A couple of months ago, I participated in a performance called Interplay which was quite different from anything I had ever been a part of before, or even seen for that matter. It was part play, part film and incorporated many artistic elements including dance, music, acting, poetry, and video. While reading the piece about the Eameses, I was reminded a lot of the performance. It’s kind of hard to explain what Interplay is all about, so I’ll just copy the description on Another Language Performing Art’s Company’s website.
"InterPlay is a multi-faceted event that consists of two or more performances that occur simultaneously in various cities around the world. The performances are concurrently captured, mixed, digitized, encoded and streamed onto the network. The digital mix is manipulated as each video stream can appear in any of several video playback windows. This creates a work that takes individual stories and weaves them into a multi layered, distributed, cinematic performance. InterPlay is similar to the process that the brain performs during the formulation of a dream sequence. Images that have been stored through recent experiences simultaneously emerge in pieces and the brain mixes them into a surreal sequence that loosely resembles a story. Video streams, similar to these emerging images, coming from several sites across the country and the world, are then combined into a richly woven audio-visual tapestry. Another Language has researched this process since 1995, by following the growth of emerging technologies to the present. Through the utilization of Access Grid tm videoconference software and the development of real-time, distributed processes Another Language Performing Arts Company stands in the forefront of this innovation as world leaders in telematic, collaborative performances”
A lot of things about Interplay relate well to the article. Interplay also relies on technological advances to shape art, utilizing videoconferencing technology and adapting it for performance art. Like the Eameses, the directors of Interplay also see art as a form of communication and want to use the latest communication technology to create art. The creation of space, or a virtual environment, is a big theme in Another Language’s history. The directors of Interplay originally conceived the idea of using videoconferencing technology for performance art when they became tired of relying on traditional physical venues for their projects. With the growing popularity of the Internet, they saw the potential for a website not only to convey information but to act as a theater.
We pretty much take for granted now that we can easily chat live with someone halfway across the world on the Internet, but Interplay takes this kind of accessibility to a whole new level by bringing performers from all over the globe together to collaborate in a single live performance. The Interplay I was a part of featured video taken by a filmmaker in Japan, poetry read by an actress in Alaska, and music from a flutist in California while I was the only performer here in Utah. It’s an interesting experience to perform with people you never physically meet.
Some of the most fascinating things about participating in an Interplay were the audiences reactions. Like the Eamses films, Interplay bombards the audience with too many images for them to absorb. The audience must pick and choose what they watch and therefore every audience member sees a different performance. The directors of Interplay, like the Eamses, are also interested in creating art that mimics processes of the human brain, though they are interested specifically in the dreaming human brain rather than the awake, information-gathering brain. Also, the images, music, poetry, etcetera are all related to each other in some way, but the audience is forced to make those connections themselves rather than have them spelled out. This makes for a non-linear and complex experience. Interplay asks a lot of its audience and certainly is not what everyone is looking for when they go to the theater. Some people become really confused and/or get so caught up in the technological aspect of the performance that they miss the point which is why a discussion follows every Interplay performance in order to give audience members a chance to ask questions.
Another Language has presented an Interplay performance every year for the past fifteen years, and ever one has been a work-in-progress to a certain extent. With a lot of technology comes the potential for A LOT of things to go wrong. The directors continue to adapt the technology to better suit their purpose and push the boundaries of performance art.
The founders of Another Language, Jimmy and Beth Miklavcic both work here on campus at the U’s Center for High Performance Computing. If you have a chance, check out their website www.anotherlanguage.org and attend next year's Interplay. It’s sure to be an interesting and unforgettable experience.