MAKING art without a live audience has become a problem due to the lockdown – but some of the nation’s most exciting emerging voices have designed a solution.

This week students from the prestigious Royal Conservatoire of Scotland will showcase their talents globally through a new digital celebration of bold contemporary performance.

The Propel festival will see experimental and eclectic new works from the Conservatoire’s Contemporary Performance Practice programme.

From June 2 to 12, live and recorded works which explore and question human connection during the Covid-19 pandemic will be premiered over various online platforms. Students from all four year groups of the degree course have created original and innovative works during lockdown that include a live digital adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night to be shared on Zoom Webinar and an intergenerational choreographic work spread over 60 one-minute films, with dancers aged 60 and above.

Propel also features a panel discussion on making performance in isolation, the internet as a creative space and emerging into an uncertain landscape, as well as artist’s talks, with one on how artists can make a difference to the lives of prisoners across the UK.

“The definition of contemporary is ‘existing’ or ‘happening now’ and, as a festival of contemporary performance, Propel attempts to examine the way in which we can continue to make new work while in quarantine,” said Dr Laura Bissell, interim head of Contemporary Performance Practice and lecturer in research at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

“We are so proud of the artists from all four year groups for their bold and original concepts that they’ve developed during lockdown. Propel is a platform to showcase these curious, creative, collaborative and socially engaged artists who are committed to exploring the social function of performance and how it can be an act of community. We’re excited about sharing their work with a global audience in our first digital season of Propel.”

The performances include House, a collection of pre-recorded performative Zoom calls reimagined for a socially distant audience. Viewers will see lips move in the dark, headless bodies dance in static and listen to pillow talks of the morning after.

On June 3, Ryan Morgan will discuss his ongoing research into the ideas around prisons and how artists can make a difference in the lives of prisoners across the UK. He will share his “creative resource” made in order to help people in lockdown, specifically prisoners, during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A Site Seen From Within And Without has been made in response to two artists’ confinement within one site and attempts to somehow observe and interact beyond the walls of a first floor flat in the southside of Glasgow, while Intervals is a short video artwork that continually stops. A scenography of broken things or suspensions of activity, this work uses the theatrical interval as a means to comprehend the impact of mass disruption and loss of space. As objects are discarded and actions left unfinished, the intervals accumulate and portray something of the grief, inertia or strange senses of abandonment caused by this current period of enforced nothingness.

In Further Down the Beach, two melancholic people go to the seaside and wait for the tide to go in and out. As all the real things around them become changed and half-imagined, they long more and more for some idyllic sense of escape.

The festival also includes M4Tr1m0N E, the “ceremony of official interpersonal long-term collaboration between Emprex Ivis of Ilyria and Cadet GEN_X20874_XD”.

Viewers are told to be sure to be in whatever condition their planet considers well dressed.

“Your tentacles should be well combed. And if you have skin, ensure that it is clean and well pigmented. You may be required to join the transmission during the ceremony, so presentability is of the utmost importance,” say the guidelines.

Twelfth Net is described as “a fan site, a love letter and cesspool. Itz an undul4ting cl1ckh0l3 of viruses and ador4tion. It is N0T bardolatry. It is fan fiction 4 the generation.”

Its creators warn: “There are many routes that can be taken throughout the performance – not every step you take will take you forward. Not every click is obvious. Not everything can be seen before the hour is up.”

One Man Shows is a live digital adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. The performance has been created to exist on Zoom Webinar and explores the idea of pretence, deception and disguise and how we can share spaces virtually to heal the loss of the theatre.

Another highlight is Other Each Other, Of A Place, an online encounter between an intergenerational group of people. To make it, second year CPP students collaborated in an online exchange with a group of dancers who are aged 60 and over. The two groups have never met in real life so the work is an experimental encounter in which they explore the possibilities of the moving body through choreography, film and conversation, looking at ways in which to bring about a new and unexpected sense of choreographic, physical and emotional connection between people and virtual/digital place.

At the core of this encounter is an emphasis on how the moving body can be a tool with which to create new realities and shared meaningful exchange between the performers and the viewer, especially in a time when people cannot physically touch and virtual encounters are the landscape where they gather together.

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