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The Builders Association and dbox, SUPER VISION: PLAYING TO CAMERA

SUPER VISION tells three stories

1. As he crosses successive borders, a solitary traveler gradually is forced to reveal all of his personal information, until his identity becomes transparent, with no part of his life left outside the boundaries of datasurveillance.

2. A young woman (Jen), addicted to the white noise of constant connection, maintains a long-distance relationship with her Grandmother. As she makes efforts to digitally archive her Grandmother's past, the Grandmother slips into senility.

3. A father covertly exploits his young son's personal data to meet the demands of the family's lifestyle. This ploy escalates beyond the father's control, until he is compelled to disappear. His wife and son are left with a starkly diminished data portrait, and his escape is shadowed by the long reach of the datasphere.

Video Streaming: Grandmother/Jen Scene 2

Uploaded Image

Left to right: Moe Angelos (the Grandmother) on forestage and mediated in close up; Tanya Selvaratnam (Jen) mediated live to window and onstage; Moe Angelos mediated live to computer screen.
photo by dbox

Moe Angelos

Nick Kaye: Much of the time in the performance you seem to be looking away from the audience and towards the camera.

Moe Angelos: I am looking at a monitor almost the entire time. And since I am doing a ‘web cam performance,’ it is sort of ‘real,’ because that is what you do when you are chatting to someone on a web cam. You are sitting at your computer, looking at this little eye that is the camera, and you are watching them and they are watching you. So my situation replicates reality in a certain way.

Nick Kaye:Can you see the outcome of what you are doing?

Moe Angelos: On my monitor is a very long shot from the back of the house, so I can see the whole stage; I am seeing what the audience sees, basically. When I am projected, I can see myself. A lot of times, though, I can just see Tanya Selvaratnam in the corner. She is a tiny little image sometimes, depending what is up on the big screen.

Nick Kaye:So you’re watching the outcome of your own performance.

Moe Angelos: Yes, I am. It is odd, but I use it to frame myself, which is a very, very important part of being in a Builders’ show. It’s often like being in a film. You have to hit a mark very precisely because if you miss the mark you are out of the scene. That’s why they give me that big picture, so that I can adjust. Because sometimes the shot is very tight. In the last few scenes of Granny it’s very close, and if I am a little off, I am out of the picture. On the camera itself there is a little video monitor, and that little screen is turned towards me, but how I am framed up there is also altered by the video guys, so I have to be aware how I look on the big picture and not just on that small screen.

Nick Kaye:So that suggests a kind of slightly curious loop, in which your performance and focus has an element of privacy to it.

Moe Angelos: Yes it is strangely voyeuristic, or narcissistic, in a certain way, because I am just looking at myself in the same way as when we walk past a mirror. It’s the same thing. I am sitting there, and I catch myself looking at myself – watching to see where I am: am I framed properly? Or even when we are rehearsing, I’ll look at myself in the camera - and its very annoying! I annoy myself with it, but we do watch ourselves.

Nick Kaye:That is really utterly different from film, even though it engages with the language and process of film performance.

Moe Angelos: A film actor is not able to see what they are doing.

Nick Kaye:It has all those properties of edit and framing, but you are performing those edits and frames.

Moe Angelos: I am able to influence that – it is sort of in-the-can edit. I am physically doing it – moving myself into frame – the camera is static, stationary. Although, at one point I zoom the camera into me before the last shot. I reach over and push a button, but again that is all a little hit or miss as to where I hit myself on the zoom because there is no real number or anything I can calibrate it to. I just I think that kind of looks good. So I do adjust those things. If I look and see that the camera is just looking at my right eye and my ear, I will move back so that it sees more of my face.

Nick Kaye:The way you describe it sounds like a task element of doing the performance – and that a kind of directorial aspect is heightened for you.

Moe Angelos: Yes, sure, sure.


Nick Kaye: Earlier, when you were talking about paying attention to your own mediated self, it was as if you were performing to a looped image of yourself. Now, though, its as if you are attempting to modulate your action down, in order for it to be amplified elsewhere.

Moe Angelos: Yes, I think they both happen at different points. A lot of times it is to do with doing less as an actor. Sometimes to do less gives the audience room to go somewhere - the audience will complete the story. I think I try and do less rather than more.

Tanya Selvaratnam

Nick Kaye: When you are watching yourself onscreen in performance, do you see the screen as very other to yourself?

Tanya Selvaratnam: The thing that I find most interesting is that how I look in the video camera monitor is very different to how look on the TV screen - because I have the video camera, with its little monitor, and the TV screen - and I see a real difference. Sometimes, because the video camera monitor is much harsher than the full picture I get, I am amused by how different the two look. Like that isolated image of myself and then the image of myself with Moe Angelos on the screen, because I can see both. That is fun and more interesting, but I also have to be careful not to look at it too much because then I lose my sight lines.

Uploaded Image

left to right: image of John Jr. in projection; Kyle deCamp, Carol onstage; David Pence, John Fletcher Sr. onstage and mediated in close-up
Photo by dbox

David Pence

David Pence: In this piece, probably more than half the time I’m being shot live by a camera, and these live images carry a great deal of power. There are some quite dramatic close ups. So much so that I have to think in terms of moderating my performance—in other words, doing less. Anyway, during let’s say 60 or 65% of my time onstage I can move very little. My whole performance is right here—the camera in close on my face—and for me it is a really interesting challenge to keep the character activated and flowing and yet be expressed through a range of what might be an inch and a half of head movement. Yet it’s interesting also that there are moments when I break away from the camera and can use my whole body. In other words, it’s not only film, and it’s not only theatre. It’s a hybrid.


Nick Kaye:So the video provides a frame within which you are dealing with these rhythmical structures?

David Pence: Yes, and it’s sometimes a frustrating mix of the mundane and profound. The mundaneness is the physical situation of my body and the stool, the table and the camera. Ideally, I pre-set the frame correctly for these scenes. The worst-case scenario is that I have to make a physical adjustment of the camera. Tanya Selvaratnam and Moe Angelos are free to reframe their images, because their cameras are part of their narrative. But only in a worst-case scenario will I touch the camera. Joe Silovsky is in the same boat as me. What I can do is re-orient myself on the stool in order to improve the frame. When things are going well, I have nailed the framing in the preset between scenes. Then my body can be as relaxed as I can let it be. I can almost forget the frame. My muscles know so well now just how much or how little I can move. Then I really can engage all the musicality and textures and rhythms—even the visual rhythms, a little bit of back and forth and big and small.

Nick Kaye:This is very different from Tanya Selvaratnam or Moe Angelos’s experience, where they are watching themselves on the screen as part of the performance.

David Pence: Absolutely. I made an important discovery for John Fletcher Sr. related to this. One of the first questions I always ask as an actor is, ‘Who am I talking to?’ Since the beginning, really, the question of who I am talking to in the John Fletcher Sr. monologues has been a challenge. Some lines indicate that I’m talking to my not-present son. Sometimes I seem to be talking to myself. Because in part the text is about alternate realities—looking through reality—it seems a little cloudier than usual for me as a performer. A number of people, Marianne Weems included, had the feeling, as time went on, that certain patches of my monologues seemed artificial or out of focus. They sounded written. Then I had a little epiphany, and in a way it’s oddly similar to the natural situation that Tanya Selvaratnam and Moe Angelos find themselves in. I thought to myself, what if I’m actually making a video log? I tried it the next day—we were out in Seattle, about the 11th or 12th performance of the piece—and suddenly all that written-ness went away. So that idea helps me find the tone I need.

Nick Kaye:It makes a lot of sense, because so much of what you are doing is about a rewriting of events in order to justify what you have done. Again, it is a very intimate, inner story.

David Pence: There is a play between past and future, and an ambiguous present reality. Part of it is just being in front of a computer screen. I work also as a writer and editor spending a lot of time at a computer screen, and the way you experience time in a closed office, in front of a computer . . . the real objects around you recede frontward and backward. This distortion of your physical reality, or your perceptions of it, I find very provocative. I’m given a lot of help in this regard by the way that the story begins to take form visually around me.

Uploaded Image

centre, Rizwan Mirza, the traveller; right, Joe Silovsky, border agent
Photo by dbox

Rizwan Mirza

Nick Kaye:I wondered how your place amidst this technology informed the way you perform and interact with others?

Rizwan Mirza: It is interesting, because I am never really looking at Joe Silovsky, who plays the border agent. I am not even looking directly at his projection because I’m standing behind the textaling screen, so it’s faded. So I am looking at a general idea of his face. I can’t see every expression he has - and I have learnt to just act with that. It helped me in this particular situation because the traveller is confronting someone who doesn’t really see him for who he is. I am hearing the voice of the border agent come at me and I am trying to respond like it is some kind of god-like voice booming at me that I have to answer to. So that disconnect has helped. Where I feel like I am trying to connect sometimes – through the screen, to him, as a character, to the person that is his character - I think that helped. The relationship between the traveller, who is being asked so many questions, and this TSA agent - there is a tension there - a disconnect in the relationship itself. So it really worked out.

see also: acting | double consciousness | electronic network | playing technology | mediation |


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