Saturday, March 08, 2008

Culture Jamming Compared to Invisible Theatre

i just learned about this "frozen crowd" event that took place in February at Grand Central Station in New York City. Pretty impressive. Here's the backstory. It's a pretty compelling performance art piece. Makes me think about Invisible Theatre invented and developed by Augusto Boal. The difference is that Invisible Theatre is aimed at provoking dialogue on issues of power, oppression and social change while the types of public performance art like the one above (and also culture jamming events like flash mobs and public pillow fights) aim to be politically "neutral". And, of course, nothing is politically neutral. My concern with these public performance art things is how vulnerable they are to commercial (i.e. advertising industry) co-optation.


brendan said...

Interesting comment on possible co-optation. I'm really surprised that Boal's invisible theater methods haven't been used by the ad corps yet. Or maybe they have?

chris said...

Indeed, how would we know if invisible theatre was going on or not? What are whisper campaigns if not a form of invisible theatre. And with "cool consultants" on the loose, surreptitiously researching new trends, and with our increasingly ubiquitous surveillance culture, how can we ever be certain we aren't part of someone else's schemes? (Is The Matrix science fiction or prophecy?) Part of Boal's point with invisble theatre is that there is a perpetual "performance" of dominant power relationships. If it's not self-conscious performance (as with theatre) it's precisely because it is dominant. It need not be self-conscious. Which is also what makes dominant power relationships vulnerable to critiques such as invisible theatre.

Here's a prescient piece by Neal Stephenson about a new level of surveillance and "coo" research.