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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

Nick Kaye: What was the process by which the work came together?

Marianne Weems: The process was very typical, and quite attenuated – it basically takes about two years from the first concept meeting to the actual premiere. I usually begin with a month or two of infrequent meetings with the main collaborators (in this case James Gibbs, Matthew, and Charles from dbox, and my long-time collaborators Dan Dobson, and Jeff Webster) where things are kicked around, and, after much discussion we come up with a central idea. Then my job is to try to articulate that conceptual frame, over and over again to a larger group of collaborators, and basically to anyone who will listen. After first developing the idea, I put in a good deal of research – in this case about data, identity, and many stories drawn from the datasphere. We had our first big design/concept meeting July 2004 at the Wexner Center, which was about nine months after we came up with the concept. In that first, big ten-day session, all of the tech people and designers were present, James Gibbs was there, and the video designer Chris Kondeck, Joe Silovsky, Dan Dobson, Allen Hahn, a couple of key performers (Tanya Selvaratnam and Jeff Webster) , and two writers. So I brought all of my research to the workshop, and we tried out various stories, various softwares, various set sketches, various representations of data -- all of it all at once. We even looked at the surveillance systems in place at Ohio State University where the Wexner Center is located. Those ten days we were just thrashing through the ideas and trying to find a story - and also focus on the central ideas that we wanted to play out in the show. It was mostly rejected material, and struggling with how to represent ‘data’ outside of ‘The Matrix.’

Then, after the Wexner, there was a little bit of regrouping - as there always is. Peter Flaherty (video designer) came on the project, as well as Hal Eager. And (I) started to cast the show from the pool of performers that I work with. In that time James Gibbs and I worked with writers Jed Weintrob and Andrew Osborne, then hired Constance DeJong - and there was a huge push for the next nine months to try and clarify what the stories were going to be. We held a 'script development' workshop about five months after the Wexner free-for-all (November 2004) where I worked with the specific performers and tried to focus the stories. Then once we had nailed the basic stories we went back to a big design workshop at The Kitchen in April 2005 and the content and form began to coalesce pretty quickly during that.

After a good deal of cross-Atlantic discussion Stewart Laing came up with the design - we mocked it up at The Kitchen – at that time we also went through the exercise of storyboarding the whole thing. Of course that changed a lot, but this was the first time that I had had eight collaborators sitting together carefully marking through the stories with this a mock-up of the set - and Peter Flaherty and James Gibbs throwing in visual ideas all along the way. That was the first gesture towards really setting the design and the flow of the show. There was still a lot of throwing in of ideas, and a lot of editing on my part. Then from May at The Kitchen to the premier was a big drive just towards finishing the fundraising, building the set - and then James Gibbs and Peter Flaherty really working with me and with each other on trying to get the video more or less ready for rehearsal.

I think this distinguishes this company more than anything else - that there is no way that you could walk into the process saying: ‘OK, the video is set – lets start rehearsing’. It is an incredibly fluid, interactive process. Every day Peter Flaherty would make things and James Gibbs had a whole sweatshop of guys in there, rendering. That was an incredible part of the process and we were very privileged to have them and their resources at our disposal - because we were remaking 3D environments on a daily basis.

Also, what ultimately was spectacular in this project was the level of all the collaborators - it was really well matched and very accomplished group of designers.

James Gibbs

Nick Kaye: Was there something specific that you wanted to explore in coming to work with Marianne in this way?

James Gibbs: We were interested in being involved in a process where the visual design and the conceptualization of the piece would happen hand-in-hand. Which, as you know, is a hallmark of The Builder’s work. So it was really an ideal chance to get into a situation where we were discussing what the project was about - and how it would be created - and still have the technology and visual elements gestating at the same time.

Allen Hahn

Nick Kaye: So how did the design work you were involved in evolve in relation to the work that James Gibbs and Stewart Laing were doing?

Allen Hahn: The initial workshop in Columbus Ohio concerned itself with working out story ideas, but again the work is created with everyone involved from the beginning and so in the processes of doing that we also established some basic parameters of how the scenery and the space could work. So going in we had a very few ground rules – that we would have a screen here and a blue screen there and I figured out a lighting plot that would work for that initial set up and just as we established what we were doing each day we would turn things on. Change them round – record them - and I guess then, based on that, there were further discussions - not in a workshop situation - between Marianne Weems and Stewart Laing and Neal Wilkinson, our production manger, about how what we had discovered in that workshop would translate into a stage space. From that point we went to The Kitchen, in New York, for a second workshop, which was much more production-based, and where we sort of knew the general shape of the space. From there it was just kind of refining the ideas we developed there..


Allen Hahn: I have been working with this company on than off since the beginning, and the thing that keeps me coming back is that I feel like the process by which the work is created allows for really organic and much more well established and thoroughly resolved choices to be made. And of course the object of any theatrical event – or the object of the creation of any theatrical event - is to make something happen on stage where you can’t separate the direction from the performance from the design… that it all comes from the same place and the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts. Some of the pieces over the course of time have been stronger than others in toto, but they all have an incredible cohesiveness and that alone speaks to the audience.

see also: beginning the process | rehearsal | rhythmic structure | story | virtual spaces |


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