Broke House: Big Art Group

Curator: Joan Raspo
date: February 3, 2012
Categories: Entertainment Design, Experience Design
Tags: Big Art Group, Caden Manson
Photo: Caden Manson
American Realness Festival at ABRONS ARTS CENTER PLAYHOUSE

Big Art Group is a live performance collective created by Caden Manson and Jemma Nelson that uses language and media to push formal boundaries of theatre, film and video. There are a score of companies that do just this. What’s different about Big Art Group is how they design a performance that is so exacting in its chaos. Caden designs worlds falling apart. His pre-planned precise choreography of both the actors and the large bank of video screens makes the performance appear natural and almost unrehearsed. 

Big Art Group’s latest work, Broke House, is a multimedia performance with live actors that explores the instability and uncertainty we are facing in our fractured world. What a perfect title—Broke House—is for our cracked society. Credit crises, foreclosures, homelessness and the collapse of whole countries.

For Broke House, they have built a huge family home made out of bare studs and detritus with video screens for walls. A constant barrage of images—some prerecorded, others shot live by the actors in the performance and mixed in real time—flickers across the screens. It bombards the audience. Second screen, third screen, fourth screen, etc. It makes me aware of how I LIVE. How many screens I engage in simultaneously every day. And, to what degree this virtual world distracts me from reality.

It blew my socks off.

Photo: Joan Raspo
Real-time video captures the action on stage.Distorting reality while denying the death of a family.

Photo: Caden Manson
In a moment that's meant to be intimate, the huge screens blare a private conversation between two family members.

Photo: Joan Raspo
The final scene. We are left with nothing but a barren space and a family's demise.

The exacting design of the show—with a live performance reflected in duplication on giant screens that wrap the house—reminds us that we are a part of this chaos, that there is no stability, no certain reality. As the video walls are rolled away and the bare home is left barren, we are left with two choices. We can either take this as a call to action or refuse to participate and merely sit and wait for our own destinies to unfold as inert actors in our own lives.  

Check out what else Big Art Group is up to.

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