As the pandemic goes on, online initiatives are no longer a novelty. Be it performances streamed live, crafted registrations, or straight out dance films, artists and institutions are attempting to breach the gap between the stage and the screen. OPEN NITES on the NITE Hotel platform, streaming the entire month of March, offers a variety of works by young makers in an interesting ‘make your own adventure’ format.
In April last year, NITE Hotel was one of the first initiatives to quickly embrace the online experience and integrate the cyber realm into its ways of showcasing performance. NITE is Noord Nederlands Toneel, Club Guy & Roni, Asko|Schönberg and Slagwerk Den Haag. The acronym stands for National Interdisciplinary Theater Ensemble, an interdisciplinary ensemble of actors, dancers, and musicians. In this online universe, we can stream performances in real-time, watch interviews, see a variety of works and even go to a bar to chat with other online attendees. This platform seems to digitalize all that we long for. OPEN NITES is the result of an open call for artists to make video works specially tailored for this online space.
As I click to ‘enter the world’ of OPEN NITES, after loading for quite a bit, I land on a parking lot with big billboards advertising different pieces. In an effort to make the navigation interactive, each artist has placed their creations within an environment, making the experience as immersive as possible. The range of formats available gives the viewer plenty of freedom to encounter the videos as wished: watch it all at once, in a different order, or in bits and pieces.
For instance, one can meander around the Celestial Space created by Stephanie Afrifa, a comfy lounge with several rooms, featuring visual tales. Or get lost in Mateusz Staniak’s Performance: Odyssey, a full-length movie in chapters, or rather, in screens. Jumping from one screen to another, we are transported into an anti-hero’s dystopian journey. Or, if watching films becomes tedious, we can wander into the imaged symphony by Mart van Berckel and Angela Herenda. ALL THAT FOLLOWS is a visual poem, a moving puzzle, or an animated exhibition. This variety of formats gives the audience a certain agency. There is no particular emphasis on the viewing order, which leaves a lot of space for our imagination to travel through the different visual realms. This “make your own adventure” formula also allows audiences to stay in the experience longer.
Just like our attention span has shifted along with the Netflix generation, are our ways of consuming performance on screen asking for a change in rhythm, too? How is this shift influencing and informing formats of creation? OPEN NITES is illustrative of a certain decentralization of the accessibility of artistic content: not only because of the more flexible options in when and how to ‘attend’ a show, but also because audiences aren’t bound to a geographical location.
Without ever forgetting the invaluable experience of seeing works live, this time, I will allow myself a romanticized reflection on these ‘new’ ways of distributing performing arts. Our current reality is forcing us to think the craft outside of stages and dedicated performance spaces. Perhaps this also contributes to making performance works more accessible and inclusive of a broader audience.
Yes, there are still many technical inconveniences, websites are too heavy, computers need to load, they overheat, there are internet glitches…but in a way, the COVID-restricted climate is forcing the performing arts field to catch up with the rest of the internet; there is a process of democratization afoot in the making and consumption of works.
Features photo: Celestial Space by Stephanie Afrifa