Opacity (Work In Progress)

A lone character lies in their bedroom, swiping the phone in search of contact. With a friend, they renovate their online persona, receive an invitation from a stranger, and arrange for an evening together. As the night deepens, communications obstruct, destinations evade, and attempts at intimacy unmask a profound and insurmountable corruption. Opacity is a dark reflection on the new strategies of connection, reverberating with dread, oddness, and seduction as it advances through its own inexorable and absurd logic.

Opacity is built around the framework of the “interface,” specifically the threat of the increasingly opaque intermediation of algorithms between the real and the experienced. The performance uses sculptural, choreographic, and computational models to hack, encrypt, spoof, troll, spam, and camouflage our digital identities, and return these coded selves to the realms of the real.  The performance consists of modular scenes of mundane life staged in sculptural abstraction, exploring desires and attempts to connect to one another online through opaque interfaces (social media sites, romance apps, image-sharing web apps), with their simultaneous abilities of cloaking, catfishing, fake accounts, bogus avatars, twitter bots, algorithmic responses and the system’s constant surveillance from behind the interface.  Each scene alternates with synthetically produced contemporary songs, touchpoints to the obsolete and ‘warm’ technology that foreshadowed the all-enveloping cloud which entangles our daily lives of omnipresent data collection.

System, Installation, Sound, and Text: Caden Manson and Jemma Nelson
Performed: Kevin Ramser and Philip Gates
Code: Jemma Nelson and Sylvie Sherman
Assistant Director: Rachel Karp
Assistant Video: Adam Thompson

Developed with the Digital Devising Lab at Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama: Caitlin Ayer, Stephen M. Eckert, Philip Gates, Rachel Karp, Sara Lyons, Kevin Ramser, Sylvie Sherman, Adam Thompson

2017 LIVE ARTS BARD Biennial
We’re Watching Festival
Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts
Previewing April 27-30, 2018

Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College
The Fund for Research and Creativity and The Berkman Pro-Seed Fund, Carnegie Mellon University

Script Published:
Big Art Group; Opacity. Theater 1 February 2018; 48 (1): 33–53. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01610775-4250942