Karofsky Lecture with Sarah Bay-Cheng: Contemporary Performance in Digital Culture
Good. Afternoon everyone. For. Those who may not have met me yet i'm liz mccormick i'm the new dean for academic affairs, and, it's a pleasure to be with you all this, afternoon, i'd, like to welcome you to today's common, hour which is this semesters, Karofsky. Faculty, encore, lecture. The. Kirovsky family fund was established by. Paul, kirovsky, class. Of 66 his, brother Peter Karofsky, class, of 62 and Paul's, son David, Karofsky Class, of 93 all. In, memory of their father and, David's. Grandfather, Sidney. Kirovsky, the. Fund which has, underwritten. By the, Sidney. Karofsky prize for junior faculty added. The common our Karofsky lectures in the spring of 2000. The. Kirovsky faculty, encore lecture, features. A Bowdoin, faculty, member chosen. By members of the student body and honors, that faculty member as a teacher and a role model it. Is, my pleasure to introduce Sarah, Bay Chen department. Chair and professor, of theatre and dance who. Was selected, this year by students, to deliver the kirovsky faculty, encore lecture, this, spring of 2018. Professor. Beijing teaches theatre history in theory, dramatic. Literature and, digital, media performance. Her. Research focuses on, the intersections. Among performance. And media including. Histories, of cinema social, media and, computer, technology, in contemporary, performance. Her. Recent publications. Include. Performance. And media taxonomies. For a changing, field in 2015. And. Mapping. Intermediate. II in performance, in 2010. In, addition to these she, also has several published, essays in, journals. For example, the theater journal theater, contemporary, theater review and, performance. Research among others her. Current monograph, project, explores, digital. Historiography. And. Performance. Professor. Patience talk is titled love, and information. Contemporary. Performance and digital culture which, further serves as an introduction, to the working process and ideas, behind, the upcoming production of British, playwright Caryl. Churchill's, love, and information, for, which she's serving as director taking. Place this weekend, in Picard theatre please. Join me in welcoming Sarah, to the stage. This. Talk today is a little. Bit about my research a little bit about contemporary performance, and also. A, very, sneaky advertisement. For eleven information, which, is tonight starts, tonight at, 7:30, p.m. in Picard theatre tomorrow also, at 7:30, and on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. I encourage, you to see it early and often with many people.
This. Is a real, honor for me I, was delighted when I got, this announcement. And. I was like oh this is so great you know I really love teaching I take a lot of pride in my teaching I worked very hard at my teaching and then I saw the bit about the role model and, I. Thought oh. Because. I could hear in the distance and perhaps this is happening right now on streaming services hi everyone, out there the, anguished cries of. Tuition. Paying Bowden parents. As. They as. They reflect on, my. Unintended. Unwitting, and, you know completely, innocent the railing of their children's otherwise financial. Opportunities. And futures. Into, fields. That. Beckons such as you know comedy, and musical, theater and Oh. Heaven. Help us the avant-garde. So. So. I'm going to try very hard today. To give some justification. To, these people and, talk about why, theatre. Why. This is something we should care about in our contemporary world why. It's something that should not alarm, you should your children embrace, it or. At least not even like, alarm you terribly, and. And. What it actually can tell us about the world we live in and how we might navigate. It negotiate, and perhaps even resist, some of its more into various elements. The. Basic, premise of this, talk and a lot of my work is that as we approach the conditions of the digital I'll talk a little bit more about what I mean by that as. We more deeply, engage in in the digital we approach the conditions of theater which, is to say that the theater has gone from being something separate. And specific, and contained. Into, being, now. A condition. Of performance, that radiates throughout our culture and has become almost as so ubiquitous as to become the milieu in which we are all functioning, now. This may come as a surprise to you because you're like I don't really do theater, and. I've never done theater and perhaps you're thinking anything like I don't really like theater. But. It and, you want us to take my word for it right. In fact theater has been working its way into social, theory for. Well-well-well, throughout, the the 20th century we, see this in Irving, Goffman of course the performance of self in everyday life among others but one of my favorites, is media, theorist Marshall McLuhan and this. Quote from 1970. In an essay from a book called from cliche, to archetype, where. He says that sense Sputnik and the satellites, of course this starting in 1959. The. Planet is enclosed in a man-made environment. That ends nature, and turns. The globe into a Repertory, Theater to be programmed, Shakespeare. At the Globe mentioning, all the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players has. Been justified by recent, events in ways that would have struck him as entirely paradoxical. The. Results of living inside a proscenium arch of satellites, is that the young now accept the public spaces of the earth as role playing areas. Sensing. This they adopt costumes, and roles and are ready to do their thing everywhere. When. McLuhan is pointing to here is the fact that with the satellites, now. All public, spaces become, performance, spaces and in, thinking about the, contemporary. Culture. And counterculture, of the 1960s he's. Seeing that as a distinctly, performative. Exercise, but. We can also point, to the ways in which our contemporary, media write beyond the satellites, and more readily do, similar things to our environment, all right now, one of the interesting things this is from the the paperback, edition of that of that book and, I want to draw your attention to the image on. The on the cover I frequently, you know and not I don't think you judge a book by its cover but sometimes. Covers are very illuminating and what's interesting here is you get the sort of movement of someone but, as a trace leaving many copies, of themselves behind, and for. Us of course we. Know that even better than they did in 1970. Right. Because, of course we are no longer just surveilled. And viewed by satellites, but, by many other technologies, as well this. Is an advertisement. For, Microsoft research, talking. About what is called that was then called the sin scam and this, was a camera, that you would wear around your neck that would take pictures in real time and was, designed as a compensation, for Alzheimer's, right. So that at the end of the day you, could go back and review, the images and, could. Recall them and these and these images would help trigger what happened during the day to, help Alzheimer's, develop. Cognitive, abilities. This. Same technology then. Emerged, in another, form this is an advertisement, from the Kickstarter, campaign. For, a, device. Called the mimoto, which. Was then because of global, copyright issues. With the name renamed, the narrative clip and this, this man is wearing a mimoto on his shirt it's that little orange square a little, tiny innocuous, lovely, bit of Technology it's a camera that you win as long as you are wearing it take, pic takes pictures every, 30 seconds and this, is the the advertisement, from the the video from the original Kickstarter campaign, in in, 2012.
Sometimes. The best moments, in life are, the simple, ones, the. Things that pass us by without, us even noticing. The. Small surprises, and. The. Everyday experiences. At. Mimoto, we love the simple moments but, we hate forgetting, them, so. We started thinking what. If we could capture those moments and create a true photographic. Memory, what. If we could build a camera's small enough to never be in the way and smart, enough to capture life as we live it. This. Is what we ended up with the, mimoto lifelogging. Camera. It's. Small light, weather protected, and takes beautiful, 5 megapixel. Pictures. Just. Clip it on and it starts taking pictures, put. It down or place it in your pocket and it stops it's. That easy and all. The pictures are safely stored on mimoto storage, service. We. Know what you're thinking soö photo is a minute is a whole lot of photos right, Wow. To make things as easy as possible we developed apps for both iPhone, and Android, it automatically, organizes, the photos on a timeline. Wanna. Remember the name of the restaurant last night easy. Thanks. To mimoto smart algorithm, GPS, and time data you can just search. Find. And share. Now. When. I've showed this video to people. At. First it's like it's really charming right it's like doesn't. Want to remember these moments of our lives right, and then you start listening and you're like really I'm wearing a device that takes pictures right, - every minute tracks. My, constant, GPS location, is time. Stamping where I am at every moment is capturing. Everyone, around me and is safely storing all of this visual and as well as metadata on servers, that, I can access right, from you through an app but, I do not actually control our own if. You read a little bit further the mimoto advertises. That in fact you can have free access to the servers for the first year. At. Which point you might ask, what. Happens in a second year or. The third year or god. Help us the fourth year right I mean where does this go. And those oh and people who can't start to think like oh I think I saw a black mirror episode, about this, it's. Rather nerve-wracking, I will never do that and then of course I'd a well do you own a Fitbit. Right. Or a tracking, device of some kind because, the Fitbit has been essentially doing exactly, the same thing without the photos right, it is collecting data except a Fitbit, or an Apple watch or any of these kind of fitness trackers, also. Is measuring, all of your bio data as well, right. So, now this is all so now we can say like okay you, might not be in the theater but, are you ever not performing. Right. A colleague. Of mine James Harding who teaches the University of Maryland has a great phrase for this was he says if surveillance. Then, performance. Right. So the dark side of this is oh no we're living in a dystopian, future or. We. Are living permanently on stage right, so, we have these two options I don't, see them as mutually incompatible, or, an exclusive, and I kind of embrace them both right. This, is from the 2013. Consumer, Electronics, Show which. Advertised, that tech was becoming an extension of you and it became the the emergence, of wearables, and the rapid. Incursion, of technology. Into into how we live and I. Would also say that this is not just concerned, with the physical. Experience. In. Our daily culture, it is also largely. Infiltrating, even the metaphysical. Experience. Of daily culture right, so this is an image of. The. St.. Peter's, to. Where a crowd gathered, to witness, Pope. John Paul the second body being carried into the Basilica this is in 2005, right. Less. Than a decade later right so this is people gathering, to. Mourn. The, Pope. By. 2013. Right. This is what the image looked like when Pope, Francis was installed at the same place. Right. So. This, is not a gradual. Shift right. This is not I'll go back and forth between them cos he's, right. Like. Devotion, right Catholic, devotion, and attention to the morning and the passing of a pope and then, the welcoming of a new pope this is only eight years later right.
And What's great about this first image is is, right down here I'm gonna go out of my life. 1.2, megapixel, camera. Right, so, who knows what that actually, recorded, at that moment right, versus, I like the person who's like I'm here with my iPad. Right. So this is in many ways how, how. Contemporary. Culture has changed and I would say that you know devotion. Comes in many forms. Okay. Sorry. That click went on a little long sorry I, used Beyonce, a lot in my classes I find, that she is very very helpful if, a bit upstaging. So. What's, interesting here, of course is that you have people at a live music, concert right, but, the focus, is not on anything. That is in fact live right. And and it is so people are have their cell phones and they are taking, digital, video of a, digital, video screen, right. That is itself, a projection of a performer, who is almost, too small to apprehend right. In her own form and in, fact is almost indistinguishable, certainly. In the physical comprar, committee from, the other backup dancers right. So the only way you can see the Beyonce, is to, see a mediated. Version of her on this, ginormous glowing. And in fact this is kind of fabulous it's a big, it's. Not quite a queue but it's a giant box and it's, covered, in LED. Panels. So video projections, both live and recorded. Radiate. Off of this thing and then in another point it moves apart it's, kind of impressive so this is the set, design this is done by a young. Designer in in, London s, Devlin, who has, started. As a stage designer, and. In fact has worked at the Royal Court Theatre where. Lehr Caryl, Churchill's love and information originally premiered and these, are some, of the designs for the concert. Tour that. She did from. And you can sort of see the scale, of human performer, there on the right right there's like one little human, right. Tiny little ant like fiance against the giant, white glowing, cube. And. This was the from her from her sketches of the of what the performance looked like. What. I find really compelling, in this is the is the sense in which. This. Like others begins. To complicate. A notion, of what a live performance, is versus. What a recorded, performance, is so, not only are we now all performing, through digital culture, and being captured, by, closed-circuit. TVs by, satellites, by our own watches. But, also the. Ways in which we understand, what, it is to be present, for something hoo-wee. Sharing, space with and, what it means to attend a quote-unquote live event right, what becomes significant. About attending, the installation, of Pope Francis is, the, documentation, and the and, documenting, that you were there what, becomes significant, at the Beyonce, concert if you watch more of the formation, sort. Of amateur videos that were taken from the audience you will see that people try to kind, of film Beyonce, and then at a certain point she becomes invisible right, or difficult, and so then they pivot back and start filming the screen again right, so it becomes about being, in the place to document but.
Seeing Things entirely, through, screens, even screens, of other screens right. This. Is what, Nick, hold Rhian ondrea's kept in. Their recent mediated, construction of reality or referring to when, they talk about a, world. In which you can no longer separate. Face-to-face. Communication. From. Mediated. Communication that. Even when you and I are talking individually. Right. We, are aware of doing, so in a context, that is saturated with other kinds of media so, we might do that in a very material physical sense in which I'm having, a conversation with my colleague Aaron, Kitsch and I feel my phone buzzing, in my pocket right and, so even as I am having a conversation with him I am aware that there are other conversations. Happening simultaneously or. Perhaps. Even more insidiously. I am. Experiencing. One of our wonderful, main sunsets, and thinking. I should, really put this on Instagram right now right. Do, we experience the world independent. From this media now you might say like I don't have a smartphone, I don't. Do social media right, I, get this from a lot of people right and, and that's great that's totally fine but you are interacting in a world that is increasingly geared. Towards people who do use social media so, every time you go to a restaurant that has a little TripAdvisor. Sticker, in the window you are, participating, in a social media economy. And ecosystem, whether, you are engaging with that fully or not right. This, is what they are talking about now, the interesting thing for us or for me and my purpose is and maybe it's interesting to you I kind of hopes though is that, to. Then think okay so how does art respond how, does performance, respond. And one of my favorite images and ideas it actually comes back from, the, year I was born. In 1974. So well before any of our contemporary, technology. But. Embodied, what. Cultural. Critic and public intellectuals Susan Sontag would, refer to video as, eventually. Moving towards what she predicted, in in. 1977. She predicted it would move towards what she called narcissistic self. Surveillance, and that. Was in from from, her book on photography, in 1977. But, this piece from 1974. By, korean-american. Artist Nam June Paik I think Pat captures it even better all. Right this is his TV TV, Buddha. All. Right, so. This is I mean this goes back to the 1970s right so you can kind of imagine all right so now how should art respond, and. What I want to do is talk about three. Performance. Groups that I'm particularly interested in who I think are taking these conditions, and reworking, them in really compelling and interesting ways and. Then segue. Into a. Little, bit more about what we're trying to do in the show love and information, and. Hopefully, entice, some. Of you who have not already gotten your tickets to find, 25 of your favorite people and and. Pick up they paksa than this evening. The first is temporary Distortion this, is a new, york-based company Kenneth. Collins you see in the sunglasses speaking, into the microphone and incidentally, holding a paperback copy of Marshall McLuhan 'he's the media is the message. Does, and this is a piece that happens in in a 20-foot. Long box. In. Which he and several. Of our other performers, perform a six-hour durational. Music performance. And, so for that time they are in the box everything they do is increase is entirely, mediated. They're playing all electronic, instruments, and they're hearing each other exclusively through. Through. Headphones the. Audience, can view the box from either side there are two-way, mirrors, on. Either side of the box but within the box so you can looking through them through the window and you can get quite close to the performer, right the performers like just on the other side of this glass and there, creates in this performance the sensation, of being close, of proximity, and connection, for. Example, the. Performer, might be looking directly at you and you, might think you are making eye contact, what. You realize, or you, know sort of it, becomes difficult to cognitively, process but what is actually happening is that the performer, is essentially looking at themselves, right. Narcissistic. Self surveillance right. They are performing, for the, mirror, of. The of what they see inside, and in fact because, the mirrors face each other they are performing in a permanent parallax right. In which it is the sort of endless, view in both in both directions so it's a little bit disorienting, actually to be in the Box having, this experience, but, for people outside the box we think we, are very close to alright.
And In this way the performance, my voice has an echo in it stages. Are misperception. Of what media is the. Idea that we are close to celebrities. Who we. Can contact on Twitter and. The fact that they put this in the genre of contemporary, and popular music I think is no mistake the, other thing that's happening is that up as you can see in the top of this image there, are music, videos running simultaneously, with. The whole thing so we see the band both quote-unquote, live and, we. See them in a recorded, mediated, version but, what the whole construction, does is make us again question, how. Live is this and then. How live is any interaction, right. Are we seeing every, live show like the Beyonce, through, what we understand, of media, or YouTube videos or other kinds. Of digital. Artifacts, that have circulated widely. Even. More interesting, is another guy in a box you're, gonna get a theme here, and. For those of you who already know something of love and information in our production you're also gonna think like oh I. Knew. It I'll. Come around to that joke at the end this. Is a dutch performance. Artist the oven, and the. Oven is really interesting. Because. He does a lot of work in public spaces and for. This piece called wanna play love, in the time of grinder, he. Installed. A giant, box in, the. Middle of a public square so, originally, this was Co Commission for the Spring Festival and effect in the Netherlands and also for the kettle. Theatre, in Berlin and in. Both instances he set up this box in. Which he lived continuously. For the duration of the performance, right so so, here you have him sleeping right, there's him and you could and when I talked about this with friends, of mine in Utrecht they, said yeah you know over time Toby's is kind of like a pet you know everybody would like go and check in on him and like how he's doing in his you know terrarium, today okay kind. Of move on right so he was always there he lived there kind of continuously and he had images. Of himself. Projected. On this giant wall of LED. Panels, same technology, that Beyonce, turned into a giant moving cube, on. That, back wall and what he was doing on that back wall you'll see that the image of him sleeping is in is a negative, he, also had, a toilet. What. He was doing in this in. This scene, every, day is he would set himself one goal and the, goal was to interact in, person, with, someone that he met on the social. Networking app Grindr right otherwise known as the the hook-up, app for gay men right so it's like a kind of dating app and he, would try to to, do to create intimate. But non-sexual, interactions. With, with, people that he met through the app and get them to come to his box and. And do that so all of his Grindr. Profile and images and chats were projected, and negative on. This box as well as the. Oops I don't, have that image as, well as the images of other oh it here it's. There. It is you. Can see the images of other people that he's chatting with right. So these are the sort of inverted torsos of people that. He's talking with in real time through the through the app he, did this because he became, aware that so that he's is a gay man and he. Had gone he. Started going to noticing. Something when he went to two gay clubs and, gazes. And that there, would be a kind of public, social physical. Space like a dance floor and then all of a sudden men were running off to the corners to check their phones and, that. The the, circulation. Of dating and interactions. Was now no longer happening, in a public physical shared space it was entirely happening, in a digital parallel. Space even. Within a space, otherwise designated as a kind of safe social, space. For gay for gay interaction, and, so he was interested, in pulling those. Edges, right this kind of hidden digital echo, into. The main the. The main space of the of. Staging, in person. The, project went very well except, when, he was doing it in Berlin he ran into a bit of trouble, in, which he started. Chatting. And, we, might say also flirting, with with some that he had met online. And. Did not disclose the circumstances. Of his living situation. Man. Came to the. Box, and. Realized, that all of his chats and their interactions, I'll sort of skip ahead to again, what the chats had. Been part of a public display, now. You might think like how many you, know, tens. Hundreds, the thousands, right like millions of users are on Grindr, at any given moment it's, kind of its own public space but it's a very specifically, designated one and when that crossed over this kind of digital physical. Line. He was quite offended the man that threes had been it had been communicating with he, came in the box and punched the B's in the nose started. A huge controversy, the, the, the project shut down and.
It Was a it was a topic, of real conversation, among the gay community, in particular in Berlin about, issues of privacy and exposure and outing, and how, the digital, and the physical and, the material, and the live all interact, so. One. Might find tremendous. Ethical. Fault with fit heavens project, in this in this instance but, it highlights precisely, that ambiguity in that in-between space of the live in the digital and the, fact that as a culture, we are still, struggling, with how to define those those, boundaries in those edges and particularly. Where are the ethos what, is the ethics of performance, in that in that context. The. Proven is not unaware of ethics his, his, most recent project is. Is. In fact this, work called guilty landscapes, and. It's a project that is that is dedicated, to it's sort of ask the question like what if the news talk back to you and, the, way that this project works is you go into an, enclosed space the, white cube of the gallery right so it enclosed gap, viewing gallery, and it's for one for one audience member at a time all, right so one person walks in and you, see someone, right. In in an environment, of a guilty landscape, right so this is in the. Slums of port-au-prince, in. Haiti right, post post earthquake in particular, another. One might be, a. Sweatshop. In China. And. As. You move into the space there's. A person, within this quote-unquote, guilty landscape, as the audience. Member, stands. There and watches over time you realize that in fact because. The of the, way that the performer, on screen is reacting, that they in fact can see you and they. Will begin imitating, and responding, to your gestures, and your movements. And then. At a certain moment that, performer, then tries to engage you in a similar kind of response. Right, which has its own kind of ethical quandary right, so how do you interact with this person to what extent are you implicated, right. Directly, and then, of course the, idea is that we are all implicated, in these guilty landscapes, by. Many of us in the industrialized, nations benefit. Directly, from the. Oppression and the in hospital in inhospitable. Conditions. Right. Of. Life and other in other places it. Like. The, suppression of labor wages means that our goods are cheaper we, are able to get access to many more things, than we would in in other contexts, right, so particularly in the context, of cheap, clothing for example. This. Is a. Bombed-out, in Syria, right but also then what are our ethical, obligations, like how do we respond, and. And, what threes has staged is essentially, a one-to-one digital, encounter, so, to what extent are we separate from these events can, we look at them critically or, to. What extent are we implicated, and he does this by literally, staging, a kind of performer-audience interaction. And and response, this. Becomes particularly, potent, in the, context, of a Thai brothel, in, which the, audience members are encouraged to also, take off their clothes in order, to establish a level of equality. And equity with the person on on screen. The. Last performer, that I want to talk about is a Christopher. Donk Chris is a Belgian. Performer. Based. In Brussels. And. He has been dealing with many of the same kinds, of kinds, of questions, but. For a dog his most interesting sort. Of premise, is the the, way in which contemporary, culture turns. Machine makes humanizes. Machines and, objectifies. Humans, so. In many of his works he, is interested, in how we. Are negotiating, new technologies. As. People, and how those how participation. Might turn, us into into objects, his, most recent work is called ISOs and it, takes its name in part from the from, the the Greek, of equal, but. It also takes its name from the international. Organization. Force the standardization, of shipping. Parameters. And this is this is why your IKEA boxes, right, all fit neatly, into certain containers, in fact the most common form, of shipping right now is by is literally by boat right. And. By boats in order to and they you've probably seen them on on the news or TV and imports you have or, down it like you know if you go to Portland, alright the land of Port you. Will see these giant shipping containers, right and they are all exactly the same size all over the world and they. Are all exactly the same size so that companies, can standardize, their packing procedures, to create the most efficient, transfer of global, goods via, the oceans. What. Chris is looking at in this project is to, what extent has has, contemporary, culture done that to humans, and so.
He Has created a piece, which. Is presented, entirely, in these boxes, so it's this there's. An array of nine, exhibition. Boxes that, you look into so you can see this person leaning in here and that, you look into from the top and, the. Top are these two these, two open frames and in those frames are stereoscopic. Glasses. That. Causes you to see the images within the box in a, simulation, of three dimensions, and the, three dimensions, are the images that are in there are. In fact these little worlds that he built and, these. Worlds are based on the writings of. Science fiction writer JG, Ballard. Particularly. The atrocity, exhibition among. Others, and. This one is a is, a scene, in which a man and a woman, are. Caught. In a loop and the. The man becomes very disoriented. Because the TV keeps telling the same thing over and over again and so, he feels like he is caught in a temporal, loop that he cannot break out of and. In fact as he comments, on being on a loop, what, we realize is this is a video. That is itself in a loop right. And at one point he talks about wanting to hug his TV and at, that moment if you think back to this. Person here you realize that you two are hugging your TV right. That as you lean over the box and. Gaze within it you are engaged in a similar kind of action that he is engaged with in the, other thing that's incredibly strange and impossible, to convey and this in this format is. That the images. Of the of the people appear to be three-dimensional so, they actually look like like. Small-scale. Humans, moving around he calls them creatures and they. Do take on this kind of uncanny. Simulation. Within within these little boxes the. Other thing that happens. With them this is another a different, box is. That they look up at you and, this. Also becomes a kind of startling, realization right. In, the way that in the way that they that, they move and, part of his point here is to so he reinforces, the three dimensions with the grid but is the way in which the. More of us used the same kinds of technologies, the more all, of us use the same kind of mechanizations. We, are habituating. Ourselves, to the same kinds of gestures to the same kinds of activities, we are standardizing. Ourselves, we. Are making ourselves and, remaking ourselves to, fit ever better within a kind, of contemporary digital culture that often has, at its at its core a kind, of economic goal. That, we may or may not agree with that we may or may not share that we may or may not particularly, participate, in right, but we are being automated. Even. If we are engaged in activities that are not by. Definition sort of you. Know factory automation or something like that. This. Is just a weird one where a guy floats and laughs. I mean he just lays on his back laughing at you. Which. I have to say it comes as a little bit of a relief because it's kind of a downer of a display. Not. As much though as his new exhibition, or his new new, performance, he's currently doing a project called conversations. For the end of the world, he's. An uplifting guy and. That is a play. In which he has taken, apocalyptic. Texts, from all different sources and as, people recite them to each other in conversations. He slowly pours. Pounds. And tons of ash onto the stage until all of the ash rises and completely submerges, the performers, and then. The performance continues, for about 20 minutes after when, we can't see anything we just see the ash and landscape that has submerged them. This. Is an earlier work called in that. Sort of demonstrates, again this kind of dehumanization, but also the objectification, of, people.
So, In these two these are two different installations. Of the same project, originated, in 2005, I saw it in 2008. At, the festival of Avignon, and. Within the within the boxes there to a person. Who is completely submerged, in water and unmoving, so, much so at first do you think it's a mannequin until you realize that there is an error supply. Hose that it's connected, to an air tank that it's outside the aquarium. Making. This person sort of uniquely vulnerable to. The audience around it because at any moment someone could cut off the air supply. All. This brings us to Tony I know you're like you're like oh wow I can't wait to see that love and information play that's gonna be like like, a comedy, right. And. I generally try to layer a little bit more humor into my into, my talk so I have to apologize, for for, an, unrelenting. You, know kind of downer, moment. But I do want to talk a little bit about what what love and information is trying to do or at least what we are trying, to do and I want to acknowledge. The, efforts of some of my colleagues in. The audience who are here in particular Judy, Galen who designed the set for 11 information, my. Assistant director of McKenzie Schaffer and performers. Aziza, John Muhammad and, it's anyone else here from the show oh and. Eric picado thank you very much for coming as. Well as our intrepid, and an illustrious stage manager Ian Stewart. With. Whom nothing would happen without whom nothing would happen so. Love and information so all of this has been really on my mind as we approach love. And information, this, very, strange play and and. I say strange because it is love, and information is to my mind one, of the very few plays. That. That shares its dramatic structure which is that it is a constellation, in a collection, of. Thematically. Related but, narrative, Lea disconnected. Short. Very. Short plays. In. Which characters occur, once and then never repeat. Although. You can find certainly trends, among. The among the show among the scenes my. Colleague John music the University of Chicago calls them micro dramas and he refers to love and information as a micro, drama marathon, right. So it's kind of like you can take the like. Two totally unrelated concepts, and smash them together what. It means is that we're essentially staging, 59 very short plays. Over. The course of 90 minutes. And. Often. When I make work and it's forgive me this is very small, text I apologize often when I make work one. Of the things that people ask me is what it means and I, imagine, that Carol Church will also get to ask what it means and because. She writes this wonderful, play that. Basically answers that question by refusing to answer that question so. This is a this is a short, one of the short plays this is the the play in. Its entirety right, so this is the entire play right. Just this text I haven't left anything out, it's. Two people we think there, are no characters given I haven't taken them out there's, no scenario offered, I haven't this, is left untouched this is just what the play looks like but, I draw your attention to the. Kind of wonderful and actually Aziza is in this is in this this, this. Play, which. Is the question of well what does it mean and then. To which the character responds it doesn't mean something there. Isn't exactly another thing that it means and I, think that this is Caryl. Churchill's, refusal. To foreclose, meaning in this in the show right. That she is opening, up tremendous, possibilities, there are no characters there are scenarios. And yet there is lots in this play that should be familiar right. There are references, that are part of our everyday experiences. So much so that they. Becoming, banal were, they not put in such a weird context, and. So what she does is to like like barrel brush the the the, playwright's, she most emulates particularly, in her early career she dil D familiarizes. And makes strange, what. This what, these ideas are what our experience, in digital, culture is so that we can look at it in you so, that we can find something original and specific. And see what's, going on around us in, that particular moment, but.
I Can't answer the question what does it mean because, it doesn't mean anything something, and there isn't exactly one other thing that it means. The. Original production for this was. Perhaps not surprising, after the other images, I've showed you staged, in a glowing white cube right. And this cube is actually quite spectacular, because the, scene changes were almost instantaneous. And you couldn't figure out how people were getting off stage and coming, on and those, are the moments of theatre that I loved the most right theater magic right. And they were absolutely fantastic. This. Is our set we have a slightly smaller budget, than the Royal Court, so. We do not you will not get the the giant glowing screen I, did, originally put in a request for the formation set, I was like can we do something along those lines that would be great, and. I was told no I could not do that but. Judy has. Done an absolutely spectacular, job in creating. On. A very small budget did you hear me Liz very small budget. Has. Created a really wonderful playing. Space for us and the actors again. Based on the idea of of the cube and the box and. The idea of of, screens, kind, of saturating, our daily life and our interactions, and so we have taken these human, live. Connections. Moments. Of intimacy moments. Of love and we've staged them in these little boxes. And, and, they've they've generated. Some really wonderful discoveries. In the text and and some hopefully, wonderful, and. Incredibly, fun and and yes also funny moments. On on stage for our audience. We. Also use live streaming, video. Well. With the idea that we are never only now in one place at one time right, we are there are likely if you think back to that Marshall McLuhan book cover we are leaving traces digital, of ourselves everywhere, all the time and they are also doing all, kinds of social labor on our behalf right right, now I am trusting that my twitter feed is generating, audiences, right, for, for. The show we, did a takeover, thank. You to communications, and I think we need to take over of the, Bowdoin College Instagram. Feed on Saturday, right, and I relied on that to do a whole lot of labor and reposting. And retweeting, and things like that so so. When we stage things on stage we, never we rarely leave them only there right they usually have some kind of digital echo happening, simultaneously. We've. Also managed, to really stretch the, parameters, of the of the space because, picard, is not itself a black box or a white cube it is a it, is a proscenium, and so, we are breaking out of the box and the screen like parameters, of the proscenium as well I'm. Not going to say more about what's going on here the. Last weird element. Is that, we have created the character of the social media musician, and the, role of the musician, you'll see this is arrow pointing, to this person I'm down. Left or if you're watching the audience to, your right at the edge of the stage and that person is essentially, playing social, media throughout, the entirety of the performance, this, also gives the audience an opportunity to interact with the show in real time via, twitter by. Using the hashtag bowden. It will also give the opportunity, for people who are just using the hashtag bowden to magically, and miraculously. Show up in the middle of our show. All. Of which the social media musician will have to coordinate curate. Write and refine like, any kind of improvisational. Musician does into. A steady and comprehensible. And hopefully kind of coherent and interesting stream that does not also detract from the amazing performances happening on stage right decided. I'm. Going. To end with a final so I said it would get happy right so so I'm going to end with sex. Which. Seems like a perfectly acceptable, place apologies. To the parents I mentioned. The apologies to parents, so. This is this is again an entirety of the play from eleven information. Which. Reads. As you can see right one, character says what sexed evolved to do is to get information from two sets of genes so you get offspring that's not identical, to you otherwise.
You Keep getting the same thing over and over again like Hydra starfish, so, sex essentially, is information, to. Which the second character refers you. Don't think that while we're doing it to you. First. Character it doesn't hurt to know information, and also love if, you're. Lucky. So. My final answer to, my original question is this right, this, is theater and it, is also why theater, theater. Should give us information, that. Is hopefully not the same thing over and over again like a Hydra or a starfish. Theater. Is about information. Is about ideas it is about sharing perspectives. And critique of culture. It. Is not just about what the world looks like around. Us but it can also be what we want it to be it, is, an opportunity, to imagine, the world not as it is but what it could change into and in. Doing theater unlike other narrative. Forms that embrace this all the time we. Not only get to imagine, new worlds, we, invent them we not only get to see them but we get to live in them and to. Share them with others and, all. Of that is ultimately about information. But. It is also and this has been my experience of doing a, theater, and particularly teaching, theater at Bowdoin it, is. Also fundamentally, if you are lucky and active, love. Thank. You very much. Anyone. Want to fire off a question. Oh. You. Have to talk into a microphone Davis I can't hear you. Nope. There's a microphone either a couple. Of days ago there was this story about and I have I didn't know about these people it's a YouTube. Channel. Of two, people who just lived their lives and eat snacks and people. Watched them and a guy obsessed. Over them and went down to shoot them like. A, couple days ago well cops ended up coming and killing him but, you. Know all the videos were innocuous, little things of them sitting at home eating but, there was really popular just to watch kind of nothing on TV which seems like a sort. Of a growing field. There's, no question there. So. This is Mike this is my colleague Davis Robinson who teaches comedy. And. Is. Always good for a laugh or two. You know it's interesting there is so you know the artist David Levine he. Has a project called habit. Which, is essentially, people doing that in real. Space, so. You're installed in a gallery and he builds, a house and people live in the house for, the duration of the period of the, performance and then people can come in and look entirely. And one, of the things that they found is. That they had to increase security so there is a sense in which digital, proximity. And the erosion of privacy. Does. Facilitate. Some. Can facilitate some, very strange kind of interactions. And even dangerous ones. The other project. That I think is really, worth looking at is um a project. By. Wally broad called, domestic, terrorism. Rod. Is a rocky. American, who, was. Studying art at the University of Chicago The Art Institute of Chicago when. His brother was killed in an air attack in Iraq and, in. Response to that he, created. A piece where he put himself in, a in, a gallery space an enclosed gallery space and aimed paintball. Guns at him and he lived in there he had a bed in a bathroom. And all of that and. Invited. People on the internet to shoot at him the, the subtitle. Was called shoot in Iraqi. Because. In part because of his sense of guilt but also because he felt like he wanted to engage the. Idea of everyday, civilians, coming, under attack, in, in supposedly, safe spaces like their homes. He, was worried he wasn't going to be able to get people to. Engage, it but then it caught, on in the blogs and, eventually. He had to solicit, money to refill the paintball guns people were shooting him, almost. 24, hours a day. And, this is before our current conversation. About internet trolls, and the degree to which the unanimity, of the Internet has facilitated, different kinds of aggression but it certainly goes back to the very early days of the mud or you, know the multi-user, domains. In. Which acts, of aggression popped, up precisely because of its of its anonymity, so, it's it's a it's a dangerous, mix for sure I think one of things that that the. Work I pay attention to highlights.
Is. That we. Think of these things as contained, within particular spheres, and that, perhaps we can exempt ourselves out of them and I, don't believe that that is true I think, that this has become a kind of ubiquitous structuring. Principle, of our contemporary, lives and we are either engaging, and resisting, and critiquing. It or we, are facilitating and participating, within it. Thank. You Sara that was a wonderful talk. Equal. Parts uplifting, and depressing. But. I do want to think more about performance because, I know, there's something you were you think a lot about, and. I'm. Wondering if, it's worth trying, to. Think. To, distinguish. Between performance. Recording. Representation. You, know all of these oh these these terms seem to collapse into each other and in. Many, ways, so. That's sort of one one kind of question is there, is it worth, designating. Performance, or something non that. Is different, in. Some way that stands out from the. Reality. Because. You're saying that kind of collapses into it and the second part is actually about Churchill herself in the play do you think that the play. Because. I know she in. Many. In many of her works she likes to she. Kind, of collapses, time frame she's, very. Theatrical. Is this play in. A particular, way. Trying. To assert, something, for. A certain, role for theater in relation, to. Something. That is not or is it actually trying to collapse. The, - you, know. So. I think it's. Helpful, in some ways to think about what Churchill is doing in this play as an answer to your first question which. Is that I. Do. Believe that, she is, invested. In and paying attention to the ways in which that as you allude to in your first question. Contemporary. Digital culture, has collapsed, many of these distinctions, so, reality. And representation. Live. And, and mediated. The. Here. Then and now and co-presence versus. You. Know distanced, communication, for example. And. Is there a value. In in creating and maintaining those, distinctions, I think the short answer is that, it. Depends, on on what you're doing in any given moment I think, studying this kind of work and Churchill's, play in particular, and. Forgive me those of you in earth and oceanographic, science I think it's a little bit like studying the ocean which. Is that you are studying an ecosystem that is incredibly, connected and interdependent, and dynamic, and constantly in motion and responding, to multiple simultaneous. Sometimes. Even contradictory, forces at, once and I. Don't know how my colleagues actually study the ocean because I'm I'm not, that bright um. So I didn't really do very well in science but. Is to try. To create in in performance, to create a moment, where, we can suspend. The. Activity, for long enough to understand, what are the dynamics that are happening in this particular work and take. Them apart and then, in some ways like freeze-frame, them and then put them back in motion again and see how they continue, to interact and do they conform to models that, we've imagined, or they deviating, from what we imagined would happen so. I think there's tremendous value, in paying. Attention to and maintaining the category, of theater. And. And. What theater historically, has done right, as I know you do. But also how it functions, now how that notion of theater but, also to and. What are some of the distinctions between theater and media but. But, also to recognize the ways in which they have become indistinguishable and, are, fundamentally. Indistinguishable except, insofar as they become temporarily, useful, for us to separate them so I'm always interested in kind of moments and what, we study as rather than what we study it is so. I'm very happy to study something as media or as theater recognizing. That in any given moment those two categories might not be. As distinct, as it as we want them to be but for the purposes of analysis might. Be helpful to think about them in that way. Because. Otherwise it just becomes mush. Sarah. I have the mic oh. Yes. Hey guard but, now my question seems. Really. Quite, trivial I, just, that means it will be easy to answer thank you please go ahead, thank, you I very much enjoyed that what I wanted, to say is I found myself humming, in the back of my head while you're doing this video killed the radio star, because I guess my brain was trying to tell me oh yes, I'm. Suppressing. The urge to start singing it yep okay me too but. So. My question boils down to are. We beyond the place where you can actually just go to a show with a singer, and a piano like are we so so, in the performance, that must be multimedia, must be digital must be screens, I, guess, have we killed the idea that you can just have a simple analog.
If You will acoustic. Performance. I really, hope not. Your, I would. I would agree with everything you said except for the must, I. Am, an all I, am I'm perhaps the most. Promiscuous. Theater, goer ever right. I've taught courses on on musical, theater and the, avant-garde. I've taught courses that. Fold the avant-garde into musical theater I, love, like the most popular, cheesy, stuff. Right my students can attest to this and I, love like the weird stuff that like, you can only see in one little corner of Europe at a particular time when the moon is in the right spot. It's. It's for, me there's room for everything, and. If we lose the ability for a performer. With a piano which, incidentally we have in, the show just, saying, come. Come, there is a moment just a performer and a piano. We. Lose those like what's what's the point of everything else but we have to recognize that that though the world of performance is incredibly large and incredibly. Diverse and incredibly. Varied and I, want to see it all and I want my students to see it all. So. We're, all performing, all the time right cuz we've got our fingers trackers and satellites. And whatever are we all editing, ourselves, all the time as well I. Think. Some of us are better at doing that than others I. I. May, not be so good at that actually. But. Yes. Yes. And I would say you, know in the sort of current moment I if. You sort of think about it in in what has become a now. Almost cliched, term of social, media we're also curating, ourselves all the time because, it's you're not just performing, you're also creating your own performance archive, right. You're not just living your life you're documenting it, and you're. Circulating, that and you're publicizing, that so, you. Know if you if you take pictures that you post online that you share with family and friends, you. Are you are part of creating your own performance documentation. In real time. And. Some of us are more. Hey, pay attention to me than, others right some people lock their Twitter feeds or lock, their Instagram. There's. Also the phenomenon, of the insta and the fin stuff right the fake Instagram, I know. Right. Where. You actually create two Instagram. Accounts, one, that is the public persona, that you present to the world about how wonderful your life is right, and the other where you put what's actually going on right, so one is like you know sunsets, and studying and, you know things, that your parents can see and one, write, is over here that shows all the other stuff that's going on, the.
What. I've often said about Facebook, is that it's a diary in a megaphone and. What's. Unfortunate is that we sometimes forget. Which. We're doing right, so sometimes we treat it like a diary and forget that it's a megaphone and sometimes we think it's a megaphone and then we get really depressed that you know no one is reading because. It's actually we've put something that's very incredibly private and no one sees it so, it's, these kinds of negotiations and, that moving back and forth between those two polls that I think is so critical. To be thinking about all the time now and, for my own children. Who. Are teenagers and are on various kinds of media. We had extended conversations, about, the diary megaphone, and and, and, I specifically, talked to them about what kind of performance, you want to create, and present and so, yes I believe they're. Lucky I hope they're editing themselves, often. At. Least from their mom. This. Will be the final question thanks. Sister. Pressure on me for the final question Sarah. What a really wonderful wonderful talk, and I am definitely, going to the show I. Just, wanted to go, back to the question, of face. To face itself. Terms. Of you know that issue is there really actually an unmediated, face to face go. To w, JT. Mitchell and what, do pictures want and, George is always morph, and there is ultimately, like no unmediated. Face. To face so is it, in some ways that we're not so surprised. By this because it's an extension, of what we navigate all the time and, I, almost wonder if the love piece is that moment where. Trust. Somehow, works, across the. Unmediated. Creats, an unmediated moment, in. The context. Of. So. III know I know we're there were the the end of time so I'll I'll try to be brief but this is this is something that could go on much, larger or. Much longer. The. Best way to answer that is to say that. That. It's it's it's it's yes yes. And. So. Most. Of our social, interactions, contain. Some echo of of media, both, by what we've experienced, because we bring into. Each personal, interaction, everything that we've experienced, previously, and. And there's a certain degree to which what, we might. Miss, perceive as novel, in the contemporary, moment, has. Has traces that go that go back you know 100, 200, 400, years I mean the it's Shakespeare who's talking about the world being a stage and McLuhan borrowing from Shakespeare, right to talk about satellites. Certainly. We are the some of our social interactions, in every single moment, and we bring all of that into that moment, and when, most so many of our social interactions in our world around us is constructed. In and through media and our understanding of, reality is. Largely. Brought to us through different kinds of media forms, whether that's online or TV or cinema, right, those echoes those images, they hang in our heads. But, I think for me and why why, the value of something called theater right.
However Imperfect. A kind, of form it is, and. That, moment of the single analog interaction. Becomes. Even more vital and it, can feel very artificial. We. Do an exercise before. Before. We start the show in which I ask each of my actors to, spend one minute we, well first of all we turn off all our phones and we put them in a box. And. Then I ask them to spend one minute looking, face, to face and and looking into the eyes of another cast member and you. Realize in that moment how, difficult, the, analog exchanges. How. Difficult, a truly unmediated. Communion. With another human being can. Be and yet, how ultimately. Fulfilling, that. Is. And. And how essential, because as again, as breaths Caryl. Churchill's inspiration, for a lot of her piece and I'll sort of conclude on this Brecht. Once said that that, the smallest unit who of humanity, was not one person that. The smallest unit of humanity was two people, that. In order to be fully human and fully ourselves, we have to be in relation to some in relationship, to someone else and that's, what I try to cultivate in the theater.