Can technology help us feel more connected and less alienated?
Eric John Olson, Tamin Totzke and I are less than week away from our first participatory performance and project launch at the SAM Olympic Sculpture Park. Up until this point, the idea of guiding a group of strangers through space via text message felt curious, novel even... and perhaps interesting but we had NO IDEA if it would a.) affectively work or b.) serve as a meaningful experience for the participants. This second aim was particularly important to us and especially ambiguous. During our residency hours this weekend, we put this framework to the test.
At the beginning of our residency, Eric, Tamin, my sweetheart Tim, and I decided that I would only travel to Seattle two weekends a month throughout the project. I have a young toddler and traveling more than that felt unsustainable; even this much would be a strain on our family but felt necessary and worth it. Consequently, my experience of this weekend's participatory "TESTS" were mediated via video chat. Although I mourned the limitation, I also found beauty in the circumstance. Sitting in my studio on the other side of the state, I directed 20 participants, sending text messages to our small collective whom enacted the instructions one by one. Together, the group flocked through the room, laid their heads on strangers shoulders and envisioned change for the world. From 274 miles away I witnessed.
We ran the "big score" once, met as collaborators, altered it and then ran it again. The feedback was unanimous and enthusiastic...they wanted more. As I watched them through a computer screen, individually reading text messages to move through space together and somehow still creating honest connections with each other, I found myself contemplating an F. Scott Fitzgerald quote I recently read in Rebecca Solnit book Hope in the Dark. "The test of a first-rate intelligences is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." Technology isolates us and connects us. In this project, that concept manifests in layers.
Get free tickets to the first ART ENCOUNTER! January 26 at 7-9pm at the SAM Olympic Sculpture Park.