‘Theatre Within a Theatre’ is the multisensory artwork which I created for the Bristol Old Vic’s 250th anniversary year.
It was displayed at the RWA, Bristol as part of their Centre Stage exhibition. The artwork consisted of a to-scale model of the theatre, complete with stage, proscenium arch and seating. The picture here shows one of nine peepholes, designed to give glimpses of the stage and auditorium from various vantage points. On looking through them, viewers were rewarded with projections of recent shows, along with footage of actors warming up and of stage hands taking sets down at the end of a show’s run. On the outer walls of the gallery were archival projections of the theatre, footage of life backstage and recordings of shows as seen from different sightlines within the theatre.
The piece played on a fifteen minute audio loop, to reveal more about the history of the theatre and what makes it such a special place to play in. This was top and tailed by quotes from Peter O’Toole in which he says that ‘this is loveliest theatre in the world’ and ‘if you can’t do it here, then you can’t do it’. I worked with a model maker and a filmmaker to create this piece. To add to the mood, we used theatre lights, which came up during backstage mode and went down during show state. I also used the aroma of greasepaint to evoke the atmosphere of life backstage. The artwork was on show for six weeks, with visitors responding well to the sense of magic that I had been aiming to create.
Here’s the link to the interview I gave about the project and the collaborative processes behind it’s creation: https://rwabristol.wordpress.com/2015/12/18/interview-judith-aston/
i-Docs 2016 is taking place from 2-4th March at the Watershed Media Centre here in Bristol. This is our fourth symposium and is bigger than ever! Not only that but it has sold out two weeks ahead of time.
It’s been really great that, as Co-Director, I haven’t had to do so much of the day to day organising this time round. We now have Mandy Rose fully on board, more support staff, a post-doc researcher and visiting PhD scholars, plus an ever-growing international network. Casting my mind back to the Documentary Now! symposium in January 2010, where Sandra Gaudenzi and myself first muted the possibility of convening an event around interactive documentary, it is incredible to think how far things have come.
For me, the term interactive documentary or ‘i-Docs’ always was a means through which to establish a community of interest around which a conversation could take place. As more and more people start using it, my hope is that it won’t make things become too fixed. It is the fluidity of evolving practices and the blurring of boundaries across genres that keeps things fresh and keeps documentary-making relevant, as a means through which to comment and reflect upon our times.
I will write more about my thoughts on the relationship between ‘interactivity’ and ‘immersion’ in a subsequent post – as this keeps coming up, both in my curatorial work and in my own practice.
I was recently asked to give my take on interactive documentary for the forthcoming SAGE Media & Communication Video Collection, due to be published in March 2015. This request follows on from my having been lead contributor on interactive documentary for the SAGE Encyclopedia of Social Media & Politics, published in 2014 and edited by Kerric Harvey. The video was filmed and edited by one of my ex-students Robert Jewitt, and in the spirit of knowledge sharing and exchange SAGE have kindly agree to me providing a link to the full ten minute version of this video prior to it’s formal publication:
The SAGE video collections are a new venture in which video is being used to summarise key or major concepts in particular disciplines, much like in an encyclopedia but with more detail/context. Available alongside the book and reference collections on SAGE Knowledge, the video content will support a range of levels from reference content for research, to pedagogical content for undergraduate teaching, to higher level academic interest material. I was asked to comment on the definition, history and research context of interactive documentary for this collection.