The following series of laboratory performance experiments all try to answer my fundamental question regarding the relationship between live performance and projected performance.
In each of the three laboratory experiments relating to a different theme/integration of technology (analog/digital, agit-prop, and witness performance), I attempted to create a different relationship between the balance and direction of the projection/performance.
The analog/digital performance piece was set up as a comparative experiment between a live performance and a digitally projected performance. The control was the audience group, which was exposed to both stories. The variables in the experiment, which were much harder to quantify and control were the audience’s emotional response, the power/effect of a repetition of a story, and the predictability of the experience.
The performance entailed a performer (myself) telling a very personal and emotional story (my experience with cancer). In the first presentation, I sat before the audience, with only a flashlight illuminating my face, and told my story.
The second performance, which was a filmed version of the first, was then projected onto a standard classroom projection screen using an LCD projector.
The feedback regarding the two performances primarily had to do with the power and emotional connection to the first performance, which the second lacked. I pointed out, however, that the second performance was flawed and biased in multiple ways. The projected performance was a filmed version of a live performance, versus a filmed performance, which could have been designed to be filmed as opposed to staged.
The other variable in the performance was the repetition of the exact same story (and the replay of verbal audience reactions). Because of the audience’s familiarity with the story/performance, the projected performance lacked surprise and the immediate engagement that the fresh and unheard live performance had.
The relationship between the projection and live performer was comparative in this experiment. There was no direct interaction between either technology. Rather, this performance served to compare and contrast the specific elements of both performance technology.
Important to note that, when integrating film elements onto the stage, an element of temporarily which live performance has is broken. While a stage performance has certain constraints (it can only last a certain amount of time before the theater closes, the audience will get hungry/restless eventually), a filmed performance does not have the constraints. A performance can be played, on loop, for an infinite period, and can also exist without an audience.
The result of the performance was an overall appreciation for the live performer over the projected performance.
In my agit-prop performance, I put the relationship between the live performer and the projected performer to the foreground. The piece was a confrontation between a projected warped version of the live performer, and the live performer. The confrontation, which focused on sexual identity, was an imagined interior dialogue between one person fractured into two conflicting forces.
In the physical presentation of the performance, I placed the audience facing the confrontation, so that they could have two points of focus: the projection (Stage right) and the performer (stage left).
The comments for the performance were mixed. The composition, which was a white blanket, a black/white video, and black underwear, was complimented for its visual effect.
A comment was made regarding the actual subject matter; the commenter thought it seemed too predictable of a choice for me to present on. This comment, while pretty offensive, did provoke me to broaden my artistic focuses. But, as an LGBT studies minor and an LGBT identified student, it’s still an important subject for me despite how OBVIOUS of a choice it might have been.
An additional comment, which was important to note, was the relationship of the audience to the performance. The audience looked at the two subjects as two separate compositional focuses that bounced between one another. People responded well to this, but also offered advise to experiment with the audience configuration.
Also, when asked, the audience felt that the performer and projected performer had equal power in this composition.
For my witness performance, I took inspiration from Downtown LA’s Geffen MOCA Exhibit, “Suprasensorial”, which created artistic sensory-affecting environments. Using that as a jumping off point, I was interested in creating an interactive environment, which would engage the audience sensually rather than from a distance (as in the last two “performances” did). So, with this environment, I presented a table full of greasy, salty, and snack type foods (pepperoni pizza slices, rich cookies, and chips) and told the audience the performance would be over when all of the food was off of the table. Two live performers were also present. One, a man with two grocery bags over his face, was reaching for food on the table. A second, larger man, stood guard over him, preventing him from getting any of the food. In the background of the table, slides were shown of restaurants, food, and pleasant food-related environments, interplayed between photos of impoverished groups of people seeking food.
The environment had no particular objective, other than to finish all of the food on the table (which I, as the moderator, would occasionally replenish).
As the environment went on, the audience took a more active role in assisting the bagman to retrieve food. Other than that, they simply ate and watched the interaction between the bagged man and his guard.
In the feedback section of the performance (which was rather heated), there were several points brought up. First and foremost was the integration of the technology, and that it seemed that the projections were not the foreground of the presentation, and quite literally only functioned as a background element to the live performance. While I question the importance of a comment like this, as the technology was present and had a specific function in the piece, I understand that the technology in this situation wasn’t the medium through which the piece’s moment was generated.
An additional point brought up was the use of the photography depicting starving peoples. Comments included a general desensitization to imagery like that, and also to the stock semiotic coding that images like that bring. Typically, images like that have been used in a stock-like fashion, and some feedback rejected the casual use of such images.
I agree that the images have a presence in our society that often disregards them in terms of their actual content in favor of superimposing a meaning. As this was a study as opposed to a performance, I did look at the images in terms of their semiotic coding as opposed to their composition (a comment was made that they looked like they were compiled through a Google image search, which was exactly how they WERE compiled). And, while that point may be questioned (morally, can you just insert photos like that into a performance?), I’m interested that their presence brought up so much conflict regarding their point in the piece.
If there is one thing is course taught me, in terms of composition, the visual art world doesn’t necessarily feel the need to justify every element within itself. Theatrical narrative, on the other hand, remains crisp, and must somehow justify/explore all of its inner parts and the pieces included within it. I took this witness performance as an experiment to the interaction between various elements that didn’t have a clearly thought-out through line, which was an artistic risk but made for a great experiment.
My final performance, which was a repeat performance of my Agit-Prop performance, had a rough start, as the video component didn’t load. On second attempt, however, performance felt good and seemed to convey everything that it originally intended to convey. Two shifts were made between the original and the second performance: one was the removal of the tagline text, which presented a statistic regarding LGBT related youth suicides. This was done after a comment from the first performance; the commenter felt the statistic gave the performance too much of a prescribed meaning rather than letting it affect each audience member in whatever personal way it did.
The second change was the relationship between the audience and the stage picture. Instead of placing the two compositional elements in several visual areas, I put both on top of one another. The audience now looked directly at the live performer interacting with the projection, one on top of the other.
I wasn’t as happy with this audience configuration, as it didn’t place as much emphasis on the live body as I would have liked, but it did get the same point across.
Overall, I’ve been happy with the work this class has allowed me to do. As a performer, I’m still interested in this liminal space between the intersection of performance and technology, and how live performance will be affected by social media, holograms, and more sensory-engaging technologies yet unknown. It’s a scary time to be an artist.
For my final performance, I decided to combine all of my products from previous exercises into one performance. I wrote a script, with several one liners. The entire performance was based off of body language and the connection it has to emotions. There were 10 roles for emotions. There was embarrassment, delight, interest, despair, hysteria, surprise, frustration, angst, hostility, and gratitude.
The way I started off my performance, I had a stack of 10 scripts which I handed to an audience member, whom I then asked to hand out to 10 other people in the audience. The first page on the script read: If you are holding this script walk over to the mic and begin. A group of people came up to the mic and began reading their highlighted lines. On the opposite side of the EDA, I strapped the megaphone onto the stair rail. Whenever a line was said I would perform some sort of action that depicted what was being read in the script. For example, for Angst, I would stomp around in a circle and yell “Why Why Why Why Why”. As the script came closer and closer to being finished, My distance from the performance would reel in. Overall, I think that my performance was successful sans the setup and placement of objects and performers.
If I could redo it, I would not strap the megaphone onto one stable spot, I would carry the megaphone around with my in hand, and I would get rid of the table in the middle of the stage, have the mic hanging from the ceiling swinging around in mid air and have participants choose where they want to be in terms of reading out their lines on the script and into the mic.
Heeding the advice of my peers from the witness study, I built on top of the critique and made the following changes:
1) I constructed a longer version of my sweater top, so that it reached down to the top of my thighs. This changed the visual experienced, as the top covered all of my torso, and the amount of yarn took longer to unravel.
2) I added a variety of choreographed movements, to be used accordingly. Aside from upper body/arm movement, leg movement was also used in this performance.
3) Instead of attaching the yarn to the sewing machine at the beginning of the performance, everything came out already set up, so that the action doesn’t put myself in any strong position in relationship with the action of the audience.
Out of the comfort zone of a familiar audience, it was fascinating to see their relationship with the machine and me. The audience were engaging, but only by a few. The rest were spectators who waited upon each other to participate. Some came up out of curiosity and dabbled in it, while others stayed longer to see the effect they were causing. There were awkward moments when the participants thought they were “messing up” the performance and felt obligated to “fix it,” at one point even apologizing verbally. With an audience outside of our class that doesn’t know the exact performance, it created another aspect of the performance in which the failure blurred the lines of what was or what wasn’t part of the performance.
The outcome this time was different from the study. The yarn was completely stripped from me, my upper body exposed completely. The reactions from certain participants were difficult to explain, since people from the class chose to partake, and the new audience were skeptical of whether their actions were premeditated. Later comments expressed that the end was anti-climatic since I was covered up, but all parts of the process was left up to the collective choice of the audience, and be it good or bad. This performance was just as much about the participants’ choices and actions as it was about mine.
For the final presentation I performed my agit prop piece. All of the original sentiments I felt in the first performance still stand. I made a few modifications to the performance, which were mostly choreographic, involved the audience more, and some refinement of the piece. Again I found myself getting lost in this mess that I was creating and finding myself unable to stop. Again during the performance I just blanked out and was unaware of my surroundings.
For the final performance Gabbie and I performed our witness study. We tried to polish the mechanics of the performance for the final performance. The first thing we changed was the numbering system of the gird. Instead of a 4 x 3 grid, we opted for a 3 x 3 grid with numbered squares. With the increased number of audience members and reduced number of squares, the likelihood of a multiple bodies in the same square increases greatly. We also realized that we would have to implement a mechanism to display the phone numbers of those who have texted us in real time because we would not be able to gather phone numbers in advance. By using a processing sketch that pulled data from twitter, we would be able to tweet phone numbers and have them appear in the sketch. Because of all the things that needed to go on we decided to use Lauren as a assistant to both text back and tweet numbers. We asked her to text everyone to certain locations throughout the piece, allowing for progression in the piece. We however did not anticipate so many texts streaming in that lauren had to give up on the twitter. Even though the twitter feed failed, the performance greatly benefitted from the fact that most of the audience knew each other and could text each other. Visually we kept the hotline aesthetic but made the instructions more clear and gave the audience a heads up to text us. Instead of starting by texting each other, we waited for people to start texting us coordinates, that way it would be more obvious that audience participation would be essential. We also included an extra decision making element by allowing for participant ejection but everyone was too busy dancing/texting to realize that even happened. Overall I feel the performance was very successful even with the technical flaws. It successfully created the artificial social/antisocial situation that we were looking for.
Failure to print 3 of 3
For this performance I wanted to create layers of questions which would involve and incorporate the audience. I had setup in which the audience would be invited to come on the other side of a curtain and come into a copy room of sorts. Once in the space, the witness was taken and copies of the person were made whether part of their bodies or their clothing, or anything they would be willing to contribute. The performance created a very specific space in which I wanted to be as invisible as possible and only direct some of the traffic and allow people to interact with the technology in any way they wanted. It was very much about being able to do something you rarely get an opportunity to.
The final decision to post everyone’s copies served as a visual element as well as a comical one. This performance was mean to be enjoyable and fun, a place to live out some quirky fantasies and fetishes with copy machines.
The way in which I approached my witness exercise, I was determined to have a jam sesh. I lied out 5 instruments in a circle on the floor. They included: a harmonica, a tambourine, a melodica, a ukulele, a casio keyboard, and of course the megaphone which also acted as an instrument. Projected above the circle of instruments were the instructions: Pick up an instrument and begin. I started off by saying “Hey Hey You, come stand in this triangle over here”. People responded and sat in the triangle (which was three pieces of tape in the shape of a triangle) around me, picked up an instrument and began playing around with their instrument. I lead the group with a specific rhythm and then asked the rest of the group if they could mimic the same rhythm with their instruments. They could use their voices and the snapping of their fingers as instruments too. We jammed with our instruments/bodies/voices, for about 10 minutes. In the meantime, while everyone was playing their instruments, I recorded about a 10 minute set of what we were performing on my laptop (garage band) which I exported into an mp3, and then transferred onto my Iphone. I cut into the jam sesh at a point, and asked the group if they were satisfied with their song. They consented and then, I responded “Well, let’s go and share our music.
The intention after this was to go out to the sinking gardens where there is a lot of walking traffic. There we would throw the megaphone along with my iphone which would be playing our song that we just recorded on repeat. The idea was to serenade passersby with music that we just recorded and and to play off of the immediacy of sound that a megaphone is capable of.
What occurred instead, which turned out to be much more fun, was that everyone, when I told them that we should go share our music, brought their instruments with them outdoors, we played our music all the way to the sinking gardens where we continued to play our music and sing to people that were passing by. It was really thrilling and weird to perform something that was completely improved and unexpected, but I didn’t want to redirect everyone not to utilize their instruments, so I just went along with it. On top of that it started to rain once we went outside, which may or may not have added to the intensity and immediacy of the piece. I started running towards the tree that I was supposed to strap my megaphone on, but the minute I started running, everyone else started running. Gustavo helped me strap the megaphone along to the tree, and I put the song on repeat on my phone, which was also strapped to the megaphone on the tree. Our voices and strumming of instruments overpowered the megaphone which didn’t work to my advantage, but I think everyone was just playing around in the rain, and serenading one another, ‘live’. At one point, it was getting a little bit out of my hands, just a little bit, so I directed everyone to start walking back towards broad.
Afterthoughts on this whole situation, was that it was Kumbaya fest, it was really fun, got people totally involved, and that it was really weird. I wholeheartedly concurred. It was a big wet mess, but the great part of the experience was that I finally got to use the megaphone to its loudest potential. And that this would definitely not be my final performance.