I started paying more attention to the quality of street performances during my stay in the UK. I typically notice musicians and painters creating art on streets but, there is another category of artists who perform on streets that I haven't noticed much. They are the living statues. When I went to Vegas a few weeks back, after reading the Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer, I began to notice living statues on streets. The book definitely made an impact on me.
The author, in her book, says how delicate the relationship between a street performer and a street audience is unlike the one that exists between a stage performer and the ticket-buying audience. The bond between street performers and their audience involves a higher risk and trust. She insists musicians, especially those in rock and roll genres, perform on streets, instead of attending conservatory, as the experience can wear their egos down. Street musicians would be playing 'actively' but, there will be millions of people on the streets ignoring their show and briskly walking by. This serves as an unwitting universal example of how cold and cruel the world can be.
Amanda shares some real, honest, and heartwarming account of her experience as a living statue and as a street performer.
She begins by saying how performing as The Bride (the character she played as a living statue) taught her the pure, physical manifestation of asking in exchange for a moment of human connection. For parents with children, the interaction with a living statue is a way to expose kids to a fully supervised interaction-with-a-stranger. She uses beautiful language to describe The Bride as follows:
I’d stand there like a dry plant, passively waiting to be watered. Any source of nourishment would do. It was so simple, really, like the entirety of the human condition distilled down to a single idea: Feeling alone. And then, not. Every pair of gazing eyes that locked with mine, a reminder: Love still exists.
My eyes would say: Thank you. I see you. And their eyes would say: Nobody ever sees me. Thank you.
Amanda mentions that the best part of being The Bride was that it gave her faith in humanity and human connection. The following passage supports this notion.
One of the things I loved best about The Bride was how, though she was silent, she could make it possible for people to talk to one another. I was a ready-made conversation piece. And nothing delighted me more than to see people with nothing in common chatting about The Bride the way they’d chat about an ambulance pulling up, or a flash thunderstorm. Excuse me, is that a person? Dude, is that a real person? Wow, is that a real statue? Oh, look! What does he do when you give him money? There are ingredients that create safe space for communion. It would make me absolutely beam with joy when I saw strangers giving each other money, saying: Wait, hey! Take this dollar, put it in his hat! You gotta see this! That’s a real person!
Here is another reason she loved her job.
The problem was that I craved intimacy to the same burning degree that I detested commitment. Being a statue was such a perfect job.
Here is what the author learned from The Bride.
Seeing each other is hard. But I think when we truly see each other, we want to help each other. I think human beings are fundamentally generous, but our instinct to be generous gets broken down.
In summary, stage performers can learn a lot from street performers in terms of connecting with an audience in the most humane way while staying grounded.
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