The crowed was gathered in the café area of the Wilder socializing until a staff member came to warn us that the show was about to begin. She gave us a few instructions as she guided us to the performance space; “please check your coats, go up the elevator to the fourth floor, down a set of stairs, remove your shoes, wait here.”
We all followed the steps carefully and waited on the other side of a thick black velvet curtain, curious to see what will happen next. That process almost felt as if we were the one about to perform, waiting in the bleachers for our turn to go on stage, and actually that was not so far from the truth.
Once we were invited to come in, we discovered a rectangular room that had been made smaller with the help of the black velvet curtains. There were no seats, just an empty space. It was dark. Images of the tree leaves were being projected on the floor and a soundscape of nature and bird chants could be heard.
There was a pile of iPads on the floor and as I approached closer, I quickly realized that the images seen on the floor and the sounds heard in the room came from what was displayed on the iPads’ screens. The projector was on a trolley and a man that I thought was a “tech guy” was handling it. Two men were seated on the floor playing on either their phone or a tablet, and I was not sure whether they were the dancers or part of the audience.
The crowd shyly took place in front of the two seated man, unsure of where to sit, or if we even had to sit. That uncertainty kept everyone alert and ready. Nothing had really begun yet and I already had a feeling my perceptions were being played with. I liked it.
The performers started talking to each other in a very natural and non-theatrical manner, they moved into space in the same demeanor as if they were not performing and we were not there. They were playing around with the iPads, changing the images displayed, realigning them on the floor. It seemed as if we were witnessing part of the creative process, some sort of experimentation but we were not part of it and I was so curious to understand what they were doing.
Then, they gave a few of the iPads to some audience members, I was one of them, I was thrilled. I watched the video for a while and when I lifted my head from the screen, a lot had happened. All the remaining tablets had been aligned against a different wall and most of the audience was standing and had displaced to observe the new set up. I was so captivated by the screen that I had missed all the changes. I then stood up to join the rest of the group. I was impressed! In the stealthiest fashion, and within a few minutes only, they had managed to implant reflections in me about our relationship with technology and screens.
How much am I missing in real life when I am so focused on my phone? In addition to that, they had gotten the whole group up on their feet, had them completely reorganized in space, and had them physically involved with the work. That had set the tone for the show, and from that moment, everybody remained standing until the very last scene were again very subtly, they brought everybody back into sitting.
Their performance involved the performers themselves and their bodies, sound, the iPads and their cameras, the projectors that would project everything in real time, and the audience members. They manipulated all the equipment themselves (there was no actual “tech guy”, he was a dancer) and were taking turns at who was being in front of the camera, who was filming, who was handling the projector, who was blending in the audience. When our attention was focused on one thing, something else was preparing in the background.
People would gradually be noticing until that new scene became more attractive and everyone’s attention would shift. With each new tableau, the use of technology was very clever, and it was always presented in ways to make us reflect on and identify with the work. Some scenes were questioning how we present ourselves and interact with others through technology, other made me question why we are sometimes so attracted to screens that we stop watching what is happening in real life.
Others, completely blurred the lines between performers and the audience, allowing us to interact directly with them. In addition to bringing reflections and being so smartly structured and woven together, it was also very entertaining and fun. It was so relatable that in several accounts I began laughing out loud in the middle of the crowd. It was by far one of the most interesting and refreshing performances I had seen in a long time!