Ed Atkins: NO-ONE IS MORE “WORK” THAN ME, 2014. Performed in 14rooms, Fondation Beyeler, Basel.
On a large unadorned flat screen a 1:1 scale 3-D head, shaved and tattooed, bids for his humanity. A real-life person is present, performing according to the directive to “bear witness to” the avatar’s eight-hour pitch at being a convincing person.
Why am I posting this video? It was Ienke Kastelein who pointed me to it when we talked about the discussion on empathy and intimacy in networked performance in which we both participated. There is no immediate link, but I watched the video, did some research and couldn’t stop thinking about it. Why was there a performer “to bear witness” beside the screen? What did that mean?
A triple (quadruple?) presence – Atkins doing a poetic performance for 8 hours somewhere not far away, an avatar, a 3D-head delivering this performance on a bluescreen to the public and an actor, wearing a blue hood, besides the screen. The fourth presence being the computer who calculated in real-time the 3D head and the sound.
“There was a large screen and a live performer, who didn’t really do anything save remediate.” said Atkins in Head Space, a conversation between Ed Atkins and Matthew De Abaitua about the intertwining of art and technology in Frieze 165.
“remediate = to set straight“
This made me think he needed this body to make the performance acceptable in the frame of contemporay performance practice. He needed a remediator, a corps that could attach the 3D-head. He needed to heal. The technological is not (yet) “real” enough to perform.
It also pointed exactly to what I consider to be a problem in online performance practice. We count on a suspension of disbelief in order for the performance to be. (“What tells me, it’s not prerecorded?”) Sometimes, the use of a chatwindows in online performances also functions as a kind of remediator that suspends the need to belief…
What if we stopped remediating, but started working the pixels, flaws, glitches, delays, misunderstandings … the aesthetics of behaviour – aesthetics of attention (is there a difference?).
Don’t get me wrong I like the poetry of the piece – I do like the presence of the body – it makes the whole thing a bit wry. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t see the performance, I would like to though.