answered about the process, the experience of inhabiting a space with no end goal other than the journey of conversation. We had our conversation about their conversation. There was something incredibly liberating in the absence of a Piece To Be Watching, the absence of a Goal, the lack of a Point To All This. Just conversation, just engagement, meetings, learning and exploration.

The artists involved in the residency, Oliver Bray, Lucien Bourjeily, Sachli Gholamalizad, Hannah Buckley, Barbara Berti, Evie Manning, Javaad Alipoor, Grace Surman, Cornelius Puschke, variously choreographers, theatre makers, directors, writers, dramaturgs, academics, performers, storytellers, actors, have been thrown together in an extreme diversity of practice which seems only to have strengthened the conversation. It’s been difficult at times, we hear, big, challenging, with that sudden shock of being thrown into a different frame and having to justify a practice with which you are used to being so comfortable.

In the bar, I speak to as many of the artists involved as I can. Try to make connections, because that’s what this is all about. There’s an emphasis on growth in the air, in the way in which the work we see is still growing, in the newness of the connections made as a result of this residency and the emerging communal self-knowledge in the game we played. We talk about practice, self-knowledge, translation, TTIP, Question Time, veganism, twitter, wine. Just have a bit of a chat, really.

The conversations that have been shared as a result of the residency feel like a microcosm of the ongoing conversation of the arts as a whole. There is no endpoint to the arts. There is no ultimate goal. Creating work, engaging in work, is to become part of the conversation. And the most challenging conversations are often the most important to be having.




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