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The Builders Association and dbox, SUPER VISION: MUSICALITY

SUPER VISION tells three stories

1. As he crosses successive borders, a solitary traveller 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.

Marianne Weems

Marianne Weems: So tell me about the musicality. What do you mean - more than once? You mean on repeated viewing you feel it more? You see it more?

Nick Kaye: I think it is very pleasurable as an experience because - bearing in mind that I have no background in music - as a viewer one of the most important things is the rhythm and the layering of elements coming together in performance. It is seductive and very engaging. In seeing the performance three times, I find myself listening to it as I might listen to a piece of music. There is also a very musical aspect to the tone, to the use of tone of voice between Kyle deCamp and David Pence, for example, which seems almost like a separation of the voice from what you see in the performance - it is quite a specific tone that plays on the microphone very strongly, and that plays on a kind of lilting, almost domestic, film-like quality. It is like watching a film where the narrative is in recollection, like a soundtrack. David Pence was talking about the process by which he had come to place what he was saying, quite a complex process of working out precisely who he was speaking to. This is because there is a lot of ambiguity in his monologues: is he speaking to himself? Is he speaking to his son, John Jnr? I think in part that his placing of his speech has produced this effect, as if his voice is recollecting – as if he is performing a film score over a set of images.

Marianne Weems: I think that is brilliant. It definitely does have to do with it being a kind of subliminal, emotional, cinematic sound score. Ultimately I don’t know if Dan Dobson sees it like that, but I perceive the final tracks in that way. Also, I have heard David Pence rhythmically repeat lines until he and Dan have -- over time -- created very complex scores in terms of the measures where he starts certain line. ‘She knows’ is this big moment at the top of the 'crush' scene, where the video and lights come up, and an underlying beat, then David places the line “she knows”, then Dan sneaks in an eerie electronic guitar loop. It took them four months to work out -- semi-consciously -- the exact, musical placement of that line. But it wasn’t like anybody ever consciously said anything.

Uploaded Image

Uploaded Image
The ‘crush’ scene: the projected grid moves left diminishing the projection
of the room. Onstage, left to right: Owen Phillip (John Fletcher Jr.), in projection;
Kyle deCamp (Carol); David Pence (John Fletcher Sr.) live and in mediated
Video stills.

Marianne Weems: Just one other thing about the musicality. I think, particularly in ALLADEEN, so many people objected to the narrative structure because it was an episodic series of vignettes or, really, I thought, a series of songs. It was series of meditations on the theme of global outsourcing, particularly the distance between laborer and consumer. To me, the more we ran the show, the more night-to-night the songs were nuanced more fully by the performers and the technicians.

David Pence

David Pence: There are a couple of very nice moments in the show—musical moments—whose power comes from a musical effect or a marriage of music and text. For instance, in the climax of the Fletcher narrative, when I realise that my wife Kyle deCamp knows what I’m doing online, I am on the phone, and I turn and see her in the room, and I abort the call. Physically, I am standing at that point, and I’m not on camera. Then I sit on the stool in front of the computer and camera—I slide into the frame—and the video image comes up, and I turn my head to look across the stage at Carol and say, ‘She knows.’ Now, there are layers to the musical score that Dan created. There is one particular loop or musical phrase running underneath this part of the scene, and on a good night I’m able to time ‘She knows’ to land right on the four beat, because Dan has a wailing guitar note that he wants to place exactly on the one beat that follows. So that is one specific instance of him and me communicating musically in terms of timing and feel. Executing a series of moments like that with sound, live performance, and video is unbelievably gratifying. Passages like that are the reason I rarely work with anybody except The Builders. For me the way we try to wed ourselves as artists to the technology is really where the magic is.

Tanya Selvaratnam

Nick Kaye: It is interesting that both yourself and Moe Angelos have talked about the ‘privacy’ of the performance, and yet from the audience point of view it is so much about your dispersal through that space – your transmission across the space. SUPER VISION seems to me quite musical in its structure. Are you aware in your performance of that musical aspect?

Tanya Selvaratnam: Very much so. I have been very lucky to work in sonically intense shows throughout my short career, but I think Dan Dobson is a genius. From the very beginning, even with the pre-show music, it totally sucks me into the mood I should be in because he has basically downloaded a bunch of hold messages and tones when people are waiting. Then I become very aware, once the prologue is finished and I am in silence, and it actually takes me a while to get out of that - because I feel so alone up there. But once I hear the family I become aware of this virtual world; the rhythm implies a kind of virtual world - an over saturated world. And because the rhythms between the three stories are so different I think that helps the seamlessness of the show. Without those rhythmic differences I think the show would feel flat. I am aware of what kind of rhythm I have to be in, because of the rhythm he has assigned - I mean, he determines how I move. I start pacing when he moves faster. It is an instinctive thing he does with how a scene should sound that affects the way I act.

see also: interactivity | live media | playing technology | rhythmic structure | soundscape |


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