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[[ May 8, 2002, Krijn Boon Studio, Rotterdam ]]
'OR PRESS ESCAPE'
The integration of computer technology into the world of theatre is a subject that remains aesthetically and philosophically problematic. On May 8, Productiehuis Rotterdam will address this challenge, by featuring a night of new theatre productions by two students from the Dasarts School for Advanced Research in Theatre and Dance Studies in Amsterdam, and by hosting a panel discussion devoted to the issue. Productiehuis Rotterdam, a promising new collaboration between V2_, Rotterdamse Schouwburg, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, and the International Film Festival Rotterdam, is dedicated to initiating and developing inter- and multidisciplinary projects.
One of the two performances on May 8 is 'Or Press Escape' by Edit Kaldor, a digital dialogue in which the audience is invited to witness the daily emotional struggle between one woman and her computer. Kaldor impresses upon the audience that the computer is an extension of ourselves when we are using it, that it is a part of us, that it can consume us. In one sequence, for example, Kaldor animates the task of cleaning her computer desktop, highlighting the turmoil we all secretly face as we are asked the dreaded question: "Are you sure you want to delete these items?"
To further amplify her thoughts, Kaldor, a Hungarian-born artist who came to Dasarts in 2000 from New York, enlisted the help of Amsterdam-based programmer Marc Boon to create a unique piece of custom software. By using keywords that are tied to specific actions, Boon's program helps to illustrate the way we attribute meaning to the contents and actions of our machines. For example, a keyword, depending upon the context in which it is used, could cause a seemingly computer-engendered action in the form of anything from a custom error message to an audio excerpt to a complete system crash.
'Or Press Escape' also highlights a changed role for the audience. Kaldor bravely uses the internet during the performance, cleverly using the chat room as a parallel stage, interacting live in character with actual visitors in real time. The unsuspecting chatters have no idea that their lives are being eavesdropped upon by an entire audience (in fact, we feel slightly uncomfortable at being thrust into such an intimate environment) and the situation creates a personal relationship between those of us sitting in the darkened room in Rotterdam and those in their secluded bedrooms around the world. As we stare awkwardly at the faces transmitted by personal webcams, the notion of audience is blurred.
Kaldor recognizes the powerful effect that the use of a computer on stage can have on traditional theatre-goers. She once mentioned that a few audience members at the premiere in Amsterdam had actually asked her how she dared put them through that experience, that it was not theatre. But it is theatre. And it is likely to breed a unique approach to performance and audience interaction.