Artistry as Capital

How do we begin to see our Artistry as Capital? How do we locate ourselves as artists in a global economy? What are some considerations for reframing or re-purposing our skill sets in order to survive the changing nature of the world market?

Firstly, we need to set aside traditional structures where art making has existing commercial value such as the film and television industry. We also need to fully consider the growing importance and valuing of artistic practice and artistic thinking as we leave the Information Age and enter the Conceptual Age where creators, innovators and empathisers are pre-eminent.

Acknowledging the shift occurring in business practice across the globe over the last ten to fifteen years, we see the advancing trend of many companies outsourcing and relocating production to countries such as India, China and Russia. In nearly all cases the motivating reason is to cut costs through significant reductions in labour and infrastructure. Any high volume and high demand product or service that can be automated is a potential candidate.

With continuing advances in information technology and more and more large corporations moving sites of production off-shore, the global market in a sense is both expanding and contracting. It is now possible to operate an enterprise at a local level and reach customers and clients world wide. Now more than ever before in history is it possible to live locally and act globally.

Automation of products and services continues to expand into countries around the globe. In order to secure their future, local entrepreneurs must look to products and services that are not so easily automated. While it is possible to print and publish a book in China for example, it is not yet possible to automate the content creation of that book. Creative knowledge is creative capital.

How much as artists do we value and appreciate our role in the global economy? How much are we prepared to think outside the square when it comes to developing and re-purposing our artistic and creative talents? How narrow or broad are our assumptions about our practice and sites of practice?

As an emerging artist in the 1980’s I saw my role clearly defined. I knew that my sites of practice were film, television and theatre. I knew I needed to get an agent and manager to represent me and I knew I needed to attend every possible audition that came my way in the hope of landing a role. I worked casual jobs to pay the rent, I waited for the phone to ring, I attended auditions and now and again I got a job.

Twenty five years later most of the emerging artists and practicing artists I know are still doing the same thing. A handful have been successful enough not to have to wait tables but essentially it is the same. Of course there are one or two exceptions. There are those that have formed their own film or theatre companies, created their own products, taken self written and self funded projects to festivals around the world. Essentially they have managed to create locally and act globally. Emerging artists Matt Zeremes and Oliver Torr’s work on their film Burke and Wills taken to Tribeca Film Festival in New York (q.v.) provides a clear example of an artist’s ability to think outside the square (in terms of standard forms of production and funding), create locally and enter a global context. These artists (actors) represent the exception and not the norm and this is one small example inside one field of artistic practice (acting).

Thinking globally is one of the elements supporting the development of Artistry as Capital. In addition to the vagaries and impacts of an expanding global economy are the increasing pressures on business remaining competitive and viable through innovation and creativity. There is also an increasing demand to create workplaces of flow and synergy where employees are respected, valued and encouraged to contribute. Creating a sense of well-being and building strong work-life balance is now seen as sound investment. It is no longer about getting the most from the least. Best business practice is centred around the creation of sustainable ‘family values’ in the workplace as opposed to more reductive work-ethic based practises of the past.

The need for creative thinking coupled with a growing recognition of the need for increasing abilities of emotional and social intelligence in communication and business practices is evidenced at all corporate levels. As leaders and managers develop and keep up to date with the technical and managerial idiosyncrasies of running a business they must also stay abreast of the growing demands of employees to secure work environments that support their health and well-being, creativity and their sense of belonging. To be creative, business must foster creativity. To excel at client and customer communication, business must foster and enhance creative communication practices. To create, maintain and sustain creative thinking and harness collective wisdom, business must develop and embed skills such as empathy, reciprocity, encouragement and thereby create a sense of belonging.

In short, the business world (it may not be fully conscious of this yet) is calling out to the world of the arts for inspiration and involvement. And in this sense our Artistry is Capital. Directly applied we can see many of these creative industries existing now: journalism, fashion, theatre, communication design, creative writing, visual arts, to name a few. Indirectly, many more creative opportunities exist for artists who are prepared to offer their artistic talents and/or re-purpose them for business. The way the world of psychology entered the sporting world is one representation of this, no sports team in the world worth their salt would consider not having a team psychologist. Whereas 10 or 15 years ago that would not have been the case.

The question arises: how many of us as artists have looked at the business world and simply not understood it or wanted to understand it? Have we played our part in maintaining a gap between the arts and what we consider to be the dry world of pragmatism, balance sheets and the bottom line? What would it take to build a bridge between the two? Of course we are talking about much more than arts companies seeking subsidies from established law and architectural firms.

As our societies move out of the Information Age, artists who are ready to move into the Conceptual Age will see expanding opportunities to apply their artistry to enhance and support innovation, creativity, communication and social networks. The arts will no doubt always have their traditional sites of practice. However as artists continue to evolve their various forms of practice they will increasingly enter the global economy building bridges between the arts and business communities where deep and fulfilling symbiosis will nourish and sustain both artistic and business practice.

Praxis and Principles:

Phillip Taylor (Taylor, 2003) writes that Applied Theatre achieves a praxis of practice and theory set in connection to the people, passion and platform involved in the drama making. Praxis is a word develeoped by Brazilian educator Paulo Friere (Freire and Freire, 1973) “an ability to help one another reflect and act on their world is at the heart of sound education, and through that process transforms it into something worthwhile” (Taylor). Taylor states that put simply, “Praxis is the action, reflection and transformation of people as they engage with one another”.

Inherent in Applied Theatre drama making is the desire for an audience to generate meaning via aesthetic understanding or aesthetic learning (Abbs, 1989). The image of reality and the reality of the image (metaxis) (Boal, 1995) may be manipulated by and with the audience, the underlying contract with the audience is that this is done with the aim of achieving authenticity and recognition. Transformation, insight and deepening understanding of social and political situations, relationships and contexts occurs when the audience is engaged emotionally, psychologically and intellectually. This level of engagment engages the limbic brain (Lewis et al.) where deep learning is experienced and assimilated.

Using Taylor’s eight principles of Applied Theatre as a checklist for Three Chairs we see that:
1. Applied Theatre is thoroughly researched: we have ensured our understanding of the intended market in the planning and testing phases and have enlisted the advice of mentors with direct experience in corporate training. We are also taking steps to adjust the product through focus group feedback and reporting. We understand that as Three Chairs Develops we will see the process aligning with current trends of corporate training: for example, leadership, networking, conflict management to name a few.

2. Applied Theatre seeks incompleteness: we understand that for transformation and deep learning to occur there must be room for exploration and discovery. If we lead a session with didactic intent heading to a know destination and outcome we have introduced a short circuit into the possibility of creating new knowledge both for ourselves and for the audience. In other words we agree on the game we’re playing without having to know what the score will be at full time.

3. Applied Theatre demonstrates possible narratives: Options for which direction the story takes must exist in such a way that participants have influence on the events and possible outcomes

4. Applied Theatre is task-oriented: our audience are able to participate and intervene at various times and at varying levels – we understand that learning is doing.

5. Applied Theatre poseses dilemas: our narratives need to provoke debate and dialogue where the audience may use its collective wisdom to observe and comment on choices that are made within the context of the narrative. Influencing and witnessing various outcomes in the character’s enactment of different choices facilitates an open dialogic space. For each person this dialogue exists internally as much as it exists with others.

6. Applied Theatre interrogates futures: in Three Chairs we are seeking to ask good questions and trust that the collective wisdom of the audience will provide itself with deeper answers. More than that: we understand that by delivering the praxis of the underpinning theory’s (dramatic, learning and psychological: see notes) and the practice of Applied Theatre we act as guides. That is; we work to lead the audience to the water that might quench the desire for deeper understanding.

7. Applied Theatre is an aesthetic medium: it is important to recognise and remember that our process affords each collective a means of communication that does not exist in other mediums. Our theatre focuses a torchlight on possible problems and invites the audience to embark on a collective journey to seek answers and possible solutions.

8. Applied Theatre gives voice to communities: our intention is to create dialogue not monologue: to provide a forum for the voice of each individual and each collective that it might share its knowledge and inherent wisdoms, that it might explore and discover alternatives and possibilities through an experiential and fictional medium, and that it might turn to the forming of its own solutions and resolutions.

ABBS, P. (1989) A is for aesthetic : essays on creative and aesthetic education, New York, Falmer Press.
BOAL, A. (1995) The rainbow of desire : the Boal method of theatre and therapy, London New York, Routledge.
FREIRE, P. & FREIRE, P. (1973) Education for critical consciousness, New York,, Seabury Press.
LEWIS, T., AMINI, F. & LANNON, R. (2000) A general theory of love, New York, Vintage Books A Division of Random House.
TAYLOR, P. (2003) Applied theatre : creating transformative encounters in the community, Portsmouth, NH, Heinemann.

Three Chairs Draft Statement

Three Chairs provides a suite of learning tools for workplace training and professional development. Three Chairs processes can be delivered through an interactive performance or a performed workshop. Each mode is designed to cater for specific audience needs.

Three Chairs draws from and interweaves Applied Theatre processes with Authentic and Experiential Learning models and the Transformational Psychological paradigm of ‘Voice Dialogue in Relationship with the Aware Ego Process’.

The suite of learning tools enables participants learning through processes of:

  1. Dialogue and reflection
  2. Perspective building
  3. Scenario testing.

Conventions of drama are utilised to facilitate examinations of workplace contexts, situations and relationships.

A small team of actor/facilitators present a prepared fictional scenario that acts as an initial site of enquiry stimulating discussion and reflection. From this scenario and with participant’s involvement other scenarios can be presented and unpacked as they serve the needs of the audience.

A performance-based presentation of Three Chairs is placed in a fictional yet recognisable setting. Characters in the fiction engage in various struggles and activities. The characters are assisted to grow and learn with audience assistance, who are involved in a low level of interaction. Participant’s in the workshop version are more hands on and may work with settings designed specifically, depending on the groups particular interests and the commissioning brief.

The goal in either mode is for participants to enhance interpersonal skills, grow self awareness and confidence in professional and personal communications, solve problems of communication, build and practise communication skills and test change processes in a fictive yet active space. Change processes can be tested and prototyped in ‘low risk’ high gain settings. Three Chairs establishes the fictional space to facilitate and provide a site for deep learning.

Deep learning occurs when Metaxis is created and interrogated. Metaxis can be explained as ‘fictional reality’ – when we experience “the reality of the image and the image of reality” (Boal), we are able to both engage emotionally and evaluate scientifically. We are engaging the limbic brain and the neo-cortical brain (Lewis, Amini, Lannon) in the learning cycle (Zull).

Three Chairs is a powerful learning tool allowing participants to:

• Extract the value of past experience through reflection, observation and discussion

• Enhance present relationships by building perspective, empathy and communication skill sets

• Enable future possibilities to be prototyped ad tested in ‘low risk’ high gain fictive settings

Three Chairs learning is authentic and experiential: thoughts and ideas develop hypotheses, hypotheses are applied and tested, applications are observed and reflected upon as new thoughts and ideas emerge; and so continues the cycle in the spirit of collaboration and open minded enquiry based on the lived experience. As a form of Applied Theatre, Three Chairs is an application for ‘Doing Learning’.

Plato and Applied Theatre

Reading Plato’s dialogues I came across this in the forward by W.H.D Rouse:

“Socrates himself described his object as that of a midwife, to bring other men’s thoughts to birth, to stimulate them to think and to criticise themselves, not to instruct them.”

More and more I see the power of non didactic learning through forms of applied theatre – how through dialogue, metaphor and the creation of a recognisable fictional world we facilitate the transposition of an actual world and interweave it with the consideration of new perspectives, alternate possibilities and trialled scenarios.

she hides

she hides in the edges of shade
she smiles
at the umber moon

I never see her

she lives near the well
at the bottom of my garden

in the evenings I leave flowers for her
some mornings
I see where she has kissed them

MChallis c.1984