Make a live work that depends on technology and the dreaded tech failure may happen…as did happen on Saturday, March 24, the second night of presenting Relatives at The Kitchen.
One Saturday viewer responded: “…I wanted to express to you that what may have seemed like a huge technical hiccup, (the TV shorting out), for me made the performance richer and more in dialogue with an added layer of meaning.” And, the gist from numerous viewers in the audience was the performance and/or language did battle with technology.
In 1988, Tony Oursler and I did not approach Relatives as a battle: narrative vs technology/technology vs narrative.
We imagined a duet of the electronic and oral…a collaboration of the two that might conjure a third presence, a space of narrative interaction between the time-based elements video and spoken language, pictures and words. On stage. In real time. A live performance work.
Any battle, so to speak, was between me and my non-sentient co-actor. My own crusade in every performance of Relatives is to be in synch with my counterpart at every moment…to be thirty minutes into the piece precisely on cue, words and video interacting. I rather liked the call to exact the interactions with the flow and seemingly easy rhythms of performing.
Stress. I had some in the approach to our Friday and Saturday presentations at the Kitchen. While I could relearn the piece, I could not fathom an objective perspective on the relevance or worthiness of Relatives, unvisited in thirty years. Maybe it was a dated work, maybe in front of an audience Relatives would fall flat…the juvenilia of two artists collaborating for the first time. Definitely stressful, I think I lost some of my hair.
Technical glitches. That possibility is ever looming large, so large one acknowledges the possibility in a suppressed kind of way as rehearsals continue, as one walks on stage. 21:55 minutes in, the looming becomes real for the first time ever. It’s the second night of Relatives and my co-actor’s body, the monitor begins to die.
At first horrifying, the technical disaster becomes about facing it down in real time — a terrifyingly thrilling performance challenge. Don’t’ need to repeat that event. Though, here we go again…our Relatives’ revisit is drawing Tony and me into the pictures-words, technology-oral language, screen-person collaborative duet anew. Ah, folly, the foolhardy cannot resist.