A space for conversations in a time of global disruption
At this year's Dark mountain festival on the Saturday night, in the woods, there will be a performance of 'Liminal': a mix of physical theatre, installation art, poetry and music. Without revealing too much at this stage, I have in mind a kind of modern day 'mummers play' which will be low-tech, uncivilised, and participative.
I'm in the process of assembling a group of volunteer 'players' who will contribute to the performance. This is an opportunity for anyone who is attending the festival and who would like to be part of a unique Dark Mountain event.
I'm keen to hear from those who already have an interest in the creative arts, but I would also like to encourage anyone who has never done anything like this before to be bold and get involved!
There is scope for participation at all levels, from a role as lantern bearer to playing a principal part or reciting a few lines of verse. Players of acoustic musical instruments would also be most welcome.
If you would like to take part, or are curious to learn more, please contact me via my page on the DM network, or e-mail me at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org
I look forward to hearing from you,
Perhaps you might care to expand a bit on your understanding of
what Liminal encompasses as this may be a new concept to many,
it certainly was to me initially.
That's a fair point Roger,
I realise I'm asking people to make a bit of a leap of faith. I am actually going down to the Sustainability Centre early next week, to check out the lie of the land and figure out a few possibilities. No time now to expand on 'Liminal' but will give a proper reply on my return from the south.
In response to Roger's prompting, the following is an attempt to explain some of the idea behind 'Liminal'. I don't want to reveal too much and spoil the surprise for those attending this year's festival, so consider this more the 'why' of it rather than the 'what'.
I'm particularly interested in a kind of art/theatre/performance that asks more of the audience than passive enjoyment. Performance that becomes 'almost-ritual' where the audience takes an active physical as well as imaginative role. This is nothing new of course, and in fact it's an explicit rejection of modernism's obsession with novelty.
Much modern art has been reduced to an empty formalism or else a tedious narcissism that places the artist/celebrity before his or her art. I'm interested in work that has purpose rather than style, that respects form - the craft - but aims higher than just art as ego-extension. Hence my reference on the blog to 'mummery' and the tradition of folk theatre, where the individual serves the whole and where every act has accumulated layers of meaning.
If the alienation inherent in our modern way of life is at the root of the peril we find ourselves in, then I'd like to help create art - whether it's poetry, music, theatre - that seeks to address and redress such a state. Again, there's nothing particularly new or insightful about this: art has always sought to 'connect'. But there, that's the aim.
I also think the 'how' of it is important. In an era of depletion, runaway climate change and extreme global poverty, it seems hard to justify art which requires vast resources, whether financial or material. I think of some of the over-blown productions and their million pound budgets, or the 'eco artists' of on their cruise to the Antarctic, and I wince. My interest is in making low-cost, low-tech, participative, performance. The kind of art and theatre that cultures have been making for tens of thousands of years. The kind of art we will turn to once more when the dazzling effects of CGI are a fading troubled memory.
So, folk theatre with a modern twist; ritualised performance - but not of the new-age waffly kind; procession and poetry and music; a mixed bag but hopefully combining to produce a visceral, meaningful experience for audience and player alike.
ps I've had a good response to my call for volunteers but there's still space for others. Contact me if you'd like to learn more: email@example.com
Thanks for setting your stall out so clearly. This all resonates strongly with my experiences.
There is an interesting, if somewhat long winded, entry on liminality on wikipedia which is at least
worth skimming through.
The following is bits I cut and pasted from it which may be of interest to followers
of this thread and hopefully may spark some further discussion.
Liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning "a threshold") is a psychological, neurological, or metaphysical subjective state, conscious or unconscious, of being on the "threshold" of or between two different existential planes ....... the term is used to “refer to in-between situations and conditions that are characterized by the dislocation of established structures, the reversal of hierarchies, and uncertainty regarding the continuity of tradition and future outcomes”.
it is “now considered by some to be a master concept in the social and political sciences writ large”. In this sense, it is very useful when studying “events or situations that involve the dissolution of order, but which are also formative of institutions and structures.”
This three-fold structure, as established by van Gennep, is made up of the following components:
Within the context of ritual passages, a key feature of liminality is the final stage of reintegration, in which the initiand is recognized as a part of the social order and is welcomed into that order with a new role, “stamped by the formative experience”. When this reintegration process does not take place, liminality becomes permanent, and can also become very dangerous.
Arpad Szakolczai argues that there are three types of permanent liminality, each closely related to one of the phases of the rites of passage. He acknowledges that “liminality becomes a permanent condition when any of the phases in this sequence becomes frozen, as if a film stopped at a particular frame”. Szakolczai provides three examples of each type of permanent liminality: “monasticism (with monks endlessly preparing the separation, [representing the first stage]), court society (with individuals continuously performing their roles in an endless ceremonial game, [representing the second stage]), and Bolshevism (as exemplifying a society stuck in the final stage of a ritual passage)”.
In the context of liminality, the trickster is a very dangerous figure: “in a liminal situation where certainties are lost, imitative behavior escalates, and tricksters can be mistaken for charismatic leaders”. This means that in their search for guidance, the individuals caught in the liminal situation might choose to follow a trickster, whom they confuse with a charismatic leader capable of “saving” them. Liminal periods that affect entire societies are characterized by the absence of a “master of ceremonies” (the leadership figures that are supposed to lead the initiands out of the liminal phase), which can in turn lead to the rise of tricksters into positions of power. When a trickster enters into a position of leadership, “liminality will not be restricted to a temporary crisis, followed by a return to normality, but can be perpetuated endlessly”.
Thanks Roger, for a good account of 'liminality', correcting an obvious omission on my part - it might have made sense to start with an explanation of what I've called the thing:)!
I hold the unashamedly Romantic view that art - whether it's performance, music, poetry - can still be about enchantment. That it can create a liminal space which is out of time and not 'in place', akin to that which is created through ritual; and that it can have a similarly transformative effect.
Our culture has mostly forgotten or degraded the rituals which once so enriched our lives, just as it has rejected the animism which underpinned those rituals and which formed the basis of our relationship to the natural world. I think art can play a vital role in redressing that loss and while I can't make the leap of faith required for a literal belief in animism, I'm all for a symbolic understanding and just occasionally I can manage a blurring of the two.
Dougie and Roger,I thought that you both might be interested in the writings of Freya Mathews , i had the pleasure to meet her a couple of years back and she recounted this story of time spent in Hamilton downs in Central Australia.http://www.australianhumanitiesreview.org/archive/Issue-December-20...
Sorry my 12 year old son is not here to help me link this properly , i am still a slow learner with computers.I suppose that what i find most exciting about a liminal theater is that the threshold talked about is simply the membrane that separates us from country itself. If there are enough gaps left in both the plays script and our own scripts, then within these gaps, is space indeed for the speaking world to fill.Do we have space for this ?cheers Simeon
And the link worked....And I have been able to download it, thanks for that Simeon I will print it off tomorrow and read it at my leisure.Funnily enough I am also working my way through the fascinating "Songlines" by BruceChatwin at the moment.I will get back to you after I have read the article.Best regardsRoger