[img]http://hits.guardian.co.uk/b/ss/guardiangu-feeds/1/H.20.3/43818?ns=guardian&pageName=Tim+Etchells+on+performance%3A+the+power+of+an+empty+stage%3AArticle%3A1312754&ch=Stage&c3=GU.co.uk&c4=Theatre%2CStage%2CPhotography+%28Art+and+design%29%2CCulture+section&c6=Tim+Etchells&c7=09-Dec-01&c8=1312754&c9=Article&c10=Feature&c11=Stage&c13=Tim+Etchells+on+performance&c25=&c30=content&h2=GU%2FStage%2FTheatre[/img]Turning up unannounced at theatres to photograph their vacant auditoriums has made for a fascinating study of the stage
I'm getting some nice feedback from Lancaster, where a selection of Empty Stages photographs are currently on show. Each of the images shows some kind of raised platform in locations such as working men's clubs, village halls, amateur theatres and city squares – as well as grander prosceniums in theatres, opera houses and the like, in different parts of the world. Each of these stages is empty – no actors or technicians, and empty auditoria – but in a strange way I think of them as performance photographs. They're spaces of expectation and waiting, certainly, but also of imagining. What has happened here? What could happen on this particular stage, in this particular room? It's a catalogue of haunted pictures, voids filled with ghosts.
Hugo Glendinning and I began work on the series about six years ago, driving around Sheffield and running into clubs and community theatres – anywhere we thought there might be a stage – and taking pictures of what we found. Our slightly random hit-and-run approach (no advance arrangements, no particular system) had its ups and downs. In the entrance to Sheffield's ice rink, we carried out Kafkaesque negotiations with the manager concerning the stage we clearly remembered in his function suite. Could we photograph it? No. He flat-out denied that there was one. When we insisted, he simply walked us to the door of the rather folorn Star Suite and let us peer in. There was no stage, just a box room with a red carpet. "I'm not happy," he said as we departed, as if strange requests to photograph non-existent parts of the premesis were making his life an existential misery.
It was a similar story at the city's Ecclesall Non-Political Club (since knocked down). The man at the door was confused by our question, repeating it three times to emphasise its absurdity – "You want to photograph the stage?". When pushed, he acquiesced, but not without reminding us of how the story should have played. "It's not right," he said. "Your boss should have called my boss. We should have arranged this." A certain order had been broken and it felt inauspicious to mention that we were free agents, lacking a boss of any kind, so we nodded, yes, that might have been better, and went inside.
Once through the doors and into the club, however, we were staring happily at one of the plus points of the "don't tell them you're coming" approach. The stage before us was a glorious shambles of festive tinsel and tangled flouresent curtains, while the area in front, normally reserved for the audience, was occupied in lopsided fashion by a ping-pong table, with other furniture stacked and cleared to the sides. It was perfect somehow, a scene unprepared for its portrait: the stage (with all its dreams of fiction, glamour and transformation) collided head-on with over-lit mundanity and the pragmatism of where to put the table-tennis table. Beautiful. Of all the 100 or so empty stages we have photographed so far, this one is one of my favourites.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2009 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
View the full article
Guardian: Tim Etchells on performance: the drama of an empty stage
No replies to this topic
0 user(s) are reading this topic
0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users