Thursday, June 23, 2011

Why Bringing the Arts Back Home Is So Important

"Theatre, like all other forms of cultural expression, used to be ordinary people singing, dancing, telling stories. This is the way a living community recorded and celebrated its victories, defeats, joys, fears. As the Cartesian or mechanistic model took root, and later as colonialism spread across the planet,. coinciding with the mechanization of capitalism, this primal activity of storytelling also evolved in a mechanistic way. Like many other  things we can think of, cultural activity became commodified. It transformed from something people did naturally, "in community", into a manufactured consumer product. Today a vast majority of people buy theatre, buy dance, buy paintings, buy books, buy movies; the list goes on and on. We now pay strangers to tell us stories about strangers. But when do we use the symbolic language of theatre, dance, etc., to tell our own stories about our collective selves?

What is the result of a living community's inability to use primal language to tell its own stories? Alienation, violence, self-destructive behaviour on a global level. Living communities have fallen into a stupor, hypnotized by a steady diet of manufactured culture."

David Diamond, Theatre for Living: The Art and Science of Community-Based Dialogue

5 comments:

Rob Storrs said...

I'm sure the oracle at Delphi didn't give it away, any more than the rude mechanicals in "Midsummer" or "Hamlet". I think story-telling has always evolved toward specialty performers. Not everybody can do it well. That's why eye-witness testimony is so unreliable in the courts. But the shaman secures his livelihood and societal status by spinning a good one that might interpret white buffaloes broadly enough to bind everyone in the cave or teepee together on common hope and awe.
-Rob Storrs

Scott Walters said...

I don't know -- my grandfather could tell a story that would keep you on the edge of your seat for hours. And they were stories about things that happened to him, or people he knew, or the places he lived. When people rely on strangers to tell them stories about strangers, they lose a sense of who they are and their connection to where they live. Our society's lack of roots is reflected in this dis-placement of story, I think.

Neela said...

I think the stories are still being told, but through modern technology and transportation, our gatherings and our interactions have changed. Families have spread out losing that rooted feeling, to the point where one of the strangest but truest forms of theatre can be a funeral where people share their memories of the person that binds them together. Also, with television, and computers, some people have become less patient for human interaction, and maybe even less empathetic. There are some new studies out about the human brain, indicating that an over abundance of electronic stimulants leaves the user with a "popcorn brain", an addiction to multitasking in electronics where results "pop" quicker than real life. Even strangers telling stories about strangers may fall to the wayside if we lose the patience for listening.

Yella said...

And when attending future funerals will we have spent enough time with anyone to have any stories to tell! But there will certainly be a backlash, don't you think? At some point human beings will get really really lonely and want to actually be in the same room with someone.

Scott Walters said...

I must confess to being in full-out revolt against the rootlessness that typifies our contemporary society. I think it mainly serves to make is anxious, and anxiety reinforces spending. I don't believe that electronics and transportation can subsitute for day-to-day casual interaction.