ArtsLab Shopfront's artists in residence

The Showing and Beyond

The Showing

Last week was the start of the mid-point showings for ArtsLab. Hannah and Pippa’s work and my own were the first ones to be presented. Initially the showing felt like an annoying formality and I didn’t know exactly what I would present. I decided that since I have a Mentor and a Dramaturge would be coming on board soon that I’d rather work on the writing side of things with them. That left a very important part to explore, the audiences experience. This was something I hadn’t had a chance to put in to practise other than reading some things I’d written out loud to people. I decided I wanted to get audience feedback on a few things that would be important in making a comfortable and engaging environment for them. One thing was the general seating arrangement, including the style of seating. I find that seating can make a big difference to my enjoyment of anything really so I wanted to try and understand what might work best for a situation where people are being asked to listen for long periods of time. I also wanted to test the seating formation since there’s no physical action (except sound coming from the speakers which is probably worth counting as physical action) to align people towards. Another important thing I wanted feedback on was how many performers were necessary and whether or not they had to be live. This is because simplicity was something I was really interested in when first approaching this form so if it turned out I could get by with one performer instead of a full cast then I would do it. Likewise, if it turned out that pre-recording worked just as well as live audio then I would definitely try and incorporate it as much as possible.

I know this seems to work for some people but vague showings are something I find really annoying. To avoid being in this situation I decided to go to the other extreme, lots and lots of structure. I decided that people tend to think more about what they’re communicating when they are writing it down so I wanted the feedback to be mostly written and I knew that there were specific areas I wanted feedback on. So, I decided to make the feedback in the form of a questionnaire that corresponded to specific things I was presenting in the showing.

To keep things focused I decided to only show two different pieces of text as I thought they would give the clearest idea of what the work was so far and make it easier to demonstrate the technical aspects I wanted feedback on without getting too caught up in what the text was actually about.

Post Showing

There were definitely one or two questions I realised might have been useful to ask but other than that I found the showing really useful. It was a really nice reminder that this will be performed for a live audience and that I need to keep that in mind while writing. It also gave me a number of ideas for how to keep adding to the performance.

A particular idea that was brought up by someone at the showing was the possibility of using binaural sound. I hadn’t heard the term before but after a bit of research the idea of trying to experiment with it really excited me. I’ve actually spent that last few days building my own DIY binaural microphone since the professional ones are so expensive and it would be a shame to drop a bunch of money on something and realise I don’t want to use it. Luckily enough it’s quite a simple circuit to make and plenty of people on the internet have made their own and shared the details. It was also a nice excuse to do a cool little electronics project. Here are some photos of me making it:

Some parts

Some parts

Messy soldering

Messy soldering

Housing everything in an old geometry set tin

Housing everything in an old geometry set tin

Mostly finished

Mostly finished

It was really cool to mostly finish it off today. The only thing I’m waiting on is a wig display head I ordered to mount the microphone capsules in. Hopefully it will be 100% done by the end of this week. I did some test recording around shopfront today and it was really cool.

So, to wrap this up, showing was good. Lots of ideas now but maybe not enough time to put them into practise. Need to make some more decisions soon. Lots of work to be done. Binaural sound is cool and maybe only a semi-productive procrastination.

Here is the first test audio I did today. It was just me walking around Shopfront and at one point you’ll hear me say “I’ll explain” because Chris Dunstan gave me a confused look when he saw me walking around with audio gear and a chunk of foam. Make sure you wear headphones to get the full effect.

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