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Katerina Protonotariou: “The Vinyl Lounge”

// A Performative Report of Katerina Protonotariou’s interaction with Hotel Obscura program and the Triage Live Art Collective at the Festival of Live Art 2016 in Melbourne.

Photograph: Alexander Coggin/Festival of Live Art

“The context of Live Art is much more intimate, thus it doesn’t include “exhibiting” oneself. It has to do more with a “provocative refuge”, some personal space where somebody can express his/herself. Every reaction (except for the offensive ones of course) is accepted and respected – nevertheless, as far as the general concept of interaction is concerned, I would say to relax, remember oneself as a kid and just have fun!” – Katerina Protonotariou

"Arriving in Melbourne"

Australia sounds a far-off place for someone that lives in Europe. After 20 hours in an airplane, Melbourne reveals itself as a multicultural city full of life. And although the city centre has lots of skyscrapers and big buildings, in the rest areas you can mostly see low buildings and the most clear and intense blue sky.

"Meeting the artists (working with Melbourne and European artists)"

Having the chance to work amongst such open and creative artists and with the aid of the most helpful production team, was a great pleasure. I was lucky enough to experience the work of the whole artistic team: Immersing in a variety of different experiences, discussing creatively on the process of each project and exchanging ideas. And tasting marvelous Australian wines in Melbourne’s bars!

"Before action"

A very well organized production setted on the 45th floor of Melbourne Sofitel: Getting into the rooms, collecting the necessary props, clothes and accessories, testing the performances on their final settings. There was a sense of festivity and dedication at the same moment – no nerves, no hysterias, but a great anticipation for the audience to come.

"Bringing the HO @ Festival of Live Art, Melbourne (experience) - Performing the work, Melbourne – describe your role"

The main body of Hotel Obscura Melbourne was a solitary route for the audience. The audience was guided – in a mysterious and atmospheric way – to the unknown (for them) destination of Sofitel, was given robes and slippers and some instructions for what’s next: The immersion in three different worlds for each one of them – three performers in three hotel rooms , ready to offer a unique experience (12 rooms totally).

Photograph: Sarah Walker

After immersing into the special universe of each one of the three rooms they had to visit, the whole group ended up at the vinyl lounge – my little kingdom.

The Vinyl Lounge was the lounge of a suite in the 45th floor of Sofitel with an astonishing Melbourne view. My role was to welcome the audience after their strange trip, offering some drinks, helping them relax and encouraging them to share their feelings, thoughts and experiences.

At the beginning I was more focused on creating an interesting hostess’s character: An «archaic space» looks, body movements inspired by the body postures of ancient Greek and Egyptian murals and little experiments on Mediterranean accents. Finally, after interacting with the audience, it became obvious that the focus for a hostess should be put on making people feel comfortable and communicating rather than developing an strange character.

"Interacting with the audience"

The great thing about Live Art is exactly the importance of the audience in the whole procedure: You never get bored and the audience’s participation is a very important element. Every round is a new round, shaped by the new elements that each new group of the audience is bringing. Sometimes, people were so open and willing to share, that were just sitting spontaneously around a circle, enjoying their drinks and having amazing conversations. You could see people sharing personal stories and the rest of them listening very carefully, people explaining what happened to them and be willing to know what happened to the other members of the audience, people willing to stay there all night and discuss about the whole experience. Of course, there were also rounds where the chemistry of the group wasn’t working very well – but this was also very interesting, because of the challenge of trying to find the best way to make things work amongst people and forget about yourself.

My role of hostessing, also allowed me – beyond the great pleasure of taking care of the audience- to collect useful feedback for the rest of the artists. The vast majority of the audience really enjoyed the whole experience: the immersive feeling of the audio guide at the beginning, the intimacy of the pieces, the hotel’s luxurious atmosphere. Lots of people started wandering about their attitude during their experience (passive/active), extending these thoughts on real life also. Depending on the general feeling that was dominant on each round of 3 pieces (there were “softer” and more “extreme” rounds) people spoke about how much they felt that somebody was taking care of them, about feeling that they were participating in a kind of therapy session or about feeling uncomfortable and trying to cope with this feeling.

Participating in Hotel Obscura Melbourne was an amazing experience for me. I feel really lucky that I worked again with Katerina Kokkinos Kennedy and her lovely dream team (both artists and production team) in this high quality performative project. Beyond the limits of the usual theatrical structure, live art reminds us that the role of art is also helping us understand each other and connect through creative and more intimate ways. A big “thank you” both to the Australian and the Greek team.

More about Katerina

// Interview by Nina Thanasoula

Tell us about your performance career. Would you tell me about your educationional backround? What is your relationaship with the UD project and how important is it to your career to connect with other artists?

I am an actress and a civil engineer specializing in urban planning. So, in the past, I had accepted the fact that i would probably never be able to combine these two fields. As an actress, I was mostly involved into more usual theatrical practices – and then, I bumped into the Urban Dig Project – a project that was totally on my interests, combining performing and the production of space in the city. Through Dourgouti Island Hotel project I met Live Art - this amazing way of creating playful and deep experiences that one can share with the audience. The Live Art performances were presented again (and transformed to fit the new circumstances) in Athens Biennale.

Practically in what ways do you use audience interaction in your work and/or develop an active audience/performer relationship?

During the process of creating the Live Art pieces, we had the chance to put ourselves in the audience’s shoes. Thus, it was made clearer in which way we should build the structure of the pieces in order to make the experience more dense and attaching to the audience. I think the most important element – after having developed a functional structure - is the willingness of taking care of the audience and always be present. You have to forget about yourself - it is the feeling of offering a present.

Why is interaction important in your work?

For me, the most important dimension of art is communication. What a great feeling in life when you let your ego go and let yourself being influenced by others and vice versa! Thus, in an artistic process – that works as a “life capacitor” – the communication can be much more dense into a specific context. The audience is not passive any more: We are both co-creators of an in-between common space of exchange. And – ideally - after our common time has come to an end, we will both feel a little bit differentJ.

What do you think it offers to an audience?

I think it offers a “magic circle”, a “construction of situations” (through Situationists’ point of view), some time and space to discover hidden parts of themselves, share their thoughts and feelings with an unknown person and just play. Sometimes it can also feel like an unintentional quick therapy.

To many people think the idea of audience interaction is pretty terrifying, what might you say to those people?

The context of Live Art is much more intimate, thus it doesn’t include “exhibiting” oneself. It has to do more with a “provocative refuge”, some personal space where somebody can express his/herself. Every reaction (except for the offensive ones of course) is accepted and respected – nevertheless, as far as the general concept of interaction is concerned, I would say to relax,remember oneself as a kid and just have fun!

Shot during the Festival of Live Art 2016

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