The Edinburgh ‘Fringe’ Festival will soon be opening (5th-29th August) and host a range of acts including comedians, dancers, artists and musicians. Alongside the ‘official’ shows and ticketed events will be a variety of street performers – each becoming part of the largest arts festival in the world that has been held in Scotland’s capital since 1947 (with the Festival Fringe Society established in 1959). Their official website states that “In 2010 we enjoyed a record-breaking 2,453 different shows staging 40,254 performances in 259 venues by 21,148 performers.” The Fringe prides itself on being an ‘open access’ arts festival, meaning that street performers in particular can put on a show as part of Fringe with no selection process and be part of a programme that is not curated. This creates a unique environment and arena for ‘performance’, as well as a particular type of engagement with the audience(s).
In his recent article published in Area (currently on earlyview), Paul Simpson discusses the geographies of street performance and “the acts of audiencing that members undertake in relation to this” (2011: 1). He uses street performance as an example through which to explore the role of video methodologies in contemporary geographic research. The paper reflects on his research – during which he played guitar in Bath, UK and videoed the street performances – and focuses specifically on the giving and receiving of donations, linking these practices to debates on affect, embodiment and ethnography. Whilst ultimately a paper that critically reflects on using video as a research method, Simpson’s research on street performance highlights debates on everyday and artistic practices, many of which can be seen at the Fringe Festival.
This weekend (9th-11th July) an annual games festival will be taking place in the urban landscapes of London, based at the National Theatre. The ‘Hide&Seek Weekender’ invites participants to re-think what constitutes as gaming, play, the city and ‘reality’ through location-based gaming. This involves real-life tasks combined with geo-location technologies. Activities include ‘visible cities’, a hide and seek game around the South Bank, and ‘silent relay’ – involving a choreographed mp3 soundtrack linked up to players in Berlin. This event brings together local knowledge and geographical investigations with fun, play and imagination, with the organisers describing themselves as “a studio of game designers and event organisers who want people to play more games in new ways”.
In the latest issue of Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, James Ash examines the links between materiality, technology and spatiality through the concept of ‘teleplastic technologies’, specifically through the example of video-gaming. In an analysis of the video-game ‘Lego Star Wars’, Ash highlights the role of involuntary memory, consciousness and ‘ethological markers’ in the game’s puzzle-solving tasks. Ash also explores users’ notions of sensory stimulus, action, and pseudo-digital bodily movements in the video-game ‘Burnout 3’. Although focusing on video-gaming technologies, Ash discusses the broader sensory and corporeal dimensions of play and gaming and what these mean for the “potential and possibilities for spatial sense”. These connections and technological engagements are clearly demonstrated in the aims of the ‘Hide&Seek’ festival taking place this weekend.