SEE THE FOREST, SMELL THE FOREST, HEAR THE PHONE RINGING (Nuit Blanche Kelowna, 2014)

An interactive live digital eco-art experience with Shimshon Obadia.

‘See the Forest, Smell the Forest, Hear the Phone Ringing’ is an encounter with technology alone in a tent surrounded by smart devices and a voice in your ear. Take a relaxing walk in nature with your iPhone blasting music into your ears and nonstop notifications popping up every other second. This experience invites you to explore the liminal space between every day presence and digital disconnect. Can you immersing yourself in nature where you’re alone and safe to be one with the world again, while connected to your waiting, watching, digital umbilical handset? Take a hike and find out.

Alone in a tent, take a relaxing walk in nature with your iPhone blasting music into your ears and nonstop notifications popping up every other second. 

In ‘See the Forest, Smell the Forest, Hear the Phone Ringing’, the main themes were around surveillance by our personal handheld devices. The experience focuses on this particular culture of trying to be on top of the million and one things we have to do in a day while still trying to stay relaxed, in essence, we are never disconnected from our internet based panopticon.

The form the piece took was very much based on Jeramy Bentham’s Panopticon and the  recent paranoia around the Facebook Messenger app’s “alleged” built-in constant surveillance system. Using a live multi cam switcher through 4 handheld devices, this notion of plugging in to unwind (an inherent contradiction in and of itself to which almost all of us subscribe to) is illustrated throughout a seemingly trivial experience in a tent (which of course could be said for most of the time we spend on our apps such as youtube and Facebook on a daily basis)

The “one on one” experience aspect of this performance was through the earphones from the wireless receiver so that the participant could receive direct instructions from myself. This allowed the participant to feel safe and like they were taking part in a secluded, private communication with me when in fact they had very limited agency in the conversation due to circumstance and as well, they were being publicly broadcast to outside the tent where everyone outside could see them and hear me talking into the wireless transmitter. The private was made public and where they were supposedly able to “get away” from the stresses of the outside world, they were in fact being very closely monitored by everyone.

In many ways, this is quite in line with my performance style but it did change the type of relationship I had with the audience/participant as it required much more of their informed consent as well as my own attention being more focused on them as audience/participant than I may normally have given them.

The use of technology contributed to this encounter by making it possible and by providing a context for the performance to have a conversation with. The technology was not however dependant on the handheld devices themselves though as multi cam switching has been around for decades, it was however dependant on the devices for its context. Logistically however, because of the complexity of having this technology integrated with my performance, the technology did require me to rehearse with it much more than many of my classmates so that the technology would actually work and not suck down the quality of the performance itself. When working in performance with technology, it is often my concern to make sure the technology is working with my performance and not dominating the performance making it a flashy toy with a performer on the side. In the challenges it presented however, the technology helped me to bring out the content which could match it and balance it as performance, not just a cool app.

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