Unseen art & the one-eyed monster

On Sunday we went to see a comedian performing his show called “Britalia”. I spotted it in Time Out and thought “yeah!”. The theme was all about how he grew up in Brixton (London) but in an Italian family. There were several moments of empathic delight as I sat and listened to him, relaying his experience of being told to “go back to Italy you greasy wop” and then “go back to England you English hooligan”. Those moments when English folk discover you are Italian and start talking in a mafia accent (how many times….!) or they reel off all the sites in Italy they had visited when all you can say is “well, I’ve been to my mum’s village – 16 times!”. His taking the rip out of the awful stereotype of the Dolmio advert (note subtext next time you see it…”Dolmio, Made in Holland”) was sharp and his portrayal of the Italian woman’s obsessive calling to obliterate any particle of dust or dirt in their house was hilarious- after which I leaned and whispered to my husband “Now you know where I get it from!”

This guy was brilliant – funny, a fantastic impersonator (his skit of what it would be like if the TV bleeped every time a politician told a lie followed by Bush, Blair and Berlusconi impressions just had to be seen!) and a warm and endearing character.

But…there were only about 12 people in the audience (capacity probably about 60). Granted it was a Sunday evening, but it got me thinking about art that is unseen or not seen by many pairs of eyes. This guy had put his all into writing and performing an hour of stand up comedy – and his all was more than good enough. As you sat in the audience you wished for him that there were more people there to appreciate his work. But does the smallness of his audience devalue his art? I don’t think so.

It also got me thinking about how on earth small / local artists ever survive in our mass media world. We are all hooked up to our TV’s watching yet another episode of Wife Swap when in a small theatre round the corner wonderful stuff like this is going on. As a small artists, it seems that unless you have a huge marketing outfit to drag / entice people from the moving wallpaper you must accept that audiences of 12 are the norm. I’ve never been particularly zealous about the ‘anti-TV’ lobby but this has got me thinking about whether we have allowed our senses to be dulled into accepting this narrow, one-dimensional, non-community based medium for experiencing art known as ‘television’.

I wonder, out of all the listings in Time Out magazine, how many of the artistic events are only seen by a few pairs of eyes – not because the art is not worthy of being seen – but because all over the land, millions of eyes (and minds) have been hypnotised by the One Eyed Monster.

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