• Kirsten Johnston


I went to a concert the other day. There were performances by two solo artists before the headline group and those two shows got me thinking about performing and what makes it work.

The first guy was an up-and comer. His music was great – I knew it already – and he was certainly having a good time and putting enormous amounts of energy into his art BUT there was something about his performance that stopped me labelling him as a ‘great performer’. The second act, however, had something extra. He WAS a great performer.

So what was it, I wondered, that set the two apart. The first artist, while having all the energy and passion in the world, seemed to be so wrapped up in his work that I felt he was doing it all for himself. The second performer – same energy, same passion –  had a connection with us. There was genuine eye contact, despite the 20,000 strong crowd, there was a sincerity, a letting of us into the world he inhabited, both on and off the stage. In short there was communication WITH us, not just AT us.

So, what’s the connection with the visual arts? How does performance affect a tangible object? It seems to me that there has to be a sincere desire to communicate in our arts, some sort of giving to our audience, some sort of ‘eye contact’, some sort of sharing of a little bit of us. I’m not suggesting we create, necessarily, what an audience wants us to, but we should have something to convey, be that appreciation, beauty, emotion, challenges or questions.

Food for thought, certainly.



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  • Kirsten Johnston Arts