April 5, 2014, by
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by Alison Humphrey

“Interactivity” is one of those words.

What does it mean in theatre?

What does it mean in storytelling?

What does it mean to you? 

As we develop Faster than Nightwhich was conceived with the slippery and baffling ambition to involve the audience in the story, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to me.

Alien-Legion-Sarigar-6When I was sixteen, there was a comic convention in downtown Toronto. This was way back before comics were cool, a good decade before the invention of the web let geeks find each other en masse, and longer before the San Diego Comic-Con went media-tastic and started attracting 130,000 paying attendees. We’re talking the basement of the Hilton, a bunch of folding tables with dealers selling back-issues from boxes, and a special guest or three.

I was a huge fan of Marvel Comics’s Uncanny X-Men, which was ahead of the curve in introducing strong female superheroes. (One of those heroines, the teenage Kitty Pryde, was the original protagonist of one of my favorite X-Men storylines, ”Days of Future Past“. Yet when its blockbuster movie adaptation is released next month, the very male and very box office-friendly character Wolverine will be taking her role in the narrative. That’s a different blog post…)

I’d heard that legendary comics inker Terry Austin was going to be at the convention, and decided I would make a Fimo figurine of one of his characters as a gift.

He had left the X-Men a couple of years prior, so I sculpted a character from his new gig, Alien Legion. I wasn’t as much of a fan of that book, but Sarigar was a half-snake alien – an awesome challenge that involved a coat-hanger armature and a lot of finger-crossing in the firing process.

I snapped some photos before I took it downtown and gave it to one of my real-life heroes. He was gracious and appreciative, giving me some original art in return.

I started thinking about that formative early moment last June, when the Royal Shakespeare Company partnered with Google+ on an ambitious, interactive theatre/social media hybrid called Midsummer Night’s Dreaming (a followup to 2010′s Such Tweet Sorrow, remixing Romeo and Juliet via Twitter). I’d heard about the concept from the RSC’s forward-thinking digital producer Sarah Ellis, and was instantly fascinated.

Google’s Tom Uglow (co-director with the RSC’s Geraldine Collinge) wrote eloquently beforehand about Why we’re doing it:

We are inviting everyone on the internet to take part. We’d rather like 10,000 contributors extending the RSC across the world, commenting, captioning, or penning a lonely heart column for Helena. Maybe people will invent their own characters. Or make fairy cupcakes; share photos of their dearest darlings as changelings; send schoolboy marginalia about “wooing with your sword”; compose florid poetry to Lysander’s sister; or debate with Mrs Quince on declamation. Or just watch online….

I followed the project as it unfolded online over the course of midsummer weekend, enjoying the original material commissioned from professional writers and artists (“2000 pieces of material for 30 new characters to be shared online non-stop for 72 hours”), and even Photoshopping a few memes and lolcats of my own.

MidsummerDreaming-memes

It was fun, and it certainly taught me a lot about the mechanics of Google+ as a social media platform. There were lots of thoughtful analyses after it was over, but for me the most interesting aspect was the strange mix of emotions I was feeling around having participated.

How does the audience feel crossing the line that usually separates them from the professionals providing their entertainment? Passive observation is safe. Active creativity is not. As kids, we all start out as unselfconscious artists, writers, musicians and dancers. But in adolescence, when social pressures and fears kick in, most of us transition into observers and “consumers” of culture made by other people.

For me, the Midsummer Night’s Dreaming project provoked the complicated mix of reactions such invitations always do – the thrill of inclusion or transgression, yes, but also the fear that my contribution won’t be “good enough” or that too much enthusiasm will make me uncool.

More than anything, it brought me back to that kid sitting in her room, creating something to give to an artist whose work she admired. Yes, part of that was the fan hoping to garner the attention of the idol, however briefly. And part was the desire to immerse in the fictional world. But it was also just wanting to step into the creative sandbox and play.

ChooseYourOwnAdventureMany people think of interactive story in terms of the classic 80′s Choose Your Own Adventure books. I certainly flipped around their pages and beat my head against the Infocom computer game adaptation of Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy long enough to pick up the basic mechanics of branching narrative.

Adams took his next step with interactive fiction in 1998 with the Myst-like Starship Titanic, for which I had the dream job of producing an interlocking set of fictional websites to promote the CD-ROM game in the year leading up to its release. These websites were an early version of what would later be dubbed “alternate reality games”, and a hidden forum on one of them unexpectedly became home to a community that was still active in 2011.

Alternate reality games have blossomed as the web has evolved tools that encourage more participatory culture (two insightful analyses: The Art of Immersion and Spreadable Media). Videogames have evolved too. Some of them (like Heavy Rain) provide almost cinematic interactive stories that appear to offer freedom from the author’s control, but actually run on narrative “rails” that branch with the player’s choice, then eventually re-join. At the other end of the spectrum, “sandbox” or “open-world” games give players far more freedom, sometimes at the expense of emotional engagement or satisfying dramatic structure.

Theatre itself has had an uneasy relationship with audience participation as long as anyone can remember. In recent years, “immersive theatre” companies like Punchdrunk and Secret Cinema have grabbed the spotlight by setting audiences loose to literally roam through their fictional worlds. But decades before them, forum theatre creator Augusto Boal engaged the audience in a very different spirit, with techniques like invisible theatre, “a play (not a mere improvisation) that is played in a public space without informing anyone that it is a piece of theatre”.

And last year, in real life, Commander Chris Hadfield engaged with his audience across a fourth wall up to 250km thick.

In Faster than Night, we’re inviting our own audience to interact with fictional astronaut Caleb Smith via his artificial intelligence ISMEE. You can find her on Twitter as @ISMEEtheAI. In the weeks leading up to the performance, as people tweet questions about his mission to travel faster than light, Caleb will answer. And during the show itself, he will need the audience’s help to make the ultimate choice.

But first a question for you.

What does interactive story look like?

Is it this?

ChooseYourOwnAdventure-branching-map

Or is it this?

Or does it mean something entirely different to you?

Interact with us in the comments!

Alison Humphrey is directing and co-writing Faster than Night. She has a master’s in interactive multimedia, but that doesn’t mean she’s figured out the damn thing yet.

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 1.33.32 PM

 

by Francisco-Fernando Granados

In performance art, the time and the place of the creation of the work is always the same as that of the presentation of the work. This characteristic is perhaps what separates performance from any other aesthetic medium: in painting, sculpture, photography, and film, making and showing tend to be spaced by an irreducible difference that puts the making before the showing. No matter how much an artist working on a live piece plans and pre-produces, and as important as that may be, the performance always becomes something, and then becomes something else as it unfolds. Esther Ferrer says it transforms in situ.

A big part of the thrill of working on The Ballad of ______ B for HATCH has been the challenge of creating a work specifically for the stage. One of the goals is to make a work that uses all of the material and conceptual elements of theatre (stage, script, performers, lights) with an attitude of critical respect for the medium that yields something that is decidedly not-a-play. This negativity has to do with an interest in a creating a productive tension between what I hope will be the site-specific approach of the project, and entrenched conventions of the stage as a social (or indeed anti-social) space. Incorporating an interactive element based on the online contributions of the public will be a way to bring together the previously discussed tactics of spacing and redistributing of the elements of theatre.

It is here where the curatorial premise of HATCH, with its focus on social media as a tool for the creation of new performance comes into play. In the recent history of conceptual text-based performance work, my approach owes something to the Fluxus sensibility of Alison Knowles, particularly in her computer-generated poem A House of Dust. The poem was created in 1967 as a collaboration between Knowles, the California-based composer James Tenney, and the Siemens 4004 computer. A House of Dust creates “stanzas by working through iterations of lines with changing words from a finite vocabulary list.” The capacity of computer technology at the time limited the possibilities of electronic interventions into poetic processes to closed systems reminiscent of Modernism. In The Ballad of _____ B, this approach is updated to incorporate a relational element.

A House of Dust, Alison Knowles and James Tenney (1967)

A House of Dust, Alison Knowles and James Tenney (1967)

Social networking platforms will act as randomizing agents, creating interventions in the spaces opened in the text. On April 18th, a significant section of the script will be made available online as a Google Form through a variety of sites including Facebook, Twitter, and the Praxis Theatre site. The fill-in-the blanks approach to the script recalls the aesthetic of vocabulary lessons in ESL language learning. In this case, the didactic form does not follow a function. Audience members are encouraged to fill in the blanks with responses that may range from the obvious to the non-sensical. The accumulation of these results will be used during the week of the residency to re-shape the script.

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 1.26.43 PM

A prototype for the form is available now as a test. Click here to access section of the script and fill in the blanks.

 

April 2, 2014, by
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by Rob Kempson

The process of working on #legacy has been unique, both from my work as an artist, but also from my work as an artist-educator in community or school settings. As an artist (and primarily a writer), I often work alone: toiling away for hours on my own before I ever show a piece to someone else for collaboration and feedback. As an artist-educator, everyone is out in the open, as I work with participants to create the final piece from their raw material.

#legacy has become a hybrid model of the two–where I’m using the raw material created by my co-creators (Joan, Judith, and Donna) to create the script with the support of dramaturg Samantha Serles and the design integration of Beth Kates. Next week, I’ll be adding Isabelle Ly into the mix as our fearless Stage Manager. In short, it’s been a real exercise in collaboration. In many ways, I feel as though I’m receiving so much information from so many sources, and my job is to corral it into something that resembles a digestible piece of theatre.

However, a great deal of the process has been conversations followed by homework. Then we get together again, eat some cheese, have more conversations followed by homework. Repeat. Add devilled eggs (seriously), tea, video, more conversation, and roasted almonds. And cake. Seriously, we are very well fed at our rehearsals.

The homework that I have assigned has provided me with a wealth of material–interesting articles, stories, reflections, songs, recipes, letters, and ideas. Many of them are included in the make up of the presentation that we are creating together. Many more have been delightful for me to read, but didn’t make the final cut (as it were). Either way, I thought that I might use this blog post to share some of the amazing stuff that’s come into my inbox.

May You Always – The McGuire Sisters

Joan shared this piece as a part of our fundraising tea, but it’s also made its way into the script. It’s become one of my new favourites… largely due to the sweeping string section:

Legacy Park

Legacy

Donna spent a little over a month in Florida, and sent us some amazing photos and tweets during that time. One of my favourites was her reflection on “Legacy Park”, a housing development in Davenport, Florida.

She wrote: “Right now we are frittering away some time in Florida, a little retirement experiment that we thought we should try. The next development up the road from us is called Legacy Park.  Coincidence?  I see it almost everyday. Here it is, a suburban housing development on a field that very recently was either a pine forest or an orange grove, very un-treed and nothing to make one think of a legacy at all.”

Judith’s iPhone Interaction

Judith told this story of tweeting in public:

I was sitting in a public waiting area sending a tweet.  A man, several years younger than me, leaned across and commented on how adept I seemed to be on my iPhone.  He had an old fashioned cell phone. I commented that My iPhone was like gold dust to me.  He asked if I was sending an email.  I said no, I was on twitter sending a tweet.

“You know how to use twitter!” he said aghast   “Why would you want to do that?”  I said I had no choice because I was involved in a project that required it.  He said, “I am so impressed. I wouldn’t have a clue.  You are the first older person I have ever met who knew anything about twitter.  Good luck to you.”

Mom’s Christmas Salad

Joan also sent in her mom’s recipe for Christmas Salad–a jello salad that is simply packed with sugar, but also incredibly delicious. There is some video footage of Joan making this salad in the show, and we got to taste the spoils of her work after the fundraising tea.

First Layer

One 3 oz package Lime Jello

1 cup hot water

1 cup cold water

1 cup crushed pineapple, well-drained. (Reserve juice for second part.)

Dissolve Jello powder in hot water. Add a few drops of green food colouring to deepen the colour. Add cold water. Chill until partially set. Add pineapple. Pour into the bottom of a deep jelly mould.

JelloSecond Layer

One 3 oz package Lemon Jello

1 cup hot water

1 cup pineapple juice

One 8 oz package cream cheese

½ pint whipping cream, whipped

Dissolve Jello powder in hot water. Add cold water. Chill until partially set. Soften cream cheese and beat. When jello is partially set, beat cream cheese and jello together. Fold in whipped cream. Pour gently into mould on top of first layer.

Third Layer

One 3 oz strawberry or raspberry Jello

1 cup hot water

1 scant cup cold water

Dissolve Jello powder in hot water. Add cold water. Chill until partially set. Pour gently on top of second layer. Chill the whole thing until firm. Turn out onto a large plate. Cut into wedges, or large spoonfuls.

Notes:  Serves 12-16. This is beautiful at Christmas time, but tasty anytime.

So even though it’s “homework”, it doesn’t seem much like work when this is the kind of stuff you have to work with. I’m really looking forward to putting it all together next week.

Follow me on twitter here.

Tickets and info for the April 12 Public Presentation here.

 

March 31, 2014, by
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by Melissa D’Agostino

ursulaI’ve been thinking a lot about traditions and rituals lately.

I watched Disney’s The Little Mermaid last week for the first time in decades as research for my show BroadFish. As the opening sequence began several things occurred to me:

a) The themes in this movie are seriously fucked up (Don’t get me started on Ursula the Sea Witch. Don’t.)

ericb) Prince Eric constantly looks bewildered: what’s up with that?

c) This was one of the first movies I ever saw in a theatre, and I went with my Father.

As I continued to watch King Triton rage against his daughter’s wishes and use all of his force to ‘protect’ her, including the destruction of her cave of treasured human possessions, it occurred to me how strange it is that my first cinematic experience with my Dad was this very traditional and patriarchic view of Father/Daughter relationships. Because ours is definitely not that.

Little+Mermaid+Triton

My Father and I share a lot – we have the same eyes – they droop a bit. We share a name: his name is Francesco (Frank) so they gave me the middle name Francesca as a tribute. And we share a deep appreciation for a cleverly timed one-liner. My Dad is a gentle, lovely, kind soul that will surprise you. One day he was driving me home from dance class and the Fugees’ Killing Me Softly was on the radio. Imagine my surprise when my quiet, introverted Father started singing out ‘One time’…’Two times’ along with Wyclef Jean.

He’s one of a kind.

My Father was never a blustery, over-protective, Alpha-male Dad. I always knew he loved me and wanted the best for me, and he was fairly easygoing about my choices. I always felt that he trusted me. I never felt pressure to be a certain kind of daughter for him.

My Dad, my big Sister and wee me on Christmas Morning circa 1982.

My Dad, my big Sister and wee me on Christmas Morning circa 1982.

That said, I did always picture him walking me down the aisle, if I ever decided to get married. And I certainly always pictured dancing with him at my wedding. There were traditions I wanted to preserve and those were two of them.

When it came to planning our wedding, Matt and I decided not to get married in a church. This was a challenging decision to make for me. Not because I’m religious — I parted ways with the Catholic Church many years ago for many reasons, and though I remain a spiritual person, I do not follow a  particular doctrine, most especially Catholicism. And my fiancé Matt is an Athiest, so getting married in a church seemed like a lie, and I didn’t want to start out this new phase of our relationship with any ritual that wasn’t based in our ideals.

But it was a ritual that had happened in my family as long as I can remember, and I didn’t know how my family would react to it.

I had to really consider what I believed in.

At one point in my decision-making process I asked my Dad if he would be disappointed if he wasn’t walking me down the aisle of a church, but instead walking me down an aisle in a secular location. He didn’t seem to mind, but then there were other elements of this ritual that were on his mind.

My Dad has Multiple Sclerosis. He walks with a cane, and often has trouble with his balance, and one of his legs in particular is very difficult to control. This is a fairly new diagnosis, so his symptoms have progressed rather quickly. I knew when we started talking about him walking me down the aisle that there were many emotions coming up for him. It would never look like what he had pictured when I was growing up, because things are very different for him now.

We always talked about dancing a tango should I ever get married: my Dad was a fantastic dancer, having trained in all the social ballroom dances when he immigrated to Canada. Watching he and my Mother dance at weddings was a real treat. Would he be able to dance now? If he couldn’t, how could we create a special moment between us? How do we not get stuck in the fact that we can’t do this ritual the way we always pictured it, and instead focus on what we can do to celebrate the moment?

Truthfully, I was surprised  just how much this affected me emotionally. I’m usually really good at adapting to a situation, and seeing the benefit of a challenge; rising to the occasion. But, it’s been heartbreaking to watch my wonderfully energetic Father lose mobility, and lose some of his effervescent spirit.

I’ve noticed that when we discuss the topic, there is a sadness around it, like we’re sitting in the reality of the past, wishing that we were back at a time when my Dad was able to walk independently and trip the light fantastic. We’re Southern Italian – we like nostalgia, we like drama, and we find it easy to see the bruise on the apple. Take us or leave us!

Very recently, however, I had to make a real choice  to fight that urge and see the positives of this situation.

The wonderful thing is that my Dad can share in these rituals. They may not look like the traditional Father/Daughter dance or walk down the aisle. They may not happen in a church. They may be filled with mixed emotions and vulnerability in a way we never anticipated. But they can happen, and that isn’t the case for everyone. I am grateful for what is still possible.

I recently saw these beautiful images  of a daughter and her father, who is in a wheelchair and how they made these rituals work.

bride:dadbride:dad dance

And I’ve had several friends suggest wonderful ideas, like dancing for a few shorter dances if my Dad’s stamina isn’t great, or dedicating a song to Fathers/Daughters should things progress and make dancing difficult.

The interesting thing about planning an event like a wedding — an event that has so many cultural and societal rituals and expectations, is that it has helped me clarify what is truly important to me, and what is truly important to us as a couple.

The truth is that anything is possible, and that the joy of bringing families together is the creation of new rituals, and the celebration of all that is hopeful and positive about love and family.

And whatever these rituals look like on my wedding day, I know they will feel incredibly special, and full of love.

I’d love to hear about your experiences – @melissadags

March 27, 2014, by
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by Rob Kempson

lecacy tea 2This past Sunday, we held a tea in support of #legacy–because let’s be honest, every project needs a fundraiser. The tea was held at Humber Valley United Church, where I have long been a paid soloist and section lead in the choir, and the three co-creators are all members. We decided to hold an “after church” event featuring nine songs selected by them and performed by me. The idea was that each of their songs would in some way reflect the legacy of their past, present, and future. They would introduce the songs, and I would sing them. While not directly representative of what’s in the show, it was very much in the spirit of it.

With full tea service, vintage decor, and wonderful stories, the event was a huge success. I put it together using Storify (which is a super cool social media storytelling platform), so you can check it out here. Take a special look at Joan’s “Christmas Salad” featured at the end of the story.

 

March 26, 2014, by
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Hawking radiation and the “black hole firewall” paradox (Scientific American)

by Alison Humphrey

When you’re writing a science fiction story about wormholes and time travel, sooner or sooner you’re going to bump into Stephen Hawking. The world-famous physicist and Brief History of Time author even has some theoretical black hole quantum-effect radiation named after him, for heaven’s sake. He’s just. that. good.

But there’s another resonance with Faster than Night that we didn’t anticipate. Hawking, like us, uses facial-capture technology.

Our first blog post described the head-mounted camera that will track every movement of actor Pascal Langdale’s mouth, cheek, eye and brow, and pass the data to a computer to animate his astronaut avatar.

Stephen Hawking’s “headcam” is a tiny infrared sensor mounted on the corner of his eyeglasses, but it is infinitely more powerful than its size suggests.

As a result of the motor neuron disease that has wasted his body, only the shortest neural pathways, such as that between his brain and his cheek muscle, are still under his precise control. The infrared sensor on his glasses detects changes in light as he twitches his cheek, and this almost indiscernible bit of motion-capture is his sole means to control everything he does on his computer.

Glasses-mounted infrared sensor (Photo by T. Micke)

On the screen, a cursor constantly scans across a software keyboard, until his signal stops it to select a letter. The software has a word-prediction algorithm, so he often only has to type a few letters before he can select the whole word. When he has built up a sentence, he can then send it to his iconic voice synthesizer, a piece of technology which is now almost 30 years old.

A new documentary released last year, titled simply Hawkingreveals the race against time to keep his communications technology ahead of the progression of his disease. (This sequence begins at the 19-minute mark.)

Jonathan Wood, Stephen’s graduate assistant: “Stephen’s speed of communication has very gradually slowed down. A few years ago, he was still able to use his hand-switch and able to communicate by clicking this switch on his wheelchair. When he wasn’t able to do that anymore, we switched over to a switch that he’d mounted on his cheek. But with him slowing down with that, we’ve approached his sponsors, so they’ve been looking into facial recognition.”

Intel technician: “This is a high-speed camera which will allow us to see verifying details on the facial expressions, and this will help us to improve the rate of your speech and input.”

Stephen Hawking: “I have had to learn to live with my slow rate of communication. I can only write by flinching my cheek muscle to move the cursor on my computer. One day I fear this muscle will fail. But I would like to be able to speak more quickly…. I am hoping this current generation of software experts can harness what little movement I have left in my face, and turn it into faster communication.

This intriguing and dramatic arms race (face race?) has Intel’s best and brightest looking for ever more sensitive sensors and new techniques to give the physicist better ways to control his computer.

Cathy Hutchinson drinks from a bottle using the DLR robotic arm (Photos: Nature)

It even has one American scientist investigating a means by which Hawking may one day be able to “write” directly from his brain, bypassing the facial muscle altogether. As the BBC reports, “In 2011, he allowed Prof Philip Low to scan his brain using the iBrain device… a headset that records brain waves through EEG (electroencephalograph) readings – electrical activity recorded from the user’s scalp.”

Last month’s issue of National Geographic described similar explorations at Brown University, where Cathy Hutchinson maneuvered a neurally-controlled robot hand to drink a cinnamon latte.

Next stop: hoisting a brewski with the Canadarm?

You think we’re joking, but the Hawking documentary ends with a delightful sequence in which Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic suggests that the best astronaut might be a man whose mind has never been bound by the gravity that holds his body:

“I just couldn’t think of anybody in the world that we’d rather send to space than Stephen Hawking. And, you know, we haven’t offered anybody a free ticket, but it was the one person in the world that we felt, ‘We’d love to invite you to space.’ And it was incredible when he accepted. I went up and saw him that day, and he told me to hurry up and get the spaceship built because he wasn’t going to live forever. Hopefully next year, we’ll take him up. I think that he feels that if he goes into space personally, he can lead the way.”

by Ricky Varghese

Another description – a reductive signature, as such – for the term “appropriation”, and the terms of engagement and dis-engagement by which the term itself seems to operate, might be “entrapment”. This is what announces itself as both seemingly and paradigmatically as profoundly uncanny in how we might come to understand and underscore the origin story behind Francisco-Fernando Granados’s The Ballad of _______ B.

Let us take seriously, for the moment, Sigmund Freud’s formulation of the uncanny:

“[The] uncanny is that species of the frightening that goes back to what was once well known and had long been familiar”

(Freud, 1919).

A young Granados agrees to an interview with the Vancouver Sun, for an article titled Climbing Mount Canada, about what it meant for him to leave behind one life in Guatemala to another, his then new home (and refuge) Canada. 11 years later, an adult Granados, now a working/practicing performance artist and an art school instructor discovers, by way of a friend of his who happens to be an ESL instructor, his interview lifted, appropriated as such, word-for-word and reduced to its utilitarian value in the context of the “Canadian Mosaic” unit in an ESL workbook.

The staging of the uncanny is suggestive here, if for nothing else then for the notion that returns, as such, are always already loaded experiences. Cartography is profoundly charged by such uncanny movements, not merely across geopolitical (from Guatemala to Canada) and textual spaces (from an interview to an ESL workbook) – and instances that command, nay demand, the necessary abstractions implicit in the task of spacing itself – but as well across temporalities between the past and the present, from the past to the present.

Slide1

The gesture itself – lifting, moving, movement, the performative in the performance itself – leads us to believe fervently in the uncanny powers laden within the very task of appropriation, wherein appropriation re-stages itself as a complex practice of imagining the nation otherwise as a space for a network of new meanings to supposedly be made, where the figure of the refugee becomes the subject of both her/his own entrapment within and disengagement from her/his own subjectivity in relation to the nation-state – an entrapment and a disengagement within the logos of her/his own undoing and surreptitious remaking within the nation’s celebratory imagination, let us call it fantasy, of itself

Spacing and redistribution, in this ruinous site wherein the refugee is both subject and object, a fragment as such, then come to mark an important, dare I say even essential, set of ruptures in how the time of traumatic displacement and disengagement itself becomes constituted by the performance.  Displacement – temporal, spatial, geopolitical – is rendered traumatic in the performative instance.

Discovery of how one articulation of the nation and his inheritance of it as a new piece of earth, a new cartographical space and spacing to claim as his own – by a young Granados – which then was restaged and repurposed in another context over a decade later to imagine the nation otherwise, announces precisely the extent to which the uncanny can be informed by the unsaid and the unspeakable nature of trauma. Here, as philosopher Rebecca Comay suggests ‘trauma marks a caesura in which the linear order of time is thrown out of sequence’ (Comay, 2011). Another theatrical staging of a narrative of troubled inheritances – Hamlet – referred to this as “time out of joint”.

What remains? Or, rather, how then to respond to this displacement that comes in the form of an appropriation and a subsequent scene of entrapment – this out-of-joint-ness of what it means to be both a subject and an object as perceived in the figure of the refugee that Granados both embodies, in one time, and (re-)stages, in another?

An initial response might be found in the nature of abstraction itself. Granados claims that a staging can only take place in the abstraction of embodied experience, in the abstraction that both spacing and redistribution promises in how he reorganizes the textual cartographies and exigencies that are built on and into the absences, on and into the absence of the figure itself. Temporally, a narrative was taken out of its context, restaged in another, and as such this disconnect can only be revealed as a staging of absence and the absent figure in the abstract. Abstraction, accordingly, to invoke Comay again, here echoing Hegel, “is the deadly capacity to cut into the continuum of being and bring existence to the point of unreality” (Comay, 2011).

This “deadly capacity” is, at once, both the “what remains” of the traumatic displacements that abound (temporal, spatial, geopolitical) in subject formation, here specifically that of the refugee. It is deadly precisely because much like the life that is being re-inscribed with new meanings and thus re-imagined, it also serves to undo any and all pretention we may have of how the subject might be preserved by the nation-state. Here, the subject is precisely unreal – or, rather, all too Real accordingly to the Lacanian/Zizekian formulation – as such, because the nation makes and remakes her/him into an object, and the subject’s unreality can only be reclaimed through the scene of an abstract performative re-rendering.

Slide2

Ricky Varghese recently received his PhD through the Department of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Social Justice Education at the University of Toronto. He, as well, holds an MA from the same department, and a BSW from York University and an MSW from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Social Work. Being a Registered Social Worker with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers, Ricky has a private clinical practice as a psychotherapist in downtown Toronto. He’s also a freelance writer interested in projects that bring together his various research and theoretical interests. Academically, his interests are in the fields of psychoanalysis and trauma studies, aesthetics and art criticism, the history of photography, HIV/AIDS and its representation, and porn studies.

 

 

March 24, 2014, by
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groomzilla

by Melissa D’Agostino

Hello again! Thank-you for reading these posts and for all of your wonderful feedback!

Today’s post is about grooms and how they are talked about, categorized  and stereotyped in this wild and wacky wedding industry.

It would seem that for every article about princess brides obsessed with bling and opulence, there is an article about how to ‘handle’ your groom. Is he being too strict about the budget? Is he watching football instead of helping with the seating chart? Or has he become the dreaded…duhm duhm duhm…GROOMZILLA!!!

Yes, these are the horrible, shallow and grossly narrow-minded categories for men in the wedding industry. It makes sense that if women are so clearly defined by wedding vendors, men would have to be equally categorized.

Now I know that there are plenty of gentlemen who aren’t into wedding planning — there is some truth to that. But I know very few men who didn’t have SOME involvement in their nuptial plans, even if it was only a couple of areas. I also know women who aren’t really into wedding planning. So, once again we are being given a template for gender roles that exists mainly to sell us products and services.

Side note: part of the reason I stopped auditioning for commercials (and there were several reasons), is that I couldn’t handle the horrible scripts of nagging, irritated wives and their lazy, buffoon husbands. This is not my experience of relationships between men and women. And I resent that ad companies perpetuate these ideals to turn a profit and keep us buying merchandise.

In the case of our wedding, my fiancé, Matt, has been actively and excitedly planning the festivities. It has been a real team effort. And there has been no ‘groomzilla’ in sight.

Having passion for photography did not turn Matt into a Groomzilla, proving the internet wrong.

Having passion for photography did not turn Matt into a Groomzilla, proving the internet wrong.

The one item that he was really particular about was photography. He’s a filmmaker and quality images are important to him, and I respect that. So we compromised to make room for this element in our budget, and agreed to tighten the reigns elsewhere, in areas that were less meaningful for us both. There have been no tantrums, no hissy fits, and no major conflicts. I consider that a positive sign for our marriage. Because the reality of our relationship has nothing to do with gender roles as seen in Wedding Belles Magazine (to name but one).

When Matt and I went to meet vendors, we were greeted with very traditional expectations in terms of our relationship. Many vendors made jokes about me being a ‘bridezilla’ right off the bat, and then very quickly changed their tune if they noticed me addressing the budget and Matt wanting to splurge on an item. Suddenly I was a shrew and Matt was the fun-loving groom. Or sometimes they were taken aback at how clear and vocal Matt was about what he wanted – how present he was. And most of the time people were genuinely surprised at how collaborative we are in our decision making. They were confused that Matt was there and so involved, and that I not only wanted that, I thrived on it.**

**I want to note that we didn’t actually select any of the vendors who treated us this way. All of our vendors are fantastic, and enjoy the dynamic of teamwork in our planning. It wasn’t intentional, but we were so put off by these gender assumptions that we weren’t compelled to work with anyone who didn’t get how we work and respect our dynamic.

The most glaring example of how grooms are viewed in the industry for me was when we attended the WedLuxe Wedding Show. They had a room full of free samples, but according to the information on their site men were not allowed to partake of said free samples. You can check out our adventure here:

Truth be told, most of the samples were geared toward women, and most of the people at the show were brides without their grooms. But it made me consider the marketing of these shows: this focus on females as the sole consumer of wedding merchandise, and the idea of exclusivity, of ‘women only’ that the industry continues to perpetuate. Perhaps if the show wasn’t so geared toward brides, grooms would feel more included in the process. Perhaps it would foster a more collaborative view of weddings, and in turn, of marriages.

Some WedLuxe Swag

Some WedLuxe Swag

Because let’s face it, your wedding is one day — one lovely and loving celebration of your relationship and the commitment you are making to one another. But the marriage exists long after that party is over (hopefully). And what kind of conditioning is happening when the predominate message being put out there is that men are either completely disinterested, there to reign in a woman’s impulsiveness, or control freaks who need to be in charge of everything? I mean: a little nuance, please.

But I guess if I don’t know which of those categories my man fits into, I won’t know which vacuum cleaner to register for. Right?

I often wonder what our society would look like if we didn’t buy into stereotypes about married couples, and disgruntled husbands, and all the rest of it. What would happen if I didn’t believe that I had to get those tough grass stains out of my husband’s shorts because he’s off watching a soccer game with his buds, and I have to do the laundry? Would I still need to buy Tide? Could we break free from these ideas?

Also: I don’t buy Tide. Largely because of their ad campaigns. (And also because of the product itself.)

DaddyI’ll leave you with another exciting discovery at the WedLuxe show:  WeddingGuard Insurance. Apparently you can get wedding insurance: in case your cake falls, or your limo doesn’t arrive, or your Dad (who is obviously paying for your whole wedding because it’s 1954) loses his job before all the wedding bills are paid. Sigh. One thing leads to another, I suppose.

Have your own experiences around this? I’d love to hear what you think! @melissadags

March 21, 2014, by
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squeez-a-snak

Earlier this week, ISMEE, the artificial intelligence on board the starship Envoy, issued an invitation and a challenge:

And you know there’s nothing people like better than tweeting their #foodporn:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Craving some freeze-dried deep-fried beef? Camembert squeeze cheese? Soup in a tube?

Share a taste with @ISMEEtheAI and join the #Fastronauts today!

Astronauts Thomas P. Stafford and Donald K. “Deke” Slayton hold containers of Soviet space food in the Soyuz Orbital Module. The containers hold borsch (beet soup) over which vodka labels have been pasted. This was the crews’ way of toasting each other. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

March 20, 2014, by
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I couldn’t be more excited to introduce my co-creators and performers for #legacy with this video. Joan, Judith, and Donna are all new to Twitter, and do not self-identify as artists. Yet it is these same three incredible women who are writing and performing in this piece.

As we get closer to the live performance experiment, they’ll be tweeting more and more. So follow them to find out what we’re working on, offer your own thoughts on #legacy, and interact with the performance piece as it’s being created.

 

 

You can follow them at @Joan_Belford2, @judith_dove, and @McCroq. And you can follow me at @rob_kempson. Either way, be sure to use #HatchTO and #legacy. Plus, tickets are now on sale here.