The Very Model of a Modern Modelling Play

My Bloody Valentine, I think? Image: Andrew Wake for The AU Review

My Bloody Valentine, I think?
Image: Andrew Wake for The AU Review

It’s always strange, being in a development without a performative outcome. I say always, but I think I’ve only done it once or twice before. It’s especially strange after having presented the show in question to audiences, and having pretty clear ideas about the way it functions.

In lieu of a real audience, I’ve spent a lot of this development putting myself on the other side of this show. Or at least, a version of myself who doesn’t know the small amount about modelling I do. Me a year ago. What does that guy want to get out of this show?

I was in Melbourne earlier this year for a music festival. I won’t tell you what festival it was, but it was something to do with a number of tomorrow’s parties that wasn’t zero or some. Having missed Harvest last year, this was my first music festival since a long process of pulling apart what might go on in one.

Obviously, and I think we are pretty explicit about this, our music festival model is in no way a complete, detailed representation of everything that makes up a real music festival. We’ve tried to keep ours fairly general so people can find an in quickly but also, models have to be simple. A model simplifies a system so you can observe connections and learn and tinker.

Anyway, this music festival. It happened over two days, just outside of the city (we stayed in a city hostel). There were plenty of things there that we didn’t put in model (a jumping castle, for one), but after spending so long analysis the components of a music festival, I was keenly aware of how all the parts of this one were influencing each other. In the restrictive indoor setting, it was hard to get anywhere without passing the rest of the festival and too many people. It was also very, very hot. In the space of two band sets, the main stage area (repurposed basketball court covered with black curtains) went from uncomfortable to unbearable. The space wasn’t big enough to accommodate all the festival goers, sightlines and sound mix were not great, and so I pretty quickly found my personal threshold for leaving.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad. There was a large water fountain outside for people to fill their drink bottles up, good food, fun games, and once the sun went down everything felt a bit more settled. I went to both days (the second being less crowded and cooler) and definitely had a positive experience.

It made me think about Modelling Play. One of the best reasons I think there is to discuss complex systems (and the modelling of those systems) is that they are all around us. The city you’re in. The transport system you use. The way a shop communicates with other businesses. A school. Your network of friends. An internet forum. The internet. A farm. A community garden. A music festival. These are things that important to us, because they’re systems that we all use. They’re systems for people to meet and interact, but they’re also systems for people to interact with infrastructure and the natural world. It’s important to find ways to discuss them, especially ones where people can share their ideas and concerns in a shared language.

Something I really want to convey with Modelling Play is that systems are all around us, and modelling is a useful way to interpret and discuss them. I want this show to demonstrate a way to deal with systems, and give audiences a way to do it themselves. As with any method, modelling isn’t flawless, but it’s a way to communicate ideas about the world, and learn more about it. And modelling is already used in countless areas of life to help decide things that affect us – economics, health, transport and environment. Maybe even the music festival I went to.

If not, I think it might have helped.

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