Published online by Cambridge University Press: 31 January 2012
In this article David Overend proposes a concept of ‘audience’ that accounts for a complex process of fluctuation between observing or spectating performance as part of a wider group, and becoming part of the aesthetic – forming individual relationships with the artwork and its environment. It is proposed that developing Nicolas Bourriaud's concept of ‘relational aesthetics’ as a model for ‘relational theatre practice’ responds to the continually shifting modes of engagement of those encountering and becoming part of a performance event. Focusing on the Arches arts centre in Glasgow, and drawing on the theory of clubbing, Overend develops a performance for a club night, comparing the experience of the clubbing crowd to that of a theatre audience in order to interrogate the relationship of two cultural practices that remain largely autonomous within the day-to-day operations of the site. Midland Street (September 2009) was a one-off performance for ‘Death Disco’, the monthly electro club night at the Arches. Using cars parked outside the venue, a chaotic poker game, and an array of overtly theatrical characters, including a clown and a pack of urban animals, the performance attempted to move outside the boundaries of the theatre programme as well as the studio theatre space, entering another dynamic relational realm, which is central to the Arches' cultural identity and funding structures. Combining a practical and theoretical approach, this research interrogates Bourriaud's relational aesthetic model through its application to the development of theatre practice within the specific context of an arts venue.