Orbiting Together: Participatory Performances

January 26 & February 23, 2017, 7-9pm
Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle, WA

Learn more about the project on our project website: orbitingtogether.com

Ideated & Choreographed with Eric John Olson & Tamin Totzke
Participants: Over 200 attendee's of the SAM Winter ART ENCOUNTERS. 
Collaborators/Performers:  Aiko Kinoshita, Rachael Lincoln, Brandin Steffensen, Aaron Swartzman & Tamin Totzke

Orbiting Together's participatory performances juxtaposed the mundane and the impossible side by side. Building upon the research and experiences accumulated throughout our winter residency at the Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park, Tamin Totzke, Eric John Olson, and I choreographed two participatory experiences that playfully embraced and critiqued the ways we interact with technology. Choreographer Tamin Totke then joined Eric Olson and I to create two public programs called Art Encounters. Throughout the performances, participants received text messages directing them through a series of movements, acts of connection with strangers, and imaginary landscapes. The instructions corresponded, in real time, to satellites passing overhead.

At the first Art Encounter, we launched the satellite text service. Then texts, received every 20 seconds in correlation with satellites passing overhead, guided the audience of 70 people in movement exercises. Over time, the audience began to realize that they were not all receiving the instructions at the same time. As the differing gaps between texts widened, participants began listening to instructions that we spoke aloud in the space rather than looking to their phones, consequentially creating momentary connections with strangers in the space. This performance illuminated the ways connecting via technology is quite different from connecting in-person in real-time.

For the final Art Encounter, staged a month later, we choreographed a new participatory performance that more directly critiqued ways we interact with the technology utilized in the project as a whole. During this participatory performance, 100 participants received text messages directing them through a series of movements. Like the first performance, instructions corresponded, in real time, to satellites passing overhead. However, for this performance, two projectors in the venue also digitally presented the instructions. As the performance progressed, participants naturally shifted from being guided by their phones individually to visually experiencing the instructions together. We also embedded practiced performers in the group who responded to the collective experience, exaggerating movements and encouraging participants to deviate from the set instructions.

Where we once used the stars and our intuition to locate ourselves, we now look to our phones, rarely considering our bodies in relation to celestial objects orbiting overhead. Orbiting Together was a participatory project created in collaboration with artists Eric John Olson and Tamin Totzke. This project uses a network of satellites flying over the Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park as triggers for messages encouraging participants to engage their somatic awareness. Individuals opted into the system create a rhizomatic positioning system composed of people in the place of technology.

Project Review: Tethers by Elissa Favero, published on the print & online art journal "SoFA". Issue 2: Perception
February ART ENCOUNTER (above): Photography by Jonathan Vanderweit.
January ART ENCOUNTER (below): Photography by Jen Au

ORBITING TOGETHER was generously funded by the 2018 Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park Winter Residency and a grant from the Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation.