"We are perhaps where painting was in 1499." [Walter Murch, A Digital Cinema of the Mind? 1999]
Last year I saw some fascinating video work at the INFINITE MIX exhibition in London. Many of the pieces used multiple screens and loudspeakers, allowing the audience to construct their own viewing-listening experience. Will the fixed, single screen experience of traditional cinema one day be a thing of the past? Possible futures: (1.) Virtual Reality - long-form, 'embodied' user-defined experience (2.) Installation, video performance spaces - short-form, immersive, multiple audiovisual projection. Crucial to the success of the exhibition was how each work occupied its own specific space. Entering into each room I could fully immerse myself in the work, much like in a cinema. And yet the relatively short length of each piece created a kind of festive, social atmosphere with people coming and going in a relaxed and enjoyable manner. It reminded me those wonderful all-night Wayang Kulit (shadow puppetry) performances that I used to enjoy in Java. Like the INFINITE MIX exhibition the occasion allows more social intermingling, more ambient aswell as focused modes of engagement with the work. These communal experiences to me feel far removed from the European classical conventions of a stage and an obedient, motionless audience.
Throughout the night the audience comes and goes, engaging with the performance in different ways from different perspectives. Food stalls are often setup nearby, and the general ebb and flow of human activity mingles with the sounds of the gamelan and the flickering display of shadows. Performances of all kinds in Java and Bali always felt first and foremost like an occasion to celebrate community. Musicologist Christopher Small expressed these ideas through his concept of Musicking.
"The act of musicking establishes in the place where it is happening a set of relationships, and it is in those relationships that the meaning of the act lies. They are to be found not only between those organized sounds which are conventionally thought of as being the stuff of musical meaning but also between the people who are taking part, in whatever capacity, in the performance; and they model, or stand as metaphor for, ideal relationships as the participants in the performance imagine them to be: relationships between person and person, between individual and society, between humanity and the natural world and even perhaps the supernatural world." [Musicking: The Meanings of Performing and Listening, 1998]