Probably the first thing one would notice walking into findlay//sansmark’s new piece would be the row of programmers lined up in front of the stage, wearing costumes and foil hats. Or perhaps it was the small tower of aged computer monitors playing loops of the set’s design. Either way, the technician stepped into the literal front row of this performance, guiding the dances and creating a performative universe that could ultimately only be inhabited by a true performer. The most pressing question still left is whether the machines on the stage were extensions of Marit Sandsmark or whether she was just another robotic arm protruding from the stage.
The presence thing is getting worse and worse, or, better and better.
The introducing segments of the show made me feel that Sandsmark was living inside of a hard-drive in the middle of a foul glitch. Or probably she was attempting to become part of the harddrive, to become uploaded into its cacophony. The introductory segments evoked internet cafes of the 1990s, eyes fixed on glowing rectangles. Her body glitched, tried to glitch along with the sound design, oftentimes entering and exiting into small vignettes of listening to computer users speaking into microphones, overlapping, overbearing. Dialogue sections happened indirectly, spoken into microphones at the front of the stage.
Perhaps the single most infuriating moment of the show was Iver Findlay stepping onto the stage in the form of an explanation of the technology used, talking about presence and absence with new media. Not only was it an unnecessary interruption to the performance at hand, it also resembled anachronistic sentiments: Though he had built a work that confronts the issue of fragmentation into digital particles directly, he intellectualized it verbally by asking the audience to be wary of these developments. It felt largely disconnected from my impressions of the show as a whole.
Let’s talk about presence. Sandsmark possessed her body expertly, at one point controlling the Xbox Kinect camera tracking her with mere movements of her shoulder blades. Her dance was choreographed to match the oscillating aesthetic of the piece. It evoked images of a nostalgic future where instead of LSD, upcoming youth will instead download viruses into their internal hard drives that can allow them to glitch out for a day or two. Her presence revolved around a melding with the set design. Only by virtue of her strong performance would I even be able to talk about the ever-expanding question of control in new machines; at cathartic moments, she dominated the stage, really caused me shortness of breath, made me feel slightly out of my seat, barely able to find the proper position to sit in. Yet the culminating moment of her dance performance occurred at the intersection between a couch and a wall. On the couch sat a man sleeping off a bender, against the wall Sandsmark throbbed and pulsed with all of her strength, seemingly trying to become fully uploaded to the video presence created by Findlay. The wall dropped and aged computer monitors began to fall from the rafters, nearly striking performers on the stage. However, the catharsis Sandsmark was seeking while pulsing against the wall only occurred with the dropping of the monitors, only when the facade of separation between eye and pixel took place was she finally able to find her machine respite.
Let’s talk about the singularity. The future promises the capability to emulate humans by the year 2030. The cathartic moments in this work presented visions into the ecstatic upload to the cloud. Though Findlay asked us to be wary, the body of the stage begged us to join the video game. In no way did this piece present the coming singularity as something to dread. Here’s another example of another heady video game. Let’s consider the fact that in the very near future we may be playing a nice video game and simply never return. It happens in South Korean internet lounges already. The interior/exterior question is of course relevant, yet ultimately this is not about existing at one end or the other, but the transition between the two of them, the exhaustion, the delirium that occurs at the ends of physical reality and the invigorating breath of electrical current that is felt once we stop looking at a computer screen and begin to exist within it, to navigate emulations of conscience, to slip through friends’ hard drives. Maybe fractured bones/let’s get lost is about connection, about attempts at entering someone’s presence. Findlay extended his presence to the fringes of the stage and Sandsmark did not so much inhabit the stage, she inhabited his essence.