The Really Alive Theatre Symposium (R.A.T.S.) is an initiative centred on the notion of looking at the ARTS from different perspectives.
R.A.T.S. believes that the ART of Theatre-Making has long been submerged under a veritable tsunami of academic jargon, catch-phrases, pretentious verbiage, and just plain and simple bullshit.
R.A.T.S. believes that now is the time of re-grouping, for people to figure out what side they are on, for argument and debate, for principals and passion, to confront the forces of anti-enlightenment and pro-endarkenment.
R.A.T.S. exists as a milieu within a Metaphysical Space where those that inhabit the disregarded and forgotten byways and bilges of the performing arts, and who cogitate and practice away from the established and the institutional, may meet, generate, and create, artistic works of mind, body and soul, on matters, issues, and any and all things pertaining to and stimulated by their creative inclinations.
RATS are those Artists who subscribe to the philosophies and objectives of the R.A.T.S.; being defined as those who have a specific, though not necessarily static, theory for understanding the world and, more importantly, use this understanding to push for change or rectify shortcomings in society, and in doing so cannot help but generate significant changes in the Language of Art.
RATS have determined to abandon that existing ship which is fast sinking beneath us under the ever increasing burden of preconceptions and deceptions forced upon it to satisfy the dictates and quantifications of bureaucrats, accountants, and academics, amongst others, in favour of designing and creating a new and better ship according to the stimulus of our own creative inclinations, and sailing off to a new and better place… with we RATS at the helm.
To borrow the words of Angela Davis… “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change: I am changing the things I cannot accept.”
And those of Michele Longo-O’Donnell… “Everything you need is deep within you. Upon your request, upon your insistence, upon your need and stating that need, stating your intention, it will arise.”
Of Truths and Conundrums
The Truth: The world appears chaotic and nonsensical because the modern world is one of contradictions and constant change. We are more and more living in a world where globalisation is becoming centralised under corporate control backed by nation-states which are simultaneously reinforcing borders and restricting immigration; this phenomenon applies to the mind and ideas as much as it does to geopolitical conditions.
The Conundrum: Instead of striving for a way to combat and defeat such mounting oppression, the Arts are increasingly taking the defeatist stance that such oppression is inevitable and unavoidable.
It is as much a self-imposed oppression of identity politics as it is of corporate and institutional subjugation, where anything that offends any and all interest-groups must be censored from public discourse and expression of any sort. Under conditions of such oppression, whether self-inflicted or imposed, Art becomes meaningless.
The Truth: Art without meaning or the desire to communicate to a large audience is overly susceptible to having its value determined solely by commercial-markets and collectors. This skepticism, of Art towards dialogue with large audiences through meaningful Art, strips Art of any determination of worth other than that defined by the marketplace and established guardians of taste… academia.
The Conundrum: If it’s not up to the audience to decide whether a piece of Art successfully achieves whatever its objectives are, then it is often left to curators and collectors to decide what Art is and is not, with the inevitable result that ‘cutting-edge’ theatre will more and more be defined by style and ‘fad’ rather than meaning or substance.
The Truth: Art alone cannot change the world but the world can never change without Art.
Art is never separate from the world since the techniques and styles, and the subjects and concerns, of Art at any given time come out of the world. Art influences the way the world and ideas about the world develop.
Historically, dynamic and meaningful Art has always come out of dynamic social conditions and upheavals yet the way social conditions develop are influenced by ideas, dialogue, and debate, of which Art is a major part.
The Conundrum: The modern technological world has created the means and conditions where Art can be reproduced and made available easily and inexpensively; yet this same modern world has also led to the privatisation of Art which inevitably makes Art more exclusive and thereby more and more not of the world.
The Truth: In order for Art to be meaningful it must take up the concerns and debates of society and have something to say, and in order for Art to be dynamic it must be free of control by commerce, dogma, or political doctrine.
The Conundrum: In order for Art to be truly be free and meaningful the Artist must be free of limitations and constraints. However, for an Art-Maker to be free of limitations and constraints he must either sell-out or become wealthy enough to afford venues and materials, and either option involves limitations and constraints.
There is no nobility in poverty, either of the mind or of the pocket; nobility lies in the struggle against the system that creates it and sustains such poverty.
The Truth: In a rapidly changing world Art frequently challenges the status quo and its persistent hackneyed ideas with radically new forms, styles and techniques, only to have these creative innovations stripped of their original radical content and meaning and absorbed into the status quo ante.
The Conundrum: Not everyone can be an Artist; though everyone should be able to be an Artist.
Artists must seek to reflect this world of change and expose its contradictions and absurdities in order to be relevant to their audience. By focusing on the contradictions and absurdities of the Modern World the Artist will be able to create work that is meaningful yet not didactic, urgent but complex, direct and accessible yet dynamic and progressive.
The Truth: A RAT is someone who loves Art and loves making Art. However, a large majority of RATS will not be able to support themselves through their Art but must support themselves through means other than Art. They must engage the corporate/institutional world of ‘Work’, i.e., get a ‘Job’, in order to feed, house, and clothe themselves, and to acquire the funds to practice and develop their Art.
The Conundrum: Why is it that this thing called ‘Work’, that thing which by default defines the material aspects of our lives in terms of the where and the how of the way we live, is very rarely reflected in Art?
Is it that one feels the need to separate the Art from the ‘Work’ lest it become corrupted and defiled?
A RAT believes that these tools of oppression can be the tools of liberation which can manifest in those myriad little daily acts of rebellion against the demise of the soul… through provocation and confrontation… it is ‘Life’ growing up through the cracks in the pavement.