The Impersonation Game is a format whose aim is to “to expand the understanding of your work through watching/listening to other people speaking about it”. It’s is part of ‘Everybodys Toolbox‘. This is how it works:
You show a work to the people you would like to impersonate you (people you would like to expand notions of your work). You can show it live or on video, but it should be a presentation of the work itself. After the showing you set up an after talk where you, the person who made the work is the interviewer, interviewing at least 3 persons who try to impersonate you.
I saw a version of it at Tanz im August. The performance being talked about was ‘Work in Progress’ by Janek Jansa. I hadn’t seen it, so to me the conversation was twice removed: People were talking about a piece that they didn’t create as if they had created it and I listened as if I had seen it.
So to me the actual performance was not so much of interest, but rather how the format played out.
The Impersonation Game is obviously very dependent on who is playing it. Will they stick to the rules? Will they stick to their roles?
In the version I saw the make-believe authors struggled a little bit to create their collective pronoun. Especially in the beginning the make-believe authors oscillated between ‘we as authors’ and ‘you as author’. This and the difficulty of holding the balance between role-playing and engaged conversation created some blurring effects (almost like ‘audio dropouts’ in a digital recordings) that hampered understanding both about what ‘actually’ happened at the performance and what discourse the make-believe authors would like to persue.
But a little bit into the game the interviewer faded into the background before the role-playing of the three make-believe authors. The game gained some tension through exchanges between the three actors. And it slowed down after a while when the conversation shifted from simple observations about the piece to more complex assessments. It seemed as if the translation and the necessity to think through talking created excessive demands on the participants. Last thing to notice would be that this game as much as any interview with artists is a plattform that lends itself to shameless plugs about other works by any of the participants.
The game was held in the foyer of Podewil which meant there was quite some background noise. Because of bad accustics and accents of the speakers it was difficult to follow some of the opinions expressed.
While I find it difficult to assess how much this game proved helpful to the ‘real’ authors, I thought that it was not so helpful for me. An engaged conversation that is not hampered by translation and transpostion problems would probably have revealed more topics of interest. But this is not to say that the game itself is lacking. I think that it is crucial that the participants stick to the rules. Maybe this requires some kind of referee who intercedes when necessary.
Once the game is more the focus then the topics being talked about effects like ‘audio dropouts’, the dynamics among the make-believe authors or the balancing act between interest in the topic and the assumed roles could create a performance in its own rights.