Experimenting with Prehearsals

Posted June 18, 2012 by Maja Kuzmanović

Our first scenario building and prehearsal exercise involved the core team of FoAM. We began by asking a question that is sufficiently 'burning' for all of us: How do we work together on interesting things?

This seemingly innocent question brought us to four very divergent scenarios:

  • As The Flotilla, FoAM becomes a veritable alternate society, perhaps reminiscent of Stephenson's Snow Crash – although a bit less gloomy.
  • In the Bohemian Salon, we're a bunch of career-creatives coming together regularly for a dose of inspiration while sipping cocktails in the bar.
  • The Weekend Superheroes is a scenario in which we work on a common 'worldchanging' mission, but only have time to meet during the weekends.
  • Incubator for successful individuals is an extreme version of the current bureaucratisation of the arts, where FoAM becomes a breeding place for successful individual artists, with an all-female, super-efficient staff with one sole mission: to make 'their' artists into a huge societal success – or else…

Just by simply designing the scenarios, we realised what our current challenge was: we were operating in all four scenarios simultaneously! Another interesting realisation was that the preference for scenarios diverged quite a bit from person to person. However, while we might have liked or disliked particular narratives, we decided to put them on trial through prehearsals. We turned the scenario-narratives into instructions for improvisations – 'the prehearsals'.

So far we have conducted two prehearsals: The Bohemian Salon and Weekend Superheroes. The first one just with our team in Brussels, the second in public, during the Open House festival. Both prehearsals were one-day long explorations of how we (individually and as a group) behave in a possible future. In the case of the Bohemian Salon, we became a loose group of individuals, each following their individual visions, with only a couple of hours to spend together networking and philosophising. In the Weekend Superheroes, our availability was still very limited (the weekend), but our vision was collective.

The prehearsals brought different aspects of our personalities to the fore: as Bohemians, we felt free, self-driven and inspired; as Superheroes we were trusting and caring, completely devoted to our collective task: saving the world from collapsing capitalism through random acts of kindness. This task was a fiction, although we realised that it isn't so different from what we're actually doing on a daily basis…

Through the prehearsals, we were able to viscerally feel what our habitual reflexes are - that made it easier to become aware and talk about them in the group afterwards. The prehearsals encouraged different aspects of our characters to become more or less prominent, and pointed to possible changes in our behaviour as individuals and as an organisation. And – as we all saw it as an experiment, it was much easier to talk about existing pain points, without stepping on anyone's toes.

There is still much tweaking and improvement of methodology needed, but we think that prehearsals could become an interesting technique to use not just in the artistic context, but also for communities and organisations more widely – for anyone who cares to ask the question: where do we go from here?

  • More: http://lib.fo.am/resilients/future_preparedness