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Convergence and participation: dead big collaboration opportunities

Can I get raspberry sauce with that?
Can I get raspberry sauce with that?

Big collaborations are the new art world blockbuster pattern talked about by the Guardian yesterday: egos coming together to offer audiences star vehicles that cross art form boundaries. Collaboration is a key 21st century skill, as the article proves.

But for me, the subtext of the article was more interesting: the convergence of art forms, and the impact that technologies have had on this. Concluding that the use of digital video, screens, music in many performances across many art forms has created a kind of cross-over or fusion, Guardian journalist Laura Barnett reports:

But the distinctions between genres have never felt quite so blurred as they do now. In theatre director Katie Mitchell’s words, the world is no longer “neat and organised and tidy”; it is fractured, multicultural, multimedia – and artists want to capture this. They know their audiences move easily between “high” and “low” culture, and that their attention shifts with the click of a mouse.

This is a great challenge to arts organisations still stuck within a strict genre definition, and still trying to define and communicate with their audience as “theatre lovers”, or “opera lovers”. As Mitchell suggests, audiences online will be eclectic, be used to choice, and know what they like, however its defined. They will not be particularly bothered about whether their culture is high or low, or even if it is defined as “theatre” or “opera”. This confirms my anxiety that those projects set-up to filter cultural event listings, and that do so by trying to digitally organise event listings by genre, may not be going down the right path.

It also confirms that the web presence (its smashed up content – the content that is everywhere else on the web but the official website) for an organisation is far more important than a destination website: audiences are just as likely to find out about a cultural event online via another interest they have – so its important that they can see the cultural event in that sphere of their interest.

What do I mean? Well, take someone who is interested in participating in films, Or who likes Zombie movies. Or who likes going to music festivals. They’re not necessarily the same person, and probably don’t hang out in the same places online.

However, an interest in one of those areas will give them a chance to hear about the world’s biggest mass-participation zombie movie which has just been announced. I Spit on your Rave is produced by Warpfilms and Film4, starring the attendees of Music Festival, The Big Chill. Check out the zombies hitchhiking to The Big Chill…

I love that this film follows on the heels of Faintheart, which used the MySpace community to develop the cast, crew, and some elements of the film via voting, and so created the world’s first user-generated movie.

However, I Spit on Your Rave goes a few steps further in terms of participation, mixing the chance to be part of the film with the chance to attend a music festival (“Anyone who’s interested in being in our zombie movie has to haul their cold, dead carcass to the Big Chill”). Full instructions on how to shuffle properly when you’re dead, as well as the audio and visual cues and filming call times you’ll need to know, are all on the website. The journey to becoming a Zombie starts now, with instructions on the website for how to take part. As time progresses, there will no doubt be costume forums and wound blogs – all the time embedding more value in the experience for the participant – before the experience.

In terms of a unique experience that you as participant could part of, this is certainly up there, and with the amount of tomato ketchup and raspberry sauce flying around – not just to decorate bad festival burgers and icecreams – it should be extremely memorable! The extras also pay to be there and be part of the filming, turning that bit of the traditional business model – where you pay extras – on its head. And after the experience? I Spit on your Rave will have a whole Big Chill of net roots: keen marketeers (“Look – that’s me! I remember shooting that, we’d just… “), with great digital networks and huge personal passion for the film. The collaboration provides all the partners with added value, not just the film makers: The Big Chill gets to be in a movie, which is a great promotional opportunity. The title of the film points towards its location, also. And what about when the biggest collaboration of all? In this case it is between the film artists and their audience, who have become their performers – if that doesn’t build up a lifelong interest from that audience in the brands who gave them this experience (The Big Chill/Warp/Film4), then I don’t know what will. But it seems like a dead cert to me 🙂