I got myself a new camera and today I happened to go to a traditional performing art recital. I realized that I spent more time playing with my camera than actually watching the performances. I was in good company: many people around me were doing the same thing. Reflecting on what I was doing I realized that my pleasure was self contained in the action of taking picture. As soon as a performer stroke a pose, I would take a picture of him or her, only to direct my gaze at the LCD screen after that, therefore not watching the rest of the performance. It felt a little bit like ‘stealing’, or ‘taking advantage’ of them. I’m sure this is a ethical issue professional photographers often encounter…
However, as occasional photographer I could not help thinking that the value of my photographs is essentially personal. Most of my pictures will stay in my hard drive and no one will ever see them. I won’t either sell them or show them. The value of my action ends with the action itself. As a spectator, I wasn’t a very good spectator. I was more interested in pictures than in performances, and it is now clear that my photographing was selfish.
I don’t want to moralise here, but reflect: attending a performance is one thing, taking pictures of it is an entirely different thing! Or maybe the reason why I don’t feel happy about this is because maybe 50 other people around me were doing the same. And I know how this looks like when you are on stage.
Digital cameras are everywhere nowadays (as I write I could take pictures with at least 3 objects within 50cm from where I sit). They should be handled with care. Care is the right word. We should think twice before taking useless pictures, they pollute the digital and also the analog ecosystems.
This year’s summer kenkyukai will take place at Otsu dentogeino kaikan, a Noh theatre next to Miidera, on the Biwa lake. I will perform the maibayashi of the Noh
Kiyotsune, will serve in the chorus of the Noh Yashima and Ama, and finally play the taiko drum for the chu-no-mai dance from the Noh Shojo. This is my third attempt at taiko chu-no-mai and I feel I have improved a lot, though I still make mistakes. I realised that improving means being more and more aware of what the other instruments do, rather of how well you play your part. This form of music is collective, after all. Again I can see here an ethical value in an aesthetic context: an excess of concentration on one’s own role results in the lowering of the overall aesthetic result. Obviously this does apply to all forms of music, but for some odd reason I only realised it now…
This year I will be speaking at the International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR) conference in Osaka 7-12 August 2011. IFTR is one of the biggest international theatre conferences and I am looking forward to participate for the first time, and to do it in Japan. I am particularly excited about the discussions that will develop from the encounter of Western scholars belonging to Anglo-Saxon academia and Japanese scholars, which I think are worlds apart when it comes to background and methodology. This year’s theme is ‘Tradition, Innovation, Community’ and I will be talking within a panel with Prof. David Wiles, theatre historian, my supervisor at Royal Holloway University of London, and Janne Risum from Aarhus University, Copenhagen. Our panel will focus on the inter-relation of aesthetics and ethics in intercultural context and my paper will specifically look at ethics and politics in Ezra Pound’s reception of Noh theatre. I have done quite a lot of work on Pound and for my PhD and I am really looking forward to present it to the IFTR audience. Hope to see you guys soon in Osaka!