just a little bit beyond...

Everybody’s Impersonation Game

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.


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  1. maria technosux

    Hello, and thanks for posting your reviews! I was looking for online reviews of the shows I had seen and your blog showed up on Google.

    I was there too (meaning: I too attended this pseudo-interview with Janez Jansa). I want to ask you: was the interview, well, “entertaining” to watch even for someone like you? I am asking this because you wrote that you hadn’t seen the actual installation/presentation. Unlike you I had actually seen it (it was one of the few still on sale once I got to Berlin, everything else was sold out). Having seen the show made it somewhat interesting to watch, but I can’t imagine such pseudo-interviews being interesting to anyone who hasn’t actually seen the show they’re talking about.

    The most interesting thing for me was Janez Jansa’s (who was essentially interviewing himself) tendency to insert his own agenda into his questions. It would be really interesting to get a
    hold of a transcript of this interview, and to isolate his questions from the answers. Methinks that those questions, read in isolation from the pseudo-responses (that Mette&Co were making up on the spot), would reveal a lot about his agenda, as well as any interviewer’s ability/power to push an interview into a certain direction. For me, it was as if Janez Jansa was constantly providing Mette&Co with leads to his personal ambitions behind the art-work, hoping that they’d follow up on the leads he provided them with and adopt his agenda (which they sometimes deliberately resisted, or that was my impression).

    IMO, It would have been better to present the pseudo-interviews instead of a regular Q&A straight after “the show” instead of as standalones for Mette and Alice to film early in the morning in Podewil.

    It would have also been helpful if they’d posted in advance the names of the people they were going to interview. I would have loved to see someone impersonate/stand-in/whatever for Vera Knolle (considering how bland her presentation on Prince, _The Utopic Body of Prince Roger Nelson_) actually was), but since I didn’t know what day that particular interview was, and since it was early in the morning I didn’t bother with the rest.

    By any chance, did you see the Vera Knolle pseudo-interview? If you did please post what that was like! I love Prince and I expected so much of her lecture on Prince, but this was the first time I saw Vera Knolle, and I was totally disappointed. Hopefully the person impersonating her was less bland than the real Vera.

    As for the rest of the festival:

    I saw a total of 4 performances for which I paid: 2 SODA graduate pieces, Janez, and the GAWDAWFUL BORING BORING BORING performance by BADCo that you wrote about in another of your blog entries. My favourite of the whole festival were the solo presentations of the Trisha Brown dancers. I still cannot believe they didn’t ask any money for that. I would have paid 15 euros, cos it was that good.

    Maria Technosux

  2. maria technosux

    Oh sorry Conrad, I now see this is your own blog! Fooook! The above comment seems so clueless and demented in retrospect! I thought I was talking to some stranger! Excuse me! :-X


  3. caribu

    Hi Maria,

    check http://everybodystoolbox.net once in a while, I’m sure the transcripts or videos will show up there eventually.

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