Tonight I attended what was listed as a Public Beta 1 of a network controlled performance titled Please Switch On Your Mobile Phones at the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff. Below is a quick run through of what happened.
The audience arrived in the theatre and were immediately asked to contribute a short memory to the performance from their mobile phones. This was done through a website on a local area wifi network. Once submitted you saw the message displayed below:
And then waited patiently for your message to appear on screen (as seen below) behind the dancers who were warming up/rehersing in the space.
Five memories were then chosen and each one assigned to a group of dancers who were colour coded as red, green, blue, yellow and orange. Below is the memory for the yellow group.
Each message was then ‘transcoded’ into a series of movements based on the number of characters in each word. Below are the ‘transcoded’ movements for the yellow group. At this stage many in the audience started to have technical difficulties (you were instructed to raise your hand if this was the case), become impatient with what was happening and started to wander in and out to the toilets and bar.
Next the audience were asked to pick a pictogram for each group of dancers. From here on I began to not understand the link between what we the audience were doing, specifically choosing the pictograms, and how it/they related to the what the dancers were doing.
The choosing of the pictograms, three times per colour group, amounted to a voting contest and a bar graph of the results were shown on screen (seen below).
Finally all chosen pictograms were shown.
Throughout all of this the website on your mobile phone kept redirecting you to the interacts you were being asked to perform or showed you the choreography chosen for the dancers. Below is shown a menu for all the colour groups which when accessed showed each groups choreography.
And then there were some Kinects in the space that were being used to capture video and projected as an effect (seen below). The audience were now redirected on the website to controls for audio, video etc. which they could control for a set period of time. This however had many technical difficulties with many unable to access it in their limed time slot.
I attended this with I guess too many expectations, knowing full well what can be done with technologies in this context, however that was’nt the issue. I knew the whole event was a test, an experiment, and I was quite happy for it to be rough around the edges but instead it was very disjointed. The ‘transcoding’ of memories to movement was simple, clever, and could have been evolved further. The audience seemed most happy with this part of the performance as they were able to see their memories on screen so they had visible evidence of contributing to the event. Everything about the pictograms was confused; What did the pictograms mean? How did they relate to the memories or were they a completely different idea? What were dancers doing as a response to the pictograms? Was a voting system enough to give audience members a sense of actually contributing? The idea of controlling the environment e.g. the audio, video etc. had lots of potential but the way this control was provided, a time-share of sorts, which was hindered by lots of technical difficulties meant that most audience members seemed to give up.
All of this took over an hour and a half before finally there was a short performance of the choreography score created by the audience. I came away disappointed, disappointed at not understanding how I was contributing in many parts of the performance and disappointed that it took such a long time to score the work for what was then quite short.