The urban street space has since time immemorial been a place for raw talent and entertainment. Originally, the homeless roved the streets in their daily chores and during long breaks had to engage in activities to keep the boredom at bay. This ensured naturalization of skills and talent which had a sense of originality, both in performed musical and nonmusical arts. Some of the performers discovered that they attracted interested crowds of passersby and turned into small time commercial practice for a living. Overtime, this has inspired performers from all walks of life who have taken advantage of their time in public spaces to constructive performance or rehearsal. Such was my subway train incident where I was treated to a short creative drama. One cannot avoid perceiving and being attracted to the entertainment based on ethnographic perspective. This is because of the themes and acts which are often symbolic of the performers’ culture and affiliation backgrounds.
Ethnography is the study and consequent description of culture and behavior in a society. Ethnography is the based research because it requires one to apply commonsense knowledge in interpreting activities of social groups. Since the focus is based on a small unit or single group, the basics of the study are:
- Social behavior is studied under its natural settings unlike other studies where the researcher interferes with the environment through tests.
- Discreetness of study is guaranteed through field observation and informal conversation/ interviews are the most common methods applied in this kind of study. A further method is through Archival research.
- Data collection is done randomly and in a way that does not alert the respondents or alter the environment under study.
These focal points are what create the objectivity required for ethnographical research because they cover the three principles of Naturalism, understanding and discovery. Naturalism is based on normal activity and reactions study. Understanding is the interpretation of the reactions just as they occur in the natural setting. Discovery is the aspect whereby, no set results or findings are encouraged but the outcome is left to develop in its own design, sequence and occurrence. This study is based on sociology but can work well in with anthropology which is the study of human culture as well as Psychology which entails evaluation and interpretation of how the human mind takes in and processes details to give certain reactions.
Ethnographical research is efficient in determining the type of bond the group of interest shares through testing their cohesiveness when their regular activities are interrupted. Evaluation of how strong they are is made based on their recollection and regrouping so as to re establish their cultural order. What impressed me by the mini drama performed on the train is how they wittingly entice and insight viewers to actively participate in their performance. Initially, when the first actor loudly addresses the fellow actor and the dialogue is briefly aggressive, we can hear part of the crowd react in disapproval. They lock in and seem to scuffle before ending in a hug of surrender and one is subdued to the ground. One test would be to intervene and try to rough up the assailant just to see how they fall back into their plan to accommodate the disruption. The other part is when the Assailant sips from a bottle towards the end after addressing a female member of the crowd, kisses her arm and then falls on his back. As a test, the female would have reacted negatively so that we could see how the actor adjusts around this. The most important point is how street performers in general, engage the crowd and go around such obstacles with a positive mind. They draw inspiration from day to day activities and therefore naturally get directed by the changes in the environment. Just as we try to break their habit to understand street performers, they are actually the initiators. An example is, when walking in town and then one suddenly sops to look up a tall building, a gradual crowd of onlookers will stop for different reasons. One will harshly inquire why the stop because of blocking their path and another may look up and ask what is going on out of the curiosity created. Therefore street performers base their acts on social control by touching on guidelines that define cultural boundaries. This works well in urban spaces because of the high level of diversity. As a result of their witty innovations and creativity, the dominant culture often perceives street performers as odd, extremely eccentric or in certain circumstances rude. Any reaction acts as a force of attraction which makes the crowd to always want to confirm their act the next time in contact.
In conclusion, the vital identifier is the costumes or performance props. The chosen kits are always an instant hit because they are on point most of the times. This is based on years of experience on the street or necessity to survive and enjoy while doing it. It is a natural eye that is developed and it is amazing how well they stand out even when dressed as any ordinary people. Street performers are a natural entertainment that occupies the urban space and if well planned in terms of time, location and content delivery, they can be a sure way of guaranteed viewers and constant flow of income. This form of art and entertainment has its indispensable value created through relevance and urban space occupation which is not only defined in terms of physical area but also moments of time when the busy city dwellers have nothing to do as they move towards their next places or points of activity.