The Obscure Becomes Vivid: perspectives on the (re)mediation of fairy lore by folklorists, performers and audiences
Tales about fairies are often thought of as the province of children, popularised by moralising fairy tales and Disney films, yet the success of works such as The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones and World of Warcraft demonstrate that other tropes that tap into the mythical past hold the power to enthral adult audiences. The Modern Fairies and Loathly Ladies research project explored the porosity of this border by inviting thirteen musicians, writers and visual artists to respond to traditional tales about fairies and collaborate to make new works for contemporary audiences. We frame the artists’ interpretations of fairy lore as acts of (re)mediation. Audiences were involved through work-in-progress sharings and focus groups to capture their responses to the developing work. Here we present three distinct perspectives on the project: the folklore academic, the practice-as-research artist and the audience researcher. The thematic choices the artists made with the open-ended creative brief were at times unexpected, exposing the individual journeys artists made to create personal connections with the material. This resulted in work being produced that represented an individual artistic voice. Audience experience was similarly bound up in deeply personal understandings of fairy folklore, requiring modes of marketing presentation to be fully thought-through if this content is to be commercialised for new target markets. This project exposes the process of mediating folkloric material to make it relevant to contemporary concerns and anxieties. The narratives foreground vital themes of individual identity and self-determination; the vivid dramatisation of timeless and enduring truths about human existence still communicates powerfully with contemporary audiences. With attention to the staging of concepts and mediatised (re)presentation, this project has shown that the ancient, academic and obscure has the potential to become immediate, relevant and vivid.