Being Adam means your access to the paradise is somewhat denied, while being ADAM in 2020 under the situation of COVID 19 means the access to your peers and the audience is somewhat mediated. Over three evenings from 12 to 14 August, in "FW: Wall-Floor-Window Positions", the dance component of “ADAM 2020 Online Performance Project" curated by River Lin with Transient Collective (Madeleine Flynn, Han Xue-Mei, Elia Nurvista and Vuth Lyno), 15 artists “choreograph and perform their bodies within and for the architectural formed by a window/screen, wall and floor in domestic settings.”
The problematisation of the computer and smartphone screen as the performing space poses new questions to the notion of “live performance going online”, the ontology of which, to me, has been tainted by “offline” conventions when live means “lives” – the certainty of the living plural. These 15 pieces of dance (whatever that means) are not concerned with the distribution of convention “live performance” as digital signals. Rather the attributes of the screen and the politics of its agency are taken as inevitable actualities of the choreography.
Such contemplation renders the performer-spectator relationship wobbling and toppling. The relationship we are used can use some reflection when the screen (and the Internet) replaces the hyphen between the performer and spectator. Think Marshall McLuhan: "The medium is the message". What a new technological breakthrough, a.k.a. the medium, brings along is not the content that comes through, but how the medium as “extension of ourselves” reformulates inter-personal dynamics.
In most of the pieces, the camera on the performers’ end is somewhat affixed. It determines how that particular body will receive the gaze. It doesn’t flinch no matter how the spectator’s body position change. Does this detachment recall the Cartesian body-mind duality? The aesthetic is to what extent the body crams the confine of the screen for maximum visibility. Some cannot help enjoying the proximity of the gaze, both of the others and the self, as they bring their cameras to as close to their bodies as possible. The spectator must continuously negotiate between voyeuristic pleasure and the recognised status of “an audience member”. Slippery.
As slippery is where the publicness of performing space ends and the intimacy of domestic space starts. If a tree falls and no one hears it, does it make a sound? What is brought to light when the boundary of theatre as physical space is infinitely extended and/or expanded? What assures one of the performance’s publicness as it goes on in one’s bedroom? Is there anyone out there on the other end of the cable? Is there an experience, or is there an experience of the televised image?
With dimensions of choreography such as composition, speed, movement design and physical technicality rendered secondary, shall we talk about how suspended daily routines change the body’s placement in space, how truncated movements continue beyond the screen, how corporeality works around technology, and how layers of time overlap on bodies? Shall we talk about bodies-in-action? Shall we talk about choreography?
What is intriguing is that, on the one hand, performers choreographed to the agency of the screen and put forward their best selves to spectators who may not even exist. On the other hand, and on the other end, the best is always in the waiting. Confined spectators will never learn to what extent network stability has messed with the reception of THE reality as it appears on the screen. Which screen? My screen showing your body or your screen showing whatever unknown to me, or that 3rd and 4th and 5th screens showing the body in that moment of time which is now symbolically dead? Is one screen truer than the other? With the agency of the screen, is synchronisation a temporal or metaphorical notion?