Monday, January 14, 2008

The construction of the character

Throughout pre-historic and recorded History, tools and the art they enable are inextricably linked. Synergy being a basic principle of all interactive systems points to the study of tools and technology, where form and function are most closely related as a way to understand and influence our most basic esthetic and ethical decisions.

In this performative event, emphasis is put on having the technical design aspects of the piece be one and the same with the artistic process. I am, after all, selecting the equivalent of the canvas, the pigments, the color scheme and laying down the fundamental materials with which to enable the alchemical reaction that constitutes the creation of a work of art. By choosing to enable the function that follows the form, I hope to find the primitive elements that when combined, emerge as more than the sum of their parts. Having set a goal to achieve in a span of time and place I am more interested in the steps that we take and the moment we live in the present.

This and the following posts are simply a record of a process. Sometimes we get lost in the details, as we should, only to emerge with a better understanding of the intricate relationships between form and function. As a disclaimer I should mention that although I don't purposely endorse some of the products that appear in the pictures, I find it a very valuable information about the craft. I remember as a young cinematographer interested in SFX, how I studied trade magazines, with a magnifying glass in hand (or in eye?) to try to discover what materials did so and so used in some film or theater piece that had amazed me. So these following posts will serve the same purpose.
The expressionistic head is not supposed to be seen in flat light like this but in a very dramatic and dark (as in moody) illumination

The head of The Creator was originally modeled in clay. Two plaster-gauze layers applied as a base, followed by 3 layers of papier-mâché, pretty standard stuff. Although very resistant and easy to control mechanically by hand, this method of construction proved to be too heavy for the servos I intended to use, given the scale of the puppet (5 meters high).

Although not directly inspired by it (in fact we had never seen this particular piece before this research) it was interesting to find this other mask creature designed by Jean Cocteau which uses similar materials and constructions techniques and embodies a similar tragic spirit.

Jean Cocteau and his mask for Oedipus Rex1 and The Creator's child

Since we have reversed the relationship puppet-performer and the puppet will be 45cm high, weight and servo power is no longer an issue. This has changed considerations such : weight and mechanical resistance, safety and ease of casting, machining etc. not to mention price! (I am very pleased with this last item:-)

The question now becomes if the physical scale alters in any way that other "construction of the character"?

Stanislavsky: "...the actor learns what he must discard, what in himself he must overcome, which of his personal traits can serve "as building material for the construction of the character."2

Although the physical character is "small", the psychological impact will be expressed by projecting a large real-time video of The Creator as it controls its World. That will be the test of the scale decision.

1- Arthur King Peters Jean Cocteau and his World, The Vendome Press, NY, 1986 p.95 This mask was created for the 1952 Paris production with Stravinsky.
2- "Stanislavsky in Focus" by Sharon Marie Carnicke, p.163, Routledge 1998

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