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25/01/2015

'Interfacing': Digital Theatre @ Tel Aviv University

Last weekend I attended 'Interfacing': a Digital Theatre performance at the Tel Aviv University, created by Maya Magnat and Erez Maayan

It was thought provoking and interesting, and for a university-scale production, well made. 




"In this Digital Theatre act we wish to explore the relationship between us and the digital gadgets we use on a daily basis in such an integral way. During the performance an intimate relationship is created between the digital gadgets and the performer through the personification of the technology". 
Quoting from the programme. 

At the beginning of the performance, the audience participated interactively, as each two viewers sat in front of an active computer screen, and Maya's digital representation communicated with us through it:


We acted according to the tasks we were given  

 Learned relevant terms

 Chose which smiley - sorry, emoticon - to send 

Clicking our mice led us across virtual reality

As the performance continued the relationship between the human performer and her digital-virtual representation was revealed, becoming increasingly unclear who was leading whom, who was guiding whom, who was operating whom. 

Just in case you'll get to see it I won't write any spoilers - I will write that human Maya appeared in front of a screening of a video clip titled "Come, Technology" starring digital Maya. Additional layers were added as digital maya instructed human Maya during it: 






For me, the most captivating, memorable part of this act was when the lips in the tablet (=digital Maya) told human Maya: 

"I'll always be there for you. I'll appear as you wish for me to appear, I'll do as you wish for me to do. I'll never let you down or hurt you. I'll never leave you or die or break your heart. With me you'll feel safe. You'll never be alone again..."
Will the digital-virtual representations of our loved ones indeed always be there for us and with us, including after their physical demise? Are we under the illusion that our digital persona, or other people's digital persona, is immortal? 
I think so. I think we are under the illusion that if only we'll be "good, neat and tidy" and backup EVERYTHING, we'll be able to preserve ourselves and our loved ones in some fashion. And it is an illusion, because while it is fairly easy to kill a human being from a technical-physical point of view: all you need to do is break the neck or shoot vital organs, for instance, but this requires certain skills or capabilities which not all of us necessarily posses, as well as an intent to do harm.   
Deleting files, however, or taking a website or a platform off line, are much simpler and accessible actions, which we're all capable of: by mistake, by negligence or intentionally. And yet - most of us don't consider these possibilities. Is it because death is transparent to us? Because we do not wish to consider the possible demise, neither of the physical person nor of the virtual-digital-online persona? 
In past times, people left monuments behind in the form of grand structures, hoping they will last forever and so will their name and memory. Today, people leave even larger monuments behind in self commemoration - only it's not in the physical realms. Is the non-physical self commemoration more eternal than the physical one? Or is it only more accessible, as not all of us can create pyramids or lavish palaces, but all of us can leave enough digital and online memorabilia we've created to fill up virtual pyramids? 

The next part of the performance made us question exactly that eternal illusion, in my eyes, but we said no spoilers, so let's continue: 



Human Maya and digital Maya syncing their act  

Human and digital Mayas flirting with each other 


Human Maya chooses the lips representing digital Maya 





Digital and human Mayas connecting 


Audience participation once more: 

we were requested to turn the computer screens towards human Maya 

Digital Maya projected on human Maya 

Virtual reality (?) awaits us outside




I will try and update here and/or in the Facebook page of the blog if 'Interfacing' will be performed again. 
All pictures were taken by me during the performance. 


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You might find the following post of interest to you as well: "Mediumship": Performance Art at 'Print Screen' Festival


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