Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


Performance Artists

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

August 26, 2012



This essay, Performance Artists, is the companion piece to
  1. Art Gallery
  2. An Actor Playing The Lead Role In A Play Called "My Life"
  3. An Actor Playing The Lead Role In A Play Called "My Life" II
  4. Context Gives Our Cue
in that order.

It was conceived at the same time as I am indebted to Charlene Afremow who inspired this conversation.




What is art? What is performance  art? What is theatre? What is grand  theatre?

Let's say art is the representation  of something, the representation of which evokes, brings forth, calls forth  an experience for its patrons.

What if the experience an art form  calls forth for its patrons in a particular genre, is the experience of what (which is to say who)  a human being really is? Which performance artists creating which art forms ie which performance art forms delivered in which theatres most effectively, most appropriately  call forth the experience of who a human being really is for their patrons?

Here are seven possibilities. Because they're possibilities, please don't believe  any of them. I'm just speculating creatively here. The list is neither exhaustive nor complete. This is a what if  ...



Seven Performance Artists Who Call Forth Who A Human Being Really Is



 7)  Movie Star, Recording Artist (tie)

There's certainly no shortage of performance artists like movie stars and recording artists, screen actors and musicians whose performances recorded for the big screen  and for CD (or tape or vinyl)  have proved they touch, move, and inspire us as they call forth who a human being really is - that is to say when the roles and the music they play call forth who a human being really is.

That's why they make it on to this list. They're at position #7 because as active expressions of who a human being really is, their performances aren't live. There's no face to face conversational exchange with their patrons. Also, the genre in which they work is such that their work can be recorded and re-recorded and re-recorded if necessary until it's perfect - or at least until it works acceptably. It doesn't have to work contiguously. What you don't  see and / or hear is what you don't get.

Now there's nothing wrong with the genre in which movie stars and recording artists work in which their work can be recorded and re-recorded and re‑recorded if necessary until it's perfect - or at least until it works acceptably. The rehearsal goes on for as long as it needs to. Yet clearly their performance art is a few degrees removed from calling forth the experience of who a human being really is in a genre which is immediate, un-removed, live, has face to face conversational exchange with its patrons, and is spontaneous and not pre-recorded. Again, there's nothing wrong with any of that. It's just the way these genres of performance art are.



5)  Stage Actor, Opera Singer (tie)

By the time they get to perform in front of an audience in a theatre, stage actors' and opera singers' rehearsals are over. There's no chance to re-record, no chance for another take  - so to speak. Stage actors' and opera singers' performance art is immediate and live. There's more face to face interaction with their patrons than movie stars and recording artists, which necessitates a different skill calling forth who a human being really is. Call it a more urgent  skill, if you will. It's a whole new ball game calling forth who a human being really is with no chance of a re-take or of prolonging the rehearsal, all the while in the presence of an audience.

But except in the cases of some thespian situations like Shakespearian asides, there's still no real ongoing conversational exchange between stage actors and opera singers, and their patrons. Transformation, which could be said to be who a human being really is being who a human being really is in language, both speaking and listening, requires a conversational exchange.

The genres in which stage actors and opera singers work are genres in which there's no (or at least there's not much)  ongoing conversational exchange between them and their patrons. Stage actors and opera singers' performance art, live and with no second takes, may create a close representation of who a human being really is. But they're also bound to scripts  with not much room for ad libs  which limits their conversational exchange and consequently limits their ability (without inhibiting it entirely) to call forth transformation. Aside from sitting, watching, and listening, patrons' reciprocal participation in stage actors' and opera singers' performance art is minimal.

There's nothing wrong with any of that either. It's simply how these two performance art forms work.



3)  Rock 'n Roll Concert Star

The distinction concert  star is key here. If it weren't present, then this performance art form devolves into recording artist.

Relatively unfettered by a script, this performance art form has a lot of room for ad-libbing, for improvisation even while it's immediate and live. It's also presented in one take without re-recording. Because of it's nature, it has the inherent ability to call forth something more essential, something raw  about who a human being really is. And if what rock 'n roll calls forth isn't exactly  who a human being really is, then it's a close component  of who a human being really is. You could say it's a complement  of who a human being really is.

Clearly in this performance art form there's more opportunity for patrons to reciprocally participate in rock 'n roll concert stars' performance art. In this way, it allows energetic celebrations of who a human being really is to come forth - both by giving tacit permission as well as by demonstration.

Sometimes it occurs to me rock 'n roll concert stars, with their outrageously wild, un-held-back, full on, full tilt, balls to the wall  expressions, get very close to totally representing who a human being really is. Who a human being really is, on the other hand, can be fully Self‑expressed using nothing but language. If we're not being or can't be or are blocked  from being fully Self‑expressed using nothing but language, then I assert there are any number of distractions and diversions (inauthenticities  if you will) which, knowingly or unknowingly, are in the way.

The performance art of the rock 'n roll concert star can call forth who a human being really is. It can also be used to distract, divert, drown out, and avoid experiencing who a human being really is, which is to say to avoid experiencing what's so. The performance art of the rock 'n roll concert star can provide both.



2)  Stand Up Comedian

Stand up comedians are #2 on my list of performance artists whose art forms can call forth who a human being really is. It's not simply because they bring light relief (one of the hallmarks of the enlightened  state is you lighten up). It's because the genre of stand up comedians has them working un-re-recorded, fully present with their patrons, immediate, live, in a conversational exchange with them with a lot  of room for ad-libbing and thinking fast on their feet.

If the ability to use language distinguishes human beings from all other life forms, then the ability to use humor  at will, arguably distinguishes an access to something essential  about being human: the ability to look at oneself, to tell the truth about oneself, and to not take oneself too seriously.

Humor, the genre, the art form of the stand up comedian, like rock 'n roll, also has the ability to distract and divert from what's so especially when confronting what's so is uncomfortable. What I notice is when I'm in a situation in which humor is used to distract and divert from what's so, I usually want to get up and leave. On the other hand, when I'm watching a stand up comedian working as a performance artist while at the same time  calling forth who a human being really is with humor, without distracting and diverting from what it is to be human, it's riveting, it's a treat, it's worthwhile being around.

Given this ability along with their mastery of language and full Self‑expression and an irrepressible joy in being present with their patrons ie in a conversational exchange with their patrons, stand up comedians are pre-qualified as prime raw material to become (should they chose to candidate themselves) the #1 performance artists on my list - not that they're the only  performance artists who are pre-qualified, but that there are good matches between the skills drawn on in stand up comedians' performance art form, and the skills drawn on in this particular genre, in this particular theatre, in this particular grand  theatre.



1)  Seminar Leader, est  Trainer, Landmark Forum Leader

When art is the representation of something, the representation of which evokes, brings forth, calls forth an experience for its patrons, and when the experience art calls forth for its patrons is transformation, it requires a certain specialized group of performance artists working within a particular genre to call forth transformation in a conversational exchange with their patrons - in other words, to lead conversations for transformation.

When the central topic of conversation is "not hiding" (by which I mean not hiding who a human being really is, specifically not hiding who you really are), whoever leads this conversation must be willing to have it all on the line, to not distract and divert, to not be  distracted or diverted, to be willing to tell the truth about and come from their experience with bone numbing honesty and authenticity.

What seminar leaders, est  Trainers, and Landmark Forum Leaders bring forth in conversational exchanges with their patrons, is nothing less than the possibility of the transformation of Life itself ... and in a getable  way, to boot.

You can't do that live by re-recording. You can't do that live in front of an audience, with another take. You can't do it with a guitar, and you can't do it by telling jokes. It's all done in a conversational exchange with their patrons. Not even Led Zeppelin  allowed their patrons to take the floor with them and play ie exchange with them. This simply doesn't (and can't)  happen in that genre.

But it can and does happen in this  genre. This is true dramatic theatre. This is grand  theatre. The performance art of seminar leaders, est  Trainers, and Landmark Forum Leaders is a performance art form which empowers all other performance art forms - simply because all performance artists express, indirectly and directly, who they really are, and in this genre, the focus of attention is entirely on who we really are and calling it forth and empowering people to express it in whichever way they choose to express it, be it in a Hollywood  movie, on a CD, on the Broadway  stage, in an aria  at the opera, at the London Palladium  or at the Improv  ... and even in day to day life in the everyday world among ordinary people like you and me.


They're All Yours



Enumerating seven performance artists in descending order this way, may seem to imply there's some kind of preference  to them, that some are better  than others, that some are more special  than others.

They're not. That's not what's going on here.

Rather, my intention is to distinguish seven performance artists each of whom, in different ways in their own genres with their own art forms, call forth for their patrons the experience of who a human being really is, each of whom are within everyone's realm of becoming.



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