This is eye
She is a prototype of the protagonist of the puppetry play I designed in my professional collaboration module, at Bath Spa University. The play is named after her and also called Eye. It examines the themes gender and sensory perception, for a very young two plus audience.
Even though Eye might look like a guy, wearing these fishing men trousers, and not showing any female stereotypical movements or added breast, long hair and red lips, she really is a girl. I want to use puppetry to show my young audience that neutral, doesn’t mean male. Toddlers need to understand that femaleness is not an addition. It is a subject in its own rights, it is not just the other to the universal male subject.
Puppetry is an age appropriate form of art for little ones but can also make parents reflect on their assumptions about gender.
The second important theme of Eye is sensory perception. Eye has an eye for a head. She is curious and in the play we follow her experiencing, seeing, hearing and feeling the world around her.
My perception of the world around me is often slightly different than one would expect. Being partly deaf and also visually disabled enables me to make innovative and touching observations. These observations inspire my visual art and theatre work. My theatre and visual art puts sensory experiences in a different context.
Eye makes two year old aware of their own senses in a playful way.
Puppets are magical. They are neither a life, nor death, which explains their uncanniness. At the same time they are wobbly and innocent like toddlers. They have a freedom to speak their minds, because: nobody blames the puppet, its wood…
Puppets have existed in one form or another in almost every culture throughout history, often having a religious and even intimidating function.
As humans we have the need to puppeteer. To breathe life in to the inanimate.
According to the English Oxford Dictionary, the etymological origin of the word puppet is uncertain, but it could be coming from the French word poupee or from the Dutch word pop, which both mean doll.
It could also be coming from the classic Latin Puppa, for little girl, or doll as well.
Although puppets are nowadays mostly known as children’s entertainment, recent scholarly studies have explored issues like gender and puppetry. Women and Puppetry (2019) includes critical articles and personal accounts that interrogate specific historical moments, cultural contexts, and notions of “woman” on and off stage.
Puppetry has a very non-childish ambivalent side. In Puppet: An Essay on Uncanny Life (2011) Kenneth Gross attempts to articulate the essence of the puppet, their special nature, and our attraction to them. The book is a response to the mystery of puppet performance. Gross, a scholar of Renaissance literature at the University of Rochester, forces himself to come to terms with the challenges presented by puppets.
To me puppetry was something I wanted to discover, in a practical and scholarly way. I do agree; I think it is a very appropriate form of art for little ones. But that doesn’t mean puppetry for children can’t be as interesting and uncanny as puppetry has been throughout history. Theatre for young audiences can be as ambivalent, complex and grotesque as Gross describes the theatre in his essay on uncanny life. The theatre I direct for my young audience is not patronizing or dumbed down. I used the professional collaboration module to find a way to collaborate between my visual artist side (Eye is built on some drawings I made in January this year) and my youth theatre director-side. I wondered: is puppetry a way to make this connection? Can I quite literally bring my illustrations to the stage?