9 March 2012

Have you been queuing around the block lately to get you some sweet stage crafted art? High-end theatre or opera is financially and/or geographically inaccessible for a lot of us - the unobstructed seats, anyway. Yet, there seems to have been a quiet move towards what some might call a 'democratisation' in the live screening of performance art in cinemas.

Last year Sir Simon (our kid) Rattle took the 3D cameras right up close and personal amongst his Berlin Symphony Orchestra's virtuoso players, although quite how close we really need to get I'm not sure. Hopefully the temptation to embrace smell-o-vision will be resisted - I've always found percussionists to reside on the wrong side of whiffy.

To a degree this prompts the question of how close to the creative process do we want or need to be. On an even more intimate level, you'll find individual artists streaming as they paint, taking in suggestions from their Facebook 'friends' (potential customers!) as they go. As you might expect it is in the US that the economic potential of this type of arts delivery is being tested.

A quick look across the interwebs will reveal a plethora of online streaming sites and webcasts abound. It is commonplace in arts based educational establishments and now a number of smaller theatres are staking out an online presence. All around is the constant need for connection social interaction, (olfactory percussionists withstanding,) and the need for economic survival; a constant tarantella dance with emerging technological possibilities.

Live transmissions were established at the New York Met in 2006 and the Royal Opera House began its regular screening programme in 2008; both achieving previously unimagined numbers of bums on seats. These days, there rarely seems long to wait between one variety of live broadcast or other being beamed to cinemas across the country - so you never need miss the opportunity to don your diamante tiara and vintage ball gown.

I think it is in the 'event' that the future and continuing accessible celebration of excellence can and should be maintained. That there is a huge quantity of easily accessible art, in its various forms, 'out there' in cyberspace is not in doubt. (Are dogs with the dry lip curl stuck to their gums art or just endlessly amusing? - that's just me isn't it?!) That a normal time strapped person would have the opportunity or inclination to wade through it all to find 'the good stuff' is very much in doubt.

So, whether these developments are merely passing fads or not remains to be seen. The surge of interest in 3D cinema, following the blue wonder of Avatar, quickly bottomed out suggests a recent Guardian article, " in a triumph of storytelling over technology." It would appear, however, that this and other new formats are, at least in the short term, igniting increased engagement amongst groups of users that are using local, often independent, cinemas in a new, quality driven and inclusive way - and that can only be a good thing.