I’ve been in two minds about whether or not to blog about this today, because I want to be supportive to artists making interesting projects, but also I don’t think I expressed myself very well on twitter this afternoon and am in danger of coming across as a proper ignorant twat if I don’t attempt to do a better job of stringing my sentences together.
To fill you in, Helen Cole from In Between Time is creating We See Fireworks, a sound installation at The Barbican later this month, collecting memories of performance moments which, I gather, will then be recorded and presented as part of the installation. I think this idea (and I want to be really clear on this) is BRILLIANT, and I’m certain that hearing those voices come together will be really special. I really hope the project is a success.
What I tried to articulate this afternoon though, is that the accompanying #wsf hashtag is a bit of a closed shop on a supposedly free and open forum. Cole is collecting ‘memories’ for her work from audiences via twitter, encouraging people to add quick snapshots of performances that have been particularly special or memorable for them. So far, so good. But in reality, what we have is a series of obtuse poetic interpretations almost solely contributed by live art and theatre practitioners and advocates. When I first saw the hashtag appear in my feed, my gut reaction (perhaps unfairly) was to cringe. I had yet to follow the links to learn about the installation, and simply wondered why twitter had suddenly been overtaken by weak GCSE haikus. Dan Rebellato’s recent article came to mind immediately, in which he critcises Quentin Letts for labelling artists “corduroyed luvvies” and bemoans the commenter who, apparently “literally doesn’t know anyone who’s interested in the arts”. When I looked at the #wsf feed this afternoon, I thought to myself with a sigh… THIS. This is what people think of when they think of ‘the arts’. A bunch of know-it-all middle class ponces waxing on about all their INTENSE EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCES while the NHS is falling apart and teenagers are shooting each other.
I’m playing devil’s advocate of course. Partly. Putting my Arts Management student head on for a moment, I think that there is a cliquey-ness to the #wsf tag that is hugely off-putting to arts ‘outsiders’, even those genuinely interested in finding out more. @IBTProductions regularly links to more information about the project, but there remains a lot of oh-so-worthy reminiscing to trawl through and, as a community, (especially one operating within the (serious voice) democracy of the web 2.0 level playing-field), those intitiated into this artsy culture are doing a very good job of building walls between those who ‘get it’ and those who don’t.
Of course, I understand that it is not Helen Cole’s primary objective to bring a new generation of heathens in from the cold (yes I am being ironic - you can’t be too careful), and twitter is a fantastic device for allowing collaboration on projects such as this but, call me a cynic, I suspect a significant proportion of the hashtag contributors are already in her email contact list… If the poetic interpretations are what’s required here, why not target artists directly, and leave the twitter tag free from affectations? Let’s level the playing field again, so that we can share our passions with those on the outside looking in… Let’s tell the world why we love what we love in PLAIN ENGLISH.
(It’s times like this I feel like I should add a comment function to the blog, but I’m on twitter every spare moment of every day, and only here when I have something to spout about. Find me at @meganfvaughan if there’s something you’d like to pull me up on. I have a pretty thick skin.)