Hellow

hel·low (ˈhelō/) exclamation. A salutation embodying the vibrant energy found in the color yellow.

13 February 2013

Hand Socks & String Monkeys

As children, most of us were given toys which we were encouraged to manipulate through our imaginations. Whether we played with dolls or action figures, we took on the role of orchestrating their actions and encounters with one another. We projected voices and personalities, body language, thoughts, and relationships upon these inanimate objects, which instilled life into them. As time progressed and we matured, we often abandoned that sense of imagination through the cycle of socialization, as we were influenced by society to believe that a hold in reality is more important than a life absorbed in illusory fantasy. However, as civilized members of society, we are advocates for storytelling and the spread of life experiences. As time and technology progresses, those mediums of storytelling often change and transform, but the essence remains. While it began orally, storytelling has many of its roots in theatre and performance art. While as a civilization we prefer stories to be rooted in a realm of realism, the conventions by which we share these stories requires an effort of the imagination. A culmination of ideas and thoughts must be projected through concrete objects–products of reality–to display a more abstract concept of the world via fantastical insights. These imagined thoughts can best be displayed through a medium similar to our childhood toys–via object manipulation. As opposed to simply using objects as tools to do concrete activities, we can throw emotions and human qualities upon these objects to make them relatable to us. It brings them to life.
An example of this is best demonstrated through puppets and marionettes. Like oversized and more intricate action figures, these creations can be manipulated to tell stories of us, as humans. Similar to theatrical performances with actors and props, the art of puppetry relies on the imagination of the viewer and the exact manipulation of the performer. While the digital medium of film can incorporate more precise details of both acting and effects–to inspire the consumer of the media in a more prescribed fashion–live action performance captures a new state of magic. This real world effect inspires more fantastical thought as the performers must be adaptive and clever on their feet, making a more personalized performance, as no iteration of an act will be exactly the same. The same goes for manipulated objects, marionettes and puppets. Marionettes are controlled from above, with strings, while puppets are manipulated from within, by the hands. Taking this into consideration, a puppet often interacts directly with the performer, be it sitting in his lap and conversing or acting on a stage, with the manipulator hidden below. Conversely, marionettes are indirectly influenced by the manipulator, as the strings controlling the movements are tugged from above by an unseen person. Not only does the skill of controlling puppets involve adept motor skills and ventriloquism, but it encompasses the creation of compelling stories and the ability to create inspirational and well-constructed manipulatable objects that reflect us, as humans.
Although it may not be the most popular form of artistic expression, the world of hand socks and string monkeys is a beautiful medium of sharing stories and should never be forgotten. One effort to support this niche medium is celebrated in Ann Arbor, MI. Be pro-puppet and attend FestiFools this summer.


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