Monday, 16 May 2011

Me and the Machine – On Ways to Disappear Without Leaving a Trace, FutureEverything, Manchester

On the sixth floor of a blank looking office complex there is something going on, hidden in the a empty office space there is a story, for the last four days Me and the Machine have been coxing this narrative out of the space and make it part of the piece 'On Ways to Disappear Without a Trace'.

The piece is a site specific, performance installation to be undertaken by one person at a time by themselves. People arrive to be placed in front of a set a double doors and be given a set of headphones which will provide the narrative which they will wilfully follow. This is where it starts for me, as I was 'working the door' again, I manage to sneak in. So I don't get to know if their sense of expectation feeds into the work I would like to think it did.

Walking into the space the exotic voice which appears in your ear (should that be in your head?) begins to guide you through a noirish tale, her story becomes your story, her footsteps becomes yours. As this narrative of red shoes and mysterious rooftop strangers unfolds you become more involved, in a sense you become like a child developing its own little play world.

This is a playful piece; it requires the imagination of the participant to make it fully work. It's this action of engaging the imagination that seems to make the title a bit of a misnomer, it feels that rather than disappearing you become more solid, you become the main focus, and you become the star of this narrative. Even though there's a part of you which is aware that other people have been here before and the narrative would still play out the same way without you, that is all over ridded and you feel that you are pushing the narrative along as much as it pulls you. This might be where you truly disappear into your own mental state, away into whatever world you choose in order to 'deal' with the real world.

You could question why a piece like this would feature in a festival which celebrates digital technologies, the first reason which springs to mind is the changes within playback devices, a few years ago a piece like this would require you to carry a CD player probably in a cumbersome backpack. Other than that the other reason I could think of is that this piece, and the current crop of pieces like it, also seems to raise questions regarding how we interact the world, whether the technologies we develop are enhancing our experience of the world or do they take away the need to experience the world physically?

It's a question I can't answer, but with pieces like this I am willing to be part of the research.

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