Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Happy New Year, Class


Today's topic is: 
What constitutes an audience? 
Has the audience changed as I've moved from dance making to filmmaking?  
How has it changed from 1978 to 2018, over the 40 years since I first began presenting work?

[Wait! What? 40 Years?? ok, let's proceed.]

When I was in the business of presenting live work, typically the audience was the folks who bought their tickets, sat together in a darkened room and applauded at the end.  
(I'll never forget dancing right in front of one man who was fast asleep ... did he applaud at the end? ... never mind.) This audience probably actually knew something about me and my work or they wouldn't have bought a ticket in the first place.

Of course, when Arthur Avilés & I compiled the NEWSLETTERS recently, I was reminded of just how often Marta Renzi & The Project Co. performed outdoors for audiences who didn't necessarily buy a ticket, or choose the experience, or know anything about me - or contemporary dance for that matter. Often they wandered by; they stayed for as long as they felt like it; they voted with their feet.

Now that my work screens in festivals, the relationship to an audience can be similar in some ways: if it's at a festival there's usually a ticket, there's a group sitting in theater seats in the dark and there's applause at the end. They may not know my work; they're interested in the form, tend to trust the programming, and are up for a Q&A after.  

For this kind of audience, I'm flying all the way to California twice in early 2018 - to Borrego Springs Film Festival in January, and to SF Indie Fest in February - just for the experience of witnessing-the-witnesses to Her Magnum Opus. If a tree falls in the forest, I want to be there, goddammit. Since September this particular tree has fallen about monthly, but that won't last forever...

Of course my work can also be seen by a solitary viewer in online "festivals" - which I've discovered are completely unrewarding for me. My 2013 short Her Children Mourn was in one sponsored by New York Women in Film & Television, and included a pre-scheduled "chat" - which no one attended. Both Children and Honeymoon are currently in one called Cinemaniacs, which creates venue through Vimeo-On-Demand. Only $5, which is less than the price of a theater ticket in 1978 ...

And then there's the audience who stumbles on my dance films for free on Vimeo or YouTube. Brother's Keeper below is an example of lovely work which had some festival success, and lately has been "followed" or "liked" by men who like men. A self-selected audience who enjoys private screenings for free and has absolutely no interest in me or for that matter contemporary dance. 
Ok by me; I think these men are beautiful too.


Thanks to Vimeo/Youtube, I can even measure my audience by number of views and viewing time: Plays vs. Finishes. (True, I could've done the same with that sleeping viewer years ago, if only I'd remembered to clock him at show's end.) It's no news that nowadays we all vote with our fingers, easily clicking away when we're bored. Why not? In fact, even for you, Dear Public, what's posted above is only an excerpt, because I presume that you don't have the patience for the full 6:45-minute original.

So, class, to summarize: nothing much has really changed. 
I'm still making what I want to make, having some success at it and making it free and accessible whenever possible. 

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