One of the views surrounding the cutting-edge, revolutionary expressions is that it is difficult tobe understood by a broad contemporary audience; however, if the work proves to be historically significant, it will influence many people in the future.

What do you think of the relationship between pursuing one’s own artistic interests and gaining support from a large audience?
In other words, how do you find the balance between the two approaches in your current creative activities?

Tuxqs RUTAQUIO (Manila)
Associate Artistic Director of <Tanghalang Pipipino>,Cultural Centre of the Philippines

1. There should be no disconnect in pursuing one’s own artistic interest/s and courting the support of the audience. An artist needs percipients to experience his art work. Art exists for human consumption.
There appears to be a conflict between pursuit of one’s artistic interests and courting the support of the larger audience when the artist feels that he is being dictated upon and there proves to be very little market for a particular art work.
If the artist is operating on the level of pure self satisfaction, pursuing his own artistic interests should be done with blinders without consideration on public opinion. But artists alas may want accolades or public support buttressing their self satisfaction.
If that happens, the artist should shed hypocrisy and admit that what he is pursuing is not his own artistic interest but a fandom created for him by the general public.

2. I am fortunate that in every season, Tanghalang Pilipino — the theater company I serve as associate artistic director — mixes stage plays catering to a wider audience with stage plays that appear to be non audience pleasers. In one season, I am assured of being part of plays which may be dubbed as experimental or edgy or simply, original and still, I am assured of being part of plays known to make a killing at the box office.

NGUYEN Hoang Tuan (Hanoi)
Director of <Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre>

The theme does not matter, whether it is revolution, history, or contemporary, providing that we can do it with all indulgence. In fact, one person may like it but another person may not, but art is a creation by each artist. We should respect and give prominence to the personality in art. Whether the theme is related to revolution or history, the form of expression is what creators should be most concerned about. Any form or style of expression cannot change history (and should remain loyal to history), but the significance is in how this historical content is conveyed. Such pieces would need to include both historical content and art. Breath and voice of real life must be expressed through historical content and art. It is both difficult and easy to express contemporary themes; The difficulty is in understanding contemporary society, people and anticipating the future; the easiness is that the creators have more freedom, liberality, may do what they want to do and play what they want to play. So far, there is still an argument between the two viewpoints of art: First, “arts for arts’ sake”, which means arts with all of your heart and passion for the arts. Second, “arts for a living’s sake”, which means arts as a way for earning living;

KIM Hae-Ryen (Seoul)
Art Director of <Seoul Metropolitan Theater>,
Head of <Silk Road Play House>

The question is what really brought home on me in my recent production. I also tried cutting-edge, revolutionary expressions in my current performance, but it was difficult to be understood by a broad contemporary audience. A small number of audience understood my intention and liked them. I think I should have made more efforts to make the audience understand.

The balance between pursuing one’s own artistic interests and gaining support from a large audience was not easy job for me as well. We have to make our maximum efforts to make cutting-edge, revolutionary expressions understood by audience as much as we can.

For example, we have to pursuit common themes related with our community where we live. Art is no more art for arts’ sake. We need to graft theatre art and our life together and create new forms of art. They can be common human movements or stylizations of expression. One thing I strongly suggest is that we need educate the audience before the performance and start the education itself as a part of performance and sublimate it artistically.

Joyce YAO (Singapore)
Program Officer of <The Explanade>

My perspective on this is that of a programmer from an arts centre, where we present, produce and collaborate with artists to create a wide variety of programmes and festivals in Singapore.

As a programmer, my responsibility is to serve both the artist and the audience – to support the artists in the creative development of their work, and also to present our audiences with quality programmes that inspire and challenge them. As the pre-discussion question rightly suggests, there is a need to strike a balance between these two approaches.

The heart of my approach to this balance is my belief that the arts are for everyone. I believe that every human being has an innate capacity for inspiration, imagination and appreciation of the arts, a capacity which is deeply rooted in the history of our mother cultures. Being familiar with the vocabulary of “cutting edge” expressions does not predetermine an appreciation for the work, in fact I have found that responses to a work are often more honest and direct with a “lay” audience. Along that same vein, artistic endeavours need not be defined by the arbitrary denominator of a “mass appeal”, instead it is important to look at expanding and deepening the level of discourse, and provide the audience with pathways to connect with the works they attend.

There are many ways through which we try to prepare our audiences for their experience at our programmes. We create pre and/or post performance discussions between the artists and audiences, and frequently make the house programme booklet available online before performances, for the audience to understand more about the work in advance.

There are also platforms like The Studios’ Raw series for the artist and audience to encounter each other in the early stages of creation. In this non-ticketed series, the artists present their work-in-progress showcases to gather feedback from industry peers and audiences, while the audience is simultaneously provided with an insight into the creative process. This deeper understanding of the creative process invites the audience to take a greater leap of faith with us, and invites them to discover more unfamiliar territory together with the artists.

Seiji Nozoe (Tokyo)
Playwright, Company Director of <Haegiwa>

Pursuing one’s own artistic interests and gaining support from a large audience. The two approaches exist innately in myself as a strong desire, and it is difficult to separate them.

For me, a creative process is like a treasure hunt.
Finding a map in the middle of nowhere, searching for something brilliant (to myself, at least), and after having found many of them, putting them together as a whole and presenting it to the expecting people (the audience).
The work will be gingerly submitted.
Only when the audience happily acknowledges that they are seeing something truly brilliant, then I can feel for the first time that the adventure was worthwhile.

What I seek is how much atmosphere I am able to share with the audience during the few hours on stage.

As there are all kinds of artists, there are many kinds of audience.
A work that had been created with the artist’s conviction should reach someone.
However, in an extreme case, if the work reached only one person, that would be a great shame.
I am not the type of artist who can be content with one person accepting the work.
I would like to have at least two or three.
Well, putting my joke aside, I wish to be understood by a broad audience after all.

It is difficult to find a balance.
There are so many cases where the “cutting-edge, revolutionary expressions” do not directly lead to “being accepted by a broad audience.”
It could be due to the fact that the creator’s artistic sense is biased.
It could also be due to the eccentricity of the artist.

Artists List

[Manila]Tuxqs Rutaquio Associate Artistic Director of <Tanghalang Pipipino>, Cultural Centre of the Philippines
[Hanoi]NGUYEN Hoang Tuan Director of<Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre>
[Souel]KIM Hae-Ryen Art Director of <Seoul Metropolitan Theater>,Head of <Silk Road Play House>
[Singapore]Joyce YAO Program Officer of <The Explanade>
[Tokyo]Seiji Nozoe (Tokyo) Playwright, Company Director of <Haegiwa>