This article was posted on 02 Dec 2011, and is filed under e-Journal, Volume 1, Issue 2.

Aesthetics of Rehearsal: An incomplete work-in-progress

Ruth Turner

This article aims to explore the invisible labours behind ‘making:’ it is a draft article. This form is used towards a practical exploration of ‘Aesthetics of Rehearsal’[1]. – a phrase set-forth by writer and performance-maker Sara Jane Bailes – as a measure of value in theatrical performance. The form of the article resists a final ‘finished’ product and attempts to create an interplay between performed aesthetics of rehearsal (in draft) and ideas, and attitudes for the alternative approach – characterized (in draft) in the final section as an image of Mikhail Bahktin’s Carnival. It is argued that aesthetics of rehearsal signify the cumulative (and performed?) labour of the performance. Two main examples are discussed: ‘Borges and I’ (2009) by devised theatre company Idle Motion and the work-in-progress showings ‘Show Us Yer Bits’ curated by company Getinthebackofthevan. The concepts of labour and value, as set forward by Marx, are explored throughout with these examples. It is proposed that performed virtuosity through aesthetics of rehearsal – used to indicate the development from basic materials of performance making to ‘final product’ – lead to a definition of greater value. Wider significations of this concept of value are explored through evaluation of ‘Show Us Yer Bits’, including the wider ramifications of this attitude towards ‘unfinishedness.’ This argument is left hanging with an incomplete and denied proposal for an alternative view of unfinished work (and resistance of completed product and performed virtuosity of aesthetics of rehearsal) through a parallel vision of ‘Show Us Yer Bits’ as an almost (but never quite) utopia of the Carnival.

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Ruth Turner is a London-based Masters candidate and free-flying researcher. Her research interests are currently centred on failure, self-reflexivity and performative writing. She holds a BA in Drama (Performance) from Queen Mary, University of London. She also participates as a founding member of performance collective AiR Supply, emerging out of The AiR Project of Queen Mary, University of London. Within this group, she works towards developing a practical bridge between emerging artist and practicing professional – in doing so, she often embodies bits and bobs of both. While AiR Supply regularly present performance events in a variety of venues, Ruth personally works to organize regular work-in-progress showings with other artists; ever enjoying the unpolished performance and the continuation of its development.


AiR Supply Link (just in case)

[1] The phrase “aesthetics of rehearsal” is quoted from ‘The Space between You and I’, a keynote speech made by writer and performance-maker Sara Jane Bailes at ‘The SACRED symposium: A Make-Believe World’ as part of SACRED 2010 at Chelsea Theatre. It is used  initially by Bailes in reference to New York-based performance company Elevator Repair Service and highlights the conditions of the pre-show and get-in, before the run of performances begin. I have re-appropriated this phrase and shifted it ever so slightly to primarily focus on the illusion of labour. Bailes also discusses this focus in the key-note speech as well as in Performance Theatre and the Poetics of Failure (2010).

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